A Big End to the Year (Part 1)

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

We are now in the closing hours of 2020!  As I start to type this, there are but seven hours left of the most interesting year that I can remember.  I had hoped to have done this yesterday, but the trek that I was on lasted until almost dark.  I decided to spend the evening with Toni instead of working on the pictures which meant that first thing this morning I started to run the 102 images through my culling and editing process which brings us to this point.  I’ll go ahead and ruin the surprise and say that I managed to get 14 keepers out of the bunch and that has taken me the better part of a day to go through and edit.  The thought of putting all of those images into a single blog entry just baffles my mind so I have decided to break the day up into two parts since there were basically only two places that I stopped.  That’s right, I only went to two places and got over a hundred images.  Well, I did stop at one other place on the way home for a slightly different kind of image, but that was a quick stop and most of the day had been spent at just the two locations.

I’ll dispense with the normal planning and weather part of the blog and just say that I had gotten a tip from one of the property owners in Wilkes County about a barn that he thought I might like to shoot.  I had actually captured several of Josh’s family’s barns and even a home in the recent months and he thought that this one might be a good location for me to try.  As I always do, I waited for a cloudy day to give it a try.  That day happened to be Wednesday.  I waited until the sun was up good enough to see what the quality of the sky was before I headed out, but it was a relatively early start to the day.

I made my way out to the edge of North Wilkesboro down a residential street that I would have never really looked at before.  There was new construction and there was even a development sign out front which is usually an indication of single family homes which don’t usually interest me.  I was following the instructions and hoped that things would change for the better.  I finally got to the side street where the barn was supposed to be and I was thrilled to see that it was a gravel road.  That was a very good sign that I was going to have a good time down here.  Sure enough, the barn was at the end of the road all by itself in the field.  The sky wasn’t great at this point, but there was enough definition in it to give me hope that I might make a few good images here.

I pulled the truck off the road and started to look at the layout critically.  Since the sky was so plain, I didn’t want to do a standard post card shot of the barn so I looked for other alternatives.  What I loved about the scene was that the line between the browns and greens seemed to have a really nice rhythm to it.  There was a grove of trees to the left of the barn which were down a slight hill.  This gave me some diagonal qualities to the image which I thought brought a bit of drama to the scene.  In order to capture that I was going to have to include a bunch of the sky as well as the harvested field.  That seemed a bit boring to me, so I started to think about creative crops.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought that a panorama would work very nicely here.

The Face of Farming“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, 8 image pano stitched in Lightroom

I went around to the back of the truck and grabbed my camera along with the long lens.  I found the spot that I wanted to shoot this from and I set the tripod up and leveled it to make sure that the camera would swing around and not go crooked.  From here I set the shot up and decided where my start and finish points would be for the series and checked the exposure through the scene.  I then set the focus to make sure that everything was going to be sharp in the frame.  With a last check of the exposure values, I made a single sweep of the scene capturing eight images which would later be stitched together in Lightroom.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but there was no movement in the scene and I saw no reason to do a duplicate capture here.

I did start to look around for other compositions that I could do, but the long lens was a bit to constrictive on the compositions available so I went back to the truck and swapped out the long lens for my standard lens which would serve me a little bit better for this barn.  I went back and started to find other ideas for a bit wider of a composition.  The one part of the scene that I liked that I hadn’t captured with the panorama was the tall tree next to the barn.  I wasn’t really liking the relationship between these two elements, but the more I worked it, and moved to the right, the more sense that it made.

The Shade is Gone“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I ended up moving quite a bit over to the right from my previous set of images.  This put the tree closer to the barn, and also managed to get the tree placed in a break in the trees in the background.  That separation was important for me, and I was able to keep one of the branches outlining a few of those background trees to the left.  By getting down very low and shooting between the lines on the barbed wire fence, I was able to get that lowest branch just above the mountains in the distance.  The part that I didn’t like about this composition was that the barn was a little plain from this angle, but I was able to keep just enough of the face of it to keep it from appearing flat.  I wished that it was larger in the frame, but I had no way to control that part of the composition so I had to go with what I had available to me.  The sky was still not tremendously interesting, but there was some subtle textures to it.  My goal for this one was to use the sky as a color balance for the red barn more than anything else.  The visual interest would be held by the tree primarily and the barn was going to be a secondary subject.  The sky was going to be negative space which is not always a bad thing, unlike “empty” space.

I tried a few different compositions here and finally realized that I had pretty much everything that I wanted from the barn.  It was a nice barn, but it was almost too nice of one for my purposes.  The tree on the other hand was just perfect and I had already thought about capturing a frame or two of just the tree.  I moved my position slightly and started to work out another composition.  I was again shooting beneath the lines of the fence and I was just not sure quite how to go about framing this tree.  I tried vertically and horizontally, but with the sky looking like it did I didn’t like either of them all that much.  This was going to need a bit of calming symmetry to really make it work so I decided on a square crop.

Gave it All“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

While I was capturing a few images of this tree, there was a truck that was coming out of the driveway across the street.  I figured that this was probably a property owner wondering what I was doing.  This time I had the ace in my pocket that the owner of the barn had invited me to the location.  I didn’t need it though as the driver was just curious as to what I was doing.  I gave him the quick rundown of why I was out taking a picture of the barn and let him know that I am a decay photographer in addition to a landscape photographer.  To illustrate my decay photography, I pointed out a rusty VW bus which I had seen in the yard that he just came from.  I said that this is the type of thing that I enjoy photographing and while he was out there I decided to ask him if I could walk over and get a few shots.  He said that his house was a few down and that this one belonged to another gentleman, but that he was happy to let him know that I wanted to photograph the van.  Hey, this is pretty good luck as he didn’t think that there would be any problems with that.

