Meeting the Neighbors

· Reading Time: 20 minutes

Saturday, August 1, 2020

OK, things are starting to feel normal for me once again.  I had a successful trek a few days ago to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and published my Behind the Camera entry early this morning.  I had been expecting to go out this morning for a sunrise shoot on the Parkway since I am so close, but a couple of things prevented that from happening.  First of all, I set a weekday alarm which does absolutely no good on a Saturday morning.  That meant that I accidentally slept in.  That was fine with me though since the weather forecast wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.  The clouds were much less than expected along the different areas of the Parkway that I would have wanted to go.  There had been the possibility of fog, but I wasn’t seeing any in the forecast either.  Looking out the window from home it didn’t look all that great outside so I was content to stay in and do some things around the house.  However, when Toni headed out to run an errand back towards Greensboro, she started to text me to let me know that the fog actually had appeared and was looking really good outside.  I checked out the window once again and found nothing of the sort at the house.  I checked the weather reports and nothing was showing there in regards to fog either.  Toni was actually outside and was seeing it so that was the reality of the situation.

I had to adjust my plans quickly at this point.  I chugged a protein shake for breakfast and got dressed before going downstairs and grabbing my gear to load in the truck.  It is still amazing to me how easy it is to do that part of the trek now that the office is right off of the garage.  I got rolling and wend down the driveway.  I still wasn’t seeing the fog that Toni had been sending me pictures of, but I was seeing a bit of it in the distance so I had hopes that I was going to find something to photograph in the fog.  Ideally, I would have been up on the Parkway doing some woodland images with the fog, but I didn’t have the time to go that far.  Instead I decided to check out some of the local talent in the area that I had started to scope out a week ago when I was warming up Sierra’s car to do a service on it.

Now that I am in a new area, I don’t have the same honey holes that I once did at my previous house after years of exploring close to home.  I now have to work out where the good areas are all over again, but that can be a lot of fun.  Since I had good light and I was seeing fog, I figured that this was a good time to go exploring.  If I didn’t get anything I was going to be fine with that, but I needed to see what was out there and close to the house.  I took off down Old Hwy 60 headed West where I knew of a few barns in the area that might look good.

The first one that I came across didn’t benefit as much as I was hoping for from the fog.  The background was still too prominent for me and too much of a distraction.  With thicker fog, I would have been in much better shape with that one.  I kept going and recalled seeing a nice red barn on the side of the road that I wanted to capture.  When I got to it, I was seeing compositions, but the sky was going to be a large part of it and with the fog, it was going to be very much washed out and boring.  Fog was not the time to photograph this barn at all.  I was going to need some interest in the sky for this one to work.  I kept on driving hoping to find something along the way.  I started to make random turns that got me good and lost which is when I usually find the best subjects.

Fins in the Fog“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

It wasn’t long before I found a house with a couple of old trucks on display out front.  I thought about stopping here and working them, but the conditions weren’t right for them from what I was seeing and it was still too early to consider knocking on doors to ask permission to get in closer.  I just filed that away in my mind for a later time and kept on going.  I was enjoying seeing what potential was in the area and I suspect that I will be spending a lot of time out here in the coming years photographing the rural countryside.  That didn’t change the fact that I was still without my first composition and the fog was starting to lift as the sun was climbing higher and higher in the sky.  This trek might be a bust, and the only thing that I might be able to accomplish is a trip to Lowe’s Hardware to pick up a couple of things for the house.  I think they might miss me there as well.  It has been several days since my last visit.  For the last two months, I have been there at least five times a week if not more.  I have my own reserved parking place, and they have given me a key to the front door.  But I digress, back to the task at hand.

As I was driving, I saw an old Ford truck against an old house that caught my eye.  It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but I was pretty sure that I saw something that was even better tucked into the trees in the same yard.  i got turned around and returned to that house.  Sure enough, there was a Dodge Coronet hiding in the trees just off of the driveway.  The truck was pretty decent too with the house behind it for a story line.  The only part of this that I didn’t really care for was a later model Ford Focus sitting beside the truck which was going to limit my compositions.  The mood was right with nice shadows in the area with a light fog settled over the scene.  Not wanting to block the driveway which appeared to continue up to possibly another house, I decided to pull off on the side of the road.  I got out and looked for any indication that visitors were not wanted here.  Not finding any signs, and no barriers to deal with, I decided to take a chance and I grabbed my camera.

