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

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Young At Heart

I’ve often agreed with the axiom that youth is wasted on the young.  As I have grown older I have noticed a slowing down of sorts. Oh, I still have moments where I can recall, when required, the energy reserves which lie dormant most of the time. And I still find it hard to recognize the old guy I see in the mirror every morning. Locked deep within the recesses of my memories resides the young man who was energetic and full of adventure…way back when. He’s still there, sort of mostly, just suppressed and not allowed to surface as often as he would like. Although my physical youth left me many years ago, my emotional youth is still alive and for some strange reason I believe I am still that young guy from years ago. Those thoughts often get me into trouble when I tempt fate believing I can still do the things I once could do.  So when an opportunity presents itself to rekindle that dormant youthful spirit, I will occasionally allow myself to pursue the moment.

Two or three times a year our photography group will do a model shoot where we offer a few young folks the opportunity to get some free location portraits made. All they have to do is use their energetic youthful spirit and allow us older geriatric types, an opportunity to use our photographic skills. All of us have a great time with it and the models are always delightful and full of energy. By the end of the shoot, we the photographers are worn out, but the young folks, well, they are off and running toward some other adventure and never seem to skip a beat. If I think back real hard, I can almost remember being that way myself at one time.

On a recent Saturday one of those amazing spring days greeted us. With temperatures in the upper 70’s and a nice breeze stirring through the shady trees, a group of us met on the Western Kentucky University campus for our first model shoot of the year. On a normal model shoot we usually have two or three maybe four models at best, but on this day we ended up with ten…we only had seven photographers, so there were plenty to go around. I invited two young ladies I know to join us, both of whom are delightful and lovely.

Over the course of three hours they proved to us again just how energetic they are and hundreds of images were taken. It is interesting to see the different photographic styles employed. Those with a studio background reflect that thought process in their photographs. Those of us with a nature background, tend to employ more nature elements to our portraits. One of the photographers leans toward an edgy fashion style and his photos certainly reflect it in the poses and angles he uses. I tend to use a more informal style and allow the models to perform in their natural manner giving direction only to change the mood or energy "…look over this way, your right shoulder…no, your other right…tilt your head this way…big smile…soft smile…think about your first kiss…look up…look down…close your eyes". It’s a lot of fun to see them respond and begin to have fun with it. When they are having fun, they loosen up and look more natural and that makes our job as photographers much easier, but it fun to inneract with them. "…wow…what a shot!...that was a great one, but I missed it…so let’s try it again…got it…!" 

With ten models and only three hours, there was no way to effectively shoot all ten of them, but we did the best we could and all of them were able to get some very nice images. By midday we the photographers were worn out. All of us had so much fun, I almost forgot how old I was. Being around those energetic young folks transported me back to another day and time and I saw myself reflected in their lives. They were great sports, polite, and genuinely enjoyed what they were doing. Although I stay in reasonably good shape physically, there are other kinds of exercise required to remain young at heart. That would be to exercise your sense of perspective and place into context all the years of experience it took to get where you are now. 
To get this far one requires a bit of a youthful attitude and it helps to have a cheerful one along the way. These young folks with their energy and adventurous spirit, without even knowing it, helped to cheer up and encourage an older generation of photographers simply by reminding us about our own youthful past. They were grateful to get a few photos. We were grateful to share in a few moments of their youthful energy.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Walk About

Sometimes I will take an hour or so and do a walk about in the fields and around the pond behind my house. I have photographed that area dozens of times and usually tend to capture the same kinds of photos each time I head out. Sometimes, I will stumble onto something that stands apart from everything else and when that happens, this rather ordinary location can produce some amazing photographic moments.

The other evening I managed to head out that way and came across a dragon fly that must have just hatched for he was still clinging to a blade of grass suspended above a large pool of dark water left over from a previous rain. I was using an old 75-300 Minolta lens on my Sony A65...its not a great lens but sometimes its size and ease of use is preferable to my larger 50-500 Sigma lens.

I zoomed in and fired off a few quick shots. When I took a closer look at them on the back of the camera I realized first of all the auto focus just was not locking in like it should. Secondly, I was metering using the evaluative mode and the dark background really thru off the exposure. Lucky for me, the dragon fly was not yet ready to start flitting about like they do and he stayed put while I adjusted the camera. First, I shifted the exposure compensation to -1.3 to allow for the dark background. Secondly, I turned off the auto focus and switch over to manual.

The A65 has an extremely cool manual focusing system where whatever you are focusing on will be highlited by a color you this case it was red. That feature visually helps when trying to focus thru a lot of stuff that might otherwise fool the auto focus. I took another aim at the dragon fly and manually turned the focus dial until he was highlited in red and fired the shot. Closer examination revealed a crisp and clean shot properly exposed that clearly showed the blood being pumped into his newly inflated wings.

As I continued my walk about, the sun settled closer to the horizon and started filtering thru trees and other cover. Some of that light backlit a small branch where new leaves were beginning to form. I have taken backlit shots like this hundreds of times...this one appeared no different than all the others and I almost passed up on the opportunity. Sometimes though the camera will see things we cannot, and it will capture a moment in ways we cannot visually see I made a quick frame and fired off a couple quick shots. What was captured was an exquiste example of how light reveals details thru the lens of the camera. What set it apart was how the background served to frame the backlit leaves against a natural dark green matting.

Walk abouts are easy to do and many times they will offer up an opportunity that defies the simplicity of the moment. Maybe it is because of that simplicty those kinds of opportunities can be so productive.