Another Day on Foot at Home

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Another Winter
OK, so the roads are fine and I could drive anywhere I wanted to today.  Normally, I would take advantage of that fact and head out to go hiking or maybe do the rural exploration thing.  However, I had so much fun yesterday just walking around the neighborhood, I decided to keep with that theme for the weekend.  I couldn't help but think to myself that a photographer worth his salt would be able to make great images close to home as easy as if there was a long road trip involved.  We had snow on the ground, and that changed so much of the landscape, and since that was what I would be photographing, I didn't see a reason that I couldn't shoot the snow that was close by.

I woke up shortly after sunrise, and considered my options.  I had gone to sleep last night expecting to wake up to mostly clear skies with snow still on the ground.  The plan was to walk about a mile away from home to an old farmhouse that has been abandoned for many years now.  That was the plan.  That bed felt very good though, and I was more than happy to stay in it and rest a little more.  But part of being a photographer is getting up early for no other reason than the light is better at the beginning of the day.  Since I was close to my subject, I was already getting to sleep in late as it was.  I guilted myself out of bed for the sole reason of, "the snow won't be here forever."  If I passed up on this opportunity, I might not get another chance this Winter.

I got moving slowly with every expectation that I would talk myself out of going to the old farmhouse.  I mean, I have been there about a half dozen times over the years and have photographed it in lots of different conditions.  But there was snow today, and that was not a regular occurrence here in Winston.  But what if I walked the mile out there, and the light is wrong?  What if I can't get any good images?  I could just stay home.  I'm a photographer (insert expletive here)!!  I will go out and try it to see what I can do with the scene.  I had a previsualization of what I was expecting after all.

Shadow of the Tree
When I got outside, I could see that the sky was nice and blue to the North, and the sun was providing some really good light.  As I walked, I could see that the trees were still holding onto the snow that was covering the branches.  It was mostly ice by this point, but it was still there.  If I was lucky, I would get to benefit from this with the trees near the house.  There was very little traffic on the roads and it was almost a nice walk with the warm sun shining on me.  My fingers were numb, but I expected that and had gloves if I needed them.

When I got out onto the main road, I could see the house in the distance.  The light was hitting it just the way I was hoping that it would.  There was a warm glow on the side of the house which was important since it was a white house, and I didn't want it to blend into the snow too much.

Come, Sit a Spell in B&W
When I arrived, the snow was mostly untouched except for deer tracks which I could easily live with.  Having shot this scene many times, I knew that the best lens for the task was my 24-70mm which gave me the option of shooting wide, as well as getting in and doing isolations on the house.  I started off with a pretty standard quarter shot from the driveway.  Looking at the deep blue of the sky and the clouds, I was thinking about doing some monochrome images to really make the snow, and the siding pop.  I grabbed my Singh Ray Color Combo Polarizer to help with the contrast in the sky.

Something that I just love about this old house is the condition of that siding.  The paint has been peeling for years, and there are holds developing in different areas.  There is just so much to see on this siding.  The textures more than make up for the lack of actual color on this house, although the chimney does stand out against the white quite well.  There are also a couple of really interesting trees on the property that I can include in different ways with different compositions.  This is just a really fun little place to shoot.

Essentially Bare
With the blue sky and snow, the trees actually took on a whole new importance to my compositions.  The way they were almost growing around the house was too interesting to pass up, and I was lucky enough to still have the benefit of the snow on the branches.  Like yesterday, that really helped to define the lines of the branches and help the eyes see the flow of the limbs.  In the composition above, the story is actually the tree, and the house becomes a secondary element.  The framing really shows how the tree mimics the roof line of the house, and they really seem to belong together.  The blue sky highlights the entire picture, and draws your eye right to the tree.  The wooden door and chimney provide some much needed visual warmth to the image that is so predominantly cool toned.

Winter Arrives
When I backed up a little bit, there was another really large tree that also favored the shape of the house.  By getting a nice wide angle composition, I was able to use the foreground tree as a framing element for the entire house.  For a bit of added visual interest, I would wait for the clouds to move away from the sun so that a shadow could be cast.  Now, the tree not only frames the house, but is tattooed onto the house itself.  This is a great example of having two different elements connected to each other, and enhancing each other.  An image like this would not have had near the impact without the snow on the ground, so I was really thankful that I pulled up my photographer britches and braved the cold morning to get these pictures.

No Warmth Here
Speaking of the cold, it was right chilly out there standing in the snow.  The blue sky and the cooler color temperatures of late morning were starting to really flatten the image and I needed some help from the warm tones that were present.  The best source of (visual) warmth was the chimney on the side of the house.  One of the last few images of the morning featured that chimney as an attempt to balance out the color pallet in the image.  It succeeded in bringing in a lot of visual warmth that complimented the blues quite well.  The tree behind the house was a nice bridging element to break up the white of the house and snow, against the light gray of the clouds.  The composition worked very well, but I was still quite cold, and wondered when the last fire was ever burning in that fireplace.

Come, Sit a Spell
Funny thing about this old house...I have lived in my house since 2001.  I drove past this house at least once a week and never really noticed it.  In fact, it wasn't until sometime around 2008 that I started to pay any attention at all to this house.  I was still getting started in photography and was leaving the house one day and happened to see the sun really lighting up the side of this farmhouse.  I think it was in June or July, around the middle of the day.  The sun was very harsh, but I started to shoot it anyway.  I even lucked up and got a cat in a few of the pictures.  The final images were all really good, and some of my best rustic pictures to date.  

Since that time, I have ventured back to it many times.  I have seen the aging process at work on the house, and have started to feel a connection to it.  I don't know how much longer this house will remain here, but I do hope that it is a lot longer.  Every year or so, I get the urge to go back and document the current condition it is in.  It fits very well with my wabi sabi approach to photography, and I'm pretty sure that I am documenting something that won't be around much longer.  That is a pretty important reason to get out there and make pictures.

Tall Tales
of course, every time that I am out here with my camera, I keep wondering to myself about what all this house has been through over the years.  I know that it has a lot of stories, and has seen generations growing up up.  There have been tears dropped on the floors, celebrations had within the walls, and friendships developing on the front porch.  These days, it is wood and brick sitting beneath trees that were just saplings when the house was new.  In the passage of time, there is beauty.  As nature reclaims the property, there is beauty.  It is hard to deny that there is a lot of beauty around this old farmhouse.  I'm just glad I'm able to photograph it and hold onto that beauty for a little while.

I wrapped my day up with just over 40 frames shot of this house.  Of that, you can see I have a bunch of keepers.  Considering that I haven't driven a single foot this weekend, I have really been fortunate with the camera to have captured all that I have.  It just goes to show that if you look close enough, there is beauty to be had anywhere.  A photographer doesn't need to travel hours away in order to capture a meaningful image.

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