Hey, That Might be Nice

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Sometimes you just have to be happy with what you find.

I had high hopes for today with fog in the morning and cloudy skies throughout the day.  The fact that there was supposed to be some rain and snow happening as well just made it that much more entertaining.  I woke up at 6:30 to check the weather hoping for a fog advisory so I could go out and work a scene with a couple of old buildings near a really great tree.  I’ve been by here countless times and have just not seen the right level of fog to obscure the background and give the tree the stage that it needs.  Looking at the weather, not only was there no fog, the clouds hadn’t even rolled in yet.  It was clear and cold outside which was not what I was wanting at all.  I rolled back over and went back to sleep for a bit.

When I woke up again, the clouds had come in, but the fog was nowhere to be seen.  Toni and I got up and started our day.  I kept looking outside and pondering what I had to work with.  There was no rain falling which was good, but the clouds were a complete overcast so there was no detail in them at all.  The lighting was flat and uninspiring, but it had been about a week since my last trek and I was itching to get the creative juices flowing once again.  With the conditions that I had, I knew that the sky would not be able to play a part in any of the compositions so I needed to find things that didn’t need a sky.  That limited me to working intimate compositions which I didn’t mind at all.  I just really didn’t have that many locations in mind for that.  I had really had my heart set on fog and that was where my imagination was stuck.

As the morning moved on, the fog started to come in just a little bit.  It wasn’t thick at all, but I was hoping that in the lowlands where the old farm was that I might be lucky to get just a bit more fog than was at home.  My second idea was to go out to an area that I had shot before that I knew of a few more barns which might work in the conditions.  Beyond that, my plan was to head out to Hwy 18 where Toni and I had driven down this past weekend for an anniversary trip to Biltmore.  I had seen quite a bit of potential down there and one building in particular had stuck with me that I was pretty sure I could photograph in these conditions.

I headed out just as the sleet started which should have been my clue just to stay home, but I went out anyway.  My first stop was the old farm with that amazing tree.  Sadly, there was no fog and the light was too flat to give any visual appeal to the area.  I was now 0-4 for this location, but each time I went by I got closer to how I wanted to photograph it.  I’ve just about gotten it figured out now I think.  I kept on going down the road until I got to the area off of Boiling Springs and started to look at the barns out there.  All of them needed an interesting sky and there was just no such thing above me today.  The rain was off and on but the sleet had stopped.  I still had a positive attitude as I worked my way down to Hwy 268 and then into Boomer.

Windows in Ruin“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters

I was seeing all sorts of potential, but the lighting and the clouds was just not right for any of it.  My best shot at this point was the old building on Hwy 18 just inside of Boomer which was where I was headed.  When I got there, it looked all sad sitting beside the road with the flat lighting.  I immediately had an emotional reaction to it and that was the jumping off point for making images of this building.  There really wasn’t much to it as it was just a concrete façade which shows years of neglect with the black stains running down below the windows.  It had just that right amount of interest for me as a decay photographer and since I was having an emotional reaction to it, I knew I needed to give this a try.  I got out of the truck and started to look around.  I loved the door on the front of the building for the juxtaposition of the wood against the concrete.  The cracks in the glass made for some nice detail in the windows as well.  There was a certain balance that I saw coming together from this view and I figured that a simple composition of the front would do this well.

I grabbed my camera and built it with the 24-70mm lens as I wasn’t needing anything particularly wild in the realm of focal length.  I saw no need for any filters here so I just found my spot in the front of the building and started to work out the composition.  I found a perfect blending of elements with the door along the left third of the composition with the deep staining in the upper left to frame that side.  To provide balance, I included the small window to the right which fell on the upper left third intersection and then framed the composition with the deep black stains that ran the length of the wall.  The elements all balanced out and I really liked what I saw.  The exposure was simple with no depth of field needed which allowed me to shoot at f/8 which is ideal for sharpness.

My plan for this one was to be a black and white image, but I kept my mind open in case I liked the warm tones of the wood door against the wall.  As it turned out, I did like the colors in the image and decided to keep it a color composition but paid particular attention to the saturation levels as my view of this one was still very much monochrome with contrasts and textures playing the biggest part.  It is very easy to go overboard with the color saturation when approaching an image like this so I found myself constantly reducing the vibrancy of the colors as I worked the image.  In the end, I really liked how this turned out and it was true to my vision when I saw it with Toni just a few days before.

Weeping Windows“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, No Filters, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

With the first image in the bag, I wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet.  I had seen a tree on the side of the building that had interested me and I started to look at it closer.  It was tucked right into the corner of the yard where the two angles of the building came together.  As with the front of the building, the façade was equally as stained and the windows were in various stages of broken which added to the story.  I started to envision the tree anchoring the collection of windows and doorways to the building and stretching up above the structure into the white sky.  This was absolutely going to be a black and white image because of the sky beyond the tree limbs.  I wanted to be able to make the building stand out more than the sky, and that was going to be difficult to do in color.

As with the last composition, the exposure was relatively simple here as well, but require a bit more depth of field to get all the textures into the image.  The trick here was how to position the camera.  I started with it at eye level to see how things fell into place.  That didn’t work great, so I started to lower it gradually until I liked how the different elements came together.  I ended up with the camera about 24 inches off of the deck and that gave the tree the right weight for the image.

I shot a few frames here with slightly different positions and then shot one final frame that had a little bit of room around the edges because I was pretty sure that I would be correcting the perspective due to the low camera angle.  I wanted the vertical lines to remain vertical in the final presentation.  By giving the extra room, I had the wiggle-room to adjust the distortion and thanks to the large sensor in the 5DS R, I had plenty of pixels to play with and didn’t mind losing the handful that had to go.

When I got the images home I started to look at all of the last series of image which was only six frames.  I had determined right that my last composition and camera elevation was the best.  I was equally as glad that I had widened the lens because that little bit of perspective adjustment made the image work so much better.  It was definitely a monochrome image as there was a lot going on within the image and the color started to distract from what I wanted to showcase.  The more I worked it, the more I liked how it was coming together.  There are a few things that I would have liked to have done different, but the tree was too close to the building to get it completely separated from the doors and windows.  I think I managed the best balance of elements that I could considering.  It is my favorite of the images that I shot here.

I had a total of ten frames from this one location.  It had been pretty straightforward so there was no surprise that there were only a few images captured here.  I was ready to get some more scenes under my belt though as I was just getting warmed up.  I loaded my gear back up and headed into the next county.  I spent the next few hours driving around looking for something that I could photograph.  The sky was doing me no favors and there was just nothing out there that caught my eye.  I finally gave up and started to look at it as a scouting mission as I was in areas that I had not been in before.  I saw a lot of potential, but nothing that jumped out at me.  With my gas tank getting dangerously close to empty, I decided to head back home.  As I made my way back, I stopped off at the Kerr Scott Dam to see if there was anything there in the water that I could use for some minimal compositions.  Sadly, there was nothing there either.

I had been gone for about four hours at this point and had fired the camera a total of ten times.  It wasn’t an impressive trek, but at least I got something that I was happy with and it didn’t seem like a consolation prize either.  It was a good outing and I was able to explore some new areas which will open up my area of operations out here which is always a good thing.  I’m hoping that there will be some fog in the morning after all of the moisture that has fallen today.  If there is, I have the composition in mind that will start off the day tomorrow.

Until then….