Sunday, May 30, 2021
When we last spoke I was leaving Linville Falls headed to Roaring Fork Falls. It really isn’t all that far from Linville when I am able to take the Parkway down to Hwy 80. However, as I was arriving at Linville Falls I noticed that they were doing construction on a bridge just past the entrance which effectively closed the Parkway South from Linville. I hadn’t really worried about it as I had GPS to get me there. When I got back in the truck and got started in the direction of the next waterfall, I had no connection and I wasn’t able to get the destination plugged in. I knew that Hwy 183 followed the Parkway for a good while and figured that I would be able to get a signal at some point while I was on that road so I hopped over there and started towards Little Switzerland.
The cell signal was slow to find me and I was well into my trip and had dropped down on 221 at this point. The GPS said that the falls were about another 45 minutes away which seemed a little far, but I was wanting to head out there after my success with Linville Falls. The weather was still holding and I was feeling good about the next destination. I just sat back and turned the radio on to enjoy the ride out there. The closer I got to Roaring Fork Falls the clearer the sky became. I was worried that the sun wasn’t going to do me any favors as this is one of those waterfalls that really does need even light to avoid the hotspots. I was feeling confident that the weather would change since the heavier clouds were supposed to be coming in during mid day so I continued on with my travels.
I wasn’t quite sure the path that I ended up taking, but I did end up crossing over the Parkway and I was back on track with my known route to this waterfall. I passed by some of the scenes that I was familiar with and had thought about photographing over the years but just hadn’t done so because the lighting hadn’t been right, or some other reason. As I went by an old Ford truck beside an old commercial building I thought that I might want to try getting a shot of that on my way home after the waterfall because it was finally looking the part of a decay photograph after many years of watching it deteriorate. I knew that I was probably going to pass it by as I normally did because it was just not a perfect composition for me and there was a lot working against it in my eyes.
The sun continued to beat down on me as I made the last few turns to the falls. When I was turning onto the narrow access road to the falls I was met with a car leaving. This was not a good sign as there was generally no traffic on this road. I was hoping that didn’t mean that there were others here at that falls. My fears were soon confirmed though as I arrived at the end of the road. Not only were all of the parking spaces filled (only room for about four cars), there were cars lined up along the shoulder of the road too. This wasn’t going to work for me, not at all. As much as I was wanting to photograph this waterfall, it wasn’t worth dealing with the crowds on the off chance that the lighting would work out for me. The sun was still quite brutal for the most part which would mean that I would be waiting for some time to get the picture. I hate waiting for the lighting when everyone is watching me and hoping that I will move out of their way. It is just not worth it at all.
I got turned around doing a 6 or seven point road turn, while waiting for two other cars to come down the road. I’ve been photographing this waterfall for about 12 years and have never seen it like this. I hope that this is a fluke and I’ll be able to get out here again some day when I can have it to myself for a bit of time. Today wasn’t going to be the day though. With my tail between my legs I scooted out of the area before another car came down the single track road. Feeling a little disgusted, I had to remind myself that I had filled up my memory card with around 200+ images for the day which was about what I had captured for a whole week at the beach. that made me feel a little better and when I drove past the old Ford truck I decided to stop and see if I could make out a composition.
There were two large trucks parked close to the front of the truck which limited my options, but I wasn’t really wanting to photograph it from that side anyway since there was a power pole near the driver’s door. On the other side of the truck was the old building which wasn’t the best element to add in because it was much bigger than the truck and was also partially obscured by one of the large trucks parked nearby. However, if I were to just use a portion of the building I could get away with it and the red color would balance the blue of the truck quite nicely. The green would pull it all together. I felt good about my idea and just needed to put it together.
I got my camera out and loaded up the 24-70mm lens along with the polarizer. That was going to be all that I would need here as there was no sky involved. As luck would have it, there was a bit of cloud cover over the sun which diffused the light very nicely over the scene. I found a nice composition which kept appropriate separation between the truck and the different elements on the side of the building. I chose to include the entire window on the front of the building to make sure that the brick wall felt a like a part of the scene. After getting the composition set up I noticed that the repeating rectangular shapes really worked well for the image. The grill of the truck, the different sized bricks, and even the glass all shared similar shapes which linked all of the elements together. The colors worked together as I had hoped and I was really liking the composition.
