Not Quite Salem Lake

· Reading Time: 13 minutes

Saturday, March 21, 2020

This is really turning into very interesting times with the Quarantines going on due to the Covid 19 virus.  It seems like every day there are new rules in place and less places that you can go.  I’m not overly worried per se, but I do recognize the need to stop the spread of this virus, so I have been limiting my time out and the places that I have been going.  Not knowing how long this will last though, I am not looking forward to the cabin fever that will set in eventually if I don’t leave the house every once in a while.  There are some good weather patterns in place around the area for the next few days so I am working on some different ideas of subjects that I can photograph which will limit any exposures.  Not wanting to travel too far, I am looking at working areas that are closer to home that I can shoot quickly without a lot of driving.  By the end of Friday, I had started to plan a morning shoot that was going to be pretty good if the weather was going to do as expected in the forecast.

Looking at the weather, there were going to be clouds and rain moving out of the area fairly rapidly in the first few hours of the day.  The wind wasn’t expected to be that strong at ground level, but for the clouds to be moving so quickly, there was likely a nice bit of movement in the upper atmosphere.  The clouds were generally going to be in the middle levels which usually give me great textures to work with.  Assuming that those clouds will be moving across the sky while the breeze was very light on the surface, I was thinking some long exposure lake images would be the way to go.  That actually fit perfectly with an idea that I had been working on over the past week or so.  You see, one of the last places that I took my Grandfather was to Salem Lake so that he could enjoy the water and the sun.  He would have preferred the beach, but that was going to be problematic to get him to.  This was a good compromise and he really enjoyed spending a few hours out there with Toni and me feeling the breeze and the warm sun.  I have been wanting to capture an image of the pier with that point of view and that kind of mood behind it.  The weather forecast was looking pretty good for that to happen.

I knew that I was going to have to get an early start so that I could be there for first light on the chance that blue hour was going to be be a good option for me.  Fortunately, the park wasn’t but about 15 minutes from home so I could leave at about 6:45am since the park gates opened at 7.  Doing a quick Google search confirmed that the opening times hadn’t changed.  With the State Parks still open, I didn’t put any extra thought into the validity of that opening time.  I just drove on out there and figured that if for some reason they would be closed, I would have at least gotten out and tried my idea and hopefully I would be able to find another location to shoot before getting home.

When I arrived at the park, the gate was closed, but it was still five till, so I wasn’t expecting the gate to be open.  I did see a truck there with a boat ready to enter so I felt pretty good that that the park would be opening soon.  I just pulled in behind the truck and put my truck in park to wait.  Loads of people were coming in and parking in the lot behind me which accessed the trails.  This was not where I wanted to be  unfortunately, so I waited.  Five minutes passed, ten, and finally when I saw 7:15, I pulled out the phone to do a little more digging.  Sure enough, the marina was closed until further notice.  We weren’t getting in there today, and that was a real shame because the sky was doing just what I had wanted it to do.  I had no option at this point though since climbing a fence and blatantly trespassing was a very bad idea.  It was time to look at my Plan B which was not exactly well thought out.  I just got turned around and went back out to the main road while it was still mostly dark.

Two Minutes in Time“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 3-stop soft ND Grad, 10-stop Mor Slo ND Filter, 120 seconds

I started to drive through Kernersville as I thought about different locations that might work with the sky that we had.  The only thing that I could really think of was a barn that I had been thinking about photographing for a while now.  It was red, and situated deep in a field behind a white fence.  I had tried to capture it in the last snow that we had, but I just didn’t like way it was looking that morning.  I was hoping for a bit different look to it this time around.  I took the long way to get there and was looking at different locations along the way.  Nothing was sticking out at me, but the sky was just too nice to waste so I continued to search.  I saw nothing at all worth a photograph and when I got to the red barn, my score card didn’t change in the slightest.  The barn was there and the sky was nice, but there was just no soul to it at all.  I decided to continue on down the road and see if the Kernersville Lake was open since I was still interested in doing some long exposure photography with the water.  As I drove down the road, I saw a pair of barns that I had looked at before, but never photographed.  They were back lit from the rising sun, but the clouds were softening the light and making it look possible.  The sky was still looking good in that direction too.  I just wasn’t sure if they would be right for capturing today.  The lake was just a little further down the road so I went down there to see what it looked like.

When I got there, I found the gate open and welcoming me in.  I took the invite and drove on in and started to look at the scenery.  It wasn’t much different than I remembered it, and it really did nothing at all for me.  I didn’t see any compositions that excited me.  There wasn’t even any reason to get out of the truck and explore any more.  I just decided to go back up to the barns and give them a real evaluation to see if I could come up with anything there.  I pulled off the road and looked closely.  The barns were not all that impressive on their own.  The larger one had a chain link fence closing off the opening and there were vines growing on that fencing.  I did like the sagging roof and the aged wood, but there wasn’t much character going on with it.  The more appealing barn of the two was situated behind some brush which blocked a lot of its personality.  It was only going to get worse as the vegetation came back to life, so I was motivated to see if I could do anything with it today.  What I did like about the scene was the green grass, bare trees, and the sky was actually quite interesting.

Not having any better prospects on the horizon, I decided to get out and give this scene a shot or two.  It is something that I have been working on in my own discipline.  I have passed by good and workable scenes with the hopes that there was something better around the corner.  Usually that results in my missing out on something that might work in favor of something that I had not found yet.  It is very much akin to the concept of “a bird in the hand.”  I was going to take advantage of the bird that was in my hand, or at least try to.  I pulled out the tripod and mounted the camera to it.  I knew that this scene was going to work well with my standard 24-70mm lens so that is what I mounted.  There was a light fog in the air and the exposure looked to be pretty even to my eyes so I didn’t mount any filters to the camera.

