Photography: When the Light is Not Perfect

July 18, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

     I recently spent a fine day hiking in the Sierra Mountains. There were tons of wildflowers, fabulous views, pristeen streams . . . and one decrepit old barn.

     What is it about old buildings, junkyards, and deteriorating cars that catches a photographer's fancy? It's hard to say, but there's no doubt that we all love those things. And while I have a wealth of shots of beautiful views and flowers to sort through, none of them feels particularly original. The images are nice, but they've all been done.

     And so the barn truly caught my fancy. It was just a bit down the path, sitting in a meadow accessible only by a rutted trail. It has an air of disuse and has fallen into significant disrepair. There are traces of red paint remaining on the roof. The boards are weathered, the interior dim, and cracked and fallen boards allow streams of light to enter.

     I walked around, in and through the barn, and photographed it from every conceivable angle.  There were two challenges. First, I was there at absolutely the wrong time of day. Mid-afternoon, with the sun at its peak, the exact hour when knowledgeable photographers will tell you to go home, shoot in the studio, come back at dusk or dawn - or at any hour when your shadow is longer than you are tall. The shorter the shadow, the harsher the light.

     But sometimes we have to deal with things as they are. Which brings me to the second challenge - the interior of the barn, with its ancient worn boards and views out into the bright meadow cried out for an HDR image. But I had no tripod on the long hike. I'm comfortable with improvising for long exposures, but HDR is another matter.

     So I made do in a few ways. I shot the barn from all angles, looking for shaded areas that might work. I used a polarizing filter to deepen the blue sky. And I shot the enticing interior at a variety of exposures.  Back at my desk, I played with LightRoom to create the HDR effect I didn't have the equipment to produce for real.

    For now, I rather like this image. But I am also making plans to go back and try it another way . . . a different time of day, and the right equipment to take the shot I'm now imagining.  The barn is a good two hours from my home, so it may be a while before I get there, but when I do I'll have a plan.

    Hey - it's old, it's decaying, it's filled with character, and I am drawn to photograph it again like a fly is drawn to honey.

 

Old Barn


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