After I got the initial composition done, I moved in closer and used a wider focal length to give a little more presence to the truck. I liked the effect, but it blocked portions of the building which I didn’t like. As I was fine tuning that composition the clouds moved out of the way and the sun started to shine down on the truck. It actually worked for the image and it gave me some dramatic light on the scene. I thought that I had the winning image with that extra light, but when I got it home I decided that the extra light didn’t really make that much of a difference other than to darken the background significantly. The composition, while more dramatic, overlapped with the door and the window on the building. That bit of complication to the elements made for a more confusing composition and therefore I went with the simpler one that I had started with that used the more diffused lighting. I’m quite happy with how it turned out and after some cloning out of the power lines overhead, I am glad that I stopped to capture this truck finally.
With that subject finally photographed, I packed up my gear and set my destination for home. I had shot a little over 230 frames for the day and I was quite satisfied. My hopes were that I would have about six to ten keepers from this trek. I turned the radio up and just looked back on how good the day had been as I drove the nearly two hours home. Even though I was quite tired and anxious to see what I had captured for the day I couldn’t help but notice that the clouds were looking very nice over Wilkesboro. So nice in fact, that I was compelled to find something to put under them before I arrived at home. The question was what could I shoot? It was around noon and the sun was harsh, but the sky was just too good to pass up. My mind started racing around locations and things that I could shoot. The first good idea that I had was a lot where I had seen several older heavy trucks parked getting overgrown in brush. I passed by this location every time I got on the highway and I had many times tried to figure out when to best shoot the scene. Honestly though, I had forgotten about it recently after not being able to come up with a good plan for it. Had it not been for Toni mentioning it the other day and wondering why I hadn’t tried anything there I might not have considered it on this trip.
It was a subject that I could see photographing in this light for sure. It was on the way home and close to the gas station that I was going to have to visit before parking. I decided to go and check it out to see if I could make it work. I only had about 15 minutes or so to plan how I might shoot these old trucks before I arrived. I wasn’t familiar enough with the scene to know exactly how I was going to do it, but I knew that I wanted to include the sky if at all possible.
When I arrived at the field where the trucks were parked I got out and went over to see what compositions were available to me. I was a little disappointed because the compositions were going to be rather difficult due to the trucks being parked on top of each other. The lighting was a little harsh as well which turned me off even more. I was here though, and from the looks of the vegetation it was going to be a matter of shoot it how, or forever hold my lens cap. I could see these trucks being overgrown in the next week or so which meant that I had to give it a try now. I grabbed the camera with the 24-70mm lens attached and a polarizer before getting in place for my first composition. I had a group shot in mind with the oldest Ford truck as the anchor for the image. The Chevy beside it would be the balancing element for the color and the physical presence.
I set the shot up and realized that the sky was much too bright for the existing lighting on the ground. There was a light shadow from a cloud passing overhead which was nice, but I needed to reduce the exposure of the sky quite a bit for this to work. I left the camera set up with the composition as I ran back to the truck and grabbed my bag. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go so I wanted to have all my equipment with me for the subsequent shots. I pulled out a 3-stop ND grad and slid that in. It helped the exposure, but it wasn’t enough to make the scene work. I slid in another 2-stop grad and staggered them slightly. That seemed to do the trick and got the histogram looking right. I fired off a shot and saw that the exposure looked good on review. I then started to tweak the composition to make it better.
I found that I wanted more presence on the lead truck and that my 24mm lens wasn’t going to give that to me. I was glad that I had brought the bag because I needed to switch over to my 16-35mm lens for the right perspective. that did the trick and with the filters still installed I had the right framing and the right exposure for the image. it was looking pretty good this way. When I was happy with that shot I started to look for other scenes to photograph. The next one that caught my eye was another Ford which was right at the tree line introducing the whole group.
It was the placement that made this truck so easy to photograph, yet quite difficult to isolate. There was another truck parked right on the driver’s side as well as the group of trucks that I had photographed sitting behind this one. The trees forced the issue on which side I could photograph it from so I was stuck with having a bunch of background clutter to deal with. My solution came from something that I teach regularly in my decay workshops about covering clutter with your main subject.
