Tuesday, December 3, 2019
One of the things that I like to do with my clients that live within a reasonable distance from me is to hand deliver prints. This saves shipping costs and avoids any accidental damage to the prints. As it turned out, I had an order from a new client in Western NC, who wanted a metal print done of Autumn which is pictured above. This was actually my first metal print so I was very excited to see how it turned out. I was very happy with the quality, and was ready to get it delivered. As it turned out, the weather was actually looking pretty good in the area of Lansing, NC which wasn’t too far from my client. I had planned on taking it out to her, but with the weather looking good, I thought that I had might as well kill two birds with a single stone. I was going to go out that way and work the area which hopefully still had some snow after yesterday’s weather event that left around two inches of snow on the ground.
The sunrise wasn’t really expected to do much, so I didn’t need to get up too early in the morning to get started, but I did want to get out there by around 9am so that I had plenty of time to find subjects to photograph. As we learned the day before, finding the subjects can be the most difficult part of the equation. I am reasonably familiar with the are of Lansing because it is the area where Toni and I spend our anniversary each January. I typically break away for a little exploration each year and I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the area. I just don’t get the ability to spend the entire day out and about while we are staying in the mountains. Today, I was going to be able to do just that. I was planning on riding around until I ran out of gas, or got tired…whichever came first.
The first stop was to drop off the print which was quite fun. I got to meet my client in person which is always a fun thing to do. We talked for a bit and she was exceedingly happy with the quality of the print and excited to have it in her home. As we learned from my last Behind the Camera, this is the most important part of my photography. I’m always thrilled to make prints, and this one was especially fun for me since it was a new media that I had not previously tried. She was happy, I was happy, and I was ready to take advantage of the clouds that I saw slowly rolling in. We parted ways, and I set my course towards the clouds!
It wasn’t long before I was doing my thing and getting lost on roads that I had never been on before. I found myself on a narrow dirt road well off of the main roads. I had turned down this way because there were two barns at the intersection. They didn’t pan out for compositions, but that was my clue that there was something else further in. Maybe a half mile down the road I saw an old pickup sitting between some trees. My clue had paid off. I found my first subject of the day. Looking at it, I was going to be able to photograph it from the road, but I was really wanting to get in close to it to really make the image that I was after. I backed up and drove up the driveway. I knocked on the door of the house and heard nothing on the inside. I waited a minute or two and then slowly went back to the truck. I wasn’t going to be able to make myself at home unfortunately. However, I had spotted a composition from the street which was where I was headed. I knew I was gong to need my long lens for this one since I was going to be some distance away. I got parked on the shoulder of the road next to the embankment that I was going to be setting up on. The truck was a good bit uphill from my location, but a few cautious steps up the snowy hill got me into position.
I started to work on the composition and found that there was a little figure on the well which caught my eye. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to include him or not, but I figured I would get a quick frame just in case it turned out well. In addition to that one, I shot another ten variations on the composition some vertical and some horizontal. I wasn’t sure what I was going to like the best. I just knew that it was all going to come down to how the sky was looking in the images. there wasn’t much detail in the sky, and in order to expose for the truck in the shadows, I was really having to push the histogram to the right which I didn’t really like doing. I had some safety exposures on hand that didn’t include the sky at all which made me fell a little more comfortable with what I was getting. This was one of those situations where I couldn’t use an ND Grad because of the trees that I didn’t want underexposed. I couldn’t do an HDR blended image because the wind was too strong and the trees were moving too much to ever be able to blend images successfully. I was just going to have to get the best exposure that I could and let the dynamic range of the camera work out the rest.
After getting what I thought were enough images of the old truck, I moved on down the road. I don’t think it took but another ten minutes to find another muddy road to drive down. I saw a barn sitting by itself on a hill behind a house which caught my eye. The sky above it was looking really nice which made me really want to capture the image. The problem I had was I couldn’t get a clear view of it from the right side because of the neighbor’s house. To the front of the barn was another house. The angles were all wrong from the street anyway. However, as luck would have it, the property on the other side of the barn was vacant with a sign at the driveway saying that it was for sale. Hmmm, I could be looking to purchase the property, so I drove up into the driveway and grabbed my gear. I went over close to the barn and set my standard lens up on the camera. I got the composition that I wanted which had some nice dramatic diagonals which I loved and that sky.
The problem that I was running into here was that the sun was directly behind the clouds and that was causing some really bad exposure issues. I tried a single shot and that failed miserably to capture all of the detail that I needed. I decided to pull out a 3-stop soft edge ND Grad to try and control the sky. It helped, but not enough. I grabbed an additional 2-stop ND Grad and staggered them in front of the lens. This was another case where the wind was too much for an HDR series. I was going to have to get it in a single shot to make it work. That is the beauty of the filters I think. I started making exposures as the clouds moved around in the sky. I actually would have loved to have done a long exposure here, but the tree that I liked beside the barn would have blurred too much for my liking. I think I shot about 15 frames over 15 minutes or so. I was hoping that at least one of them would pan out and work as an image when I got them all home to process. Not seeing any other compositions out here, I loaded my gear back up in the truck and set my course back out to the open road to see where else I could find myself.
