An adventure and a lesson for good measure

Last week I told you about my visit to the farm of good friends who raise dairy beef and replacement heifers. What I did not report then was that there was an abandoned farmhouse on the property and it beckoned. After asking for permission to walk the barns and outbuildings, I wondered if it might be alright to grab some shots of the outside of the house. My friend graciously agreed and then, having completed chores, jumped into his truck and drove off. Because I had only asked about investigating the outside of the farmhouse, and because I wasn’t quite sure about its structural integrity, I only peeked in through the backdoor which was open. It invited me to explore, but I resisted temptation. Today, because it has remained wet, and because hay making was not on the agenda, I drove to the river again and was glad to see my friend there, in the middle of morning chores. I asked about the building and whether anyone had been in it recently. I believe he said that his grandparents used to live there, that it was last occupied by tenants about twenty years ago, and yes he had been in it recently. I knew, because of its very close proximity to the river, that the basement and first floor must flood. I asked if the place was sound. He said that he thought it was. I asked how much longer chores would take. He thought an hour or so. I checked my phone to see that I had his number. I did. I asked if he had his phone with him. He did. I said, Don’t leave until I check in with you again. And so it was, with some trepidation and gentle footsteps, that I explored the building. It was fascinating and I must say that the resulting images remind me very much of those by Patrycja Makowska which were recently highlighted in the Style section of CNN’s web portal. Because of excessive moisture the place wasn’t often shut up and the interior showed much evidence of exposure and of the local animal population. There wasn’t much furniture but the little that remained allowed me to determine the location of the kitchen, bedrooms, bath and sitting rooms.

You may be interested to know that all of the images posted here were processed as HDRs (high dynamic range). You can imagine that the lighting conditions inside this neglected home were pretty tough. There was high intensity light coming in through the windows (too much light causes photos to be over-exposed). The rooms were illuminated by ambient light which filtered through trees which surround the building (this light would have allowed me to properly expose some small fraction of each scene). Corners and recesses, as well as the visible parts of adjoining rooms, were in near-darkness (not enough light causes photos to be under-exposed). So, in much the same way that your eyes would need to adjust to each of the different lighting regimes, a camera would have an equally difficult time making sense out of the extremes. Think about how you might solve such a problem? How about taking a number of images, some of short duration to catch the brights, some of longer duration to catch the well lighted parts of the scene, and some of much longer duration to catch the darkest parts of the room? The first shots will show nicely exposed windows, but everything else in the scene will be under-exposed. The last shot will show nicely exposed recesses, but everything else will be over-exposed. The gallery below shows the seven bracketed shots I took to capture all of the detail in this room. A computer program such as Photomatix Pro will take all of these images and make a digital sandwich from them. It will then retain all of the properly exposed bits of the individual shots. The photo below the gallery is the one which headed up this post (click it for a nice, high-resolution, view) and is the result of HDR processing with Photomatix, and reprocessing with Lightroom. Pretty amazing stuff, don’t you think?

26 thoughts on “An adventure and a lesson for good measure

  1. It’s amazing! Quite often our technologies try to emulate what it is our senses do. From time to time, though, the technologies actually enhance what we are able to do. Photography is likely one of the most significant of all of those. There are so many applications: astronomy, storytelling, biology (of course) just to name a few. While looking at the HDR final copy I am again reminded of how the technology allows us to see in ways we could not possibly do so otherwise. And it’s also beautiful.

    • Absolutely. It was clear, while walking around the place, that it was beautiful … but the light was so contrasting that it was very difficult to get a good view of the place … the HDR, as you point out, is one technology that is helpful in this regard. Beware, however, many photographers ‘over do’ its effects. I am always worried I will overstep that not-so-invisible boundary. D

  2. Hmmm, I’m pretty sure I know or at least have a pretty good idea where the original pictures where taken…as well as the one of the bus from the other post. πŸ™‚

    • Ha! I was waiting to see whether you’d respond to those images. It was very nice of J to allow me access to photograph the place. It’s really too bad that renovation isn’t an option. Quiet, secluded, nice floor plan … everything you’d want in a home. Even before looking around I had thought it a wonderful place. When walking the rooms and stairways one can almost hear stories from the past emanating from the corners and darker recesses. By the way … very hearty congratulations on your recent news about school … totally terrific. D PS: Perhaps I’ll see you in Mackeyville?

      • Yes, it is sad that such a nice place isn’t viable for living anymore. Over the years we have talked about fixing it up. It would be such a huge investment and commitment in both time and money. I would love to see it fixed up and lived in by one of my brothers. And thank you! Stay tuned for posts on this new adventure! And perhaps we will cross paths in Mackeyville. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks again Tree Girl. Many times I have wondered where my emphasis for this blog may lay … is it the writing … is it the photos? Between us, I like to think it’s the photos … at least, I don’t see myself as much of a writer. Anyway, I always appreciate comments which make special reference to the quality of the images. D

      • I like the mix here very much. Sometimes it’s all about the photos. Sometimes it’s an update on what’s happening around the farm. Lots of variety and interest.

