Finding the Right Subject and then Refining Your Photographic Vision « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Finding the Right Subject and then Refining Your Photographic Vision

The Streak Continues: 192

It is 3:32am in Pullman, WA as we get ready to head out early to Steptoe Butte. We enjoyed a lovely sunrise yesterday morning and then spent a few hours exploring around Moscow, ID. In the afternoon we spent some quality time with a lovely century old farmhouse in an idyllic setting.

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This post took 2 1/2 hours to prepare. Enjoy!


This 3-frame in-camera Art Vivid HDR image was created at 9:15am on a bright, sunny, clear blue sky day on Sunday June 8 with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (hand held at 105mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stops +/- two stops around the base exposure of 1/400 sec. at f/11 in Av mode.

AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the triangular top of the barn and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Pink Barn in Green Hills with parked John Deere tractor

Barns, Barns, and More Barns

There are thousands of barns in the Palouse area. New barns, old barns, decrepit barns, collapsing barns. Photography-wise most are not worth a second look. We decided to spend a good deal of our time avoiding the already cliched barns and search out those off the beaten path. And sleep be damned, that is just what we have been doing. On Monday, June 9 we ventured into Idaho and came up with a few gems. More on those soon. All three of the images here were photographed on the mornings of June 5 and 6.

What do we look for? Barns with character. Barns in clean settings. If a barn meets those two qualifications–few do, the next thing to consider is light angle and light quality; when would be the best time to photograph this one? What is the best angle to the subject; how does that choice affect the background? The final piece of the puzzle is the quality of light. The soft, diffused light on cloudy bright days is always good. Early and late light will always be sweet. And when photographing barns sidelight can actually work well. And on rare occasions, as above, strong direct sunlight on a clear blue sky day can be perfect.

To separate the peak of the barn roof above from the line between the dark grass and the light green grass we needed to take turns standing on the vehicle with the car door opened. Join us next year and you will learn the fine points that raise the quality of your images to new levels.

Image Question

Would you have eliminated the contrail in the upper right corner of the image? Why or why not?


This three-frame Art Vivid HDR image was created at 8:46am on June 8, 2014 with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the internal extender in place at 420mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero +/- two stops around the base exposure of 1/500 sec. at f/11 in Av mode. AWB.

Central Sensor/Surround/AI Servo-Rear Focus AF on the window frame and recompose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Old Barn Window

Working Tight

This barn was located quite close to the barn above. But the overall setting was nowhere near as strong so I went long lens: 200-400 with the internal 1.4X TC in place brought me to 420mm. Being able to zoom in and out allows me to frame each image meticulously as I did with the barn window detail image above.


This 3-frame in-camera Art Vivid HDR image of a decrepit barn was created at 10:46am yesterday, June 7, 2014 in cloudy bright conditions with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Fisheye Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens (at 15mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 stops +/- two stops around the base exposure of 1/400 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Gitzo 3530 LS tripod with the Giottos MH 1302-655 (Tiny) BallHead. Wimberley P-5 camera body plate.

AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the nearest corner of the barn and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Decrepit Barn

Pure Magic

We could not believe our eyes when we spotted the image above. Actually, we found this one thanks to a tip from Denise’s friend Eloise. We were blessed with an exquisitely decrepit barn, soft light, and a cloudy sky rich with detail. Notice in today’s blog post how I used three different lenses and three vastly different focal lenghts: 105mm, 15mm, and 420mm. It is all in the eyes of the beholder….

Your Favorite?

Please take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the 3 images is your favorite, and do let us know why.


I created all of the images in this composite on last year’s July Nickerson Beach IPT.
All copyright 2013: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version

Nickerson Baby Beach-nesting Birds IPT: 3-Full Days/July 15-17, 2014: $1199. Introductory meet and greet: 8pm, Monday, July 14, 2014. Co-leaders Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito

Greg Gulbransen is very much looking to this IPT. Join us on Long Island, NY this summer to photograph Black Skimmers, Common Terns with chicks, American Oystercatcher families, and possibly some just-hatched Black Skimmer chicks. Things are looking great. The opportunities will include chances to photograph a variety of breeding behaviors including courtship feeding, display flight and combat, and copulations. Car-pooling is recommended; if we opt to return to the beach before 5pm there is a $30/vehicle parking fee that is not included so it is best to share that expense. Parking in the morning is free.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. Your balance is due 4 months before the date of the IPT and is also non-refundable. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

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9 comments to Finding the Right Subject and then Refining Your Photographic Vision

  • Chris Houston

    The window closeup is my favorite one by far. I’m often more of a details guy than a wide view guy when it comes to manmade things. Love the textures. The broken pane really pushes it over the top, too.

  • My fav is the Old Barn Window. Love the simple composition with the vertical lines of the red barn wood and that single broken window in the lower right, anchored in a layer of green grass. Speaks volumes to me.
    Great layering lines & colors in the pink barn and the green rolling hills. But I am not a fan of the modern bright green tractor. Would prefer it was gone. But it is nice that it is as symmetrical appearing as the barn.
    Great super interesting angles in the fish eye image, but again the tractor seems like an intrusion. Tractors pull me out of the emotion of the rest of the image, and make me think of the hard reality of farm work.

  • Ted Willcox

    Decrepit Barn, my favourite, and I have enjoyed your post!!

  • Art Buesing

    The Contrail spoils the the repeating triangles, beginning with the barn roof peak and moving up and to the right. The final triangle is the inverted one where the hills meet. The contrail just does not belong.

  • Jim Brown

    I would get rid of it. Pulls my eye to it. If it was a real cloud with form, I, would most likely, leave it.

  • Loren Charif

    I’d leave it; there is so much other rich information in that image (barn, rolling hills, lone tree on the hillside) that the contrail is barely of interest, and it keeps the image true to the way you saw it.

    I prefer the decrepit barn (image #3); it’s very unique, lots of detail, and the barn looks the way I feel at my advanced age 🙂

  • I think I would remove it (if we are talking about the white curve to the right of the trees). It takes my eye out of the frame. The trees and clouds or dissipating contrails on the left balance each other and the barn is the balance point with its peak exactly midway between. There are already many wonderful lines in the image. This contrail seems like one too many. The symmetrical doorway with its symmetrical shadow fit nicely with the strong blue sky day. I like the contrast of the symmetry and straight lines of the barn with the gentle curves behind it.
    The next two images are wonderful as well

  • Nope, wouldn’t have removed it. Gives the image some balance with the barn
    in the somewhat lower left and the tree in the upper right. I also like
    how it seems to be laying against the hill.

    Plus, as an added bonus, you have that white arcing cloud right next to
    the tree. So even if the tree wasn’t there, you’d still have that.


    • Sorry, thought the contrail was the tree. Hey, I’m a programmer 🙂

      Even so, I’d still leave it in even more. The more I look at it,
      and this will sound strange, but it reminds me of checkers in
      that you can “leap” from the tree to the contrail to the border.