Behind the Lens: Barn in Predawn Moonlight

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Title: Barn in Predawn Moonlight, Queensbury

Exposure Data:
1 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D610 camera, Nikkor 24-70mm lens at 44mm

Over the Thanksgiving holiday one year my wife and I visited my parents in Lake George. I was in the midst of my self-assigned Finding November project, for which I sought to look beyond the month’s bare trees and gray skies to discover what hidden beauty it might possess. I arose early Thanksgiving morning, before the rest of the family, and went scouting. Driving a road just south of the lake I saw the nearly full moon setting through cirrus clouds behind a darkened barn. I parked nearby, grabbed my gear and walked to the structure. I first viewed it in pitch darkness, when moonlight merely hinted at its outline. I could see few details until vehicle headlights, some distance away, illuminated it. Weathered slats materialized, and two red doors, accented by some red sumac bushes. The barn was literally falling apart. Slats had sloughed off, slate tiles had slid from the roof; the roofline itself was buckling. But it had such character, with its asymmetric shape, its windows, and, of course, the two red doors.

Prior to the vehicle coming, I had made some shots of the dark barn and moon. To help gather light, I used my widest aperture—f/2.8—and boosted the ISO to 1600. A one-second exposure gave me a properly exposed sky, but only a rim-light on the barn. The surprise vehicle lights painted the barn for me. I didn’t know exactly how they’d affect the exposure, so I kept shooting (at the same settings) as they approached, hoping they would add the proper fill. Sure enough, at a distance they provided soft, even light, but as they got close they severely overexposed the scene. My final image is the combination of looking deeper, experience with nighttime camera settings, good fortune and realizing the vehicle might help the situation.

I find November incredibly beautiful. Go deeper and you’ll find lingering autumn color, great forms, patterns and textures, and meaningful visual narratives to share. This image captures an aura of mystery and a look that’s quintessentially November.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a sought-after public speaker, offering presentations for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. API’s 2019 workshop schedule has been posted to its website: For more on Mark’s work, including his Finding November e-book, visit

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