One of my favorite photographic subjects is barns and farmsteads. Old barns, shiny new barns, grain bins and silos are all photogenic in my view, but I particularly like the old, weathered wood and rusted steel, slate, or shingle roofed barns that have some “character” to them. The opening image is the farmstead of my Uncle, Holden Doane, and his son Tennyson, who have farmed this working Vermont Dairy farm for over 60 years. I have never gotten an image of the farmstead I was satisfied with. Playing around with my newly-acquired Nik Viveza software a few months back, I found I was able to make adjustments to this one that made it as pleasing an image as I have been able to make of this farm so far.
There are barns I have driven by many times with the thought that I would like to photograph them. Too often, I am on my way somewhere for work, or with family members, or passing during a time of day when the light is just not right. Often, the barns are visible from a highway and I pass them 55-70 miles per hour, thinking that one day I will have time to slow down, explore and maybe find a vantage point from which to shoot them. Other times, I have actually found the time to stop and spend some time photographing them. I have accumulated a few barn photos in the last several years. I recently did a major upgrade to my Light Room Software (from the original version all the way to LR4 in a single step). After struggling with the upgrade to the catalog file, I decided maybe simply starting from scratch was a better idea, and used the opportunity to better structure my image management categories. Barns became a category, and as I collected them, I started to see images I had, frankly, forgotten. The next few Blogs will be a series on barns.
Vermont is a good place to start, since I have probably photographed more barns in Vermont than in any other place. In Vermont, barns were often built so close to the road, it sometimes seems they are on the road (indeed, there is a barn near Stowe where the road actually passes under it). This barn was on Route 15, just outside of Hardwick, Vermont. I drove by, turned around, and came back, finding a place a ways down the road where I could get my car off the road and out of the image, then hiked back along the narrow shoulder with my gear, to set up almost in the traffic lane to get this image. There is no doubt this image would be nicer in better light, but again, Viveza to the rescue, yielded a passable result.
There is no “barn scene” that says, “traditional Vermont working dairy farm” better than the Hillside Acres Farm in Barnet, Vermont.
Barns can play a critical part in a pastoral, or village scene, especially, it seems, in New England. Two famous village shots involve barns as a central element. Waits River Village, a scene, made famous by (among others) Massachusetts photographer Arnold John Kaplan, uses traditional, gable-roofed, weathered barns to frame the church in the center of the village.
In this oft-photographed view of the quaint, “Northeast Kingdom” Village of Peacham (home of famous photographer Robert Brown), the rustic, old, traditional hip-roofed red barn counterbalances the white “New England” church and gives the scene its essential rural Vermont character.
One of the things that can make a barn stand out is its traditional, red color. Red draws the eye, is an active color, and emerges in any image. I liked the way the red barn balances the sweeping fenceline and the lone, grazing horse in this image.
The small, red, barn on the Upper Hollow Road in Stowe, Vermont is another iconic traditional Vermont Barn. This barn is maintained by a conservancy and is perhaps one of the most photogenic barns I have ever shot.
Red barns, and weathered wood barns are ubiquitous in the United States. But another Vermont tradition is the whitewashed barn and there is no better specimen than this barn on Burton Hill Road in Barton. This is far and away my favorite “Vermont” image.