Getting Rained on in Banner Elk

· Reading Time: 19 minutes

October 22, 2019

I have started to lose count of all the times I’ve been out creating new photographs over the last month.  Since I missed out on pretty much the entire season last year, I have been making a real attempt to try and capture the season as I can.  The delay in color has messed me up some, but now that the color is coming in, I’m able to get out and put some of my new skills to the test.  I have come a long way in my capture and processing over the last two years when I last worked Autumn images.  I’ve been having a lot of fun over the last couple of weeks stretching myself to try different types of Fall imagery.  I started out with the typical Fall landscape shots in the mountains, but strangely enough, I started getting into my decay frame of mind a little early this year.  I’ve been doing a good bit with rural scenes and rust here lately and have been really enjoying it.

When I started to think about destinations for the week, I kind of hit a roadblock on Monday.  That was a complete and total shame as the weather was ideal for pretty much the entire day.  I was needing to get to the mountains, but darn it, I was tired!  I just couldn’t see getting up early and going out to where the color was along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I wanted to, but I wasn’t inspired to do it at all.  I just wanted to rest and warm the couch.  I thought about doing some waterfalls, but none of the ones in a reasonable drive from here would be showing fall color so I saw little point in revisiting my standard destinations.  I wanted to shoot rural locations, but couldn’t wrap my head around a destination.  The day got away from me, and I ended up having a very good day at the house with Toni.  I needed the break, and it was nice to spend some time with her just relaxing at home.

By the end of the day though, it was time to get thinking about the rest of the week.  While the weather was perfect on Monday, Tuesday was looking a bit wet with lots of clouds and rain until the afternoon when it was going to clear up and be sunny.  Low clouds and fog were a good possibility in the mountains, so the higher elevations would have very little visibility for photographs. I wasn’t sure what the lower elevations would hold.  As I was going through Facebook for some inspiration and some intel on where the colors were showing up, I found a post from Banner Elk with some barns and a good deal of color.  This spoke to my want for rural subjects and captured the color of the season as well.  The only downside, it was going to be raining all morning.  I was hoping that it was going to be some scattered showers and I would have some windows to actually get some photographs created.

Cold October Rain“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters

The morning started early, like 4:30am early.  I wasn’t looking to get any sunrise color because it was already raining in Banner Elk.  I did want to get up there at first light so that when there was a break in the weather I would be ready to get some exposures done quickly  When I left the house it was nice an dry with a slight chill in the air.  I was getting a little hopeful that I might actually find some dry conditions at some point during the day.  My hopes faded as I was passing through Wilkesboro and the rain started.  It was light, but it was there.  Looking at the radar map, there were some large cells developing to the West, which was where I was headed.  I had just finished watching a couple of Youtube videos from Thomas Heaton and Simon Baxter who had both been out in the rain creating images recently.  If they could do it, so could I!  I mean, I had wet weather gear for a reason right?  I had brought along my extra camera bag with the lens hoods which I don’t normally use since going to the Lee Filter Holder with the 105mm ring on the holder.  I even had an 82mm Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer which I could use on the 24-70mm and the 16-35mm lenses while using the lens hoods.  I was pretty sure that I had everything that I was going to need for a day in the rain.  I was going to embrace it, best I could.

I got into Banner Elk just as the sun was coming up.  It was raining really heavy at this time so I was mainly just scouting locations.  Just before downtown there was a really cool barn, but it was flanked by a power pole and was very close to the road.  I made a note of it, but doubted that I would want to do anything with it in the setting it was in.  I continued on through Banner Elk and into Beach Mountain.  Let me tell you…I’ve been frustrated on treks before for a number of reasons, but never have I gotten so turned around and twisted on roads that I just had no idea where I was at.  I was lost in rental town.  I must have seen every vacation cabin on the mountain as I searched for rural settings.  There were none…just cabin after cabin and tight switchback roads.  I eventually got fed up with Beach Mountain and keyed Banner Elk into the GPS to get back on the main road which I just couldn’t for the life of me find.  Thanks to modern technology, I was saved from the endless supply of cabins and I was headed back to Banner Elk.