From experience, I knew that my best choice was going to be the 24-70mm lens which gives me the greatest flexibility when I am able to get in close to the subjects.  I started to look at the possible compositions on the Coronet  first since that was the more interesting of the two subjects here.  I found that the best angle was the back right quarter shot since the front was buried in the trees and brush.  I loved the fins and the tail lights so I was happy with this view.  I worked on fine tuning the composition watching the background, and the separation of elements on the car.  I had my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer attached which I twisted until I had just the right amount of effect on the car for what I was wanting to convey.  I kept just a hint of glare on the car to accentuate the lines in the moist conditions.  The exposure was very straightforward, but it was a long one at 2.5 seconds to allow for the depth of field that I needed.  I tried about 10 variations on the composition before I was satisfied that I had what I wanted from this angle.

Detroit Decay“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

While spending so much time looking at the rear end of this Dodge, I realized just how much I liked the lights and the fins of this body style.  I decided that because I was so enamored with them that it would be worth getting in close to get an isolation on the car.  This is the beauty of the 24-70mm lens.  I can go from an overall shot to a very detailed isolation image without having to swap out to a different lens.  I got in close and elevated the camera to change the perspective.  With is up just above eye level, I was able to get a view looking down on the rear of the car that gave me some dramatic diagonals which I thought suited the car very well.  I did the very specific application of the Polarizer to gain just the right amount of glare to highlight the lines before I made the exposure.  I did just two of these since I had the exposure figured out from earlier.  I did the one that I am sharing here as well as one that included both sets of lights.  It was the first one that really spoke to me though as it really pulled your eyes to the lights and the fin design.  That was what I wanted to capture, so I didn’t need to worry about getting the entire expanse of the trunk.  I had that with the overall shot anyway.

After working the rear of the car I did move to the front and I tried to get something that I liked with the part of the car that you could actually see through the brush.  There was a fallen tree in the front that blocked some of the view and made compositions difficult.  I was able to get a few frames from this side, but I didn’t like any of them when I got home.  They were just too messy and not simple enough for what I was after.  This car was elegant and I didn’t want to disguise that fact just to get a picture from the front.  I was pretty sure that I had the two images that I really wanted from this car.

Since I was getting my rhythm back with this old Dodge, I decided to turn my attention to the Ford that had only partially appealed to me.  Looking at the truck I had to ask myself what I liked and what I didn’t like about the scene.  The truck was obviously the main focus, but it wasn’t quite enough to pull off an entire image.  I liked the house behind it, but only for an element in a picture, not the main focus.  I liked the rust on the hood and the overgrown trees in the background.  What I didn’t like was the power pole between the truck and the house and I really didn’t like the car that was sitting just to the passenger side of the truck.  It was close, and it was going to limit the angles that I could work with unfortunately.  It was also going to prevent me from capturing the entire front of the house behind the truck.

Ranger at Home“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

With all of these ideas floating around in my head I stopped and thought about the compositions that I could work here.  I found that if I set the camera up on the passenger front quarter that I could get a nice 3/4 view of the truck while eliminating the car which would be just out of the frame to the left.  With the way the house was lined up behind the truck I was happy to find that the front of the house cut in under the roof causing a deep shadow.  This shadow provided a nice visual frame to the small section of the house directly behind the truck.  It made sense in the composition and I didn’t feel like it was looking like I was cutting the house arbitrarily just to make the composition.  Next I had to find the balance in the composition.  That was up to the elevation of the camera.  By bringing the altitude up a little bit, I was able to get more of the hood which had that lovely rust on it, and I could highlight more of the patina of the truck.  It also allowed me to show more of the house behind the truck.  I just had to be careful not to reveal too much of the house.  It was all about balance and keeping the truck the main focus of the composition.

Once I had the camera position right, I worked on the crop of the image.  I kept it in close to avoid bright spots through the trees above the house and to avoid the car that I didn’t want in the image.  With the standard 3:2 ratio I was happy to see that the frame was nicely filled with the truck and that the greenery in the background helped to keep that attention right where I wanted it.  The perspective was right, and it was all falling into place.  The one thing that I couldn’t do anything about was the power pole.  I hated the fact that it was pretty much centered in the frame, but with the positioning of the camera for the composition I found that the pole didn’t cut a visible part of the house and it kind of disappeared into the background without any manipulation by me.  It wasn’t perfect, but I was overall very happy with the image and was committed to making it work.  I tried a few different variations on the composition to make sure that I had the right perspective once I got it on the computer at home.  By the time I was relatively happy with this one, I was noticing that the fog was pretty much gone at this point and the sun was starting to shine on the scene.  With the light changing for the worse, I decided it was time to pack it up and get back on the road.

