Monday, September 30, 2019
With Summer slowly coming to an end I have been really looking forward to Fall. Despite the fact that we are already about a week into Fall officially, the days are still around 90 degrees and it still looks a lot like Summer here in NC. I’m finding it harder and harder to get excited about landscape photographs since I have all these ideas of colorful leaves floating around in my head. Add to that, we have been under primarily sunny skies for pretty much as long as I can remember now. I’m trying to take advantage of the cloudy days when I can, and when I saw that Monday was going to be a cloudy day, I started to think about what I could go out and shoot. The cloud cover was supposed to be pretty much 100% and all low clouds. This could either mean textures or complete overcast. I wouldn’t know until the day actually arrived. In preparation for the day, I started making plans after dinner on Sunday.
My first plan was to drive out to Yadkinville to photograph an old feed mill that I have shot before a few times. My idea was to get some long exposures if the cloud had sufficient textures to them. I wasn’t sure if that would work out because the last time I was there the field was overgrown to about waist height which would make photography very laborious at best. It was still worth checking out. I also had been wanting to explore the area of Rhonda, NC as I have seen some barns from the highway coming back from the mountains several times now. I wasn’t sure what I would find or be able to capture, but I had been wanting to explore out there a little bit more. Looking at the weather though, the further West I got, the less cloud cover that there was. This could be a good thing if the clouds had no texture, but it could be a bad thing for the late morning light that I would be working with.
I was having a hard time coming up with a second option for the day, and figured that I would just wing it since I had some time to play with in the morning. You see, I had to get Sierra to school, or rather be the passenger in guided missile controlled by a 15 year old. Fun times! It was going to be around 9am before I would be on the road to a destination. It wasn’t perfect, but with a good cloudy day, the time didn’t much matter which is why I love working with clouds so much.
As we were heading out the door, I took stock of the sky and decided that it was going to be a solid overcast today. that would be perfect for waterfall photography, but there hasn’t been enough rain lately to make me think that would work out well at all. Doing a quick check of the cloud forecasts, it was still looking like the West would be clearing first which meant that the clouds would be starting to break up in the area that I was wanting to work shortly after I would be getting there. That was the plan then. After I dropped Sierra off and reclaimed my position in the driver’s seat, I would head home and get the 4Runner which was already loaded with my gear and head West toward Yadkin and Wilkes Counties.
Things went pretty much as planned through the morning trip and I could see more and more detail showing up in the clouds. This was promising and meant that I might just be able to shoot the mill like I was wanting to. It was about to fall in on itself and I knew that I was running out of time to get it. I just needed the right conditions, and ideally a bush hog to ride through once. When I got to the area, I could see it from the highway and immediately noticed that the field was very overgrown and would be pretty much impossible to work with. The clouds weren’t all that great above it anyway so I wasn’t all that torn up about the condition of the field. It just meant that I would have to continue on towards Rhonda.
The sky kept going back and forth between overcast and having a bit of detail. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I just knew that if I found something interesting, I would have to deal with the sky as it was for the time I was shooting it and hope for the best. At least the light quality was looking kind of nice for the most part. I started to get lost driving the back roads and came across one of the barns that I had shot back in the early Summer which wasn’t looking all that great in today’s conditions. It really needed an interesting sky overhead and that just wasn’t the case today. I kept on going down that road deeper into Wilkes County to see what I could find. I was driving past some great farms with wonderful barns, but none of them were jumping out at me. There was just no character with what I was seeing when it came to compositions. I started looking for some old cars behind houses which would be much easier to deal with in the current weather patterns, but I wasn’t finding anything that struck my fancy.
You would think that when I was in an area surrounded by rural property and great barns that I would just be in paradise. I once thought that too when I was starting in the rural photography game, but there are certain aspects that I look for in an image. Some of those characteristics are based on the weather and available light, and some are based on the environmental elements. The latter was what I was running up against on this trek. The barns were not sitting in a good location to photograph for the most part. They were partially hidden, or they were just sitting out in the middle of nothing with no composition available. I could work without a foreground, but I needed some type of element to balance the scene and to keep me from just doing a post card shot of a barn.
I wasn’t getting frustrated just yet, but I was starting to feel like I might have gone in the wrong direction for this trek. I was still looking, but I was starting to think about where else I could head to that might have some better choices. Just as I was coming back to US 421 I passed by a pair of barns in a field. They weren’t exactly what I was looking for, but there was a bit of character to them They both had elements around them which added to the visual interest and the sky had just a little bit of detail which would be needed. There was also a ridge of mountains behind the barns which really added to the scene. It was worth stopping for, so I got turned around and pulled off on the side of the road to get my gear out.