Morning Chill“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters

As I got into more normal territory, I started to explore once again.  I went down side roads and started to look for anything that I could find of interest.  I actually found more rental cabins.  Oh joy!  But these were a bit more spread out and I could deal with that.  Plus, I was seeing some farm land scattered about here and there.  I figured that eventually I would run across a barn or something…and just as I had hoped, I did.  There were actually two barns right across the street from each other and a little pond.  The scene was very good, and there was some nice color here as well.  The problem…the rain.  It was light, but steady.  It was also blowing just enough that I knew in order to keep the rain off of my lens, I was going to need to use my telephoto lens which has the deepest lens hood.  I have no problem using that lens because it is quite workable with a wide end of 70mm when I am shooting from the road.  The problem is that the filter diameter is 77mm and my Polarizer is an 82mm screw on piece.  There is no way to use that with the lens hood on, so there was going to be a compromise for this location due to the rain.  I would rather be without the filter than to have to deal with water spots in the image from the rain.

I went ahead and parked the truck on the shoulder of the road and grabbed the camera with the long lens attached.  I mounted it to my Manfrotto tripod and started to find a composition from the side of the road.  It wasn’t all that difficult to get the elements arranged like I wanted them.  Of course, I went with the quilt side for the image to show the story of the barn.  I also looked for the color in the trees as complementing elements as well.  To give a sense of scale, I included a sliver of the sky that showed the fog and low clouds off quite well for that final piece of the environmental puzzle.  I worked several different compositions along the same lines as I worked in closer and a little bit side to side.

While I was working the barn, I noticed a bare tree sitting next to the pond to the left.  It was begging for an image as the structure of the tree was nothing short of awesome after a very long Summer when the trees were wearing their leaves.  I moved over to that side and framed up a shot in vertical orientation of the tree.  I was expecting it to be a black and white image because the color was not really playing a large part. However, when I got this one home, I decided that I wanted to keep the color in the image and introduce a cool color cast to really emphasize the feeling of the morning.  This was a very simple image, but one that turned into an early favorite of the day.

Autumn Quilt“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters

The rain was still falling and the fog was moving in quickly.  I was losing the definition on the barn that I had been shooting and decided I had better turn my attention to the one across the street before it decided to hide behind the fog.  There were “No Trespassing” signs on the barns so , I had to be very creative with how I captured the images so that I didn’t enter the property too much.  Fortunately, I was using that long lens that gave me the reach that I needed.  I found out quickly that the barn across the street was positioned in such a way that the best composition was the typical postcard shot from the side.  I was able to include the barn quilt on this one as well with the barn surrounded by the Autumn Colors.  there wasn’t much to this image and it was very straightforward.  It didn’t take but a few exposures to know that I had what I wanted.  From there it was time to move on to the next subject because the fog was starting to get really thick through here.

I continued through the side roads and ultimately ended up in an area that is being developed for new cabins.  I looked for a place to turn around and didn’t find one until the end of the road.  As I was turning around, the woodland caught my eye.  The colors were fantastic, and the trees were rather rhythmic just off the road.  There was a pull out next to a property that was for sale, so I decided to make use of that area and grab a picture of what caught my eyes.  The only problem…the second I turned the truck off, the bottom dropped out and the rain came down with a vengeance.  I really wanted this woodland shot so I stayed in the truck for a while until the rain slacked off.  I then got out and assembled the camera as I had for the barns before with the long lens and hood.  Just as I got the camera built, the rain came again with a newfound fervor.  I realized really quickly why I love my 4Runner.  I just stayed right under the hatch, nice and dry until the rain slacked off enough that I could get out and get a few exposures.

Damp Autumn“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters

When the rain decided to ease up, I left the cover of the hatch and went into the woods.  I had been studying the trees while I was under the shelter so I had a decent idea how I wanted to capture the scene.  I started out with a vertical orientation for simplicity and that worked just fine.  However, I wanted to see how a landscape shot would work here so I flipped the camera back level and framed up the shot. I immediately liked it better than the vertical one because I was able to get more of the color on the ground and the visual tension was much better with all of the vertical elements.  The trick here was timing the exposure between gusts of wind so that the leaves were still for the most part.  I shot about a half dozen variations on this theme before the rain started to pour once again.  With the water draining off of the camera in a stream, I decided it was time to wipe it down and put it away.

