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, April 1, 2013

The Winter Woods - Light and Texture

A few years ago I took a hike along one of the Mammoth Cave trails. The winter chill had yet to subside and the spring bloom was still several weeks away. My tripod rested across my shoulder adding to the tug caused by the weight of my camera pack. I came across an overlook that afforded a mostly unobstructed view of the Green River and much of the valley. Along its banks tall river birch trees stretched their branches toward the sky, their white bark contrasting sharply with the dull gray of the winter woods.

The sky that was overcast started to break apart and random beams of light floated across the valley illuminating the textures in the trees. I placed my 50-500mm lens on the tripod and attached the camera. Using its magnifying strength, I scanned the tree line along the river bank and discovered a remarkable visual array of textures and contrast. As a beam of light scanned across the scene I fired off several shots before moving on.

I love photographing the winter landscape because of the abundance of textures and shadows. Few of my photo opportunities are random in nature. A good percentage are planned well ahead of time waiting for the right conditions to develop, but.the results of that  one chance encounter far out weighed the normal results from most random opportunities.

 Later, when I loaded the images from that day's shoot, all the others images were rather ordinary, but that series of images across the Green River Valley stood apart because of their textures and light.

Light and texture work together to provide contrast, shape, and form, through the generation of shadow and highlights. Without the beam of light providing highlights, the photograph would have been less dramatic. Some of the best times to capture light and texture in nature is in winter when light has an opportunity to penetrate through the canopy. When trees are full of leaves, light will not penetrate as well and the leaves tend to hide any unusual shapes and forms. Trees like river birch with their white bark create a wonderful contrast against a shadowed background. Throw in some fog and you add the element of mystery to the photo equation.

Snow here in south central Kentucky is not all that common, but we do from time to time manage to receive some most winters. The magical white that filters down provides another element of texture to the winter woods. When caught in a heavy fall, the density of the falling snow provides a fog-like atmosphere and can transform a winter scene. I often look more for the effects of the snow on the textures of the woods than I do the ground cover it can provide. Snow clinging to trees adds a tremendous amount of contrast and enhances the flavor of the moment. If lucky enough to receive a late winter snow when the spring is trying to appear, the contrast-of-wills from the two events provide a wonderful vision of winters magical moments.

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