Tuesday, July 9, 2019
This morning kind of caught me off guard since I worked 13 hours yesterday and pretty much went to sleep when I got home. I didn’t have a lot of time to plan anything around photography since I was going to be off today. I had just enough time to look at the forecast and found that it was supposed to be mostly cloudy with the clouds all in the lower altitudes. This ruled out much in the mountains since I had a sneaking suspicion that if I tried that route, I would just be above the clouds and dealing with blue skies. For that reason I decided to stay close to home, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to shoot. By the time morning rolled around, the weather forecast was still the same and I needed to figure out a course of action while I still had the time to make it happen.
Looking outside, the color cast was quite blue from the thick clouds and it was very moist. The lighting didn’t look all that great for much, but it was even. I knew as the sun continued to rise, the color temperature would change and things would start to get better. It still left me thinking that waterfalls would be my best bet. While I do enjoy photographing waterfalls, I just wasn’t feeling motivated to work that subject today. Having just a few within quick driving distance also put a damper on my spirits as I have shot those so many times that I am just bored with them. I had thought about going out for a rural road trip, which is ultimately what I did. I had no real direction and didn’t know what I was wanting to shoot. It was just going to be a drive around until I find something kind of day.
Oddly enough, it didn’t take long at all to find something that caught my eye. There is a barn not far at all from my house that I have been passing by for nearly 20 years now. I have never stopped to photograph it, and never really seriously considered it. However, over the years, it has started to deteriorate and that caught my attention. The lighting was also quite good on it with the diffused light from the heavy clouds. The full trees in their Summer colors provided that much needed color contrast to really make the image work. I had found the first image of the day!
I pulled off on the side of the road and looked at the house that was on the same property. It did not appear to be occupied, and I couldn’t tell if it was lived in or not. Based on the location of the barn, I was pretty sure that I could get it from the shoulder of the road which I could do without any permissions. I went ahead and found the angle that I wanted to shoot from and planted my Manfrotto Tripod right there. Looking at the scene, I was feeling pretty good about the 24-70mm lens on the 5D. I doubted that I would need to get a closer crop than that lens would allow. I added to that my trusty Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to add a bit of contrast to the scene, and boost the warmer colors a bit. I fine tuned the composition by using the Acratech GP-S Ballhead which allowed me to zero in on the perfect angles and hold it.
I worked this barn like I typically would and tried different compositions on it. I had started with one that incorporated a pair of trees to the right which would frame the image quite well. I did this with the intention of cropping to a 16×9 or 16×10 composition and knew that this one would be in color. The next composition that I tried was a bit tighter and one that I got in a bit closer for. I wanted to really emphasize the missing support on the overhang. I was thinking that this would be a monochrome image, but wasn’t completely sure at the time. In all honesty, I was only expecting to get a single image that I would keep from the handful that I shot of this barn. I kept the rig the same for both compositions, but paid a little more attention to the exposure of the lighter parts of the barn since this was more than likely going to be processed as a black and white image.
The reason that I wanted to go monochrome with this one over the other one was the primary focus of the image was the barn while in the first one, the barn was just an element in the whole scene. The colors really didn’t play as much of a part in the more isolated image since the barn was filling so much of the frame. There was not enough color balance to really make the image work the way I wanted it to in color. I loved the composition as it was full of impact. The warmer shades just muddied the image. By going with a black and white, your focus is solely on the barn and there is plenty of contrast within the image to keep your eyes busy. The textures is what makes this image, and the color is just not needed for that presentation. The trees mostly go into the shadows here and that works out just fine because there was a bit of a breeze at this point and some of the leaves were showing a bit of motion. This is overlooked in the darker parts of the image since your eyes are drawn to the brighter areas.
I had only shot about a half dozen images of the barn which was really all I could do without really getting into the property. I had to be happy with that, and I was actually. I got back int the truck and ran a few errands in the area before setting off to the area of Tobaccoville where I have had good luck several times in the past. This first stop on my rural road trip set the tone for me. I was going to be looking for old barns and old rusty cars out in the country. I love doing this, although it is a bit difficult to do in the Summer with all of the foliage around. I was going to see what I could find.
I drove and drove.
I found a lot of barns and even some nice old cars, but nothing was really calling out to me. There were compositional problems with each and every one that I came across.
I drove some more.
I actually found myself on a bunch of roads that I had never been on before.
And then I saw it…..
Something that I have been wanting to try to photograph for some time now.
Nope, it wasn’t a barn or an old car like what I was looking for.
It was something completely different, just to keep you guessing….
What I found was several locomotives sitting on the side of the road. These were not the normal Norfolk Southern units that I normally see which are just plain black. These were some that I don’t get to see all that often from CSX which were blue with yellow noses. These had such a fantastic color combination that my imagination was immediately captured. I slowed and looked before pulling into a small parking area next to three of the locomotives. Yeah, this could work!
