Friday, May 31, 2019
I have been trying to go on this particular Trek for a couple of weeks now. It feels so good to finally say that I’ve done it. About a month or so ago, I stopped by Kernersville Lake which is close to the house with the intention of going some long exposure work. I had never been here before so I had no idea what I was going to find. The weather that day was great with good clouds and a bit of wind to make the clouds move across the sky. I even found a composition that I wanted to try. It seems like everything was working out very well, but there was a huge wrench in the works for this location. There were a lot of people here, and the composition that I wanted to shoot had about 6 people in the frame. This wasn’t going to work for me, so I never even got the camera out, but I snapped a quick reminder image with my phone and filed it away for another day.
Over the next few weeks, each day that I didn’t have something else planned I would wake up and look at the forecast. I was pretty sure that the only way I was going to get the picture that I wanted without anyone in it was to get there when the park opened up at 6:30 which wasn’t too early, and was actually early enough that I might actually be able to get a little color in the sky if I was lucky. Each night I would see that there was going to be some clouds and would set the clock to wake up in time to go only to find that the clouds were not rolling in as expected. It wasn’t that big a deal because on these days, I was not planning on going out anywhere else because the majority of the day would be clear skies. I would just roll back over and go back to sleep.
Last night I looked at the forecast once again and saw favorable conditions which got my mind working towards going to Kernersville Lake. Then, an hour or so later I noticed that the forecast had changed and the clouds were gone. An hour later, they were back. I went to sleep flipping a coin which I would catch in the morning. When the clock went off, I looked at the weather and it was showing no clouds in the forecast, but looking outside I could see clouds that would work nicely. I went ahead and got up. Since it wasn’t far away from home, I really wouldn’t be out anything if I didn’t get the shot. The clouds continued to thicken up as the sun approached the horizon and I was starting to think that this could work. I got to the lake just as they were opening the gate.
There was one other truck at the gate and my initial thought was “I just know that he will be going out to the fishing platform,” but I continued on anyway. I got out of the truck quickly and grabbed my gear hoping to outrun the other guy so I would have a few minutes to work the scene before he got there. I found the spot for the composition that I had in mind and set the Manfrotto Tripod up on the bank. I already knew how I wanted to shoot this which saved me a good bit of time. For the scene that I wanted to capture, I chose my Canon 24-70mm lens to fit onto my 5D Mk3 body. This was where it got interesting. I was wanting to do a long exposure to smooth out the water which was already pretty calm, but I wanted to show movement in the clouds. I started out with my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to let a little bit of the bank texture show through the water on the left side, and to darken the water a bit. I could tell that the sky was going to be a bit bright so I added a Singh-Ray, Galen Rowell 2-Stop Hard Edge ND Grad to the Lee Filters Foundation Kit. With those filters in place, I shot a quick test exposure to get an idea what my shutter speed was going to be. Once I verified the histogram in the image review, I keyed that into my app to calculate the exposure with one of my ND Filters.
Since the wind was relatively calm, I was going to need a fair amount of exposure to show movement in the clouds. It was looking like I was going to need my Singh-Ray Mor Slo ND Filter to get the the exposure the way I wanted it. I ended up settling on 321 seconds at f/10 for the first image shown in this entry. I actually shot this with black and white in mind to really take advantage of the sky. I got really lucky that while I was exposing this particular version, the sun peeked out from the clouds and bathed the trees for about half of the exposure allowing them to have some nice highlights to them. It also helped to highlight the platform that was the visual anchor for the whole image.
I felt like I had a good image with that capture and I started to consider other options. The sky was constantly changing and I was seeing that the interesting part was well out of the frame above. As luck would have it though, the visual interest in the sky happened to be right over the platform and in a position to where I could capture it by shooting a vertical image. This is where I really love my Really Right Stuff L Bracket which allows me to flip the camera from horizontal to vertical without changing the position of the sensor in the camera. I just mount the side of the camera to the Acratech GP-S Ballhead and keep it rolling. I can then just rotate the Lee Filter Holder to keep the filter orientation the same. That leaves me to just adjust the ND Grad to match up to the horizon once again before shooting the image. This time, the exposure was for 300 seconds at f/11 which worked very well for the sky.
