Thursday, June 24, 2021
This week is starting to get away from me. I’ve been tied up doing stuff around the house like the yard and doing some plumbing work. I’ve also had to take care of getting one of the cars registered which included a bit of a road trip. Before I knew it, I was waking up on Thursday morning. I had looked at the weather the night before and saw it to be mostly clear with the exception of a few hours in the middle of the day when some low clouds would be coming through the area. I normally don’t like to go out mid day, but since I was going to be tied up on Friday taking care of another yard, I decided that if I was going to get out this week it was going to have to be during those few hours at the middle of the day. The only question left was where I wanted to go.
I didn’t really have any locations in mind and definitely didn’t have a plan for a subject. Since I had been through Elkin and Jonesville the previous day I was kind of feeling like exploring those areas a bit more. I knew that there were lots of rural scenes to be had out there and I’ve had some decent luck from time to time driving through the area over the last year or so. Double checking the weather the clouds were looking a bit better there than they were closer to home or towards the mountains. It was looking like I had a plan put together, all I needed was a little bit of luck to find something to put in front of the camera.
When I got done with my morning chores, I peeked outside to see some decent cloud cover and grabbed my gear. I headed East knowing that at some point I would stray off of 268 and 67 in order to find something worthwhile to photograph. I knew that I was after some rural scenes or possibly some more rusty cars. I knew a few places where some good cars were located, but the surrounding scenery wasn’t really doing much for the photos. I was hoping that those would lead me to other similar subjects with a better surrounding. It took me about an hour to get out into the area before I started hitting the side roads. I did my best to get completely lost on roads that I had not been on before and was doing a pretty good job of it. The sky was looking great and I was excited to find something.
I passed by barns and old cars, but nothing really jumped out as a composition and the light wasn’t special enough on them to make an image work. I just kept plowing on and promised myself that I was only going to stop at something that held a lot of promise. After about a half hour of hunting around I saw an old house up on a hill behind the trees which caught my eye. The aged wood on the front was wonderful to look at and the sky above was beautiful. I had only seen it for a brief second and then processed it for about 15 additional seconds before turning around. There was a house next door to the one that I wanted to photograph and I was thinking that the properties were linked. I slowly drove down the road and looked at the house once again. It was as good as I remembered and I was pretty sure that this was going to be worth the stop. I pulled into the driveway and made my way to the occupied house hoping that I would be able to get somebody to the door. As I was driving down the driveway, I spotted a couple in the garden between the two houses.
Well, at this point, I was fully in the driveway and had caught their attention. I just stopped where I was and got out of the truck. Their dog was trotting up to me and I was hoping that she would be understanding of company. I made quick friends with the dog and proceeded to introduce myself. After a very brief conversation they were happy to let me photograph the house. He didn’t know anything about it as it was already there when he bought the house he was living in. I know that there is a good story behind this house and if I’m lucky, somebody will come forward and share it with me later on.
Now that I had permission, I went back to the truck and grabbed my bag and tripod. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to need for this because I hadn’t really contemplated any compositions yet. I just knew that I liked the elements that were present. I walked around the house to find the best angle which wasn’t all that easy. There was a lot of clutter around the base of the house which I would have preferred to avoid. The part that had the fewest distractions was also the more boring back side of the house which really didn’t work for a photograph. I came back around to the front which had the most character and decided that I was going to create something from that side. I had an old storm door to deal with as well as a tiller by a steel barrel. Of the three, the storm door was the worst distraction. With the property owners right there, I could have asked if I could move it, but I could see that the ground would look like something had been there had I removed it. I do take pride in being able to shoot things as I find them and this was going to be one of those times. The door was part of the story of this house, even if I didn’t quite know the story.
I decided to go with a moderate wide angle composition which was going to mean using my 24-70mm lens. In order to minimize the glare on the storm door, I added a polarizer. Since the sky was a huge part of the image I wanted to protect the details in the clouds so I added a 3-stop soft edge ND Grad which feathered over the top of the house. That filter brought the exposure in line and I could tell that I had something really great here just looking at the live view. I worked out the composition to where there was nice balance in the scene and got the image. Everything looked really good, but I worked on the composition a bit more after that. I back up to chance some of the perspective of the shot and allowed a bit of the garden to come into the frame on the left. The idea was to include the pie pans dangling at the edge to help tell the story of the property. It was a small clue, but I thought that it was needed, and it allowed me to include the tree to the left for a bit more balance to the scene.
