Sunday, October 6, 2019
When we last left our creative photographer, he had been on a trip to Lawsonville, and upon his return had been stymied over a Mustang that he has been trying to photograph for a little while now. With more clouds in the forecast for Sunday, I decided that I might go and try to get that Mustang one more time before giving up the hunt. There were also a couple of barns that I had seen on the way to Lawsonville that had caught my eye. I just hadn’t had the time to work anything out with them since I already had plans further North. The day actually had turned out to be a very full one with me finally rolling into bed around 3am when Toni was getting up to go to the gym and then to work. Nothing like two ships passing in the night I suppose. My alarm rang at 8am to start the new day, and I was dragging.
There were clouds, but the sky was a total overcast washout. I wasn’t all that excited to go out and find images today since I was still quite tired from the day before. I did do some work in the office with my morning social media postings and a couple little odds and ends with the website. Shortly after 10, I looked out and saw that the clouds were getting a little bit of definition to them which I was really happy with. All of a sudden, it was looking like I was being given a second chance to photograph those barns which had looked so good under the clouds yesterday. I grabbed my gear and got in the truck headed for the Northern edge of Forsyth County.
On the way out to the barns I saw another one that I had seen before, but never photographed. It was looking good under the sky, but I wasn’t quite sure of the composition since it was far behind a house. Not feeling great about that one, I continued on down the road to the destination that I had planned on. It wasn’t too much further down the road and I saw them on a side road right where I had left them. I pulled off on the road and got out of the truck and really started to look for compositions. The sky was great, and the barns looked amazing, but there were piles of trees and brush that had been placed in front of the two barns over to the left side of the field. The larger barn to the right was looking great and had an unobstructed view from the road. I went ahead and grabbed my Lowepro bag and the Manfrotto Tripod from the back of the truck and got to work. I struggled to find a composition that didn’t leave the scene flat and uninteresting. I ended up settling on a composition that included the large barn as the visual anchor with the other two barns off in the distance to the left. For this, I was able to use my 24-70mm lens along with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer along with variations on the Galen Rowell ND Grads. It wasn’t perfect, but it did have depth and that was what I was after. After a few frames of that composition, I turned my attention to the large barn one last time for a solo composition.
I loved how the barn looked, but there was just no depth at all to the image. As I got more angle on it, the composition starting taking an odd turn and really fell apart. I needed those two barns in the distance to make it work, so I guess that was going to be the image for that barn. I then decided to walk over to the smaller barns up on the ridge to see if I could do anything with them. The piles of debris were blocking any composition that I could make with these subjects. I thought about going to my telephoto and shooting between the piles, but there wasn’t enough room to make that work either. I was sitting here looking at three barns that just looked gorgeous and I was able to get only a single lackluster image of them all together. I wasn’t happy about this at all. I stopped for a minute and reset my brain for how this was going to go.
I was looking at a field that was not attached to any houses. There were no fences, no signs, no barriers except for a shallow ditch. I could see no reasonable expectation of privacy here, and I would have no idea who to talk to about gaining access because there was nothing clearly attached to this property. I would be able to get the shots of the smaller barns if I could get closer than the debris piles. It was worth having somebody come and run me off for the attempt at the picture. I started into the field and got up to the debris piles before setting the tripod down where I thought I would get a good image. I still had my 24-70mm lens on with the Polarizer, and that was what I kept in place for the shot I was going to work on. I fine tuned the composition as quickly as I could since I expected an ATV to come rolling over the hill at any time now. When I got a composition set that I liked, I could see that the sky was going to be a little overexposed, so I went to my bag of tricks and pulled out a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 2-stop hard edge ND Grad which was slid into the Lee Filter Holder and rotated about 45 degrees to the right to match the horizon. That is the beauty of working with 4×6 filters. I was able to control the sky just perfectly with a very sloped horizon. Now I was ready to make exposures. It was a pretty straightforward shot and it all really came together nicely. I shot just a few variations on the composition before checking out the barn in the background.
It was not nearly as interesting and wasn’t really worth its own picture. It served me well as a supporting element for the more interesting barn. I was happy with what I had gotten from this side. In fact, I was much happier about these barns than I was about the much more beautiful barn that I had started to photograph from the road. You know, I was already in the field, might as well see if there was something that I could do with the larger barn from closer in. I grabbed my gear and walked across the field, actually quite surprised that nobody was yelling at me to leave. I asked no questions and I just kept on walking hoping that my luck would change on the other barn.
I got into position and already saw the benefit to being closer. There was much more depth to the barn at this range and everything started to have more impact. I got the camera set in a good position with a wide able field of view to capture as much of the sky as I could get away with. I used a bale of hay as a visual anchor under the shelter, framed by a tall weed. The receding roofline gave the perception of depth that I had been missing out on before. The peak was at the perfect position in the upper right third. I had the composition nailed, I just needed to get the exposure worked out. Looking at the histogram, I could see that in order to keep the sky under control, I would be putting the barn in shadow much more than I wanted to. I was going to need to add some ND Grads to the lens to get a workable exposure. I started with a 3-stop soft edge since I was needing to bring the exposure down significantly, but I didn’t want to show a division line on the roof of the barn. Looking at the histogram, I was still risking over and underexposure, so I added a 2-stop hard edge grad which took the sky from just at the tip of the roof and reduced it an additional two stops. With a total of five stops of light reduction in the sky, I was finally looking at a perfect histogram and I was ready to make the exposure.
