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Shoot: Camp Fire Scene

Lesson 9 from: Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

Shoot: Camp Fire Scene

Lesson 9 from: Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

9. Shoot: Camp Fire Scene

Lesson Info

Shoot: Camp Fire Scene

I'm going to visit my bag a little bit and get it out of the shot, so what I'd love to do is get a fire going out here, and if I could get and he gets him when he gets a models from the creative live team over here, um, first thing I'm gonna do here we have lacey, one of us is, and we have aaron are content producers, they they have been kidding with me, they have been working so hard on this, so thank you guys, for modeling, you're all set up, so all right, so what we're gonna do is if you guys want, well, first let's, just do a fire, and now what we're going to do is I've switched back to a sixteen to thirty five in the process of talking, and I actually meant to put on the seventy two, two hundred, and the reason is is I'm going to show you how backgrounds can have a huge how backgrounds could have a huge impact on, um, on your photograph and how to work around that. So one of the things that we really focused on this morning is depth of field, and having a lot of it is I just menti...

oned, and now what we're going to focus on this afternoon is seventy two, two hundred lens to to a image stabilized but it's all right, this was an f four. Still work for what we're doing. We got a lot of ambient light. It's not the ideal time of day. Did you really do any photography? But you can always find something new in the middle of the day. And we do kind of talk about that and the whole rainforest yesterday, but what I'm gonna do is use the seventy, two hundred. And if you remember, I talked about taking a landscape and compressing the scene and making it more two dimensional and that's what a telephoto lens will do and it works also with people. So if you guys want to start and see if you can get that thing that let you got this. All right, I am going, tio take my tether back up. I would normally not be tethered. This is a creative live thing so that you can see what I'm up to now. Watch what happens at seventy mill. So I'm at I s o four hundred and I'm going to go at a little bit of ah, larger depth of field let's say f ten, I'm gonna get a slow shutter speed, but I'm gonna I'm going to see how steady my hand is just to show you what kind of results were getting and now notice I'm gonna move over this direction because I don't want this hot sun in the background, and one thing I've heard is a, uh, again kind of using that that what a professional photographer really looks for is you really pay attention to the background elements, and so I don't want that hot spot to be in the background was stylistically that's desire I want, but I'm always looking for that equilibrium is, you know, and I want to tell a story, so I'm gonna do so through layers, so I'm moved over here, so that way, I have my my faux family here on the laugh, I've got the fire and elements in the middle, but then I've also got the tent in the background and the forest, but everything is also in the shade, so I'm constantly working around the light and then notice I'm not shooting down, but I'm gonna shoot across at my subject. This applies universally for wildflowers as much as it does for campground photography in the sense that when you're shooting down your background is going to be the ground when you're shooting out in a cross at your subject matter, then you're going to get the whole back on the element of telling a story I'm setting a scene and I'm setting the place, so for instance, you see me shooting down and again, these air just sample photos and they're gonna look natural now you little blur and they're going to go to aa a shallow depth of field that's my background, it's just looks like grass and fire and it's not that great. Now I get lower, I've actually set more of a scene, so now you've got the tent in the background and so I know everything looks really blue and that's because we're working in the shade. We've got a lot of ambient light around us, so I'm gonna go and make a an adjustment just for the purpose of this course to show you what our end results will be when we look at him as, uh, as warmer files bear with me as I make that adjustment, so I'm just tweaking my I'm just tweaking my color balance here so that it gets a little warmer and again, this is just so I could help myself with a little bit with the pre visualization. So now watch the results and I'm using auto focus and you guys are good to get a fire going right away, I'm impressed you've had a little practice this week. So taking a look at those shots you see it's warmed up it's certainly pretty nice it's a really busy scene though and so as you know, I recommended earlier you want to constantly take away from the canvas you don't want to keep adding in the campus to making it busier having bottles and all kinds of things left in the background you want to keep it as simple as you can so by using a shallower depth of field I not only get it faster shutter speeds I'm going to go down to a two point eight still it s o four hundred you get a faster shutter speed I'm getting between three twenty and five hundredth of a second I got the I s on so that gets me you know, stop stop and a half maybe shooting auto focus and I'm gonna back up even more why am I backing up because the further away I get from my subject with a long lens the more compressed it's going to get and the more drop off I'm gonna have my background elements so if you watch the difference here now so compositionally not the best but look at the drop off between the last shot and the second last shot if you go back and forth between the two you'll see the tent is now less and focus and the scene is getting more distill now I don't have a issue with and in general especially in the sales market you don't want the backs of people if you have the back of people on a hiking trail or you have the back of people in a campsite or whatever the situation may be um it's hard to relate to them the first thing that we relate to in photography is to connect with people's eyes on the front of them so if you're capturing a hiking trail running backpack in camping scene you want to try and connect with the front of the person so lacey I'm gonna reposition you in a favorable way and so that way we're not catching the back of you so let's see you won't have smoke over here smoke blowing any particular direction well let's see well here why don't we start? You just kind of hear what just looking with just aaron and frame yeah go ahead and while you're doing