Overgrown Relics

· Reading Time: 16 minutes

Thursday, June, 10, 2021

June is turning out to be a pretty exciting month for my photography thus far.  I started it off with a trip out to Roaring Fork Falls which turned out to be really successful despite there only being a few images from the day.  I then followed that up with a morning in the studio doing some still life photography which I hadn’t done in quite some time.  Having all of that effort for just one photograph got me really wanting to get out in the field again and look for more subjects.  Since I hadn’t been out exploring much recently, my collection of possible subjects that I keep has been dwindling a little bit.  That meant I really had no idea where I might want to go in order to get photographs.

When I was done with the office work on Thursday morning I checked the weather and it was looking like the rain was going to hold off until later in the afternoon while the sky was left with some really nice clouds hanging around.  The light looked pretty good and I wanted to go out and get some new images.  After having such luck with the last couple of waterfalls that I had shot I was kind of interested in working with some more moving water.  The problem was, most of the waterfalls that I would want to photograph were several hours away.  With my late start for the day I didn’t want to take on that kind of travel time for some pictures.  It did occur to me that I hadn’t yet photographed the Reddies River Dam which I had started to consider last Fall.  The light was good for it, and that was going to be my intended subject for the day.

It was only about 15 minutes away and it took no time at all to get there.  I got out of the truck and started to look around for compositions and was left feeling rather empty about the whole scene.  I couldn’t get a compelling composition here and was having a hard time imagining a lighting situation that would provide a good composition.  I stuck around maybe five minutes or so before deciding that my time would be better spent looking for other subjects.  I drove around North Wilkesboro for a bit looking for interesting shapes and textures but wasn’t really finding anything of interest at all.  I was starting to get a little down on myself since I finally had a real drive to get out and be creative but I just wasn’t finding anything at all to work with.  I didn’t give up though and I kept driving to see what I could find.

I actually ended up going down 115 towards Statesville and trying some of the back roads out that way.  I ended up on one that I had been on before with some interesting subjects, but no real compositions to be had.  There was one location that I passed that had an old farm house and two barns situated not far from the road.  It had caught my eyes before but I had a hard time getting a composition to work out in my head.  The problem was power lines right at the road which went diagonally across the barns to go to the house.  No matter what I did, those lines were going to be in the frame.  Feeling confident that I could clone out the lines easy enough, I decided to give it a try.  I pulled into the driveway to the locked gate just to get out of traffic.  I got out and looked at the different points of interest and decided that my standard lens would probably do the best.

I built the camera which was still very cold from being in the office which tends to stay chilly year round due to being below ground level.  With the A/C running, it is even cooler.  As I was building the camera I remembered a serious problem that I continuously had last Summer after storing the camera in the office.  Introducing it to the hot and humid conditions of a Summer day would yield an instant fog over the lens which couldn’t be wiped away for any length of time until the internal components of the lens warmed up to ambient temperatures.  It was like going out for a sunrise shoot at the beach after having the camera sitting in the air conditioned room all night.  This was going to be a pain in the butt!

I worked with the foggy lens setting up some compositions and got to the point where I could wipe the lens element off and take a shot before it would cloud over once again.  I was quickly finding out that the standard lens was just too wide for the compositions that I was going to have to capture so I went back to the truck and swapped out the long 70-200mm lens and started the whole waiting process over for the fog to clear.  Before the fog would get to a manageable level, a car pulled up and the driver asked what I was doing.  I did my normal thing of explaining that I was getting pictures.  They let me know that the owner wouldn’t be happy with me parked in the driveway like I was.  Since I was not having any real luck with compositions and my equipment was not ready for use I didn’t argue the point or ask for any further considerations.  I just packed up and went on my way with the camera bag opened up and the A/C off in the truck in an attempt to get the equipment up to ambient temperatures.

Office Plants“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I was really starting to fee defeated at this point but wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet.  I ended up turning onto the Wilkes Yadkin Highway going East.  I had spent some time out here in the past and knew that there were some potential subjects to consider between here and Yadkin County.  I just rolled the window down and turned up the music while I enjoyed the ride through the country.  I poked around different side roads with no luck and eventually found myself in Yadkin County.  Out of the corner of my eyes I could see an old building in a parking lot off to the side of the road.  It looked familiar and I was pretty sure that I had evaluated it as a subject before, but something was different about it this time.  I got turned around and pulled into the parking lot.  It was a little office building with all sorts of vegetation growing out of and around it.  The light was good on it with the partially clearing sky providing some direct sunlight on the facia of the building.  I checked really quick to see if there were any signs indicating that I couldn’t be here.  Seeing none, I got parked in full view of the road so I didn’t look like I was up to something and pulled out the camera.  It was no longer cold to the touch so I was hopeful that the optics would be in good shape.

