DENISON, Iowa — A little odd and off the beaten path.
That's exactly how Pomeroy-based freelance photographer Roger Feldhans prefers his adventures.
Those adventures stray well away from highways and lead him down dusty roads to structures of Iowa's agricultural backbone: barns.
Feldhans searches for barns in all seasons, in all weather.
Even the subzero temperatures and strong winds in early January could not keep him out of fields and pastures.
In fact, he prefers winter shooting because it provides unobstructed views of a structure's most intricate features.
“I like winter. A lot of barns and things, you can't see because of the trees. Sometimes it's tough to get a good view,” he said. “In the winter, snowfall cleans everything up, no matter how messy the place might be.”
He returns to most of his subjects every season to capture different moods.
This odyssey has led him to about 700 barns and journeys that can amass 3,000 miles a month.
“Some months are a lot higher,” he said. “It's one of those border-to-border things. I never even leave the state.”
Admittedly, he has gotten lost a time or two in his pursuit of barns old and new, and his solo journeys sometimes concern family and friends. But Feldhans said the solitude is a major part of the adventure.
“That's part of the beauty of it because you are not locked into a location,” he said. “You're just going. You see something half a mile away and you just go and hope there is something when you get there.”
Feldhans' fascination with Iowa's barns began as a freelance photographer when he took photos for calendars, posters and advertisements.
“A lot of that was rural stuff,” he said.
Soon his back-road barn tour developed into a hobby. Feldhans initially planned to put his pictures and accompanying stories in a book, but demand from people seeing his work on Facebook necessitated a preview. A 12-month wall calendar became the answer to the requests. Each month has a large color picture with four smaller black-and-white photos on the bottom half of the page.
Calendars are available at Choice Printing in Fort Dodge or by emailing Feldhans at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are $12 each or two for $20 with a $5 charge for shipping.
A book is still in Feldhans' plans — a project he wants to complete as a thank you to the people who have made his journey possible.
“When I started, I knew I wasn't doing due diligence to the stories behind the barns, and I really want to correct that and get it all pulled into the book,” he said.
With a long beard and gruff appearance, Feldhans admits that he may be an odd sight at first. But almost all of his encounters have led to friendly conversation and additional contacts.
“Some landowners will call people and say, 'This guy is coming over to take pictures. He looks a little scruffy but he's good,' ” he explained.
Word of his project often travels faster than his Scion automobile.
“People sometimes come outside when I'm there and say, 'I was wondering when you were going to get here,' ” he said. “The word gets out there, and I'm glad it did because it's taken a lot of the questions out of it.
“They realize I'm taking pictures, and everyone I talk to or who lets me on their property, I give them a copy or print of their barn. (The prints) let them see it in a whole new way.”
His travels aren't all sunshine and smiles. Even though he never enters private property without permission, Feldhans said, some people have yelled at him when he was on public roads or areas. When that happens, he doesn't argue; he simply clicks “delete” on his camera and searches for the next stop.
But the good outweighs the bad, Feldhans said, and he encourages anyone to walk in his shoes, regardless of photographic skills.
“It doesn't take expensive equipment. You just get a camera and you go.”