A Morning Walk to an Old House

· Reading Time: 10 minutes

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

This was an interesting day to say the least.  It actually started on Monday morning as I was taking Sierra to school.  Well, more accurately, I sitting in the passenger seat wondering when my life would come to an end.  There were no historic flashes of memories, so I was pretty sure I had some time to think about other things.  As we were turning out of our development, my eyes averted from imminent disaster ahead and caught sight of an old house that I have enjoyed photographing for a number of years now.  At 8:20 in the morning the sun was hitting the weeds that were grown up next to the house in a very interesting way.  That got me thinking about doing some isolation shots of the side of the house around this time of the morning.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky which was becoming the norm for NC these days.  That was actually a good thing because it gave me something that I could photograph without the need for any clouds in the sky.

The rest of the day I was thinking about how I would approach the scene with the camera and started to make plans for the the following morning.  Toni was nice enough to put her life in Sierra’s hands that morning and let me see if I could make something work at the old house with the rising sun.  I set out about 7am on a short mile long walk to the house.  I was there and getting set up around 7:20 or so.  It took me a little while to really work out the composition that I wanted, and when I actually got it, I wasn’t all that impressed with how it looked in the camera.  I started to look for other alternatives using my phone to get an idea of what angles would look the best.  It was a good deal harder to resolve the composition than I was thinking it would be.  There was a really tall weed right at the doorway which had a bright red stalk to it.  That splash of red in the morning light was going to be difficult to work around in a color image, so I immediately started to think about a black and white composition as a good option.  I was going to be dealing with strong side lighting and some serious shadows which would work well as a black and white composition.  I just needed something that was going to be a little better than what I had initially thought about.

I moved over to the right a bit more so that I could get more of the siding, or missing siding as the case was.  I knew that was the wall that would catch the main light and I wanted to make sure that I had a large area of the brighter exposure in the middle of the frame.  I thought about what all I wanted to include in the frame and considered what aspect ratio I was going to need to work with.  I decided that a square crop or a 4:5 crop would work the best to keep the image simple.  I was concentrating on lines, contrast, and textures in the scene and I didn’t want a lot on the sides of the image.  In fact, I had composed the image so that the protruding section of the home covered the window to the opposite side.  That was a very necessary consideration to simplify the image like I wanted it.  For all of this to work out, I was happy using my standard 24-70mm lens on the camera.  I got down nice and low to the ground by spreading the legs of my Manfrotto 055 CXPRO3 tripod.  I added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to the front of the lens with the intention of getting a little more contrast in the tin section of the roof by reducing the glare.

Weathered Boards“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

With everything set up, I just had to wait on the sun to creep down the side of the house and light up the boards.  As the sun got brighter, I had to reduce my exposure to keep from blowing out the highlights which increased the shadows dramatically.  This was what I was after, and was just waiting for the weeds to get kissed by the light.  It seemingly took forever for the light to hit the way I was wanting it, but I knew that when it did, I was going to be ready for it.  After all, I had already examined one composition and found fault with it and painstakingly found another one that worked much better.  However, while I was waiting for the sun to hit, I started looking at my first composition again and reconsidering how I would shoot it.  I started to see some benefits to going back there and trying it again, although with a wider angle approach that I had before.  I was thinking it would look better with more sun on the house for some more dimension showing through.  That worked out well because the high contrast scene that I was working currently was turning out pretty decent as the morning proceeded.

When I figured that I had more than enough light on that scene, I decided it was time to move over to the left and into the scene a little more.  I kept the same lens and filter on for this next shot, but went out to around 33mm on the lens to give a little bit of distortion to the front of the house and exaggerate the doorway just a tad with the weeds as my foreground.  I fiddled with the composition quite a bit to get it right and again had to consider my options for composition.  A square crop wouldn’t work, and the native 3:2 crop for the camera was too wide for it.  I figured it would either be a 5:7 or 4:5 crop that would work best so I set it up with that in mind.  By this point, the colors were starting to pop a little bit so I was thinking that this would be a decent color image, but I was still leaving myself open to a black and white presentation as well.

