Sunday, April 7, 2019
This has been a really busy weekend for me. It kind of all started on Friday when part of my day was spent taking care of some business at Hampton House Art and Framing where I have been fortunate enough to have a number of prints sold and installed for their commercial clients. While I was talking with Mark we got on the topic of my Decay Photography and that I was really looking forward to doing it the following day. As we talked about that type of photography for a bit, he asked if I had ever been to One Way Antiques which was just up the road. I had never heard of it so he proceeded to tell me where it was. He then started talking about some of the structures and odds and ends that are on the property. The more Mark talked the more I became rather interested in checking it out. So much of what I shoot can be traced back to tips that I have gotten in my travels, and I am always grateful for those tips. I will say that sometimes the tips don’t really pan out from a photography standpoint, so I don’t always get really excited about them. This was one of those times where I was making mental notes but was keeping my excitement in reserve.
After leaving the shop, I decided to head up the road to check this place out. It was pouring rain at the time so I was really doubting that I would be doing any photography, but since I was basically here, I might as well take a look. I turned on the little obscure road that it was on and it quickly turned to mud which kind of caught my attention. Some of my best subjects have been down dirt roads. As I snaked my way down the driveway I saw a really awesome old home with some terrific windows through the trees. I continued up and saw the main barn where the antiques were stored, and I saw all sorts of doors and bath tubs and other building materials lining the driveway. There was a Ford N Series tractor as well as another barn in the distance. I was in overload and was pretty sure that I could get some pictures from here…when it wasn’t raining. It was actually raining too hard to get out and go looking for anyone, so I turned around and went back out to the main road.
Just before making the turn, I saw a little sign for the business with a phone number on it. I wrote it down and gave Rick a call in short order. He was nice enough on the phone and seemed to be happy to talk to me about coming back later in the weekend for some pictures. His only concern was that I was going to be coming alone. I assume he was worried that I would be doing portraits for weddings or other purposes and I could understand that concern. I assured him I would be alone and just wanted to enjoy the property for the beauty that I had just seen. With that, we set it up that I would be returning on Sunday when the weather was looking promising.
When Sunday morning arrived, I woke up around 7am which was a bit early since I was up late getting things finalized from the Decay Workshop, but I was excited about going out and trying to get some pictures of things that I don’t normally shoot. It was still dark out, but as the sun was coming up I could see that the fog was quite thick in the air. That immediately got me really excited and motivated to get out the door. I got ready and grabbed my gear headed back to King. The trip was quick which is why I love being able to shoot relatively local. In less than 40 minutes I was pulling into the driveway which was now a bit firmer with some puddles to go through here and there. The big house was looking just like I remembered it, but there was something different. This time, there was a dog running for me at full speed. Hmmm, this was new. I hadn’t planned on this and to be honest, I was a little concerned about being able to work with a dog trying to eat me. I got up to the upper parking lot and started looking for a place to park all the while trying to avoid running the dog over.
I saw a guy coming from the back of the barn and I assumed that this was Rick so I lowered the window and introduced myself. We spoke briefly and he remembered talking with me on the phone. He gave me his blessing to explore and photograph whatever I wanted. I went ahead and parked the 4Runner and got out. As I expected, I was greeted by the dog which was still barking rather ferociously. Since I had spoken with Rick, I think that went a long way in keeping me from getting eaten. I went through the customary sniff, pet, sniff, pet until Bear was comfortable with me. At this point, I was more entertainment for him than anything and he would kind of keep tabs on me and wonder what I was doing. I was well on my way to a very interesting day behind the camera.
I’m sure you have noticed that so far, there have been no pictures posted. Well, I have a reason for that. I have no pictures….
Gotcha!! I do have pictures, and in fact, I have so many that I felt that this entry should be done a bit different from most. At this point on my little adventure I was walking around having ADD moments. As the shutter was opening, I was already seeing my next subject to shoot. I was bouncing all around like a hyper crackhead. Trying to blend the story with the pictures would be just too much to keep up with and I’m sure would result in you feeling like I did for the three hours I was there…overwhelmed. What I have decided to do instead is to go chronologically through the images that I deemed were good enough to keep and talk a little about each one and why I shot it. I’m imagining that this will make the entry a lot quicker of a read, and much better organized that it would have been otherwise. By the way, I shot 73 frames in the time that I was there which resulted in 15 keepers. There were a couple more, but after processing them, I realized that they just weren’t that strong when compared to the other ones.
