A Gray Day

How often are you driving down a country road when suddenly a bald eagle, just one size smaller than a pterodactyl, narrowly misses the car ahead of you as it swoops down to grab a road-kill snack? Not that often! Wouldn’t it be great to have a picture of that to post on your blog? It sure would! *sigh*

Luckily, today’s trip wasn’t a total miss. Actually, it was amazing! I was taken completely off guard by the numbers and quality of cool things to photograph. I shook off the whole missed bird fiasco and followed the scent of the barnyard to some stunning country scenes.

Images like a simple abandoned barn standing alone in a group of trees. The rest of the farm buildings were likely leveled years ago while the barn itself looked to be on its last minutes of life. Yet, there the barn stood with the freedom to go down on its own terms. The last wishes in its advanced care directive were being followed down to the letter.

East Side
West Side

I learned about moscovy ducks after posting a picture I took of a previously unknown variety of duck. I can say with certainty I did not wake up this morning thinking I’d photograph a moscovy duck today. But, hey, unknown wishes do come true!

The person in charge of grading the township roads is going to have her work cut out for her when things dry up a little. There were the usual ruts and holes to contend with, plus the soupy, sleek spots in the dirt roads which serve as ditch feeders (as in, they direct the car into the ditch with a mystifying power.)

There seemed to be more abandoned houses in today’s trip than I’ve seen for a while. I love to see what people haven’t done to the homes whose walls still reverberate with the stories of generations. The first floor of one abandoned house (what could be done without a ladder) was covered in graffiti. I would show it as part of this blog but there’s obscenity standards to follow. Believe me when I say the graffiti would win awards for best use of language and diagrams. I’ll play it safe by sharing one house with its front porch caved in and a windsock still flying from weathered siding.

And what would a trip be without the required red barn. The one pictured below is a true beauty. It looks well-kept but doesn’t seem to be used anymore.

You won’t hear me complain too often about all the barns out there which are falling down. I completely understand the high cost of renovating things days. Plus, I am captivated by the run-down and ready-to-collapse barn just as much as the one with brand new siding and a steel roof.

A Course of Comfort Clarification

A silo and shed in far western Minnesota in January

My goal was the Tripoint – the point on the prairie at which the states of Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota meet.

I had done the necessary research. I googled the point and used Google Maps to narrow down the location (two mentions for Google – no financial partnership exists. But if Google reads this and wants to support this site, I’d mention Google again. Now up to four mentions.)

Yes, it was January in Minnesota – western Minnesota, no less. It’s the part of the state where the wind whips unconstrained any time of the year. The weather was cloudy and the wind present – but it really wasn’t more than a strong breeze.

It is a beautiful part of the state. There is a wide open space which really doesn’t stop, but just keeps expanding on every horizon. Roads are most often maintained minimally, yet still passable even in winter. All of this adds up to some great picture opportunities. After all, I was often able to start scoping places out from miles away.

A horse barn rises high upon the prairie.

This trip made me aware of my own comfort with the more closed spaces of city life. My anxiety increased just enough to make me aware of heart racing. What a difference from my life as a kid growing up in the country!

Back to the Tripoint. Or, maybe “no” point. After several hours of driving, checking and rechecking maps and heading into South Dakota to double check my location – nothing. The best guess I had for the monument’s whereabouts was down an unplowed road. It will have to wait until the next trip. There are so many roads left to explore with plenty of beautiful scenery to capture any photographer’s imagination.

And there will be a next trip. After all, I need to work on reacquainting myself with my country roots!

Barnyard Friends

This sheep, or sau in Norwegian, was pretty curious for the camera.

Barnyard animals can be an interesting addition to any farm. And by interesting, I mean fun, lively, and, depending on the situation, tasty! (Lamb was on the menu the next day at this small Norwegian hotel.)

Farm animals are great to photograph because they basically sit still long enough for me to get a picture. I’ve seen so many smile for the camera too. In a humble, cheesy way. Or, I suppose they could be smiles of disgust, but I like to think positive.

These two horses stared intently at the camera. It was cold enough to see their breath.

I appreciate farm animals because they remind me to take a wider look at the scene in front of me. The barn may not be the picture I was looking for but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a photographic cow, chicken, cat, or horse around. Animals are what make a barn.

It may not be their best side but I can’t compete with lunch time!
Play time!

Keep smiling!

Capturing a Good BM (barn movement)

As with any good piece, composition is key!

One element of composition I have been working on lately is “flow.” I understand flow in a couple of ways which “flow” into one another quite well.

Let’s use a picture of a barn as an example.

First, I think about what drew me to the image in the first place. In the example above, my eyes went straight to what looked like a rib cage on the left. It made me think of a beached whale.

So the ruins of a collapsed barn have given us a connecting image – a whale on the beach. But there’s something more which connects the initial focal point to a larger flowing dynamic. The sense the twisted remains of the barn could collapse in on themselves at any moment. The movement is especially poignant just above the door in the lower right hand corner where it looks like the whole wall is collapsing backwards.

An initial focal point, plus the appearance of ongoing activity, combine together into a good BM.

Let’s look at another barn picture.

The round window near the peak of the barn roof caught my eye when I drove past this farm. I was curious why half of the hole was covered, limiting the flow of air. Why not keep the whole thing open?

