Sunday, August 30, 2020
I would love to be able to start this entry out and impress you with my planning abilities. I would like to say that I studied the weather and got a game plan together as to where I could go in order to take advantage of said weather. Maybe I could throw in a brief story about how my alarm rang at O-Dark-Thirty. Yeah, I would like to be able to talk about all of that but the truth of the matter was, I had a completely different plan for today. I was going to go out for a drive in the country and enjoy the sunny weather that was forecasted the last I looked. When I got home, I was going to wash the car and put it away for the week as I will be rather tied up with other projects that are needing some attention. That was the plan…
When Toni and I woke up this morning we noticed that the sky was full of clouds and it actually looked like rain. I checked the weather to see what was in store for the day. While the rain chances were very low, there were clouds forecasted through the whole day with rain coming in this evening. Looking at the radar, I could see small patches of green moving across Wilkes County. That kind of killed the mood for a nice drive to enjoy the pretty weather. However, while the weather might not have been pretty for a country drive, it was looking really good for photography. Before I even got out of bed I was changing gears for the day. Having done quite a bit of landscape work recently I dismissed the idea of going back to the Blue Ridge Parkway again. I was actually itching to do a little rural photography once again. I still have so much exploring to do in the general area and today was looking like a good day to find some subjects. I checked with Toni to see if she wanted to come along with me, but she didn’t. She wasn’t planning on going along for the drive either as she had some things to do around the house. She did ask that I pick up a newspaper for her if I was feeling froggy. That was a simple enough request and I knew there was a box by the Millers Creek Post Office.
I still had no idea where I was going to go in search of photographs, but I had a starting point in Millers Creek at least. I got dressed and grabbed my gear to head out on a paper run. After getting the paper, I decided to continue down Boone Trail to see if any of the locations I had made mental notes of were looking good in this light. Sadly, nothing was jumping out at me along this route and I eventually found myself back at Business 421 coming up on Hwy 421. I knew of a yellow Ford Falcon right off of the highway that I had been wanting to check out. Since the car was in the parking lot of a business, I had not bothered to get close enough to check for compositions yet. However, I doubted that the business would be open on a Sunday so I thought that I would take advantage of the conditions and check it out now.
When I got there, the parking lot was crowded as it normally is, but the business was closed at least. I got out of the truck and started to look for any potential compositions. It didn’t take long to determine that there really wasn’t anything to work with there. It was parked up against the building with the window advertisements on one side of the car and a bench with another advertisement to the other side. There was a Toyota Camry parked next to it also which wouldn’t make sense in the composition at all. The car didn’t have any details that would carry an entire composition either. It was a nice car, but it wasn’t a nice picture. I got back in the truck and started back on the hunt.
I wasn’t having much luck at all, so I started to turn down roads that I wasn’t familiar with. One of the roads I had seen in passing, but had never driven down it. I found that it linked 421 all the way back to one of the side streets near the house. It was a nice long road and one of the first things that I saw on it was an old blue Chevy farm truck parked next to a barn. The truck didn’t have that much rust on it, and the barn was a little different than my customary subjects. I briefly considered the scene and liked what the sky was doing, but the subjects just weren’t quite what I was looking for. I passed by and continued on my way. However, I kept pondering the scene that I had just come across.
While the subjects weren’t all that special, the combination of the barn and the truck made it a bit more interesting. The dramatic sky above added to that interest. The tones in the sky were similar to those in the cab of the truck so there was a certain balance to the scene. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that the quality of the potential image was greater than the sum of the parts. It wasn’t but a few minutes and I was back at the location for a second look. The only issue that I saw with the scene was a single power line going overhead to the roof of the barn. It would be easy enough to deal with later, and the whole scene was looking as I had remembered.
I got the truck parked and grabbed the tripod. I then pulled out the camera and fitted my 24-70mm lens which should be just perfect for a multitude of compositions with this scene. I knew that I was going to need my polarizer to remove the glare from the metallic surfaces and glass. The sky wasn’t overly bright so I didn’t think I would need any other filters. I took the camera over to the front of the truck and started to work out the composition that I had figured out in my head. I started off with a close crop of the cab of the truck and the doorway of the barn. It eliminated the power line and the bed of the truck, but the composition felt too restricted. I opened the lens up and stepped back just a little bit. I framed up an image that included the entire barn as well as the entire truck. There was a piece of wood that was leaning against the bed of the truck that I didn’t really like, but in hindsight, I helped to keep the eyes from wandering too far to the left. The biggest benefit I saw to opening up the scene was that I was getting much more of the sky now. That was great and the exposures looked pretty good on the LCD.
I wasn’t having any issues with clipping of highlights which was good, but the truck and barn seemed to be a bit darker than I really wanted. I was sure that I could recover the detail in post, but I really wanted to make sure that I had good detail to work with here. Looking at the horizon, this was going to be an easy job for an ND Grad filter which I have a large assortment of. I ran back to the truck and grabbed my 2-stop soft edge Galen Rowell Grad and slid that into the holder in front of the lens. As I pulled it down, I could see the sky darkening ever so slightly. I brought it down to just above the trees and the roof of the barn. I then bumped the shutter speed a few clicks to bring up the shadows. The highlights remained under control thanks to the grad filter. At this point, I was very happy with the exposure and the amount of information I was recording in the shadows as well as the highlights.
