I took the picture of this barn a couple of days ago while I was spending another week in Northwest Arkansas. What originally drew my attention to the scene was how the red barn and bales of hay just seemed to the capture the essence of a farm. However, when I initially saw this, I didn’t have my camera with me, and, even if I had, the coat and tie I was wearing was certainly not conducive to outdoor photography.
There were a number of obstacles to getting this picture. First, I wasn’t able to get back to my hotel room until about 5:00 which meant I would not get back to the location until at least 5:30. Second, I had plans to meet some co-workers for dinner at 6:30 that evening which meant I would have no more than 15 to 20 minutes to photograph before I had to go back and take a shower (it was quite hot and humid). Given these two facts, I decided I would wait until the next day when I would have more time.
As I entered the hotel parking lot, I noticed a thunderstorm cloud beginning to build on the horizon. I began thinking about how nice it would be to get some rain to cool the temperature down even if it was just a couple of degrees. But then I began picturing in my mind how the barn and bales of hay would look against the brewing storm. That was when I realized that if I didn’t go then, it was quite likely I would never have this same opportunity again. After all, second chances are never guaranteed to happen. I decided to quickly change clothes, go back to the location, and get whatever shots I could in the time I had available.
Jumping in my vehicle, I began racing back to the scene. That’s when I encountered my third and biggest obstacle – I had not anticipated how horrendous the traffic would be. I seemed to get stopped at every traffic light I encountered. And I seemed to get behind people who believed you should not drive any faster than half the speed limit – if the speed limit was 40, they were not going to go over 20. The result of all this was to turn what is normally a 20-minute drive into a 30-minute ordeal. But I pushed onward and finally got to where I was going.
When I arrived, the storm cloud was continuing to grow, but I quickly found it was in the wrong place for the image I had in mind. To get what I wanted, I had to walk across and along what, at 5:45 in the afternoon, is a very busy street. I finally found the spot I needed to get the shot I wanted – the red barn with the thunderstorm cloud behind it in the distance. I took the picture and then hurried back to my hotel room where I showered, changed clothes for the second time, and, incredibly, met my friends on time.
To get the final image, I tweaked the exposure, contrast, and saturation settings in Lightroom. I then brought the image into Photoshop where I cloned out a number of distracting power lines. I then applied the Tonal Contrast filter in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in to add more definition to the storm cloud. However, the filter created some banding problems in the sky. In order to correct this, I applied a layer mask and, using the brush tool, painted in the Tonal Contrast filter effect to just the cloud.
One final note: after I got my picture and began to drive back to the hotel, I looked back at the cloud and noticed it had begun to collapse. The rain I had hoped would provide a brief respite from the heat and humidity never came, and the next day was just as hot and just as humid as ever. You just have to love August in Arkansas!
Settings: Canon 5D Mk II, 58mm, 1/160 sec., f/22