A Tale of Two Seasons

· Reading Time: 13 minutes

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Welcome back!  I wasn’t expecting to see you today since it was just a few days ago that I had a really successful trek capturing signs and such in Wilkes County.  I was a little creatively spent after that, and I have been preparing for my first ever “How Did I Edit That” webinar…online chat, whatever you want to call it.  There is still time to sign up for it and it is only $10.  It will begin tonight at 7pm EST and last roughly an hour or so.  But that is now why I am writing today.  Nope, we had a little snow and sleet last night and I finally had the bug to get out and try to do a little Winter photography for once.  This is our fourth snow of the season now and I’m a little ashamed that I haven’t been out in it before now.  I love the snow, I really do.  I think it is beautiful and full of possibilities when it comes to photography.  Based on that, I would be out in it as much as I could.  Well, there is the other side of the coin that usually wins out for me during the Winter months.  First of all, I am a detailer from way back and the thought of cleaning salt off of a vehicle is not something that I really enjoy.  Of course, with Winter weather, the salty roads are soon to follow.  It means that at the first chance I have to spend roughly 4 hours cleaning up the 4Runner to desalinate it and to keep rust from becoming an issue down the road.  I can get over that easy enough, it is the other aspect that keeps me in more than that.  For 20 years I was expected to drive 17 miles to get to work in order to drive around responding to wrecks and other emergency calls for roughly 11 hours, only to have to drive another 17 miles to get home.  Doing that in the Winter with bad roads became something that really got to me.  I can drive it without too much issue, but I have seen what other drivers do in it, and know the potential of getting hit while driving or pulled off on the side of the road.  Those risks and the new ability to say “I don’t want to drive in this” usually keep me at home when the snow starts falling.

Anyway, the snow that we had last night wasn’t too much and the roads looked mainly wet and slushy when I got up.  The sky wasn’t all that great as is the usual after a snow.  It was pretty much featureless and overcast which didn’t inspire much in the way of creativity.  I did my morning postings on social media and plugged the upcoming Lightroom feature before looking at the sky once again.  When I looked out I saw that there was a good bit of definition in the sky and that got me interested in doing some photography in the snow.  My truck was already muddy from my last trek so I knew I was going to have to clean it up again.  The only question left was what to photograph?

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

I started going through different scenes that I had photographed in the general area because I knew that the sky was good here.  I could branch out as I saw fit, but needed a destination to start the day with.  I had just had a brief conversation with a friend last night who made the statement that it was snowing in Hickory and he was looking for red barns to photograph.  Yeah, the cliche’ red barn in the snow.  So very original…but I’ve done that before and there is a reason that they make such great subjects in the snow.  I recalled several red barns in the area that would probably do well in the snow, and if nothing else it would give me a starting point for the day.  Going through my mental list sounded like an advertisement for Siri because the answer came to me like this.  “There are several red barns in the area, one of which is close to you.”  There was this one barn that was only a couple of miles away from home which I had shot on August 1st last year shortly after Toni and I moved into the new house.  It could work with the sky I was seeing because the composition would be pointing in the same direction.

I got my shoes and grabbed my gear before heading out.  I had a pretty good idea of how I was going to shoot this barn since I had worked it a few months before.  I knew that it was located in a small fenced in pasture that would involve shooting either through, or over the fence to get an unobstructed view.  There were power lines and poles that I had to be careful with as well as a background that included some houses and the road.  There were not  a lot of compositional options available to me, but there was just enough to make it a viable contender for an image this morning.

It didn’t take long to get out to the barn and when I arrived, it was pretty much as I expected.  There were two hay bales that were sitting out front which was a nice surprise.  I’ll go ahead and say it before anyone else does……

Frosted Mini Wheats

FROSTED MINI WHEATS

FROSTED MINI WHEATS!!!!!

There I said it….I know that they look like the cereal, and I also know that I will have no less than 4,832 comments saying that they look like that.  Now that I’ve headed that off at the pass, I can get back to the image at hand.  The sky was subtle with just enough definition to make things interesting.  The light was still soft even though there were now breaks in the clouds overhead.  I couldn’t help but mentally compare the two seasons that I had witnessed here through my camera.  The barn hadn’t changed much at all over the months, but the landscape and the lighting was totally different from the last time that I was here with the intention to capture a scene.  I wasn’t sure which setting I liked better as I was setting things up, but knew that this was going to work out well as long as I didn’t blow it by doing something stupid with the camera.

I fitted the 24-70mm lens which I recalled being the best option for this subject.  If I were to have gone wider than 30mm I would include too much of the background which was filled with things that I didn’t like.  If I went much closer than 60mm I would lose the environment of the barn and it would have no context.  When I was setting up I remembered going low and shooting between the slats of the fence, but I really don’t recall why I did did.  For this time, I decided to go above the fence to give a little more separation between the frosted mini wheats and the barn.  Yes, I know….they are in a bowl of milk with the snow on the field.  Sigh…..

I had run though the scene in my head before I even turned the camera on.  I didn’t see any need for a polarizer here as the colors were not really a huge priority as I already knew that I would be doing very subdued colors here, and there wasn’t much in the way of glare to remove.  Looking back, I might have benefitted a bit from a polarizer because there was a touch of blue sky in the background that I had not seen while framing the picture.  Nevertheless, I didn’t use a polarizer, and after I looked at the histogram I saw no need for a ND Grad filter either.  The histogram was a beautiful bell curve with room both to the left and right indicating that I had a perfect range of tones with no risk of blowing anything out or crushing any blacks.  It was going to be a very simple image to capture.