As I started to form a composition, I found that I really liked an all encompassing one that included both barns with trees forming the framework for the scene.  When I had the composition figured out, I dialed in the exposure which looked like it would work just fine in the histogram.  However, after I released the shutter and saw the image on playback, I was a little concerned about the exposure latitude that I was seeing.  I added a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 3-stop soft edge ND Grad which brought the exposure much closer to what I was expecting to see.  With that, I managed to have plenty of information in the bright areas as well as the dark areas.  As I looked at the scene I saw another possibility that interested me.  The clouds were moving noticeably in the sky, but there was no breeze at ground level so the trees were perfectly still.  This was an opportunity to try a long exposure to soften the sky just a little bit.  I went back to my bag and retrieved my Mor Slo 10-stop ND Filter which I slid in the holder.  I also added the cover for the viewfinder to block any excess light, and plugged in my remote release for the timed exposure that I would be doing.

A Fresh Start“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 2 and 3-stop soft ND Grads

I worked with the exposure until I had a two minute exposure at f/13.  That gave me just enough movement in the clouds without losing detail.  I had tried exposures ranging from one minute to just over three minutes.  Two minutes was just perfect and I had a nice looking histogram with nothing blown out or bunched up.  It is rare that I do long exposures like this with trees in close proximity, but I really liked the effect and was thankful that it appeared as though none of the trees were moving in the frame.  I had a nice added benefit during my different exposures that brought a bit more atmosphere to the scene, and that was the fog that was rolling in throughout the captures.  that added just a bit more depth to the scene which added interest.

After I was pretty sure that I had what I wanted of the entire scene, I directed my attention to the more interesting of the two barns and tried to get a composition that I liked on it.  I started out with a horizontal approach that just seemed to static to me.  However, when I flipped the camera on its side, I saw new life to the scene.  The trees were towering above the barn and there were plenty of highlights in the clouds to really make it dramatic.  The problem that I was running into was the clouds were getting brighter very quickly.  I was considering doing another long exposure, but with the limited sky that was in the shot I decided against that in order to retain the details that were present a bit more.  I removed the Mor Slo filter and started to dial in my exposure values.  Looking at the histogram I was going to have trouble with the highlights in the sky.  I went into my bag of tricks and pulled out my 2-stop ND Grad which I stacked on top of the 3-stop having them staggered just slightly so that the division line wasn’t as obvious.  That seemed to do the trick, and I fired off a shot.

When the LCD review came up, I could see that even with the two filters in place, I was still looking at too much exposure latitude thanks to the thin parts in the clouds which allowed the sun to get rather bright behind the clouds.  I didn’t have any more filter tricks up my sleeve, but I did have one more thing that I could try which should work.  Since the surface wind was minimal at best, I should be able to pull of an HDR blended image here to increase the dynamic range of the camera.  I dialed in the exposure for the first shot to be well underexposed, followed by three additional captures each a stop above the last.  That gave me gobs of detail and information to work with in the scene.  I shot a total of three images with the HDR approach of this barn because of the exposure difficulties.

When I was satisfied that I had the right compositions and exposures I decided to pack things up and move on to something else before I lost my light.  I drove through Walkertown and eventually ended up on Piney Grove Rd where there was a truck sitting in front of an old house that I had wanted to photograph.  The lighting was going to be just about right for it, but I was concerned about the brush that had been stacked up alongside the road.  I was pretty sure that I was going to give it a try today regardless of the brush though.  It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized that I was too late for this scene.  The truck had been moved which I figured would happen eventually, I just hated to see that it happened before I could get a photograph of it.  Just goes to show you that it is better to get a less than perfect image rather than wait until perfect happens…because perfect rarely happens.  Now I will never get that image.  At least it wasn’t a fantastic subject and I’m not kicking myself over it in the least.

That did finish up my morning out though.  I had a lesson to teach Sierra and I needed to get home for that.  Just to end on a funny note here in relation to the social distancing we are all having to do, Sierra participates in horseback riding lessons on Saturday at a local business.  She really enjoys going here, and looks forward to it every weekend.  For the longest time now Toni and I have been trying to get her to check her email regularly since she is starting to get important emails from time to time.  Well, as we had expected, the riding lessons were cancelled until further notice for the safety of the children and the horses and Toni had received an email stating just that.  She promptly told me about it and forwarded Sierra the email.  She had the great idea of just leaving it as an email correspondence to see if she would check it.  Of course, we heard nothing from Sierra after the email was sent.  The next day we got another email about how she could virtually interact with the horses while the lessons were suspended.  That was also forwarded with no response.

As I’m sure you are figuring out, Saturday came and Sierra got up early (read as, before time to go back to sleep) and was ready to go to her lesson.  She got everything that she needed and was even excited to drive there (she is not a fan of driving).  I hopped in the co-pilot seat since she still only has a permit and off we went.  She was so excited and I was having a hard time keeping the secret to myself as Toni had been earlier.  Just before Sierra wanted to pull into the parking area, I redirected her to another parking lot and asked had she checked her email lately.  Well…she hadn’t and I had her check it there in the parking lot.  Sierra soon developed a much sadder demeanor as we pulled back out and headed home.

I’m thinking that is a parenting win on this one.  I’m betting that she might be a little more apt to check her email now.

Anyway, I am glad you were able to join me on my little short adventure this morning.  I hate that I didn’t get the image that I had in mind, but for an alternative that I had not even considered, I am quite happy with the outcome from these barns.  As always, if there are any photographs in my blog or galleries here that you would be interested in getting a print of, please let me know, or you can purchase directly through this website.  I think that everyone could use a little happiness in their homes right about now, and art will certainly brighten up a wall.  Plus, there is no undue personal contact with the purchase of a photographic print.  Let me help connect you with the print that speaks to you!

Until next time….

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