Not too long ago, to escape our “sheltering in place” from the virus, my son and I went on an afternoon search for photos in places where we would be away from other people. We went to the easiest place first, but found no inspiration down at Jordan Lake because of the overcast skies, so we went looking for an old, crumbling church we once visited further west near Pittsboro, but found it had disappeared completely. I suppose it either fell on its own or was persuaded by some machinery, and hauled away. We passed a spot where we photographed, what appeared to be an abandoned funeral home on our last visit there, but it too had been torn down and replaced with a very large new building. Things just weren’t working out for us. For our third try, we headed toward another place we hadn’t visited in a long while: The New Hope Valley Railway. Organized in 1963, the all volunteer group of rail enthusiasts provides train rides along 8-miles of track, using some refurbished passenger cars and locomotives. We wandered around the small rail yard and found a few older freight gondolas and a hack (caboose to the layman) that showed some age and rust. And they became our main subjects.
Most of the time was spent trying to create something out of the rusted and faded sides of one particular rail car, but it proved difficult to have balance within the frame because of the ribs along its length. And there didn’t seem to be one particular element that would provide a focal point within the frame no matter how hard I looked. It just seemed each image I took was chaos, as in the image above, with the eye wandering around the frame like a lost dog searching for home.
Originally, the hack didn’t seem to have much to offer compared to the rusty sides of the gondola, but later on I wandered over to it, and the simplicity of the dark window (minus the glass), the stripes and patina on its side struck a chord. Although it was a bit difficult to balance in the frame, it might work if I could remove a large distraction. So, after taking the image “balanced” as though the distraction were gone, and with the magic of the clone tool in Photoshop, the blemish was removed, as well as another small area that needed some work, and the hopes of that balance were realized in the photo at the top. Because of the lay of the land and the height of the car sides, being closer and using a wider angle lens just wouldn’t work, especially since the camera would be pointed up and the window keystoned. So all the photos taken that afternoon utilized a long zoom to be able to narrow the angle of view from a distance, zeroing in on specific areas of the rail car, and keeping the ribs or window frame, parallel to the edges of the frame.
In a recent post, there was mention of moving a small boat within the frame for better balance, and I felt no moral lapse in doing so because the boat was there, just not in a preferred position, and being unable to move into a position to place it there. But the change here was more than that. It was the complete removal of a large distraction, and “repainted” with various elements from other parts of the hack, using differing amounts of opacity and flow of the clone tool. So the area of replacement was very similar in tone and texture to the other areas of the hack, yet none of the stripes were altered. Have I gone too far this time? beyond the limits of acceptability? Or am I creating what I wished was there by eliminating the distraction? A continuing quandary!!
Another point in the equation was maintaining the simplicity of the image. By removing the offending spot, it stuck to the theme of a clean graphic design of lines and shapes, with the added character of faded paint, as opposed to the chaos of the rusted image. Often times, it’s the simplistic view that wins out.