A Morning Hush“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters

I couldn’t remember the exact composition that I had framed back in August, but I did remember there being a power pole on the left side of the frame that I had to clone out in post.  I was pretty sure that I hadn’t included any of the road behind the barn, but didn’t really remember.  Looking at the scene today, the sky was dictating a little bit of a shift as the most interesting part of the sky was more to the right of the barn.  No matter how I tried to frame this shot, it was the road that became the background I wanted.  With the gentle curve that it had the eyes were pulled through the frame quite well without being pulled out of it.  It was that depth that I wanted and the fact that it fell under the part of the sky with the best texture made it a done deal.

I had my composition set and the more I looked at it the more I liked it.  The cereal was there at the start of the image in the bottom left because every good day starts with a healthy breakfast with essential vitamins and minerals….not to mention frosting!  The frosted mini wheats helped to bring the interest down to that corner where the barn was well framed.  The blue barrels looked at first like a distraction, but knowing that I would be muting the colors I needed that splash of cool tones to balance out the warm reds of the barn.  I could fine tune the saturation levels of those barrels to make them really compliment the image.  The direction of the barn and the lines of the roof helped to direct the eyes beyond the barn which gave me that depth that I wanted so badly.  The biggest trick in photography is being able to show a 3D world in a 2D presentation and I love finding ways to show that depth in an image.

I had my basic composition worked out and started to make images.  I ended up with a total of eight frames from this barn.  From that I narrowed it down to three that I liked and ultimately it was this one that won out.  It was a relatively early capture in the series so I had the composition well figured out early on.  The variations were just there in case one looked better on a larger field of view.  I further tweaked the composition by applying a 16:10 crop to it which ever so subtly removed some of the negative space from the bottom of the frame to help direct your eyes to the bowl of cereal I was photographing.  Nothing gets by me!  I know you are just here for the cereal jokes, not the picture.  A healthy dose of desaturation finalized the image and I was looking at the very image that I had previsualized before even going out the door.  I just love it when that happens.  What I hate is that shredded wheat sediment that always ends up at the bottom of the bowl.  Had we gotten more snow last night, you wouldn’t have been able to see it all peeking through the milk.

I had the first image in the bag for the day and was really happy about that.  I had several other ideas in mind and started to head out in the direction of a tree that I wanted to photograph next.  Long story short on that tree was there was too much ground clutter at the base of it to make a simple composition work.  From there I was looking at the sky.  It was clearing off quickly.  The next idea that I had wouldn’t work because the sky was already fully blue in that direction.  I started chasing the clouds and began to work my way to Traphill once again, but before I got to Hwy 18 I saw that the sky was shedding clouds at an alarming rate.  My day was over and it was time to head home.  I would have loved to have gone out for a bit longer and found a few more subjects to photograph, but in all honesty, there is something really fun and refreshing to just work a single image and focus on that one scene during the editing process and the subsequent blog entry.

It was also fun to look back on the picture from August for several reasons.  It reminded me just how vibrant and green things were back in the Summer.  The heat of the day was bad enough that I remember sweating capturing those images.  Seeing the same view in different seasons is a fun comparison for me to make and it really does open some creative doors to see the seasons as different elements in the image.  My favorite comparison is a direct comparison between both images from a photographic standpoint.  I do this from time to time with old pictures of mine that were created in 2013 or even 2016, and am always surprised at how far my skills have come both in the field and with my editing.  This is possibly the first time I have seen a huge difference in those rubrics in such a relatively short time.

I invite you to look critically at these two images.  They are basically the same but there is a level of artistic maturity in the newer one that isn’t present in the first.  What I mean is my use of colors has done a lot of changing in the last six months and I’ve even identified a new direction with color use in my photographs recently.  I have always really liked color saturation and it has shown in my images since the very beginning.  I’ve changed my application of those saturated colors a few times, but the end result has always been bright and vibrant.  Since the end of 2019, I have seen a trend of using more subdued colors in many of my images as I find ones that this method suits.  This barn picture from August clearly wasn’t among the desaturated phase that I was entering.  It took me a while to really work out how I wanted to apply this “look”, or “style” to my images and I have been incorporating it in more and more of them since the end of Fall I suppose.  If you look through my recent feeds on social media you will see a definite transition that has been taking place.

This most recent image of the barn is a good testimony to that.  Had I shot this six months ago I can pretty much guarantee that the red would have been almost radioactive and I would have pulled more of the greens out of the background.  The sky would have gone much bluer and I would have considered that done.  I can see it in my head even now, but I don’t like it.  It isn’t a bad image, but it doesn’t match how I am feeling about colors right now, and I am really liking the more subtle hues that I have been using in my images.  Let me know if you agree or disagree with this change.  I’m not saying that I will change anything, but it would be interesting to know how this newly developed style is being received.  Hey, if nothing else we can set down and enjoy a couple of bowls of frosted mini wheats while social distancing and wearing out milk soaked masks.  Sounds like a lot of fun to me!

Thanks for joining me on this short trek.  I had a lot of fun and I’m glad that I decided to go out and get this image.  I hope that you like it as much as I do.  I’m not sure if I will do a “How Did I Edit This” webinar for this one, but if you are interested, please let me know about that as well.  Of course, if you are absolutely in love with this image and have to have a print of it to hang on your wall, I would love to help you out with that as well.  Just go to the gallery store, or you can email me directly with any special orders.

Until next time…

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