Let’s get this show on the road. Too much talky talky, not enough snappy snappy.
I will admit that I started walking around like a tourist that just didn’t know what to look at first. There was so much on this property. In addition to the rustic things that I was loving, there was also Spring colors in the trees, and speaking of the trees. Oh my! Did he have some excellent trees on this property. In fact, it was a simple tree that caught my photographic eye first. It had a very imposing trunk which stood out from the surrounding trees, but it was the one branch that reached out as if being pulled down that caught my attention. Hanging from this branch was a wooden swing with the paint worn almost all off. The composition made itself and I had to capture it. I pulled out the camera and fitted my 24-70mm lens with the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to bring a little pop to the colors and add a little contrast to the scene. I framed it up and every element just fell into place for me. For me, this image has a very comforting feeling. Not only is the tree reaching out in a purely human gesture, it is holding a swing built for two. The title came just as naturally as the composition had. I now had that first shot in the bag which is always the hardest one for some reason. It was also the wood on the swing that kind of set the tone for the first part of my day.
Like I said, after seeing that swing, the aged wood was something that was really catching my attention. I had moved my focus to the big house at this point but wasn’t really happy with the compositions I was seeing on a grand scale. There were a lot of distractions lying around which made getting a simple image very difficult. I started to see bits of the house that I found very appealing though, and started to think intimate capture One of these areas was on the corner of the house where the wood was aging very well. Some of the boards had broken, and there were vines growing all around the slats. One area in particular had a root that had grown along the apex which fascinated me greatly. There was also a broken piece of siding which had a good bit of greening near the break. The textures here really excited me and the splash of green added just that bit of excitement that I needed in the picture. I got the camera set up and composed a shot that I thought would make the best advantage of the elements which had caught my eye. This horizontal view showcases the green wood, and the root covers the edge of the house quite well, but leaves a section open in the middle that allows the eyes to proceed throughout the frame unhalted. Allowing the eyes to move within a picture is just so important, and I thought that this one had so much texture and visual interest that nobody could just look at it for a second and move on. Shoot, even as I type this my eyes keep going back to explore more of it.
I had thought I had the winning shot, but before I moved on, I flipped the camera on its side for a vertical composition. This worked as well, and I fine tuned the composition using that green wood as my lower frame and the tangle of vines as the upper frame. As with the other one, this was all about the texture with the vines working their way through the wood. The green didn’t have quite the weight in this composition, but was still there. It wasn’t until I got home and started looking at it on the computer that I realized that there was not enough green here to have a big enough impact in the image. There was also not a good balance with the color in place. That was simple enough, especially since monochrome photography is all about light and texture. I just pulled the color out of this, and worked the tonal relationships a bit to add some contrast and found that this composition worked very well as a monochrome. Strangely, I went back and tried the conversion on the horizontal one and it was not nearly as effective as a black and white. Each was done the way they were because the balance was better in the individual presentations.
Having shot two different compositions of the same corner, I decided to chase the next shiny squirrel around the next corner of the house. Here I found something that just stopped me dead in my tracks. The windows weren’t level at all. This was obviously an addition, and done on a different level than the original house. The different windows fascinated me, and when I saw the containers on the cement surface just to the side, I started working a composition with this. I wanted to place the tall jug between the two windows, but with a slight overlap to join the two different walls of the house. I didn’t want to have a straight line bisecting the image top to bottom so this jug helped the two parts relate. The subtle overlap complimented the way the original house was intruding into the addition at the very top. The cement surface dropped off to the right which gave it a strong feeling of foreground while allowing the eyes to move around it and into the image. The lower window was graced with vines at the top which helped fill the negative space on this side for proper visual balance. The idea to convert it to monochrome came later on when I got home. It was not a bad image in color, but there were some distractions in the windows that really showed up in color, and the rest of the colors were muted. Black and white seemed to fit this scene much better than color, even though I had shot it with color in mind. It did allow me to really accentuate the contrast in the siding and create a nice mood with the image. As with the previous two images, this is another one that I can look at all day and keep finding new things to appreciate.