    • Ugh! I’ve commented elsewhere that I’m not often a fan of HDR … but for this application, and held in check, it seems to have worked well. I repeat … Ugh. D

  3. Fascinating technique! Though the dark and overexposed images seem more “realistic” at first glance, the way you post-processed the photo rather made it appear in the way you remember/saw that room, correct? Could it be that sandwiching these different photos is somewhat similar to the way our brains merge different impressions of a place … when we think about it?

    • Interesting … and surely. Our brains remember only those details which are particularly noteworthy – we bind these together as recollection and memory. The HDR processing is a bit different in that the algorithms drive retention of a very particular, and narrow spectrum or slice, of each exposure. Who’s to say what it is we remember about past experiences? Isn’t it funny to think what it is our brains choose to retain? It just so happens that Joanna and I had pizza the other day … really good pizza, and that got my memory going and reminded me of a pizza place that my parents used to take my sisters and me, during the summer, when I was very young. I remembered the seats, the bottles of soda, and … funny enough … one very particular waitress that served us summer after summer. Now, why did I remember HER and not some other detail? We’ll never know. Thanks for getting me to THINK of this! D PS: Perhaps I’ll form a memory of having this discussion of the ways in which memories form! Did I just have a mobious-thought?

      • Our knowledge and memories are quite dynamic, as I understood from popular articles. When we think about something we change those memories … so we are probably post-processing all the time … enhancing our favorite or most important memories.

  4. I’ve never explored an old building like this although I have been in a couple. This looks so interesting and must have been quite enjoyable walking around and discovering little things about the house. Nice job with the HDR too.

  5. Amazing images! I love the irony of the paint tray on the chair, complete with peeling paint. That amazing window with the pink curtains must have offered a beautiful view. These really belong in a very nice journal or magazine, the kind people keep old back issues to review again and again.

    • You are so very kind M. The place was so poorly illuminated that I wasn’t aware of the paint tray until Joanna pointed it out! Although I really do find photo expeditions such as this lots of fun, comments such as those you’ve offered this morning make me just a little bit proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. Your interest and appreciation spur me on to learn more about processing images such as these. Just before I clicked into my WordPress account I had been reading up on what are called Luminosity Masks. These allow very precise adjustments to be made to a range of tonal values in an image. I’ve been afraid of them for quite some time, only because they have seemed like such a complex thing to learn to do (in Photoshop, which I yet to purchase). I think I suffer from just a bit of the ‘I-belong-to-the-wrong-generation-to-be-doing-this-kinda-stuff’ syndrome! But again, your appreciation gives me motivation to forge ahead! Thanks much. D

      • I think one of the more exciting things about generation gaps is that we can be “other” in the technology, much like strangers visiting a foreign country. In this way we don’t have a list of rules or sets of expectations, and can step far enough away from the box to stumble upon something exciting. Keep at it! Your photos this summer have been very exciting indeed.

    • Thanks you so much for the words of approbation Julie. I worked on this post for the better part of two days, off-and-on of course, and am please that the photos had some appeal for you. I just took a quick look at gardeningjules … I have always wanted to see Puffins, you were lucky to have been able to spend a bit of time with them. Thanks for stopping by today and for taking the time to comment. D

  6. This sandwich technique produced the most gorgeous photo! I am a fan of design/restoration shows on HGTV and this photo brings to mind so many episodes! You have made this room gorgeous! It simply glows. I love the colors and the light. Too bad it has been neglected so. You might tell your friend that the light fixture in the ceiling is probably worth some money! People are always looking for vintage lights!

    • Yeah, that was my first thought as well. It’s really too bad that the place has deteriorated. It is in the flood plain however and, even if it were to be restored, there would always be a threat of more damage by flooding. They just don’t build structures like this anymore. The floor plan is simple, spacious, and thoughtfully set out. I’d love to live there if it were fixed up. The owner says that the outside walls are sound but everything, including the supporting elements joists and main beams) would, most likely, need to be replaced to make the place safe. It’s also situated down by the river, far from the main road. It’s quiet … with only the Susquehanna and bird song to keep you company … day and night. From the way I talk it sounds like there’s perhaps room in me for one last farm renovation? Who knows.

  7. Yes, it is pretty amazing stuff. I love the effect here too. I’m not usually much of a fan of HDR images, but I like these very much. Impressive, Farmer. BTW, you visited the Deano post before I finished it. πŸ™‚

    • Yup … I’ve been back to your retrospective … sorry I jumped the gun. Did you hit ‘publish’ before you meant to? I’ve done that too, on a couple of occasions … that can be so frustrating! WordPress should add an ‘Are you sure?’ button, to prevent such mishaps. I agree on your observation concerning HDR … it’s kinda like seasonings in your food (like salt!) … they both can be overdone if you’re not careful. I think I have tamed Photomatix though by only allowing it to do the digital sandwiching and by staying away from the crazy effects it can apply. Thanks for checking in George. D

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