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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Insights: Like a Son and a Dad

(...An excerpt from a letter to my son...)

Mistakes are what God allows us to make so we can learn from them. Our mistakes are not what hold us down. It is how we choose to react to them that determine what they mean in our lives.  If we allow them to fester, they never heal – they only serve to destroy everything that is good.

God creates a path – a series of paths really – for us to choose from, but even the best of paths are filled with dangers.  He allows us to make our own choices, but he desires to walk with us on whatever path we choose.  It is what we do as we travel along that path that reflect who we are.  We can choose to allow pot holes and difficult terrain to slow our progress, to make us angry, frustrated, and distant, bitter or apathetic.  We can allow trials and tribulations to fill our lives with uncertainty and fear, or, we can see them as humbling challenges. When we fall, we can choose to extend our right hand toward our heavenly father to lift us – help us rest – so he can place us safely on his shoulders to carry us across that difficult ground. Once across the gauntlet, He will set us upon that path again and place his hand on our shoulder to guide us through more difficult circumstances. Like the good father he is, he will challenge us to face our fears –show us where we went wrong and then point the way back to safety.  He allows us to reap the rewards and setbacks of our decisions.  Yet, He will embolden us to persevere through whatever comes our way.  He touches our hearts with compassion and fills it with confidence, and most importantly, he helps us discover what the love of a father really means.

 He will do this even for Daddy’s who made too many mistakes with their own sons. Amid the chaos, He provides clarity about knowing the distinction between going it alone - and reaching for his strength.  This realization comes from a heart that has shared such moments with him – like a son and his dad – which is like it should be…

Monday, August 26, 2013

Insights - From the Prairie

A new series starts today. I call it Insights. 

In the half-light of pre-dawn, a shrouding haze subdued the warmth of the rising sun as I stood on a prairie knoll.  Surrounding me were miles of Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie. The Oklahoma wind, already sweeping across the land, gently whispered to me and I felt at once lonesome and at peace.  Within A moment the sun burned through the haze and cast a golden glow across the prairie, and what was once trapped in darkness...became light.

Too often we allow distractions to darken our perspectives like the dim ambient light I encountered during this prairie moment. A time eventually comes when we must stand exposed on the grassy knoll of truth about God’s word.  When we do, then his words will clear the haze from our lives and his love will whisper gently to us...and renew our lonesome spirit.           

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cropping for Impact

Sometimes I take a picture understanding that I will more than likely crop it down to create a new image out of it. Usually it is because I do not have the correct lens available or something is just a bit too far away and I have to settle.

Cropping does not require any kind of advanced understanding of techniques, it is more a matter of being able to identify the photograph within the photograph, then removing all the distractions. Here's an example. The top image was the original. It's okay, but to my eye the photograph in the photograph fell upon the middle leaf (bottom photo). There was just a bit too much stuff in the original.

Here's another example. In this case the main attraction was just too far away. As a result it was pretty well lost in all the clutter surrounding it, but by cropping in very tight, the main subject now becomes the main subject. Things to avoid though are unseen distractions that can foul up a shot. In this case a stem from another plant intersects the image from top to bottom creating somewhat of a distraction.

Anyway, don't be afraid to crop your images. Many times if you look for the image within the image, you'll become better equipped to see the shot in the field before you even take it.


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Art of Seeing

I read a story once about how Ansel Adams was setting up one of his famous photographs while others were watching. He noticed something out of place in the view and walked a few yards into the scene and broke off a dead limb hanging from a tree. He supposedly said something to the effect, “That limb doesn’t belong in my photograph.”

Most of us probably would never have seen the obtrusive limb much less taken the time to remove it. But, with his trained eye, he was able to identify what was out of place and took measures to remedy the situation. It was a perfect example that defines the art of seeing.

In photography the art of seeing is one of the most important elements in composition. It’s not so much a matter of recognizing an obviously beautiful scene it is recognizing beauty within the marginal scene that is difficult.

A few years ago I snapped a rather quick photograph of some water plants rising out of the edge of a small lake. A soft greenish reflection spread across the surface of the lake around the plants that created a nice mood generating moment. I really didn’t think too much about it, I just quickly framed it and fired off a couple quick shots. In that same kind of molded moment, I snapped another similar image where the reflected light on the surface cast a yellowish glow amongst a tangle of tree limbs that had fallen into the water. Again, I didn’t think too much about it, just snapped a couple of quick shots.

Some weeks later someone was watching a video I made about that lake that included those two images and she commented, “How did you see that…how did you know that a few plants and some tree limbs would make such good photographs…I would have never seen that nor even thought about looking for something like that.”

 I found it difficult to answer the questions…and it came out something like this, “I just saw it…it was instinct.” Actually I did not think the images were all that great, but they were nice examples of seeing photographically.

As I began to reflect on how I managed to take those two photos I tried to think through the process of what I did. The first thing I remember is seeing the reflected light on the surface of the water. Then I saw the structure around it. By using a long lens, and panning across the surface of the lake looking in the direction of the plants and tree limbs, I was able to isolate those ordinary subjects against some exceptional light. When my eye saw the moment…I fired off the shots. It was that simple.

How I actually saw the moment(s) came from countless thousands of failed photographs trying to accomplish the same thing. All of those failures have contributed to improving the art of seeing to the point that it becomes almost instinctive. You just know it when you see it. The moments were not obvious…it required looking beyond the obvious and seeing what is not always easily seen.

Many times we allow the big picture to get in the way. The big picture represents the obvious, the subtle reflections and the tangles represent the not so obvious. Being able to do so takes practice and a willingness to break away from our preconceived ways of always wanting to do the same old thing the same old way.