Figured Out the Barn

· Reading Time: 12 minutes

Sunday, June 14, 2020

I think it has been just about a month since I have been out with the camera in the field.  I have had a good excuse though.  Toni and I have been getting a new house ready to move into much closer to the mountains.  That means for about the past month, we have been getting things packed up in our current house and making many trips out to Purlear, NC to start painting the house and doing some minor repairs on it to ensure that when we move in in about another month that things will be all perfect and ready for us.  Obviously, my mind has been a little preoccupied during this time with the house and I haven’t been thinking much about going out and getting any new pictures.  That is why I have set aside 19 blog entries with the new edits of some of my Alaska images to publish along the way.  I have been glad that I did that on a couple of fronts.  First and foremost, it has given me an opportunity to keep new content coming onto the website and had allowed the blog to stay active.  The side benefit for me was I got to relive a great trip and spark a lot of my own memories of how the adventure went.  While that was great and all, I was needing to do some living in the present and I wanted some new images to be added to the gallery for the Summer.

That leads me to today.  After doing stuff with the new house almost daily, I have found myself at a point where I can take a break so I was all set to spend the day resting here at home.  However, Toni was at work, and Sierra was at the beach with a family friend which meant that I was here all alone.  I kept telling myself that there were things that I could do at the house, but I just needed to take a break from doing that work so I resisted.  When Toni asked me to take an Amazon return to the UPS store, that prompted me to go outside of the house and I started to look at the weather.  It was clear early in the morning, but looking at the hourly, there were going to be good clouds coming into the sky around noon when the UPS store opened up.  I don’t really like shooting in the middle of the day, but if the clouds were going to be be good, then I figured that I could give it a try and see what I could find.

I didn’t really know where I wanted to go so I figured I would just go out driving and see if I could find inspiration.  Since I had not been thinking about photography much, I didn’t even know what I was in the mood to shoot.  That makes it very difficult when it comes to determining a destination.  I was hoping that I might see something that caught my eye and I would go from there and try and make an image.  The day started out aimless and I just went through Winston-Salem and into Clemmons.  From there, I ended up in Yadkin County and just kept on driving.  I was starting to get in the mood for some rural scenes, but the sky wasn’t all that great just yet.  I continued driving around and started to consider doing some Infrared photography since the light was less than ideal.  Just about the time that I had settled on that concept, the clouds started to roll in and the sun became a little diffused which was great for normal photography, but not so much for Infrared.  Time to change gears once again and I started to look for images that I could shoot either in color or black and white.

Calm on the Farm“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

To be quite honest, I was having terrible luck in finding something that I wanted to shoot.  Nothing was presenting itself to me in a fashion that I thought would work for a photograph and I was starting to get a little discouraged.  I was out and not painting, so it was still a good day, but I was really wanting something to show for my efforts on my one day off .  The more I thought about things that I had seen, the more I started to think about a barn that I had seen from US 421 on my many trips up and down that road.  it was a loan barn next to a tree at the top of a hill.  I had been looking at that barn for a while, but had no idea how to get close enough to it in order to really photograph it well.  Looking at the clouds moving into the sky, I could see a potential composition developing with the sun hitting the barn from the right side and the clouds behind it.  I would love to get in close, but according to the map, there was no access to get any closer to it than the highway.  I figured that I would explore and see what I could come up with and if all else failed, I would try to shoot it from the side of the highway since the shoulder was wide enough to get me safely off of the road.

I started to set course out that way, and figured that I was already most of the way there from my location in Bermuda Run.  It took a little longer to get there than I thought, but it still wasn’t bad.  I found the barn on the South side of the highway and took the next exit which was probably a half mile or so from the barn.  From there I started to look for roads and access points that might give me a different view of the barn.  I wasn’t having any luck, and when I turned up the road that would get me close to the other side, I found that there was a hill in the way of the view.  As I was coming up to the highway, there was a turn off to the left.  I looked at my map and that road didn’t appear on the screen at all.  There was a stop sign at the end of the road so it appeared to be a legitimate road.  Based on that, I made the quick turn to see if I could get that view of the barn that I was after.

Sadly, the road came to an abrupt end with no view of the barn at all.  However, at the turnaround I saw a vast corn crop growing on a gentle hill.  The sky was awesome above it and I started to think about a minimalist image that could be made here as the sun danced across the field.  I got out of the truck and looked at the scene critically.  It wasn’t the barn, and there was no distinct visual anchor in the scene, but the slight hill gave just enough tension to the horizon, and the sky pulled off the majority of the visual weight.  I decided that it was worth capturing, or at least trying to.

