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Highway 7 Relic

August 31st, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

I’ve always thought that old dilapidated barns are a bit of a photography cliche. In many ways, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all: a hulk of a building that used to represent a strong work ethic and economic prosperity that now sits idle – waiting for the inevitable end to its existence. There are some parallels there to the human condition – and maybe that’s why we’re drawn to these old relics.

Up to now, I’ve managed to resist the lure of capturing the “broken-down barn” motif through my viewfinder. Inevitably, though, I succombed to the siren-call of a crumbling monster of a barn whose walls resembled the familiar gap-toothed hick farmer stereotype. This particular barn sits on Highway 7 between Guelph and Kitchener. I drive past it two or three times a week – and it always tries to draw me in as I drive by. Yesterday, I let it win.

I was fifteen minutes ahead of schedule for my meeting in Kitchener so I pulled into the drive – grabbed my camera and went for a walk in the overgrown weeds. I spent about ten minutes shooting – trying to get lots of sky and building together. I was very glad for my new 18-70mm lens – this would have been near impossible with my trusty 28-80mm.

Unfortunately, the time of day was less than ideal for shooting a building like this. The sun was too high and too bright meaning that either the sky was over-exposed or the barn was underexposed – or both. Whatever. I took my shots and continued on with my day.

Back home last night, I pulled the shots in Lightroom and immediately discarded most of them for various reasons. I ended up with five images but I wasn’t particularly enamoured with any of them. The composition was nice, but the colour just wasn’t working. I gave up on the images and decided to use them for some experimentation with tinting. It was playtime.

I spent several minutes doing all kinds of crazy things to these photos… and then something clicked. I was suddenly staring at a fairly compelling photograph of a decrepit barn. It was dark and dramatic – the sunny day had given way to a brooding and threatening sky of gold. The shadows had taken on a blue-green hue. I loved it – it spoke to me. It captured exactly what I felt when I looked at the old barn – which is nothing like what I saw when I looked at it.

So here, for posterity, is the Highway 7 Relic. The highway is slated for expansion sometime soon(ish) and I suspect this relic will finally meet its end to make room.

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