Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Starting a Long Term Project

We pulled up to the boat ramp a little after 5:00 pm on a Tuesday evening.  From what I could tell it looked as though we were going to be the only boat on the lake.  Most of July and into August and indeed most of the summer had been uncomfortably warm and humid as is typical for this part of Kentucky during this time of year.  The previous few days brought a shift in the weather with unseasonable and refreshing cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels that stirred my need to re-aquaint myself with the joys of canoe fishing.   Only a slight breeze pushed a soft ripple across the surface…just about right for canoeing and fishing.  For the next three hours we drifted and paddled around the perimeter casting a line here and there.  The fishing was slow, but the experience was just fine.  I needed this about as much as I needed anything…seems it had been way too long since I was last here.

The past year or so I began to realize that I seem to have drifted away from my identity.  In years past outdoor activities became an important part of my life…one in which I have slowly allowed circumstance and situations deter me from participating at a level I once enjoyed.  I suppose there are a lot of reasons for that…work load…health…college expenses…the price of gas…getting older…need I say more.  As a result there seems to be a void created inside, a void that seems to grow larger day by day.  I’ve simply missed getting out.  In recent years photography has filled in some of that gap, but even that can fall short in restoring that need I have to experience God’s world like I once was able to do.  The trick I believe is to combine those two passions together so as to blend that sense of accomplishment with the desire for meaningful outdoor experiences.

Four or five years ago I started a long term project photographing Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie.  That project has been an amazing journey so far, at least as far as I’ve been able to follow through, unfortunately my time available to visit that location is limited to a week or so once a year…and this past year I was unable to even make that limited annual visit.  Distance being the primary culprit, over 700 miles, a distance that prevents me from fulfilling my dream of capturing this unique and amazing landscape in its full glory.  As a result I began to look closer to home for another opportunity for a long term photographic project, one that provides that blend of outdoors with photographic potential.  Oddly enough, virtually next door to me is a location I have visited and photographed a number of times, but never really thought of as a long term project potential. 

Shanty Hollow Lake sits tucked in amongst the hills that roll across the landscape just north of Bowling Green.  From my home it’s about a 40 minute drive…from my office it’s about a 20 minute drive. It’s a small lake originally constructed back in the 1940’s as a private hunting and fishing lodge, and was eventually taken over by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1953.  Stocked with bass and catfish, and other various fishes, its 110 acres of surface area is one of the most scenic of lakes just about anywhere and is perfect for canoe fishing.  Hidden on the back end of the lake splitting a wide horseshoe shaped ridge is a waterfall that when the water is running after a hard rain can provide an amazing photographic moment.

A couple hours in, as I cast my fishing line toward the bank, the sun momentarily broke through the thin layer of clouds that hovered above the western ridge.  A beam of light highlighted a stand of sycamore trees along the bank.  Their lighter colored leaves and whitish bark stood in contrast against the darker green background and seemed to glow in the light as their reflection shimmered on the almost perfectly calm surface of the lake.  I had no camera to capture the moment…but, capture I did, an idea that will surely help me restore that lost sense of identity.   This is the place I need to photograph year round.  It is here I can capture the best of nature and find an outlet for that sense of adventure and desire for a meaningful outdoor experience…and so I committed myself to begin a long term project simply called Shanty Hollow

My intent is to photograph this area using not only the traditional still photographs, but to blend it with HD video as well.  Traditional photographs can only capture static moments of time…video on the other hand can capture the feel of the moment through movement and sound.  Blending the two should tell a unique story of this small but amazing location.  By next summer I hope to create a 15 to 20 minute video presentation using the footage I’ve captured the past year along with some of the footage I’ve already captured.  This will be a serious attempt to create a professional quality presentation suitable for showing to various groups and organizations.  It will be the most ambitious and important project I’ve ever attempted.  With any luck at all, this endeavor will help to fill the gap of meaningful outdoor experiences that I’ve recently missed in my life.  For the first time in a long time, I’m excited again about something I’m about to begin…I may even throw in a little fishing along the way.

Here's a link to some Shanty Hollow Shots...

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