A Long Tour of Davidson County

December 21, 2013

I had high hopes for today, but things don't always work out for me when I plan things.  Based on a suggestion from a friend at work, I was planning a Trek to Davidson County with a handful of address to check out.  The intention was to get some barns added to my collection.  I knew that a nice cloudy day would be a great start for barn photography and I had seen that based on the forecast, today was going to be just such a day.

I got a later start than I had planned due to staying up very late processing the images from yesterday's hike at Stone Mountain which was very successful to say the least.  I did finally get up and saw that the forecast was still calling for cloudy conditions, although it looked rather bright outside.  There was a good overcast, but very little visual interest in the sky.  I decided to go ahead and give it a shot and see what was out there.  If nothing else, I would be able to scout the area and see just what types of subjects were to be had out there.

I followed the GPS coordinates down to Old US Hwy 64 E and found that there were quite a few barns and old houses out this way.  The problem was, the sky was too bright white to include, and the clouds were not thick enough to really diffuse the light sufficiently to shoot into the shadows.  I pressed on, hoping for the best.  As I was almost at me destination I came upon an old house with a barn off to the side.  It caught my eye, but the sky was not going to work for this subject at all.

After arriving at my destination, and seeing that the barn I was searching out was deep inside of somebody's property, I opted not to pursue that particular barn.  I had one that I liked a bit more just a few miles down the road.  By the time I got there, the sky had changed, and it was now blue, with some hazy clouds passing by.  It wasn't ideal, but it was close enough to give it a chance.  I pulled my equipment out and kept the 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on the body since I was going to be shooting from the road.  I almost could have gone to my telephoto, but that would have been a little too much of a long lens for the job at hand.

The sky immediately started giving me problems.  I had a polarizer on initially and could get a fair amount of blue in the sky, but it was at the expense of the detail in the barn.  I saw no change in the sky coming any time soon so I dropped back and punted.  I pulled out a 2-Stop hard ND Grad filter which I slid in to control the exposure in the sky.  That did the trick and got a nice even exposure all around.  Now it was time to really work out a composition.

The Open Door
My vantage points were limited because I was forced to shoot from the road.  To make matters worse, there was a tall bank of undergrowth along the shoulder of the road.  I had to crank the tripod up as high as it would go so that I could overshoot the brush and not get any of it along the bottom edge of the shot.  I settled on an area that showed a nice 3/4 view of the barn.  The side was in the shadows, but I figured that some clouds would pass by and diffuse the harsh light eventually.  At this point, it was just a matter of hurry up and wait.  I waited....I waited....and I waited some more.  The sky was ever changing, but never in the direction I wanted.  I started to get frustrated, but held fast to my shooting position.

In about 30 minutes time, I cranked off about 11 frames with different lighting, and sky.  When it was all said and done, I honestly wasn't sure what I had, or if it was going to even be a successful image.  I kept going deeper into Davidson County, and followed directions to two other potential locations.  I kept seeing interesting subjects, but nothing that I could work in the existing light.

I did happen upon an old tractor next to a red and green barn which caught my eye.  I looped back around and drove up to the house.  I knocked and rang in an attempt to get the owner to come to the door, but after nearly a minute on the porch, I decided to give up and started back to my truck...as the door opened.  I advised what my request was and she told me that the tractor was her husband's and he wasn't home.  She did not want to give permission for the photograph without him.  She invited me back later on when he would be home, but I was seeing that the light was already changing and the scene wasn't as impressive as it had been just 5 minutes ago.  That moment was gone...time to move on.

I drove around for nearly 120 miles and the only thing I found was a new found  frustration with the sky.  One minute it was very dark and I could have photographed any number of things.  Of course, when that was the case, there was nothing to photograph.  The other end of the spectrum was when I finally made it back to a potential subject...then the sky would open up and the sun would shine through with a vengeance.  It was almost as if the heavens above didn't want me photographing anything today.

I called it day and headed home.  I had 11 frames captured, of one barn.  I just hoped that I could use one of them.  As it turned out, there was one that I found had a little bit of character to it.  It wasn't nearly as successful of a Trek as yesterday's, but I can at least say that I got one new picture to add to the collection.

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