I was going to find something different to shoot, I just needed to find it, and hope that it was not in the path of the rain.  I was getting a little tired of dealing with the downpours, and wanting to use both of my hands for the camera, I was hesitant to use my travel umbrella that Toni had so graciously donated to the cause.  I do have to admit though, I was rocking this shooting in the rain thing.  I was getting decent images even though I was having to really work for them.  The rain was doing wonders for the saturation of the colors and for the mood of the images.  It had been a good morning up to this point but it was time to move on to something different.

A few miles down the road I found a scene with two different barns with a tractor in front of one of them.  I was going to shoot this scene before I left the area.  I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do it though.  There were some vehicles on the hill behind the barn, and some brush along the side of the road that I would have a hard time shooting over.  If I were to get in close, I would get those trucks on the hill which I really didn’t want.  I just wanted the two barns and the tractor.  It was a good scene, but the rain was coming down hard once again.  I pulled off to the side of the road and sat and waited for the weather to break just a little bit.  Looking at the weather map, I had about 30 minutes or so before a break in the rain.  I could wait for that!

When the rain started to ease up, I grabbed my camera with the long lens attached once again.  I started to try and frame up a shot but was having a hard time at 70mm to get the composition I wanted.  I also really wanted my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer on for this shot since there was a good deal of reflection in the roof.  The rain wasn’t stopping like it was supposed to, but it had eased up.  I went back to the truck and grabbed my standard lens and added the Polarizer to it.  Since the filter was exposed, I also grabbed the umbrella to keep the rain off.  Well, it was a good idea in theory until my one handed operation caused me to yank the umbrella back with my head showering the filter with water.  I had to go back to the truck to clean the filter off.  Since I was there I pulled the whole filter assembly off as well as the adapter ring so I could put the 82mm Polarizer on with the lens hood attached.  I was now much better able to shield the front of the lens from the element with the umbrella and the hood.

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

With my new rig put together, I went back out into the middle of the road where my composition was and got it all dialed in.  Don’t worry, I had been studying traffic here for the last 45 minutes and had seen a total of 2 cars come by.  I was watching, but I doubted that I was going to have any problem at all.  I got the composition set up just as I was thinking and got the focus set on the tractor which was approximately 1/3 into the scene.  I checked the depth of field and saw that it was all sharp at f/16 and let the shutter go.  It worked out perfectly!  The exposure was dead on and I checked focus and checked for movement in the brush.  It was all just the way I wanted it.  Not wanting to push my luck, I grabbed one more image just in case and went back to the truck.  I got everything broken down and put away which was quite a task.  Considering I had shot what would be just a single image, I had a bunch of equipment out and wet from this one.  Oh well, it was the cost of doing business.

After getting everything put away I started back out on my journey to find another subject to shoot.  The rain was all but stopped by this point (figures) so I was excited about finding something that I could shoot much more leisurely than I had been.  When I got back out to the main road I noticed that there was blue sky above me.  the clouds were already clearing off.  The more I looked, the more I realized that my cloudy conditions were leaving me very quickly.  I decided to head back into downtown Banner Elk to check out that barn since I knew something about it had caught my eye on the way in.  Maybe with the new lighting from the clearing sky things would start looking better with it.

Cell Phone Capture, unedited

When I got there, I saw what caught my eye with the barn, but I also saw all the compositional problems that were present here.  I debated for a few minutes on whether or not to give it a try.  I kept turning around and looking at it again and again.  In the end, I figured that I might as well give it a try with the changing lighting and the blue sky above the trees.  Those trees really were colorful too which helped me make the decision.  I got parked and grabbed the camera with the standard lens since I was going to be shooting in close for this one.  Since the rain had stopped, I was able to use my normal setup with the 105mm Color Combo Polarizer which I needed just in case I was going to need an ND Grad to control the sky.  I carried it all across the road careful not to get the filter wet in the spray from passing cars.  The road was still puddled up at this point.

