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

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.


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