Stone and Iron

· Reading Time: 20 minutes
Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Skull Behind the Water

I’m going to start out by saying, I am really starting to hate the weather this year.  It seems that every weekend I’m faced with rain, snow, or blazing sun…sometimes on the same day.  It is forcing me to get creative and venture out on very rainy days when normally I would stay home.  This weekend, was looking to be a little better than most with mostly cloudy skies for the first part of the day on Saturday, followed by rain, turning into snow, and eventually accumulating to an inch or so.  Sunday was looking like a mess potentially so I made the decision to go out early on Saturday and do some photography.

I checked out the sunrise forecaster and saw that there was a moderate chance that I would get to see some color in the sky at dawn.  That meant that I might as well wake up early and try to shoot a sunrise.  The question was, where to go?  I had been thinking about going to Stone Mountain after all of the rain that we have had to work on Widow’s Creek Falls again.  This is one of my favorite waterfalls to go to because of its character.  The clouds would be great for that, and according to the forecast, the rain/snow would not start until about 3pm.  That would give me plenty of time to walk along Bullhead Creek and Widow’s Creek from the lower trail head.  As far as sunrise, I thought that I would try to shoot it using a barn that I’ve seen several times in Yadkin County which was on the way to Stone Mountain.

Rock and a Soft Place

I woke up with Toni at 4am and checked the weather.  The sunrise was looking less promising, but the clouds were still good and the rain was still scheduled for around 3pm.  I decided that my plan was still a go, so I rolled back over and slept for a bit longer since I didn’t need to leave until about 5:45 to get to the barn for sunrise.  Once I got up I was pretty excited about the prospect of the day.  I had a couple of good destinations in mind, and was looking to shoot things that I had not shot before.

I was making great time down the highway, and actually got to the barn a little earlier than I had planned.  I started to scope out the scene to see how the sun would be in relation to the barn.  My estimations were a little off unfortunately, and the angles that I had thought were not going to work.  To make matters worse, I was going to have to include a very large power pole in the composition that I did not really want there.  I still had time to get to another potential location in Traphill where I could shoot a sunrise.  I got back on the highway and continued on.

Splash Down

As I was heading up 77, I was looking to my right for any indication that there might be a decent sunrise. It really didn’t look promising at all.  It appeared to be much too cloudy for any color to develop.  Based on my time, if I skipped the sunrise, I would make it to the park right at 7 when they opened the gates.  The way I saw it, I couldn’t lose.  When I arrived at the field where I was thinking about shooting the sunrise, the sky was getting brighter, but wasn’t showing any color at all.  I didn’t even break stride as I drove by destined for Stone Mountain.

I got there just as the park was opening up.  In fact, I had to wait at two gates for Rangers to open them up.  I arrived at the lower trail head and checked the sky once again.  It was just gray, and it was about 5 minutes away from sunrise.  I could have hoofed it over to the meadow that I like to photograph so much, but I really didn’t think that it was worth the jog.  I was also noticing that it was flurrying which probably meant that the clouds were a little too thick for any decent color.  I grabbed my gear and started to walk down the main road which parallels the two creeks I wanted to work with.

Ordered Confusion

The first stop on my walk was a picnic area that I had never visited.  It was right along a section of the Bullhead Creek and I could hear rapids. Sure enough, there was a nice little water feature within easy reach.  I grabbed my camera and fitted the 24-70mm lens with the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and started to find my compositions.  The sun was still very low and the light was quite dim.  That allowed me to shoot at 20-30 seconds of exposure.  That is a little longer than I really like, but for the mood I was going for, it was perfect.

As I was shooting, the snow was falling a little more heavy now, and I was pretty sure that the forecast was wrong about the starting time.  I happened to look up at the sky a little while after sunrise.  There was a pale pink hue in the clouds.  It wasn’t anything that I would have been interested in photographing so I was pretty happy with my choice of getting my feet wet.

There was a little water slide below where I was shooting that I went over to investigate.  There was a small bit of white water, but more interesting was a flat rock that was propped in the creek bed in a diagonal fashion.  I also saw a tree with a rather complex trunk system that caught my eye.  I went ahead and started to work that scene out.  The rock paired nicely with the white water coming off of the slope.  The two really framed the tree quite nicely.

Sifting Gold

When I was done at the picnic area, I kept the camera built and continued down the road to another section of the Bullhead Creek.  I found a point of interest and started to shoot some compositions.  I wasn’t liking what I was getting and I decided to swap out my lens for the longer 70-200mm so I could shoot some isolations.  This worked out better, but when I got home I decided that none of them really stood out as something special.  Ultimately, they got trashed.  I did continue on to the next creek which was Widow’s Creek, near the waterfall that has the same name.  I had photographed this section many years ago, and have yet to find it with enough water to make it truly interesting since.  This time was a bit different.

