The Beauty of Simple Farmland

August 30, 2010 · 12 comments

in Inspiration

In our search for the perfect scenery to photograph, we can often miss the simplicity of what is in our immediate surroundings. When I first began pursuing my photography seriously, one of the locations that struck me as immensely beautiful and simple in its endless possibilities was Minnesota farmland. It is hard to explain, but for most photographers, there are certain places that tug at the heartstrings and open themselves up to a lifetime of exploration. I am from the city of Minneapolis, but have always been drawn to the Midwest and its flat expanses of land and old barns. I have learned so many priceless lessons from exploring these locations and shooting them in new and interesting ways.

Field of Soybeans ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Farm Pond ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 River in Farmland ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Leaves of Corn ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010

The first lesson I learned was not to be afraid of getting up incredibly early in the morning to catch new and amazing natural lighting possibilities. The location of these shots was an hour or two South of Minneapolis and they required a 4am wake-up and a long drive to catch the light right when it would dapple on the water and leaves. It also created an amazing glow through the clouds. The best photos are not always taken when it is most convenient. Play around and try shooting at a time of day when you are not as familiar with the lighting possibilities. It will challenge your camera and your experience with ISO understanding and aperture. The above four photographs were taken with traditional black and white film because they offered much more opportunity for the classic grainy look I wanted to express. Always consider the details of your medium in order to get across every small piece of information you want to convey.

Line of Trees ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Abandoned Barn ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Branches ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010

Another amazing experience when shooting in a new location is to always embrace getting dirty if it will help you get the photograph you want. The three photos shown above were taken either laying in the dirt or walking across a muddy field. You can feel the emotion of the location much more closely if you smell and touch all the materials around you. It can also open up compositions that you did not see from your traditional viewpoint. Details will come into the foreground that are unexpected and sometimes completely crucial to exploring the location.

Wood Grain ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Old Equipment ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Dark Barn ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Corn Crib ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010

Aside from amazing, scoping landscape shots, the details available in farmland are endless. Often it means entering spaces you are not familiar with and walking around every side of something you catch on the side of the road. Keep your eyes open for pieces of information that on first sight may seem unimportant or insignificant. Macro shots and extreme lighting can bring so many photographs to life. Always pay attention to your composition and where objects of focus are placed in the frame. Consider placing them in an interesting way or off-center or with diagonal lines to give more tension to the shot.

Telephone Poles ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Open Field ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Dirt Road ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Grasses ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Long Road ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Farm ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010

Always give yourself enough time when shooting these kinds of locations to stop frequently and take photographs of the subject matter right off the road. The simplest sites, right in front of you, are completely worth the time to casually drive and pull off to shoot very often. It requires patience and a relaxed atmosphere of time to be open to whatever passes right in front of your face. Pay attention to possible leading lines, the relationship between foreground and background, the placing of the horizon line and contrast.

Washington Field ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Cows ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Apple Tree ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010 Field ©Elizabeth Anderson, 2010

Always consider which shots to take in color and which to take in black and white. There often may be some detail or vibrancy that are best caught in color. Many times, I choose black and white for farmland because it conveys the history and abandonment of the area and often, the equipment and structures. If you are unsure and have the capability, you can always shoot twice with both options. Don’t be afraid to experiment and play with contrast and saturation.

While it may seem very straightforward, photographing farmland offers so many options for great photographs. It also offers great road trip experiences and sights you may not otherwise have seen. Embrace the simple landscapes, curving spaces and flowing forms.

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Elizabeth has written 21 awesome articles for us at Photoble

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