Wednesday, November 19, 2019
I’ll just stop for a minute….That might be my biggest lie that I tell when I’m out with the camera. I can hear Toni responding with a resounding “You ain’t kidding!” You see, I’ve done that to her before when we have been out together. I’ll say I’m just going to take a couple of quick pictures and an hour later we are finally leaving. Well, this particular trek went well beyond that, but I have to say, it was a wonderful time, and I’m glad that I went solo so that Toni wouldn’t be sitting there waiting and waiting for me to get finished. So, how did I end up in this situation you ask? Well, it is kind of simple, and completely innocent. Join me on my little trek, that really didn’t span too much area at all.
Looking at the weather which is always how my treks start, I was seeing that there would be clouds for most of the day, and that was just want I was wanting to go back and follow up on a lead that I made on a recent trek to East Bend. I was planning on shooting two different properties belonging to the same gentleman. I didn’t want to set up the appointment since he was wanting to be out with me until I had a chance to see if the weather was even going to pan out, so I didn’t call the day before. On Wednesday morning, I did my normal stuff and then took Sierra to school before heading West towards East Bend. I made quick stop in King to check on my trains since there was actually quite a bit of fog lingering. It was going to make a perfect image, but I was suspecting that there would be people there, and that meant that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything with the trains. Sure enough, when I got there, there was all kinds of activity around the trains, but I saw that my concept was still valid. I was just going to need to wait for a weekend morning when the fog was heavy. Always good to check on planned images from time to time to make sure that the ideas are still valid.
Not having a reason to stop here, I continued on to East Bend as the fog was lifting. There was actually a little texture to the sky which was looking really good. I was getting excited about the prospects of shooting the two different properties and what was reported to be about 50 different cars. It was still a little early to try and call since I don’t like to wake anyone up if I can help it. I decided I would call when I got to East Bend, and I set my target destination for an area that I had just started to explore just in case I wasn’t able to make contact with the owner of the properties.
When I got to the road I was planning to start on, I was driving slowly down it because there were still some areas that I had seen some potential at in previous visits. One such place came up on my right. There were a couple of old buildings with a pair of old Fords for sale between them. I considered it for a moment. I had always been interested in the scene, but I wasn’t convinced that I could make good images here. However, with the fog and changing conditions, I thought that there was a good possibility that I would be able to do some good work with the different subjects. I pulled off on a side road and realized that there was a truck coming down the road. Looking at the setting, this looked like it was more than likely the property owner. He had stopped and was talking to another motorist, so I kind of slowed my roll just a bit and waited to see if he was the owner. I was only going to be here a minute to shoot a picture or two, so I wasn’t worried about hurrying.
When he was done with his conversation he continued my way. He didn’t look concerned at all, but he did stop and I greeted him. After a very short conversation, he was happy to let me take all the pictures that I wanted. In fact, he took me further into the property and showed me some other really cool subjects that he thought I might like to work with. As an added benefit, he introduced me to the dogs so that they would know I wasn’t a threat. It didn’t stop them from barking, but at least I knew I wouldn’t be eaten today. After a few minutes of chatting with the property owner and getting to know a little about the area, I went back to the truck and grabbed my gear to get started. Since it was the roadside structures that had caught my eye initially, that was where I started.
Looking at the sky, there was no detail in it at all, which meant that I was going to have a white area at the top of the frame which was not all that great. There was a great tree that I wanted to capture, as well as all kinds of textures in the buildings. This was looking like black and white would be the way to proceed. I started to think entirely in black and white for these first shots. I decided to go a little outside of the norm and I fit the wide angle 16-35mm lens to the camera. This was going to allow me the ability to capture the tree, and since all of the compositions I was thinking about were going to be less than 50mm, I really didn’t want to be restricted by the 24-70mm lens which would have normally been my choice. I started to look for specific compositions and I began with one that included the largest structure as a foreground element with a really nice window. I then included the trucks with the house and another structure beyond that. The tree balanced out the foreground quite well. I dialed in the exposure so that I didn’t blow out the sky and grabbed the shot. It was pretty good, but I decided that I would close in just a little bit and get a slightly more compressed composition with turned into my first keeper for the day. From there, I moved in closer and decided to shoot the long white house that had a really severe settling problem with the foundation. It was a straightforward shot, and one that I really liked when I got it home and started to process it.
The third composition that I ended up liking from this set was one that was completely different from what I normally like to shoot. I went with a shallow depth of field composition on the mailboxes out front. I used the storefront as a background which was slightly blurred. I kept symmetry here with two mailboxes and to openings into the store. One large and one small. I still think that this is an interesting shot and one that I want to hang on to for a while. There is a lot of character here that I wanted to capture, and the composition is just odd enough to be compelling I think.