There was a nice row of rocks stretching from coast to coast that I was able to work some compositions out with.  I kept my 70-200mm lens attached, and tried to keep it angled down since it was snowing pretty good now.  With the Polarizer attached, I was unable to use the lens hood, so keeping the camera pointed down was the easiest thing to do.  Fortunately, I found so many great things to work with in this section.

Getting Ahead

What I found so interesting about these rocks was the rich colors that they had.  The snow and rain falling kept them all glistening wet so that the tones were all nice and even.  I was able to shoot quite a few isolations with the moving water.  This was when I really felt like things were going my way.  The snow had changed over to rain, and it was slacking off a bit.  I knew that this was my opportunity to get over to the waterfall and start working it for a while before wet stuff started to fall once again.

Widow’s Swirl

I had high hopes for this, and as I got close I could tell that the water was flowing very nicely.  Unfortunately, it was also starting to flow from the sky as well.  The rain had picked up again.  I went ahead and fitted my 24-70mm lens as it has the lens hood to best protect the front element from rain.  It is also the most versatile lens I have when it comes to waterfalls.  I had wanted to use my 16-35mm, but the hood was too shallow and I was sure to get water drops on the front element.  With my Color Combo Polarizer attached, I started to look for compositions.  There were two branches in the way of the shots that I wanted to take, so my first task was to work my way close to the waterfall in order to remove the limbs.  I think that the water was deeper than I thought because my feet actually started to get wet in my boots…but the limbs were cleared out of the way quick enough.

While I was up close to the waterfall, I decided to get a shot.  I found a swirl forming in what would become my foreground.  The amount of water sliding down the rock face was pretty impressive for this waterfall.  Short of floods, this was the most I’ve seen here, and I liked it.  I was having a very hard time keeping the glass dry though.  I was using my hat to cover the element, but with the ballhead dripping wet, the camera was hard to fine tune with one hand.  I decided to give up on this location and move under some trees in the hopes that I would be shielded from the rain a little.

The Stage

From this point, I was a little better able to keep the glass clear.  I was in familiar shooting grounds from here and knew the compositions that worked.  I made little adjustments to get the waterfall positioned just where I wanted it to go in relation to the runoff cascades downstream.  Something I’ve always loved about this waterfall is the small little scoop on the rock face to the left.  I was not happy to see that somebody had come and scratched graffiti onto the rock around this hole.  It really detracted from the scene, and was enough reason to allow me to do a little cloning to get the evidence gone.

It seems that more and more, these places of natural beauty are becoming targets of vandals.  Sure, they are doing it in good fun.  I’ve carved initials in benches before as a young man, so I’m not alien to the concepts of why it is done.  However, putting initials and messages right next to a waterfall is something else entirely.  I’ve seen it at several different falls over the years and it really ruins the beauty for the rest of us.  I do wish that there was a way to stop this from happening, but it is just too easy to be unwatched at these places.

On the Ledge

I’ll get off of my stump now, and get back to the photography.  I was having fun with this waterfall, but the rain was now very steady, and myself and my camera were dripping wet.  I had even put the rain cover on my Lowepro bag, and had started to utilize the rain cover for the camera.  My problem was keeping the front element clear, and the rain was starting to soften the images I was shooting.  It was time to pack it in and give up for the day.  I had been rained or snowed on since I had gotten to the park, and it was getting a little old.

I packed up the camera and started the mile walk back to where the truck was.  There were a couple of places that I wanted to shoot on the way back when the sun was a little higher, but with the rain falling like it was that wasn’t possible.  The closer I got to the truck, the more the rain was starting to become snow.  It was pretty, but it was also about five hours early according to the forecast.

Woodland Lean

I was getting pretty close to the truck, but happened to look over to the right.  There was a bare tree set away from the background.  It really stuck out because of the color of the bark, so I thought about how I could shoot it.  The snow was falling pretty heavy at this point, so I was going to need a lens hood to cover the element. For this composition, the 70-200mm lens was best suited, and it had a very deep hood.  The trade off was that I wasn’t able to use a filter since my filters are a slightly bigger size than the diameter of this lens.  Well, I could do this shot without a polarizer well enough, so I fitted the long lens and worked on putting the composition together.

