Sunday, March 31, 2019
Last week when we left our fearless photographer, he had tried a couple of different times to find somebody at home so that he could shoot a ’40’s model sedan that was yard art in the front yard. It was a very interesting car and one that really needed to photographed. Fast forward to this week when I was really wanting to give it another try. When Saturday rolled around, I was figuring that the weather would be decent to try to get the car shot under some clouds. Based on the forecast, I was going to have several hours at a time in which I could possibly make it happen. Well, the reality of the situation was something completely different from what I was expecting. There were clouds, but they were so thin that there was no way that I was going to be able to make use of them for what I was needing. You see, I needed some rather dense clouds to really diffuse the light, and I was wanting some character in the sky as well. This was a tall order for the clouds, and it was not looking like that was going to materialize at all. As the day progressed, there were exactly two times that I started to get my hopes up. About the that time though, the sun would come back out with a vengeance and dash all hopes of getting that car shot. By dinner time, I had I given up and decided that I would try again on Sunday. There was supposed to be clouds in the sky, but there was also a good chance of rain as well. It was going to be a toss of the dice as to whether or not I would be able to make it work.
When Sunday morning rolled around, I got up just after the sun came up. It was raining a little bit, but not too much. There was a possibility that I could make this work. The trick was going to be catching the property owners at home. Yesterday would have been my best chance since weekdays didn’t really work out. With Sunday, I knew I would be taking a chance that they would be at church. I also didn’t want to get there too early. The last thing I want to do is irritate them by waking them up when I am going to be asking to shoot a few pictures on their property. I leisurely got ready and was out the door around 9 or so. The lighting was great and the clouds were really perfect for what I was wanting. The only problem….it was starting to rain. By the time I got out of the neighborhood the rain was coming down really heavy. I thought about turning around and giving up, but I figured that I had started, I might as well see it through. Looking at the weather radar, I was possibly going to outrun the rain in the direction I was traveling. I crossed my fingers and continued on down the road.
I found myself coming out of the rain as I turned on the road that the car was on. The clouds were still looking good for what I was envisioning so I had high hopes. When I got to the driveway, I saw the same cars parked there as I did last time. I was really hoping for something different to indicate that somebody might actually be there. I drove up to the house anyway and got out to knock on the door. The same dog barked inside, but I heard no clear clues that anyone was home. I waited on the porch for a minute or two and then slowly turned around to walk back to the truck. This is the part of the story where I wish I could tell you that the door opened, or the owner came around from the back of the house. Sadly, it was just me and the cats in the driveway. There was still no signs of any occupancy here. With my tail between my legs, I hopped back in the truck and drove out of the driveway.
I got positioned on the shoulder of the road and really looked at the car. I wanted to see if there was any way to shoot it without being on their property. I looked and examined for about 5 minutes and couldn’t come up with anything that would work. The one idea that I had would include power lines which I really didn’t want to have to deal with in post processing. What I wanted was going to be much closer and down low. I really have the perfect composition in mind for this car and anything else will just not do I’m afraid. I started to look at my alternatives. My second destination that I had in mind was out towards Stone Mountain where I had tried to ask permission to shoot a few cars in the woods beside a house. When I asked, the actual owner of the cars wasn’t home, and his wife wasn’t comfortable giving me permission. Looking at the weather, I was actually seeing a good chance of decent cloud cover there until nearly 2pm. It was only an hour away, so I set my course to Stone Mountain with hopes that I would find somebody home today.
I could see in the distance that the clouds were breaking up, but my hopes were that I would still have great light since the sun was behind the clouds to the East. I made my way through Rural Hall and into Tobaccoville, where I ran across a really interesting red barn that I had never seen before. It was situated in a field that had very little interest in it, but the siding on the barn more than made up for that lack of foreground. Plus, the sky was phenomenal with the clouds. I pulled off to the side of the road and pulled the camera out. I set it up with the 24-70mm lens which would give me all the flexibility I needed with this particular subject. I added to that the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to reduce the glare on the tin roof as well as intensify the colors of the rust and red paint. After crossing the road, I set the tripod up at the fence line. I started working on compositions and finally found the location that I needed to be in. I started making exposures as I watched two horses coming towards me. I had a handful of images shot before they entered my frame. They were definitely interested in what I was doing. One of them came right to the fence while the other one seemed to be content nibbling on the grass in the field.
I talked the one horse for a minute and then realized that its partner was wandering into a great location for a photograph. I quickly got the image recomposed and set the exposure so that the shutter speed would hopefully freeze any action that the horse did. I started shooting exposure after exposure as the horse moved around. I was hoping that he would raise his head, but sadly, he refused to do that and stayed very focused on his meal. I shot probably a dozen images, most of which had a blurred head or mouth. One of the last ones worked out the best with a full broadside view of the horse with separation between the back and the trees to the rear. He was in a good position to complement the barn as well. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but when working with animals, sometimes you just have to accept what they give you, and this worked out just fine.
I felt at this point, I had pretty much everything shot of the barn that I could shoot. The horse was no in a lousy position for a photograph and showed no signs of moving out of the way. I had really shot the best composition anyway, and since I was limited in where I could stand, there really was no sense in sticking around. I needed to get out to Stone Mountain anyway. I loaded everything back up in the 4Runner and started back on my way West.
