Failure and Success in Traphill

· Reading Time: 13 minutes

Wednesday, September, 22, 2021

You are probably getting tired of receiving the notifications of new blog entries here, especially after roughly three weeks with not a peep from me.  I can’t say that I’m sorry about the notifications though because that means that the weather has been good and I’ve been able to get out and find new images over the last week.  The beginning of the month was less than wonderful when it came to weather, although for most folks, the dry and clear days were probably the best way to finish out the Summer Season.  For me, I’ve enjoyed the clouds and have been out to Jefferson, NC, for an afternoon late last week.  That oddly enough turned into a quick morning trek into Traphill, NC, for a requested photograph to be captured.  As my history suggests, once I start working in and around Traphill, I will be out there several more times in quick succession before I move onto another area.  During this time, I got a great suggestion from one of my clients that brought me out to a family home that was in just the right condition to warrant some quality time in front of my camera.

As I alluded to in that last blog entry, I was expecting to return out to the area about three more times before things calmed down for me there.  Well, here we are just a couple of days later and I’m back out in Traphill once again with another suggestion from my client.  It would seem that there is a water wheel that was built by her Father in Law, which is attached to an old power station.  I have no idea what this would look like, but I know that I have had luck with water wheels in the past and there was a good chance that I could make something work with this one.  I had no idea what the setting was going to be so it was kind of hard to plan out the right kind of light for it.  With that uncertainty, I opted to look for a nice cloudy day with very even light so I could work from any direction and wouldn’t have to worry about any shadows or other contrasts in the scene.  As it turned out today was supposed to be rainy all day long, but when I got up this morning, there was no rain, just heavy clouds.  Looking at the hourly forecast for Traphill it was looking like I would have until about 2pm before the rain started to come in.  That would give me time to get a few things done at home and then head out there.

I left the house a little after 11 and made my way out to Traphill to a rough area that the water wheel was supposed to be.  I followed the directions and eventually ended up at the landmark that she had told me about.  When I pulled off the road, the car that had been following me pulled off on the other side and rolled their window down.  This doesn’t normally happen, but I rolled down my window and waved.  She asked it I was OK.  Well, that was nice of her.  I ensured her that I was having no issues and that I was looking for an old water wheel.  She had a puzzled look on her face and said that she didn’t know anything about that.  When I told her who sent me out there, her demeanor changed and said that it was probably attached to the power station back in the woods, but that it was private property.  The notification on the fence and gate had clued me into that, but I appreciated her looking out for the property owners.  I ensured her that my intention was to get permission to access the property before venturing out there.  She said that she believed that the owners of the property lived in the house across the street and from the looks of it, he was probably home.

I thanked her for the information and messaged my client to make sure that I had the right place.  While I was doing that, I noticed that the rain was starting to come in.  It was early and I was hoping that it would be short lived.  After confirming that I was in the right place, I weighed my options.  The rain was getting harder, and I didn’t know how far of a hike it was going to be.  It wasn’t that I was worried about walking in the rain as I have done that many times, but not knowing what was at the end of that walk and how easy it would be to shoot in the rain I decided not to waste my asking for permission on a potential rain out of a shoot.  Instead, I chose to stay in the area and scout around a bit until the rain stopped.  My client had mentioned that her husband’s Grandmother’s house was close by and she thought I might like to photograph it.  It was right off of the road so that was easier to work with in the inclement weather.

I set the destination into my GPS and worked my way to that location.  I had thought that I had been on most of the roads out here, but this one had been hidden from me because when I turned onto it, the pavement ended.  I remember the unpaved roads very well that I travel on, and this one was a new one to me.  I had an address point to drive to and then directions beyond that to get to the house.  With all of the rain and the rain that was continuing to fall the road was a mess and I was starting to look forward to washing the 4Runner tomorrow morning.  As I drove down the road, I was looking for other scenes to photograph and I saw a lot of potential, but nothing that was ready just yet.  At one point, I did pass a property that had three older vehicles parked well off the road behind a singlewide.  One of the old pickups was something that I was really interested in photographing so I put that in the back of my head because I was going to have to get much closer to it in order to photograph it.  I had another location to find first.

I passed by two houses that might have been the one that I was after, but I reached the end of the road before I was sure of what I was looking at.  I got turned around and messaged my client to confirm which of the locations I was looking for and determined that it was the closer of the two houses.  I arrived there and pulled into the driveway.  I could see a car in the driveway and a van behind the house.  At the time I didn’t know that the house was occupied, but I later confirmed that fact.  The house was in pretty good shape, but the sky above it was very bland and didn’t really do anything for the house.  The fact that it was occupied worked against me as well.  Not wanting to cause a fuss by knocking on the door, I opted to let this one go for now until I was sure that I could get something good from the property.  I don’t like asking for a blanket permission to come back at a later time because that really starts to sound suspect to the property owner.  Instead, I will just check on it another time and if it looks like it will work, I’ll ask permission then.

So far, I had been to two different locations and had failed to even try for any photos at either one.  The rain was still hanging around, but it had turned into a drizzle at this point.  Feeling like I might end up not getting a single photo for this trek, I decided to go and look closer at the trio of trucks a bit further down the road.  When I got there, the rain had all but stopped.  The trucks looked amazing, especially with the watery sheen on the patina.  I was here, the truck was muddy, why not knock on the door?

