I've been photographing in the Galena, Ill., area for years; I'm drawn to the rolling hills outside of town along Route 20. I made this image last summer (2018); it wasn't the first time I shot this majestic old barn. Everytime I'm in the area, I stop at this place, like visiting an old friend who remains solid against the elements year in a year out. The patina of this old place is so unusual, very unlike the red or white that you see elswhere. That, and the actual construction..two pieces  knitted together into one building, is different, too. We were lucky on this trip past our old friend, a small heard of sheep was ambling past on the fenced hillside, completinig a somewhat idylilc farmscape. For photo buffs, this was shot with a Sony A7II/24 to 70 mm Sony/ f/22 2 1/60th sec.

The area I call home has not escaped the conditions that have led to the decline of the American farm and the steady disappearance of barns. Suburban sprawl that's turned farmland into subdivisions and country roads into highways is nothing new to Lake County, Ill.
That's why it was so refreshing to see this old red barn a few feet from the road I drive to workout most weekday mornings.
Its only recently, though, that I thought about photographing it, mostly because I'm usually focused on an hour in the gym, rather than making an image.
But that all changed a few days ago, when an early-winter storm covered our area with snow and ice.
When the snow finally stopped and the skies turned a stunning blue, I could no longer resist.
The bright sunlight -- something I'm not a huge fan of when it comes to my photography--bounced off the snow and ice to turn tree branches and open fields into a shimmering winter palace.
Still feeling the effects of 60 minutes in the gym, I pulled the car into a nearby subdivison, walked across the busy street and shot a few frames.
I'm glad I stopped.
I hope you are, too.
What is it about black and white that makes it work so well in some with certain old barns...and churches, too?
We asked ourselves that when we came upon this old church near Trenton, Wisc.
Saint Augustine Church sat majestically on the side of the road, surrounded by a field of tombstones, presumably the final resting place for many parishioners.
We tried to respect the landscape as we walked around exploring the scene.
It didn't take long to realize that although color would flatter the bright sky and rolling lawn, the scene would take on a vintage feel as black and white.
As I look at the image now, I find myself waiting for a line of 1950 cars carrying men in hats and women wearing pearl necklaces.

More of our work can be seen at www.ernestjschweitphotography.com Look for us on facebook as Ernest J. Schweit, Photographer/M. Fisher Studios, LLC, Instagram @ernestjschweit

When I taught photography, I would tell my students that the best time to shoot was when the weather turned cold and nasty; rain, snow, fog, whatever; nature at its worst can add a moody element to your work.
I remembered that on the way to an assignment for a commercial client in Richmond, Ill.
Driving down a backroad on a typically winter gray day, I spotted an old red barn  surrounded by bare trees in a field covered with a dusting of snow. Not exactly picture postcard material, but that's fine.
The elements combined to create a moody image that I couldn't resist.
I added the vignette and dialed back the color in post production to add a bit more mood.
More images like this are in the American barns gallery of my online portfolio. 
More of my barn images will be shown at the Grayslake Fine Arts Show, from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11 at the Grayslake Heritage Center. For more info, visit 
In the dead of winter, with cold winds howling, its time for a blast of warm weather, even if only the type brought on by a photograph.
So we pulled out this one, a grand old barn in a field of grasses near Fox River Grove, Ill., that we captured on the afore-mentioned warm summer's day. With bouncey white clouds against a blue sky to boot.
This particular composition, with the taller grasses lined up perfectly infront of the red barn and a silo peeking out from behind the roof, appealled to me because of the graphic feel that straight line presents.
We added a slight vingnette  and darkened the sky slightly to bring the eye towards the middle of the image, where the red barn sits next to a country road, inhabited by a loan truck.
I hope you like it.
This images and others are available on the American Barns gallery on my website, ernest j schweit photography.
Or contact me at ernestjschweit@sbcglobal.net

Historic barns: the big vanishing act

Here's an interesting read from NPR about the state of many historic barns across the country and efforts to preserve them.


Sadly, preservation is financially beyond many farmers, so these old beauties are vanishing at an alarming rate.
Take a look at the map at the end of this piece for a sense the numbers of historic barns left in the midwest and elsewhere.
Read it and you'll see why this blog exists: if we can't save these old structures--and it looks like we lose way more than we save--the least we can do is preserve them visually.
The barn below is located near Galena. I made the image a few years ago, but I recently reimagined it as a black and white, with the actual barn left in color.

