Who can pass up a barn photo? Not me and luckily I live in the land of farms, present and past. Slowly I’m coming to notice things that indicate a barn is still in use (like a beautiful new roof) even if it might be idle at the moment. Predominant is the Prairie Barn style. My initial suspicion was that they were constructed with volume in mind – winter feed storage for those hundreds and thousands of cows and I’m right. I don’t have any photos yet, but some barns have rounded roofs. The shots in this post all mimic that shape, but with two flat slopes typical of the Gambrel style. Maximizes internal volume, but sheds snow easily.
In terms of processing I don’t have a favorite style or automatic setting, although cranking the clarity slider past 30 seems to give these images a hardness that I think works given the season. Even though there is a limited color palette sometimes, I’m not going to black and white often. The image above worked ok in monochrome, but slightly lowering the vibrance and boosting the saturation worked better in my opinion. For the most part the light is flat, but occasionally I get a nice late afternoon wash of sun that gives a less bleak feel to images, like this gorgeous baby in Gleason –
Barns are interesting for what they are themselves, but also for what surrounds them whether it be other buildings (like this silo and that shed) or the fields in which they stand. While I do occasionally wade into a snowbank with my gaiters on, for the most part I’m pretty limited as to composition and approach. I do try to eliminate distracting things like telephone poles and lines, but it’s not always possible and so the rest of the image has to be captivating.
Many are stained with a neutral or brown shade that weathers beautifully, but red is an ever-popular color and whether it pops or fades, it’s arresting. Color saturation really depends on the individual barn. The River Valley Farm barn is already faded and worn, so I amped up the reds, but muted the greens somewhat and kept the overall color temperature on the cool side. For this abandoned horse farm (below) I kept the overall tones warmer and boosted the overall saturation levels a little.
I think as I gain experience photographing these rural behemoths I will have better images. Images that convey the importance, beauty and rugged functionality of the humble barn. I know I’ll keep on pulling over, turning around, going down unknown roads to try and try again.
When I lived in NH, I photographed old cemeteries lot. They’re some of my favorite places and you could hardly go a mile without passing one, complete with stone walls, some gorgeous gates and mausoleums. Alas, Wisconsin only became a state in 1848 and so consequently not many are old enough to have the same artistry, charm and character. What is a photographer to do?
We have tons of it here, especially in the northern part of the state where barns, homes, cabins and other structures are just left to molder on their own. Jackpot. So I’ve decided to put together a series of what I hope will prove to be interesting photos and posts. Mostly it’s old houses and barns, but I did find an abandoned church not far from here as well, a welcome surprise.
Right now, with snow on the ground it’s a lot harder to get up close to these lonely buildings and in some cases it’s probably ill-advised. I’ve never been one of those photographers who ignores no trespassing signs or walks into rickety and possibly dangerous structures, but I will when it make sense.
Also the nature of having to stay off property kind of limits my angles, perspectives, composition and framing so I will be experimenting with processing techniques to add some flair and distinction to what could become a pretty dull set of repetitive images.
Any interesting stuff that happened while shooting, I’ll also tell you about. Like with that sepia house up there, a nice fellow Subaru driver stopped to make sure that my hazard lights didn’t mean I was stuck or in trouble. When I told him what I was doing, he advised a monochrome approach and he was right.
Locations are going to be harder. Many towns up this way are unincorporated and it’s hard to tell where one begins and another ends. Boondocks, man, boondocks. I may have to confine things to roads and counties since those are easier to ID.
With no leaves on the trees, old buildings stand out more, but not always. They still hide. I passed this old log cabin a few times after the leaves fell without seeing it at all. Then the snow on the roof – a dead give away! I didn’t have gaiters on to go in and explore, but I definitely will when the snow melts. Now I know where it is, its summer camo won’t keep me away.