I shot a single frame here and knew that I had nailed it. The histogram was textbook perfect and the composition was just what I wanted. To be sure, I fired off one more in case there was movement anywhere in the scene that I had missed. With that in the bag, I was feeling very good about the day, and I had only shot a handful of frames. It was time to go back to the truck as I didn’t want to overstay my welcome here. I was confident that I had a couple of great images from here, and that just fueled me to want more great images.
When I got back to the truck, I decided that I would drive back down the road and check out the red barn I had seen on the way up. It wasn’t too far down the road and I was there before I knew it. As luck would have it, there were several people at a van in the driveway. This was going to be too easy! I pulled in and introduced myself. Once I told them why I was bothering them on a Sunday, I was met with an answer I had never heard before. They said that I was welcome to photograph the barn, but not today. I was a little confused and asked for clarification on that. As it turned out, they were heading to a funeral, and wouldn’t be there. I completely understood, and was appreciative that I was invited back for some pictures at a later time. I can live with that. The weather was perfect this time, but I will have another day like this at some point, so I was out nothing at all. Plus, I made a contact and I know of another place that I can go when the weather is right. I bid them farewell and got back in the truck. Now, I had to figure out what I wanted to do next.
The two locations that came to mind were the Mustang that I had been trying for so long to photograph, or to head out to East Bend to have Dean show me the property that he had told me about. Not wanting to bother Dean on a Sunday with showing me another property, I decided to try one last time to capture the Mustang. I wasn’t too far away, and it didn’t take long at all to get there. Once I got there, I was greeted with a now familiar scene. There was a car in the driveway, the same one I had seen there before, and the front door was open. Second Verse, same as the first….at least that was what was going through my mind as I pulled down the driveway. This was probably going to be another waste of time, but I was here so I might as well try.
I got out and went up to the screen door. I finally saw somebody in the kitchen, so I felt pretty sure that I would at least get to talk to somebody today. I knocked and saw no response in the kitchen. As I got ready to knock again, a man came from the other direction to the door. I finally got to meet somebody in the house! He opened the door and I explained what I was there hoping to accomplish. I got the response that I was so familiar with in doing decay photography. “You want to photograph the old Mustang?” The look on his face was priceless as this was a new request for him. After a quick discussion, he gladly gave me free reign to photograph on the property. He even told me about a truck that was in the woods and gave me a warning to be careful of snakes. After several attempts, I was finally able to get the camera out and get some pictures.
I was so excited I could hardly stand it! I grabbed my gear and went right to the place that I had previsualized many times before. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to be able to take the shot. I screwed on the 24-70mm lens which I am realizing I am using for pretty much every shot these days. You guessed it, I added that Color Combo Polarizer as well since it does a phenomenal job with my decay photography. I started kind of far back and zoomed in to 70mm at first. I didn’t like the compression of the image as much as I had thought. Part of what I loved about the scene was the red leaves above the car. For that, I was going to need to go a little wide. The problem that I faced with that was the truck in the woods became visible when I started to get a wide angle field of view. I continued to fine tune the composition and ultimately decided to flip the camera vertical on the RRS L bracket to shoot in portrait orientation. That did the trick as the truck was no longer visible and I was able to get the red leaves in the tree above the car. I started to fine tune the altitude of the camera at this point and decided to drop the Manfrotto down as low as it would go so the Mustang would just take up a small portion of the frame. Getting level with the front end was an attempt to minimize the amount of red since it is such a powerful color and to really emphasize the missing parts on the front of the car. I was liking the composition and I was hoping that I would like it as much when I got it home on the computer.
I might have felt pretty confident about this vertical composition, but I didn’t want to abandon the Mustang just yet. I had been trying for a very long time and I felt that I owed it to myself to shoot as many variations as I could to ensure I got what I wanted out of the car. Before long, I had exhausted everything that I wanted to shoot with this old car. Normally I would have gone ahead and left, but since I was here and there were several different venues to shoot, I decided to explore a bit. I knew that there was a newer model Cadillac over on the side of the property next to an old house. It wasn’t nearly as old as I liked to photograph, but there was an undeniable patina on the side of the car, and it just kind of fit with the house. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to grab a quick frame or two of this pair. Before long, the rusty classics that I will be shooting will be from this era, so I might as well get used to photographing more recent decay subjects.
