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, June 26, 2014

Your Best Lenses are Your Eyes – Your Best Filter is Your Imagination

Well...I've come to a milestone and made a decision. After much thought and the better part of five years and 230 posts, this will be my last Blog Post on Beyond The Campfire. It's been quite a challenge and a wonderful journey one I have both appreciated and have been encouraged by the response and feedback. I hope the few words I've shared about photography and about getting outdoors...beyond the campfire...has encouraged and challenged you the readers and followers. Thanx for all the support. It's been fun, but time to move on. I will from time to time provide a post on the Nightscapes portion of the Blog, but for now, I close the book on Beyond the Campfire and leave you with this one final post.


My worst habit is I tend to photograph the same subject matter all the time. Not sure how many images I have snapped of that old downed tree with the snarled overhanging branches being reflected on the surface of the pond behind my house. For some reason I keep taking that same old shot over and over. I suppose thinking that one day I will actually come up with a shot of some merit using that subject. So far it hasn’t happened. Sometimes we get tunnel vision and only see what is obvious when more often than not, what is not obvious provides the greatest potential for a great photograph. What happens is that we rely too much on mechanical devices to do the work for us and fail to use our greatest assets; our eyes and our imaginations.

Your eyes are your best lens. It is thru these lenses you build the composition. Learning how to see photographically is the key. Your best filter is your imagination because employing that aspect of the photographic process is what opens your mind to all the possibilities. It is being able to see beauty amongst the ordinary and then developing the technical skills to capture it, that separates the great photographer from the average one.
Using your eyes means to see beyond what is simply visible and using your imagination resolves 

being able to recognize how different light and a changing atmosphere will affect the scene. What is most important is being willing to be there when those times exist. Two favorite examples of mine are the first two images included with this post. Both were taken at the same location, a place I found several years ago in the middle of an ordinary day in the middle of the summer. On that ordinary summer day, the ordinary nature of this little valley would have been easy to overlook. But, as I gazed across the valley from my high vantage point I recognized the potential of the place. Arching behind the tree line along the bluff flowed Barren River. I knew Kentucky was a great place for foggy mornings. I also knew that in a few months when cooler weather arrived that fog could potentially provide a wonderful photo op.
Using my eyes, seeing what wasn’t there…yet…I was able to visualize something extraordinary evolving from this ordinary location. It took several pre-dawn attempts to catch the right moment, but when it happened, I was there. The moment would not have happened had I not used my most valuable lens; being able to see past the ordinary.
The last image is one I took a good number of years ago using slide transparency film. It was almost by accident how everything lined up, but what I saw visually was not what I created photographically. That came from looking beyond the ordinary, beyond what was visible, to see what was possible. It became one of the most iconic images I have ever taken and have never duplicated.
With this being the last post, I want to leave you with one final word of encouragement. The world is full of amazing opportunities, so do not settle for the simple, the ordinary. Seek out the extraordinary and use your imagination to create your own amazing images.
Thanx for following...


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Moving the Baseline - Bridging the Creative Gap with Streams of Light

What is this photograph about? This is a question I have asked myself countless times, and just as often, I struggle to find the answer, yet I keep asking it, seeking how to bridge the gap between what is ordinary and what is extraordinary. Sometimes the answer comes unexpectedly, illuminated by streams – streams of light.

Recently I began photographing the night, not just the night sky which in its own right requires a unique set of techniques and conditions. Photographing meaningful images and creating imaginative compositions when light is concentrated in short bursts or by streams of illumination, requires a different kind of visualization than photographing in daylight. Even at first light or dusk it requires being able to see how light affects the dark. This kind of photography explodes with drama and drama is what closes the gap between routine and exceptional.

The night creates an all-encompassing shadow that covers the subject matter with an absence of light. It is this absence of light that defines the baseline of what your night photograph is all about. Add a thin stream of light from a faint source and the shadow is pierced and the baseline moves. Change the angle of your perspective and the stream of that light changes the drama, and the baseline move a little more. Look from a lower or from a higher vantage point, and the composition evolves toward the answer you are seeking for what the photograph is about. Sometimes it happens on the first try, usually it requires many trials and experiments with light at different vectors to discover what is there. You have to keep moving the baseline, shift it and mold it until it gives in to succumb to your creative desire.

The trick is to keep asking yourself, “What is this photograph about?” The gap that separates you from finding the answer is most certainly a product of your own persistence. Too little and the answer becomes weak, but stay with it, keep looking, keep experimenting, and the gap narrows with each attempt. The odd discovery you will eventually realize is there is no single best answer for any given situation. You may discover the answer was already there before you began, it was in your heart. You just needed to find how to release it.