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Monthly Archives: August 2012

On my journey through the Palouse I saw great variety in sizes and shaped of barns.  This one stands out because it looks (to me) like someone had built a “regular”–i.e., rectangular–barn and then cut it down the middle and removed half of it.  Most of the barns I saw had long rectangular footprints, and this one is very close to square.

I’m happy that this barn is being maintained fairly well.  It could use a coat of paint, or several, but the roof appears to be in excellent condition.  It seems to me that when building owners “let the roof go,” that seals the death-warrant for the building.  When you consider how much surface area a barn roof uses, compared to a regular house, you realize the expense that’s involved in maintaining that sucker.  This roof appears to have many good years left on it.

I think a barn this “small” would be the perfect size to convert to a 2-story house.  A regular-sized barn would be too big for most people with a family smaller than the Waltons.  And while the idea of having 20′ or even 30′ ceilings might sound appealing, remember that you’d have to pay to heat all that dead air space in the winter.  So a half-barn (with the loft converted to a second story) makes a lot more sense.  I could see myself living in a house/barn like this (with more and bigger windows and several skylights added).

While I was trying to figure out what makes this barn so darn cute, I realized that it wasn’t just the size and shape of the building.  It’s also the fact that it appears to have a face on the front, with two window/eyes and a loft door/nose.  To me that makes it look like a cartoon barn, or something out of a fairy tale.  Doesn’t it look like it’s alive, and watching the goings-on at the farm with its two unblinking eyes?

“Here’s lookin’ at you, Barn!”

The astute editors at WordPress selected one of my recent posts–“Defying Gravity” from August 10, 2012–to be one of today’s “Freshly Pressed” posts.  Thank  you Cheri and the rest of the WordPress staff.  This is indeed an honor, and I’m very proud to have been selected from a field of so many eloquent and creative bloggers (and talented photographers too).

For those of you non-Wordpress bloggers who are reading this and wondering what the heck I’m talking about, today’s 20 Freshly Pressed posts are “The best of 465,513 bloggers,1,185,909 new posts, 1,399,798comments, & 297,464,084 words posted today on WordPress.com.”

So while not as rare as winning the lotto or getting struck by lightning, the odds of getting Freshly Pressed are still high enough that I’ve been glowing all day.  Kindof like the backlit sunflower I picked for today’s image.  (We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.)

One of the neatest things about today has been all the great comments and compliments I’ve received from old and new readers alike. It’s been a pleasure to make your acquaintance, and I’m checking out EACH of your blogs (and subscribing to a great many of them) before I answer your comments.  I’m going chronologically, so if I haven’t gotten to yours yet, don’t fret.  My dreams of going viral are still just that–dreams–so I can still find out who each of you brilliant and discerning folks are.

The “Defying Gravity” post featured images of the Skeen School in the Palouse region of Washington state.  I had hoped to be able to write more about it, and thought there would be plenty of information online, but when I went to research it, I found precious little.  If anyone reading this knows more, please leave a comment.

The Skeen School is on most serious photographers’ Bucket List of Palouse images.  Like wheat-covered hills, dilapidated barns, grazing cows, and harvesting machinery, it’s an iconic image of this beautiful and unique region.  Which makes it all the more astonishing to me that there isn’t more information about it readily available.

One thing that surprised me as I was reading the comments on that post is that some people thought I had either played a trick with lenses and/or image editing software to deliberately create the leaning “look” of the building.  It honestly never occurred to me that people would think that, but I guess we’re all getting used to seeing manipulated images all around us and are taking it for granted that trippy-looking buildings aren’t real.

Folks, I assure you that the Skeen School is indeed twisting and leaning as depicted.  In fact, it twists and leans a bit more every year, which will unfortunately lead to its eventual collapse.  I did make what I consider to be “minor” adjustments to the images in that post, specifically things like color-correction and contrast, which I make to almost all my images since I shoot exclusively in RAW format.  But the distortion of the building is real.  That’s why the post is titled “Defying Gravity.”

One final comment about the comments.  It seems like there’s a disproportionate number of “grammar geeks” that liked that post.  I’ll take that as a compliment on the writing as well as the photography.  I’m also a grammar geek, so the term is NOT a put-down.  Grammar geeks of the world, I love you!  And I love reading your blogs.  Y’all writes real good!

There’s a saying that luck favors the prepared.  So when you’re driving some country back roads–in this case, in the Palouse region of eastern Washington–and a handsome horse ambles over to the fence to say hello…well, it would’ve been rude to just keep on driving.

When the same horse lines himself up with the stable and quaint weathered silo just behind him, looks right at you, and even puts both ears forward (mandatory in horse portraits, in case you didn’t know)…well, you know the photo gods are smiling down on you from the rainy heavens, and you’ve just GOT to memorialize the moment.

Sometimes when you’re out for a drive in the country, a photograph just seems to present itself.  That was the case on this particular day when I was driving the back roads of the Palouse region in eastern Washington.

This image was taken right from the side of the road.  The fence provided a nice foreground, and repeats twice more in the background.  The barn is framed by the fences and the road.  The hills repeat a number of times as you look towards the horizon.  The fences, road and hills form an interesting “Z” pattern that draws you from the foreground through the image, to the barn, and on past it into the distant hills.

Many people would be happy with this image.  And I’m one of them.  However, in my book, it’s not a “10.”

What would I change, if I could?