I was done with what I had set out to capture initially, and had been here for about 30 minutes so far. That was a little longer than I had planned on being here, but I was happy with the images that I was getting already. Since I had free reign to access the property, I didn’t want to waste that and I had some ideas from other areas that I wanted to try out. First of all, there was a really nice Lincoln which was left in the middle of the yard with the front and the back flattened from being driven over by 4X4’s. It was really cool, and I wanted to try a few compositions. Sadly, none of them worked out because of the clutter in the background which really distracted from the main subject. I also went over to an old Fordson tractor that the owner said was rather special. I loved the setting it was in, but the background had a lot of problems I was going to have to overcome. I shot a few frames here with the help of three dogs. They really didn’t help, but they were interested in what I was doing, so I explained the process to them. Only Shady looked like he cared, the other two got bored and left me to my own devices. Once again, I didn’t like any of the images that I captured of the tractor. Things were not looking up for this part of the experience. Maybe I had everything that I was going to get from the front of the property.
Before I gave up the ghost, I decided to try some isolations on an old Ford that was sitting in a barn. I went over and studied it for a while and found that I really loved the grill and the textures. I was happy to try and capture that before I left so I pulled out my 24-70mm lens and added my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer on the end of it. I started to frame up some vertical compositions that I thought would suite the lines very well. I just wasn’t all that happy with how it was looking as I was framing it up. I ultimately decided to flip the camera over horizontal and try it that way. The framing was perfect this way, and really brought the attention to all of the elements that excited me about this front end. It would seem that I was back in business with this truck. I started to consider going an overall shot with it in the barn. I found a nice square crop composition of it and worked that for a few minutes. It was nice, but rather bland. I tightened things up a little with the framing and got a more intimate capture that included the headlight which I think suited the truck much better.
The intimate shot really pulled out the details that I was wanting from this truck, and I was able to get the awesome colors that the rust was providing in the diffused light. I was feeling much better about things at this point. The clouds were starting to part a little bit and I was seeing some interesting clouds in the sky. I decided to explore and see what else I could find along the sides of the property where there were supposed to be several old cars and trucks scattered throughout the wood line. Of course, with me moving deeper into the property, the dogs were back on my heels making sure that I wasn’t doing anything that wasn’t allowed. They were actually good company and didn’t bother me at all. They also didn’t stick around for long. Guess they got bored watching me stand still for 15 minutes or more at a time.
I took a quick survey of what I had to work with back there, and decided that with the sky looking like it did, an old Ford would do nicely. It was sitting beneath some tall trees and looked to be perfect for a nice vertical shot. I got the camera set up with the standard lens as I didn’t want a lot of perspective distortion at this angle. I added the Color Combo Polarizer as I normally do for automotive shots and framed up the image I wanted. I looked at the histogram and realized that the truck was kind of in the shade if I were to expose for the sky. I was pretty sure I could pull the detail out, but why pull it out if I don’t have to. I had another trick that would work fantastically for this subject. I added a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 2-stop soft edge ND Grad which would pull the exposure of the sky down and have a nice gradual transition effect in the trees. Looking at the histogram now, I was quite satisfied at the exposure. I made the image and it looked just about perfect. I fine tuned the composition a bit before trying a horizontal version just in case the vertical ones failed when I got it home. Fortunately, the vertical shot was a very strong one and I was very happy with how it turned out.
Just a couple of feet from the truck I had been working was another old Ford tucked in the trees with a bunch of old tires. It was a little bit of a cluttered scene, but there was a natural flow to it that I kind of liked. I swung the camera around and pulled out the Grad filter. I started with a close up of the cab which turned out fair. I just thought it was missing a lot of the story. I opened up the frame and included the tires that were behind the bed and that really pulled it all together. I liked the story that this image told, even if it wasn’t the cleanest composition. There was just something honest about how this truck looked sitting in the woods like this. There were years of scrap parts and tires littered around the truck which really told so much of the story from this part of the property. It was worth keeping just for that bit of the experience.
I took my time working through the rest of the property and found a lot of interesting subjects but the light was not right to capture them. I wasn’t quite sure what would work, but I knew I didn’t have it at the moment. I kept looking and just as I was about to call it a day, I ran across an old Ford pulled into the woods by the shop. There was a lot of clutter around it that was going to make it difficult to capture an image that I liked, but I wanted to give it a try. I had to avoid a bunch of windows that were propped up at the rear of the truck as well as a large slab of metal to the right of the truck. I had a really hard time getting a composition set that I liked, but found that if I got in close, shooting right on top of the slab of metal, I was able to get a pleasing perspective on the truck, cropping it just behind the cab. I thought it looked pretty decent in the camera, and when I looked at it on the computer at home, I was really happy with how it turned out. The colors were my favorite part here and why I struggled so much to capture the scene. A nice surprise that I had missed at the time was a brown bit of foliage just to the right of the truck that balanced out the colors quite nicely in the frame. It was a very tight and direct composition, but I thought it fit the truck,and it looked nice.