While I was getting some exposure made of this view, I thought that it might be a good time to shoot a video as I was waiting on the sun to change a little bit.  I don’t do a lot of videos, but this was one that I thought might be a good one to show the exposure issues that I run into at times like this.  I had a bright sun hitting the side of a white house with shadows as well.  I didn’t want to have an image that looked HDR, I just wanted to have a nice image that showed the detail in all of those areas with some deep shadows to keep it interesting.  You can see in the video some of the issues I was running into and how I dealt with them. What the video doesn’t show is the final image, which I just finished up about an hour ago.  It isn’t as good as I was hoping, but it does satisfy the ideas that I had for the image.  It was a good excuse to get out and shoot a few images on a day when I normally wouldn’t have bothered going out.  The sunny days are kind of killing me right now since that is all we are getting it seems.

The Comforts of Home“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Now, what I liked about this composition is I was able to capture some nice color balance with the browns and greens in the grass and weeds that worked well with the tin roof sections.  The chimney also pulled in some similar brown tones that helped to naturally frame the image.  I like how the wide angle of the lens caused the doorway to jut out from the house, giving this scene a bit of depth which it really needed.  The shadows show the dramatic lighting, and the dark windows add mystery along with the doorway.  I will say though, this was a rough image to actually edit.  I spent about an hour on it the day of the shoot, and wasn’t happy with it at all.  The colors were wrong, the contrasts were wrong, and it just looked sloppy to me.  I put it all on hold and came back to it this morning with fresh eyes and a new take on how I wanted to edit it.

It was actually for the best since I had realized earlier in the day that my website platform was having some technical issues and was currently down.  That was aggravating to say the least and kept my mind occupied with all sorts of racing thoughts.  The last thing that I wanted to do was have a major rescue operation on the website.  Fortunately Nick was on the case and working to figure out how to get the site back up and running.  It took till later that evening before it came back up but fortunately nothing had been lost and it all worked once again.  With that off my mind, I could get back to thinking about how the images were going to come out that I had shot hours before.

For my second attempt at this image I actually pulled a different image that I had shot a bit earlier before the sun had gotten quite so bright.  This one had a little less inherent contrast to it and allowed me to get it all dialed in the way I was wanting it to be.  I took my time and went through with a lot of local adjustments rather than global touches which I kept to a bare minimum.  I have about an hour in this edit which is a lot longer than I normally take, but I was dealing with a lot of very subtle adjustments through the image which helped to tell the story that I was after.  In the end, it is still not my favorite image, but I’m happy with how it came out.  I don’t think that this one or the other one will end up in my gallery, but they were both a lot of fun to shoot.  More importantly, I actually learned quite a bit about how to tackle a scene like this which I don’t do all that often.  Photography has always been about learning for me, and just like every shoot I go on, I am learning something along the way.

After far too long in the digital dark room, I had two images that I was reasonably happy with.  The funny thing was, they were not all that different from the RAW files that I had started with.  Doing small changes to keep things subtle takes more time than ham fisting it which makes sense.  There is a lot more detail work that goes into these images and I’m starting to do many more like this which I’m thinking is yielding much stronger images.  At least that is my hope.

I’m glad that I was able to get these images from the morning and that you were able to join along with me through the blog.  You also got to see my retirement present to myself in the video.  Yep, I’m growing a beard which is a neat little experience after being made to shave for 20 years as a police officer.  I’m kind of liking the look and will likely keep it in some form or fashion for quite a while.

Don’t forget that even though these images are probably not destined for the gallery, they are still available as prints.  Just go into the Shop Tab and select “Prints” to start your process.  All you need to do is select your size and tell me the title of the piece that you want.  From there, just check out and I’ll get your print made and on the way to you.  Also, don’t forget to visit these retailers for you other shopping needs.

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