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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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Getting Away From it All..




Mid November in south central Kentucky can be one of the best times of year for exploring the outdoors. Although most of the fall colors have come and gone, there is usually some color that lingers well into the month. Because the trees have lost most of their leaves by this time, it opens up the woods making it much easier to see and the low angle of the sun casts long shadows across the landscape.  The temperatures can also be quite pleasant often hovering in mid 60’s and even into the low 70’s at times.

I recently purchased a new pair of hiking boots that required some breaking in so one lovely Sunday afternoon I made the short drive up to Shanty Hollow and made the hike up to the falls area. It is a great place to break in a pair of new boots as the trail provides a wide range of obstacles and terrain types that force the new boots to bend and flex. On such a wonderful day as it was, I expected to see others on the trail and that proved true as I crossed paths with probably the most number of people I’ve ever seen on this trail at one time.

You can always tell those comfortable with the outdoors from those who are not. The way they dress, the way they walk… tentative or overly aggressive…, are they carrying electronic gadgets or not, how loud or quiet they are. I found it interesting just how many different kinds of people I met that day on the trail. 

A group of  about a dozen or so college kids I heard coming long before I ever saw them.  Seems they don’t know how to enjoy the quiet…they must always be surrounded with noise and distraction…overly loud laughing…not nearly enough just enjoying the solitude. 

One of the group was wearing a pair of loose fitting basketball shorts and a tank top and untied sneakers with no socks…hardly proper attire for hiking...I figured he would quickly regret that combination after the sun dropped below the ridge and it began to cool off. Two of them were walking and texting at the same time…one was actually talking on her phone…and one was listening to some kind of music thru a set of earbuds plugged into his Ipod effectively cutting him off from the outside world…the others were laughing and hollering at every insignificant instance breaking the silence along the trial. The earbuds were at least an improvement over the boom box days when it was not uncommon for someone to think they had to serenade and impress everyone around with his or her taste in music.  

A bit further down the trail I ran across a family of four who were out enjoying the day. That was nice to see…except the nine or ten year old boy spent most of his time imitating an owl with a constantly loud hoot hoot hoot punctuated with an even louder whoooooooooooot at the end. Another group was being lectured by what appeared to be a rather loud self appointed tour guide who tried to impress everyone with his knowledge of the woods…after a brief discussion with him, I discovered he had never even been into that area before.


In past years I remember helping out with the Boy Scout troop camp outs that more often than not turned into a fire drill routine emptying a trailer full of noise making gear, chaos, more noise…complaints…a few yells…a few cries for help.  An hour or so later with camp finally setup a dozen or more young boys are let loose to inflict more noise upon the environment while the scout master and helpers sit back in a comfy chair and eat something. Well…I suppose boys are meant to be loud and scout masters are inclined to eat something…I wonder if the Boy Scouts ever thought about offering a merit badge on how to be quiet?


Seems to me some people just don’t get it.  First of all I’ll never begrudge someone who actually spends time outdoors for whatever reason…at least they are there and not locked up in some dark room playing video games somewhere. Yet, it seems too many people just don’t know how to leave all the noise behind. Instead, they want to bring along the chaos. Nature is so full of wonderful experiences why spoil it with Ipod music, why not enjoy the natural sounds and symphony of the outdoors, or why not look around and enjoying the scenery, instead of plastering your gaze onto your phone sending and receiving text messages.


I suppose I’ve never fully understood the noise thing…it could be an age thing or a maturity…or lack of it…thing…or it could be simply a lack of understanding and experience. I guess we all tend to fall back onto what is most comfortable for us when confronted with something outside our normal everyday existence.  Maybe that is why I tend to venture into the backwoods by myself…away from all the chaos…to find some time alone with my thoughts and the song of nature. 


When I encounter those with other agenda’s for their outing…well, I nod politely and move on to another location away from their self inflicted noise pollution. I can’t remember when I last camped in a public campground. You can probably understand why. We’ve probably all have experienced the late night arrivals who drive around and around several times shining headlights into every camping location looking for a place to setup…then when they finally do park go through an hour long series of slamming doors and loud vocal articulations about where and how to set up the tent…and the Coleman Lantern cranked up to full luminosity that floods seven other campsites with harsh light…or where is the beer…or any number and volumes of banging and clanging…then inevitably the boom box gets released …turned up…and blared outward for all to hear.

No…that’s not for me…not anymore...never was really. Give me the sweet sound of a little motion induced stream…the wind…the birds…the howl of the coyote, and the crackling of a campfire away from it all. I find great pleasure listening to the sounds of the woods…or prairie, to feel the sun and breathe the air unencumbered by the chaos of society. I must spend way too much time as it is absorbed by its influences…I certainly do not want to bring it along with me when I do find time to get away from it.

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