As I was getting things back to the truck I heard a car coming down the driveway.  When they reached the road I went over to them and introduced myself.  I let them know what I had been up to and that I lived in the area.  They were fine with me photographing the vehicles and we briefly chatted before I handed one of my cards over and offered a print if they liked anything that I had captured from their property.  I have always had very good luck with folks out in this area when it comes to photographing their property.  Had these two vehicles not been so close to the road I would have never worked them without permission.  For the most part though, I was in the driveway in order to get the shots and I’m reasonably comfortable with using a driveway as a free zone to a point.

I was feeling pretty good about the morning so far.  I hadn’t really taken advantage of the fog as I was hoping, but I was getting back into my decay photography which has been idle for a while now.  It is an addition for me and now that I had a taste of rust I wanted to get more in front of my lens.  I continued on the path that I had started and continued to get lost looking for more rural scenes to photograph.  As I was turning on more and more roads I saw a barn that caught my eye.  It wasn’t perfect, but I thought that it might make a good image.  I slowed and looked at it closely as I drove past.  It was interesting, but the sky overhead wasn’t really fitting for it, and I was going to be very limited with access for any images.  I was mulling it over in my head and decided that I would get turned around at the end of the road if I didn’t see anything else that grabbed my attention first.

How Many Miles“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

Well, my attention got grabbed at the end of the road when I was looking to get turned around.  What I saw was something that I don’t usually photograph, but it spoke to me.  There was a Freightliner road tractor sitting in the field.  I instantly saw it as yard art from the general condition of it.  It was one of the massive designs from a few decades ago that just is a classic look now.  I turned to get a closer look as I drove by.  Of course, there was very little rust on the tractor because so much of the front end is fiberglass and chrome.  I was not sure I wanted to photograph it because it wasn’t quite in my decay realm, but the sky above it was looking really good, and there was just something about this old rig that wouldn’t let my attention get diverted.  I went ahead and pulled off to see about photographing it.  It was close enough to the road, and I didn’t feel like I would be encroaching on the property too much so I didn’t bother with knocking on the door of the house that in the neighboring lot.  I just grabbed my camera and fitted the 16-35mm lens because I knew how I wanted to shoot this one.  I wanted a big presence and the ability to capture the sky above.  Wide angle was the only way to make that happen.

I added the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer as well to add some contrast to the sky and to fine tune the tonality on the paint of the truck.  Looking at the scene, I was seeing some problems with the colors.  The truck was black and didn’t really jump out at all from the lush greens in the background.  The vibrant blues in the sky with the contrasty clouds were going to fight for attention from the truck as well.  The only thing that was drawing the eyes to the truck was the chrome brightwork which was still in really good shape.  I could tell that if I were to shoot this in color that the focus would shift from the truck to the trees and the sky.  That was not what I wanted at all so I decided that this was probably going to be a good candidate for being a black and white image.  That was how I shot it, and I knew that I was going to have the blue sky go very dark and I was going to concentrate on making the chrome the focus of the image which would then draw the eyes onto the truck over the rest of the scene.  The lighting was nice and even which was going to make that a fairly easy task.

I started to find the right position for the camera.  My original intention was to get in close and low to make the truck really stand out with a touch of perspective distortion.  That was easy enough and I found the right distance to get the impact that I was after.  I then started to shift around left to right until I found the right angle that gave a pleasing composition on the truck itself.  Then came the hard part, and something that I run into with pickups with no beds, or subdued flat beds.  I had to be careful not to center the truck in the frame which is easy to do if you follow the rule of giving your subject somewhere to go.  Ideally, I would have given more breathing room to the front of the truck, but if I did that while including the bobtail portion, it would place the visual weight of the truck smack in the middle of the frame.  In this situation what I decided to do was to crop in closer on the front of the tractor leaving the breathing room to the rear.  There was a bit of visual interest in the background that I was able to use for balance that worked out well.  The composition actually helped to tell the story of this image.  These road tractors see millions of miles during their employment and the composition places the focus on where this truck has been rather than where its going.  I thought that worked very well for it and the black and white conversion added a gritty feel to it that supported all those miles it has been.  The clouds above the stacks adds a little life to the whole image.  It might not be my typical decay subject, but I really think that this old gal had a story to tell and I think that I was able to capture that story with this image.

