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, September 2, 2012

First Light...Last Light...make big first and lasting impressions

My favorite times to photograph happens just before sunup and right at sundown...that last few moments between twilight and daylight...daytime and evening.  The first light of day generates some of the best moments because there can often be so many kinds of conditions that exist at that time...morning haze, fog, clear skies, clean air, subtle and bold textures in the sky.  The window of opportunity normally only lasts for a few minutes and in that few minutes so many things can happen.  Blink, and you can miss the best moment.

One time a few years back I had arrived before sunrise at one of my favorite locations on the Tallgrass Prairie in Oklahoma.  There was a thick layer of low lying clouds that obscured the horizon and the sunrise appeared like it was going to be a non-event.  I made the trek into the prairie through the tall grasses to a rocky outcropping.  By the time I arrived my pant legs and boots were soaked thru by the heavy dew.  The sky was all but grayed out and I really didn't think the morning shoot would materialize.  

Just at sunup time, I began to notice some indistinct glowing in the obscuring cloudy cover where the sun should be appearing.  Instinctively I lowered my tripod  and framed some coneflowers to line up with where the sun might appear.  Within  a minute or so, the sun burned thru the cover and set the hazy fog aglow and the disc of the sun popped thru...I fired off a couple quick shots...made a quick adjustment and fired off one more, then just as quickly, the sun faded and the moment was gone.  My morning shoot was pretty well over in that few seconds of opportunity.  If I had not been there, I would have missed capturing one of my favorite prairie moments.

First light doesn't always mean the actual first light of day.  In this particular case, first light was that moment when the light first appeared in high enough quality that I could use it photographically.  It is that transitional light that often becomes the first usable light.  First usable light provides a unique blend of spontaneity and power that flows thru time...and your capture if it is that single best moment of that timeline.

The same applies to the last light of the day.  Many of the same situations exist during that time.  Many years ago when I was stationed in Oregon, I made a trip over to Crater Lake National Park.  I spent the whole day there...the only camera I had at the time was one of those 110 pocket cameras...and yes, the pictures I took were predictably not very good.  Late that evening as I was driving out, I encountered one of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen.  The sky was lit up with every color imaginable, and the sharp ridges of the surrounding mountains and valleys were filled with blue light accented by reds and oranges...but alas, I had used up my allotment of film and simply watched in awe not being able to capture a truly magical moment.  (Shortly after that day I purchased my first SLR 35mm camera) .  But during that sunset, there came one moment in its timeline when the brilliance of what was there exploded...yet like an explosion, it lasted but a few brief seconds and was gone.

Last light of the day often is not associated directly with a sunset...but how the light of the sunset affects the things behind and around you.  As amazing as they are...sunsets are often very cliche-ish as just about every combination of them that can be imaged has already been photographed thousands of times.  Many times, I will turn around and look the other way to see what the light of the sunset is doing around me.  That warm glow will often fill the landscape with vibrant amazing light that adds character and subtle beauty to ordinary things.  It's just a matter of planning and anticipation.

To make big first and lasting impressions with your photography, use all the magic that is at your disposal during those magical times of the day called first and last light.


1 comment:

joy said...

I like taking pictures od sunrise and sunset. Awesome shot by the way:)