Eulogy for a Red Barn

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This old red barn in the heart of the Adirondacks was a mecca for photographers. Situated on Route 73 in Keene, New York, it regularly attracted travelers who happened to be driving that road between the Adirondack Northway and Lake Placid as well as those who, cameras in hand (or in their cars), made it a deliberate destination.

The last time I saw the barn, in early November of this year, I noticed that a pullout with real parking spaces had been added fairly recently, and I assumed that local authorities had decided, for safety’s sake, to take this measure to accommodate the motorists who were otherwise parking somewhere along the well-traveled road.

Perhaps I was correct in my assumption. But this particular use of the shiny new parking spaces was short-lived: despite intense efforts to save it, above all via a Facebook page spearheaded by New Jersey photographer Nick Palmieri, this beloved icon, one of the most photographed landmarks in the Adirondack Park, was torn down shortly before Christmas because officials had deemed it unsafe and beyond repair.

It’s difficult to pin down the exact history of the red barn. Apparently it dates from the first half of the twentieth century and actually was a functioning barn at one time. After surviving other repurposings, the barn was left deserted and the land it stood on is under the jurisdiction of the state DEC. With its red color it provided photographers with a perfect background to the field and mountains in all seasons, and its increasingly dilapidated state tended to add to its charm–until officials decided its days were numbered. The intrepid old barn had, somewhat miraculously,  survived many a tough Adirondack winter (not to mention the ravages of Hurricane Irene five years ago), and perhaps it was thought unlikely to survive the winter of 2016-2017.

So, all we have left of the beloved red Adirondack barn are memories and photographs.  Above is a photograph I took in 2013. Below is one from my last visit, nearly two months ago.

If you would like to purchase a print or other memento of the barn with one of these images on it, please click on the photo you would like and it will take you to my website.

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Sunflower Photographs: 2 + 2 = 2

Sunflower season is upon us, that time when fields are filled with endless rows of these dear, stately flowers. After trees, I think that sunflowers are the most anthropomorphic member of the plant kingdom: their bright yellow smiles and their spread-out leaves seem to offer a hearty “Welcome! Look at me!” to all who pass by.

Thanks to a tip-off from fellow photographer G. Steve Jordan of New Paltz (more about Steve in a future blog), I found a huge field of sunflowers on Route 299 leading out of town; they were flanking a big tree that belongs in a painting by 19th-century landscape painter Asher B. Durand. Nice! An “anchor” for my photos. And the eight-feet-tall sunflowers’ welcoming qualities came into play when I hid under them during a sudden rain shower and they protected me from getting soaked!

The sunflowers in the photo I’m going to show you here aren’t from the Hudson Valley, however, but from Connecticut: Buttonwood Farm in Griswold. I’ve been there several times during their annual “Sunflowers for Wishes” week in July, and I believe this photo was from my second visit. The barn wall is from a recent trip to the Delaware Water Gap with fellow members of the Ridgewood Camera Club, and so you’re looking at some artwork combining photos from Connecticut and Pennsylvania and made by a photographer in New York. Who belongs to a New Jersey camera club.

Starting by ensuring that the two photos were the same size and then cloning out the rusty nails in the barn wall photo, I combined the two photos in Photoshop. For the first one I dragged the sunflower photo over the barn wall photo. I wanted that wall to provide texture for the photo. I used the “Darken” blend mode with 100% opacity, then selected the flowers and increased the brightness. There are many different blend modes available, of course, but I preferred “Darken” because it made the end result look as if someone had long ago painted sunflowers on the wall and it was all now peeling. Finally, I applied the Color Contrast preset from Nik Color Efex Pro to make the entire picture a lot brighter.

The second version gives an entirely different result. This time I began by changing the blue sky in the sunflower photo to the rich brown you see here, then I pulled the barn on top of the sunflowers. Here the blending mode was “Color burn” at 56% opacity. It gives a rather dramatic result, I think; at least two friends have commented on the “3D” effect. Regular readers of this blog will know that I love to photograph old buildings, especially old buildings that are sort of hurtling toward a state of ruin. I keep fantasizing that maybe someone will come along and liven up one of those old buildings in Spruceton Valley in the Catsksills by painting sunflowers like this on it. Anyhow, please tell me: Which of these two versions do you prefer, and why? I’d love to hear from you.