that um which is can you set up again for us? Are we shooting this for commercial like what is this? I will set up a campsite if it wasn't for like a stock or commercial so this would be definitely more commercial um but by an understanding a commercial shoot and what makes it commercial in the sense that you connect with people's expressions, their faces, the depth of field and so on when you go on a family vacation you go on a trip with friends and you on a camping trip and you want to really capture it right? You'll know what till before right and you might tell somebody to sit in that chair not this share but you wouldn't necessarily design it quite a cz well now in a commercial shoot we've maven consider having lighting and other things like that um you know, we would really control every aspect of it this is mohr using a commercial or sort of set up environment so that you can better work and understand what you're looking for in a natural environment awesome as well as when people are asking about stock and said I'm gonna be back over here but yeah, thank you sure thing so so I've kicked lacey more or less out of the shot she's got a hot spot over there but to illustrate the point I'm gonna zoom in on erin working at fire and you'll see what the results look like it's a lot cleaner it's a lot easier ah on the eyes in general because we're able to now connect with the face the depth of field is dropping off on the ten and if I was the boost that depth the field watch what happens here it gets a lot busier and it just looks like sort of a point and shoot shot it's not is it exceptionally special in that way so what a lot of pro photographers like is that shallow depth of field look in general um and you know the thing I've noticed certainly is somebody's been wrapped photography for twenty plus years is that you looks evolved uh you know with with the advent of a lot of aps on smartphones and auto filters and things like that looks and tastes are also starting to continue to evolve and how you post process something so there's no one way to do anything ever um it's always changing with trends and with style certainly in the business um shallow depth of field is a great way to really show off your lenses and uh and and the the smaller depth the narrow where you're aperture are the narrow road up to feel the better so show an example of what I mean on that what's just photographed the fire and you'll see how just the fire itself is visible you really don't know what's going on in the background on that and then coming back up well, where would my focus if I certainly add aaron back into the shot? I'm not going to even though the fire is the subject matter in the sense of this is what we're building I'm not gonna focus on the fire because I'm connecting with the human experience on it and so my focus is going to be on the ice because that's the first place that people will look it's our natural human way human nature is that we always look first at the eyes if the eyes are soft in a photo and everything else is sharp it just you feel like something's off of you will feel like there's something not right about the photo whatever unless stylistically that's the goal so like you're photographing somebody's hands with blueberries filled in their hands and you want only the blueberries to be sharp and everything else if all of that of course is a difference but in a scene where you have a clear human in the shot and the fire then you want to really make sure that you're looking at the face the eyes that area's a sharpness I'm not manually focusing I'm auto focusing for speed um the camera sensor is the flattest object uh I believe at least I don't know if that's changed but I know at one point was the flattest object that man has ever made or it's certainly close whereas when we used to photograph on film film had a slight death to it a little bit of millimeter to it and then there's a little leniency in your sharpness there is less leniency with today's digital cameras in sharpness and almost no leniency and sharpness then there would have been with film cameras it was a very very slight forgiveness for lack of a better word and now with the censors being what they are you really got to get it right and auto focus works incredibly well and so again having a fast uh um hypersonic motor ultrasonic motor um certainly is money well spent if you have it um you not to say you can't manually focus I certainly do with all of my landscapes to make sure that I'm getting the whole depth of field but when my focal range is so shallow a two point eight and they make lenses obviously that go smaller uh well larger aperture but smaller number than that um you know one point five er and so on you're talking about a hair area of death that could be sharp and in focus and if you're off and you're focusing on the cheek and not the eye you've lost your shop and so the more shall eat up the field the more precise you want toby so how do I do it? I have a little sensor inside here a little box I'm using um that analyzes where I'm focusing and if it's a valued of its looking at the whole scene but I can kind of center on it and then what I do is I find my focus and then I don't release the shutter I keep it to press slightly but without taking a picture I'm zoom out and then I pressed the shutter all the way to make sure that this area sharp some focusing on this area zoomed in finding the eye zooming out so I'm zoomed in around here and then I'm fine in the eye and zooming out and I'm right in there and you can see how great it looks the light is nice it's falling off in the back around you've got a sharp face that's where I goes, but you then also of the fire. The other thing is anything that's on the same focal plane, meaning the death as his eyes will also be sharp. So I'm focusing on the eyes and the fire and all the other elements that are the same distance from me and the lens and that focus spot those will be also sharp, so think of it like a layer cake and you're focusing on this middle layer and then as your depth of field expands as you go from two point eight to five point six to eight to eleven and so on you will get maur away from that you'll be expanding that focal plane, so if I went from to eight to five six now the sudden the area in front of the fire in the area right behind aaron, we'll suddenly be sharp. If I were to change that, um two eleven and the tents or c sharp and that death of field death gets much greater so in general that's what I'm looking for when photographing in the campsite and I'm gonna work the whole scene using a long lens you could certainly go with a wide lands but if I go wide here I'm gonna get a lot of elements I don't