Springtime Decay

· Reading Time: 12 minutes

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Welcome back everyone!  Seems like it has been a while since I’ve been in the blogs here.  I guess it kind of has been forever since I wrapped up the week long trek to the Outer Banks nearly two weeks ago.  Since returning, I’ve been struggling finding that creative energy after several days of creating in a row.  I think that it is safe to say that the trip was a success with lots of really great images and it is kind of hard to get motivated after that because the chances of coming away with something as good as I just captured would be slim.  It is just part of that creative process I think and I’ve heard many others have the same issues after a successful outing.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been looking for something to photograph since returning.

Actually, I’ve been contemplating what type of photography I’ve been wanting to do here in the beginnings of Spring.  This is an awkward time for me as the seasons change.  I am such a fan of the bare look of Winter and it takes me a while to warm up to the new foliage and the green grass.  I’ve been wanting to get out and shoot landscapes, but I haven’t had the urge to actually get out and do that as I am still kind of in the decay state of mind.  I know that the chances of photographing decay subjects gets less and less likely as things get green and start to grow.  I just can’t quite let it go just yet I guess which makes it hard to decide what to shoot this time of year.

To help jumpstart that creative energy once again, I decided yesterday to go out with the Miata for a drive and take the camera along.  Fortunately, the trunk is just big enough for the camera bag and tripod.  My hope was to get out and do a quick photo shoot of the car at the Esso Station in Taylorsville which is a concept that I have been working on lately.  It would blend my decay photography with some bright colors which would hopefully get me in the mood for Spring.  The only problem was when I got there, I found a car sitting in the parking lot just idling away.  I poked around some of the roads to stay in the area and after about 30 minutes I came back.  The car was still there and showed no signs of moving.  Not wanting to waste the entire afternoon waiting for a chance to take some pictures I turned North and came back home.

On the way, I did spot a couple of things that caught my eye.  The light wasn’t right for any of it, but I saw potential.  The first thing was an old house with the siding blown off of it.  It was not quite my normal subject, but I was thinking that with the right light it could be a decent decay image.  The second scene happened not even a mile North of that.  I saw an old rusty pickup on the side of the road partially under a blue tarp.  I had seen this truck before, but it was completely covered at that point.  It definitely fit my old iron theme and it was something that I wanted to give a try under different conditions.  I kept motoring up the road and just after returning to Wilkes County, I looked over in a field and saw a bare tree standing out from the fresh new foliage of the woodline behind it.  I immediately thought of Toni who loves trees and thought that she would like that scene.  The lighting was actually pretty good for a photograph at this point, but sadly there was no way I could pull off the road in the little Miata without getting stuck or getting a flat tire.  I just filed it away and figured that within the next two days I would be back out this way.

As luck would have it, the following day was calling for some clouds in the sky at altitudes that should give some definition to the sky.  My plan was to wake up early and go out to shoot a sunrise before making my way out to Alexander County.  When the alarm rang at 4am, I still hadn’t decided where I wanted to go for sunrise, so I killed the alarm and rolled back over to go back to sleep.  Two hours later my second alarm rang and I just decided to lay in bed for a while longer as I just wasn’t motivated to get out there just yet.

It was well after breakfast and after I had done some things in the office including getting a really nice 13×19″ print ready to ship out tomorrow.  When I was done with that, I came back upstairs and looked outside.  The clouds were finally starting to look interesting after a morning of dull appearance.  I made the decision to get out there and see what I could find.  I had those three subjects that I was going to try and capture and that was at least something to get me started.

Among the Living“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

My first stop was at the Alexander County Line near where I’ve shot an old cabin several times.  This time, however, I was looking for a landscape shot…more specifically a woodland image.  The bare tree that I had seen yesterday which had Toni’s name on it was still there and the trees behind it were looking just as magical as they had been.  The light was not quite as bright behind them so there was a bit less contrast to the scene, but I was pretty sure I could make it work.  I got pulled over into the thick grass of the shoulder and pulled my camera out.  I was going to have to really reach out and touch this tree as it was on the other side of the field so I fitted my long telephoto lens along with the polarizer.  I knew the composition that I wanted, so it didn’t take but a few minutes to get it dialed in correctly.  The exposure was simple with a perfect bell curve in the histogram and I fired off three frames with very slight differences in the framing.  There wasn’t anything special about the composition and the tree was pretty much centered to take the full stage in the frame.  It worked for this subject so I didn’t mind using a very simplistic composition.

After those three images were safely saved away on the memory cards I packed up and continued down the road.  Before I got to my next stop I saw a few old tractors that I had seen before as well as an old bus sitting behind a house.  The light was good and I was getting more and more motivated to capture images so I pulled into the driveway.  I got out and knocked on the front door.  No answer, but it sounded like there was a TV on in the background so I knocked once more a little louder.  Still nothing.  The door looked like it was never used, so I went back to the door in the garage and knocked on it as well.  Still nothing, so I went back to the truck and grabbed a business card.  I wrote a quick note on it asking to come back and photograph the tractors and the bus and left it at the door that looked most used.

