On a beautiful Memorial Day weekend a team of timber-framers and neighbors came together to raise a 200-year-old barn once again.
In 2005 the barn’s much younger sister was literally flown over it to a new foundation where it became the Stone Mountain Arts Center performance space. The older barn was disassembled and stored in a nearby field, quietly waiting for its chance to serve again.
Restored by Scott Campbell (Maine Mountain Post & Beam) the structure was raised on its new foundation just a few feet from its original location. The barn will now serve as a lobby and reception area for the Arts Center.
I was there to document the raising of the barn, a 10 hour process involving many hands, backs, and one hydraulic crane. It was humbling to know that a couple of centuries ago a similar event took place with most of the same timbers. I reckon it may have taken more people and more time (and probably a horse or two).
A full, annotated, gallery of the event is available on my SMAC photos page: [url]http://smac.dmg-photography.com/SMAC-Lobby-Barn-Raising[/url]
I shot over 500 stills, 200 video clips, 22 minutes of HDV footage, and a 3000-frame time-lapse video. This is the first of what I suspect will be several “products” related to this event. I hope to create a couple of short-form documentaries or music videos using the video and stills. Here’s the first video from the event, a time-lapse of the the raising:
Below are a few of my favorite images from the day. After that I include some technical notes on the filming process (settings and setup).
As a fund-raiser for the barn people could sponsor a peg and have a message written on it. When the barn is refurbished in another century or two, these messages will be there to read — a time-capsule in plain sight. These are just a few of the many pegs that carried messages to the future:
The large hammer is called a “beatle” — because it is used to beat a post or beam into place.
When the structure’s is completed a ceremonial “wetting bow” is nailed to the peak:
Technical notes and behind the scenes (including my mistakes):
I had nearly every piece of equipment I own involved in this project:
1) 22 minutes of the initial wall raising was filmed with a Sony HC-7 HDV camcorder that was attached to a signpost using a Jobi Gorillapod and some elastic ties. By the time the crane arrived the sun was MUCH brighter than when I set the camera up. So much brighter that I couldn’t see the viewfinder well enough to tell if the film was rolling. So I just shut it off, turned it back on, pressed the record button and hoped for the best.
Why 22 minutes? To be honest this camera was just a bit of extra coverage and I was using up what was left on a tape. I knew this was going to be at least an 8 hour process and I had no intention or reason to film all of it. I figured the first wall would take less than a half-hour to raise and gambled from there.
2) The time-lapse video was captured with a Canon 10D mounted with a 16-35mm f/2.8L lens at 16mm. The exposure was set manually: 1/80, f/11, ISO 100 and fixed white balance: 5800K. Because of the length of the capture I elected to shoot in JPEG, medium resolution (2048×1152) as this would give me sufficient resolution for a 1080p video frame but still fit the day on a couple of 4GB cards. The camera was controlled by a Canon TC-80 intervalometer.
The camera was mounted on a tripod and ballhead which was fixed to the top of a step ladder with gaffers tape. The step ladder, was set on a reasonably firm surface and ballasted with some spare post pieces that were hanging around. This provided a reasonably stable platform, although you can see small shifts every once in a while when I ascended the ladder to check on exposure, batteries, etc. By incredible luck (for me that is) the camera was able to be aimed almost directly north which meant that the sun was always behind the camera, eliminating a chance of lens flare. Putting a hood on a 16mm lens seems superfluous, but I suppose I should have brought one along.
The camera has a dual battery setup and it performed well considering the age of some of my batteries. If you look closely you will see that there is a slight skip in the video when be broke for lunch. I changed out the batteries with another set at that time.
The 10D was not my first choice for this assignment. It was a backup camera. I wanted to use my 1D Mark II for the job. The 1D’s sensor has a 1.3X crop factor versus the 10D’s 1.6x. The 1D would give me a much larger field of view, and I really wanted it given where the camera had to be placed and the size of barn – especially because I planned on cropping the image down to 16×9 for the video. Being a careful planner, I had scoped this out and fired some test shots on Sunday afternoon to confirm that this was the better camera to use. I had also brought along two batteries for the 1D and its charger. What I didn’t bring is the AC cord for the charger and the Ni-MH batteries don’t hold a charge well for long periods of time — so I had planned on charging them Sunday night. I discovered the lack of a cord around 7pm — which is precisely when the nearest Home Depot closed on a Sunday.
And that’s why I bring backup cameras…
Because of the narrower field-of-view with the 10D I had to guess how tall the barn would be and try to frame it accordingly while still keeping some of the interesting stuff in the foreground. If you watch the time-lapse video you’ll see that the peak of the barn JUST fits into the frame and so I elected to do a little downward tilt of the camera, moving it slowly across about 8 or 9 frames.
I had planned the time-lapse to run about 90 seconds covering the 6 hours, so I had set the camera to take an exposure every 15 seconds, mostly to make sure that I kept within the 4GB limit of the CF card I was using. When the noon-time switch was made I noticed I had used just over 2GB and so I changed the timing to every 10 seconds for the “second half”. The difference isn’t all that extreme but I think it makes some of the crane movements much more fluid and only extended the run-time a slight amount.
3) Video was shot using the Canon 5D Mark II, 1080p at 30fps. I used a 3-stop ND filter and a polarizer on the lenses to cut the light down and give a decent depth of field. I typically shot at 1/50 second, ISO 400, and around f/5.6 — depending on the scene. The camera was stabilized on a monopod, although occasionally used a tripod coupled with the Zaza Slider. I used both the 24-70mm f/2.8L and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lenses (mostly the latter) for the video work. Because I was shooting video most of the time (although I shot over 160 stills using the camera) the Zacuto Z-finder made the day a lot nicer.
Audio was not a primary concern for this shoot, but I wanted something cleaner than the camera mic. I had brought along the JuicedLink and some good mics, but opted to just use a wired lav clipped to my shirt and let the 5D do automatic levels (horrors!). Again, I was just looking for natural sounds, but not a structured soundtrack. If I had approached this more as a documentary featuring, say, Scott and wanted to capture dialog I would have used the wireless mics and mixed in natural sound from a shotgun.
4) Stills were captured with the 1D Mark II (until the batteries wore out) and then the Canon 40D. The still camera got whatever lens the 5D wasn’t using at the time (mostly the 24-70mm). The camera was set in aperture-priority mode, ISO 320, and around f/5.6. This gave shutter speeds around 1/1200 to 1/2000 second during the day and would freeze the action well. This was in marked contrast to the 5D which would have lots of motion blur at 1/50 second because of the video settings. I could move between the two looks the cameras would give as needed.
5) I had my MacBook Pro set up in the Arts Center ready to process cards at various points during the day. My little area also had battery chargers going for (almost) all of the cameras. This worked out well and I was able to show people some morning shots and preliminary bits of the time-lapse by the time lunch was over. By the time I left for the evening I had all of the stills processed through Lightroom and the video clips (all 23GB worth) were previewed.
Other than my charger debacle, everything worked as I had planned and I’m really happy with the results and look forward to sharing more of them with everyone in the near future.