necessarily want I've got a really cool focus point you have an activity around it I've got my elements in the background and just like we tell a story with a landscape by having a foreground elements having a mid ground element in a background element we're doing the exact same thing here except now we're starting incorporate people were incorporating activities and so on that's sort of an overview on the technical aspects let's talk about it uh as well from a story perspective but let me first check if we have any questions is I'm flying through this oh, we always have questions let me jump on over here um I do have a question about just some of the basics um let's see, I'm using you you talked about your using a value to meet a ring that's correct? Um in terms of are you pointing the sensor at the brightest area or the darkest area for that best dynamic range I'm not doing either I'm pointing it at I'm paying attention more from a focusing perspective and less from a meat oring perspective the cameras are brilliant, we have an incredible, expensive piece of equipment in her hand that really understands how to set our exposure and our values you've got a screen for reference and you've got a history ram to really understand how bright or how dark is it if you get so caught up in should I be meeting on the face or so on and so forth then you're gonna you're gonna get so caught up but you're not gonna get your shot ultimately um you know I wouldn't focus on the fire I mean the flame or anything that's like very drastically bright would be a bad idea to focus on so I'm not gonna focus on the brightest spot of the darkest spot necessarily but the brightest spot in the dark spot aren't necessarily going to be my subject matter either the subject and the thing that needs to be in focus is aaron's face his eyes and then from there everything else needs to fall in the place their composition so I'll start there and then kind of worked out exactly so if he was wearing a headlamp and this were evening right, I wouldn't focus on that headland because if I do the camera's going toe stop all the way down that's going to focus on just a head lamp and I think it's so much brighter than everything else around us the whole picture going to black except for that one little light on his head so but I'm also gonna focus on the darkest area it's that there's a campfire also casting some glow. I might focus on something in between the two at least burn exposure reading, but ultimately it's still going to fall back on the eyes and the face. Certainly with people photography one more quick one um, that several folks have asked and voted on from this morning. And now this is photo maker because ian seems to work a scene for a while. Do you ever put a pass port color checker into a shot to help with you matching or color balance and post? Were you ever using a great card? I have? I have used him in the past. Yeah, they're great to use. Ultimately, I've actually gotten away from it, but more out of personal preference. Um, again, color balance is something that can be done later and as we're going to go through the tools of checking white balance laid when we get in studio, we actually look at the shots. The one thing that's always great to have something that is is, uh, is helpless of its white, some sort of a white subject. Because there's always a quick tool in photoshopped, you could use an eyedropper pick an object that should be pure white or natural wise and on off way color in this case maybe our merit marshmallows might be the perfect example of that so we get a shot with those and you can use that then to set your color balance and then you can apply it to all of your images if you want but that said so often because we're working in the shade and you're working and changing environments I'm probably gonna warm up this whole shot anyway, okay? And so by using an eye and adjusting teo creative desire the ultimate color balance might not matter that much as long as I'm getting color cast sting but we'll talk more about that audio and how about if you're focused on doing something for stock imagery for example are you more concerned perhaps about the color or not as much I might be if the client if it's an excited for a client who is a clothing manufacturer yes, that might be a situation in which color truth is going to be their color veracity is going to be the most important um and so in that case I might use uh color checker and I forget the name of the company I think it's great tog macbeth is the company of a color check I use and I actually had one that sadly uh it's no longer but it was very small about the size of a credit card and so in your bag kept you light and small but did the job and you could just throw it in a shot every now and then if you work it with models and you working in a very controlled environment, you have that luxury that's great um a lot of my photography is very opportunistic. I really there's something, um, I think it's an important point to make, actually, which is there's an authenticity that shines through in images that are created in real situations, and we could manufacture this with set designers and lighting and all kinds of things, but it's uh, something that will be sort of uncanny about it to people when they've us is not very authentic, that there's gonna be something feel stage or to set where there's something we're getting a well crafted image naturally because you're actually going camping with a group of friends who I actually enjoyed being outdoors or photographing your family on a vacation. To me, those are the images that not on ly are, in my opinion, a better image, but I find from a sales perspective a tandem are are more popular because they're authentic. It is awesome to be able to think about it don't worry about having crazy yeah now that's not always the case yeah, of course, and I don't you won't necessarily see um, you know, in a clothing line, you won't see a whole lot of that. But some of the most popular outdoor clothing brands that I've worked with actually hire pro athletes as their ambassadors or ambassador programs. To go where the gear in really climbing, mountaineering, alpine situations. Because not only are they truly using it, and they're the best of what they are. But that authenticity is going to shine through and really show what their product is about. Absolutely.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Field Guide to Photographing the American Wilderness
Icons of Nature Keynote
National Park Photography Intro and Setup
Photo Editing Keynote
10 Steps to Processing Perfect Star Trail Images
Business of Photography Keynote
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


