Author: Mike Ross

My name is Mike Ross and I have obsessive compulsive photography disorder, although I consider this a somewhat healthy obsession. Compared to some of my past addictions and obsessions, this one is a walk in the park. I was born in New York City, spent most of my life on Long Island (pronounced Lawn Guyland), and am now living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I am currently using a Sony A6000 with a 35mm f/1.8 lens and a Sony RX100. All photos are from RAW files processed using Lightroom, Photoshop and occasionally HDR software.

Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Someday

I'll quit tomorrow
I’ll quit tomorrow

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.

But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” Lauren Oliver-Before I Fall

All Mama’s Children

Haines Shoe House
Haines Shoe House

The rain had just stopped as dawn broke over the Haines Shoe House in York, Pennsylvania yesterday, and I remembered a song I heard years ago working on a much larger house in Southampton.

The lead carpenter was a former lawyer who found that chopping wood was more rewarding then Jurisprudence, and he listened to county music all day long.

The song was All Mama’s Children by Carl Perkins and it went like this:

“There was an old woman that lived in a shoe, had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. They were doin all right, til she took em to town, the kids started pickin em up and putting em down.

Now all your children wanna rock, mama, all your children want to roll. They wanna roll, wanna rock, wanna bop til they pop. All your children want to rock.”

The Haines Shoe House is now open for guided tours and they serve gourmet hand-dipped ice cream and Mellie’s Makery treats (it’s not just a bakery it’s a makery). Rocking and bopping are encouraged but only outside.

Photography Training

Strasburg Rail Road HDR
Strasburg Rail Road HDR

You can learn a lot photographing trains on a cloudy day by experimenting with composition, exposure and aperture. This morning I went down to the Strasburg Rail Road to see if I could learn anything new, but I found the same things that were true the last time I was there were true today.

Just like Freud’s cigar, sometimes a train is just a train, but adding a person to the photo can make it much more interesting.

Composition is probably the most important thing besides the subject, and you can only do so much with a boring gray sky.

Taking a hundred or more shots is easy to do, even though I know that I only need one good one, or at least one decent one.

Finally, post processing RAW files with Lightroom, Photoshop and HDR software will not make a bad photo great, and the time comes when a decision has to be made when to call it done and read the Sunday newspapers.

As Ansel Adams one said: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” I stood behind another photographer and watched the smoke and mirror show from a distance, and it was good enough to make the trip worthwhile. Next time I’ll shoot the conductor (not literally).

Pre-Columbian Artifacts

Pre-Columbian Artifacts
Pre Columbian Artifacts

Just to be clear, Pre-Columbian art refers to art from the Caribbean, North, Central, and South Americas, think statues and vessels. The artifacts I photographed are not thousands of years old, but they are artifacts and they are from Columbia, Pennsylvania.

What makes them Pre-Columbian is that they are not originally from Columbia. They come from attics, garages, and basements everywhere, then are brought into a consignment shop like this one.

There they sit until someone sees something they can’t live without, buys it, and sometime later it goes back into an attic, garage or basement. It’s the cycle of antique life and it’s a huge business in many parts of P.A.

These strangely beautiful mannequins are a steal at $140 each. The possible uses are endless from a passenger for the HOV lane to a model for portrait photography practice.

There was a movie in the late 80’s where a sexy mannequin comes to life, though that rarely happens these days. They do sell some online with much more lifelike features, but that’s a whole different shade of gray.

The Charnel Grounds of Columbia

Motorcycle Charnel Grounds
Motorcycle Charnel Grounds

Sometimes you find yourself in a strange place, and then try to figure out if there’s a deeper meaning to be found in the experience. So it was when I found myself in the motorcycle charnel grounds on the second floor of The Cycle Den in Columbia.

It was a depressing place, as I imagine the charnel grounds in Tibet are with the giant vultures, but depressing in a different way. I looked at those old machines and saw the people that once owned and loved them.

These now decaying bikes represented freedom, adventure and escape. I remembered the quote by Hafiz: “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”

It is said that the Buddha encouraged his students to meditate in the charnel grounds as a way of releasing the ultimate attachment: the attachment to one’s body and to this life itself. So despite the overwhelming sadness, I stayed to reflect on the impermanence of all things, and how the pursuit of pleasure is a paradox.

Dan Aykroyd once said: “You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle, any kind of motorcycle.” This may or may not be true, but having sold mine last fall I am now back in therapy.

I drive there in my SUV with the radio on and the feeling of safety that comes with four wheels and airbags. It’s as close to feeling alive as playing virtual golf, with a virtual caddie and drinking a virtual martini.

Contentment and Catnaps

Zen cat
Zen cat

The dictionary defines contentment as the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.

Socrates said: “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” Yes, but I want more…

I was in a greenhouse yesterday looking at seeds and starter plants, it was really a beautiful place to be, and for almost three minutes I was content. A cat calmly strolled in and completely ignored me, or so I thought.

I remember Eckhart Tolle saying something about cats as Zen masters, so I asked this cat to teach me about contentment. Again he ignored me, but I watched him.

He walked carefully between the rows of flowers and herbs, and I wondered if he was telling me to take time to smell the flowers. Then he began eating them, and I wasn’t sure if this was a sign to eat healthier or to do whatever makes you happy.

After he finished destroying a basil plant he hopped off the table and headed to his favorite place, which was literally the best seat in the house. He lay down on some warm boards in front of a sunny window, and looked at me as if to say: take a picture it’ll last longer, and then went to sleep.

If he was trying to tell me something I missed it, and on the way home I thought about new motorcycles, mansions and yachts, just a few of the things I feel I need to be content.

But I had the whole day to do whatever I wanted, I had enough money for lunch, and I had a picture of a Zen cat.

Charles M. Schulz said: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”

Maybe that was his message; maybe I simply needed a catnap. So I went home and took a nap in my warm bed in front of a sunny window, and it was good. Now all I need is to move into this greenhouse and start eating plants.

There’s a great shade tree to park my bike under, my yacht will be moored of course, and as Elmer J. Fudd taught us, nobody really needs a mansion.

Abandoned Amusements

Rocky Springs Park
Rocky Springs Park

Rocky Springs was an amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that was in operation from 1890 to 1966. The park featured four roller coasters, three made of wood and one of steel.

Their first coaster was a Figure 8, which allowed for more turns and offered riders an alternative experience. It began its run by heading through a wooden tunnel, just high enough to accommodate the passengers. There were newspaper reports of accidents from people standing and hitting their heads, but most considered that part of the fun.

Today there is a Rocky Springs Entertainment Center (bowling alley) and a Rocky Springs Bed and Breakfast. On the 17 acre B&B property, remnants include the carousel building, a snack stand, and this set of cars from the Rocky Springs 1928 Wildcat roller coaster.

Five miles away is a modern amusement park called Dutch Wonderland, with 44 acres of roller coasters, water slides, kid’s shows and campgrounds. Popular with tourists and summer locals, Dutch Wonderland is probably much safer then the old Rocky Springs Park, but I doubt it’s the same alternative experience.

The End of the Ice Age

Strasburg Rail Road
Strasburg Rail Road

I was at the Strasburg Rail Road yesterday watching them plowing the line all the way to Paradise (the town) with something called a wedge. It was a beautiful day and I could see that spring was right around the corner, as sure as I was standing there shooting icicles.

I was as sure as eggs in April, as sure as the steeple bears the bell, as sure as an obligation sealed in butter. But the Vernal Equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator, it does not mean that the fairies come out to dance.

I will be up at 6:28 am on Monday though, camera in hand, just to make sure.