I selected my standard lens once again which is the perfect lens for this type of subject when I can get in close.  I added a polarizer and then started to look for the place to set the tripod.  The compositions were not all that easy to come by as I wanted to show depth in an area where the building was right at the tree line.  The parking lot was the only foreground and if I included too much of the scene, the office building got lost in the frame.  What I wanted to convey here was the condition of the building and I needed that to be at the forefront of the composition, but I didn’t want it to look like just a quick snapshot of the scene either.  I avoided shooting straight into the scene and found a subtle angle which gave a little depth to the scene thanks to the staircase in the front.  I had initially wanted to avoid the neighboring building, but I found a way to include it as a complementing element while a vine growing up to the edge of the roof provided that visual border to the scene.  It was an odd composition and one that was a little uncomfortable, but looking at this little building that was what I felt so it worked out.

Surrendered“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

Having figured out the angle I liked on this building, I started to work on a composition that was a little less uncomfortable which just was a matter of isolating the face of the building.  All I needed to do was move in closer and go with a bit tighter of a shot.  For this simplistic image I wanted the overall presentation to be a bit less complex so I opted to shoot this as a monochrome image.  I think that it allowed the attention to really focus on the building because of the brightness of the faded siding.  The contrasts came from the windows and the vegetation which helped bring even more depth to the scene.  With avoiding the partially missing roof, the balance was restored to the scene which made this a more comfortable image, but less dramatic.  Both scenes tell different tales and I like them both equally for that.

I spent some more time working on other compositions and even turned my attention to another building on the property with a semi trailer parked against it.  I tried to get some creative shots of that pair, but nothing really turned out.  Not wanting to push the creative issue too much I decided that it was time to move on to see what else I could find.  I got back on the road with what I was sure would be at least one successful shot in the bag.  The question was, would I be able to find another scene to work with?  The sky was clearing up and the light was getting harsher but I knew that the rain was going to be coming back in a few hours so the clouds would be returning soon enough.

I can’t remember exactly where I turned, but I decided to head North when I got close to Yadkinville and I started to explore that way for a bit.  I was finding myself in areas that I had never been before and that was great.  I love exploring to see what I can find for photographs whether immediately or for in the future.  There was a lot of potential in the area, but nothing was jumping out as a composition.  By this point my gas was getting a little low and I was getting tired of driving aimlessly without any real success.  I keyed “home” into the GPS and it started to take me back West.  Before long, I was back on 115 headed North.  I happened upon a gas station and decided to go ahead and fill up there real quick.  With that done, I had a bit more range to deal with so I decided to take a long and meandering ride back to the house.

Studebaker Storm“, Canon 5DSR, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 3-stop soft ND Grad

As I was getting close to home I was starting to turn down streets that I had been on many times, but there were still occasional side roads that I hadn’t explored and that was what I started to do.  One such road I turned on and was able to see behind a house I had passed a half dozen times before.  It appeared as though there was an old Studebaker pickup parked all along in the back yard surrounded by weeds.  It definitely caught my attention but I knew that I was going to have to get access to the property in order to shoot it because there was just no composition from the road.  With that in mind, I continued down the road I was on which was a dead end on the off chance I could find some low hanging fruit that I could shoot from the road. There was nothing else of interest down the road so on my way back out to the main road I stopped to look at the truck once again.

The problems that I was going to run into with this truck was two neighboring properties which were going to try and sneak into the frame on either side of the truck.  They were large houses, one with a large barn and an RV parked beside it.  It wasn’t going to be an easy composition, but the truck itself looked so nice sitting in the field as it was.  I decided to go and see if anyone was home.  I pulled into the driveway where there was only one vehicle parked.  I was doubtful that I would get anyone here and was already resigned to the fact that I would have to give up on this subject.  That was a real shame because the clouds were really starting to come in nicely.  I rang the bell and waited.

Much to my surprise the homeowner met me at the door.  He was on the phone so I didn’t want to keep him long so I introduced myself and asked permission to go photograph his truck.  He was happy to let me and with that I was parking my truck out of the way and grabbing my gear.  When I got around to the truck I started to size up the compositions available.  It was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought.  Unless I shot the scene with my long lens I was going to have great difficulties avoiding the surrounding properties, and with that long lens, I would have compressed the scene much more than I would have wanted.  I didn’t like that idea because it was the curves of the old truck that I liked.  I threw caution to the wind and fitted my wide angle lens with a polarizer and started to frame up compositions.  I started from the driver’s side and worked with different compositions that I liked.