With a narrow depth of field, I was able to focus only on the tree and not the background.  This turned out pretty good, and the colors all complemented each other.  I only got three shots before the snow turned back to rain again.  With a fairly short shutter speed, you can actually see the snow streaking across the image.  It doesn’t really show up in the low res web version though.

With that tree completed, I finished the walk back to the truck and tossed the soaking wet equipment in the back and hopped in the front seat.  I was cold and wet, but thought that I had a pretty good amount of shots for the morning.  I had just under 100 frames shot in the three hours that I was at the park, but I didn’t feel like I was finished with the day.  I still wanted to shoot more, but the rain was telling me otherwise.

I did know that Winston was supposed to get the weather much later than the mountains so I decided to take the scenic route home and try to get in front of the heavy rain.  I waited until I got into Yadkin County and saw that the rain was almost non-existent.  That was where I branched off of the highway and went through Yadkinville.

The Builder’s Toys

I’m one of the best people I know when it comes to getting lost in the country.  I have no idea where I was when I came across what looked to be a car grave yard of sorts.  Wait, no….that’s not a grave yard.  Those are rat rods on the property.  OK, that is cool, and it wasn’t raining more than a drizzle.  I got turned around and pulled off of the road.  There was a house, a workshop, and a long driveway leading to another house that all looked like it was connected to this property.  I could have gone and knocked on some doors, but I was rushing the weather.  I opted to get what I could from the road to save time.  This was a really cool property to find!

Fire Prevention

In addition to the rat rods, there was a really nice fire truck parked next to a barn that caught my eye.  Both of these scenes were within reach of my 70-200mm lens which I pulled out of the bag.  It was still rather damp from Stone Mountain, but functioned perfectly.  I didn’t use any filters because it was raining enough that I needed some sort of covering on the lead element.  I got into the best positions that I could in order to capture the scenes in front of me.  The rat rods were simple and straightforward to shoot.  The fire truck was a little more complicated due to its position.  Ultimately, I decided to create a panorama to include the barn as well.  I shot a series of 6 shots which were later stitched together in Lightroom.

Firewood

I then pulled two of the images back out and stitched them together once again to create a single image of the truck by itself.  That is the nice thing about panoramas, they have so much image data that you can crop them all sorts of ways and maintain a very large file to print from.  The tree behind the truck was very interesting on its own, but seemed to work well to highlight the firetruck.

When I was done with the panorama, I heard somebody coming out of the shop.  I was expecting the typical “What are you doing,” followed by “Get the hell off my property!” routine.  Instead I was greeted by a very nice man who invited me to come on in closer to photograph what I wanted.  This was a nice turn of events, and seems to be the case with folks in Yadkin County.  I chatted with him briefly, and found out that he built rat rods using the cars that were on the property.  He had been doing it for about eight years now, and had completed 38 builds, some of which were shipped out of the country to clients.

I went back to the truck and swapped out my long lens for my 24-70mm and a polarizer.  I was so excited that I forgot to put in a new battery which was getting depleted quickly at this point.  I was like a kid in a candy store, the only problem being which car to shoot first.

Furrowed Brow

The first subject to be placed in front of the lens was this Oldsmobile.  It was in sad shape, and there was a lot of clutter behind it as well.  The patina on the door and quarter more than made up for the extra clutter.  There was a large dent in the fender and the hood was bent from rusty springs it appeared.  It all worked together to remind me of a person with a quizzical look and squinting one eye.  Yeah, this car had personality for sure.  I still thought that the best part was the quarter and door.  When I realized that both of the windows were shattered, I really became interested in the side of the car.

Shattered Dreams

I decided that this needed an abstract approach, and I framed it up capturing both windows as well as the strong diagonal between the white and the black with the chrome molding.  This image was something special thanks to the way that the glass looked.  I could not have asked for any better with this car.  But I could have asked for better from my camera which was now on fumes.  The battery light was red and blinking at me now.  I only had one option, to go back to the truck and grab another battery.

Lacking Motivation

As the rain was starting to fall a little harder, I went where I could find some shelter.  That shelter happened to be right next to a Chevy truck cab.  I figured I would work on a composition with this old truck for a while.  There was a lot missing, but it sure did have a lot of character to it.  The part that really caught my eye was the grill.  It wasn’t a flashy grill, and actually seemed rather unimpressive, but the design of it begged for something.  It just took me a few minutes to figure it out.

Bowtie Grill

What the grill was begging for was an isolation that captured the different directions of the slats as well as the Chevy emblem.  The moss at the top made for a great color balancing element, and the repeating shapes were absolutely awesome.  If you look close enough, you can also see where the engine should be, but instead it is just vegetation.  That adds to the mystery of what you are looking at until you have time to study it.  This is actually one of my favorite images from this location.  It is just cool the way it all plays out.

