Silo and perhaps a touch of Histo(plasma)

Silos are interesting and often beautiful things, especially the old ones. There was a small one here at the farm when we arrived. Because we didn’t intend to produce silage, we viewed the thing as a liability and, in any case, someone else could certainly have put it to better use. We placed the following add in the paper: Concrete slab silo. Free. You disassemble. You haul. Amish from Sugar Valley got in touch and the thing was gone within a week. The silo shown below stands tall at Wayne’s; I was there over the weekend. Joanna was spinning and so, as usual, I took a walk. I looked and discovered that the silo was empty. In one direction the concrete bunker on which I stood extended to form the foundation of the silo, and in the other it merged with the foundation of the barn. The floor of the bunker was five feet below ground level and I figured I could get down by climbing iron bars on the outside of the silo which formed supports for the wooden doors you can see in the image. The last few doors were not in place and the opening provided access to the inside. The floor was a foot lower than the lowest level of the bunker, I stepped down. As soon as I entered, everything became quiet. I looked around. There was no question of how I would compose this image, for there was only one obvious way (to me at least) to record the circular interior. I extended my tripod to its full height and turned the camera body straight up to place the central focus point on the roof far above. I’m not a tall person and, even so, I had to contort to get my eye under the camera to check the view. Looking straight up through the finder was like standing on my head – it made me quite dizzy. The light from above attenuated quickly as it traveled into the belly of the silo and it was quite dim where I stood. I would have to take a number of exposures and compile them, a technique I have discussed here before. The image below is a sandwich of thirteen images which ranged in exposure from 20 seconds to 1/30 second. The composite allows properly exposed views of all of the interior, including the brightly lit upper reaches and the very dimly lit bottom. I told my good friend Maurice that I had visited this place over the weekend, and that he should anticipate this image. I recounted that once I entered the confines of the structure my mind became myopically focused on photography. I was only dimly aware that the ground beneath my feet was spongy. Footfalls felt and sounded as if I was walking on a combination of peanut hulls and dry bath sponges. I did not think about the clouds of I-know-not-what that billowed each time I moved my feet. Eventually though, thoughts about the supportive capacity of the substrate became more and more intrusive. Perhaps I was standing on a sort of Crème brûlée made of little bits of corn, mold, and an accumulation of bird droppings. Perhaps I would, in an instant, find myself waist-deep in the unmentionable mix. The dust I was breathing became more and more of a preoccupation. The words Histoplasma, Cryptococcus, Salmonella, and E. coli had been flashing, just that-side of consciousness as to be a bother … then they began to impinge to a degree which I could no longer ignore. I took a few more shots and collapsed my tripod. With my back to the door I put one foot, and then the other, down to the ground gingerly and made for daylight. I backed out of the door, into the bunker, and made my way up and into the fresh air. I hope you enjoy the image below. Joanna observed that the depth of the structure was lost to her such that she saw everything as if it had been collapsed into a series of two-dimensional, and concentric, rings. What do you see? Before signing off, I wonder how many know of the fascinating series of I Spy books. I Spy Tyto … do you?


39 thoughts on “Silo and perhaps a touch of Histo(plasma)

  1. Thanks to Elke I’ve see this several times as she shared it on other social media as well. Yes it is quite an image; one that contrasts with where your feet were. Truly amazing! Dave – it’s a wonder you have feet left! Between working them to death on the farm, drowning them in every river you come across and now subjecting them to that toxic gross sludge bath. Don’t be surprised if, one day, they spontaneously dislocate from their various joints and kick your arse!

    • Well, I find that I change my socks quite frequently! Or, at least, Joanna sees to it that I change my socks quite frequently. The place was a bit more smelly than it was slippery. My biggest concern was what was in the clouds of dust I was breathing … somehow I don’t relish parasitic disease of the lung. Thanks, however, for your concern. Rest assured, Joanna continues to keep a very close watch on me. D

    • Thanks Seonaid. Although the access doors of the silo are made of wood, the rest of the thing is made of concrete or masonry slabs … I could not tell which. And, truth-be-told, the smell was not too bad … thoughts of what was in that dust bothered me more. Glad you like the image … I do too. D

  2. I’ve dropped a few trees figuring I could run the other way should things fall out badly. This is definitely a few cuts above. The only way I played the game was with a letter and guessing the object. Is that what is going on here? I tried to find out what Tyto was by Googling but came up empty.

      • Well, that’s embarrassing. Tyto even got by me when I was looking in Google and there were owls at the page tops. I tried and the best I could do was the entire picture being the face of the barn owl. Is that it?
        Do you see the barn owl here?

        • Is this like seeing faces in the clouds? I do see a pattern suggestive of the face of the Barn Owl on that center rock. As far as my owl … do you see, on the very top rim of the wall, a little spot at about nine o’clock? I believe the little one slept through my entire visit. Perhaps if you copy and paste my image into PS you can enlarge it and see the little bird. D

          • OK, I see it now … but I never would have picked it out without a hint. When I blow this file up in PS it just turns into a blob. Too small for details at web size. You were lucky it didn’t drop a pellet on you.

  3. This image might become my favorite – although it is difficult to pick one from your awesome collection of photos.

    I guess you anticipate what was my straight-forward mental connection: Star Gate, the tunnel you need to traverse before entering the spaceship through its shiny metal hatch, the aliens’ eerie beam of light already shining through…

    • Hey there Lightbox3d … I just dropped in to your site to look around and liked what I saw. Your comment here really means a lot. Thanks so much for taking the time to pass along the encouraging word. D

  4. It’s beautiful! I love the grays and browns … I can see Joanna’s 2D image and also can appreciate the full depth of the silo, really cool. It’s like staring up from the bottom of a well. Have you ever heard that if you stare up from the bottom of a well, you can see the stars, even during the day? I don’t know if that is true, but have come across it several times in books. Anyway, it’s an image that sticks with me and your lovely silo made me think of it. Gorgeous! PS – Audrey just said, “Wow, it’s so beautiful!” She is developing a good appreciation for art!

