Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. 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 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.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

The Making of: Shanty Hollow...Across Boundaries of Light

I arrived well before daylight and slowly paddled my canoe across the widest part of the lake in almost total darkness.  The air was warm...the sky clear.  The only light available was from the glow of stars spread across the ebony sky and from a faint glow that hovered over the crest of the hills that formed the eastern boundary of the lake.  One loses all sense of motion paddling in the dark and eventually I drifted to a stop near the upper end.  As I sat quietly on the perfectly calm lake, the glow from the sky began to resonate.

Light fog drifted on currents of air mixing with other pockets of mist...growing thicker at times...almost opaque in places...collecting into a pillow shaped cloud that lifted from the surface to hover a few yards above the water.  Over the next few minutes this cloud shifted in color from light gray to pale brown to golden red and orange...finally reaching a crescendo that lit up the surface with its glow.  For the first time I began to hear the silent melody that is Shanty Hollow Lake...for the first time I understood that this often forgotten southern Kentucky lake  has a story to tell.  I knew I wanted to capture it not just visually...but as a saga shared through images combined with a musical dialog.  It was then the theme of Across Boundaries of Light was born.

Over the next nine months or so, I paddled among the coves and hiked the rugged bluffs searching for those elusive images that defined the concept of Boundaries of Light that told the visual story of this remarkable landscape.  Hills and boulders, calm waters and reflections, waterfalls and flowing creeks...all became subjects of the camera and lens...yet only the best light would do...and there in was the challenge...how to capture this unique landscape and stay within the Across Boundaries of Light theme.  Doing so challenged my senses, photographic eye, and patience.  Over time the collection of images grew, reaching and surpassing 1000...then 2000...and more.

As I began to build the video program one thing dictated the process...the music had to match the images.  Finding that music proved to an elusive endeavor.  It took three attempts sorting through three different soundtracks...countless hours of experimenting to find the right combination.  Putting it all together took more time than the field work.  What I did not want to do was to build what I call a simple elevator music slideshow.  This story deserved more...I wanted it to stand apart as a program that not only captured the visual beauty of this location, but one that told its story in such a way as to inspire those who see it to pursue nature photography with a passion of their own.

It was necessary to develop visual presentation techniques that took advantage of the photographic qualities.  Movement...panning left or right...zooming in or out...slowing it down when appropriate...speeding up when required...using the right blend of transitions timed with the music.  No convention was overlooked...many common rules of presentations were ignored to fit the story with the dialog of music.

Also embedded were 7 video clips to give the presentation a realistic sense of time and place.  Capturing those video clips proved a challenge in their own right.  Dozens of 30, 45, 60+ second clips were filmed...of the 7 used, all were clipped to fit the program accordingly.  The overall goal was to create a visual / musical story that defined the essence of Shanty Hollow Lake as defined by light.

It became one of the most challenging projects I've ever attempted.  It evolved into one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.  In the end I realized that this project will never really have an end.  It will be on going for many years...and I will eventually improve on and add to this program as it continues to evolve.  As I prepare to show this program for the first time, I can only realize one thing...I learned a great deal by doing this...most importantly, I learned once again, just how much work...and just how much fun photography can be.

Keith

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