When I got done with this truck, the owner came over and we started talking again. He had an interest in photography so we talked about that for a while. He showed me his Bronco which was a fun looking toy of his. It sounded great when he cranked it up as well. He continued to tell me stories about the different subjects on the property and I was showing him some of the frames that I had shot while I was there. When we came to the one tractor he told me even more about how special that one was. I remember telling him that I was not thrilled with the compositions because of all the clutter that was around it. The images that I had captured really were not all that great, and I was seeing that looking back through them. He seemed happy with them, but I was expecting that he was going to want a print of the tractor, so I really needed to give it another try.
I went back out to the tractor and looked very critically at the surroundings. There was a large white shelter beyond the tractor that I really didn’t like in the composition. To the rear was an old gate which I liked, but there was another barn behind that which started to make things very complex in the composition. I looked around to see just what kind of composition I could get where I could minimize the distractions. I found that the only way to do it was to go very low to the ground. Like REALLY low to the ground, and shoot wide.
This composition would not have worked earlier in the day since the sky was pretty much covered in clouds and the tractor was in the shadows. The lighting was much better now. I grabbed my 24-70mm lens since I didn’t want to get the perspective distortion from going wider than 24mm. I added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and then converted the Manfrotto Tripod to be able to extend the center column horizontally. Using the RRS L-Plate, I was able to keep the camera low by attaching it to the Acratech GP-SS Ballhead on its side. With some very careful movements, I was able to get the angle that I needed to simplify the image and remove the distractions by way of covering them with the tractor. This is always so satisfying to me when I can get a difficult composition to work out. I did realize that the exposure was going to be a little off since I was wanting to get good shadow detail in the tractor. I ended up adding a 2-stop soft edge ND Grad to bring the sky under control.
When I started to look at the images on the LCD in the image review I was really impressed with how these were coming out. I would have like to have had a few more clouds, but considering my options for the day, this was about the best scenario that I could have come up with. I was going to be very proud of this image if this was the one that he wanted to have a print of. I think it tells the story of the property quite well and is actually my favorite image of the day. It might be that it was a personal accomplishment to get it to work out so well, but I’m happy with it regardless. With it now getting close to 1pm, I had been out here for about 3.5 hours by this point. So much for only stopping for a second! It was time to head back to the truck though. The owner had mentioned another barn that I might want to photograph down a back road which was also his property. I wanted to see if I could do something with that before I left the area. However, when I got back to the truck, I saw a composition that I had tried earlier in the morning looking quite nice with the sky above it. I had to get just one more from the front of the property before leaving.
I wasn’t quite sure of the framing for this image, but I knew I wanted to include the sky in the composition. That was going to mean getting the wide angle lens out of the bag. Since my plan was to include the sky, I didn’t add a polarizer which would have put some odd banding in the sky which I didn’t want to happen. I did however add a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 2-stop soft edge ND Grad to control the sky and allow me to expose the truck the way I wanted to. I worked on fine tuning my composition so that I could include that awesome tree in the left part of the frame which was balanced with the primary subject of the truck and the clouds above it trailing off. I got down low, but not nearly as low as the tractor shot before. I was able to leave the center column in place on the Manfrotto which made for a much simpler set up. I looked at the images in the LCD review and found that I was really liking how these were turning out. They were so much better than the early morning ones which were composed with much less of the sky in the frame. I was really expecting one of these to be a keeper, and it turned out to be just that! I was very happy that I stopped and reshot this particular scene before loading up and going down a road that turned into a nice little trail that put the 4Runner to work.
At the end of the road/trail, I found a few different barns and a really beautiful setting. The barns were metal clad which isn’t my favorite way to find them, but the setting was really special. I found the best looking barn which happened to be under a few trees with a great deal of character. I knew that I wanted to capture the scope of the tree more than the barn itself, so it was back to the wide angle lens to emphasize the tree more than the barn. Since the blue sky was going to be a big part of the composition, I opted to leave off the polarizer for the same reason I sited above. I did add a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 3-stop soft edge ND Grad which I brought down just enough to take the bite out of the sky and balance the exposure top to bottom. It was now time to find the right composition for the scene. I moved forwards and backwards to get just the right relationship between the tree and the barn. I then worked on moving the camera up and down until the limbs did what I wanted them to do. Once I had the composition, I only had to take a handful of exposures with slightly different variations on the composition before I was satisfied.
