Virginia Barn
Image submitted by Ian Mylam (published on Sep 1, 2011) comments and reactions
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Images © Ian Mylam (all rights reserved)

image notes

focal length
shutter speed
4.04pm 28/3/11
Nikon D700
Nikon AF-S Zoom 24-70mm f/2.8G ED-IF

I was driving through Virginia, U.S.A., and happened to glance to my left, at which point this cloud formation over the old barn on the hill literally stopped me in my tracks and had me scrambling for my camera and tripod. Ideally, I would have liked to use a graduated ND filter to balance the exposure of the sky against the land at the time of image capture, but I was conscious of the need to set up quickly before the cloud formation dissipated. My haste was justified, as I only had time to grab one frame before the clouds broke up and disappeared.

For me, this image was all about the beautiful graphic simplicity of the compositional elements of the three clouds over the barn together with the hill and the rock in the foreground. The position and shape of the clouds was so perfect, I remember thinking at the time that if a painter was creating this scene, he might well elect to paint the clouds exactly where they were at that moment.

I felt that rendering the image in colour would add nothing to what I was trying to communicate, so elected to convert the image to black and white, which - in addition to focussing attention on the shapes in the image rather than their colour - also allowed me to quickly and easily darken the sky and lighten the foreground by biasing the b&w conversion, helping to balance the exposure across the frame. I also removed the partially visible cloud at the top of the frame in post which I felt added nothing to the composition and simply pulled the eye upwards and out of the frame.

In addition to cloning out the unwanted cloud and converting to black and white, I rotated the image very slightly to ensure that the walls of the barn were vertical. I also used three masked curves to adjust the tones of the sky, barn and foreground respectively prior to the b&w conversion, and used the Topaz Adjust plug-in to bring out the detail of the wood in the barn, as well as 'dodging' the grass in the centre of the frame in order to lighten the tones there and lead the eye into the frame towards the barn. Finally, I added a slightly warm tint to the monochrome image.

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