By Stuart Borthwick
It was a hot and smokey day in the Western suburbs of Sydney when I headed out on a trip up the Hawkesbury. Recent bush fires were still not fully under control and this blanketed the West in a hazy smog.
My destination was a little disused dairy located in Freeman’s Reach on the outskirts of Sydney close to Windsor and about a 50 minute drive from Parramatta.
So up Richmond Road I go and through Windsor, out on the other side and head towards the Putty Road, very nice scenic drive.
This location tip had come via a fellow photographer and local artist on Google + , so thanks Amanda (+AmandaMoore)
Even finding the actual position on Google maps was a bit of an educated guess, however was pretty easy in hindsight. This was not an easy property to get information on and so i have added as much as I know below.
Still owned by the Ridge family, dates back to the early 1900’s and was a working dairy up until the early 90’s when the farm property was established as a new business. Glenridge Turf Farm was started shortly thereafter & in 1994 Natural Kikuyu was the first grass established.
Then followed many trials to achieve the top quality grasses now being grown on the farm. Although the original barns have now been replaced, the house still stands on the property, however its fair to say its seen better days.
Having located the old dairy homestead it is clearly marked as private property, so please if you are going to visit either do the following:
1. Contact Glenridge Turf Farm ahead of time a gain permission to enter the property.
2. Alternatively go visit the office next door on arrival and speak to the lovely ladies. This was my approach & found everyone very friendly, i was directed to a lady called Margaret who was more than happy to give me permission to enter the property. Gaining permission also takes some of the pressure off shooting and allows you as much time as you need. A couple of things to note at this stage:
1) Previously photographers have visited and entered this property without gaining permission. Something that was not viewed well and was expressed how annoying it was by the owners. I got the impression that these photographers had been chased away.
2) One of the conditions I was given to enter the property was I could not actually physically enter the old house and walk around. It was not deemed as being safe & once I got on site I realised why, as the structure has fallen into a significant state of dis-repair. It important to point out that this will not inhibit your ability to take photos in anyway though. Some walls on the side of the building are no longer in tack and so give clear access into some rooms.
First things first
Generally my first approach is just to have a quick walk around and have a look at what I have to work with. Personally, I find this helps me get my head in the right space & quickly finding a starting point or general approach. As I had not previously visited this location its a good thing to do anyway. So I found many pleasant compositions i could capture so lets start on one side of the building and work an arc of 360 degrees.
This approach is definitely going to be bracketing as it is a bright day and also the building has several lighting scenarios to work on. Makes sense to use bracketing to ensure I can get the full tonal range and be able to work quickly.
My intentions are to write a separate blog post on bracketing & how I personally utilise this camera function, so I wont go into detail here. Very simple set up then, my Manfrotto tripod, DSLR, 17-70 mm lens and a cable release. Personally I usually take a couple of test shots using Aperture Priority mode to see what the lighting is doing and then flick to manual mode.
So generally a test with each composition in Aperture Priority mode and then flick to manual. Generally I work with the lowest possible ISO native in the camera, which in this case is ISO 100. A word to the wise though, if you are shooting indoor or as in this case partial indoor scenes you may need to bump your ISO up a fair bit to capture the range of tones. To illustrate this better I have included two test shots:
With the newer DSLR’s noise is pretty minimal at high ISO settings, so I was not worried about this. You will notice my f-stop is set at f11 here and was for most of the shoot as I wanted to get as much detail in my captures as possible. This is partly a security step of mine to ensure i capture all the details & tonal values which personally gives me more flexibility in post.
Of course image quality is set at RAW and please, please check your camera’s exposure compensation is set to zero. This is one i miss all the time & usually find about half way through a shoot and although you can fix this later better to have the correct starting point.
Now the good stuff
Everything is set as far as the camera, so now to just get on and shoot as many compositions as takes my eye. Generally here I set my tripod after finding the composition with the viewfinder of the camera. Once I have set the spot I use a couple of things to capture the shot. Bracketing switched on with a plus/minus 2 stops and 3 shot capture.(limitation of my camera) Cable release plugged in & camera set to timer mode at 2 secs, lastly Live View switched on.
TIP: The timer function is important & one I found by accident to some degree, as it fires all 3 bracketed shot in sequence without touching the camera or holding down the shutter button. This of course reduces the chance of camera shake when firing.
LV: I also find Live view is an invaluable tool when working in the field, i tend to work back & forward between this and the eye viewfinder. There are a couple of reasons i love Live View(LV) mode, firstly with the Nikon system i use means any adjustment I make, such as exposure compensation, can be seen automatically changing in real time. Remember what your eye can see & how the computer in the camera sees things can differ, LV helps you have a visual reference. Secondly it helps to minimise camera shake whilst showing you if your horizons are straight, giving an automatic preview after the shot is taken.
So now just move from composition to composition and click away. This actually took 1-2 hours to complete such was the number of shooting opportunities.
Overall This location was for me exciting and offered plenty of content. Finding the property and gaining permission to enter where straight forward. Although there were some restrictions on access it was not totally inhibitive. Ensure you take water with you to stay hydrated, plus bug spray as the flies make friends very quickly.
My personal rating would be 8/10.
Feel free to check out the images in the project gallery https://stuartborthwickphotography.wordpress.com/projects/urban-discovery-gallery/