The Guilford Mill

June 21, 2014

The Guilford Mill
It has been too long since I have been out Trekking.  I suppose I have a good excuse though.  You see, I was sick pretty much my entire time off last week.  I had no energy, and a temperature of 101+ so I was pretty much grounded from going out of the house.  I didn't mind one bit though because every time I tried to get up, I would feel like collapsing.  I was quite content staying and home and letting Toni take care of me.

This week is a good bit different though.  I am feeling much better and am in need of getting out and doing some photography.  The plan for this morning was to go up to the mountains and work a couple of waterfalls in Little Switzerland.  That plan fell through when I looked at the weather and the cloud cover that I needed was non-existent.  I rolled back over and went back to sleep.  All day I was paying attention to the clouds and watching them come and go in various formations and intensities.  I have been eyeballing the Guilford Mill for some time now, but knew I needed a sky with blue in it, but not too much to make my vision work out.

At dinner time, the sky was pretty much a blank white canvas and I was all set to call it a day and start fresh tomorrow with something else that I had in mind.  However, as we were finishing dinner, I could see some potential in the sky, and thought that I had better go out and give it a try.  As I was driving, the textures in the sky started to minimize, and I was losing my much needed backdrop for the old mill.  I didn't give up though, I just kept plowing on to my destination.

Stone Ground in B&W
When I arrived, the sky was looking better again, but the sun was cloaked behind thick clouds to the West.  That was unfortunate, because I was counting on the sun to provide some diffused, warm light on the side of the mill to make it pop against the sky above.  That was strike one.  Strike two was the fact that I had not done my job in scouting this location since the late winter.  I was shocked to see the growth of brush lining the stream by the mill.  That eliminated one of my compositions immediately, and I was not happy about that at all.  I almost decided to drive off and search out a secondary opportunity.  However, I decided to give it a closer look and see what I could do with what I had.  I noticed some rock piles in a couple of places in the field across the way which might be of use.  I also found the rock wall which I have used before as a foreground interest.  It was something at least...

I went ahead and pulled the camera out with the 24-70mm lens still attached.  I added a polarizer to boost the colors and take some of the glare off of the metal roof.  I started to compose my first shot and quickly realized that the sky was just too bright without having the sun lighting the mill.  My only choice was to fit my Lee filter system and start adding some ND Grad filters to even out the exposures.  That was the trick that I needed, and from that point on, I was able to get some very balanced exposures which was not the easiest thing to do under these conditions.

Grist Mill
I found my favorite compositions by the rock wall on the far side of the field.  With the very soft light I was able to get all sorts of detail in the wall.  The dead tree, with its bare limbs on the left made for a very fitting natural frame to the composition as well.  While this is a working grist mill to this day, there was a feel of decay here today.  Maybe it was the shrouded sun, or the time of day...whatever it was, I was tapping into the somber mood with my photographs.  These are a far cry from my first attempts at this location back in 2005 when I went in the middle of the day and shot under a full sun.

First ever attempt at photographing the mill
I still remember going out there on that early March day.  It was the second time I had gone out with my brand new Sony F828.  I knew very little about lighting as you can tell.  This picture is actually kind of hard to look at because of the harsh line between light and dark.  You can see that the mill has aged a good bit in nine years, but still looks the same.  Its one of the more photographed places in Guilford County I would imagine, but it does hold a certain warm spot in my heart.  It was the setting for interview with Roy's Folks back in 2010.  You can view the full piece in the About the Photographer section.

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