As he went back up the driveway, I went back to the camera and finished the series of shots for the tree that I had been working on.  The square format seemed to work very nicely for this tree and it just really pulled the attention right to the structure of the branches which I found interesting.  There was no need for any other elements in the scene and the tree was pleasantly broad which negated my normal vertical orientation.  The sky was subtle, and was again just used for a bit of color balance to the scene.  Images like this of trees usually benefit from a soft background so that there is no competition between the branches and the background.

When I was done with those images, I heard the truck coming back down the driveway so I waved at the driver as I saw the property owner walking behind the truck.  I stopped what I was doing and met him at the end of his driveway.  We had a very nice conversation about a multitude of topics.  He was actually running a body shop out of his back yard and he had several customer cars there in various stages of work.  He was happy to let me get some photographs so when we were done talking, I went back to the camera and grabbed one more image just in case the sky was better and picked it all up and crossed the street.

Woodstock“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I went straight to the VW bus which I had seen originally.  These busses are not all that interesting on their own because they are pretty much a slab sided rectangle of a vehicle.  This one stuck out to me because of the rusty front and missing headlights.  The rest of the van was a faded yellow or beige that seemed to fit well with the dormant weeds around it.  There was an overall warmth to the scene that I really liked and the sky above helped to balance that warmth, and bring out the bluish gray colors of the primer along different areas of the van.  The composition was going to have to be simple here because there was a Toyota Solara parked just to the right of the VW so I was limited in my angles.  I also ran out of trees too far to the left of the frame which would lead to a very bright section of sky pulling the eyes out of the upper left corner.  I could embrace the sky and shoot vertically to capture the structure of some of the trees behind the van, but when I tried that the attention was pulled away too much from the van.  I needed something direct here and decided that a horizontal orientation would be the best bet.

I worked out a position that balanced the composition with a pile of logs in the background which added a little bit of visual interest in the midground behind the van which I felt was important to show depth to the scene.  I planned out a 16:9 crop of the image to eliminate a lot of the extra sky at the top while accentuating the shape of the van.  While shooting this image the color palette that I was seeing was reminding me of the 60’s which seemed to fit the era of the van.  As I considered the wood in the midground stocked up for Winter the title for this one became quite obvious.  I didn’t spend too long at all with this van as there was really only a few ways to shoot it.  Since the trim had all been removed, there was not much in the way of isolations that I wanted to shoot with it.  But I wasn’t done here…not just yet.

That Fine Fin“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As I had been working on the van, my eyes had spied a Chevy Bel Air sitting just a little further inside the yard.  It was missing the fenders and most of the front clip with the exception of the hood.  I didn’t like the view from the front of the car, but the trim was there and I was interested in doing some isolations on this iconic car.  I got in closer to it and started to see what I had to work with.  The easiest angle to get the car from was the back passenger quarter view.  This happened to be one of the most iconic angles on the car with the fins along with the chrome trim.  I pondered this briefly and decided to go with the same recipe that I had done with the VW as far as colors.  Since the car was a tired yellow I needed some cool tones to balance the image out.  The sky came to the rescue once again and gave me that pale blue to round this image out.

I looked at this from a horizontal and vertical standpoint but only the vertical composition worked to my view since the front clip of the car was missing.  I got in close and down low with the intention of really making that fin the primary point of interest in the frame.  I was able to get the nameplate as well as the tail light in the frame as well.  I balanced it all with the back wheel which still had the chrome hubcap on it.  There was a patch of rust that helped give the tail light a little extra balance as well.  I really loved the composition and I did several exposures this way moving slightly to change the relationships and try to cover the background clutter with the car itself.  I was feeling really good about this idea and was starting to really get in the mood for more isolations.

Imprinted“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

After a failed attempt at photographing the other side where the chrome was picking up the reflection of a blue tarp, I decided to move up to the front of the car.  The hood was sitting on the front of the car with none of the other panels there.  There was no trim on it at all, but you could see where the trim had been.  It reminded me of another image that I had shot years ago where I used the ghost images of the emblems where the rust looked different for a type of abstract shot.  This hood wasn’t rusted like the other one, but had some areas where the paint was missing, and of course the places where the emblems and trim had been.  My concept for this one was to be a monochrome image since it was just a sea of pale yellow anyway.  I was going to make it an abstract so you really couldn’t tell the shape of what you were looking at and the only clues would be the darker areas of the frame.

The shot didn’t take long at all to get set up and I decided to make it a 16:9 crop in camera to add to the visual tension.  I rotated the polarizer to remove a lot of the contour clues on the hood and leave you with just a blank canvas with three primary points of interest along with some random splotches.  I knew that I was going to be dialing up the contrast here as I wasn’t interested at all in shades of gray.  I wanted this to be a stark study in light and dark forcing your eyes to look for clues.  I have to admit that I am very happy with how this turned out.  It has been far too long since I’ve done images of hood ornaments and emblems so it was quite nice to get back to it once again.


I am going to take a quick break and come back for part two here in a little bit.  I do hope that you are enjoying this so far.  There will be more old iron coming up soon!

I’ll be right back….

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