  5. That’s an excellent circular abstraction you’ve got here.

    I like your description of “a sort of Crème brûlée made of little bits of corn, mold, and an accumulation of bird droppings.” Bon appétit.

  6. It seems as if, more often than not, you risk life and limb for your art. The results are breathtaking, but do be careful where you tread. Fools rush in … you know the rest.

  7. Fabulous detail in this photograph, I have just revisited your page on how you achieved this and hope one day I can get to grips with your techniques. I am old school or maybe old and learnt about detail in a darkroom more years ago than I care to remember.

    • Have you explored the word of digital processing Julie? If so, what software are you using? If you haven’t, you should. You can do as little or as much with your images as you choose. I typically make only the sorts of adjustments that one would have been able to make in an old-fashioned darkroom. The technique used to create this image was done with a program called Photomatix. My general processing is done with Adobe Lightroom. Neither of these pieces of software is all that expensive and both can really open lots and lots of photographic potential. Also, are you shooting JPEG images or creating RAW files? The latter is a file format which really unleashes the digital possibilities of your images. I encourage you to be adventurous … there’s no reason not to be! D

      • Hello. No I haven’t but would like to. I shoot JPEG not RAW. Thank you for your encouragement. In the meantime I am enjoying looking at your work. 🙂

        • JPEG files contain a lot less information about your image than a RAW file does. RAW files represent ALL of the data collected by the camera sensor. JPEG files ‘toss’ or ‘average’ some of the data to produce smaller, easier to handle, files. If you don’t want to venture into the world of DSLRs, there are plenty of nice point-n-shoot cameras that can record digital data using the RAW technology. In either case (JPEG/RAW) a processor such as Lightroom will allow all sorts of adjustments, many of which could be made in the darkroom of days-gone-by … plus many others. And, trust me, the learning curve isn’t all that steep! D

          • I have a DSLR but have been both lazy and apprehensive of learning never mind mastering RAW possibilities. I have used Photoshop when (some time ago) I worked for a Graphic Design studio – on the production side, not the design side, so have a vague working knowledge of it. Thank you for nudging me along, I do appreciate it.

            • If you’ve got the DSLR and the software, then there’s nothing to keep you from dialing in RAW (in what may be called ‘quality’ options) and clicking away. You should set up a scene and shoot it in JPEG format, and then shoot the same scene in RAW. Load both images into Photoshop and notice that there are many more adjustment options open to you when working with the RAW file when compared to the number of options available to you when working the JPEG version of the same scene. RAW files are much larger than JPEG files and they contain lots and lots of detailed information about the scene. I was hesitant about taking the plunge too but, once I did … I never looked back. Try it … it’ll be fun. D

  8. Yowza! Technology sure did lend a hand in making this image a winner. You get to take the best part of each of 13 images and then make an amalgam to produce the best total image! This looks like it could be a cover of architectural digest. Are the silo walls made of wood? They almost look like metal. Interesting how the shapes look more rectangular as they reach the top. Must have felt a bit claustrophobic 5 feet down … kind of tomb-like! Did you ever figure out what you were stepping on? You put your health at risk AGAIN just to get that perfect shot. Job well done! PS. Wayne would be pleased to know that your visits to his farm were providing such rich fodder for your blog!

    • The walls were made of concrete slabs. Although it made it sound dramatic, I believe the concrete floor couldn’t have really been very far away and what I was walking on was probably a fairly thin accumulation of mostly bird droppings! By the way … did you understand the last reference to I Spy? If so … could you find Tyto?

  9. There is a lot to like contained in this image, David. I like your use of the full dynamic range inside the silo as well as the great texture and subtle color. I especially like the searchlight effect at the top. Creme Brule sounds much better than what you were standing in. I sure hope that is not what comes to mind the next time I have that dessert.

    • Thanks for the thumbs up Steve. I liked this image quite well myself. Sometimes you’re out there with the finder stuck to your face and you’re shooting and shooting for no real reason other than to hear the sound of that shutter. And, all the time, you’re pretty sure that nothing special is being recorded. Just more mundane images of mundane stuff. And then, every so often (more occasionally if you are lucky) you find yourself in a situation where you are absolutely convinced that what’s being recorded are really nice images … nice enough to be posted here. Stepping into the silo was one of those situations. I just knew there was an image there. It was simply a matter of finding it. I had my 14-24 along and was glad for it. I was amazed how the circular subject eliminated edge distortion to just about zero. A similar (linear) subject under similar (confined) conditions would have been heavily distorted. And, the ability to composite was what really made this photo. Did you understand the reference to I Spy? If so were you able to find Tyto? 13.3F at 5AM.

      • No, I was unaware of the book series until you just mentioned it … although I have heard the game I spy with my little eye.

        I’ve had a few experiences like that where you come upon something that just resonates perfectly for imaging. And some where I know nothing will happen, force it and then everything ends up in the trash bin. Sometimes we are too clever for our own good, eh?

        If I had not known about the barn ahead of time, I might have thought we were seeing a tunnel of some sort and that white light at the end … well, we all know what that signifies. 🙂

        And … speaking of silos and seeing a white light at the end of a tunnel…don’t try this at home.

    • You are the first to comment on this one Charlie. I am so glad you are able to appreciate it as more than a picture of a silo. I liked it too and am glad I ventured forth to have a peak inside. Coming upon photo opportunities which you know are really going to work provides a sense of excitement that keeps me coming back for more! Thanks for the ‘thumbs up.’ D

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