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”.
Click on an image to see a higher resolution version from my portfolio site. Thanks for visiting my blog!
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.
I’ve been experimenting with techniques to transform color images into a light painterly effect. The removal of color in a black & white image enables more attention to texture, shapes, patterns and tonality. Similarly, by removing detailed information from color images, other aspects of the composition are elevated. In this image, I believe warm color tonality and the soft architectural shapes contribute most to this composition.
My workflow started with standard processing in Lightroom, and then the addition of a few painterly effects from Filter Forge and Alien Skin Snap Art. Next, these images, along with the original from Lightroom, we all composited in Photoshop. The final treatment was the application of a vintage Kodachrome film emulation and final color and contrast tweaks. You can view a higher resolution version from my portfolio site by clicking on the image.
January 16 Update: A great photographer I follow, Denise Bush, was curious to see before and after of the processing used in this post.
Here is the original image with some initial processing:
The final image with the additional treatments mentioned above:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.