This subject demanded a completely different approach to the composition from the Mustang. Instead of getting low in the weeds, I actually extended the Manfrotto to well above my 5’11” height. I framed up the composition and then debated on how much interaction I wanted between the house and the car. In the end, I decided to overlap the roof just slightly with the house so that there was a constant path for the eyes to follow through the frame, around the tree. I applied enough polarization to take most of the glare off of the car, but to keep the black from going completely dark. I could tell that there was a good bit of clipping on the right side of this histogram which I figured was a mix of chrome and the sky shining through the trees. I decided to bring the sky down just a tad by adding a 2-stop soft edge ND Grad so there would be no division line, but it would take some of the bite out of the sky. It worked well, or so it appeared in the histogram at least. I was ready to make the exposure at that point. Again, I did two different exposures here just in case there was any movement in the tree since there was a gentle breeze in the air once again.
I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with this car since it was quite new in comparison to what I normally shoot. With the overall composition done I was ready to move on to the next scene. I had another shot in mind that I had seen from the road weeks ago. In fact, it was the Lincoln sitting out front that had caught my attention originally. It was sitting in front of an open garage under some trees. Again, it was newer than I liked to shoot, but it had a certain character to it, and I felt that it deserved some attention since I was here.
I have to say, the car looked better from the street when I first saw it. Not that the car looked bad, but the location was a lot more difficult to deal with than I was anticipating. There was precious little room to maneuver in and it was hard to get an unobstructed view. The greens and browns made it worth the time and effort though. The composition that I came up with, much like the previous one with the Cadillac was strong, balancing the car with the structure. I was just wanting a slightly different car to be the focal point. There were enough good points about this image to keep me happy with it though, and the final edit of it accentuated the parts of the image that I found pleasing. The little bit of comedy with the leaves on the web on the driver’s side sealed the deal that this was a keeper image. With my love affair with headlights on cars, I found it interesting that the covers had been left open, and that despite that, one of the headlights was completely covered with leaves. Character can be found in some of the strangest places I think.
I wasn’t needing to spend any more with this car. I had what I was pretty sure was the only good composition it offered. There was still one more car that I wanted to check out. I had seen an MG sitting off on the side of the property as I came into the driveway for the first time. It was covered in a tarp, but I could tell that it was red from what little of the front end I could see from the driveway. The gentleman that I had spoken with had mentioned the MG as well. It was worth walking over to investigate. As I got closer, I started to get a little excited about it. It was a complete basket case and, as they say, “tore up, from the floor up.” It was just the kind of disheveled mess that would look great in a photograph. Looking at it, I wasn’t going to be able to shoot it from the open side of the field as there was a church on the other side of the tree line which I didn’t want in the shot. There was no character with a straight on shot, and the back was covered with a tarp. My only option was to get it from the driver’s side front quarter with the old house in the background.
I had a tree to deal with at that angle which made things a little less fluid for the composition, but I thought it would be workable and help to tell the story of this car. I ended up standing in some thorny vines to get this shot with the camera down pretty low to the ground. It isn’t my favorite composition, but I like it enough to keep it. I doubt that this will ever make to the gallery, but it was a fun one to tell the story of this location. It also led me to want to shoot a few isolations on the car just for how much character it had in its current state. I worked my way out of the vines and started looking for what really interested me the most about the car. What I found was the front passenger side corner. There were dents, a blow out tire that was all tortured. The bumper was missing revealing the flat grill which is a look I kind of like on the old car. The headlight was also still in place and you know that made me very happy to see. I worked out a composition in my mind and then started to position the camera in a place that would make that composition possible. I was only including what I was liking in this shot, so everything else found its way out of the frame. I found it very funny that this was the only isolation that I shot today out of all the cars that I had been shooting.
As much as I liked the whole car, it didn’t really come though in the composition just how much character this car had. This isolation, however, captured the soul of the car and you can see more of the story here than the whole car was showing in the previous image. For me, this is a more successful image because of the story that it tells. You can almost feel the metal bending and hear the rubber flopping while beating the fender. The webs, leaves, and rust show just how long the car has been sitting here which adds more to the story. While not my favorite image, it is one that I am very proud of for being able to captured so much of the car in such a small frame while keeping it very organized.
The entire day had actually been a very productive day. I set out not knowing what I would be able to get from two locations. I would have been lucky to have a single image generated from each location based on my thoughts going into them. However, in the end, I had a total of 45 frames captured which translated into seven images that I thought were good enough to keep. I finally got my Mustang and really like how it turned out. I also was able to capture a barn that I have passed more times than I can count but never thought about a photograph of it before. Scenery changes all the time and inspiration will hit with the strangest of subjects. It always pays to keep your eyes open and your creativity ready.
If any of these images speak to you, please let me know as I will be happy to get you connected with your very own print. There is no better way to support an artist than to purchase their creations. It lets them know just how much you enjoy their work, and that fuels them to continue to create. Speaking of creating, I might be taking a few days off as my creative energy has been on full tilt boogie for the last week and I’m getting tired. I don’t know when the next creative spark will hit, but I already have some ideas of what to do when it does. Plus with the cooler temperatures finally here, the leaves should be changing in the mountains very soon which means it will be back to landscapes for a last hurrah of the year.
Until next time…..