I have taken quite a few courses with createlive and this was by far one of the best. Ian is a fantastic teacher and remarkable at describing what he is doing and his thought process clearly. There is so much good information in this course, I definitely plan on buying this class. Not only is Ian a great teacher, but he also seems to genuinely want to help other photographers and see them succeed. You can tell he cares more about seeing good pictures of nature than anything else. I cannot recommend this course enough. Whether you are a beginner who shoots landscape photography as a hobby or a professional who already specializes in landscape photography, this class has something to offer and will expand your skill set. Can't thank Ian enough and I hope he does another course soon.


Ian is a great teacher and it is great when some one who "can do", can also explain how he does it. Clearly, his experience and commitment are why he is good at what he does. There is a lot more to a great photo than getting the camera settings and filters right. Ian did his best to help us understand what to look for when "working the scene" and finding a good composition without distractions. A great course. Thank you, Creative Live and Ian Shive.


Amazing course. Ian Shive is a wonderful teacher, as well as photographer, and it all comes across. I was glued to my computer for the entire 3 days when the class was live, and just had to purchase it so I don't lose any of it. The bonus materials alone are worth the purchase price. I've got a trip coming up soon and will have the opportunity to put some of what Ian said into practice; and love that I can have it with me on my portable devices so I can refresh my memory and reinforce it all. Great to have on a long plane ride. If you are on the fence, get off that fence and go purchase this great course!!! You won't be sorry. My thanks to CreativeLive, and Ian Shive for giving us this wonderful opportunity to not only learn, but to actually be in the field with Ian.

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