Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Since the color in the mountains is steadily fading, I have been taking a little time off from photography to get things caught up around the house and spend some time resting after many an early morning headed West. I have been doing a lot of back end photography work that entails a lot of thinking which can be dangerous at times. One of the main things that has been occupying my brain has been my increasing need to upgrade my equipment to meet the demands of some of my print sales which are getting larger and larger it seems. While I am able to create a print that is nearly 3 feet tall at acceptable quality, I am always striving to increase that level of quality for my clients and therefore, I am needing to look into a higher resolution alternative than my aging Canon 5D Mk3, which is now over six years old. I’ve been looking at the offerings out there for a while now and waiting to see what Canon does on the mirrorless front. I’m not ready to share my current thoughts on where I am going, and honestly, I am not that gear driven. I just want a better tool for my current needs at this point. If I were happy making images for the internet only, it wouldn’t matter at all what resolution I was shooting at.
All the thinking about equipment has taken my focus off of creating art, and that is a bad thing. I’m afraid that it does happen like that though and the ones that are most interested in equipment are rarely the ones that that are creating images. Not wanting to follow that trail, I decided that despite the lousy lighting today with nothing but sunshine, I was going to go out and find an image or two to capture after dropping Sierra off at school. I had a couple of ideas in place and figured that both would work well in the low morning sun despite there being no clouds to work with.
My first choice was a small church that we pass every morning that I thought might make a good image when the trees changed. Well, the trees aren’t really changing here this year, they are just drying up and falling off the trees. It was now or never to get any leaf color at all with the church so that was my first stop. When I pulled in and started to critically survey the scene, I wasn’t all that interested in the setting at all. It was basically a white house with green and brown trees behind it. The A/C units were on the side I would be shooting, and it just didn’t fit the idea that I had for the image at all. Instead of wasting time with that location, I decided to move on to my next idea which was a small gas station that had been converted to a restaurant near Wake Forest. I had an idea for an isolation of the roof and sign that I wanted to try.
However, on my way out there, I passed by a road where I knew there was an old family home waiting to be photographed. I have been checking this house out periodically for a while now since being invited to shoot it. Again, I have been waiting for nice leaf color to happen, but that never did. Now I was just interested in the morning light that I knew would be favorable on the face of the house. I decided to go and check it out since it had been a couple of weeks since I’ve tried anything with it. When I got there, the tree in the rear was bare and well lit in the morning sun. There was another tree that was creating shadows on the cabin which would be difficult to deal with, but something about the scene looked inviting and I wanted to give it a try.
I pulled into the driveway and grabbed my gear. I had been considering the composition for a while so I knew about what I was going to do in order to capture the scene which saved time and energy. I mounted my standard 24-70mm lens as well as a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer for the roof and to deepen the blue sky since I would be shooting at an angle to the sun. I started to move around to find the right location that would include the bare tree as well as an impressive tree trunk to the left while excluding the neighboring houses and some clutter in the foreground in the shape of other trees. I finally found the right place to stand, and set my Manfrotto Tripod up with the camera mounted to it.
The shot was pretty straightforward and turned out better than I had expected. The sun was just right on the cabin and thanks to the polarizer, I was able to get the sky to darken enough without having to resort to any ND Grads which is always nice. The warm sunlight on the trees balanced well with the deep blue of the sky, and I really liked how the bare tree reached up into the sky to add that visual interest to an otherwise negative space. It was easy to tell the season that this image was captured thanks to the leaves, but the pumpkins on the front porch really sealed the deal for me on that front. It was a nice and cozy image that just felt like home to me. I loved the indications that the cabin was actually occupied, or at least cared for which goes against my typical decay shots. It adds so much more to the story I think.
There was no real need in staying here too long as the light was getting harsher and more difficult to work with as each minute passed. I had the image that I had in mind, and it was time to move on to the next location before the sky got too washed out with the sun creeping higher and higher. My idea for the gas station/restaurant was an isolation on the corner of the very acute angled roof with the sign going into the sky. I knew that my two colors would be red with a blue background, so my gut was to go with a black and white image where I could take total control over the two dominant tones of the image. The negative space from the clear blue sky would be perfect for the minimal nature of this image that I was planning.
When I arrived, I found the parking lot mostly clear and there was no signs of the business being open which was perfect for my uses. I got out of the truck and checked out the scenery for a bit to see if my idea would work. I had a bunch of trees in the background which caused me some issues when I tried to put together my concept for a composition. I ended up getting in closer and shooting more directly into the sky to avoid the trees which would have impacted the simplicity of the design. I opted for a square format since there were so few elements in the image and I thought that it would make for a more balanced and pleasing composition.
After I figured out how I was going to shoot the scene, I pulled out my camera and mounted the standard lens as well as a Polarizer to deepen the blue sky. I framed up the image as I had planned and really decided that I liked the visual tension here, and the bright white of the sign was perfect against the very dark blue which I knew would go nearly black. I started to think about the tonalities involved here and decided that I would embrace the way that the sky was going very dark at the top of the frame while being much lighter toward the horizon. The red roof was originally going to be very light in tone, but with the sky going from light gray to white at the bottom, I decided to deepen the red tones in the conversion to go with a dark gray against the light gray for some very nice separation. It also gave a nice contrast to the dark background and light subject at the top of the frame. The white areas of the image pull your eyes, so there was plenty of visual interest across the entire frame to keep the eyes busy.
I tried a couple of different variations of this composition until I found the exact right perspective. I was actually getting kind of excited about the color version as I was working through the process. The red was popping against the rich blue of the sky, but it might be too much to render in full color. By the time I got home to look at the images, I decided in short order that the sharp contrast between the red and blue was just too much for the image without something to compliment the extremes. The white was not enough at all. The decision was made to keep this as I had planned as a monochrome image. The processing went very simple and stayed true to my vision from the start. I liked how the backgrounds and elements flipped from top to bottom as that increased the visual tension of the image quite handily.
As I was finishing things up, Toni came in and looked at this one. She is my black and white litmus test for images that I am not sure about. I was really happy with this one, but she came in and said “You are really venturing out.” I asked if that meant that she didn’t like it, and she simply stated that “its not my cup of tea.” I appreciated the feedback and now I’m really interested to see how this image is received. She is usually very in tune with what folks will like. Coincidentally, she was not wild about the pumpkins on the porch of the cabin as well. I actually really liked that aspect, so it will be interesting to see what other opinions are here. Regardless, I am happy with both of these images and think that they capture my visions of both of them.
Thanks for joining me on this really short trek, and I hope that you like the images. Remember, if you see an image in any of my blogs that speaks to you, I would love the opportunity to match you up with your very own print. Just let me know how I can help you out.
Until next time….