It’s hard to appreciate the effort it takes to park like this with such precision until you’ve seen it. First they convince the horse to back into a spot, then they unload the family and send them ahead. The driver now has to unhitch the horse and tie him up to a post, ideally in the shade.
The second horse and buggy driver goes through the same procedure, lining his up perfectly next to the first, and the next and the next. It’s a beautiful thing really although I’ve never seen the reverse procedure, which must be a lot harder.
It seems like an overly complicated way to park, and I’ll have to ask them one day, but they’ll probably tell me: “Sell kann ennichpepper duh.” Which means anyone can do that.
I stopped at the annual Lancaster County Carriage and Antique Auction in Bird-In-Hand this afternoon. This is a big deal here for the English (non Amish) and the Amish with a separate area for horse and buggy parking.
The auction was in full swing and everyone seemed excited to be there, except for the horses of course. Fortunately it was cloudy and breezy so they weren’t roasting in the sun. They knew it was going to be a long wait as auctions tend to drag on, and most made the best of it.
Some sulked and hung their heads waiting patiently, and some were literally chomping at their bit to get the hell out of there. But others, the more outgoing ones, told each other stories and discussed the parable of the Chinese farmer. Maybe yes, maybe no.
It’s been said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity. But it’s also been said that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
So I was at Walmart this morning and I remembered a photo I took of a horse and buggy back in early March (Overexposed at Walmart). I had overexposed it accidentally but decided the result was “more interesting than all the other shots that have histograms like the Himalayas.”
There he was, the exact same horse and buggy in the exact same spot (the horse knows the way) so I shot him. And again I overexposed but purposely this time, converted to black and white and called it art.
I did the same thing slightly differently and expected the same results, so this is either a variation of insanity, madness or a combination of both. According to one definition, insanity is the state of being insane while madness is the state of being mad. Oh.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker wrote: “The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.”
I’ve been to the madhouse and although I didn’t bring my camera, the photographic possibilities were endless. Maybe next time.
I was driving down the local back roads this morning watching the Amish farmers get their fields ready for planting. They don’t like to be photographed but it’s hard to resist, fortunately he hid behind one of the horses and all you can see is his hat (I planned it that way).
It took a few minutes for him to get close enough and I heard him singing an old song I recognized. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed as clear as day and it went like this:
“Green Acres is the place to be. Farm livin’ is the life for me. Land spreadin’ out so far and wide, keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”
There are eight million stories in the naked county; this has been one of them.
Adrienne Posey, an author born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania once wrote that signs don’t shout; they whisper. I didn’t know that when I took this photo but it makes a lot of sense now.
This is a sign for Weaver’s Bike Shop in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, a family operated business that has been serving customers since 1958. I found an interesting review about it on Yelp from a Lancaster man named George:
“I tried to find this place and I’m still not sure that I did. I think it’s an Amish guy who fixes bikes for other Amish kids. It’s not really a shop, just a garage near a barn with some bikes outside. There is no sign out front, only one at each end of the street pointing in opposite directions.”
Well George, there are two red bicycles mounted on a post pointing in the direction of the shop with the name on an arrow. Apparently he never heard that signs don’t shout; they whisper.
I learned several things that day, first, if you don’t look for signs you can easily miss them. I also learned that rather than driving around winding back roads for 30 minutes, you can find the address and directions online in 30 seconds.
But the main thing I learned is that everything that has been said about selective coloring is true. It’s a blatant attempt to make a boring photo interesting and should only be used in very specific circumstances, like photographing a woman wearing a red bikini and red lipstick.
But I was in the heart of Amish country; where the women don’t wear lipstick and most don’t even own a bikini. And even if by some chance I found one that did, they usually don’t want their photo taken.
Although most Amish refuse to allow themselves to be photographed, some make a distinction between a photograph taken in a natural setting versus posing for one.
So if one day I happen to see an Amish woman in a red bikini, I will politely ask her if I can take her photo, but I won’t ask her to pose, and more important, all she has to do is act naturally. As for post processing with selective coloring, I’ll cross that covered bridge when I come to it.
In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes: “In our scripture it is said that there are four kinds of horses. The best horse will run before it sees the shadow of the whip. That is the best one.
The second one will run just before the whip reaches his skin. The third one will run when it feels pain on his body. The fourth one will run after the pain penetrates into the marrow of his bone. That is the worst one.
When we hear this story, perhaps everyone wants to be a good horse-the best horse. Those who find a great difficulty in practice of Zen will find more meaning of Zen. So sometimes I think the best horse is the worst horse and the worst horse is the best one.”
In this case, the best horse took a break from eating his lunch to let me take his photo.
The full version of this saying is that a new broom sweeps clean, but the old one knows the corners. These are Amish handmade brooms, so whether they sweep clean or know the corners is not the point; the thing is that they are made by hand one at a time.
Natural corn fibers and straw are carefully selected, then bound and sewn with a handmade loom, yes a handmade loom.
In this day and age of robot vacuums and electric mops, a handmade broom might seem ridiculous to some people, like a manual can opener or a phone that hangs on the wall. But there’s a certain old world charm to them that I can appreciate.
They are also sold on eBay, Etsy and Amazon, but it’s not the same as buying one from a wise old craftsman with a long beard, black hat and a draft horse.
When I drive through this part of Intercourse on a Sunday morning, I usually see at least 20 horse and buggies traveling on the back roads. Sunday is their day for spending time with family and members of the community.
I don’t know a lot about these so I did some research. Modern Amish buggies have brakes, an electrical system for lights and turn signals, and are available in any color you want as long as it’s black.
The asking price for this beauty is $3700, which may or may not be a great deal. The owner and the horse were not available, but I’m guessing that the horse is taking a much needed vacation. They work in the snow, rain, heat and gloom of night much like a mailman, but with fewer benefits and no days off.
As the Amish saying goes: “Alle Daag rumhersitze macht em faul,” which means sitting all day makes one lazy. Of course, of course.
As every fifth grader with a Hasselblad knows, getting the exposure right is not as easy as making a viral video of your cat. But by learning some basic principles, you can expose like a pro in just a few short years.
There is a well know method known in some circles as the golden triangle, which is not to be confused with Asia’s main opium producing area. The golden, or exposure triangle as it’s also called, is using the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed in the right combination to produce the results that you want.
Histograms can also be helpful, but like speed limit signs they are only a suggestion. The best way to learn exposure as well as other basics like metering, aspect ratio and composition is to practice.
Occasionally you may slightly overexpose a photo of something, maybe a horse and buggy in a Walmart parking lot, and realize that the effect is more interesting than all the other shots that have histograms like the Himalayas.
Play with the contrast in post processing, convert to black and white, and give it a title that suggests surrealism. Then, as if that isn’t enough, throw in a quote from Alfred Stieglitz such as: “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”
Once you master exposure, practice photographing clouds and call them equivalents.