In each of the ones that I shot I was thinking to myself that I would be cropping the scene to a 4:5 or 5:7 ratio and would be cloning out parts of the intruding houses.  While that would work, the compositions were not really doing the scene justice at all.  I tried from the other side which worked a bit better, but the sky was a little boring that way.  It was seeming that nothing was really going to work.  Plus, the contrast between the ground and the sky was so great that I had to add a grad filter to keep the exposures in line.  It was just seeming like this wasn’t going to work out as well as I had thought.

I went back to the driver’s side and tried a square crop which worked a bit better, but lacked the interest of the clouds above.  Building on that, I decided to shoot a vertical image knowing that I would crop it down to a 4:5 ratio, but that allowed me to include more of the sky which was getting more and more interesting.  I kept the camera elevated this time so that I could include just a bit more of the lower part of the image and give the sky a slightly smaller percentage of real estate in the frame.  I wanted to ensure that the focus of the image was on the truck, but the sky was also very important to the overall scene.  It was this vertical composition that seemed to check all of the boxes for me and it did so without the need for any cloning or digital magic to make the houses disappear.  It was the image that I was most excited about for the day and it was the image which I remained most excited about when I was doing the edits.

Cornered“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 3-stop soft ND Grad

While I was shooting that truck that became my favorite scene for the day I had seen the Studebaker coupe further down on the property near the trees.  The owner had come out to talk to me while I was working with the truck and pointed it out as well.  All I could see was the top of the car through the tall grass, but when he said that I was free to photograph that car as well I started to ponder the options.  When I was satisfied with the truck series I moved down to the car.  By working my way around, I got to the front of the car which made the scene much more visible.  The light wasn’t as good, but it would make for a much simpler image overall.  There were a pair of bumpers on the hood of the car which messed with the lines a bit, but somehow they fit the scene as I saw it.  The hard part here was finding a composition that I liked.

The light was harsh with the car in the shadows whether or not the sun was peeking out of the clouds.  When the sun came out there was a little bit of light on the scene which helped, but the trees were still very dark.  I started to go at this car with a wide angle focal length and decided that that lens put too much emphasis on the bumpers and that distracted from the shape of the car.  I ended up backing away and swapping lenses for my standard 24-70mm lens which worked better for the relationships.  I was able to find a composition which included a pile of debris as a foreground along with a pair of trees at the road which made for a nice visual border.  I was able to get the sky into the scene to give scale and depth to the image, but that brought with it a power pole with a light and the associated powerlines which stretched across the sky.  I was sure that I would be able to clone those out in post so I didn’t really worry about them during the exposures.

Since the light was so difficult to work with, I ended up using that 3-stop soft edge ND grad once again, but at an angle.  I just wanted to tame the corner of the frame without affecting the tree on the upper right.  It wasn’t ideal, but with the breeze picking up there was no way to do a clean HDR image with the trees moving so much.  I had a workable exposure with detail on both ends of the histogram and committed to the composition.  I just waited for the light to move across the scene hoping for something magical to happen.  Something did happen, but it wasn’t really magical at all.  It was rain drops, and they were falling fast.  I had my hat over the filters to keep the sun away from them so nothing was getting wet, but the car was starting to get spotted up from the large drops.  I moved the camera over under the tree and started to break it down knowing that this shoot was over.

By the time I got back to the truck the rain was coming down pretty hard and that meant that it was time to head home.  It was dinner time and I was missing Toni who was hard at it with her school work.  I ended up picking her up and taking her out to dinner before coming home to process the images.  I had a total of 63 frames captured which most of that was repeat compositions looking for the right light and for lulls in the breeze to keep the vegetation sharp.  Out of those, I ended up with seven images that I wanted to do edits on.  After the final edits were finished, I had a total of four which I thought were good enough to keep.  I will say that for a day without a firm concept of what I wanted the images turned out quite nice.

I hope that you enjoyed the trek and the images that resulted.  As always, if there are photographs that you are interested in having a print of, you can order basic sizes here through the website, or you can email me at [email protected] for larger prints.  You will notice that when ordering through the website, I have a new paper option in the 13×19″ size.  I’m excited to offer an archival gallery quality paper for the first time with the Baryta style.  This semi gloss paper has very rich colors and wonderful contrast which makes it a standard in the art community.  It is a little pricier than my other options, but the quality will speak for itself I believe.  It is a great paper option for just about any type of photography that I do.

Stick around as I will be doing another blog entry shortly with some fresh edits of smoke that I did nearly four years ago.  It should be a lot of fun to look back at those images, and there is a possibility that I will be opening up a new gallery room with some studio type images.

Until next time…

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