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, April 9, 2016

Taking some time off...again

Its time to put the blog to rest for a while. Appreciate the few viewers who actually took time to read the posts. Hope they made a positive impact. It's been fun and more than likely I will return someday, but until then I am signing off, but the blog page will remain open for anyone who might actually look through the archives.  Thanx again,


Friday, April 8, 2016

An Insecure and Uncertain Spring

Spring arrives insecure and uncertain in Kentucky. Seems like it tarries for several weeks not sure if it is ready to close the door on winter or burst into the glorius warmth we are ready for after a long cold spell. There will be the early flash of color as blooms come forth pink and white, red and yellow, as if brought to life through the magical movement of a wizard's wand. Then nature, as it is inclined to do, sends us a protest event by broiling a storm into life stirring up wind and rain and thunder boomers. One day it is comfortable with gentle breezes and soft warmth embracing the world. The next day cold air filters through again barging its way into every crevice sending chilling winds to remind us that winter is not yet over. Then one morning as if overnight, everything turns green again ushering in the dog days of summer. Those unsettled transitional days, until summer arrives, should be a great time for photographers to rediscover the magic of light.

Oddly, spring may be my least photographed season. It also seems to be the shortest one becoming more of a brief interlude between winter and summer. Every year I remind myself to take advantage of what it has to offer photographically. Yet, before I realize it almost every year, spring has come and gone and I have little to show in the way of photographs.

Spring is also I believe the most difficult of seasons to photograph. How could that be one might ask with all the flowering trees. It's difficult to explain but it is sort of like not being able to see the forest for the trees effect. What we visually encompass is a wonderful array of redbuds and dogwoods with their splashes of color interspersed randomly across the landscape trying to return to a green hue. We observe it with a wide field of view with three dimensional depth perception as a glorified vision of color with eyes capable of separating the various parts. The camera creates a flat one dimensional illusion of the view which in so many ways falls well short of capturing what we see. Placing all of the components into a composition that captures the essence of spring is one of the more difficult tasks for photographer. If we are not careful what we end up with is flat image of a redbud against a tangle of background trees. The photographer to avoid this must use other elements to create an illusion of depth and movement to create an effective composition.  The details of spring are much easier to see and compose for they are easily spearated from the background.

Even so, every spring I make attempts to capture this new face exploding upon the landscape, and each year I get a little better at it. This spring will be no exception.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Through The Radiance of Light

The English language is most pure when framed within a musical score. The expressions become more than words, they become the defining lyrics of our lives by touching our deepest levels of emotion. When recited through a golden voice, the words become embedded within our hearts from across a moment of time, a moment we often cling to for fear of never finding it again. From all the times I've fallen short in a quest to accomplish something of significance, my lack of musical ability echoes across the decades to taunt me to such a degree I am often brought to despair. So, when I experience a truly remarkable example of such talent, I am deeply encouraged through the beauty of how the music was shared. Even someone like me with virtually no musical ability can be moved by the purity of this wonderful form of art.

Maybe in some way, I seek to fill the musical void I possess through other avenues. Capturing life photographically provides at least a measure of filling such voids. You see, images taken from moments in time become the musical scores of the visual artist. Where I fail vocally, I seek to define visually. I will never successfully harmonize music into a beautiful song, but the desire to achieve such perfection is overwhelming at times. So, I choose to sing not with words, not with audible melodies...I sing through the radiance of light.

Friday, April 1, 2016

I Climbed A Hill

I climbed a hill one spring day. It wasn't much of a hill, rising gently maybe fifty feet or so higher than the surrounding terrain. From the narrow confines of the grid-like gravel road that cut across the prairie one could easily not even notice the slight dimple it presented on a landscape filled with undulating dimples. Except for the defining rocky outcropping on its peak, I would not have noticed it either, except I was looking for a high place, one offering a panoramic view in all directions.The peak rose maybe somewhat less than half a mile to the west and promised enough extra elevation to warrant a visit. What I discovered from its summit redefined forever my understanding of the essence of the prairie.

The prairie offers a quiet respite from our world, a place of rest in which we in our hurried approach to life too often neglect. It is rare we even recognize how much neglect we're guilty of as we tend to substitute other less effective means of comfort as filler to mutter through life. We've attached so many filters to our lives these days it is amazing we can recognize what is truly important or even what is quality rest. Our often distorted view of the world too often impales us with jagged emotional hooks filled with distrust, fear, and uncertainty. So deeply embedded they become, pulling them out is more painful than leaving them in. Even so, there are times when the hooks holding me hostage become so uncomfortable I am compelled to seek relief for the wounded soul they have created. Climbing a prairie hill, as it turns out, will do such a thing.

The tallgrass was not yet at its peak height just now reaching to my waist, high enough though to brush against my trousers with enough energy to slow my ascent. The half mile or so hike became more like three quarters of a mile as I had to continually cut back and forth to avoid a series of hidden ditches filled with pools of water from recent rains. The damp terrain imparted a deep prairie aroma to the air retaining a wet, freshly-cut flavor to it, but it's not the same. It's different, carrying a greater value with the biggness of the prairie embedded within it.

As I approached the summit, to my left and right prairie blooms unseen from the road became more abundant. A few at first, then more and more blended with the thicker prairie greenery. A splash of red, a dash of white, and a glorious spot or two of purple mixed with brilliant yellow splattered here and there to break the prevailing green pattern. Some stood tall, others favored a lower environment. All were wild and free products of an amazing eco-system. Closer to the summit, Coneflowers began to play in the wind and as I stepped upon the rocky outcropping at the top, the unseen portion of the hill on the west side rolled away to reveal a hidden wonder. Before me spread several acres filled with thousands of Coneflowers, mostly of the pale purple variety. Sloping to the north the hill fell away toward a pond surrounded by more acres of Black Eyed Susans. Their carpet of yellow and black covered the slope and moved in unison when, like an invisible hand, the wind cast its influence. Still farther to the west rose a series of mesas casting shadows in the shallow light of late afternoon adding texture to the landscape. Near their base a herd of about one hundred bison meandered across the fields moving as one unit. Their deep gutteral bellowing just audible. I observed them in fascination for a few moments. They moved with purpose unless a calf delayed following the herd until its mother gently nudged it into conformity.

I would venture to guess except for an occasional American Bison or coyote, few if any people have stood atop this shallow knoll. I may have been the first, maybe even the only one. For several hours I simply listened to the prairie wind whisper its calming message and the prairie birds sing their cheerful songs. There were no other sounds. Lost in a world all but foreign to most people, I stood ever so briefly alone, truly absorbed by the charity of calming rest offered across this landscape. The silence presented atop that shallow hill at least for a moment removed some of the distorting filters that fogged my everyday world. Ever so slowly the sharp impaling hooks embedded in my soul withdrew. I climbed a prairie hill one spring day to discover what was there. Along the way, I rediscovered who I was.