Right after I wrapped up taking my photo of The Barn at Mountain Valley Farm, the owner suggested I check out the view from his apple orchard up the hill behind the barn. The light was fading quickly, and by the time I made it up the hill, the scenery was lit only by an orangey glow from the setting sun behind the Green Mountains. In my mind, I knew I wanted to compose the barn and mountains against that orangey sky. The question was how exactly to do that?
I essentially had two choices in my framing for this photo:
- How high do I go up the hill? The lower I am on the hill, the more light I can use from the quickly setting sun. The higher I go, the better my perspective but I also lose some light.
- What focal length should I use on my lens? The more telephoto I go, the tighter the view I get on the cupola, but also the less surrounding scenery.
Other details were largely defined by the setting itself. The trees in the orchard granted only a handful of possible framing options on the barn. The orchard itself could have been a nice photo, but it was difficult to visualize anything during the rising darkness of blue hour.
Picking from multiple compositions and photos can be a challenge, so here are a few different versions of this photo that I rejected along with why I rejected them. These are exports of the original raw files, and I have not applied any color or exposure correction so that I can emphasize the original compositions.
This was among the first photos I took where I was lower down the hill in the orchard. I knew this wasn’t right when I took the photo because I disliked the intrusive branches on the lower right hand corner of the image. Later on, once I got home, I also decided I disliked having the roof the cupola juxtaposed against the sky rather than the mountains. I realized how the mountains define the setting while the sky “decorates” it – meaning I wanted to see the cupola in conversation with the mountains rather than blithely ignoring them.
I took this higher up the hill, but with a wider angle focal length (95mm instead of 200mm). That meant I got to see more of the setting, including the amazing clouds above the barn. However, I felt like this photo made too much of a tradeoff – losing the presence of subject in favor of setting. Sometimes this tradeoff can be a good one to make, especially if the setting is just as magical as the subject (sometimes the setting can even become the subject). The problem with this photo is that the setting had become dull and monotone in the low light, losing the barn in a sea of dark trees.
That said, I liked this photo. Under different light and sky conditions, some version of this one could have been a keeper.
This one is not as wide angle as the photo above, but at 140mm it’s still wider than the final version I chose. This was also among the last photos I took, and at the time I liked the framing. However, once I got home, I came to the same conclusion about this photo as I did with the one above – namely there are too many dull trees in the foreground and not enough of the barn.
Ultimately, I chose the photo I did because I liked the composition of the cupola against the mountains rather than the empty sky above. I also liked the way the trees in the foreground framed the photo rather than dominating it.