Category: Black and White

The Existential Horse

The Existential Horse
The Existential Horse

So I’m out early this morning taking pictures and I pull up to this horse that seems to be deep in thought. I talk to him to try to get him to face the camera but he ignores me, so I took one of him thinking about whatever it is he’s thinking about.

Then he turns to me and says: “You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”

How did he know?

The Workhorse

Workhorse
Workhorse

This is one of the stars of Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides in Bird-In-Hand Pennsylvania. He pulls tourists around at a blistering speed of 5 miles per hour several times a day, day after day, month after month, and year after year.

It’s not a bad job compared to the work other horses do on farms but he hates every second of it. He feels that he’s wasting his life, that he could be doing something better, more important. At times he considerers faking a leg injury but worries he might end up as glue.

Eventually they will throw him a retirement party and give him a gold shoe for his years of faithful service, and let him live out the rest of his life doing whatever old horses do. He’ll stand in the middle of a field and stare into space, wondering what to do now, and what it all meant.

And he might realize that his job wasn’t so bad after all. He was good at it and he was needed, he had friends that liked him although he bitched and moaned all the time. He might realize that he could have made the best of it and even enjoyed it.

Alan W. Watts once said: “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Even if you do the same thing for the same people in the same place over and over again.

Did you see a white duck?

The Fog
The Fog

I was standing by the water thinking of nothing in particular when a guy pulls up and asks me if I saw a white duck. I said no, why? And he said: I’m looking for him. At that point I knew it would be just another ordinary day in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The rest of the morning was spent in a fog, literally, only now my thoughts went from thinking of nothing to thinking of nothingness. I waited over an hour for the sun to come out and took a few photos of nothing.

I was about to leave with nothing when I thought of something Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in Being and Nothingness: “It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.”

Note to self: don’t buy that book and think of complaining that it’s too hard to understand. My uncle warned me about that almost forty years ago.

Feeding the Birds

Turkey Vulture at the Conowingo Dam
Turkey Vulture at the Conowingo Dam

These cute and cuddly birds hang out at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. The dam is home to hundreds of bald eagles although the peak season to see them is in the dead of winter. Every year photographers come from all over the United States to justify spending ten thousand dollars or more on a lens.

At this time of year a few die hard photographers still go there but the eagles are few and far between the scores of vultures that are there for lunch. They are actually turkey vultures but instead of turkey they like to eat cars. They also eat trucks and SUVs, but you have to park in the right place.

As you head into the parking lot bear right and park near the hiking trail, then simply leave for an hour or so. These angry birds will eat anything made of rubber from your windshield wipers to your bumper. They also tend to regurgitate as they eat as well as badly scratching all painted surfaces, which you may later decide is a problem.

These beautiful, majestic creatures are only doing what large angry rubber eating birds do, so don’t take it personally. Some people cover their vehicle with a tarp or two which only challenges them to eat through it. Your insurance will probably cover the damage but you will have to pay the deductible.

Alternatives are hiking somewhere else and/or feeding smaller birds such as ducks. Lititz, P.A. has been voted America’s coolest small town and in Lititz Springs Park they definitely have the friendliest ducks I’ve ever seen. Not only is feeding them allowed but there are machines filled with duck food. Park wherever you like, they prefer eating actual food to eating your vehicle.

Train of Thought

Working on the railroad
Working on the railroad

“Trains are beautiful. They take people to places they’ve never been, faster than they could ever go themselves. Everyone who works on trains knows they have personalities, they’re like people. They have their own mysteries.” Sam Starbuck, The Dead Isle

Signs That Horses are Intelligent

Give them a sign
Give them a sign

Back in 1966 Mister Ed went to college to become a veterinarian so he could help his friends beat the high cost of medical care. 50 years later here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania most horses are home schooled, which is more convenient and much less expensive.

Although not all horses are taught to read at a college level, the ones that pull the buggies are encouraged to develop basic skills including the ability to read signs. This is almost a necessity these days with all the confusing traffic rules like turning right on red.

You can lead a horse to water but if he finds it himself he has a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. Note: we don’t know if horses are color blind but for the ones reading this I felt it was better in black and white.

Can Lightroom Presets Save You?

Thomas Gets Clean
Thomas Gets Clean

Lightroom presets may not save you but they might be able to save you some time in post processing. Even if you don’t like the effect you can learn how it was created by looking at the applied settings, then just reset and start over.

The above photo is a RAW file converted using B&W Sombre Street, which is one in a set of twelve free presets called Street-Photography by Contrastly. Another set of presets I’ve found useful are offered by ON1.

Between the two there are ten free sets contain well over 150 different presets as well as free brushes for making local adjustments. Installing and removing them is as easy as shooting a bald eagle at the Conowingo Dam with a $12,000 600mm lens, maybe even easier.

All presets work with Adobe Lightroom 4, 5, 6, and CC. I downloaded mine a long time ago for Lightroom 3, so if you need that just do a quick search for older versions. Don’t forget to apply sharpening and noise reduction to your photos, they leave that up to you.

This photo is far from perfect but it took me ten seconds using the preset versus at least ten minutes to convert to black and white manually. Other than recovering some blown highlights you would never notice the difference at this size anyway.

Remember, you can’t save a bad photo; you can only convince yourself that it’s not a bad photo.

Note: Thomas is not in this facility to get clean and sober, he’s just having a bath. I feel it’s important to point this out for those who think that all trains come from the wrong side of the tracks.

Free Presets for Adobe Lightroom ON1 Inc.

Free Street Photography Presets by Contrastly