Karate Jump

Old Barn Photography 101

Ribbons and Old Barn
Sarah stands next to her impressive collection of horsemanship ribbons.

Ok, perhaps this isn’t a tutorial on barn photography, but I sure felt like I experienced a crash course today. My friend Sarah asked me to help her document the plethora of ribbons she has won at horse shows over the years. The set: one of the old barns at her family farm, located near Wyanet. The weather: sunny and conveniently blustery, perfect for blowing about ribbons as we were setting up shop.

I’ve photographed friends on hiking trips and day trips, but never anything as full scale as this. Sarah had already started tacking string to the barn wall that morning, and I was the assistant for the rest of the setup. We grabbed handfuls of ribbons and arranged them by color from blue, the crème de la crème, to brown. Even Sarah didn’t have an exact count of them all until after the shoot; there’s so many it’s overwhelming. She has 78 ribbons and five neck ribbons.

The original intent was to get a few good photographs and then bike a portion of the Hennepin Canal. After a few head on shots and trying to vary the angles, however, I found myself in want of a ladder. Standing on the trunk of my car just didn’t cut it. We marched over to the house and carried the tallest of three available specimens back to the photo site.

From there, it got interesting.

Sarah, Ribbons, Barn
Sarah laughs during today’s ribbon-and-barn photo shoot.

I stepped up several rungs, took a few frames and discovered I wanted another angle. And so it went. Adjust ladder, climb rungs, examine scene, direct model, shoot. Sometimes I was on the ladder, and other times I was on my knees or laying flat on the ground in search of the perfect framing. We both experienced spurts of creativity that would then lead to more scenes, more poses, more rearranging of ribbons.

After we exhausted all our ideas for playing with ribbons against the barn wall, we dismantled that set and made a nice arc on the ground. The object was for me, while situated high on the ladder, to capture some nice images of her in the midst of her collection. We also attempted a series of jumping shots and opened a window on the side of the barn for yet more modeling and fun.

Playing photographer was fun. Even if you think you’re a deadbeat with a camera, I urge you to go out and try to make one of your dream photo shoot ideas come to fruition. Today’s setup had been brewing in Sarah’s imagination for at least two years. I was happy to even be a part of it. The fact that we got decent photos out of the deal was icing on the cake.

Me In The Barn Window
I even took my turn in the hot seat for several takes. Here we opened a window for more photography fun.
Karate Jump
It’s all sky and style as Sarah leaps off a ladder during our photo shoot.
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