I looked around for other compositions, and tried a couple of others, but none of them were as good as this one. I even found the old GMC water truck that I had been told about. It was just completely covered in brush so I wasn’t able to get that image captured. Feeling that my day was just about done, I packed up my gear and loaded it back in the truck. I was back on my way down the trail and thought to myself that I had really missed my estimate of stopping for just a few minutes when I had arrived about 9:30 this morning. It was now after 1 and I was just now getting finished. I still had some creative juices flowing though and I wanted to see if I could get any more images captured before going home.
I set course for getting lost and started finding side roads that I hadn’t been on before. The lighting was still very good considering it was the middle of the day and that is normally a lousy time for photography, so I was excited about finding something else to shoot. I found myself on a road with a lot of farm land which usually means that I would be finding some barns. I wasn’t finding any though, which was really surprising, but what I did find was nearly as good. There was a single tree off to the side of the road that caught my eye. The sky was really pretty behind it and the road was curving ever so slightly underneath of it. I decided it was worth a quick shot so I pulled off on the side of the road and grabbed the camera. I used the 24-70mm lens as I really didn’t need to include much of the sky and wanted the tree to be the major player in this image. I added the Color Combo Polarizer to deepen the blue sky a bit, and add a little color contrast to the scene.
It took me a little bit to find the sweet spot to set the camera up where everything was proportional in the frame. I liked how the lower branches of the tree went with the line of trees in the background. I wanted to make sure that I had separation from those trees to the branches on the main subject. The clouds gave a nice little diagonal element that went well with the road’s curvature. The last little bit of Fall hung onto the branches both near and far adding a pop of warmth to the image that balanced out the blue sky quite well. I didn’t need to spend a lot of time on this image because it was quite simple and the exposures were very straightforward. After maybe 10 minutes I was back in the truck headed to the next location which I was still looking for.
It didn’t take long once I got back in the truck to find something else that caught my eye. Off on the side of the road I saw something that I just don’t see every day. I was pretty sure it was a Jeep Commando, but I am not all that familiar with the body styles. However, it was looking kind of interesting under the sky. It was sitting by what appeared to be a vacant house, and the house on the other side was a little separated from it so I wasn’t sure if it belonged to this property or not. Knowing that I was only going to be here for a minute and wasn’t going to be much further in than the driveway, I decided to take my chances with just shooting the truck quickly. I got out and checked out the surroundings to see what kind of composition I was going to want. There was a big tree in front of the vehicle that I didn’t want to include, so that meant I was going to need to shoot from under the tree keeping the branches out of the composition. I saw a small tree with red leaves to the right that I decided I wanted in the frame to balance out the overall cool tones in the image. The Jeep was mostly green with tones of rust and age, so it blended with the grass. That red tree gave me just the pop of color that I needed to really pull the image together.
I wasn’t going to need to go overly wide for this shot, so I figured that my 24-70mm lens would do the trick nicely. I grabbed that along with the Color Combo Polarizer and mounted it all to the tripod. I tried a few variations on the composition before I settled on one that I really liked. The shadows from the tree I was sitting under all pointed to the red tree, and helped to frame the Jeep which worked out very nicely indeed. The image didn’t have a lot of color, but the color that it had was all primary colors which complemented themselves quite well I thought. The little bit of clouds in the sky rounded the image out. There wasn’t much else that I could do here without getting permission, and honestly, I was not seeing much else that I wanted to shoot with this old Jeep. It was just cool enough to capture my attention and spark the desire for the shot that I got since I don’t see these that often at all.
With that, my day was done. The light was still kind of harsh, and didn’t seem to be getting any better. It was now around 2:45 and I was tired. I needed to get home and get a little bit of rest. I knew that it would be the next day before I would be able to get to the images that I had shot. I was thinking that I would have about 6-8 good ones from the 113 that I had captured. It wasn’t a great percentage, but thinking back on all that I had shot, I was pretty happy with that number. By the time I was finished processing the images though, I had a total of 13 keepers from the day. I was more than impressed, and very happy that the early black and white images turned out as well as they did. I’m excited to be able to share them with you as well.
Don’t forget to sign up for my February webinar hosted by Singh-Ray where I talk about the benefits of shooting close to home as opposed to always having to travel a great distance to get to your subjects. It should be a very fun and informative session with some great examples of some of my images from 30 miles or less from home. The webinar is free, you just need to register at this link to reserve your spot. You also don’t have to watch it when it airs, as you will have access to see the webinar recorded after the fact with your registration.
Thank you for joining me on my adventure today. I only stopped for a quick shot or two. It just really turned into a grand adventure very quickly, and ended up taking up most of the day. I’m not complaining though as I got some reall
Until next time….