I got back into the truck and continued on down the road.  The next stop I came to was the old truck on the side of the road.  As luck would have it, there were two guys talking in close proximity so I figured that this would be a good time to ask permission to photograph the truck.  I stopped and got out to ask.  The owner was happy to let me photograph his truck which had died tragically in a fire at his house.  It was a 1941 International with Corvette suspension and a built V8.  The bed had been reworked in new wood, but sadly the fire destroyed it.  The wind from the storm that we had been through a couple of days before had knocked the tarp off of it and he said that I could remove it if I wanted to.

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

With his blessing I parked in an out of the way place and grabbed my gear.  Since I really didn’t know what I was going to be using I brought the entire bag with me.  I had a lot of things that were in the way to deal with like a power pole just off of the passenger door.  There was an old Toyota pickup and a tire on the driver’s side, not to mention the housing on the other side of the street.  I wasn’t sure which side to work this truck from, but I started from the passenger’s side to begin with.  I considered removing the tarp, but it was that blue color against the rust that really spoke to me about this scene.  Had I removed the tarp, it would have lost that unique quality, not to mention that I much prefer capturing a scene the way I find it without changing anything.  I worked to get the composition correct and found that the sky was a tad too bright in this direction.  I pulled out a 3-stop soft edge grad which was added to the polarizer.  That brought the exposure down just to where I needed it.  I fired off several frames with slightly different compositions before moving to the other side.

I didn’t need the grad filter on the other side so it went back in the bag.  The composition that I used here was including the tire as a foreground element.  The overall composition was quite nice, but there was a power pole that was coming out of the roof in the picture that I didn’t like at all.  I figured that I could clone it out since there was no way of getting a good angle without having the pole in the way.  In the end, I didn’t have the heart to remove that much of the scene from the picture so I trashed the images that I shot from the driver’s side.  I don’t regret it too bad since I think that this image that I ended up keeping was quite a bit stronger overall in composition and presence.

While I was there, I tried a few isolations of the front end which I didn’t really care for.  It would have been better with some trim remaining, but there was only a partial emblem on the hood for contrast and that wasn’t enough to really make my heart sing over the photo.  I made a quick look around the rest of the truck and saw that there was really nothing else that I wanted to photograph on it, so I packed up my gear and went back to the truck.  I was actually feeling pretty good about this old truck and that was a good thing.  It was starting to rain at this point and I was afraid that I would be calling it a day pretty soon.

I drove a short distance to the South and found the old house.  The sky wasn’t looking good behind it and the rain was falling pretty steady at this point.  I decided to abandon that house and go in search of something else hopefully in the dry.  I drove into Taylorsville and puttered around for a few minutes but the rain was falling heavy enough that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything with the camera.  Looking at the weather radar, it was going to be pretty much solid rain for the next few hours with only a small hole in the precipitation that may or may not be going over me.  With that news in mind, I just turned around and started to head home.

Curtain in the Window“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As I got nearer to the house again, I noticed that the rain was slacking up to the point that I wasn’t concerned about getting out and getting a picture.  The sky to my left was looking much better than the last time I was through so I made the last second decision to pull off the road into the driveway of the old house.  I grabbed my gear figuring that the 24-70mm lens was going to be the best choice here along with the polarizer to remove the glare from the windows.  I started to look for a place to set up the camera.  I had been thinking that a straight on shot from the front would work the best, but I found that to be very boring.  Instead, I chose an angle shot from near my parked position in the driveway.

This position had the benefit of a slightly better sky above the house as well as showing more of the structure.  The biggest benefit of this quarter view was that the house blocked the house next door in the frame.  By getting in close and going with a slightly wide angle focal length, I was able to eliminate the house behind this one completely which was a great thing.  The sky was looking fantastic and the darker areas seemed to go along with the shapes of the roof which was a nice bonus.

I only shot a few frames here because the angle was pretty much the only choice, and all I had to do was work out exactly where to place the house in the frame.  The exposure was pretty straightforward as well so there really wasn’t much fiddling around with any exposure settings.  After just a few minutes I was done and getting things packed back up in the truck.  I was happy with the day having shot three different subjects and feeling pretty good about each of them.  With that satisfaction in mind, I set my course home.

A few miles up the road I saw that one of the trucks had moved in the driveway of the house that I had stopped at previously.  I pulled back into the driveway and went to knock on the door one more time.  My card was gone so I figured that was a good sign. I knocked, but there was no answer and I heard nothing on the other side of the door.  Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I went slowly back to the truck and hoped that somebody would come to to the door.  Sadly, they didn’t.  It was time to work my way back home again.

I had captured 31 frames from this quick afternoon out.  Of those, I found four that I really liked, and of those four, I ended up keeping these three.  That isn’t too bad considering my creative energy wasn’t quite up to par today.  I am happy with the results and I’m very glad that I got out to give it a try.  If there are any that you like here, please consider purchasing a print as it does wonders to help fund future photo expeditions as well as keeps me motivated to create more images.  If you go into the gallery store, you will notice that I am offering free shipping on all prints now.


Until next time….

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