Thanks to all those who attend our recent book signing and photo exhibit at This Old Book in downtown Grayslake, Ill.
It was great to meet  new friends and catch up with  old ones.
If you missed it, there's good news: copies of "Wisconsin Barns," as well as four framed and six matted images from the book will be available at the bookstore.
Follow the link to more info about this great store.
As usual, watch this space for more images of our beloved barns. Or you can visit the Barn Gallery at Ernest J. Schweit Photography


Changing things up a bit, we recently went back and unearthed this image we took while traveling through New England a couple years back.
Wife, Mo, and I, stayed at an old barn my brother in law, Dean, and his wife, Jo, have transformed into a studio and home. It's an amazing place. Here's a view we found one morning just walking around the property.
The treatment above the door, the weathered wood and varying angels drew me to the scene.
We added  some sepia toning to give it an old time feel.

If I look at it long enough, I can almost see an old farmer opening the door and trudging off in the early morning light to milk the cows.

Okay, so this isn't really a barn. But cows are part of the farm scape, right?
Normally, I wouldn't have thought twice about this scene, but the smoke coming off the cows and the notion of shooting into the sun, caught my attention.
The smoke is from the warm breath of the cows hitting the cold morning air, just like our breath produces smoke on cold mornings.
The sun...well, I normally don't like shooting into the sun, but I saw this composition in my head..with the sun forming a star in the far left side of a horizontal composition...so I couldn't resist.
We made this image on our recent fall colors trip through southern Wisconsin, west of Lake Geneva on our way north to Madison.
We have a couple more to post from this journey in the weeks ahead. Then, if all goes well, there will be another trip north,this time to Door  County. I expect most of the colors will be gone by the time we get there, but that will make the process of image-making all the more challenging.
If you know of any barns or beautiful spots in up that way, drop us a note at ernestjschweit@sbcglobal.net, or leave a comment here.

Most of the state is past its peak for fall colors, but for your future reference, here's a page we use to plot our journies.

Mother nature was in a generous mood the morning I embarked on a trip through southern Wisconsin. More than anything, it was a break from a busy schedule of school portrait work and action photography, intended to reacquaint myself with the creative juices that brought me to photography in the first place.
Up before the sun, were heading to the Lake Geneva area and points west when the dawn created some nice land fog and we stumbled upon this scene. 
I love the shadows created by the sun hiding off camera behind the trees to the right. And the small building added just a hint of humanity and scale.
Toss in a farm skyline against the morning sky and viola!
Like all our barn images, this one's available by emailing me at ernestjschweit@sbcglobal.net
We'll post more images from our trip throughout the month.

A raw, overcast day made for some nice soft light when we found this abandoned barn complex in Cary, Ill.
The boarded up door, broken windows and overgrown  grasses just added to the look of this old beauty.
As I worked on it in Lightroom, I was struck by how great it looked in black and white and how much it started looking like an one of my old, pre-digital Tri-X film images.
Thanks to our photo and barn-shooting friend, Jay, for finding this spot!
We'll make this image available in the American Barn gallery on our web site. ernest j. schweit photography
I am always jealous of photographers who live near the mountains.
They have such gorgeous landscapes on which place their work.
"Flatlanders" like we Midwesterners aren't as lucky. We have relatively flat terrain (in most areas), although some of it is populated by beautiful grasses and corn stalks.
One way to overcome that obstacle is to place something interesting in the foreground: a fence, a stone, anything that will anchor that area of the picture and draw the eye to it.
That's what we had in mind when we came upon this rural scene on our recent day trip to southern Wisconsin.
Maximum depth of field brought the barn in the background into acceptable focus.
More of our barns are featured in a gallery on our online portfolio: 
I've learned that the most beautiful barn in the world can look boring and uninteresting if its not surrounded by  a wonderful landscape.
On a recent foggy morning in southern Wisconsin we found this old place on a hillside, with cows grazing in foreground.
"Ok," I thought. "A pretty cool shot, but its missing something."
So we found a convenient pine tree and shot through the branches.
The branches provided a nice natural frame for the barn and hyped up the perspective a bit.
My only regret from this morning of shooting was that color in the the trees hadn't hadn't peaked. But even with on line color guides, you've still got to be lucky.

 I traveled to southern Wisconsin on a recent weekend searching for fall color and old barns. 
As luck would have it, the weather man dialed up a foggy morning, which I love for making moody images.
We found ourselves in the Dodgeville/Ridgeway,  area early in the morning when we shot this old place atop a hill overlooking a a fog shrouded pasture of cows.
Like all our images, this one's available through the barn gallery our web site, ernestjschweitphotography.com 
or by emailing me at ernestjschweit@sbcglobal.net.
Watch this blog for more images from our trip.

We must have driven past this old barn off Route 12 near Wauconda, Ill., 100 times, but it wasn't until the owner repainted it white and added an American flag that we really took notice.
And when we did, we tried to challenge ourselves by stretching for a new perspective.
Walking the property, we almost fell over what I'm guessing is an old concrete property line marker.
So we decided to work it into the composition. 
It took a few frames before we got it just right, but I'm pretty pleased with the outcome.
We'll make it available in the barns gallery on our web site, www.ernestjschweitphotography.com.