I found that if I got down nice and low to the ground I could cover up the trucks to the rear with the wooden sides of the bed. By getting the angle just right, I could cover the truck to the side pretty well…at least well enough that it wasn’t a distraction. The problem was I didn’t like having the front of the truck quite as big as I was seeing it through the wide angle lens. I swapped out to my 24-70mm lens which allowed me a bit longer focal length which suited the scene much better. The same filter combination worked for this composition as well because of the sky doing the same thing here.
I was very happy with the image while I was shooting it because it was looking just perfect in the LCD on review. I was anxious to get this one home and try an edit on it. When I did finally get home, I was let down with the lighting on the scene. It was almost too bright and the grass was just glowing from the sunlight shining down on it. I didn’t like the color look to it at all, and decided to do an edit in black and white. I was actually quite happy with it in monochrome and went to sleep satisfied with that interpretation of the scene. However, as I slept my mind apparently wasn’t as happy with that presentation as I would have liked to have thought. I woke up and one of the first thoughts in my head pertaining to the pictures was I needed to do the image in color because the red, white, blue, and green all went together so well and helped with the visual punch of the image.
I opened Lightroom back up and looked at the black and white image once again. It was good, but it was forgettable. There were also a few areas that needed a bit more work to get the contrast just right. I kept toggling between the edit and the original and found that the color one really did have more punch even though it worked well as a black and white. I threw caution to the wind and reset the edit back to original and started over with a fresh color edit. As I moved through the modules the image started to really come together and it was just like I had wanted it to be when I shot it initially. This was the image that I should have edited the day before, but I lacked the vision to see the image through until this morning. I was so glad that I had waited for a fresh set of eyes before committing to the image as I originally edited it.
I seem to have digressed a bit as I still have one more scene that I shot while at this location. The third truck in the line of original subjects hadn’t really shown up in the first image and that was because it really didn’t quite fit the theme. However, upon closer inspection I found that even though it wasn’t quite an “old” truck with rust, there was a certain amount of character to it that I liked. There was no dismissing its size even in the overgrown vegetation. The clouds overhead were great, and in fact they were perfect. There was a darkening of the clouds at what I assumed would be the top of the composition which naturally closed the frame in. I needed to get this shot before the clouds moved too much.
I got the camera in position with the same lens and filter combination from the last composition. I could have used the 16-35mm lens but I was within the range of the 24-70mm for the perspective I was after so I just left it on the camera. The three filters that I had been using were coming in very good here as I was running into the same lighting situation once again. I fired off a few variations on the composition and figured that I had what I wanted. Just then the light changed and the sun hit the truck. I pulled the 3-stop grad out to help keep the exposure balanced and switched to a square format before shooting a few more frames of this truck. On the back of the camera, these were the images that I was most excited about, but when I got them home they failed to live up to the hype that I had given them. It was the more evenly lit image that hit the home run with me in Lightroom. It just fit the mood and the style that I wanted for this image.
That was the scene that rounded out the day. I had shot 269 exposures since just before sunrise. I had shot four different locations under a variety of conditions which had yielded quite a range of subject matter. It had been a very full day, but I was really wanting to get the images into the computer to see what I had. I spent the large portion of the night editing images and building five different panoramas. I had probably another seven hours in the processing of 19 images that night to where I was pretty happy with them. I then spent another four to five hours fine tuning the edits the following morning along with saving the files on my slow computer that ran saving operations for about three hours before totally complete. Then it was time to write the blogs and get the pictures uploaded into the gallery and do the social media posting. All the while I kept remembering the gentleman who accused me of going all out for my hobby. If he only knew the extent to which I had gone for a day of photography. In fact, here we are roughly 12 hours after I started fine tuning the images this morning wrapping up the final blog of the day. I’ve still got about another hour and change left before I can put this trek to bed finally.
I just hope that you have enjoyed the trek and the resulting images. I’ve pretty much covered every type of photography that I do with this set of images and each one of them felt natural to create. I wasn’t forcing anything for the first time in a long time which was a nice way to have the month of May finish out. If any of these images jump out at you, please let me know so we can start to get a print made for your own walls. There is just no better way of enjoying my photography than in that physical and tangible form.
Look for my newest Behind the Camera tomorrow morning. I’ll be discussing tripods and why photographers should still be using them.
Until next time…