Today I want to introduce you to one of my favorite photographic subjects: Barns. I was introduced to the idea about 15 years ago by my my old friend, fine arts photographer Bill Craig. Now whenever I see a barn, I start looking for my camera. all images ©2012 Joe Farace
I like to photograph barns—the older the better and as the Colorado landscape has become ever more urbanized, I’ve been forced out onto the eastern prairie in search of old farm structures to capture using film and digital cameras. The above structure was photographed in digital infrared and, in the exception that proves the rule, is located near my former home. Today that barn is surrounded by fences and all of it’s outbuilding have been demolished.
When shooting my series of barn photographs I keep a few internal rules that keep me put of trouble.
Rule number 1 to always ask permission before making a photograph and don’t just walk onto someone’s private property as if you own it. Look for “No Trespassing” signs and honor them if found. You can always make shots like the above from the shoulder of the road, as I did in the below photograph.
Rule number two is follow the press photographers adage of “f/8 and be there” and use the smallest possible lens aperture to get the greatest depth of focus. In photographing landscapes (See “How I Photograph Landscapes“) I like to shoot at the smallest possible apertures, preferring f/11 or smaller. I also like to use a polarizing filter for color photographs or an (in-camera) red filter in direct monochrome capture for black snappy, contrasty images. Remember that the total area of acceptable focus is one-third in front of the (focused on) object and two-thirds behind it. Keeping this rule in mind will help you capture all of the important details in the scene in clear detail.
Rule Number 3. I prefer to use the slowest possible ISO setting and when used with a polarizing filter this combination produces slow shutter speeds so I always keep a tripod in my trunk. Even a car as small as my MINI Cooper has room for a tripod. Using a tripod also slows the pace of photography and I use the extra time to make sure that the composition is exactly the way I want. One of my oldest compositional tricks is to first glance at each corner of frame before snapping the shutter. This eliminates unpleasant surprises—stuff that seemed to come of out nowhere to ruin an image—when I finally look at the image files on my 23-inch widescreen monitor.
Rule Number 4. If someone challenges me or wants to talk, I used to bring prints along to show them what I do. Now the photos are stored on an iPad and I let the person flip through the images while they hold the iPad. Most times when they see that I’m trying to make pictures that they can appreciate, they become friendly and let me make pictures I might not otherwise be able to make. With photography under fire in so many areas, take the time to make a friend.