The rain started to ease up once again, and I started to make my way around the property again.  I had been looking at an old GMC truck for a while and decided that I would go and give it a closer look now.  It was in a row of four trucks, and the one next to it was pretty interesting as well.  I tried a group composition and reduced it to just the two.  None of them seemed to work out the way I really wanted them to.

Lucky Eights

What I ended up doing was shooting from the other side of the truck and capturing the moss on the side.  It was a pretty straightforward shot and wasn’t all that spectacular, but I did like how the truck looked in the rain.  It was also odd to see an inspection sticker with eights all the way across.  it was a fun little picture to make, but what I found on the truck next to it overshadowed this image quite easily.  The truck was pretty cool, but the different layers of paint were all peeling which made for a very interesting abstract opportunity.

Sad State

As I started to look at the different patters I could shoot, I started to see where the rain was dripping down the side of the truck.  It almost looked as though it was crying.  On this section, there was a bit of blue which helped to balance out the red and green.  The rainy tears were at different stages, but I was able to capture one as it was actively moving down the side.  That was just what I was after.  I had texture, color, detail, and emotion.  This was a very cool shot, and I managed to get it in one exposure.

Now I was really looking for color having found this treasure trove of hues.  My next subject was about 50 feet from where I was standing.  It was an old Chevrolet tucked away in the weeds.  I did notice that the trees were blooming behind the truck, and the blooms were a perfect pink.  There were also burnt orange blooms mixed in which made for the perfect backdrop for this truck.

Spring in Your Step

When I got in position to shoot the scene, I noticed that the fender was mostly blue which made for a perfect complimenting color to the pinks and oranges in the trees.  While the color is not quite as brilliant as the previous picture, I have to say that this is one of my favorite images from the day.  I’ve found that I really enjoy photographing these derelict vehicles in Spring with all the vibrant colors and new life.  The dichotomy is just too perfect.

I shot a few different exposures of this old truck, but with the rain really staring to come down, I decided that it was time to get a few more subjects under my belt before I lost the opportunity.  I went back over to the rat rod side and started to look at the one completed rod situated in front of the barn.  I had a lot of issues with exposure on this one since I was going to have to include the sky.  I decided to get in close and skew the perspective to compliment the feel of the rat rod.

Outlaw Fire

This thing was a work of art.  The stretched nose on it, with the wrapped fire hose in front of the grill was just beyond awesome.  It came fully equipped with lights and a siren it appeared, and I’m sure it could get to a fire in a hurry.  The gentleman that owned the shot really knows what he is doing.  I was able to capture the wide range of exposure with a single capture even though I was prepared to shoot an HDR image in order to capture the wide range.  When I got done processing it, I think it has jumped to the top of my list as my favorite image from the day.  The splashes of red, the patina, and the overall look of this rig were such a fantastic combination.  It has actually sparked an interest in rat rods that wasn’t aware I had on that level.  I could see me driving one, and I could sure see me photographing more of them.

Brake Time

I puttered around on that side of the yard for a bit.  I found a few isolations to shoot, and started looking for things that I could come back and photograph at a different time.  There is really no end to the possibilities out here, and I see myself coming back many more times.  I wouldn’t even be opposed to shooting marketing photos of his work.  I swear…the things that I find when I go out and get lost!

The rain was getting worse and worse now, and I decided that it was time to break stuff down and get back in the truck.  As I was walking back to the truck, I went past the big white firetruck that had caught my attention earlier.  I decided to give it another try with a different composition.  I got myself positioned so that I had a minimum of distraction in the background and made the exposure.

Kirkersville Pumper

At this distance I didn’t have the tree in all of its splendor behind the truck, but I was able to get a bit more detail rendered here.  This is one of Mr Cornelius’ next projects and I can’t wait to see what he does with it.  He’s got a bagged Cadillac in the back of the shop that was under a tarp that I would love to see more of as well.  As I said, I have plans on returning to this location, and I hope to get the opportunity to photograph more of his projects in different locations.  For today, however, my time was finished.  The rain was now very heavy and it was getting difficult to stay dry.  I packed it in, with a total of 157 frames shot for the day.  Of those, these 23 stood out from the crowd and made the cut.

I’ll have to see where I can wedge a few into the gallery tomorrow as it is getting late right now.  While I love coming back with so many pictures from a trek, it does take a bunch of time to do all that needs to be done with them.  Until next time…