It has been an intense week of living in the RV! Our first complete week on the road is done and the journey has taken us from New York City to Richmond. Our time in Virginia has provided me with some amazing photographic opportunities, a cornucopia of inspiration for my photography and introduced us to many wonderful people through our Richmond photography workshop, who we very much hope to keep in touch with from now on.

I’d been to D.C. many times in the past year and know the city pretty well, so that part of the United States still was a safety net, but once we left Maryland, we were venturing into the unknown. I didn’t realize that the further south I went, the more pretty the countryside would become. Our first stop was George Washington’s home, Mt Vernon. This beautiful estate is almost untouched (apart from restorations) and included a museum of George Washington, which was perfect for an Australian with only a small understanding of American history. (Why didn’t Washington sign the Declaration of Independence? I now know the answer to that question.) Photographically, Mt Vernon was bursting with opportunities and one day I will go back and spend a full day going crazy with a camera.

Luke-Ballard, Mont-Vernon

© Luke Ballard

We arrived in Richmond for our first wave of “Photographing America” workshops. The photographic highlight of our week in Virginia for me was Colonial Williamsburg. You literally feel like you are stepping back in time with the turn of a corner. The historic city is really little more than a village, but the houses and buildings are beautiful and exactly what they would have been in the 1700’s. “Character Interpreters” wander the streets and are inside some of the buildings to talk about life “back in the day,” and the photographic opportunities are endless.

Luke-Ballard, Colonial-Williamsburg

© Luke Ballard

If you just want to walk around Colonial Williamsburg, it is completely free to do so and make photographs. We weren’t aware of that and bought some tickets at more than $25 each.  Those tickets allow you into some of the restored houses to see how life was in the day, interact with some character interpreters (who remained in character) and to buy things from Colonial Williamsburg shops. Warning: every restored house or building were selling the same assortment of goods and, to be honest, it got a little tedious, building after building after building.

I would almost definitely recommend just walking around rather than buying the tickets to enter the homes–unless you want to take a photo of the blacksmith working, or a variation of it.

Luke-Ballard, Colonial-Williamsburg

© Luke Ballard

There’s something about photographing fire that is always fun, probably because I’ve always been told not to play with it. Several years ago in Africa, I spent maybe an hour making different photographs of the same campfire, getting some amazing photographs in the process.

As I’ve grown into more of a storyteller with my photography (I hope), fire alone, while being beautiful, isn’t enough and the blacksmith and his “props” really finished the job for me. My settings here were ISO 1600, f4.5 and 1/60. Single focal point, locked firmly on the face of the blacksmith. I used the ISO to allow a little more of the ambient light in the photograph. Have you ever taken a photograph in the dark (well, low light) and the flash is on and your ISO is 100/200? You get a nice lit up (occasionally orange) subject with everything else around them completely black. My wider aperture was also to let in more of the surrounding light and, outside of the blacksmith and his fire, I didn’t mind losing a little bit of the depth of field, having said that my lens was an f2.8 and I still had plenty of room to move there.

For me the hardest and most challenging aspect of this photograph was that I wanted the blacksmith to be lit and highlighted by the fire. I spot-metered my exposure based on the fire highlight of his tool and selected my shutter speed from there. On-camera flash turned way down, diffused and bouncing from behind me created a little more light on the tools without overpowering the light on the blacksmith. The rest was just waiting for him to be in a shadow but close enough to the fire to capture the effect.

Luke-Ballard, Colonial-Williamsburg

© Luke Ballard

Our first weekend of “Photographing America” workshops were a rousing success–five workshops over 20 hours on the weekend gave me ample opportunity to take photographs around Richmond and, combined with the photographs I made at Colonial Williamsburg, gave me some wonderful images and memories. This week we’re exploring the Outer Banks of North Carolina before visiting Charlotte for our workshops next weekend. For the complete Photographing America itinerary you can visit: http://rememberforever.co/index.php/about/locations/photographing-america-itinerary. Come along and spend time at a workshop (use the code PHOTO40 to get a 40% discount) and hopefully I’ll see you on the road!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Luke Ballard is the owner and managing photographer at Remember Forever. A travel and portrait photographer for over twenty years, Ballard developed a curriculum of modules to help people become better photographers which later evolved into the Remember Forever system, now available in ten cities around the United States and Australia.

In 2014, Luke and his wife Nicole are exploring America in an RV stopping only to stock up on snacks, take photographs and teach some workshops around the country. He will send us regular updates on his cross-country trip. Stay tuned for more of his adventures and photo tips from the road!