Sunday, June 13, 2021
When we last spoke I had just finished up doing some fresh edits on some studio photography that I had done several years ago. I spoke about doing some new images with some new equipment that I have just purchased, but I wasn’t quite ready to do that just yet. I’m still first and foremost a landscape and decay photographer and I was wanting to get out to capture some photographs along those lines a bit more than I was wanting to be stuck in the studio. With Toni heading to High Point this morning early, I decided to get up shortly after she left and check the weather. There was a fog advisory for the area until about 10am which was kind of a nice surprise for me. Looking outside though, I didn’t see any fog. Since the densest part of the fog was reported to be around I77, I texted Toni to see if she recalled driving through any fog in that area. She did, but it was not very heavy, at least what she saw of it wasn’t. It was enough to get me interested in going out to see what I could capture though.
I got breakfast finished up and got ready to head out without a clear understanding of where I wanted to go, or even what I wanted to photograph. The idea was for me to just go where the weather took me. My initial plan was to go out towards the Kerr Scott Dam where there was hopefully some fog which I thought might make for an interesting image or two. However, as I was heading down the road towards 16, I wasn’t really seeing any interest in the sky at all. In fact, the best clouds were looking like they were North around the Blue Ridge Parkway. The clouds were low and hanging over the Ridge which was holding some promise for me. I was going to need to get some altitude and get closer to the clouds, or at least close enough so that they could be in my photographs.
With that in mind, I set my course to Doughton Park which should actually be in the clouds at this point and that was an interesting scenario for me. I could do some landscape work with the right atmosphere. I continued up 16 until I got to the Parkway and then headed North towards the park. The weather was getting better with the clouds closing in gradually. As I climbed altitude, I entered the clouds and I had the atmosphere that I wanted, but with the trees in full Summer state, there was not really any great shapes to place in the clouds. That is the problem with this time of year for me, I miss my tree structures. I kept looking for something that would make a good photograph, but kept drawing blanks. I eventually decided that I was going to turn off of the Parkway to get beneath the clouds to see if I could do anything with that scenario.
I ended up going North on 18 into Sparta and took a couple of the side roads that looked interesting. One of these roads took me near an old barn which was right at the side of the road which caught my eye. The problem with it was that it was mostly covered by a tree and too close to the road to be able to get a good photograph of. While I was looking at the barn though, I saw what was left of the farmhouse well into the property. It was slightly interesting with a red siding hanging on to the exposed structure and the roof was pretty much all gone revealing the same structure beneath. The house by itself wasn’t all that interesting, but it was in a grove of trees which helped to frame the old house in the field. It was worth stopping for to see what I could do with it. When I got out of the truck I went ahead and built the camera with the 70-200mm lens figuring that I was going to have to reach out to get the house in the frame. I added a polarizer as well to remove any glare from the remaining tin panels on the roof and to get a little added contrast to the grass.
I started to frame up a shot that I really liked which included the trees that surrounded the house as well as some variation in the hill behind the house. I shot about three different variations on that composition before I was happy with it. I started to look for other ways to capture the scene and decided that I could do a wider angle shot that included the fence in the foreground as well as the sky which I had omitted in the previous composition. For this to take place, I was going to need to swap out the lens for my 24-70mm lens.
I was able to frame up a composition that I was happy with while standing right at the road, just on the grass. I moved left and right to organize the elements within the scene and found the right balance to the image. I was thinking that I might have needed to add a grad filter, but the exposure was within the workable range and I opted not to add any unnecessary darkness to the mountain tops behind the house. The problem that I was running into was that the depth of field was going to be tricky here with the distance of the foreground fence and the house so far away. I chose to err on the side of caution and did a focus stacked series of the scene. The first image was focused on the fence, the second on the front of the house and the third was focused on the mountains in the background. This would give me plenty of depth of field at f/11 to work with in post processing.
When I got the image home and started to work on it, I was looking at the focus points and found that the first and second frames had very similar focus qualities on the fence. I was actually surprised at this because I was expecting the last two frames to be very soft on the fence. While the fence wasn’t exactly tack sharp, it was plenty sharp enough to appear in focus. The house and the mountains were also tack sharp with the middle image so I decided to avoid doing the focus stack and go with the second image. I never like blending images when I don’t have to because there are too many chances for small anomalies to develop in areas where there is movement from the breeze. There was a lot of that movement and I didn’t want to have that adding any odd areas to the photograph.