When I got into King the sun was really starting to get bright. Everything that I was seeing to the West was clear blue sky. Since the light was getting harsh already, I had to make a decision. There were still clouds to the East, but unknown subject matter. My destination to the West wasn’t a guarantee without knowing if anyone was home, and even if they were, the chance of getting good light was slim to none at this point. I did the only thing that made sense and that was to turn around and go back East. I varied my route a little bit to see if I could luck up with another barn find like I had on the way out here. At least I was happy with what I had gotten from the one location which would ease the blow of not finding anything else today.
On the way back into Walnut Cove, I was not finding anything at all to photograph. The sky was still looking phenomenal though and I had high hopes of finding something to put under the sky. The closer I got, the more I started to consider going back by the original location once again. It turned out that was my best option as I was into familiar territory once again. As I drove up to the driveway, I could see no difference in the cars sitting in the driveway and no signs of anyone out and about. The clouds were starting to break up a little bit, and the sun was no longer in the right position for the car anyway. In almost a fit of desperation, I decided to go to another property that I had been to before and try to shoot the trucks that he had as yard art a little differently this time.
As a side note, looking at the pictures that I shot in 2014, my skills have come a long way! I’m almost embarrassed to link back to that entry in my old blog, but it is a part of who I am as a photographer now and is worth sharing once again.
Anyway, I pulled into the driveway and looked at the trucks once more before going to ask permission. The light was starting to get a little bright, but I was really liking what I was seeing and wanted to try and shoot them again today. I drove on down the driveway and stopped at the first house. Funny, I really don’t remember multiple houses from the last time, but I’m sure they were there. I got out and went to knock on the door. I was very relieved to see somebody actually answered the door at this house. In what seemed like record time, I had the access I needed and was on my way to photograph some yard art.
I grabbed the camera and loaded up the 24-70mm lens with the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer. This was my go to kit for this type of photography, and I knew that it would handle pretty much everything that I threw at it. The clouds were thinning out and break up very quick and the lighting was getting to be rather difficult. I set out to get what I could with the existing light. At least the clouds were looking good through the bare trees which was a big difference from the last time I was out here in the Summer. I knew that I was going to have some work to do in post with the lighting extremes that I was working with. To make matters worse, the wind was starting to really get breezy. While this usually isn’t a huge problem for this type of photography, it did make it to where HDR photography would not really be a possibility. The trees were moving too much and there would be too much ghosting if I were to blend multiple images.
What this meant was I was going to have to be really careful with my exposures and shoot to the right of the histogram as much as I could in order to keep detail in the clouds while maintaining detail in the shadows. I knew if I could do this, I would be able to recover a lot of the information through Lightroom. It was not ideal, but I was pretty sure it would work. There were a couple of times that the exposure latitude was too much for this to work, so I was forced to go with another option. For a couple of the compositions I was able to slide in a Singh-Ray, Galen Rowell 2-Stop ND Grad to bring the exposure in the sky back down a little bit. I chose to go with the soft edge grad filter since the horizon wasn’t really flat and I needed a gradual transition to happen since the subject would also be included in the exposure adjustment.
I was starting to get in the groove with the lighting I had. I was able to read a scene and know just about exactly how the camera would capture it and how I could process it. I’m happy to say that everything that I shot came out exactly as I had planned for it. It all came down to composition and some of my compositions just didn’t work out for me when I viewed them on the computer monitor. There are just times that you have a great idea and frame it up in the little viewfinder while contorting yourself to get into position to see in the camera. It looks great at the time, and you switch over to live view to set the exposure and double check the image before releasing the shutter. Then you get it home and look at it on the big screen and find that it just missed the mark completely. It happens, more often than I care to admit. There were a couple of those images, both isolations as well as full on images that just didn’t work out.
I’m starting to realize that I am becoming more and more picky about how my images are presented. The ones that I tossed to the side were all technically good images. They were exposed correctly, the focus was good, the compositions were as I intended them. The problem with them was they were just pictures, and didn’t have the personality that I want all of my images to have. They lacked emotion and I was pretty sure that they would just float out there and never really have an impact on anyone. I would rather trash those images in order to really have an impact with a body of work that I felt made a difference, or stood a good chance to spark a memory or emotion.
One such example is a heavy duty Ford that is parked on the back side of the property. I had shot it back in 2004, and you can see it in the blog entry that I referenced in the beginning of this one. I shot it again, and it was technically fine, but just had no soul to it. The lighting wasn’t really helping it the way it was sitting, and I didn’t feel that it really captured what I was trying to say. It was forgettable. However, there was that impressive front end that I loved so much on this truck. First off, I really like the nostrils of these old Fords, and the fact that the letters were still on the upper grill meant that I needed to get a shot of that. I also decided for the first time to really get into the soul of this old truck. As you know, I see the headlights as windows to the soul and I started on my journey to capture what I found so interesting about the headlights here. You can see from the picture above that the headlights are a little recessed from the pronounced fender and grill slats. This has always reminded me of a Roman helmet from way back in the day. They were sculpted around the eye of the warrior and covered the cheek. Doing a bit of research on these helmets, I found them to be Gallic in design and I thought that just rolled right off the tongue.
