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.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Monday, July 30, 2012

Use the Vertical to Accent the Horizontal...

The ever constant Oklahoma wind flowed across the prairie like invisible waves...waves made apparent by the undulations of the tall grasses as they rolled in time with the tune of the wind.  I love first light on the's a magical time that takes much longer than it might seem to materialize...and at the same time lasts but a fleeting moment and is gone before you realize its gone.  Photographing the prairie I've discovered, is far more difficult to accomplish than one might think.  How do you capture it's grandeur...the big sky and openness in a single shot?

The prairie by its nature is relatively flat and rolls across the landscape in undulating patterns that create, under the right conditions, shadows and textures...but those shadows and textures are for the most part isolated low to the ground and tend to blend with each other.  What one experiences visually while standing on a high knoll during first light is far from what is easily captured in a photograph.  Visually we can detect the subtle variations in the landscape and can feel the bigness of the sky as it arches above us.  A photograph can only capture a pseudo likeness of what is there.

One technique that I use to capture the essence of the prairie is to use the vertical to accent the horizontal.  What I mean by this is that by isolating something against the sky vertically, you enhance what is trapped below the horizontal line.  There are numerous ways to do of the most common is to use clouds...especially those white fluffy summer clouds.

Clouds add depth to a flat sky...they also cast shadows across the landscape and add interest to what might otherwise be a bland composition.  Combine this with breaking the horizontal line with something vertical in the foreground composition and not only do you bring depth, but you bring life to the image.

The idea of using the vertical to accent the horizontal works in all kinds of situations...not just big sky open prairies.  Whenever you have a wide field of view by adding something on the horizon to break it up, you are taking advantage of the accent flavor.  

Turning you camera to a vertical orientation is another way to use this technique.  Knowing when to use a vertical orientation vs horizontal is a matter of personal taste really, but some subjects tend to work more effectively as a photograph in the vertical.  The idea in most cases is to isolate the subject against the sky or some other background.

One note...the horizon doesn't always have to be...the horizon.  Take the prairie for instance...being characterized by a rolling landscape you can use those rolls to you advantage by isolating your subject against a background with careful selection of angle and composition...much like the image at the top of the page.  Your horizon in essence becomes one of the rolls.

Using the vertical to accent the horizontal may seem like an ordinary approach to photography...even so, by making a conscious effort to visualize how the vertical can enhance a horizontal will add another level of learning to your ability to see photographically.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your pictures are gorgeous! Thank you for the lessons on taking pictures. It would apply to making quilts too! :) ♥