I turned the truck off and got out to see what I could do with the scene. I could hear working on one of them, so I started to track down the noise. As I came to the one black engine, one of the mechanics came out. I got his attention and asked if I could hang out there and shoot some pictures of the trains. He didn’t hesitate and informed me that I wasn’t going to be able to take any pictures, or remain on that property while they were working on the equipment. I could understand that, and I also knew that one can’t trespass on the property of the railroad so I didn’t push the issue any. He stated that I could take any pictures that I wanted to from across the street which didn’t really appeal to me since I was all excited about getting in close to these beautiful locomotives. I said my farewells and hopped back into the truck to go and find something else to photograph.
I drove and drove.
I wasn’t finding much else that caught my eye, or my attention.
I just kept thinking about the blue trains with the yellow noses under a very interesting sky.
After about an hour of driving around Tobaccoville, I realized that I wasn’t going to find anything else that excited me like the scene that I had just seen. I know how this goes. When I get something on my mind, I have to shoot it before I can move on to something else. I worked my way back to the yard and drove slowly past once again. I could see some compositions with one engine that was set off by itself by some sort of hopper. The trees allowed the sky to really come in and balance a potential composition. I decided that I would give it a try, so I pulled off the road by a gated off driveway that hadn’t been used in some time.
Before I brought out my Lowepro Whistler bag with my equipment in it, I got out of the truck and walked the side of the street to establish a couple of things. First, I wanted to see if I could get a composition that worked from the side of the street. Secondly, I wanted to make sure that there was enough room on the ridge of the shoulder to stand without getting in the way of traffic. That second part turned out to be the most difficult since I had to get right on the edge of the road to get the elevation that I needed. It was workable though, and I went back and grabbed my gear.
I started out not wanting to show the road so, I opted for my 70-200mm telezoom which gave me the needed reach to crop in the way I wanted to. I added the Lee Foundation Kit with the 105mm adaptor that allowed me to screw on the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer. I used this to take some of the glare out, and show the interesting colors in the windshield glass. I got everything set up on the tripod and dialed in the composition. Even though the subject matter was completely different, I was able to work this scene just as though it was an old car, or barn for that matter. The essential elements of the image were really no different than what I have shot a thousand times before. That really helped me move through the compositions. I was really paying attention to the clutter that was around the locomotive. I had to crop in close to the bottom while the tripod was fully extended to avoid the road. I wanted to make sure that I got the sky, which put the train down very low in the composition. it turned into my foreground and visual anchor with the trees becoming the midground and the sky the background. it was a very simple image, and thanks to the bright yellow nose, a very classic composition. There was more to the story of this train though, and I needed to fill in the blanks with some more elements.
The hopper that was stationed right in front of the train had caught my attention, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include it. There was also a tractor down below it. These elements helped to fill in some of the blanks about this train. There was a good deal of history here, and that was what I wanted to capture. There was no way to avoid the road in this composition, but I decided that it actually worked by providing a diagonal element that complimented the slope of the trees. The main elements of the image also seemed to follow the receding triangle effect which was created. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out on the computer monitor, but I was liking what I was seeing in the camera. I didn’t even need to swap out lenses for this shot as I was at 70mm and felt good with that composition.
While I really liked both of the images, I think that the second one does a better job at telling the story of this railroad. I was so happy to find this particular engine sitting there because it could have just as easily been a solid black one which would not have worked nearly as well in the composition. That blue really balances with the sky, and the yellow adds some much needed warmth to the image. It all just falls into place so well I think.
From here, I swapped over to my 24-70mm lens to see if there was something else that I could get. I tried a couple of things, including a vertical shot that I was possibly going to crop to a 1×1 image. It just didn’t work as well as the horizontal one that I had just shot. I was just very hampered with the location that I had to shoot from. I could see many other compositions closer to the trains, but that just wasn’t in the cards today. I am quite happy with the ones that I did manage to get, and these rounded out my day with 28 images captured. That isn’t many compared to the typical haul of over 100 images for a day to go through. However, my hit rate was really high on this particular trip for some reason with four keepers out of that group. I think I am most excited about finally photographing the train which is something that I have been looking to do for some time, but have never found the right setting or subject. I just need to search out more of these blue CSX trains for some more opportunities.
I hope that you enjoyed my little outing. I would fill you in on more of the driving around, but that was all I did after the trains. I didn’t find anything else that was worth my time even though the lighting was fantastic. I had things that needed to be done back at home, not the least of which was going through the images that I had shot already. It had been a full morning, and I didn’t get home until after lunch.