By this time, I was working my way back to the driveway and the impressive view that I had seen of the house to start with. When I saw the wood and the windows I knew I was going to have to get a shot of that before I left the property. I worked my way around and tried to figure out how best to shoot this section. I remembered what I had been saying during my workshop the day before about finding the elements you like and the ones that you don’t. I didn’t like the sky because there was no texture to it, so I wanted to minimize that. I loved the windows and the wooden tones on that side of the house. I liked the gate on the walkway, and even liked the blooming tree in the distance with the pink exploding from the branches. I walked out to the driveway and saw a tree to the left that I liked as a frame for the image, and I started to compose one of the trickiest compositions I have shot in a while. There was a small sapling in the way, but since it was very thin, I figured it didn’t block the view of anything really important and it actually helped to block the front porch which was not important in this composition. I could still see the pink on the other side of the house so the eyes had something to follow giving the image depth. The sky was minimized quite nicely and I was able to capture the gate and those awesome windows as well. This is an interesting image that I really like, but I don’t know how well it will be received.
I spent the next little bit trying unsuccessfully to try to photograph a really nice pair of street signs which was there on the walkway. I couldn’t get anything to work out compositionally, because it was just too cluttered. At this point, I started seeking out simple images. I wanted order in my world and needed to calm my brain a bit. One of the buildings within the property that I hadn’t seen had some great yard art next to it. Of particular note was two sets of wagon wheels propped up against the wall. I had seen images like this before and knew that this would be something for a black and white composition. It was nice and simple as well which was something that I really needed at this point. I got in close, still with my 24-70mm lens attached and started looking for compositions. The pair to the left happened to be my first attempt. There was a bit of iron art just to the right of the wheels which was interesting, but more importantly, it was too close to avoid having in the image. I decided to embrace it and I shot this one landscape using the partial artwork as a visual balance to the wheels. I knew that I would be pulling out the detail in the wood and really making this one a high contrast scene once I got it into post production. I just loved the different textures of the grass, stonework, and the wood. All of this deserved to shine in the final image, but those wheels and the artwork on the wall still made for fantastic focal points to the image. This is just a timeless composition and one that I think will speak to a lot of people…or I should say, I hope it speaks to a lot of people.
I then moved my attention to the other pair of wheels which I had seen as the harder of the two pairs to photograph. There was a bush right next to them, and I really thought I would have a hard time getting a composition that was as simple as I was needing. Well, I was wrong. I looked at the scene and decided that a vertical composition would be the best to omit the clutter on the sides and to accentuate the vertical boards behind the wheels. I got in tight and set the lens to 27mm which kept a close crop on the wheels while almost making them jump out of the image. On shot was all I needed and I knew I had it. This was the simple image that I had been after all along. It was a classic image, and one that I have had in my mind for a while. I have to say, it is pretty exciting to finally get it captured.
After I got these images done, I started to feel better able to handle the more complex scenes again. I backed up and attempted to shoot a water wheel that was sitting in the yard in front of this little cabin but I just couldn’t make it work the way I wanted to. I was getting too much roof in the image, and the left side kept bleeding into another section of the structure that I didn’t want to include. I shot several images of this, but none of them hit the mark that I was after. While I was looking around for this composition, I was seeing another composition developing on the other side of the yard. Shiny squirrel!!!