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

The composition was very easy to come by.  I just made the left side of the frame just inboard of the power pole, and kept it close around the barn for balance.  It was a postcard shot, but I was hoping that the colors would make the image work.  I was starting to see that I was going to need to get an ND Grad as the barn was too deep in the shadows in order to keep the sky exposed correctly.  Just as I got ready to cross the street to grab one, the clouds cleared out from under the sun and the barn was illuminated in this awesome light.  I quickly adjusted my exposure, to darken the sky while the barn was positively glowing.  I cranked off a number of exposures as traffic was passing on the road to the rear and I didn’t want any blurred vehicles in the shot.  The moment of light lasted a brief period, but I was in the right place at the right time to get the image that I was wanting.  This is one of those times when just going out and trying will eventually pay off.  The colors from the sun as well as the extra saturation from the recent rains just made for a stellar image.  it looks almost fake, but the colors and intensity are very accurate to the RAW file, and I basically just adjusted the presence of the barn in the image and darkened the grass just hair.  I’m still quite amazed at how this one turned out, and I think it will probably be one of my favorites from the year.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good again and wanted to get just one more picture on the way out of town.  I turned off the main drag into town and started to explore an old farming road.  The sun was getting very harsh and I was really thinking that I was done for the day.  Plus, I wasn’t really finding anything else worth shooting.  I started to look for a place to turn around and found a pull out where there was a flatbed trailer parked.  I pulled in and much to my surprise was an old Military Truck sitting there just waiting for me.  the light was somehow right on this behemoth even though it was mid day and the sun was rather harsh.  I got the truck parked and got out really quick.  I loaded up my standard lens with the Color Combo Polarizer before getting a composition put together.  I studied the scene really quick and decided that the only angle to do this would be a quarter shot from the passenger side as the trailer was blocking the other side.  The light was better on this side anyway, so I was fine with that.  I decided that I needed to have this truck look the part of the dignified soldier, so I dropped my Manfrotto down into the weeds to get that imposing perspective.

Once and Always“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I think that this is the first time that I have tried to photograph something camouflaged against a green background.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out since I wanted the truck to stand out from that background.  I think that the harsh lighting actually worked to my favor for this composition.  I had some high contrast lighting on the truck, and then when I worked my magic on it through Lightroom, it just jumped off of the screen.  There is just so much to see with this image, and the patina was just wonderful from bumper to bumper.  There are a lot of stories with this old man, and I hope that this image sparks a few of them.  I know it has sent my mind racing thinking about its military career and then civilian farm life.  You can tell it has served in both roles very proudly, and even sitting there in that pull out, it still has that sense of pride and dignity about it.  Once a soldier, always a soldier!

When I got done with the truck, the sun was telling me to head home.  The clouds were all gone and the sun was getting relentless overhead.  I had seen pretty much every weather pattern today with the exception of winter weather.  It started out dark and rainy, followed by fog and low clouds.  Rain stuck around in torrential downpours and drizzles before clearing out to reveal clear blue skies.  I had been able to capture all the stages with my camera, and I was very happy that I had come out this morning in what I thought would be much less than favorable conditions.  It just goes to show you, the images are there for those who want to venture out to get them.  I count this as a very successful day, even though my hit rate was a little low.  I shot 110 images from start to finish, and of those, I decided that seven were keepers.  I’m not complaining at all since most of the images were shot with changing light on the same subject.  Plus, the seven that I have are all ones that I am extremely happy with which doesn’t usually happen.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure.  I hope you enjoyed it, and were able to stay dry during the trip.  If there are any of these images speak to you and you would like to have your very own print, please let me know, and I will be happy to work with you to get you matched up with it.  Also, don’t forget to click the links throughout the entry and the banners below to do your shopping at these retailers.  It costs you nothing extra, but does help support my continued creativity.

Until next time….
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