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.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What and Where verses Why - The Art of Writing and Photography

Although the craft of writing and the art of photography are different forms of communication, they both share a common objective; to move the reader or viewer toward a single purpose…to generate an emotional response.

Where writing uses words to construct images in the mind, photography uses light to build a story. Where brevity is desired in writing, photography also requires a simplification of the composition. Writers understand that by blending a unique style with their view of the world, they can often move their readers...An effective photograph stirs the emotions of the one viewing it to the point where they identify with the moment.

I would venture a guess that most writers write so they can share a part of themselves with others.  The same holds true with photographers…we like to share our vision of the world.  Doing so is natural…writers and photographers, like most creative people, tend to have a deep emotional bond to what they create.

One of the first ‘rules’ of writing is to simply write about what you know, so the things I write about tend to focus around the adventures I’ve experienced over the years often related to photography. Most of my stories are short essays that chronicle some significant event.  Whether remembering growing up hunting and fishing in Oklahoma, or the numerous adventures of my military days, or writing about a day spent photographing some of nature's most amazing moments...writing about those events often generate a therapeutic effect. 

As I begin to write…I simply write what first comes to mind. I don't worry so much about grammar and punctuation...that initial effort is used to build a basic composition that can then be molded into a finished story.  Often the finished product has little resemblance to the original text.  This is where writing techniques and photography techniques often merge. 

You see, as a photographer, I am rarely satisfied with a single image.  Often, to capture the image I am looking for requires continually looking at the problem from a different perspective.  Instead of always shooting from eye level…I often drop low…or move sideways…or search for more appealing light.  What I photograph matters little…it is how I build the composition that matters…how I use light to enhance the subjects shape, form, and textures. 

Writing is like that. It matters most how I build the story...not so much what I write about.  My first attempt is rarely a finished product.  Many times by taking a different approach…looking at the problem from a different angle, I begin to develop my original vision into a new idea that moves the story far greater in one direction or another than the original concept.

To me, writing and photography are natural extensions of themselves and I see each of them as an avenue that allows for an expression of ideas that go beyond simple words, or images. Writing is as much art as it is a craft.  Too many writers today I believe have lost that sense of art in their craft.  Pickup almost any outdoor magazine…family magazine…nature magazine…and what do you find? 

You’ll see titles like ‘Top Ten Places to Fish’…or ‘Best Vacation Getaways’…or ‘Great Recipes For The Summer Grilling Season’.  In my opinion, editors today emphasize way too much the ‘What and Where and even How’ at the expense of ‘Why’.  Visit the library sometime…they still do exist by the way…or use the modern equivalent and Google search on the internet to look up some of the old time outdoor writers like Ted Trueblood or Gordon Macquerrie and read some of their stories.  The emphasis 40, 50…60 years ago was on the ‘why’ and less on the ‘what and where’.  The craft of story telling was the heart of their technique…what they wrote about was how and why a particular adventure affected their lives…not so much on where to go and what to do when you get there.  It was their story telling that motivated readers like myself to create personal adventures of where and how.  Their words created visions of grand adventures that I could see...and then over time, photograph.

If I could challenge new writers today, I would challenge them to begin by writing about ‘why’ something was important…how it affected them emotionally…and shy away from too much of the what and where.  Use your intellect to find the words…but use your heart to build the story.  Don’t just tell about events…show why those events were important. As a photographer...every photograph I take is based on that concept of showing why that moment was important.  The light becomes the visual words used to accomplish the telling of the photographic story.

Everyone should develop their own style of writing and never attempt to copy another writer’s style.  The perspective captured by a former generation of writers is far different than our own and we can all discover how eloquent many of them time, you just might discover another way to express what is truly important in your life in such a way, that it affects the lives of those around you.


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