I pulled into the driveway and noticed all of the No Trespassing signs so I wasn’t overly sure that this was going to work out well for me.  There was no walkway to the door of the house, so I walked across the yard which I don’t like to do out of respect, but I saw no other way to get to the door.  I knocked and fully expected no answer, but the door did open.  I introduced myself and explained what brought me out to the area and why I was knocking on her door.  I didn’t get the quick “no” that I was expecting, but she did say that she didn’t feel comfortable giving me permission because it was her son’s property and he would have to give his blessing.  I fully understood that, and thanked her for her time.  I left one of my cards and asked that she have him call me when it was convenient for him to do so.

A swing and a miss….I was now 0 for 3 for the day and not feeling overly confident.  I drove the length of the dirt road back up to my starting point and turned the other way on the main road.  I was kind of familiar with this area and knew that there were some interesting scenes a bit further down the road from here.  As I was driving, I made it around the bend and came up on one of those scenes which was a trio of barns beneath the mountains.  I had seen these many times in the past, but the conditions had never been quite right for a photograph.  This time it was different though because all I could see was a purely artistic scene in front of me.  It looked like a painting right there on the side of the road.  Without thinking twice, I pulled off on the side of the road and started to ponder my composition.

Mountain Heritage“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, No filters

While this scene looked amazing to say the least, there were a few little problems with the surroundings.  First of all, the barns were all overlapping from this view which allowed for no separation.  There was no way to get a different angle on them because the trees would block the view.  By shooting from the front of the barns, I would have to be careful about adding depth to the composition and I would also have to be careful about how I positioned the barns in the frame.  On the right had side of the frame, there were two big bushes and a tree which started to become very heavy in the scene.  There was nothing on the left to balance that heaviness out.  The best part of the scene was the mountains behind the barns, but the clouds were changing rather quickly so it was going to be a matter of timing in order to get the clouds to look right in order to balance out the scene.

I had my general concept and knew that from this distance, I was going to need my long lens.  I got that fitted to the camera and mounted it to the tripod.  There was a slight drizzle and I debated on using a polarizing filter.  I carry two of them with me currently, but neither of them would allow for a lens hood on my 77mm diameter lens.  With the rain, I decided that I wanted to avoid water spots more than controlling a bit of glare that really didn’t look that bad to begin with.  It was going to be a simple setup with no filters at all.  I tried to frame up the composition from my side of the road and found a decent composition, but the balance of the scene wasn’t right.  I needed to move more to the left for a bit more overlap of the barns to show the receding distance.  I crossed the street and got set up on the shoulder where the barns were actually at.  This gave me the right angle that I needed and I liked how the barns were looking.  The problem that I was running into now was that the two bushes on the right of the frame were just as heavy as if I wanted to include the tree as well.  I decided to tighten up the shot and only include a single bush which overlapped the furthest barn every so slightly.  It gave a much better balance to the scene and I was able to frame up the barns perfectly in the scene and have them work very well with the shapes of the mountains behind them.

I had the composition and now I just needed the sky and the light.  I didn’t feel like the light was changing, but in taking images I was seeing a swing of a stop and a third of light difference.  That meant that I would possibly be able to throw a bit more light on the barns as the sun did what it was going to do.  I watched for that and watched for the clouds to get definition to them as they moved around overhead.  There wasn’t much sky in the frame, but what was there was important to the scene.  What I didn’t realize until I got home was that there were birds flying overhead and they were in pretty much every shot.  I had been shooting at a shutter speed that just barely froze them in the sky.  It was a very nice surprise to say the least.

Out of 27 images, I found that this one here had the best balance of light and cloud detail.  It only had one bird in the frame though which was a bit of a disappointment.  Through the editing process, I just really loved the whole feel and mood of the scene so this was the image I committed to.  I had the choice to clone the bird out, or to embrace it.  Since I really liked the position that the bird was in, I chose to embrace it, and actually took it a step further.  There had been as many as four birds in the frame at any given time through the course of the images that I had shot.  With that in mind, I decided to bring some of those birds back.  I had to bring the image into Photoshop to remove a power line in the upper right corner, so it wasn’t too far of a stretch to clone the bird and give him two companions.  I only mention this because I want to be transparent about what I did with the image because this goes beyond a standard post processing edit and more into the manipulation of an image.  I felt that it was the right decision for this one and I kept with the true appearance of the scene because there were multiple birds in the area and I didn’t change the relative size to make them appear any larger.  In fact, I reduced the size of the cloned birds to give a bit more depth to the perspective.  The added birds were also originally found in the RAW image so I didn’t introduce anything that wasn’t there to begin with.

I had my first image in the bag for the day which was actually saying something.  It was my fourth attempt and I finally had something that I was pretty sure I would like.  I was actually pretty happy to have captured this scene since I had been wanting to get this image for a while, but just never was here at the right time.  Feeling a little better about things and seeing that the rain was still rather light I decided to go back to the water wheel and toss in my asking permission card.  When I arrived, I could see that the gate to the property was closed which according to that lady that had checked on me was the indicator that the owner was currently not there.  I was going to have to check out the water wheel another time it appeared.  It was probably just as well because a mile down the road the bottom dropped out and it stayed a heavy rain until I got home about 40 minutes later.

There wasn’t much to come out of this trek, but I’m still glad that I went.  I would have never captured the scene with the tree barns had I not been out there hunting other images.  I’ve also started the groundwork for photographing an old pickup truck which I’m kind of excited about.  Of course, there are still the two locations that I was actively hunting out there which I’ll be back for in the future.  It just may be about another week before I get out there as the weather is looking pretty clear for the next several days.  Who knows though…..the weather forecast has been known to be wrong from time to time.

I hope you enjoyed this trek and remember, there is no better way of seeing my photographs that holding a print in your hands.  Let me know if you would like a print of this one and I’ll be happy to assist you in getting your perfect piece of wall art to you.

Until next time…
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