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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stretch Your Imagination - Visualize Your World in Unique Ways

I once heard it said that the main difference between your average shade tree mechanic and Big Daddy Don Garletts is that Big Daddy was not afraid to go against the established ways of doing things. He was constantly questioning why things were done a certain way. Then he would try something different just to see what the results would be. One of his most famous innovations was putting the race engine behind the driver when the trend was that engines were suppose to be in front. Oddly enough, his innovative techniques and constant trying of new things propelled him into drag racing legendary status.

Photographers can  learn a great deal from Big Daddy's approach. We tend to fall into the same ole traps doing the same ole things the same ole way. Often what we end up with is a collection of cliched works. They may be good photographs, but they look just like every other photographers photographs. To truly separate yourself from the trend, you must stretch your imagination by visualizing your world in unique ways.

A few years ago I was attempting to photograph a sundown in front of a friends former home. She and her family had recently moved away and wanted some photos to remember the view from her kitchen window. She had always loved watching the sun go down across the fields in front of their house. Several times I tried to capture that unique sunset, you know, one of those rosey fingered affairs with all the dramatic clouds and sun rays filling the sky. Well it just wasn't happening.

One day as I stood next to the wooden fence waiting for the sunset to materialize, it became apparent it just was not going to work...again. The potential was good with broken clouds but most of them were drifting behind me in the opposite direction of where I needed them. As the sun settled and my hopes of obtaining that legendary photo diminished, I had one of those incredible moment-altering ideas...I turned around...and looked the other direction. Sure enough those broken clouds were being illuminated by the setting sun, but their hue was rather ordinary...sort of soft and creamy instead of dramatic and bold. Then one of those what if Don Garlett ideas popped into my head...What if I pushed the white balance all the way out to 9000K instead of using the standard 5200k. So I tried it just to see what would happen. The results were, how can I say it...Wonderfully Alive.

Those ordinary looking clouds suddenly became vivid with bold color and cast a dramatic atmosphere across the landscape. What I saw in the camera was not what I was seeing visually, but it was what I was seeing emotionally. It was one of the best attempts to visualizing the world in a unique way...not just accepting what was there, but looking beyond the obvious and using the cameras ability to capture light in unique ways. Stretching your imagination is one of the best creative tools you can develop and use.

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