This was one of the things that I wasn’t doing much of in 2004. I had not really embraced the isolation end of automotive photography just yet. I was just starting to play around with it in an abstract way. These days, I have gotten much more proficient with shooting partial subjects as you can see above. Sometimes, in order to really balance an image, you can’t really include the entire element. For instance, this Ford would have greatly overpowered the Dodge in the distance since it was bigger and brighter. By cutting the majority of the bed off and focusing just on the cab, I was able to increase the visual weight of the Dodge which was my intention. The slight clearing to the right and the one tree on the edge of the frame balanced the reset of the image out nicely. While I was shooting this image another composition came to mind which brings us back to isolations. This was where I got the idea to get in close on the emblem beneath the window and shoot through the broken window to the dash on the driver’s side. You can see that image earlier in this entry titled Custom Cab.
Something else I have been working on recently is doing interior shots. Most of the time, I am working on capturing the dash of a vehicle, but occasionally I am blending the outside world with the inside. When I was looking at the interior of this Ford sitting on the side of the property, I just had to capture the webs on the inside as well as all that great moss that had developed. While looking at those element, I noticed the newer Ford framed really nicely through the windshield. The blue tones of the truck really worked well with the warmer earthy tones that were present in this older truck. I set the camera up in order to capture everything just right. I was worried that I was going to have to shoot multiple exposures and create an HDR image in post, but looking at the histogram, I was actually capturing all the data that I needed in order to get the effect I wanted. The windshield was in bad shape and it almost obscured the other truck, but with a little work in Lightroom, I was able to bring out the detail that I needed in order to bring that secondary element right into view with just the right amount of punch.
The longer I was out here, the brighter the sun got, and the windier it became. It was getting to where it was no longer any fun so I decided to pack up my gear and start towards the house. It was getting to be mid day at this point and I still had things to do at home, not to mention, I now had a bunch of images to process. Considering that I went out this morning in order to shoot a single car which turned into a flop, I had experienced quite a successful day. My second location had not materialized, but had led me to a barn that turned out to be a really strong subject. I had landed back in a familiar place and really showed myself just how much I had improved over the years with my images. I could go home and be totally satisfied with my day. But wait….we know me all too well. I wasn’t quite done for the day.
As I was heading home I was driving back into the clouds. These clouds were really amazing and I wanted to find something to put underneath them before calling it a day. I was going to be going by Sierra’s school and remembered that there were two barns nearby that I pass each morning I drop her off that I wanted to shoot. This might just be the time to do it. I started off with the one that was basically on the school property. I got up close to it for the first time and realized that it wasn’t quite as easily shot as I had hoped. There were just too many trees around it, and not enough to really make it stand out from the background. I let that one go and proceeded to the other one which was just a little ways back down the road.
When I got there and pulled off to the side of the road to look I was actually really impressed with what I saw. The clouds that I was enjoying looking at so much were beautiful above the barn and there was hints of Spring color behind the barn which helped to set it apart from the background. I got out of the truck for the first time in about six months of looking to finally shoot this barn. It was situated well back from the road across a level field. I didn’t know who the property owner was, and for this particular subject, I didn’t really think that it mattered. I was going to be able to shoot it from pretty close to the road. I set the camera up with my 70-200mm lens and added the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer in order to pull out as much color as possible and to reduce the glare on the roof. I set the shot up that I wanted and found that the exposure latitude was just too much for the camera to really get. I added my Lee Filter Foundation Kit and slid in a Singh-Ray, Galen Rowell 3-Stop ND Grad to pull the exposure back from the sky. I opted for the Soft Edge because I really didn’t want a line visible in the trees, and while it would have been faint, it would have been there. At 70mm, I was confident that the soft edge would work just fine.
I shot several compositions of the barn, but they were all very similar, so I only picked one that was my favorite. I selected this one because the prominent tree to the right seemed to frame the barn nicely, and the soft hues of Spring really showed in this composition. I really liked the fact that the vines were already greening up very nicely which gave a nice contrast to the front of the barn. The matching windows looked like hollow eyes and the missing boards below looked like tears. I don’t know how much time this old structure has, but I was able to get an image that I was quite happy with before it fell in on itself. This is what I love about decay photography. I am capturing an image of something that will not be around much longer, and that is very powerful when you stop and think about it.
At this point, it was after 1pm and it was time to get to the house. The sun was getting brighter and brighter by the second. I had things to do, and I needed to get ready for work on Monday. It was time to call it quits for the day. I was very satisfied with how the day had gone. I had set out with intentions of getting just a handful of images and was coming home with 106 exposures. That is pretty significant for what was essentially an unplanned trek full of shooting targets of opportunity with nothing planned. In the end, I had a total of 13 images that I figured were good enough to be keepers. I think that this last day of March wraps up one of the more successful months that I have had behind the camera. It seems that I have been more places and captured more images than in the peak of photography season. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the year holds for me!