Category: Work

Photomatix Essentials Review

Amish Plow Horses HDR
Amish Plow Horses HDR

I was driving home after getting coffee this morning and saw an Amish farmer plowing his field. I almost always stop for horses so I decided to walk over to where he would end up and wait until he got close enough.

He seemed to be having some trouble and after about ten minutes ran into his barn to get something. After another ten minutes he ran back in again, this time coming back with a tractor. Since he was in the middle of a very large field I found an old milk crate and sat down to watch.

Finally I saw the horses heading towards me and told myself to wait until I could see the whites of their eyes, at the same time trying not to get the farmers face in the shot, some are OK with a photo and some are not.

Still sitting down with a perfect view I framed the shot and took about five. I felt I had at least one good one and got up to leave as the horses stopped to look at me. I didn’t know if they wanted to pose for more or were just confused, then I realized I was in their way.

The farmer smiled and said good morning then continued with what looked like a long day of work. The photos were all sharp but I couldn’t get the color right in Lightroom and black and white seemed like a cop out.

I have Photomatix Essentials that I got free from a photo magazine a while ago and uploaded just the one RAW file, then chose the default preset, saved it as a TIFF and imported it back into Lightroom. Usually you’ll want to upload several bracketed images but this was just an experiment.

It turned out surprisingly well and brought the blue back to what was a very gray sky. I don’t use this software much because the results are usually a little overdone but it was better than deleting a photo I spent almost 45 minutes to take.

Photomatix HDR Photo Editing Programs & Plugins

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.

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

Listening to the Amish

Amish Horses
Amish Horses

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.

Retirement-Now What?

Now What?
Now What?

Although I’m not officially retired, I haven’t worked in about nine years other than a very small online business. I get up every morning and ask myself the same question; now what? There are plenty of ways to fill your time but not all are equally satisfying.

Terri Guillemets once said that “Sometimes it’s hard to tell if retirement is a reward for a lifetime of hard work or a punishment.” I’m sure many people feel that way, especially if they’re struggling financially like myself, but it’s not only about the money.

I used to work for a guy that owned one of the largest restoration companies on Eastern Long Island. When he was well into his seventies he tried to retire and failed many times, preferring to work until he died.

I have a friend in Strasburg who is 78 years old and the best motorcycle mechanic in Pennsylvania. Until very recently, he worked six days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day by choice. The last time I saw him he told me he was retiring for good, but I have a feeling he’s back in his shop with a garage full of bikes and a smile on his face.

Both of these people had more money than they needed, but neither was the type to sit around and do nothing. When you retire you need a reason to get up in the morning, something to not only fill your time but to fill your life.

As hard as it may be to believe, especially if you’re nowhere near retirement age, doing nothing all day is not easy. Even Eckhart Tolle got tired of sitting around after a couple of years.

In Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, Pooh says: “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

When you’re three years old that may be great advice, but unless you drink heavily (not recommended) it’s not so great when you no longer have a job to go to and complain about for eight hours. Ah, those were the days…

Love and Work

The big car
The big car

I saw this car for sale in Cecil County, Maryland and had to take a look, and a photo. I think it’s a 1951 Chevrolet with a 3 speed 235 inline 6, but that’s just a wild guess.

Back in the 50’s a big car was a goal for most working men. It was a sign of success, and for many it was a very important thing to have.

After achieving that goal, other important things to have were a big house, a big pool, and a big bank account. If everything went well, one day they could retire in style and play golf, fish or do whatever they loved to do in their golden years.

If their bank account was big enough, they might eventually move into a luxury nursing home, with manicured lawns and comfortable chairs to sit on and think, think about what was important in their lives. Chances are it wasn’t any of the things that they thought would make them happy.

Freud said that successful living means functioning well in love and work. One of his quotes on this is; “Love and work… work and love, that’s all there is.”

You might want to figure out what is important to live a successful life now, rather than when you’re sitting in that chair, complaining that your soup is cold, and thinking about all the things that you could have done differently.

Something You See Everyday

Amish farmer
Amish farmer

Back when Vanna White was in school learning prepositional phrases, there was a game show on TV with a duck that dropped down holding a secret word for a chance to win $100. It was a common ordinary word, something you see everyday.

Living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania I see the Amish every day. I see them riding in buggies, working on the farm, stepping into shoes and dipping in the pocket of their raincoats. This may be as close as you can get to the chop wood, carry water way of life.

I shot this photo of a young Amish man working on his farm that is right behind a group of kitschy restaurants and tourists attractions. Places with names like Dutch Haven, Amish stuff, and the quintessential Grandma Jack’s Gourmet Popcorn. The people that see scenes like this must think about their own lives, the choices they made and the games that they play.

There was a time when I went to meetings with many steps and bad coffee, where we compared miseries and complained. Sooner or later, someone would inevitably say that you have to play the hand you’re dealt, meaning to accept the things that you can’t change. But what about the second part of their favorite slogan, to change the things that you can?

The real question might be, if life is a game, can you try for a better hand, or at least draw a few new cards? And what about the stakes, how much should you bet? Knowing that it’s the only game in town, you have to go all in and ignore the odds; you have to bet your life.