Friday, 30 August 2019 13:05

Still Life with Barnloft

Over the past seven years Bonnie and I have had the great privilege of visiting well over a hundred of the beautiful Appalachian barns of Madison County, North Carolina. Most of them, we have come to know intimately for their charm, beauty, and history, on the outside, as well as the inside. Of all of them, the loft of the Henry Peek barn is perhaps the most intriguing. It is a tobacco tradition history center and a still life photographer's dream. It would be easy, literally, to spend hours here going through the flotsam and debris of a hundred years of a particular type of farming that was the heart of the Madison County economy for a very long time.

A focal length of 32mm, technically wide-angleland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted to reveal just part of the tools and implements on hand. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and an ISO of 400 allowed for a shutter speed of 25.0 seconds and an overall medium exposure. The absolute stillness allowed for the shutter to remain open for that long without motion blur; and, standing by my tripod, I was without movement or breath.

The barns of Madison County are sources of beauty and repositories of a vanished tradition that has much to share with us about who we are as people and as a community.

Read 220 times


  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Saturday, 07 September 2019 14:06 posted by Donald McGowan

    Good afternoon Everyone. Thank you all very much for joining me for this conversation. It's always a joy to be able to share my love of Appalachian barns with anyone; and when, in turn, it can become the foundation for a delightful conversation about these wonderful old structures, you can't wish for much more than that.
    Hey Kev, it's great to have you with me. Having shared Madison County with you and Elizabeth, and having noted your reaction to these structures, I truly appreciate the commentary you have shared. For me, the interesting thing was that the light was completely natural. The opening at the end of the loft allowed for a good deal of light which made the objects in the foreground well-lit, while the light coming in under the eave at the back had a more golden tone to it and was strong enough to illuminate the back of the image with detail and a bit of warmth. The other interesting thing I experienced in composing this was that for all of the apparent clutter, there was a sublime orderliness that came across as my eyes moved from place to place. Someone had deeply loved this barn and worked to present it as a whole. Be well, my friend.
    Hey Ron. It's great to hear from you. I know you would live this place, just for the reasons you have described. And you would have no trouble at all spending the day here, for it is, very much, a house of treasure. Hope you have a beautiful fall season.
    Hi Chuck. It's always good to have you join us. I hope all is well with you. Tomorrow we begin a new Road Scholar adventure, and we can look back on our adventure from nearly a year ago when you were with us. I appreciate you use of the term "quietness" in describing a 25 second exposure; and I think I'd add "breath-holding" to go along with it. It was fun, no matter what.
    Hey Ray. I do appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and impressions with us. I think of "key" as having more to do with highlights and shadows. A high-key image has a lot of bright area and very little darkness or shadow area. You might think of it in terms of contrast, or lack thereof; but I associate contrast with many other things and tend to avoid using it when talking about "key." Lightness and brightness are terms I associate most often with key. Have an excellent week.
    Hey Nancy T. I knew you would have an excellent story to share with us; and I knew I would not be disappointed. I hope you have been well. Sadly, you're so right: most millennials would find it difficult to relate here, which makes our capacity for story all the more important. Character, endurance, longevity: you have captured the essence of this old structure exactly: all the happenings, all the hopes and dreams, all of the heartbreak. Barns are like classrooms for the Days of Our Lives. This Image will, definitely, make it to the book. Take good care, my Dear. Let's talk soon.
    Howdy Charles. Careful, you'll give away all of our secrets. Most of my mornings, it seems, tend to start off this way; fortunately, they seem to always improve. We are looking forward to seeing you soon. It's time to begin going your cool "weather prayers" and a rain dance periodically. It's time to start calling in" the color. Hopefully, we can keep up with each other's travels on our separate journeys to the UP.
    Hi Bob. I hope you have been well and I really appreciate your joining us for this discussion and for your kind words. We'll let Charles create a slideshow of his adventure and share it with everyone.
    Thanks, again, Everyone for being part of our creative photography family; and I'm really serious about those "cool" weather dances and rain prayers. It these weather patterns keep up, it's going to a fall season filled with challenge. Walk in Beauty.

  • Comment Link Robert F Wilson Monday, 02 September 2019 12:39 posted by Robert F Wilson

    Don, This is wonderful.

  • Comment Link Charles Vanderlkolk Monday, 02 September 2019 10:03 posted by Charles Vanderlkolk

    As an older person, my first reaction was 'This reminds me of how I feel about my life in certain moments.' I agree with one of the comments about clutter in the photo; it seems so appropriate in this situation.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 01 September 2019 17:01 posted by Nancy Tripp

    This image is all about character, endurance, longevity, and a poster for wabi sabi. It is a puzzle of secrets and forgotten laughter and tears. It should be required reading for all millennials. It is so very real; like something in a museum.

    I like the contrast of the temperature changing from a cool light at the entrance to very warm at the top. I was thinking I should count the lines, but they are everywhere; in the wood, the little rays of sunshine in the roofing, and straw. There are also a few circles scattered around in the barrels, ropes and fabric.

    This is another image I don't want to leave. I hope it finds it's way to a school book or barn book, or a billboard someday. Thanks for sharing.

  • Comment Link Ray Foote Sunday, 01 September 2019 12:08 posted by Ray Foote

    Don, such an interesting image that pulls me in. I want to explore those recesses and dusty corners. This image also has a distinctive "tone" (I've heard the term "key" before, but not sure I understand it). Wonderful textures. And, what strong movement up and out. Oh, and did I mention DOF and contrast and balance and... Great job, my friend!

  • Comment Link Charles  dildine Sunday, 01 September 2019 10:04 posted by Charles dildine

    The diversity of components that make up the barn paraphernalia are so individually clear and the texture of each are do distinct it is amazing how you were able to maintain quietness with your camera and lens for 25 sec. Well done.

  • Comment Link Ron Belovitz Sunday, 01 September 2019 09:21 posted by Ron Belovitz

    Pretty nice! I'll bet that barn is a treasure trove of interesting things to photograph. You just have to look around, "get tuned in", and spend the next couple of hours with your eyes to the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter release.

  • Comment Link Kevin Desrosiers Sunday, 01 September 2019 09:17 posted by Kevin Desrosiers

    Love the story this image tells and how it brings you back in history. Normally, I try to simplify and declutter my shots as much as possible to provide a central focus, however in this case, without the clutter and chaos, the message would be lost. The brightness of the foreground accomplished that since my eyes were drawn there first, but I also made it to the tobacco hangers (aka walking sticks) and to the cloth hanging on the left. I also think the depth of field is perfect, because having the background in focus adds to the story, and once again, the brightness of the foreground tells me where the main focus is. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Site copyright © 2001 - 2019 Don McGowan & EarthSong Photography. 

All Rights Reserved.