It would seem that the fortuitous occasion to photograph combines working the Fall soybean harvest continues. Only a few days ago I was able to shoot a harvest while who-leading a photo walk in the Ag Preserve of Montgomery County, Maryland (See "Chasing the Harvest at Shepherd's Hey Farm"). And now today, while heading home from the office I happened upon another harvest just outside of Shepherdstown, WV. As I made the turn on 230, heading into town, I could see the dust kicking up from the wind. I just happened to have my Fuji X-T2 with the Fujinon XF16-55mm and pulled off into the closet parking area. Though I pass this field every day I have not been in it to shoot before and had to quickly figure out the best position for capturing the combines.
As luck played in my favor both combines were full and had to off-load the soybeans into the parked tractor trailers. This gave me a chance to take a few opening shots while looking for the best positions relative to the sun and the spreading cloud cover. I grabbed a few quick images, and while the second combine was unloading, the driver of the first one came over to talk with me. This was Aden Price, whose family owns Price and Price Farms over near Sharpsburg, MD. I am usually quite tentative in these situations but as it turned out Aden was very interested in the photography and wanted to secure some of the images. This was not a problem for me as it gave me a chance to spend some more time freely shooting, and I was thrilled to make some more connections within the farming community. Part of my initial hesitation is that these are big machines and being around them is inherently dangerous. The other of course is walking on private property and disturbing the whole harvest process. But to date I have had nothing but a welcoming embrace and these guys really love to see what they do celebrated through photography.
I was fascinated with the unloading process. This was the first time I have seen a double unload, where one combine feeds the soybeans into the hopper of the other, and then ultimately into the bed of the tractor trailer. I can only assume that this keeps the operation efficient in that both hoppers can literally be off-loaded at nearly the same time. This then puts the combines back into the field at the same time which accelerates the cutting process. Time is literally money for the farmers. In fact in a few days this field will be planted in winter wheat and so the cycle of crop planting and harvest will continue.
This field was so large that after one pass down, and then back up again, the combines would have to unload. In the hour I spent in the field Aden, and his partner Steve unloaded three times. I had to work quickly as the light began to fade and it was a race around the field to find a location for my final shots. It must have looked comical as I was running back and forth through the soybeans searching for the best vantage point, and finally settling on a position within the field that took advantage of the dramatic clouds.
As the light faded, Aden and Steve turned on their running lights and I worked to capture the combines under the darkening sky. I started at ISO 200 for the early shots but ramped up the ISO to 800 as darkness descended. I put the X-T2 in Continuous Low and shot with the Ignore Obstacles & Continue to Track Subject AF Mode. This worked quite well and I only had a couple of misfires. I shot in RAW + JPEG and had my JPEG set to the Fuji Astia Film Emulation Mode. Once in post processing however I preferred converting the files to black and white to create a more consistent portfolio. I also decided to process the files to accentuate the sense of approaching darkness. I loved that I was able to capture the combines with their running lights as this added to the drama.
All the files were processed through Adobe Camera RAW using the Fuji Acros +R Film Emulation. I will add a note here concerning the use of Adobe ACR. Much has been written about Lightroom's problems rendering high frequency detail on Fuji X-Trans Files. To be sure I have seen, and experienced this, and even on updated versions I still see the problems. But oddly, this is not the case with ACR and in fact I like the files I am getting in RAW development. So I have altered my workflow slightly to accommodate the use of ACR. I keep my filing system in LR but use Bridge to preview the files that I move into ACR. Though I lose some of the potential tools in Lightroom it is not a huge issue as most of my finishing work is done in layers in Photoshop.
Thanks for stopping by today. RHC