How Do We Begin to Covet?


"What does he do, Clarice? What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing? He covets. How do we begin to covet? We begin by coveting what we see every day."

Almost every weekday morning during the school year, I drive my kids to school just as the sun is rising. The school is a bit out of town, in the country among corn and tobacco farms. Right by their school is an old barn that sits with a couple of trees between two working fields. Placed perfectly in the fields, at sunrise, I never get tired of looking at it. And because I pass it so often, I've seen this scene in about every condition imaginable ‒ with a freshly plowed field in front, among tall growing corn, in a barren field of mowed-down stalks, in sunlight, through the fog, in the snow, under storm clouds, and in the pouring rain. And it almost always looks terrific because it's a great scene viewed during the day's best light. I've long wanted to capture a photo of it. But on weekends when I would actually have time to stop and get some pictures, I usually don't think about it.

But my rumination on the criticality of good light gave me a bit of motivation yesterday. I got up just before sunrise and headed to the barn. I wanted to get my photos very quickly and discreetly because the barn is private property. Nowadays, you start taking pictures of somebody's property, even a derelict barn shot from a public road, and they get nervous and some even get hostile. Now I could – and perhaps I should – ask for permission. But a lot of times that's just an awkward and futile conversation with an overly suspicious or opportunistic person ("Well, how much are you going to pay me?"). If I just want a couple of quick photos, I'd rather beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. But to avoid the begging part, I have the photo well-planned in advance, I have my camera on the tripod with its legs already extended, and I have all the camera settings dialed in before I ever pull up to the location. Then I can hop out of the car, make a beeline to my pre-planned location, set down the tripod, frame the shot, and take a few pictures. Zip, zip, zip. Takes less than a minute and I'm gone.

So here's my guerilla photo capture of the barn. Yesterday gave me clear skies, which have been rare this winter. I'd have preferred to have a few clouds in the sky for color and texture, but I'll take what I get and appreciate it. Even with no clouds, I got some nice, albeit nuanced, colors. Makes me want to go back and get a few shots in different conditions...