I was driving around yesterday and realized I was near the house of the Amish Dahlia dealer I met a couple of weeks ago. I pulled into her driveway, grabbed my camera and she smiled and said: “You’re back for more pictures!” I was.
The usual questions began only this time with a special request. “What do you do with these pictures? Do the people leave comments? Do you ever tell the people where they can buy these flowers?”
I told her that I usually don’t but that this time I would mention that there is a wonderful woman selling the most beautiful Dahlias I’ve ever seen who lives on the corner of Ridge Road in Gordonville, Pennsylvania.
You can tell her the big guy with the Honda sent you and say: “Er is weenich ad.” Which means: “He’s a little off in the head.” I think she’ll know exactly who you mean.
I believe it was Edward Weston who said there are no bad onions, only bad photographs of onions. So when I saw the Free Onions sign I stopped to grab some for a still life. But they were all bad and I didn’t want to stink up my car.
I took a few shots to see if I could capture their beauty even though they are basically pig food now. I’m not sure if this is a good photograph because I’m not a professional onion photographer, but it’s my best out of thirty five.
Weston also said something that I’ve always liked: “Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.” Now all I have to do is explain that to the Amish farmers.
Thomas A. Edison who accumulated 512 patents worldwide for his inventions once said: “I have far more respect for the person with a single idea who gets there than for the person with a thousand ideas who does nothing.”
I had other ideas for this challenge but the big train light seemed like a good one and I had nothing else to do. I’m actually very good at doing nothing but since I no longer drink its almost impossible to really enjoy it.
When you think about photographing horses, you probably picture a naked woman riding an Arabian stallion on a sandy beach at sunset. It’s a good plan if you can manage to put it all together, but until then you may want to practice locally.
Living in Pennsylvania it’s easier to find horses than it is to find good lobster and they all love to pose. If you have trouble finding horses where you live consider going to a riding stable or school.
Tip 1: They usually have crud in their eyes. You don’t have to point this out to them but see if you can find one that has less. Another option is to get further away and avoid head shots.
Tip 2: As soon as it gets really hot they’re often covered with flies. While this may not seem like a big deal it really does take away from the beautiful animal that you’re trying to capture.
Tip 3: Horses are very friendly and will come up to you to see what you want. Despite the warnings, I always pet them and have never had my fingers bitten off. Your results may vary.
Tip 4: Consider converting to black and white. Unless you’re lucky enough to capture the perfect light, choose one of the many ways to do this then lie like a professional. Tell everyone how color is distracting, that black and white forces you to focus on the image, and that you were going for that aesthetic, artistic look.
Tip 5: This is the big one: you want to get a good composition, an interesting pose and ideally something in the background. Most horses have very little to do during the day so they just sort of stand there, which is good because you’ll have plenty of time to think about the shot.
Finally, don’t ask them why the long face, I’ve never met once that thinks that’s funny.
I stopped at an Amish flower stand to check out the sunflowers I saw last week and an old woman on a bicycle rode up and said hello. I mentioned how big they got and she told me that she didn’t plant them, it was the birds.
When I asked her if any were flowering she told me there was one on the end of the row but something was wrong with it, it wasn’t perfect. I walked over with the curiosity of Schrödinger’s cat and wondered what she meant.
As soon as I saw it I knew that it was absolutely perfect! The leaves protecting the flower were growing at an odd angle but it was very healthy and probably happy to have someone care so much about it.
I took a few photos as the clouds burned off into bright sunshine, the kind of bright that makes color photos of flowers look washed out, so I knew I would end up converting this to black and white. I thanked the woman and told her she made my day.
“Do you think it will be OK?” she asked me before I left. I was a bit surprised at the question but I figured she was used to dealing with two headed calves and vegetables that grow to look like genitals, the Amish hate when that happens. I assured her the flower would be fine.
The Buddha said: “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up because you will lose the ability to learn new things. Move forward with your life.” I didn’t tell her that because she was close to 80 and I’m sure she has life pretty much figured out by now.
I stopped to photograph this Amish farmer getting his field ready for planting and it was such a tender moment that tears came to my eyes. It might have been the near freezing temperature and biting wind, but the scene reminded me of many things.
Time passing so quickly, the changing of the seasons, the beauty of spring and the hard work of these farmers. As the smell of horse manure rose into the air, I thought of the show Green Acres, and Oliver deciding that working with his hands was more important than working as a lawyer in the big city.
I would say that farm livin’ is the life for me, keep Manhattan just give me that countryside. But I don’t like getting muddy, or working in a field all day, or having obsessive photographers standing there taking my picture while I’m trying to do my job.