Of course what caught my eye here was the bright pink of the tree and the quaint gazebo just to the side. For reference, this tree is the one that we could see in the Southern Exposure image earlier in this image. It really commanded attention and looking at it in this light I had to capture it. Now, I had actually shot another view of the gazebo earlier in the day that just didn’t quite work out, but this view was a bit simpler which was what I was after. What I really liked about this composition was that the pink was balanced out nicely by the turquoise roof on the gazebo which was then balanced out with the rusty hues of the furniture. The furniture balanced with the mulch on the right of the image. The lush greens pulled it all together and made it pop. Of course the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer had a lot to do with how the colors all fit together. I love the pop that it gives with the color contrast added and the removal of the glare. Looking at this scene, I can only imagine that it was put in place just for Spring. What a nice way to spend a warm afternoon in the yard.
By this point in my tour of the property, I was back at the large barn where much of the building material is kept. There were tons of doors propped up and part of what I enjoyed seeing was the hardware on the doors. In my search for simplicity, I started looking at isolations which would showcase the beautiful metal as well as the textures of the wood. I found this one set of doors with a fantastic door latch still attached. I struggled a good bit with how to compose this since it was a very wide latch stretching across both doors. In the end, I decided to go vertical to accentuate the latch and not the bar across the door. I composed it in a way that where the seam of the door was not really a visual blockade near the left edge of the frame. Having the rod stretch across it, blended the two door sections and gave the eyes a path to go back and forth. To fill the lower right , of the frame, I had the inset decoration on the door which had a character line going diagonal from the corner. This diagonal line made for a great bit of drama and also pointed right to the latch which was a great element. To keep the eyes from escaping out of the lower right, I included just the corner of the next layer of decoration on the door to create an arrow leading the eyes to the diagonal line and therefore to the latch. This one was all about including enough visual clues to know where the viewer’s eyes would be going within the frame.
As I was looking at the doors, I found what I later learned to be bank vault doors. There were four sections and each appeared to have a different patina. The one that I started working with was completely rusted and full of texture and grit. I looked the door over and found a composition that I liked which included enough visual interest to offset the fact that the color palette was going to be very limited (only rust here). the three flowers at the top provided a perfect framework for the image and gave a bit of a visual anchor. The rectangle section below was a nice element to add depth if nothing else. The lower section was what I was mostly interested in. I loved the design that was at the top of the inset. With the slightly raised outline, the rain water had been dripping from the point and leaving a rusty tail to the design. I had a lot of fun working on this image in Lightroom. Since there wasn’t much in the way of color difference, I had to do some dodging and burning to really make the image present the way I saw it. I brightened areas, and added some shadows to others with the intention of really making the design pop. The texture was just amazing, and I was so happy that I shot this particular door. I imagine it will be a hit with the rust hunters out there.
The other door that really held interest for me was one that was only partially rusted. This one had the color contrast that the first door didn’t. I quickly found a section that had a certain balance to it and a good natural composition. I used the stamped decorations as a frame on the top and the right. It all framed up the wash of rust among the original hue of the door. The textures were still there, but this time I had a good color balance and the addition of a bit of drama as the cool and warm tones did their dance together. I think that I like this image a bit better than the other with the addition of the blueish tones, but I really think that they both say completely different things which has prompted me to keep both images in my collection. One is about symmetry of design, and the other is about nature reclaiming metal which is does so well.
The last of the door art came with another wooden door. This one was inside of the barn and it was pointed out by Rick who was showing me some of the details around the property. While we were talking about the doors, he pointed into the barn and showed me this one. he said that it was the best looking door he had seen. I could definitely see the appeal and there was an awesome pattern on the door for sure. When I got done with the bank doors, I went into the barn and started to examine the door. It was really cool, but I was having a very hard time finding a visual anchor that I could base the image around. There was no hardware on the door, and another thing that made this hard was it was in terrible light with just some fluorescent tubes above providing the light. I did finally find a visual anchor that would work. It was a section of bare wood surrounded by the cracked paint. I got in close and selected the proper white balance on the camera so that the colors would all register properly. The polarizer didn’t have a lot of effect, but I did see just a tad of enhancement on the warm wood tones so I left the filter on. To give you an idea of how bad the light was for this, my exposure was 25 full seconds at f/13. I had to stop down so much because I was in very close and needed the depth of field in order to get the paint flakes to render sharp and crisp.