On a side note, this was the first time I was using my new Vallerret gloves which replaced my woefully inadequate Matin gloves. I can say that these are much better than what I had. The temperature was hovering around 32 degrees and the wind chill easily put the temperature in the upper teens. My hands stayed really warm in the gloves with the exception of the fingertips which were exposed to operate the controls of the camera. I think I will be very happy with these gloves and will be doing a full review on them in the future.
My next stop took a little while to find, but I did find it on a back road. I passed by a house and saw a Ford Galaxy in the driveway. it was rusted on the front and looked promising. I got turned around and drove up to the house. I knocked on the door and a guy answered. I introduced myself and asked if I could shoot a few pictures of the car. He was happy to let me photograph the car and we even started talking about other photographers on Facebook. He mentioned that he followed Bonita Loggins who I have been following her work as well. We talked briefly about the subjects that she captures before I set to work on capturing the Ford.
The composition wasn’t all that easy to come by since I had pretty much one angle that I could shoot the car from. I really liked the trees in the background because of the repeating patterns that they had. The wheel was turned the wrong way to really make this a great composition, but I wasn’t stressing it too much. I just wanted to get the two different colors of the car and the distinctive front end. I had intended on capturing this one as a color image, but when I got home, the color was lacking any interest. I changed gears and went with a monochrome conversion and that seemed to do the trick. It was a pretty standard composition without anything special about it, but I still liked how it turned out. I didn’t hang around long here since I just wasn’t as inspired by the car as I had hoped to be. After about 10 minutes, I was back on the road again looking for my next subject.
I was feeling pretty good about the day now that I had captured three different subjects. I was pretty sure that I had three images in the bag at this point. Honestly, anything else that I got was going to be gravy on top. I found myself on another muddy road well off of the main road. In fact, this was looking more like a driveway than a road, but there were street signs telling me that it was still a road. I just slowly made my way down all of the little side spurs until I came upon a Studebaker pickup sitting at the end of the driveway. I had not seen a model quite like this before and it really caught my attention. Without even thinking about the compositions available, I drove up into the driveway and knocked on the door.
Well, that was not good. How was I going to shoot this truck without permission? Wait a minute, I could shoot the truck from the road. That was the composition that had grabbed my attention anyway. I pulled out of the driveway and parked on the side of the road…in a mud puddle. I grabbed my camera and set it up on the opposite side of the road and started to make exposures. I kept dialing in the composition which made me get closer and closer to the truck. eventually, I was at the entrance to the driveway. I was still on the easement of the road, so I felt comfortable being here. One of the things that I really liked about this old truck was the wood pile behind it. It gave a sense of place and added to the story of this old workhorse. I had to include it in the composition. That turned out to be a great thing because with a wide able I was able to accentuate the front of the truck and also capture a good bit of the background as well. The light snow on the ground helped to frame the truck and it led your eyes right to the wood pile in the back. There was even a fence on the other side of the truck which helped to keep the eyes on the truck . It was all working out quite well, and I was pretty sure that this was going to be my favorite image of the day.
As a side note, when I was processing the image, it fell flat for me. I didn’t like how it was turning out so I decided to see how it worked as a monochrome image. It worked quite well that way and I processed it out as a monochrome. I massaged the color tones to get the proper contrasts in tones until I had an image I liked. But I still didn’t like it as much as I had hoped. I have learned over the years that there are time when you process an image in black and white that you get the color image looking much better as a side benefit. I went back and converted it back to color and found that the color shifts that I had done as a black and white had actually given the image the pop that it needed. I went back to finish the processing as a color image and turned out to be quite happy with it. It now maintains my original vision for this image.
With subject number four in the bag, I figured it was time to head home. I set the GPS since I had no idea where I was, and headed that way. Within about 10 minutes I was on a back road that I had never been on before and the altitude was climbing quite a bit. The snow was getting thicker, and the road was even covered in places. As I crested a hill, I saw a red barn sitting in a field of snow with pine trees in the background. This is an iconic image if I ever saw one. I had time for one more subject. I pulled off the road, careful not to slide down the embankment. I grabbed my camera and set it up. Looking at the scene, I really didn’t see a need for any filters. There wasn’t much glare at all, and I liked the sparkle of the snow anyway. I just had to find the best composition. My first inclination was to shoot the barn from the front and get the background of the pine trees to alleviate any exposure issues from the sky to the right. Again, this was a terrible time for HDR blending with the wind, and this time I wasn’t going to be able to use an ND Grad to any effect while keeping the exposure on the trees right.
