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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Late Start

Saturday morning I slept in longer than I had planned...when I finally did crawl out of bed the sun had already broke free bright and clear and was climbing higher in the sky rapidly leaving behind the best light of the day.  A quick glance out the window and I realized I had made a big mistake.  The remnants of the first heavy frost still clung to the grass and fields and the warming rays of the sun was beginning to melt it off. With that melting a misty haze hovered over the fields.  I grabbed my tripod and camera stuff and headed out the door without even brushing my teeth.

As I headed over to an area that I thought might provide for some nice morning fall images, I began to realize that I had allowed too much daylight to buffer my intent from what I was going to be able to actually accomplish.  A couple of quick shots later I abandoned the notion of achieving anything of quality from that location and began to think of how I might be able to salvage the morning with the later start and brighter harsher light.  As I was driving down a back road I passed by a fence row that caused me to slam on my brakes and turn around.  A beautifully back lit maple tree was overhanging a fence and in the background stood a barn situated slightly below a roll in the terrain.  Even with the bright sky, there was enough haze and color to create a very nice composition.  The trick was to eliminate the harsh 'white sky' or as much of it as I could and still capture the essence of the moment.  Using the over hanging tree I moved to the left enough to allow the overhang to cover most of the sky...bent little lower to position the barn and snapped the shot.

A little later I was driving along Old Scottsville road...a familiar scenic avenue not far from my house...and remembered a location I had photographed previously with similar lighting.  What I discovered was a perfect blend of color, composition, and atmosphere and spent the next 15 maybe 20 minutes there shooting the scene.

That got me to thinking about how a person can use harsh light to their advantage...what are some of the techniques a person could use to take advantage of less than perfect light.  One thing I always preach in any kind of photographic techniques workshop I may be involved in is to avoid the 'White Sky' syndrome.  A white sky in and of itself is generally less appealing than one of those blue bird skies with fluffy white clouds floating across it.  White skies are caused by several things...primarily hazy conditions or very thin clouds that are enough to obscure the blue, but not enough to filter the harshness of the light.  The angle of the sun also comes into play.  White skies can really create havoc in a photograph...but all is not lost if one simply takes notice of the situation and uses it to their advantage.

On this particular day, what I had working for me was the rising mist generated by the evaporating frost.  As the morning began to warm up, the mist lifted higher and began to filter through the trees. But the mist also contributed to the white sky effect. One technique I use on white sky days is to eliminate as much of the sky as I can and still retain a sense of mood.  Take the fence row shot for example.  By using the overhanging limbs and positioning myself where I was facing toward the light, the bright light actually illuminated the translucent nature of the fall leaves...and I was able to hide most of the sky.  It's not imperative to hide all of the white sky...just most of it so that the brightness of the sky doesn't overwhelm the shot...but adds to the mood and flavor of the composition.

Later, as the sun actually rose way higher than what generally creates good light...I used the same technique to capture the moment.  The location provided for the rising mist and also provided enough cover to almost completely hide the sky...but the brightness of the sky also back lit the scene in such a way as to generate not only amazing color, but infiltrating rays of light that highlighted the mist.  The combination provided for an amazing opportunity...all I had to do was get into the right position and frame the right composition.

Getting a later start can often present challenging lighting conditions.  Understanding what those conditions are and then looking for ways to use them to your advantage can have amazing's just a matter recognizing what makes for a great photograph.


1 comment:

Ronnie said...

Really enjoyed this Keith!