At this point, I was running out of things that I wanted to shoot, but I was still in the zone of creating. I went out and took another look at the tractor which I had been wanting to photograph. I saw one potential way of capturing it, so I swapped over to the 70-200mm lens and kept the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer attached. I tried several different compositions, but sadly, there was just too much clutter behind the tractor and there was no way to make it all make sense with the tractor to tell the story. I moved in close and tried some isolations. They were fair, but weren’t really any different from anything else I had shot, so in the end, they were tossed. Sadly, I got nothing at all from the tractor, or the barn on that edge of the property.
I still wasn’t finished with the day. I had a new lens on, and I figured it was well worth my time to make another quick round to see if I could do anything different with this lens. My first stop turned out to be the water wheel near the wagon wheels I had worked on earlier. With a tighter focal length I was able to get the composition that I wanted…but just barely. It was a very compact scene, but I had my bit water wheel and the wagon wheels balancing it. There was the window right in the middle and with the sun starting to poke out a bit the texture on the wood really started to pop. This actually turned into one of my favorite images from the day with how it all came together. There are things that I would like to change about it, but in this line of work, you sometimes have to just go with what you have. I believe that I got the best image that could have been shot of these elements and I did it at 142mm.
As I was walking around the house, I noticed a sculpture within the bricks near the pond. I had not noticed this before when I was trying to get a shot of the still that was in the pond. I’m telling you, there was so much going on in this little alcove of the house that I was having a real hard time simplifying things. Now that I was calming down a little bit, I was able to see the details that I had been missing. I got right on the edge of the pond and composed this image showing the face within the bricks. I planned on doing this one as a monochrome image because I didn’t think that the color differences were all that dramatic. What I was liking was the way the light was falling on it and the contrast between light and dark tones. I shot two different compositions of this face and found that the first one was the better of the two by far. I really liked the textures and the attention to detail in the stonework below the face. The bricks framed it as well in the photograph as they did in the actual pond. Shooting this image gave me another idea for another face that I had seen earlier.
The sun was actually starting to come out a bit and that was starting to give me harsh light. It worked well for the previous image, and I was hoping that it would do the same for this next idea. This face was one that had been in the pond before but had been removed. It was just sitting up against one of the buildings. It was not really in a photogenic spot by any means, but the expression was just a haunting one for me. I got squared up on it with the long lens which I wanted for the compression. I removed two pine needles from it and composed a very intimate view of this face. I only shot a single image and it looked really flat in the LCD. I wasn’t sure if I had what I needed, but the exposure was spot on according to the histogram. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw how boring this image looked on the monitor. I knew that I would be able to play with the contrasts within the image a lot with Lightroom, so I went ahead and started to process it. At first it looked silly with just bright areas and dark areas, but as I massaged the tones and really worked the image I started to see my vision come through the monitor. The more I worked, the better it got, and after about 15 minutes I had the exact image that I had envisioned when shooting it. There was nothing changed about this image, there was just a lot of dodging and burning involved, and I essentially developed this image from a negative. It is gritty, and full of emotion. The expression is believable and the face is immediately interesting to look at. This is one that I have absolutely nailed between concept and execution.
As with so many of my other Treks, after shooting this one, there was a switch that flipped in my head that said “I’m done.” That was all I wanted to shoot for the day. I packed up and didn’t think twice about it. I had no regrets that I was leaving anything behind. I was satisfied with what I had. I had also made an excellent contact with the owner/resident and I feel safe to say started a great friendship with a really cool guy. It just amazes me sometimes at the way things progress. Thanks to a connection that I made years ago at the Tour to Tanglewood, I ended up getting chosen as a featured artist for a large order through Hampton House Art and Framing. This started a relationship with the owner of the gallery which then led me to finding One Way Antiques which I would have never found otherwise. Now I have this amazing place to shoot that offers more than my tiny brain can really comprehend. As I am writing this blog, I am thinking to myself that it might be worth asking Rick if I could do a small workshop at his place. The possibilities are endless when it comes to subject matter, and I could see having a fantastic time here with a small intimate group. Time will tell if that will turn into a reality. For now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the images that I just shot. I hope you can do the same.