By focusing on the roof peak and making the sides of the roof asymmetrical, I hoped to give the image an off-balanced sort of flow. A more sloped right side compared to what seems like an abrupt ending on the left.

The more I look at the image the more examples of flow come to mind. There’s the flow of the lightning rods safely directing electric current to the ground. There’s also the potential flow of electricity to the barn through the wires.

All wrap up into good BM.

I’d love to hear what types of flow you see in my other gallery images!

When Things Come Together

While inching my way slowly along the shoulder of a busy road in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, I had one eye on traffic and one eye staring through the lens of my camera.

I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.

A grand farmhouse which was as original as Coke Classic. No additions or renovations to its outside appearance. The lattice work along the porch roof still intact. The house could, no doubt, have looked just the same when it was built a century ago.

Hidden behind the house was a long, stately wooden barn. Worn barn wood resulting from decades of sun, wind, rain, and snow. A windmill still towering over the fields and housing developments slowly encroaching.

The outbuildings were just as grand as the in-buildings. Each one still filled with purposeful character. A testament to the strenuous and varied done by generations of families.

A perfect site to experience on my way home from barning for the day!

Up Close and Personal

As far as social distancing guidelines go during the coronavirus era, I’m ok with a little bit more distance between me and the next person. Sure, it seems weird not to shake someone’s hand. But, all in all, I’m perfectly fine with a good six-foot bubble around me.

The first colors of spring bursting from the forest floor.

The opposite is true when I’m out taking pictures of nature. I love getting up close and personal with such every day things as flowers, mushrooms, bugs, and tree bark. Even though I have a zoom lens, I’m oftentimes seen lying on the ground peering intently at a mushroom I’ve never seen before.

It’s exhilarating to notice designs on a spider which remind me of an alien. I haven’t met a honey bee yet who seemed angry at me for getting my nose into the flower from which it’s eating pollen (They’ve been so focused on food, I doubt they even notice.) And, who knew there are so many different kinds of fungus in the world?!

Surprised by its shadow.

It’s all about gaining a different perspective on what can easily be missed. We don’t have to travel very far to discover new worlds. Instead, we can take a closer look at what is underneath that leaf, or spinning the web over our front door, or swimming in the shallow water of a lake.

Good things come in groups of four.

Safety 101 for Pictures in the Field

Every barning trip is different. But one thing remains the same – safety is key!

I remember on one trip I was pulled over on the shoulder of the road with my hazards turned on. I was trying to change the lens on my camera while figuring out my next move. A pickup truck approached and turned around to park right next to me. There were two men in the cab who asked me if I needed anything, they thought I maybe had car trouble.

I told them I was fine and didn’t need any help. But that didn’t seem to satisfy their curiosity for more questions. I repeated I was fine, thanked them, and drove away while looking in the rear view mirror to see where they went.

The truck took a turn and went in a different direction. It turned out fine in the end. But the experience is a good reminder to:

Let someone know the general area you’ll be in. Be aware of your surroundings; traffic, runners, deer, farm dogs. Bring along water, snacks, and a cell phone. Everything you would do anytime you’re out and about.

Enjoy your time out in the field capturing the world around you in new and exciting ways!


The original image of a barn and the sun above it.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

There’s a few things going through my mind when I look through my images I’ve captured. Once I’m ready for the editing part I look for any flaws in the image (like the dim light of a late winter’s day or an accidental dot from a speck of Schmutz on the lens.)

After I scan for technical things to alter I begin to play around with different editing software the scope of possibilities for more major change. The main reason I do more extensive editing is to help me transform the image back to what I originally saw (there’s always an inner curiosity in me as well about what more could be added behind the original image.)

The same image after the editing process.

The edited image above has now been lightened and given additional color. The sun has been given more of a role in the scene and the whole image has a painted-feel to it. There’s also more depth and warmth. It is now a well-balanced mixture of what I saw in my mind when I took the photo and additional changes made in the editing process.


Adjust and Readjust

The process of adjusting to a new reality is even more challenging when the recipe calls for a global pandemic. (I know, using global and pandemic together is redundant, but it’s become one of my favorite phrases used by world-wide global newscasters. As if a pandemic by itself doesn’t call to mind images of the Apocalypse, we need to add on “global” to give the phrase extra flair, like some after-thought at the end of a thought.)

I looked for a new hobby. I needed something to do which was fun, socially distant, and didn’t require any clear destination. Driving around alone and by myself (ok, I’ll stop) was something I already enjoyed. Add on a new interest in photography with nostalgia of rural life and, puff, a new hobby was created. A hobby I call “barning.”

Barning is simply driving around and taking pictures of barns and other cool country stuff. It’s a versatile word. “I’m headed out to go barning. See you later!” is a good use of barning as a verb. “My barning rarely lasts less than one hour” brings in the term as a noun. And so on and so forth.

I’ve been a barner for almost one year now and I love it. Most of the time I start out with a direction in mind to steer the car only to continue the journey following chance and popped up surprises. I have a GPS which is turned on at the end to give me general directions to get home again. Even then, I take detours and switchbacks in a whimsical sort of way.

What I end up with are images of fascinating people, places, and things to keep my camera busy. I’ve developed a better understanding of the region of this earth I call home. And, I’ve discovered a great method to unwind and forget about the chaos of this world.

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Jeff Wallager