Since I was going to be shooting this from the road, I left my Lowepro Whistler in the back of the truck and grabbed my Manfrotto Tripod with the Acratech GP-SS Ballhead attached. I fitted my camera with a 70-200mm lens because I was pretty sure that I would be getting tight shots at this distance. Having no idea where the property owner was I wasn’t comfortable going deep into the property to get the shots. It looked as if it was maintained and I could see some donkeys in the field which indicated that it was an active property. I started working on the furthest barn which was what had caught my eye initially and found a few compositions. Interestingly enough though, I misread the scene. I was right at the 70mm focal range on the telephoto lens and wanting it to go a bit wider for the compositions that I was interested in. I played around with what I had for a few more minutes and decided that I was not liking the telephoto effect for this particular scene. I decided to swap out to my standard 24-70mm lens which is my regular lens for this type of photography.
The compositions started looking better almost immediately. I just needed a little bit more help with the exposure and glare. I went back to the bag and grabbed my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer as well as a Galen Rowell 2-stop hard edge ND Grad filter which would allow me to bring down the exposure in the sky to add to the interest in what was going to expose as pure white. With the filters on the lens, I started to see a histogram that was going to work nicely. I had plenty of detail on both sides indicating that I would have detail in the shadows as well as the highlights. I just needed a composition that would work. I started with the single barn in the distance that I had been working on before and started to get the angle that I liked the best. I really wanted to make sure that the hay bales were included in a prominent place in the image since they were my foreground interest and helped to tell the story. I was able to include the sky which had just a little bit of detail coming in with the clouds starting to clear up.
About the time I had found a composition that I was happy with, I started to see blue in the sky. This was a very good thing, and I was happy to see the bit of blue among the clouds. It wasn’t in my frame just yet and from the looks of it, I might be waiting for a bit before the clouds opened up behind my scene. It was worth waiting for as the blue sky might actually balance this image out quite nicely. It only took about 10 minutes before the sky started to clear above the ridge. I had the composition set and I just adjusted the exposure. The filters were still doing just what I needed them to do so I left them both on. I could just see the blue in the Live View on the LCD and knew that when I removed some of the haze in the sky I would more than likely have a really nice bit of color in the sky. I started making exposures once again on this barn, finally happy with what I was getting.
When I was pretty sure that I had something workable from here, I moved over to the other barn that was a bit closer and started to work compositions on it. It wasn’t as picturesque as the other barn, but it had a nice tree behind it that really helped its appearance. I shot a few images of it, but wasn’t all that impressed with it for the most part. Looking at the scene, I was seeing a chance to include both barns in the same image for a bit more depth to the scene. You could still see the rows in the field that were making for excellent leading lines back to the larger barn. I started to work on a location where I could include both barns, while still keeping the horizon line at a good point in the image. I had to move the Manfrotto up and and down and side to side to get a composition that I really liked of the two barns. The one that I finally settled on had the trees as bookends to the composition framing the sides. I knew that since I was including two elements of importance on opposite sides of the frame, I would be cropping down to a 16:9 or 16:10 and I wanted to keep the horizon line in a good position for that while still leaving plenty of sky and foreground field for those leading lines.
After about 45 minutes of working that scene, I was feeling like I had everything that I could get from it. It was time to move on down the road and see if I could get one more scene to photograph. So far, I was feeling decent that I had gotten an image or two that would turn out ok. Just in case, I wanted at least one more subject to work with. I continued down the road that I was on, crossing US 421 and continuing North. I knew roughly where I was, but hadn’t ever been down this way before. I was seeing more of what I had been seeing with lots of farmland, but nothing really calling out for a photograph. I was thinking back to places that I had driven past to get to this point and now that the sky was looking different, I might be able to do something with one of those earlier barns. I wasn’t coming up with anything that would prompt me to head back though. I just kept on driving and turning down roads that caught my eye.
As I was driving down one of the main roads I happened past a barn that had some old cars sitting under the roof. I quickly turned around and gave it a second look. They were behind a barbed wire fence and I could see so much potential out of them. It was on what looked to be a commercial property so I drove down to the driveway and started to enter. Then I saw a big sign that said something to the effect of “NO TRESPASSING, SOLICITING, KEEP OUT!” I read this as we don’t want to talk to anyone and don’t want to be bothered. Figuring that the end result would be get off my property, I opted for the safest approach and I pulled off on the side of the road in preparation to shoot the barn from there. I needed to work quick in case the property reps came out and told me to leave. I know that I have the right to be on the easement of the road and they can’t make me leave, but sometimes it is better to just leave than cause a scene. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to bother with any of that if I wasn’t here long.