When I was done photographing the house in the distance, I started to look at the barn for some isolation shots since I was there. I really didn’t see anything at all that caught my eye and I decided to get back on the road instead of forcing it for another composition. I was satisfied that I had at least one image from here that would be a keeper. I was thinking it would be the long lens isolation that I shot originally, but when I was making the final cut after the edits were done, I felt that the wider angle shot had more impact and told more of the story of the house. That was the one that I kept, even though I had been more excited about the other one at the scene.
I continued through Sparta and around Alleghany County not exactly sure of where I was headed. I know that I left the paved road several times and ended up on a few roads that probably didn’t count as roads anymore. They were rutted and rather technical to get through. I did enjoy a chance to wheel my 4Runner though as it has been a while since I’ve had it in the rough. At some point I managed to make it back to the paved road and I continued on with my hunt for just one more image to capture. I wasn’t really after a day that yielded 15 images and just wanted a couple to work with through the afternoon and evening.
As I was driving through a residential area I saw an old Ford under a car cover in a driveway which caught my eye. It wasn’t anything that I wanted to photograph, but I knew that it was likely a clue to there being more subjects near by. I didn’t see any other cars as I drove by, but there was a barn on the other side of the yard and as I got close to it I could see a tractor sitting just outside of the barn. I slowed and contemplated the compositional possibilities. It was definitely the right kind of subject and it was accessible easily from the side of the road. Since it was clearly part of the property of the house I had just passed, I got turned around in order to ask the owner if they minded if I got a few pictures. I pulled into the driveway and knocked on the door. There was no answer. I really couldn’t tell if this was a regularly lived in house or not based on the clues that I could see. I weighed my options. The clouds were really good at this point and I loved the setting for the photograph. I figured that if I stayed close to the road I could get the image that I was after without going too deeply into the property. If asked about it by anyone, I would then try to get a little closer in.
I got back in the truck and went to the other side of the property where I pulled onto the shoulder of the road. I grabbed my camera with the 24-70mm lens along with a polarizer. I got right up to the fence at the shoulder of the road and started to work out my composition. There was an inherent flow to the scene that I just loved and I tried to maximize that flow with the composition. The exposure was easy enough by exposing to the right and just keeping the clouds from overexposing. The shadows all came out well enough so that I didn’t need any other filters. I grabbed about a dozen different angles here with subtle changes to the position of the camera to make sure that I had enough separation between all of the elements. I would have loved to have gotten into the fence, but this was working out pretty well considering.
When I was pretty happy with the images that I had captured from here I loaded up my gear and I was back on the road less than 10 minutes from when I had pulled over and gotten the camera. I don’t like waiting around in case somebody is wanting to run me off. If I’m shooting from the side of the road I make it quick and get out of there before the neighbors get upset. It is a method that has served me well over the years. It had allowed me to get my favorite image from the day as well so I was happy about that. I had my two scenes photographed and that was enough to keep me busy for the afternoon so I set the GPS for home.
I ended up back on the Parkway going back towards 18 which would take me back into Wilkes County. Realizing the route that I was going to be going, I decided to take a short detour along the way and check out a few locations on 268 which I might want to use as a backdrop for some more Miata Pictures. It is time for me to do some Spring ones of the car now that it has been totally detailed for the season. I just need to figure out where I want to photograph it at. There were a couple of places near the intersection I would be going through which had come to mind. Sadly, when I checked them out I realized that they wouldn’t work at all. That left me wondering if there was something in North Wilkesboro that would work any better. I was close enough there that I decided to go snoop around for a bit before going home.