I pulled out the camera and refreshed my memory as to how it worked.  Remember, it has been nearly a month since I have picked it up!  I set it up on the tripod with my 16-35mm lens since I wanted to capture as much of the sky as I could.  I found the simple composition with the main rise of the hill to the right and a grove of trees in the distance to the left showing the depth of the scene.  I adjusted the focal length to capture that distant grove of trees and then found the right ratio of land to sky before firing off my first shot.  It turned out decent, but I knew I could do better.  I wanted to get a bit more contrast in the sky, and that wast the job of my Color Combo Polarizer which I retrieved out of the bag.  After I mounted that, and dialed in the right amount of effect I was much happier with the image.  I shot several versions of this as the sunlight hit different areas of the field.  My goal was to let the sunlight be the foreground interest and to give the eyes something to rest on while they looked at the sky above.  There was a break in the clouds in the upper left that balanced out nicely with a patch of dirt in the lower right corner.  The balance was there, and the colors were looking good.

I was pretty sure that this was going to be the one that I kept, but in the interest of making sure, I tried two other compositions that I thought might have some merit.  As it turned out though, it was that first composition that hit the mark in my mind.  It was even one of the earlier ones as the light was moving across the field.  It was the simplest image and the one with the most impact and the strongest composition.  It was a little different from my normal landscape image, but I was liking it because of that sky above.  It was not enough of a success to call it a day and head home though.  I still wanted to try my hand at that barn.  I loaded up the truck and set my course back to the highway once again.

Quilt and Vine“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Once I got out on the road I kept my eyes out for the barn as I knew there were only a couple of places that it would visible for me.  It came up quick and I pulled well off of the road.  As with many of my road finds, I learned that the shoulder of the road cost me very important altitude and my visibility of the barn was not quite as good as I had hoped.  The best angle for it wasn’t going to work because of all of the tall undergrowth that I would have to make my way though.  Even then, I wasn’t going to be assured an image.  I knew that there was a better clearing a little bit before, so I backtracked on the shoulder until I found the clearing.  There was an easier pathway to get to the fence from this point, so that is were I decided to access it.

I grabbed my gear and worked my way through the brush until I got to the fence at the top of a small ridge.  The vantage point was great, but the angle wasn’t perfect.  I moved as far as I could to the left so that I could get more visual emphasis on the barn quilt out front.  I was a good distance away so I knew I would be needing my 70-200mm lens which I mounted to the camera.  I started to work on the composition and found that the most simple one was the one that worked out the best.  At 170mm I was able to get the barn and the tree on the lower third intersections and I was just able to cut out a power line to the right.  Since I was wanting to have a nice dramatic sky, I added my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and dialed in the effect that I wanted.  Since the sky was the most interesting thing here, I minimized the ground to just a sliver at the bottom and then started to capture exposure after exposure as the clouds moved across the scene.  Shooting at 170mm didn’t allow me to include much sky, so I was very restricted to the area that I was needing clouds in.  The more I shot, the more empty the upper right corner got.  It was looking like my earlier images were going to be the winners here, but when I was looking at the images in review, I could see distinctly the direction that the clouds were moving at a very slow pace.  I could see that in about another 5-10 minutes time I would have better clouds in the small area that I needed them to be in.

I sat there and waited for the clouds to fill the frame exactly as I needed them for the visual balance that was so important to this image.  My estimate was right and the clouds did move into the frame in the way that I expected.  I fired off a series of frames with the clouds in the proper positions and once they started to clear out, I decided that I had the images that I was after from here.  I had a total of 38 images of two subjects.  That didn’t bother me because I knew I was photographing the light changing across the scene more than just the scene.  I knew coming out of this that there would be no more than two images from the day and I was happy with that, and hoped that I was right about the two images.

When I got home to look through the images, I was happy to find that there were in fact two images that I felt were worth editing and getting polished.  The field one was one of the earlier ones that I shot and was the direct reaction the scene that I had come across with little to no thought.  The ones that I tried to think through didn’t do the scene justice because they lost the emotional response.  The barn, on the other hand, was the more thought out composition and the one that I had waited for as the sky changed.  It just goes to show that you can’t just get away with shooting a single frame of anything and hope that you get it right.  Sometimes it is that first exposure, but other times, the magic happens well into the session.  You never know, so it is better to capture the change of conditions when they are not static.

I do hope that you enjoyed this quick outing as much as I enjoyed it.  It was nice to create something that didn’t come out of a gallon paint can.  By the way, for those interested, we are at a total of 22 1/2 gallons of paint purchased for the new house.  There are only two gallons that haven’t been opened and there are still two spaces left to paint.  Yeah, I don’t ever want to see a paint brush again after this!  Don’t forget to click on the affiliate links through this blog entry as any purchases you make will help me out a few cents at a time without costing you anything extra.  Also, if you find one of my images that speaks to you, I am still shipping out prints during this transition so feel free to make your order any time.

Until the next adventure…
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