I also shot this one as a monochrome, but when I got it home and started to process it, I really liked the green colors of the trees, and the pop of blue in the sky was really nice as a balance to the warm tones of the embankment. This prompted me to keep it as a color image which works quite well. It doesn’t have the same drama as the monochrome shot, but it does capture the mood of the season, and gives a sense of calm and relaxation.
As I was finishing up with this vertical composition a couple of folks came by headed to the platform. They were very respectful and asked if they would be in my shot before proceeding past me. I wasn’t going to hold them up since this park was for fishing and not photography. I had gotten what I needed at this point and was happy to let them by. However, that did end my morning at Kernersville Lake since there were no other compositions that I really wanted to try. It was not all that fantastic of a place for photography, but ever since I saw this composition I have been thinking about doing it. Now that I have, I can move onto other things which is a great thing. I have a tendency to get stuck on an idea until I get a chance to make it happen.
I might have been done with the lake, but I was just getting warmed up with the camera and wanted to do more photography while I was out. I started driving around in the area taking advantage of the clouds that I knew would be short lived at best. There were a couple of places in Randleman, NC that I wanted to visit, but I didn’t think that I had the time. Instead I decided to stick around Kernersville, NC for the rest of the morning and hope that I could find something in the rural areas.
Starting out it wasn’t looking good. The few places that I thought to try turned out to be duds in one way or the other. I started to consider just going home at this point, but the clouds were still quite good and I wanted to stick with it for a while. I headed out to Belews Lake thinking I would look into doing some more long exposure work with the landscapes there. I really had very little direction though and was just hoping to stumble onto something. This isn’t the best way to work, but there are times that I find some of my best images this way. I was hoping that I might get lucky again today.
I was getting near Belews Lake and was passing by a property that I have been by many times and seen some nice classics rusting away in the back yard. Since the lighting was good and I was in the mood to shoot some more, I decided to investigate a little closer than I have in the past. I found the house that I figured was attached to the property and pulled into the driveway, which was shared with the house to the other side of it. I got out, and started toward the house only to find that I could see clear through the living room to the back windows. I did not appear to be occupied at all, so I turned my attention to the next house where there were lots of cars in the driveway. I knocked on the front door and waited….
Nobody ever came to the door and I Heard no movement. Since it was before 9am at this point and the blinds were still closed, I thought it best not to knock again and risk waking the occupants. I considered my options. There were no other houses around that I would consider attached to the property in question, so I had no other recourse to ask permission. I went back out to the old barn where the cars were located and looked very closely. there were no signs warning of trespassing, and no physical barriers to prevent access. There were several cars in the rear and a really nice Buick sitting in the barn blocked by an S-10 pickup. I decided to take my chances and give it a try. I pulled off the road in a very visible location and grabbed my gear. I walked around to the rear of the barn where I found an old Ford Sedan blocked by several pallets. There was a late 40’s pickup missing the front end and painted blue by the woods. The best chance for a composition looked to be a couple of ’50’s trucks parked next to each other. One had a bunch of junk in the bed which I didn’t really care for, but it helped to tell the story I suppose. The other truck was spray painted in some really odd designs on the passenger side. It was a very interesting truck and I wondered if this was done by the owners or by vandals. Either way, it upped the interest in this old truck and helped take the attention away from the other truck with all the junk in the back.
For this shot, I was going to need a nice tight composition which meant that my best choice would be my Canon 70-200mm lens with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer attached. I got down low to the ground and got the image framed up in a way that eliminated the clutter and was able to include the entire boom on the right truck as well as the textures of the tree to the rear. This composition worked out pretty well, and I moved in closer for another shot of the spray painted truck. The concept was good, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The spray painting on the door really detracted from the look of the old truck and the more I looked, the more I was pretty sure that this was malicious vandalism.