I kept getting compositions that I wasn’t really happy with in order to avoid the sky. I decided that I would try one image with the sky in it just in case I could rescue the details in the clouds. Now I found another issue. There was a house that was really close on the right hand side which prevented me from getting a perfect composition. I had to crop in close on the right side, which kind of limited my use of the sky at the top. I was able to slowly dial in a composition that I felt good about while just missing a tree on the bank that I was shooting from. There are always obstacles to avoid when shooting scenes from the road like this. I was actually happy with how this was looking and the histogram showed enough detail in the shadows and highlights to be able to work the image out. OK, now it was really time to go home. I was tired, and cold…not to mention hungry.
Hold that thought….
Was that an old store that I just passed? How about that MG and Corvette at the car dealership across the street. Surely I had time to get just a few more images before going home. Well, I was driving,so I made time. I pulled off on the side of the road and made contact with the owner of the dealership to make sure she didn’t mind if I spent a little time there with the camera. She was happy to let me, so I went and grabbed my gear. I was having a hard time figuring out how to capture the store, so I started with the MG. I didn’t like anything that I came up with for that one either. Had I wasted my time?
Just as I was getting ready to call it quits, I started looking at the Corvette. There was no rust, of course, so the visual interest was minimal for me. However, I do like the lines, and there was a nice fall tree behind the car which added some much needed warmth to the scene. I contemplated the scene and decided to try a vertical composition of the side of the car. I focused on the wheel of all things and let the pin stripe guide the eyes over the fender. The tree was in soft focus and provided that splash of color for the scene. I was back in business once again. I had figured out how to shoot the Corvette inside of a car port. I was actually kind of proud of myself for that one. Now that I was back on a roll, I started to look for other compositions that I could do with the car. The hood caught my eye with the weathering and the distinctive shape. That was going to be my next composition.
For this one, I really wanted to add some perspective distortion and my current 24-70mm lens wasn’t doing it for me. I wanted to switch over to my 16-35mm lens to really capture the front of this car. I started to dial in the composition and finally found one that I really liked. Ironically, I saw that this one was set at 24mm, so I could have kept the other lens on to get this composition. Oh well, this was looking good and I was figuring it would be a conversion to monochrome because there really were no colors involved here. I planned on making everything but the car dark and leave the car jumping out at you. The focus point was the headlight doors since I love headlights. This framed up the hood emblem quite well I thought and the hood added that bit of interest at the top of the image. It all really turned out well I thought. It did really spark my interest in the way that this fiberglass car was aging, and I wanted to capture another image with it. I still wanted to get something with the MG, but it was not in a good position for any solo shots. However, I could capture both of the cars together. They were of similar age and sporting cars, albeit with two completely different theories behind them.
I started to work on the composition and found that I had the right lens for the job with the wide angle one still attached. I keyed in on the hood of the Corvette and used the little MG in the background. It really showed the difference in sizes between the two cars which I wanted. This took an 18mm focal length which was just perfect for this lens. The car port provided a nice frame at the top of the image for almost a natural vignette while that bright tree in the background gave the pop of color behind the Corvette that I loved. It is really unlike any of my other old iron images, but I think that this tells the story of the two cars, and adds a lot of context to this story. With those two things working for it, I have decided that this one will make it as a keeper for the day. It was also the last image that I shot of these cars. I was getting very tired at this point and I was wanting to try and capture the store before calling it a day.
Looking at the compositions that I wanted to try, I needed to swap my standard lens back on. I knew the rough angle that I wanted to capture the store from, but that was going to be very difficult since the sun was coming through the woods to the rear of the store. I figured out early on that lens flare was going to be a major problem here. I tried to hold my hat between the sun and the lens, but the angle was to straight and the hat just entered the frame. I had to reposition the camera so that two trees blocked the main intensity of the sun. Now things were looking better. I was able to get a composition dialed in and decided to shoot this as a 16×9 crop to show off the length of the store and how low the roofline was.
The composition worked and I was thinking that this might end up being a black and white image since there really wan’t that much color in the frame. However, there were splashes of red which I was interested in maintaining. I was going to make the final decision when I got home on this one. I shot a handful of different variations on compositions, all of which from across the street to keep the perspective distortion down to a minimum. In fact, there was hardly any at the 70mm that I was shooting at. With my positions limited by where I could block the sun, I decided to call it a day at this point. I packed up the camera and set my course, once again, to home. It was a long trip and one where I kept getting sleepier and sleepier. It had been a very long day, and I was ready for it to be done.
I might have been ready for it to be done, but in true Greg form, I was back editing the images after dinner to see what I had made it home with. I had shot 112 frames during the day. A good many of those came from the second barn that I shot with the ever changing sky. I probably had 20 frames just for that subject alone. In the end, I had a very respectable nine images that I deemed worthy of being keepers. It was much more than I had anticipated on coming home with, but I did add some subjects on the way home that I wasn’t really expecting to happen.
It was a fantastic day with the delivery of a print, and the creation of nine new images that I hope will become prints one day. If any of these speak to you, I would love the opportunity to match you up with the perfect print for your space. Just let me know what you want and we will get the ball rolling.
Until next time…