Gimme a Sign

Weaver's Bike Shop
Weaver’s Bike Shop

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.

The Best Horse

The Best Horse
The Best Horse

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.

A New Broom Sweeps Clean

Amish Handmade Brooms
Amish Handmade Brooms

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.

Horse and Buggy for Sale-Horse Not Included

Amish Buggy For Sale
Amish Buggy For Sale

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.

Overexposed at Walmart

Horse and buggy parking
Horse and buggy parking

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.

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.