Posted by: kerryl29 | August 13, 2010

The Story Behind the Image

There’s a tale behind every image.  Some are relatively interesting, some are fascinating, some are brief.  But ask a photographer about an image and I can essentially guarantee you that there’s a story just waiting to be told.

Here’s an example using an image that I shot in June of this year.  The image itself was made in June but the story behind it begins more than a month earlier.

In mid-May of this year, on a windy, potentially stormy day, I accompanied my wife on a journey to drop some belongings off at the home of a friend of hers.  The friend wouldn’t be there but had asked that the goods be dropped off on her porch.  This individual lives about an hour southeast of our home in Indianapolis, in a lightly populated area of rural Hancock County.  This remote location included a drive of roughly ten miles down a series of county roads, and in the final mile-and-a-half or so of the trip several spots impressed me as having photographic potential.   One scene in particular stood out.  I noticed a faded red barn, nestled amongst a stand of trees, with one large tree to the right of the barn naturally framing the building.  The barn was south of the county road we were on and I could see that a telephoto lens would be required to isolate the part of the scene I found most captivating.  This day the conditions didn’t favor photographing the location; it was too windy–causing the foliage and foreground grasses to blow excessively–and the flat light wasn’t very flattering.  I needed a calm day and angular light.  I could see that early morning or late afternoon/early evening would work equally well, assuming sunny conditions.  I summed all this up during a half-minute or so reconnaissance and returned to the car to complete our errand, resolving to return on another, more appropriate, occasion.

I’m only in the Indianapolis area two weeks out of every four and given the distance of this location from my home base  circumstances prevented my returning in optimal conditions for more than a month.  But in the second half of June, on a Thursday, with conditions ripe and time on my side I made the early evening trek out to Hancock County and found the aforementioned scene bathed in beautiful golden early evening angular light.  The foliage was glistening; the side lighting on the grass was sublime; the shadows on and around the barn made for a pleasing natural contrast.  Because of the need to include a swath of sky to appropriately display the full splendor of the tree that would anchor the composition to the right of the barn, the dynamic range of the full scene exceeded my camera’s sensor, so multiple exposures would have to be combined to render the image in an appropriate manner.  My shooting position, limited by the need to remain off private property, meant that a semi-pano crop would be necessitated to eliminate the unpleasing effect of an intermediate barbed wire fence.

Indeed, a telephoto lens was needed, on the order of 100mm, to capture the desired composition.  An aperture of f/11 provided for adequate depth of field.  The exposure range was noted using my camera’s spot meter.  A small autobracket exposure sequence was selected.  The composition was fine tuned while the camera sat on the tripod, using my Nikon D700’s live view feature.  The mirror was locked up, as is my custom with landscape imagery.  Utilizing a cable release, the exposure sequence was recorded.  Late that evening, the images were downloaded to my computer, the exposures were combined, and the final product was finessed using Photoshop.  The final product is below and, for me, emotionally matches the feel of the scene–a quintessential Midwest summer pastoral–as I experienced it that evening.

Pastoral Summer's Eve, Hancock County, Indiana

Had I selected a different image, I’d have a different story to tell.  And perhaps I’ll do just that in a future entry.


  1. Lots of work, very nicely done.

    Makes one wonder about the barn’s story, doesn’t it? Maybe a really big piece of photography is simply about the story.

    Really great photo amigo!


  2. “Maybe a really big piece of photography is simply about the story.”

    Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more.

  3. Very thought provoking, Kerry. One of my favorite teachers, Bryan Peterson, likes to talk about a “storytelling” photo. I don’t think he means the story behind the photo, but certainly, the story behind the photo drives the story the photo tells.

    • Andy:

      No question, a story-telling photo isn’t the same thing as the story BEHIND a photo, though there certainly can be a relationship between the two. I believe there is a story behind each image, but not every image is of the story-telling variety. Perhaps a future “storytelling” image entry will be in the cards. Thanks for the inspiration.

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