Muntin Wood

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Only a few fragments of textured glass remain stuck in their muntins to obscure the view of the woods from inside a long-abandoned building in East Camden, Arkansas, United States.

Story

There are a large number of interesting old buildings hidden along the roads near East Camden, Arkansas. Most seem to be related to munitions production, storage, and transportation during the Second World War. At some point, many of these were abandoned and are in various states of decay. There are rail sidings, loading docks, and the like in abundance.

This particular building had these interesting windows that looked past a few trees across the road into the woods on the far side. This image is exactly what I wanted once I saw it, but it wasn’t easy to get.

The first challenge was that the window was above me and if I tilted the camera back it would keystone and look like it was tilted backwards. While I could have corrected this after the fact, it involves stretching pixels which degrades the image quality, so I wanted to avoid doing this if I could. My Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E is a tilt-shift lens and was pretty much perfect for the job with only one problem: I really needed it to be about 75mm not 85mm. With the camera level, I could shift the lens up relative to the camera to avoid the keystoning, but even with the tripod contorted such that the camera was essentially sitting on an empty window sill on the far side of the building, it just wasn’t quite wide enough. (The ground outside was too low; moving out there would have required a stepladder to get high enough.) But I knew the picture would look better with the sides of the window frame included. So, I had to lean out sideways out the window and look at the tilted LCD screen while I took three photos that I could later stitch together: one with the lens shifted up, one with the lens shifted up and a little left, and one with the lens shifted up and a little right. (I didn’t really need the center one, but if this whole process failed me, the center one was closest to what I wanted.) Between these overlapping images, I had enough coverage to get the entire window.

I did all of this with the window frame in focus. Then, I did it all again with the tree immediately beyond the window in focus, planning to focus blend the result. The woods further back remain somewhat out of focus.

By this point, the building was kind of giving me the creeps. There was weird graffiti everywhere and quite a few vultures hanging out in the trees behind me. It was a bit unsettling.

Analysis

The window frame provides a nice foreground layer; this layer has nice interest thanks to the broken glass that remains and even the little tuft of pine needles hanging in over the sill in the lower right. The primary tree in the image, just right of the center mullion in the window, is nicely unobstructed and its bark has a strong texture; this tree is the primary subject of the image. The tree trunk on the very left of the frame is also sharply in focus, but being partially obscured up its entire length nicely echoes the central tree without really competing with it. The background trees also echo the primary foreground tree, but are rendered a softly enough (in terms of being out of focus) to again reinforce the primary tree and not compete with it. Of course, being on the far side of the road, they are far enough away to be appear quite a bit narrower, which also helps. The central tree pops nicely against this background, and being the element that breaks the symmetry and repetition of the window, also attracts the viewers attention.

Creation

Three overlapping images, all focused on the window frame itself, were stitched together in Lightroom. Three more images, focused on the trees beyond the window, were stitched similarly. These two resulting images were then focus-merged using Helicon Focus.

Technical Data

Nikon Z7 with Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E, 1/30 sec, f/5.6, ISO 64, on Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head. Six frames, stitched and focus-merged.

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