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.

Backroads

Backroads
Kentucky Backroads Wheat Stubble

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Think Small...to Discover the Bigger Picture

There are times I struggle to 'see' the photograph. For some reason I just can't seem to find the right mix of time and place and light that captures my imagination. What usually happens during one of those spells is that I either go home in frustration, take a series of test shots that might stir something for another time, or...I begin to look for the small stuff that defines the bigger picture.


What I wish to avoid is taking a lot of mediocre photographs. I've already got too many of those...they are easy enough to create. What my heart desires is to capture a unique moment where that combination of place, time, and light stirs the imagination. What happens is I tend to get caught in the common trap of trying to take in everything in one view and when I do that, my ability to see photographically becomes blurred and distorted, sort of like not being able to see the forest for the trees thing. It is a way of thinking that can often leads us down a slippery incline where we fall into a pit of complacency with our photography.

One trick I've learned is when I find myself unable to lock in on one of those 'bigger picture' moments, I begin to look for smaller details that more simply defines what I am looking for. Here is one example. I was in a wooded area that is quite scenic, but it can also be quite chaotic looking. There is just too much of everything to be able to capture it effectively in one wide area image. The light was quite harsh that day with bright sun filtering through the trees creating contrasts that made it difficult for any photograph short of an HDR type of image to work well.


As I scanned the area, I noticed a small clump of lacy material growing out of a notch in the side of a moss covered stump that was recessed rather deeply in a wooded area. A beam of light filtered through the canopy of trees caught the lacy growth in an almost spotlight effect. Behind the stump was a shaded area. Using a long telephoto lens I zoomed in on the location from about fifteen yards away and isolated the stump. As I framed the image I realized I had discovered what I was actually looking for. This small growth on the stump represented the essence of the larger picture I was unable to see.

Thinking small is a good way to work out of a difficult lighting situation. Even though your subject may not encompass the full spectrum of the visible situation, by simplifying the composition, the bigger picture can often be discovered in those smaller moments.

Keith

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