I fired off a total of nine frames for this house with slightly different compositions. I also shot a few extras in hopes of getting less breeze in the trees. The one featured here is the fifth exposure that I made and it checked all the essential boxes. I had a great sky which had a natural vignette over the scene, and nice even lighting over the house. The composition was the strongest of the bunch, and the breeze had fully stopped for this one.
Having already walked around the house, I knew that there were really no other vantage points from which to shoot this house. The points of interest on it had distractions present, so I wasn’t going to be doing any isolation shots of this house. Since I was blocking their driveway, I didn’t want to stick around longer than I had to, so I went ahead and packed up my gear. I was excited about this subject and was already prepared for it to be my one and only capture for the day. If I found anything else, that would be gravy and I would feel lucky.
I went back to the aimless driving in the area to see what I could find. I was back and forth between Jonesville and Elkin and got to where I was forgetting where I was most of the time. I just kept looking for the next subject knowing that it might not materialize. I found a lot of promise, but no good compositions. Most of the barns that I found were too close to the road, and all of the old cars that I found were jammed in with other newer cars or other elements that I didn’t want in my photograph. The sky was starting to break up and the blue sky was shining through more and more. The clouds that were left were really nice white and puffy clouds which I enjoy photographing as much as any other types.
After about another 45 minutes or so, I was driving down the road and saw a barn which had some mix matched siding on it, and a partially replaced roof. It was…shall we say…an ugly barn. It was that aesthetic that drew my eye though. It was unique and all of that patch work told a story of the use of that barn. It was off on the side of the road isolated by itself which was a plus. The sky above it was nice, but I wasn’t really seeing a composition developing just yet. I did stop and ponder my options from the shoulder of the road. I thought about getting down lot to the weeds and having them blur with movement leading up to the barn in the midground. It was a very rudimentary composition, but it was a starting point. I grabbed my 24-70mm lens with a polarizer and started to find the composition. It didn’t take long and I framed up a nice simple composition of the barn and shot a number of frames.
The more I looked at the LCD though, there was nothing that I was doing which added any visual interest for me. It was just the post card shot which wasn’t too bad, but the barn lacked the strength to carry the image as it was. I started to look around to see what else I had to work with. There was an old wooden house down the drive from the barn which was nice. I tried to include that, but it was much too small in comparison from my shooting location. I went across the road and framed up another composition with the 70mm end of the lens. That balanced the two elements nicely in size, but there was still no connection between them. It was a single picture with two included images. That wasn’t going to work.
From my location across the road I could see three lines of hay stretching through the field. I thought that I could use that to be a leading line to the house. I went back to that side of the street and started to frame up a composition with that in mind. The house was just too far away to pull it off. I wasn’t really liking anything that included the house so I decided to look at the barn once again. From this distance and with the hay, I was seeing a completely different type of composition developing. I turned the camera in that direction and started to dial in the composition. The hay was going to be used as the foreground, but not as a leading line. It was the repeating shapes that drew the eyes in. The clouds had moved around just right over the barn so I had a nice visual interest in the background as well. It was all just in finding the proper elevation of the camera to give the right separation between the hay and the barn with the horizon placed very near the top third of the frame.
The composition was much better than what I had started out with, but the depth of field was pretty large. I tried several different exposures with different apertures and tried to check the focus in the image review. It was looking sharp, but fine detail like this often doesn’t have the same sharpness at the magnification that I was looking at. In an attempt to make sure that I had a tack sharp image, I did a few focus stacks of variations on the composition. That is what took up the majority of the frames that I shot at this location. I just didn’t want to blow the image because I didn’t have the right focus.
As it turned out, when I got the images home, I didn’t actually need the focus stack series as the first image that I shot worked out in each case with a moderate aperture of f/11 focused about a third into the scene. I was seeing apparent sharpness in the rolls of hay as well as the barn. Beyond that, I wasn’t really concerned. That made my editing job much easier since I didn’t have to worry with a focus stack blend in Photoshop.
When I was done with this series, I could tell that the sky was going to clear off pretty quickly at this point. Figuring that I had two images for the day, I decided to head on home. It had been a fun afternoon getting familiar with a new location with a lot of potential. I’m sure I’ll be back out this way many more times before I’m satisfied that I have seen it all. For now, I’m happy to introduce these two new images to my collection. I hope that you like them and if you would like to have prints of either, please let me know, or you can order them directly from the gallery store.
Until next time…