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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Elevating Your Photography

I really enjoy exploring other photographers work, especially the real pro’s who seem to know how to capture a scene in not just amazing detail, but who are capable of capturing the emotion of the moment.  You can learn a lot by studying the pro’s work…technique, composition, story, use of color, but most importantly it is their ability to make you feel like you are actually there…make you understand why that moment was important to them as a photographer, that sets them apart.

AS we progress with our photographic endeavors, we eventually reach a point where the technical aspects of the art become second nature…in other words we are no longer trying to remember how we setup the camera that part eventually becomes instinctive.  Instead we spend less time fumbling around with the settings, and more time observing and evaluating what it is we want to accomplish photographically.  It is at that point the process evolves from work into something that is truly fun and rewarding.

Recently, I took some time to scan through some pro websites mostly to see what they have done, but secondly to make a conscious effort to compare the results I get with the results of the guys who actually make a living at this.  It’s quite humbling to do such a thing because in most cases I realize I still have a lot to learn yet.  I asked myself…what is it they are doing that I am not.  Discounting the quality of the equipment involved…I’ve never believed that the cost of equipment is the most important element…I looked at the emotional impact of the images…did it really catch my attention…did I feel like I was there…did it draw me into the story…tweak my imagination?  Then I began to compare similar images that I have made with those I discovered.  I did previously say it is a humbling experience.  In most cases something was missing in mine as compared to theirs.  Just exactly what is not easy to discern.

The conclusions I came up with was simply this:  They have a greater ability to see photographically…to identify that photographic moment and then apply their technical understanding of how to capture it.  They fully understand the importance of how light, composition, and content work together to generate those great images.  Even so, what I realized was that although I have yet to reach the pinnacle they have, I am at least on the right track, as I have often preached the same concepts in workshops and on this blog.  What is required to rise up to their level is to have an unrelenting discernment about what, when, where, and how to photograph something.  I too often settle for mediocre moments with mediocre light, hoping I can ‘correct’ it in Photoshop later…that method unfortunately often results in mediocre images.  To create great pro level images requires a professional mindset to see with greater clarity, and to not settle for the ordinary.

So how do we do that?  If I knew that magic formula I probably could retire…but, that question seems to have about as many answers as there are people asking it.  I will say one thing that I do believe helps…and that is to create for yourself, a photographic project where you attempt to capture a theme over an extended period of time.  While working on this project, think in terms of how do I capture the absolute best images I can imagine…and make sure you are there when the light is right, never settling for common, ordinary situations, instead, looking for the extraordinary moments.  If they do not exist…be willing to come back another time…again and again… when the potential finally does exist.


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