Friday, November 19, 2010

The Story Behind the Photographs - Hyde's Mill

Not another Hyde's Mill photo! That place is way over photographed.

Those are two things that I hear quite often. I'll admit, this place if photographed a lot, but it is these types of comments to photographs of the mill that drive me to return to this location over and over again. Not because I want to add to the deluge of Hyde's Mill photos out there, but because I want to create an image that really stands out from the crowd.

Hyde's Mill is located in a very small town in Iowa County Wisconsin, and is a staple in many local photographer portfolios. The mill and the stone damn that diverted the water flow to drive the water wheel were build in 1850, and are a classic reminder of the days gone bye.

One of the big challenges when it comes to creating a unique photograph of this location is the limited access. Almost all of the photos I have seen of this location are taken from one or two spots. The road, or the grassy area in front of the damn. The land around the mill, and the mill itself is privately owned (and for sale) so you are pretty much limited to these two shooting locations. So how do you make something unique with what seems like very few options?

The way I answer this question is to try something new, experiment and see what works and what doesn't. Add an interesting foreground element.

Isolate a smaller section of the scene.

Visit at a different time of day, or night.

Visit in a different season. Winter with fresh snow on the ground is my favorite time to photograph this location.

This is a location where you really do have to work the scene. If you open your mind, the options become limitless. You are still limited to a few locations to shoot from, but what you choose to photograph from those locations is up to you. Change things up a little bit and you can come home with a new photo from an old location.

When you have finished photographing the mill, don't forget to look around you. Right behind the mill is an old blacksmith shop. The access to the blacksmith shop is even more limited than the mill, so get creative.

Right in front of the area where you park is a display of some of the old grinding stones from the mill. They make a very compelling subject as well.

When you have exhausted your opportunities at Hyde's Mill, drive to the end of the road. Hyde's Chapel is another great subject to photograph that is all but forgotten by photographers. Most of them head to the mill, then return the same way them came and never even see the chapel.