Losing Family Farms

Long Abandoned Shed
Long Abandoned Shed

Within the next generation or two, these old farms will be mostly lost.  Not more than two generations ago, there were operational farms everywhere.  Similar to the loss of small main street businesses to mega mass-merchants, family farms have lost ground to agricultural giants.  Over the past few years global food security has risen as an important topic for policy planners.  Current large scale operations are simply not sustainable and like the images in this post, they may someday be subjects of abandonment.  With growing interest in sustainability and locally grown produce, perhaps we’ll see these beautiful structures one day return to the countryside.

White Barn Side with Vines
White Barn Side with Vines

The images in this post were from an abandoned farm in Ruffin, North Carolina, between Reidsville and Yanceyville on Hwy 158 in Caswell County.  This past July, I noticed the farm while my Scout Troop was traveling to Cherokee Scout Camp near Yanceyville.  The following weekend I stopped on the way back from camp to capture these images.  The morning sun was peaking in and out of the clouds, creating ideal lighting conditions for the contrasty white barn and wood shed.  Another interesting characteristic of this barn was the dead vines still clinging to sides, you can see where they had been cut away from the ground.  Vines are the first phase of Mother Nature’s reclamation of man made creations.  Perhaps this was an earlier intervention intended to slow that process.

All the images in this series were processed in Lightroom and Photoshop, and finished with Alien Skin’s Exposure 7 to emulate Agfa black & white film.

Old Wood Shed
Old Wood Shed
Old White Barn Loft
Old White Barn Loft

Cumulus in Colfax

Last weekend the Carolina sky was full of big, thick cumulus clouds. After an errand at the local farmer’s market I headed into the country side just north of Colfax. After driving around for a while, I found this big open field with an old horse shed and large open sky behind ― Shed, Field, Clouds.

Shed, Field, Clouds
Shed, Field, Clouds

The midday sun put much of the barn’s front facade in a deep shadow, which helped create additional contrast with the field of grass and sky. In addition to the beautiful clouds, I like how the light shaded plant in front of the barn is echoed in reverse by the trees on the ridgeline. I used my current Agfa APX 100 goto filter for post processing photos in black & white. The grain structure in this filter gives a subtle, fine grain look and a nice gentle boost in contrast.

Red Wooden Door on a Tin Barn
Red Wooden Door on a Tin Barn

In an earlier trip through Colfax, I drove by a tin covered barn with red painted wooden doors. On several occasions, I’ve thought about returning to take pictures.  Well finally I visited the location and was able to compose a strong graphical composition in black & white with the color left in on the red door.  I used the same Agfa post processing filter on Red Wooden Door on a Tin Barn.

Clicking on an image will take you to a higher resolution version on the image on my portfolio site.

Willard Dairy Farm Part 2

Last Monday, just a few days after my first visit to the the farm, we received a few inches of snow in town.  Tuesday morning I worked from home.  It was overcast, but the forecast called for partly cloudy skies by noon. My plan was to visit the farm again on my way in to work.  The timing was important to get the best possible clouds and overall lighting (considering my time limitations and real job as an IT project manager).

Second Shed Doorway
Second Shed Doorway

I pretty much followed the same path from my earlier visit; but because of the snow, lighting and related time of day, this visit presented a fresh set of photographic opportunities.  Because of the much wider dynamic range, processing this set of images took more time to make judgements about shadows, mid tones and highlights.  I also struggled with cropping decisions on several images.  For example, the Second Shed Doorway image was originally cropped tightly around the door.  I felt it was a powerful image; but also had a hard time cropping out extended wood textures and the vine growing up towards the roof.  All images were processed with Alien Skin’s Expsosure 7 software with a Panatomic-X emulation filter.  On the back-lit image, I backed off the grain density to 70% to keep the grain form getting too clumpy in the darker shadow areas.  I hope you enjoy the images in this post.

Sheds in Snow
Sheds in Snow
Backlit Back of the Farm
Backlit Back of the Farm
Willard Barn Profile with Snow
Willard Barn Profile with Snow
Row of Sheds
Row of Sheds

Discovering Willard Dairy Farm

For months I’ve admired the old Willard Dairy Farm in High Point, NC as I drove past it on the road that bares the same name.  A prominently displayed No Trespassing sign had dashed my hopes of exploring this property with my camera.  That is until a few weeks ago when several Boy Scouts from my Troop and I were picking up trash as part of a service project on Willard Dairy Farm Rd. About an hour later at the other end of the road, we came by a small farm operation.

I asked some young workers loading feed into a truck about who owned the abandoned farm down the road.  The workers directed me to a man in an old pickup; I walked over an introduced myself.  Why it was 87 year old Mr. Willard, his father had purchased the 100+ acre property in 1912 to established a dairy farm.  He informed me his family no longer owned the site of the original farm, but he thought it would be ok for me to take some photos.  So last weekend, I finally drove by and took some pictures just before the late day light began to fade.

Inside Out Photo
Inside Out

The first image, Inside Out, is from inside a small shed next to main barn & silo complex.  The building has been decaying and taken over my vines.  Stepping into the shed side entrance, I noticed missing wood on the sides and roof, which was allowing indirect light from the overcast sky.  The compressed dynamic range allowed me to capture a dramatic image of the overcast sky while preserving some of the shed interior detail.  Of course, the photo needed some processing in Lightroom to hold a suitable amount of shadow detail while at the same time pushing for a little extra contrast.  To finish the image, I used a filter in Exposure 7 to emulate Plux-X black & white film.  It may be trivial, but I think its pretty cool how the vines are reverse silhouetted against the sky versus the darken wood.