Ironically, while I was out on the scene I wasn’t convinced that I had the image that I was after and kept playing with the compositions.  I shot a few vertical images, I elevated the camera to relax the perspective distortion a bit.  In the camera these slight changes to the composition were producing better images.  It wasn’t until I got home later on that I found that the presence of the down low image was the way to go.  It told the story and provided an attitude that I think fit the truck better than the other compositions.  With this subject done I figured it was time to head home.  The light was getting harsh and the clouds were obviously clearing from the sky.  I still needed to get by Lowe’s so I headed that way.

After I had picked up a few things I got back in the truck and started home.  I was feeling pretty good about the morning and was looking forward to going through the images.  However, when I got to the house, I didn’t turn into the driveway.  Instead, I kept going straight retracing my steps from the morning.  My intention was to check out the red barn that needed more interest in the sky.  There were some interesting clouds in the sky in that direction and I thought that I might just have the right conditions.  It was still a bit before high noon so I had a little bit of angle from the sun which would light the barn in the right direction.  It wasn’t far from the house so I was there in just a few minutes.  I was right to give this a try as the clouds and the light were looking really good on the bar.  The trick now was to find a place to pull off the road so I could give this barn a try.

Red Barn Blues“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I was able to stick my truck on the side of the road next to a gate that allowed me just enough room to get off the road.  I grabbed my camera and fitted the 24-70mm lens which I figured would be well suited for the compositions that I had in mind.  There was a fence that surrounded the barn which I liked, but there was no way to elevate the camera enough to provide the much needed separation of the barn and fence.  That meant that I was going to have to shoot over the fence which I am well versed in doing.  I got up to the edge of the fence and started to find my compositions.  There was a power pole to the left of the barn and one in the background that bothered me so I did my first compositions with close crops.  Those just felt like snapshots and didn’t really capture the sky which I felt was a very important part of the image.  I opened up the framing and decided to get the power poles in the shot and deal with them later if I needed to in post processing.  The image was coming together, but the roof of the barn was below the trees in the background which bothered me.  Yeah, it is a simple thing, but it minimized the barn in my eyes and I didn’t like that.  I wanted to have the apex of the barn go over the tree tops to add scale to the barn.

The only way to accomplish what I was wanting here was to lower the camera.  Remember that fence I was shooting over?  Yeah, that might be a problem.  I looked at the slats and realized that there was just enough room to get my lens through between them.  I got the Manfrotto Tripod lowered and then managed to slip the camera through the slats of the fence.  I found the right height that allowed me to get the barn positioned in relation to the trees just like I wanted.  I was still capturing the power poles and power lines, but the composition was spot on what I was after.  I shot a couple of frames with this arrangement and then started to look for other compositions possibly including the fence in the front.  That was when the car dove past me and slowed.  It reversed back to me and the windows started to come down.  I walked to the car and quickly determined that these were the owners of the barn.  We chatted briefly and I found out that he was also a retired law enforcement officer.  There are getting to be quite a few of us on this road and that makes me very happy.  Anyway, he was happy to let me photograph the barn and let me know that he was going to be fixing the fence in the near future.  Of course, I really liked the fence just as it was so I was glad I had come out here to photograph it today.  With his blessing, I worked other compositions knowing that I had permission to be there.  As it turned out though, the one that I had shot through the fence was my favorite by far.  After a little bit of cloning of the two power poles and the associated lines I had an image that I was really happy with.  The sky was perfect and complimented the barn so well.

With that, I was done for the day.  I had been out for about three hours and had shot 48 frames of three different locations.  Of those, I was really happy with five images which you will find here.  It is quite nice to finally be getting more images added to my portfolio after these last two months.  I’m feeling more and more like myself and I’m getting back in the swing of thinking artistically and I’ve started to regain my focus once again.  I do hope that you have enjoyed my little adventure meeting my neighbors and also enjoy the images that resulted.  Remember, if any of these images that appear in my blog or in my galleries here speak to you on a special level, I would love to discuss matching you up with a print of that special image.

Until next time….
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