I grabbed my telephoto lens since I would be shooting from a distance and wanted to get the rusted vehicles with a good amount of space in the frame. I started to work my way down the fence line and finding the angles that would work. The further I got to the front of the wrecks, the more of the business I started to get in the background. In one of my shots I could clearly make out a late model Ford Ranger that just didn’t work in this composition. I was having a really hard time finding a composition that worked. I loved the subjects here, and both of the cars as well as the barn were just amazing. The problem was the business that was 75 feet behind the barn. It was white, and quite large with vehicles parked in the parking lot. I finally figured out a composition that worked as a compromise for the scene. I was still seeing the large building to the rear, but it was relatively uniform and didn’t really cause that much distraction. I knew that I could work on the exposure of it through a local adjustment that would make it less intrusive into the image.
I was relatively happy with this composition, but I wanted to try and do some different things with some other angles. I swapped out my lenses for my standard 24-70mm lens and started finding different compositions. With the wider angle, I found myself adding a bit of the sky in places so I added a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 3-stop soft edge ND Grad to the front of my lens with the Polarizer. I had to get down low in order to keep the building behind from getting into the frame too much. That meant shooting between the barbed wire which took a bit of care to get in position so that I didn’t scratch any of the filters or lens elements. I finally found an angle that worked which required me dropping the Manfrotto tripod down very low to the ground. I was able to get the barn in the shot with the tree providing a nice frame in the upper right. I was also able to crop out the sky so I pulled out the ND Grad and put it back in my filter wallet.
I felt really good about this shot until I got home and something just wasn’t right with it. I tried a couple of different editing approaches to it, but in the end I thought it was a much stronger image as a monochrome picture. It has a bit more bite to it, and showcased the coupe much better. The one that I had shot with the telephoto lens ended up remaining in color because the color balance worked better in that one.
While I was shooting, several vehicle pulled into the parking lot and I was expecting at any moment to get run off. I had what I wanted, so that wouldn’t have bothered me too much. It never happened though. I guess as long as I wasn’t bothering them, or putting their insurance at risk then they didn’t care what I did. I thought about asking to go in, but I was actually pretty happy with what I had shot, and wasn’t sure that getting in any closer would have netted me anything better. It was getting late in the day and I still needed to go by and visit my Grandfather for a few minutes on the way to get Sierra from school. I did take the long way home though in order to do a little scouting.
That actually paid off really well because I saw an old Monte Carlo sitting under a tree next to a church. There were “No Trespassing” signs around so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get any pictures unless I found an owner. I didn’t see any houses nearby so I opened up my map app and saw that there was a house off of the back of the parking lot to the church. I went back there to see if I could get a couple of quick pictures and found that they had a bunch of other old cars on the property. I was really getting excited at this point, especially when I saw the rusted Mustang under another tree that would make a perfect image.
I got out and knocked on the door. I heard somebody talking inside but they weren’t getting closer to the door. I knocked again and she started talking louder. I don’t think that she knew I was there, or if she did, she wasn’t going to bother with me. I debated knocking a third time, but looking at the time, I really didn’t have time to shoot two different cars, so I opted to leave and try to find a phone number for another attempt. I’m excited about possibly being able to photograph a few of the old cars on the property, I just hope that I can make contact with the owner at some point.
That pretty much brought my day to a close. I finished making the trip to my Grandfather’s place and visited with him for a bit before going home to get Sierra’s car and picking her up from school. it was a good day, even if it was a bit short in duration. I ended up shooting about 50 frames, and out of those, found two initially that I wanted to process and then on a second run found two additional ones that I liked as well. I like exploring, especially when I can actually come back with images from places I’ve never been. I’ve got a lead on another location now, and when I got home a friend of mine had sent me the location of another place that I might enjoy shooting. So, with the season of rust about to be upon us, I am already getting some locations to visit, and that is great!
Thank you for joining me on this trek. If any of the images here strike your fancy, please let me know. I would love to help get you connected with a print of your very own of one of my images. Nothing pleases an artist more than when somebody likes their work enough to bring it home with them. I know it really brightens my day. If you are looking for gear, please be sure to visit these retailers as your purchases (originating from these links) do help me out without costing you any extra money.