Saturday, December 12, 2020
I have been having really good luck over my last several treks so I was due a less than exciting day in the field I suppose. We have been having sunny and warm days here recently it seems and those are just not great days for photography in my book. They are great for getting out with the convertible though which I have been doing. It is this time of year that I really like getting out and doing my decay photography though, and that was what I was most looking forward to as the weekend approached. It was finally looking like there were going to be clouds in the sky for the entire day with some rain moving in during the late evening and into the night. This was perfect, and on one of the last road trips that I was one, I ended up through Rhonda and Clingman which had a great deal of promise. I had decided that I would return to that area with camera in hand to capture some of the scenes that I had seen on the way home.
By Friday night the weather had changed a good bit though. The rain was no longer in the forecast which was fine, but the clouds were looking to clear off by mid day and give way to mostly sunny skies. What was going to be a relaxing day out in the field was now a time sensitive event where I was going to need to get out early and hustle to get done by mid day. I set my clock for 6am and planned on checking the weather again at that point to decide if I was going to be able to get out and do anything.
When the clock rang at 6, I checked the weather and saw that the sky was crystal clear with some high clouds moving in around sunrise. That was good news, but those same clouds were also expected to clear out between 8 and 9am. With only a very short amount of time available to work with, I decided to abandon the early morning outing in favor of seeing just what the clouds looked like when the sun came up. By sunrise, I could see that there were some clouds in the sky, but there was a lot of blue as well. This was not favorable for me and I kind of wrote off the day. That was hard to do though since I had been looking forward to getting out again for several days now. I just kept looking outside and could see that within the hour the clouds were building up. Looking at the cloud forecast this was going to be short lived and would be gone in about a half hour. As those minutes ticked by, the clouds seemed to be stalled overhead and the lighting was really good.
I made a quick decision to give it a try and try to get something before the sky gave up. I didn’t really have a specific destination in mind, but I was wanting to head out to Rhonda and explore. I started off by checking on a building that I have been thinking about shooting at night for a while now and it didn’t look good in the existing light so I kept on going East. I worked my way down the roads and would occasionally take some side roads to see if there was anything I could work with. The light was good, and the sky was good, but I wasn’t able to find much of anything at all to put in front of the camera.
On one of those side roads I did spot a lone house with broken windows and up on blocks. The background was a thick next of tall trees which helped to give the sky interest considering that the sky was mostly clear to the North. It wasn’t a fantastic scene, but the warm morning light on the house seemed to suit it and I could see some nice color balance with the pale blue sky overhead. I decided after thinking about it for a minute to get turned around and pull off the road. I grabbed my camera as well as the 24-70mm lens since I would be shooting from the roadway on this one. I mounted it all to the tripod and added my remote release for the shutter. Knowing that the roof had some glare on it, I opted to screw my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer onto my Lee Filter holder ring and I started to go out to find my composition.
What I liked about the scene was the fact that the background was very simple with the tall trees stretching above the house. A few of the windows were broken as well as one being boarded up. Those little details helped to tell the story that this is a vacant house. The coolest part of the house I was just starting to see, and that was the mailbox on the front porch. As I looked through the camera, I could make out the name on the top of the box as being Thomas Brew. It was a very small detail, but one that added just a slight twist to the story, and the fact that it was sitting right in front of a white piece of board really made it stand out. I knew that the resolution of the camera would be able to record this very well and that became one of the details that was very important to me.
Figuring out how to place the house in the frame was not the easiest of things to do. I wanted there to be some sort of framing for it so it wasn’t just arbitrarily situated amongst the trees. My best bet was to use a tree that had a split trunk with one of the trunks going off to the right diagonally above the house. I decided to use the vertical portion of the tree as the frame while the leaning trunk helped to place the house within the frame. From there, it was all about keeping the elements on the front porch from being blocked by either of the upright poles. The defining pole was to the left which had to be placed exactly between the left window and the white board behind the mailbox. It was the only place where it didn’t create a distraction to the front of the house. Now it was just a matter of getting the elevation of the camera right which was easy enough. At 50mm, there was no distortion to be concerned with an not much else to worry with from an altitude standpoint. The part that did matter was minor and it was the back corner of the roof which overlapped a tree. There was actually a slight bend in the tree which I used to give the roof a bit of breathing room by flowing into that bend.
From here it was just a matter of getting the right exposure as the sky overhead was brighter than the house. It was not so bright as to need an ND Grad though which was good. With all of the tree detail present, I wasn’t wanting to artificially darken that part of the image. I needed that even tonality in the tree trunks to make this work the way I envisioned it. When I was happy with that one, I made some other changes to exposure and composition to make sure that I had what I wanted. I tried some wider compositions as well as some vertical ones. Some of the later images that had the house more centered in the frame looked better on the back of the camera, but in the end, it was that first composition that won out. It was number four of sixteen frames that was the keeper.
As Toni said, this one is more or less a postcard shot. There is nothing really special about it, but I do like the lighting and the colors in the frame. It is a subtle image, but one that has a relaxing overtone which was just what I wanted to capture. I felt good getting that first shot in the bag as that is always the hardest to do when I’m out in the field. I was feeling better about the day as I packed up the camera and started off to find my next subject.
Nearly an hour later I still hadn’t found anything else to capture and the lighting had gone from questionable to horrible with the clouds all but gone in the sky. There was only one direction that the light was any good, and I just wasn’t able to find anything at all in that direction to capture. It was time to head back home to see if that first scene of the day was going to work out. The clouds did start to build back up in places on the way home, but it was only for a few minutes here and there. I still wasn’t finding anything at all that I could make work and I could feel the desperation building in me. I know that when I start feeling that way, it is much better to call it a day and go home. The resulting images from that frame of mind are very often forced and look that way in the final image. I didn’t want that and I knew that there would be another day. I did see a lot of great potential and I know that I will be out in that area again very soon when the light is better and more forgiving.
I do hope that you enjoyed this quick trek and the single resulting image. As always, if this photograph, or any in my collection speaks to you, I would love to discuss getting you matched up with your very own print. There is just something special about holding a print in your hands and being able to hang it on the wall. It is just so much better than looking at them on the computer or *gasp* a cell phone.
Look for an upcoming blog entry where I go through my 12 most significant images from 2020. Who knows, your favorite one might be in that list. It is mostly done, just waiting on some polishing at this point before publishing it.
Until next time….