From here I played with the camera placement as I loved the composition that I had. What I needed to work with was a piece of lumber that was sticking out of the bed of the truck. If I got too high up with the camera, that board would interrupt the flow of the barn behind the truck and create a visual distraction. By dropping the camera down lower, I was able to keep that board in the trees which it blended in with quite well. I lost the length of the barn though, but I was able to move slightly to the left and show the last segment of the barn behind the truck. I felt that the length of the barn was an important characteristic of the structure and I wanted to keep that as an element. It is a subtle addition but it also helps frame the truck.
I was here much longer than I should have been to get this composition just right. It was a fairly simple scene and it should have only taken a few minutes to capture, but I spent a lot of time working out all the little details so that I was sure that I had the image that I wanted. I think I was here about 30 minutes or so to get this one image. You just can’t rush photography and there are times that the most simple image takes a lot of fiddling around with to get all the elements to line up just right. In the end, I was rewarded with a fantastic sky and a perfectly rural scene to go below it. I still am not jumping up and down over the truck or the barn, but all of the elements together make a cohesive image that I am quite pleased with.
I loaded things back up in the truck and continued on my journey of exploration. Somehow I found myself on the road that Toni and I had gone down a few days earlier to get some plants at the nursery. I started to work some of the side roads out that way and when I turned down one of them I saw a barn that I recalled seeing before. It wasn’t a special barn by any stretch. It just kind of fit in with the scenery and I didn’t pay it much attention before. However, with the sky looking so good at this point, the barn started to be a potential subject to place under the sky. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this just yet, so I kept on driving to see what else was down the road. I wasn’t finding anything and I had put together a game plan for capturing the barn so I got turned around to return to the start of the road.
My plan was simple, at least in my head it was. I was going to use the road that went beside the barn to help pull the eyes through the image. I was going to use a wide angle lens so that I could capture the road fading off into the distance as well as keeping a good bit of the frame dedicated to the sky above. I mounted my 16-35mm lens which I figured would be up to the task at hand. Going off of my previous experience with the sky, I went ahead and added a 2-stop soft edge ND Grad along with the Color Combo Polarizer. The lighting was very similar to the truck that I had just shot and I figured that this would do the trick.
Well, the exposures were looking good as I started working the scene. I began on the opposite side of the road from the barn, but didn’t like the placement of the road. I moved to the other side and kept the road more to the left of the frame. That was providing a better balance, but I was having a very hard time keeping the balance between the sky and the foreground. I kept wanting to allocate equal amounts of the frame to the sky and ground which was giving me a very static scene which didn’t do the sky justice. I kept playing around with the composition by moving in closer or further away. I would raise the camera, or drop it to the ground. I tried 2/3 of the frame for the sky, and then 2/3 for the ground. Neither felt right to me and I was starting to get frustrated with the composition.
After at least 30 minutes I still wasn’t happy with the compositions that I had been shooting. In a last ditch effort, I backed up even further from the barn, and opened the lens to about 20mm. I made the right edge of the frame right where the power pole was so I was able to eliminate the pole and the associated lines that way. The road came in from the bottom of the frame to the left which pulled the eyes in perfectly. I elevated the camera so that the barn fell on the lower right third and the roadway was on the lower left third. The horizon was nearly centered, but I offset it ever so slightly below the mid point. My plan was to crop a little extra off of the foreground by going with either a 16:10 or 16:9 crop. That should pull the horizon a hair lower in the composition while keeping the sky reasonably in balance with that foreground.
The composition was finally looking really good to me. I was pretty sure that I was going to have a winner now. Looking at the scene, there were some deep shadows in the barn that I didn’t want to muddy with underexposing. I had the one ND Grad, but I thought that for this I needed a bit more so I swapped it out to a 3-stop soft edge filter. That didn’t do much to the overall exposure but it did help. Still not feeling that I had the right combination, I went back to the truck and grabbed the 2-stop that had been in there before and added that in the remaining slot of my filter holder. I was now using three filters for the shot and I staggered the grad filters so that there was a very gentle transition through the sky. That gave me enough extra exposure on the barn to where I was no longer worried about muddy details in the shadows. The histogram was looking great at this point, and I was very confident that I had the right composition now. That image appears above. It took about 25 exposures to get to this point, but in the end I was very happy with the image.
It was a quick outing, but I did get the newspaper for Toni, and I managed to get some rural photography in. This is not an easy type of photography to do which is why there are only two images from the day. There are just so many variables involved and I will always pass up on more scenes than I will stop for. Had the conditions been different, I probably would have passed on both of these, but with the sky looking like it did both of the scenes became much more beautiful as a whole. That is the biggest consideration with photography. It is not the subjects you shoot, it is the light that you shoot them in.
I hope that you enjoyed the quick trek as well as the images that I captured. As always, if these or any of my photographs speak to you, I would love to help match you up with a print. You can order limited sizes directly from my gallery store, or you request a special order size or media by emailing me at [email protected] Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get updates for new images as I add them to the website.
Until next time…