Winter 2018’s last stand has finally come and gone. The same could be said for this old southern barn and surrounding fields, currently being cleared for residential housing.
Most of the exterior wood of this old barn has already been removed and “upcycled” for use in rustic home furnishings and decor. I blogged about this last July in my Vanishing American Barns post, and featured this barn in a composition.
By keeping my POV out of the direct wind, my lens shade was able to keep the snow off my front lens element. Shooting at 1/320th just about froze the jumbo snowflakes greater than 10 feet (3 meters) out. As snowflakes got closer to the lens, more and more of a slight motion blur was introduced.
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My typical route to work takes me by a large weathered barn, relatively close to the road. Early this week, as I approached the barn in my car, I noticed a large group of Turkey Vultures on top of the barn. I pulled off, turned around and came back to hopefully get some shots without scaring them off. I moved slowly, while keeping an eye out for traffic on the busy road.
During my processing workflow, I noticed some birds had red heads and others were black. At first I thought this was a gender distinction; while researching the Turkey Vulture, I learned the black head vultures are actually the Black Vulture. The Turkey Vulture has a strong sense of smell, which helps them locate decaying animal flesh – carrion. The Black Vulture has no sense of smell and therefore usually hangs close to the Turkey Vulture.
In these photos you can see several birds with spread-wing postures. This serves to dry wings and for thermoregulation. At night these birds maintain a lower body temperature – morning wing spreading helps raise their body temperature by absorbing solar energy. As in this case, they typically face the back of their wings to the rising sun.
With a maximum wingspan of up to 6 ft (183 cm), vultures are quite beautiful in flight. But, not so much up-close, on the ground. The vulture serves a vital environmental role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They not only eat and clear decaying animal matter, but they’re digestive systems also kill harmful bacteria associated with carrion.
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Reclaimed barn wood is quite popular these days. It’s used in custom furniture, wall coverings, framing and general décor. It is valued for its rough-hewn texture and antique character. One could say it’s better to reclaim used wood than cutting down a living tree. Generally I agree. However, the higher demand for antique barn wood has accelerated the decline of rustic American barns from the countryside. I’m somewhat conflicted on the matter.
This post features a composition study of an old barn and corn crib on display at the New River Trail State Park, Foster Fall section. My Boy Scout Troop camped, canoed and biked here this past weekend. Such a beautiful destination!
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Three more compositions from my visit to the Hezekiah Alexander Homestead in Charlotte, North Carolina. I hope you enjoy.
The Hezekiah Alexander House built in 1774 is the oldest surviving homestead in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The property is part of the Charlotte Museum of History and sits adjacent to Altersgate, a retirement community where my parents lived for about a year. I found the old barns much more interesting than the house. After returning from my shoot, I showed my in camera pictures to my parents. They ask me why I didn’t get any overall shots of the house and barns. I replied, “that was not what as I was after”.
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This post features the juxtaposition of wood in it’s natural state (trees and shrubs), with wood harvested, shaped and re-purposed by mankind. Like animals, plants evolved over millions of years to become complex organisms. Long, elaborate flowing wooden structures extend underground to collect water & nutrients, while similar structures spread out to support a vast canopy of energy processing foliage.
Inside the bark and living tissue layers is the dead xylem, plugged with hardened resins & gum, the remnants of previous years growth. As the plant grows, this “heartwood” has the structural properties required to support the load of a vast network of branches and foliage. These same proprieties make tree trunks an excellent building material for man-made structures.
We’ve learned to cut, shape and treat wood to maximize it’s utility, durability and beauty. We also developed and leveraged principles of structural engineering to further extend the usefulness of wood as a building material.
Home design magazines beautifully portray grand wooden structures harmoniously integrated into the natural landscape. Alternatively in this post, I hope to contrast the regenerative natural landscape with the transience of abandoned man-made wooden structures. Much effort is required to create & maintain a perceived right-brained order in our modern world. However, the natural world always uses the laws of nature to govern an inevitable outcome.
All images were processed in Lightroom & Photoshop, and finished with a Agfa APX 100 black & white film emulation in Alien Skin’s Exposure 7. Click on an image to view a higher resolution image from my portfolio site.
Last Sunday afternoon, I decided to visit the abandoned Willard Dairy Farm again to photograph some interior shots. The bottom floor didn’t offer much opportunities with the current lighting, but the upper loft and roof sure did.
Winter storm Jonah had just left 2 to 3 inches of snow an ice in the area. Inside the barn, melting snow dripped profusely, it was vritually raining all around me.. Shooting up towards the roof, it was difficult to find a spot where my camera lens would not get constantly dripped on. With some patience and good luck, I was able to capture some interesting compositions.
Seeing the structural complexity in the roof of this old barn, I was compelled to think of all the work effort, materials and cost that when into it’s construction. It must have been quite exciting to see this grand barn take shape during construction. From inside and out, it’s easy to imagine how splendid it must have been appeared in it’s peak condition.
I’m therefore saddened to see the consequences of neglect and abandonment. For many different reasons, most things we build have a limited amount of usefulness. At some point, the perceived value of our creation is not worth the effort required to maintain, as the slow but steady tide of decay, wrought by Mother Nature, takes it’s toll. Yet amidst the peeling paint, rusted metal, rotting timbers and encroaching vegetation, there is beauty. Here lies the irony of beauty in abandonment and decay.