A Barn Needs Clouds

June 5, 2014

Today's trek actually started over the winter while I was driving around the local stomping grounds trying to find some good subjects to photograph.  If I remember correctly, there were very little clouds in the sky, and I was focusing mainly on scouting locations.  I managed to find several possible subjects in Southeastern Forsyth County near Union Cross Rd.  There was a barn tucked back in an overgrown field on one side of a school and another barn set off to the side of a field on the other side of the school.  Both were interesting and I filed them away in my memory for another time.

In March, I went back out during an overcast morning to shoot the one barn that would allow me to have some diffused front lighting.  This shoot went well, but there were some lighting difficulties to deal with.  The sky was pretty much a blank slate of white.  That meant that I was not going to even attempt the other barn which would include quite a bit of sky no matter what composition I was to use.

Since then, I have driven by that barn under many different weather conditions, and have determined that I needed to go out in the afternoon when the sun would be at my back, providing some front lighting, with some very dense, and textured clouds overhead.  Essentially, I was going to need to find a storm front to come through during a very small window of time.  I wasn't asking for much....not much at all.

All in a Row
When I arrived at the barn, everything was pretty much flat when it came to the lighting.  The clouds were perfect, and there were even some fresh crops growing.  I could see some breaks in the clouds, but nothing where the sun was.  I could see the glow of the sun, and at least I knew it was in the right position for what I wanted to work with.  I made the decision to go ahead and get things set up and find a composition that worked in hopes that the sky would open up long enough to snap some pictures.

Composition was going to be difficult with this barn.  There was a solid metal shed to the left in the tree line.  There was nothing but wide open field to the right, and behind the barn was the top of a church, as well as a couple of houses in the background.  None of this did I want to include in my composition because I wanted to focus on the barn, and possibly the crops that helped to tell the story of the barn.  This meant that I was going to need to shoot low to keep the other buildings below the slight ridge that the barn was built on.  I was also going to have to find a visual balance between the visual weight of the trees to the left and the nothing to the right.

All of these constraints left me with only one choice for a lens which was a benefit. I was going to need my 24-70mm which would give me a wide enough angle of view without being so wide as to include the metal shed to the left.  Looking at the colors involved, I decided that using an enhancing polarizer would also be a good choice as it would deepen the blue sky, as well as the colors of the barn.  Normally, I would want to use an ND Grad to help control the sky, but there was no good division point on the horizon that would allow me to apply the filter with any benefit.  That was my need for the sun at my back...it was going to bring out the detail in the foreground and in the barn while I was able to keep the exposure correct for the sky.  This is exactly what I mean when I talk about previsualization!

Something Brewing
Because of the layout of the elements, I was able to shoot both landscape and portrait modes with success.  While the shooting position was within a few feet from one another, the focus of the image as well as the story behind it, changes significantly in my opinion making both compositions stand on their own.  In both compositions, its the sky that gives the much needed drama to an otherwise blah scene.  I had never seen this barn in these conditions, but I had imagined it many times over in the past few months.  Every time clouds started to roll in, I would consider going out to this barn, but I was never given the much needed breaks in the clouds at the right time of the day.  Today, I lucked out, and the conditions were perfect.  In fact, when I returned home, I told Toni that if the pictures didn't turn out good, it was totally my fault because I was working in nearly perfect lighting conditions.

In about 30 minute's time I shot a little over 40 frames with slightly different light qualities due to the passing clouds.  I knew that I was over shooting, and that my target of a 10% hit rate was going to fall short since at best, I was going to have only two significantly different compositions.  There were just not that many angles to work with because of the environment.  However, the clouds were great, and I know from experience that dramatic skies make for really good monochrome conversions.  With that in mind, about halfway through the session, I started to really look at things in a B&W frame of mind.  I could see how the different tones would work together, and the range of tones that were present.  I figured that this would make for a very good candidate for a conversion when I processed them later.

Something Brewing in B&W
When I got done processing the color versions of the two that I liked the best (I was hoping for two and got just that), I decided to back the process up, and reprocess as a monochrome.  As I started to play with the tonal relationships, I started to see just what I was seeing in the field, and I became quite excited.  The texture in the wood really started to stand out, and the clouds were presented in such an ominous manner I knew I had a winner with the black and white presentation.

All in a Row in B&W
 While I like the intimate nature of the horizontal composition, I can really appreciate the depth of the vertical orientation which includes the rows of crops.  It also make for a more dynamic sky in my opinion.  Of course, I'm a little biased, so its always nice to get a second opinion from my photo wench....Toni.  When presented with all four images as printed proofs, she picked All in a Row in monochrome as her favorite.  I find it very hard to argue the point with her, and find myself agreeing the more I look at it.

These pictures have been months in the making, and in a 30 minute window of time, 1/25 of a second at a time I had four images to show for the work.  I'm beyond happy with how things turned out today, and even happier that it was so close to the house, and was so easy to make happen.  Sometimes things just fall into place.  I like those times...

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