Happy holidays!

A fresh snow had fallen the night before we made this image on a country road in Lake County, Ill. The snow covered trees made for a nice framing device and the light from the clear blue winter sky still makes me feel cold.
Consider this my holiday gift to everyone who stops here; especially those who do so on a regular basis as followers.
Have a great holiday and a happy and healthy new year!

Farmhouse of mystery

The old farmhouse looked scary, almost like a haunted house, when we found it on a recent fall morning. Of course, the muted light from a  rain shower passing through McHenry County didn't hurt the effect. An abandoned house like this --with its prevailing sense of mystery--seems to pose more questions then it answers. But that's fine. It might look ugly to some, but I see a beauty in it that rivals one of those the big houses with a longest drive-way.

If this old farm could only talk

This old, rundown barn sits on an abandoned farm in McHenry County, Ill. Surrounded by dead grasses turned brown by the fall, it might seem ugly to some. Not to me.
The old place has a certain mystique about it, like a thousand stories of former inhabitants waiting, but unable, to be told.
It's a shame farms like this one are falling into a state of disrepair, although there is hope. The restoration movement is saving a few, but the process is long and can be expensive, even though financial aid is available.
We visited the farm on a rainy day, which only added to the lonely feel to the image. Another shot from the same farm is posted below. We'll post others in the future.


My good friend and photog, Jay, shares my passion for barns. Luckily for him--and me, too---he lives in a country-fied area of Northern Illinois where there are lot of them. Unfortunately, many are falling down, like this one, which is actually part of an abandoned farm in McHenry County. Jay took me there on a recent Sunday morning and we had fun fighting the rainy cold fall day to capture a few images.
This is one of my favorites, captured from what I'm guessing was once the dining room of an old farmhouse. 
This is one of the first images I made with the new Nikon D700, a really sweet camera with a full sensor that I hope to master in the not too distant future.
We'll post more images from that shoot in the days ahead.
Hope you like it, too. 

Still standing

I had noticed this barn--delapidated but still upright-- on Route 80 just west of Morris, Ill., about six months before I actually got a chance to photograph it. But when I finally did it was one of those magic moments that happens only once and a while.
When I pulled up to the place, it was late morning and the skies were overcast. But as I hiked up the hill the gray clouds seemed to part, revealing a gorgeous blue Illinois sky. As you can tell, the barn was at the top of the hill and provided a challenging climb with camera and tripod in hand. Over-grown vines cover the conveyor belt, an indication that the barn hasn't seen any use in quite some time. I first posted just the image to the left , but decided that as nice as it is, the shot doesn't do the barn any justice. So I added the horizontal  shot .

The farm goes industrial

Rusted gears meet rural America in Fox River Grove, Ill.
The industrial revolution forever changed farming. Gone were horse-drawn plows to turn over fields and sleds to haul away stone. Mechanization arrived, driven by steam and gasoline. I was thinking of all that as I saw this image at a farm near Fox River Grove, Ill. Down the road from the barn were a grouping of big blue silos and behind them were these massive gears. Together, they made a nice composition that brought together rural America and industry.

Lovin' the rain

A fence, a road and a barn in the distance; a lonely scene that could be anywhere in the midwest. This one was in McDonnough County, not all that far from Macomb, Ill. A light rain filled the air and tweaked the light just enough to make it flat, but interesting. Another example of why you should never, ever put the camera away when the weather turns bad.

Always amazing!

I'm constantly amazed by how images and words about American barns resonate with people. Everywhere we go for presentations and book signings for  "Wisconsin Barns," we get nice crowds of people with lots of their own stories to tell.
The latest example came at the Northbrook Public Library, where we had a nice crowd of barn fans, some of whom stayed long after we were done just talking about their love of the American icon.
Thanks to the staff at Northbrook for having us visit, especially a certain tech person who saved the night with a laptop that would actually show my PowerPoint show!
Next up is Sept. presentation in Kenosha.
If you are interested in the program, drop me an email at ernestjschweit@sbcglobal.net.
Also on the horizon is another session of "Barn Photography: Photographing an American Icon" at Harper College in Palatine later this summer (www.harpercollege.edu/ce), as well as "Flower Photography Inside and  Out" and "Photography Continued," also at Harper this fall.

Silo standing guard

A student of mine, Jay, took our photo class to this wonderful barn in Fox River Grove, Ill., early one morning this spring. From this angle, the barn, with its rotund brick and steel band silo, reminds me of a chunky old man standing watch over his  fields. Ok, so maybe I'm losing it.
The class, Barn Photography, will be offered again this fall at Harper College in Palatine (www.harpercollege.edu/ce).

Old, old eyes

I'm fascinated by barn windows. Especially when they're overgrown like this one. Windows are like the eyes of the barn and the more overgrown, the more sad a barn looks. Unfortunately, we see lots of windows like these, on a barn in Fox River Grove, Ill., that my photo class at Harper College (http://goforward.harpercollege.edu/page.cfm?p=5557) in Palatine recently shot on an unseasonably cold spring morning. 

Abandoned, not forgotten

oHeading through the Seneca-Ottawa, Ill., area on Route 6 the other day, this abandoned barn caught our eye. I've never seen a granary with glass brick windows over the double front like this one. The light is on the flat side, but the little white flowers made for some nice foreground interest.

Against the elements

One needs a warm coat when out for a walk with a friend, even if one is a horse in Lake County, Ill.

Cold? Keep shootin'

Speaking of the cold...is it ever too cold for making images outside?
No way, although I can recall at least a couple times when the shutter on my first digital camera wouldn't work in near zero conditions.
That aside, here are four tips to dealing with the cold...the very cold...and snow.

In no order of importance.
*Take along some extra batteries. The cold will drain any battery quickly, so its best to have a spare. Or two.
*Beware of condensation when bringing your gear in from outside. Wrap your camera and lens while  you are still outside so they can warm up gradually once you bring them inside. That should help them warm up gradually and cut down on condensation.  A camera bag should do nicely, but if you are totting a small point and shoot, I'd  put it in a case and wrap it and the case in a towel before bring it inside.
*Dress in layers, lots of 'em. And buy gloves that have a removable finger area that you can remove when dialing in setting and clicking the shutter and then put back to warm up again. Having spent my share of time carrying tripods through snow, boots, long underwear and wool socks are a must. As is a long coat and hood.
*As for shooting, remember to dial in some extra exposure for the snow. Most meters will render snow a couple stops towards neutral gray. Although it might seem counter intuitive, add more light by increasing the exposure 1.5 to 2 stops.

A cold Wisconsin morning

In honor of our frigid Midwest winter, I decided to post this image, which originally was shot for our book, "Wisconsin Barns." Although it didn't make the cut, the photo taken near White Potato Lake, Wis., does a good job of evoking a sense for how cold it can get in these parts.