Finding Warmth On a Cold Day

Although I shot this photo on a brisk collar-up afternoon in central Montana, at the very end of summer in 2009, the cold, remorseless wind and lead-gray sky hinted strongly of autumn. I’d pulled off Highway 12 onto a short gravel road, figuring it to be a good place to stop for a quick stretch, snack and, maybe, a picture.

I liked the bus and the little travel trailer, and would have walked out to inspect them closely EXCEPT for the No Trespassing signs. I doubt anyone was around, but that’s not the point, is it? I never bought into the idea that, because we have a camera, we’re somehow privileged. So, out came the 70-200, set at ~160mm (256mm on a Canon 40D). ISO 200 got the shutter speed to 1/500, wide open at F/4. In between wind gusts I shot several frames, just in case.

Viewed straight out of the camera without any processing the image is gray and flat, the framing obviously centered and static. What did I see here, anyway?

First off, I envisioned this as a panoramic, likely at my favored ratio of 3:1. I couldn’t change my vantage point, so there isn’t much wiggle room above the weathered house, but with a featureless sky that eventually didn’t matter—the foreground grasses were more interesting and deserving of space in the picture.

I also knew I’d run the photo through Photoshop (the best version came through Aperture), to bring out the warmth that was missing on that chilly day. Further tweaking in Topaz Adjust brought me to this result:

I opened up the shadows for visible details inside the bus and trailer doors, cloned out four power lines and an errant fence post—and that was it. The shot has a bit of grit, decent detail, warmth, and yet portrays a sense of abandonment, of time passing by.


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