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.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Never Give Up on Light

All day for two days the rain fell intermittingly and the sky rolled as a guilded, dark gray, overcast. Not so good for your spirits, perfect if you are a photographer. I love to photograph on misty gray days. Not only is the light subdued with an even coat of texture it becomes moody and filled with mystery. Even more exciting is when the thick overcast moves out and behind it follows a line of clear air. When that moment coincides with sundown, oh my goodness, what results borders on the indescribable.

I managed a late start that afternoon. Only about an hour or so of daylight was left and what remained of it generated a dark mood. As I revisited some familiar locations hoping to capture some of that mysterious mood, I noticed way off toward the horizon what appeared to be a thin line of clearing skies. 

My plans changed and I hurried over to a location that would offer a decent view of when the sun dropped below the cloud line. For fifteen or twenty minutes as the evening sundown progressed I waited and shot, changing lenses and altering my location slightly trying to find the best angle. The results were encouraging, but average I thought even though the sky was spectacular. As bright and dramatic as it was for those few minutes, the drama began to fade toward a flatter outcome so I loaded up and started home.

About a half mile or so from home I passed near a country church location I see all the time. Having made numerous attempts to photograph it in vain, I almost drove on past. The sky was still vaguely under lit by the remnants of the setting sun, but just barely. Visually it appeared dull and flat, with a fading hint of highlight catching the lower parts of the remaining overcast. Within a few minutes it would fade into darkness. Being Wednesday night the church was lit up inside and out waiting for patrons to show up. Although, what little illumination remaining was faint, I decided to give it a try and pulled off the road, setup my tripod and fired off a quick shot. The light was so low the shutter hung open for close to two seconds. What appeared on my viewer took my breath away. That two second exposure allowed the camera to accumulate the dim light reflecting from the clouds and turned it into a spectacular red glow. The shot I had wanted from this location for the past 12 years finally became a reality. 

What I learned; as a photographer one should never give up on the light because what might appear flat and dull to your eye, the camera can capture as bold and beautiful. The general rule about the magic hour holds true; the last 30 minutes before sundown or sunrise, and the next 30 minutes after sundown or sunrise offers the best potential for amazing light. The sun had long since set and what remained was simply the afterglow, the last spark of daylight. This is the time that most photographers call it a day and turn loose of the opportunity. I wanted to see what would happen by not giving up on the light. On this day the results far exceeded the visual clues. 

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