  • the lighting (I was glad the rain stopped–nay, overjoyed–but golden light, or storm light, would’ve been ideal.  The lighting, though not mid-day harsh, is a tad flat.)
  • the sky (Blue’s nice–better than white–but also bland and boring.  Some puffy white cumulus, or even dark storm clouds, would add interest.)
  • delete the utility pole, and maybe the small outbuilding to the left of the barn as well (Do you want a documentary image, or an artistic one?)
  • use a smaller aperture for greater depth of field (This was shot at f 8, and while the fence is sharp, the barn is a bit fuzzy for my taste.)

I know I’m being picky here, but that’s how one becomes a better photographer, by always striving for perfection.  The lighting and sky were what I had to work with.  Short of waiting several hours for sunset (and chancing more rain), it had to do.  Same with the sky. It was what it was.

I can always edit out the utility pole and the outbuilding if I decide they really bug me.  And as for the aperture, too late.  Mental note to keep it in mind next time.

I give this an “8.”

I also shot lots of birds and even some elk…and that was just on this one two-week road trip!

Just to ensure there are no misunderstandings, I’m talking about shooting with a camera, NOT with a gun.

If you haven’t tried it, a car makes a wonderful blind, and many animals will tolerate being photographed from a vehicle, whereas they’ll bolt as soon as you try to get out of the vehicle.

At the very least, I’ll take some “insurance” shots from the vehicle before attempting to get closer on foot.

I did a lot of my shooting from the car on this particular road trip due to the almost constant rain.  I wanted to stay dry (and warm) and I didn’t want to expose my camera gear to the rain needlessly, either.

A partial list of the critters I shot from the car on this road trip includes:

  • cows (and calves)
  • horses
  • mules
  • sheep
  • grizzly bears (captive)
  • wild turkeys
  • killdeer
  • ravens
  • great horned owls
  • osprey
  • great egrets
  • yellow-bellied marmots
  • deer
  • elk

If the weather’s icky and/or the animals skittish, I shoot through a partially open window.  If the weather’s good and the animals are relaxed, due to species and/or distance, I’ll shoot through the open sunroof.

This image was made with a 400 mm lens.  As I was driving along, there were a couple of deer on the side of the road that bolted into the forest, then froze.  I was able to lower the passenger window while coasting the car to a stop without spooking the deer.  The woods were thick, but I was lucky and had a clear view of the torso and head of the deer.  I was able to get two quick shots before the deer continued on his way up the trail.

As I was chasing some lovely late afternoon light around the Palouse looking for something interesting to shoot, I passed a cemetery.  That is to say, I almost passed a cemetery.  I have a strange compulsion to drive into just about every cemetery I pass.  They’re one of my favorite places to shoot, and most of the time I have the place to myself.

This particular day was no exception.  The entire day was dark and rainy until perhaps an hour or two before sundown.  I was driving around trying to find a cool place to shoot sunset, and nothing was jumping out at me.  All the barns in the area were nondescript.  Same with the houses.  Even the hills in this area weren’t really talking to me.  For three full days I’d been waiting for good light, and shooting lovely things in the rain.  Now the light was right and I was stumped for a subject.

So as I was driving around the cemetery, which was on top of a hill, I came upon this view which (pardon the pun) stopped me dead in my tracks.  The evening light was making all the headstones cast wonderful long shadows.  The clouds were doing some post-storm interesting stuff in the sky.  And the way the road split and wrapped around the top of the hill in sensuous curves, almost as if it was embracing the land…

I normally shoot in cemeteries with a 100-200 mm lens, and don’t really think of them as a location for landscape photography, but I took this image with an 18 mm lens and made a mental note to myself to do more landscape photography in cemeteries in the future.

Travelling through the “Sea of Green” ( the title of several of my posts featuring the green fields of the Palouse in late Spring) I was quite literally stopped in my tracks by these stunning red (and yellow) farm machines.  Here are a few different looks at these eye-catching items.

In the image above, I like the abstractness of the composition, and the contrasting colors and textures of the machine and the silo behind it.  A telephoto lens isolated just a part of the machine, and appears to compress it against the silo behind it, which you can see in the image below is actually quite a ways away.

In the image below, shot with a wide-angle lens close to the ground, one can surmise that the machinery sitting in the middle of the field of wheat will come into play during the harvest…as will the silos in the background.  Proof that a “documentary” image and an “artistic” image CAN be one and the same.

In the image below, the parallel tubes of the machines remind me of cannons, or the big guns that are found on battleships.

I like the combination of colors in the image below.  I was also thrilled to see the most blue sky I had seen in several days of rain and overcast.  The low angle, late afternoon light made everything look good, from the green and gold of the field, to the warm reds and yellows of the machinery…it even gave the cold grey silo a pretty glow.

Here’s some different machinery in a different field.  The sharply focused, dark-green grasses in the foreground and soft hills in the background lend a sense of depth to this image.

In the final image, below, the machinery acts as the foreground, and the red color pulls you into the image.  Then your eyes are free to wander over the gently rolling hills and on to the horizon.  See you later…

 

In a small cemetery in the Palouse, an old grave marker stands tall, on not one but two separate pedestals.  I found the fuzzy orange lichen on the smooth white stone to be a lovely contrast of colors and textures.  Clearly this grave has been here for many decades.  Look at the beautiful weathering on the lamb’s head and body in the image below, polished like a river rock by many years of rain and sleet and snow and wind.

I hope he’s able to keep his silent vigil for many more years before he eventually erodes and crumbles away into an unrecognizable lump of stone.  While some people might find him already too old and weather-worn for their liking, to me he is absolutely perfect just as he is.

Fun patterns are made in the wheat crops that cover the hills of the Palouse.  The warm sidelighting emphasizes the furrows of the plows and the tracks of the machinery.  I love how the planting patterns accentuate the topography.