Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Local Tourism: Photograph the Harvest

October in Wisconsin brings changing weather, fabulous leaves, and some great photographic opportunities. One of these is the chance to interact with your food from the ground level up by visiting a farm or orchard. Spend an afternoon or a weekend being a local tourist – do some searching for a pick-your-own orchard, pumpkin patch, or family farm near you.

The lines of the raspberry bushes lead the eye right towards the farm.

Establish the Scene

Think about trying to tell a story with your photographs. You want to start with what photojournalists call an establishing shot: those wide views of the entire scene. Try to establish a scene of the place and / or the people by putting the location in context. If you are visiting a farm, try to get the barn or other out-buildings in the background.

The fence adds foreground detail, leading toward the raspberry bushes the middle and the apple trees in the background.

Move in for the Details

Be sure you also capture the opposite end of the spectrum by moving in close for a series of detail shots. Try to isolate a single subject or a small group: like a section of a pumpkin or one branch of raspberries or a single apple. See how you can really highlight each specific item.

Raspberry Bokeh by Archaeofrog on Flickr
Close Encounter of the Pumpkin Kind by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Consider also trying to fill the frame with a whole group of fruits or vegetables. The repetition adds to the idea of the autumn bounty and seeks to emphasize both similarities and differences between individual items. Getting in close can make the collection seem endless.

Variations on the Theme of Squash by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Create a still life. European painters were famous for their realistic portrayals of bowls of fruit and other inanimate objects arranged in situations with dramatic lighting. Who said you should not play with your food?

Late afternoon light makes strong, dramatic shadows. Afternoon Apples by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Document the Process

Think about trying to include each step along the process. Get out in the field and capture apples on the tree, pumpkins on the vine, or raspberries on the bush. Take some action shots of friends, family, or even strangers picking, choosing, and carrying their harvests. Consider documenting the final sales, the people working on the farm, or even the worn out walk back to the car with your (potentially) heavy loads.

Fields of Pumpkins by Archaeofrog on Flickr
The wagon-load of pumpkins add to the storytelling power of this photograph.
Day at the Pumpkin Patch by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Capture Unique Elements

Every farm, orchard, and harvest is different. Seek out the telling details that make this particular place stand out from others. Look for unique activities like a hay ride or a crafty touch like handmade scarecrows. Consider visiting a place that offers other family fun like a corn maze or petting zoo.

Remnants of a "Make Your Own Scarecrow" event earlier in the day

Farms and fields are also great places to explore textures. Keep your eyes peeled for old farm equipment. Don't forget about simple unique elements like handmade signs or other identifiers used by the farm.

Barn Textures by Archaeofrog on Flickr

This hand-painted sign identifies both the apples and the farm.

Summary: Document the Harvest

Harvest time presents a photographic bounty of gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and colors. Next time you are feeling the need for some photographic inspiration, consider taking a trip to a local farm or orchard. I bet you will come back with more than just great photographs!

Apples-a-Waiting by Archaeofrog on Flickr
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