Willard Farm Barn Facade
Willard Farm Barn Facade

The next Willard Farm Barn Facade image features the dramatic character of the deteriorating old Willard barn.  On my portfolio site, I talk about “The Beauty of Decay“.  There is an interesting juxtaposition between the rich textures, colors and character of natural decay on the one hand, with the sense of nostalgia for antique artifacts.  At first I was concerned about the flat overcast lighting, but was able to put some depth and shape back in the image during processing.  This time I went back to finishing up with a Panatomic-X filter, this time though with less push processing to maintain contrast while achieving grain structure and other film characteristics.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts, feelings, feedback, advice or whatever else these images may bring to light.

C.S.

Taking Time to See the Beauty of Things

It’s often said, the simple things in life turn out to be the most meaningful.  Perhaps it’s not to much of a stretch to think about the beauty and visual interest to be found in a closeup of an old barn.  Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; but for me, the rich textures of the weathered barn wood and rusted tin make for a splendid composition.  How often do we miss opportunities to seek-out and appreciate the beauty found all around us?

Barn Wood & Tin Composition-EditEach time I process an image in Lightroom, I’m still amazed how just the right combination of adjustments can “make and average photo good, and good photo great”.   In this Barn Wood & Tin Composition image however, I did end up experimenting for quite a while with the Clarity, Tone Curve (contrast) and Color Luminance adjustments to get just the right tonality character.  Specifically reducing the luminance for red, along with some additional burning resulted in a satisfying texture on the piece of tin at the bottom of the image.  I used my usual Panatomic-X processing filter to get a little extra snap and analog grain in the image.

During the processing of this image in Lightroom, I felt a sense of anticipation & excitement as the final image began to reveal itself.  I was reminded of my years in a real Darkroom and the same feeling of anticipation as the image first reveal its prescribed potential when hanging up the role of film to dry after development.  And, later at the enlarger making decisions about dodging and burning, followed by the emergence of a final image as the photo-paper made its way through the trays of chemicals.  Things change over time, and yet in many ways, they stay the same (pardon the cliché).

Rural Towers

With increased agricultural production in the late 19th to early 20 centuries, the need to store and process local grain production led to the development and implementation of grain silos with internal grain elevators for transporting grain to the top of the structure.  Grain or other organic materials would fall through into the silo on top of existing grain and create layers of compressed material.  The grain silos in this image are typical of silos built in the first half of the 20th century.

Grain Silos at Jordan Farm
Grain Silos at Jordan Farm

In their hay day (pun intended), these huge structures surely towered over the local country side.  Today, they are a rusted old relic hidden behind a row of large cedar trees with a suburban shopping area on the other side.  In Lightroom, I removed all the colors except for orange and a hint of red & magenta. Next the image was processed in Exposure to emulate vintage Kodachrome film.  I really like the warmth from this 1960’s era Kodachrome filter and use it often in my “Beauty of Decay” collection from my portfolio site

Rustic Southern Barns

The first series of posts in this blog will be from one of my favorite portfolio galleries — Rustic Southern Barns.  Today’s post, also includes an image from Jordan Farm.  Just into an excursion inside one of the many barns on the farm, I found this fork & bucket.  It immediately made me feel like I had just missed the individual who left it there, perhaps upon completion of a recent chore.

Fork & Bucketin Barn Entrance
Hay Fork & Bucket in Barn Entrance

This simple but strong composition with the wood slightly converging lines of wood siding crossed perpendicularly by the fork, wood grain textures and empty bucket caught my eye.  During processing of the DNG image, I took care to retain just a slight bit of detail inside the bucket, outside the bucket and in the top corner of shadowed wood.  On both my Samsung S5 Super AMOLED and iPad Mini Retina, I was disappointed neither display held the detail inside the bucket.  A slight amount of burning was needed around the hay.

Thus far I’ve gravitated towards processing most of my black & white images with Alien Skin’s Exposure software Kodak Panatomic X film filter with a few modifications.  I push the processing setting about 1 stop to get just a little extra contrast and provide a small amount of boost in the darkest shadows.  As a fine grain b&w film, the Panatomic filter offers a subtle grain structure to give the photo a nice “analog” feel.  Back in the 80’s when I shot a lot of B&W film, it was mostly Tri-X and Plus-X.  Panatomic was too slow, more expensive and hard to find in 35mm.

I have several additional images with commentary from Jordan Farm & Rustic Southern Barns to share.  Please stay tuned and let me know if you have any questions about my techniques.

The First Post: Jordan Farm

This inaugural post introduces my fine art photography blog. To start things out, I thought my recent visit to Jordan Farms in High Point, NC (my hometown) would be a nice place to begin. Like many vanishing farm homesteads, Jordan Farm represents an opportunity for the photographer to document the agricultural tradition and way of life while presenting to the viewer visually interesting & meaningful imagery.

My first image is a barn facade in the large farm complex.

West Facade Jordan Barn
West Facade of Jordan Barn

I worked with the image in Lightroom to find the right contrast settings to emphasize the white facade while preserving visual interest elsewhere in the composition. As I’ll discuss more in future posts I love to use Alien Skin Exposure software to add some old school warmth to my imagery. I would love to hear your thought and feedback about my work. Also, please visit my portfolio site at csyjr.photoshelter.com.  Hope you enjoy!