Everybody needs a hobby, and in my case, I like to photograph barns 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.
If my avocation sounds interesting to you, here’s my personal rules for photographing barns. Keep in my that these are my rules for me. Treat them as suggestions for your own photography.
- Rule 1: Always ask permission. Don’t walk onto someone’s land as if you own it. Look for “No Trespassing” signs and honor them if found. I used to keep prints of my barn photographs to show people what I was doing, finding that once they understood what my photos looked like they would be more accommodating. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. Now I keep images on an iPad. They’re more portable and don’t get wrinkled.
- Rule 2: Follow the press photographers adage of “f/8 and be there” and keep a camera in your car as you drive around your area.
- Rule 3: Select the smallest possible lens aperture to get the greatest depth of focus. In photographing barns, I prefer to shoot at the smallest possible apertures, preferring f/16 or smaller. And don’t forget that the total area of focus is one-third in front of the object in sharp focus and two-thirds behind to get all of the important details in clear detail. Most digital SLRs that have a monochrome option that let you apply digital filters to the image to produce dramatic skies and snappy, contrasty images. The aobe image was created using an IR-converted camera by LifePixel.
- Rule 4: Use the lowest possible ISO setting. That may result in slow shutter speeds which is why I keep a tripod in the back of my car. Using a tripod slows the pace of photography and spend the extra time making sure the composition is exactly the way I want. Tip: Look 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 looking at the downloaded digital images on my computer.
Tip: Try infrared by having an old camera that’s gathering dust converted to IR-only operation. You can save some processing time when converting your camera to infrared, by using the coupon code “farace” at LifePixel. Joe is the author of the out-of-print four-star “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography” that’s available used from Amazon.com.