Influences   13 comments

An old, dilapidated farmhouse in eastern North Carolina, as seen through the front door.

Open Door Policy

Our experience is influenced by many different things: Who you are with; who is not with you; what the weather is like; where you happen to be; what music you have on your iPod; even what you last ate. Any number of factors determine how we perceive and interact with our environment. Considering that array of variables, it’s no wonder that each of us has a unique photographic interpretation of the world around us.

Because of recent influences of some friends who shoot amazing grunge images, I found myself on a search for Urbex in the area in which I live, which is decidedly rural. Here in the south, unused commercial buildings quickly become flea markets and antique (junque) stores. A small, empty metal building becomes yet another church. We have no abandoned asylums or penitentiaries that I know of. Finally, I found a target that met certain requirements: It was solo, with no other active buildings around. It was a real pile. There were no dogs roaming free. It was ‘right close’ to the road, and the front door was already open… That’s not trespassing then, is it?

As it happened that day, I was alone, which is unusual. Though my radar was up, I was more relaxed and less rushed than I sometimes feel. I had my headphones on — another unusual move, as I usually listen for barking dogs and irate farmers. Perhaps this change of factors caused a shift in my awareness, influencing my perspective. As I looked into the building, rather than just pointing the camera and firing off the brackets, I found myself wondering, “How would my friends see this scene, and what would they do with it?” I wasn’t alone after all! All the friends whose work I admire were influencing the moment every bit as strongly as the other factors. I decided to move into that feeling.

Rather than staying safely ‘behind the lens’, which is where many photographers seem most comfortable, I wandered further into the environment while the Promote Control was doing its thing. I considered the old building, its history, and the lives of those who had once lived there. I stopped to smell the musty air coming through the boards. I looked at details with curiosity, wondering who would have left their boots in the hallway like that. I took a deep breath to connect with what I was feeling, and how the building itself was influencing my experience there. I realized that the experience I was having was just another passing moment in the long history of that building, in that field. I tried to imagine what it was like coming down the stairs for breakfast before going out to work on the farm, or how I might have dropped my muddy boots in the hallway after a long day, or what the farm was like before the highway off in the distance was built, or if I could have imagined a day when a photographer would wander in uninvited.

My perspective became less that of a photographer out looking for a neat shot, and more about being part of the ongoing experience of the house and its people, even if I was there for just a few moments. Further, the differences between that day and an “ordinary” shooting day helped me to understand how the images I see and the people I communicate with on a daily basis can influence how I perceive an experience.

It seems to me that this awareness is one step toward being able to effectively communicate that experience to others through photography.

More on this later, I’m sure.

Nikon D7000, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 23mm (34mm), f/9, 13 exp. 1/125 – 2s. HDR Express merge, multiple tonemaps, Nik Color Efex Pro


13 responses to “Influences

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  1. Love the composition on this. This is my kind of HDR!

  2. Wow, fantastic image and love the narrative. Beautiful.

  3. This was a great read, Rob. I know I feel the influences of all the awesome photogs I follow whenever I’m composing or processing a shot. So many valuable things to learn!

  4. Great find and great shot Rob! Good stuff!

  5. What a great shot and awesome story. Great find and keep up the awesome work!

  6. Nice find, love these kinds of places. Nice processing as well, Cheers!

  7. Love this shot.

  8. Nice! How do you like the Promote?

  9. Pingback: The Approach « Rob Hanson Photography Blog

  10. Rob, brilliant photo. Here in the UK it’s so hard to get into abandoned buildings. Once they become abandoned the developers usually move in quickly, buy the land and then put up great big fences to stop you getting in. About five miles from me is an abandoned hospital which is supposed to be an HDR photographers dream. You can’t get near it though. 24/7 security, dogs and immediate prosecution for trespass if caught. Just not worth it.

    Anyway back to your photograph. Grunging seems a bit of an unusual thing for you. Was it the building that influenced your decision to treat it that way? I’d be interested in your grunging technique if you’d like to share sometime


  11. First of all I love the image. Fantastic processing with great natural results. One can tell it’s HDR but the feeling is more Ahhhh than Uhhhh. 🙂
    Secondly your text is inspiring. So many times I’ve had the same feelings and emotions run through my head in similar situations but it’s great to hear them from a fellow artist. Thanks very much.

  12. outstanding processing – superb work, really like the tones.

  13. Great shot. I wish I could write narrative’s like that. Good job!

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