I drove around the city for a while and wasn’t really finding anything that jumped out at me. I went down into the lower section where I had spent some time before photographing a warehouse at sunrise last fall. I was thinking that the warehouse might work for a backdrop but wasn’t really sure. When I got there the light was nothing like the sunrise that I had shot last year, but the clouds were really interesting and the light on the building was really nice. The added greenery was a nice addition as well. The more I looked at it, the more I wanted to get the camera out. I’m a sucker for a beautiful sky, and this was a nearly perfect sky to photograph. I went ahead and parked the truck and grabbed my camera. Since I was wanting to get the sky included in the image I opted for my wide angle 16-35mm lens along with a polarizer. Generally, I don’t like to use a polarizer with this lens because the sky will start to look odd with the polarizing effect. However, with the clouds present I wasn’t going to have to worry with that so I was able to use the filter at will to add a bit of contrast to the sky.
I started to work out several different compositions both vertically and horizontally. I was having a hard time making it work though because of the large chimney which really wanted to lean over with the focal length. I remembered this being difficult the last time I photographed this building and I was pretty sure that the way I had to overcome the funky angles was to shoot it from the middle of the road. I checked to make sure that I could safely do this and I went out roughly in the middle and started to frame up the shot once again. This was working much better and I knew that I was close enough to get it the perspective fixed in Lightroom so I just added a bit of extra space to the edges of the composition to allow for some cropping after I adjusted the perspective.
I was pretty happy with that composition and started to look for something that would showcase the part of the building that I found most interesting. It wasn’t the chimney which I’m sure is the favorite element for most folks. Nope, what I loved about this building was where the left and middle sections came together and there were layers of roofing which had been added to what looked like an addition above the main floor. It was the different angles that really caught my attention here and I had always loved to see how the lines worked together. The last time I had photographed this building, I tried to figure out a way to capture this section without success. This time, I was determined to make it work. I started off by switching to my 24-70mm lens which I then used vertically to capture the entire corner of the building from stairs to the roof. Sadly, the composition became about the doorway and the stairs and not about the roof. I just couldn’t get the image to tell the story that I was wanting and it was getting rather frustrating. In a last ditch effort, I swapped over to my 70-200mm lens and decided to just fill the frame with the section that I loved here. The composition came together very quickly and it was almost the one that I started with just mounting the camera to the tripod. I just had to do a little bit of fine tuning of the framing and I had the image that I was after. It was looking really good and if the sky was going to produce any detail then I would have a great image.
The clouds were subtle above the roof and I wasn’t sure exactly how they were going to look, but I could see detail in them and I knew I could pull something out of them in Lightroom. I fired off about four images with slightly different framing and different strengths of the polarizer. After that, I was pretty sure that I had everything that I wanted from this building. When I got the images home and I started to process them I pulled this one up and decided quickly that it needed to be done in monochrome since the focus of the image was the lines of the roof. That would also give me the opportunity to get more detail out of the sky and really drive the angles home.
I still wasn’t sure that it would be a good place for pictures of the Miata, especially not on a weekday, but I was glad that I had stopped here for some quick images of this old hardware distribution warehouse. It had been a really good day as a matter of fact. I had shot three different scenes and had captured 55 frames on the memory card. I ended up editing five of those images and these four made the final cut. It was really nice to get out and go exploring in some new areas with really good lighting. I just hope that I’m able to get a few new images of the convertible sometime this week while it is all cleaned up. Then I will probably get to work doing more smoke photography and I’m working on some other studio ideas as well. I do feel a bit backwards though since most photographers I know are going nuts during the Spring and Summer photographing everything that they can. I just find it very hard to get motivated this time of year for some reason. I’ve learned that I really love Winter and Fall photography the best of all and those are the times of year that really excite me. I’ll leave the green landscapes to those “normal photographers” and I’ll use this time for doing different things.
I hope that you enjoyed the trek and the images that resulted. Remember, I do offer prints of all of the images that you see here in the blogs and in the galleries. If you are wanting to capture your own photographs, but maybe want to learn a bit more, I do offer workshops throughout the year. I have a virtual workshop coming up in August where I will cover most aspects of Lightroom in a two day class. I’ll also be offering an evening workshop where I’ll be teaching you how to paint with light while using decay subjects in September. There are still slots left for both workshops so be sure to sign up today to reserve your spot. If you are just needing help with a specific aspect of your photography, I’m also available for 1-on-1 Instruction which is quickly becoming a very popular instruction option for my clients. I have hourly rates, half day rates, and a full day rate for simplicity. I’m here to help you accomplish your goals as a photographer. Just let me know how I can assist you.
Until next time….