I composed a tight shot with the same setup as before, but zoomed out to 70mm. In order to really keep the attention on the odd little truck, I purposely cropped the image through the neighboring truck to avoid the big boom on the rear. I was fortunate that there was a plan growing up between the two trucks that allowed me to get a natural framing element that would offset the truck that had been cut out next to the main element. After editing this image, it was tossed aside as being just too quirky. However, as I was writing this entry I got to thinking about what the spray painting actually meant to the truck and the image. It started to make more sense the more I thought about it. This image won’t be a really popular one, but I think that the story that it tells is very worth the effort of the capture. Every old vehicle has a story to tell, and this one is just a little different than most.
I was starting to feel a little uneasy behind the house and decided that I would make my way back around to the front and check out the Buick that was in the barn blocked by the Chevy S-10. The car was in pretty good shape and the tarp that had been on it for years was now pulled off to the side. It was parked next to another car that I couldn’t really identify, but I knew that I wasn’t interested in that one. The composition was going to be rather difficult with this as the Chevy was parked right at the opening of the barn. In order for me to capture this car, I was going to have to get a wide angle lens on and position the camera right next to the S-10. I considered my options and decided that this was going to be a difficult exposure to make with the front of the car in the sun and the back of the car in the shadows. With its position in the barn, I was going to have to consider the dark inside of the barn as well. There are no filters for this situation, but I was pretty sure that I would be able to make it work with a single exposure.
I fitted the 24-70mm lens on the camera as well as the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer which would help with the glare on the metal. I got the camera down low, right beside the truck and started to work out a composition that I liked. The sun was lighting up the front of the car nicely, but I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of detail on the interior of the barn as well. Looking at the histogram, I was pretty sure that I had it in the bag. I wasn’t going to do a bracketed exposure because I really didn’t feel that it was necessary to do so. I used the pulled back tarp as a frame to cut the car since the rear part of it was in deep shadows anyway. This way, your eyes aren’t looking for it and it makes a natural interruption to the image. I framed it on the left side with a weed that was growing at the entrance to the barn. The impressive bumper and grill set the tone for the image and I really liked how it looked in the LCD review.
I tried some other compositions that worked to varying degrees, but for a color image, this one worked the best. My intention was to shoot this as a dramatic color image with the highlights on the front of the car. The thought for a monochrome image popped into my head, but I dismissed it thinking about how much of the image would be really dark and without detail in a conversion. However, as I was going through my images, I had a total of four that stood out as being better than the others. There were two that I really liked, but one lacked the depth of color that I was seeing in the previous image. However, I did see an opportunity to experiment with some conversion techniques in Lightroom.
When I started the conversion, I wasn’t all that impressed with how it was turning out, but the more I played with it, the more I really liked what I was seeing. I really went in and worked the tonal relationships between the colors to get the separation of tones that I needed for this to work. I was able to pull a lot of detail out of the barn interior as well which made me very happy. For an image that was shot with the full intention of being in color, I was really impressed by how this ended up looking in monochrome. I think that the key feature is that grill which just punches out of the image to the viewer. The high contrast repeating patterns really pull you into the image I think. They also mimic the wooden siding of the barn which brings your eyes to the more subtle background of the image. The more I look at this, the more I think that this is my favorite image of the day. It was nothing like what I set out to capture this morning, but there is no denying the visual impact it has. It was also very nice to shoot my decay subjects again. It has been a while since I have been able to do that.
The morning brought 42 images on my memory card, which turned into six keepers. Oddly enough, I have two images for each subject which makes this a rather uniform set of images. It was more of a concept day rather than a planned outing so I am really happy to have any keepers at all out of the day. I’m also really surprised that it has taken me so long to photograph these old cars near Belews Lake since I have known about them for quite a number of years now. Better late than never I suppose, and I did make it worth my while. I never did meet the property owner though.
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