I wanted to share not only a great project, but a great photographer today. Brandt Bolding is an architectural and landscape photographer and an author of the release titled, “At Home in the American Barn.” It is published by Rizzoli. Brandt Bolding and Geoffrey Gross created the images and James Garrison handled text. The book is hardcover and it measures 8.5″ x 11″. This is great format for reading and enjoying. Double-page spread images run about 11×17″. That has always been a great personal viewing size without being too large in my opinion. The 240 page book reveals 23 barns that have been converted into living spaces. The imagery reveals not only their unique structures and interiors but the context in which you find them in the landscape. They are situated in amazing natural surroundings. Each home has accompanying text outlining the thought process and insight into the design and conversion. Combined with the stunning imagery, the book makes for a very enjoyable read. The photography is very tasteful and fits the subject matter perfectly. There are many beautiful spreads with wonderful detail. If you are fascinated with rustic style, enjoy unique architecture, and love great photography, this is definitely worth purchasing. Being both an architectural photographer and a nature/landscape photographer I knew I would love this book. I also knew I wanted to know more about what went into this project. Brandt’s approach and choice of tools caught me by surprise, especially when you see the printed images. Brandt was so awesome in sharing his time to answer a few questions. Thank you again Brandt, your work is awesome.
Hi Brandt, tell me about how the idea or circumstances for this project came to be. Maybe you can speak to why you pursued it?
Rizzoli Publishers in NY had wanted to do a book on barns for several years and for a variety of reasons it was put on the backburner. I had been involved in historic timber frame barn preservation for many years in the Hudson Valley and have converted a barn myself – so I was asked to oversee the project and source the material in addition to photography. In the editorial meeting leading up to the actual shooting I suggested that we focus specifically on barns converted to residential use. That was the genesis of this book. It had a lot of very strong personal resonances – as mentioned my involvement in historic barns. As well, I had also been an architectural and interior designer and illustrator prior to being a photographer. I have many friends and acquaintances who have or live in converted barns so it was an absolute perfect fit.
I know through my own projects there are often many challenges and the story of making the project often is just as interesting as the work itself. What are some things you would like people to know about the work?
Projects like these typically run over a year to two years shoot time – for this project we had the editorial meeting in April and sourcing, shooting, and final photography was due by Thanksgiving of the same year. It was an extremely short schedule for just finding appropriate locations and also to work with the owners schedules as it was the summer and many were away on vacation. The lion’s share of my work was sourcing most of the final locations out of hundreds and I am extremely pleased with the result.
Your images show a masterful technique and a very tasteful aesthetic. Being an architectural photographer myself, the equipment set is often very specialized. For this project you chose a mirrorless camera to be your main tool. What mirrorless camera are you using?
The Olympus OMD-EM1. I got the camera and 12-40 Pro when it first came out – and it is without doubt one of the best cameras I’ve ever used. There are a number of reasons. I have a background in documentary film making (Maine Media Workshops) – and we used a variety of digital video cameras. Typically you are working with some form of a “heads up display” in the electronic viewfinder. I like having the information in the EVF (highlight blinkies etc., live view with proximity sensor, aperture, shutter, etc…) and find it hard sometimes to be without it. Its convenience can’t be overstated. Its image stabilization is very effective. The size, weight, and form factor of the OMD-EM1 are also very important to me – it’s gestalt. Combine these together and I just find it very easy to use.
You know i’m partial to the E-M1 myself. Most people would not think of the E-M1, or any M4/3 camera for that matter, as a Go-to camera for such an architectural project. The images speak for themselves though. Tell me how the E-M1 worked for you when creating these images. What was your workflow like?
I decided to use the EM1 for the project for a number of reasons. The file size and quality was more than enough for the 8. 5 x 11 page size requirements. The primary lens was a 12-40 Pro which is very sharp at f8 with very good DOF – and virtually no breathing. I could use selective focus when I felt it was necessary and composite later. It was also important to have a very light and portable system. Because the shooting schedule so short – I was often photographing exteriors and interiors almost simultaneously – waiting for available light in both cases to be optimum and then quickly changing shooting locations from indoors to outdoors and vice versa was necessary. For fill light I used two pairs of 12×12” LED lights (56k, 1,000 watt equiv. per pair, 45 degree beam spread). Each pair was mounted side by side on a yoke I made – and typically shot through Rosco 216 Tough White Diffusion frames set up about 18” or so from source. These were very easy to move and quick to set up which was critical in keeping with a very fast and changing shooting schedule. I prefer using these as much as possible as it allows for “WYSIWYG” – I’ve never liked using strobes – maybe this preference is from my film background. I used a number of tripods, apple boxes, ladders, custom telescoping camera risers (these combined with Android tablet remote control). My previous work in architecture and architectural illustration was critical in being able to quickly determine ideal points of view, camera heights/positioning, angles etc. – and do this without TS lenses in this case. A legacy Zuiko 50-150 f2.8 4/3s with adapter was used some. Final images were processed in Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC.
What are some benefits you have gotten from using these tools?
Ease of use for me translates generally in being able to frame and shoot subjects quickly, effectively, and with dependably great results. I shoot frequently in a variety of changing situations, landscapes urban or otherwise etc. – as opposed to studio shooting. Often this is trying to capture ephemeral and fast changing lighting conditions, subjects, or similar. Not having to “think” about the camera is critical.
It’s funny you mention not having to think about the camera. Many people find the Olympus system a bit complex at first. I completely agree and share your experience. Once set up, the E-M1 completely gets out of the way for me. I never have to think about the camera once I set it up to my preferences. That made a very big difference in my workflow. Has your working style changed any, or has your subject relationship changed in any ways due to using a mirrorless cameras?
As touched on in previous answer – not having to “think” about the camera allows me to focus more fully and completely on the subjects and the surrounding environment.
Aside from the E-M1, any other items you enjoy using?
I use the OMD-EM1 as my everyday walk around camera and for some travel and of course the book – although I use a Nikon D810 for most of the landscape work that I do along with a variety of Nikkor lenses.
Jumping back to photography as a process, what is something you would absolutely love to photograph one day and why?
Concordia Glacier and surrounding areas in the Karakorum Mountain Range of Pakistan. The combination of the great mountains such as K2, Mitre, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrums and magnificent Baltoro and Godwin-Austen Glaciers that surround them below have an extraordinary visual interaction I’ve always found spellbinding and there is simply nothing like it.
Is there one piece of advice you can offer us that made all the difference for you? Photographic…or otherwise.
As a landscape and architectural photographer reading the book by Tony Hiss called, “The Experience of Place” was very important and still is in many ways a touchstone in my work. This book in part about being fully and completely mentally invested in and aware of the variety of elements (and their histories) in your immediate surroundings. This is how I approach photography generally – as I’m not trying to ape some others photographic style or type – or recreate some pastiche. I want to find what is the essential and perhaps unrecognized essential in front of me and try to convey that within the frame. This is in many ways related to the practice of “mindfulness” as written about by the Vietnamese Buddhist author Thich Nhat Hanh.
Thanks again for your time Brandt. Your work has been excellent to spend time with. The images really carry a unique sense of place in them. Where can we find out more about your work and purchase the book?
The book can be purchased at this link. http://www.athomeintheamericanbarn.com/services.php
The Book website is http://www.athomeintheamericanbarn.com/index.php
My website is www.brandtbolding.com
If you enjoyed this feature and know a photographer that needs to be shared, let me know! If you are a photographer yourself and would love to chat and show your latest project, drop me a line.