The weather forecast called for heavy rain so we left the riding contraptions at home. A non-riding day. When I first met Paul twenty years ago it was through photography. He didn’t have a motorcycle at the time and my riding life was still ten years in the future. But we did routinely set out to explore and make photographs. This recent misreading of the weather had us reliving those earlier photo safaris.
Paul works with a Nikon D800 camera and almost always on a tripod. He’s chasing perfection in sharpness and tonal range best served through a motionless camera. I’m at the other end of the spectrum fueled by impatience and indifference to most technical concerns.
One of my professors in art school pointed out to me after looking at dozens of photographic contact sheets that I have a fascination, perhaps an obsession, with vertical elements in pictures. I thought of those conversations when making this photograph of a utility pole standing before a cornfield. Still don’t know what piques my visual interest but I do have a lot of pictures with vertical elements slicing through a scene.
I’ve photographed that tree dozens of times over the years creating scenes and views of it slicing a frame. The images have little to do with trees but can’t say for sure what exactly drives the effort to look. Whatever I see it’s meaning remains a mystery.
ARAT, another rock, another tree, is a pejorative term in the visual arts community sometimes applied to photographers interested in the landscape. When America was falling in love with Ansel Adams in the 1960s and 70s many artists criticized photographers gazing at rocks and trees when the world was on fire and needed more social and political commentary.
I still photograph trees. And scooters. Not much in the way of social commentary coming from me save for the relative simplicity of life on the road with two wheels.
I recently purchased a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera. It’s small, plastic and makes incredibly sharp images. As much as I like my Canon G15 I wanted something that performs better in low light and generally produces a crisper, cleaner image but was not the kind of heavy beast that I’ve carried for years as a working photographer.
Over the years my understanding of agriculture has deepened and I appreciate the struggle and timing of production and harvest these scenes mean. But the real attraction has always been the patterns and sweeps of land that a farmer serves. Whenever I think I’m busy or hard at work I think of these scenes.
A sign not seen in every town. Millheim, Pennsylvania is in the heart of the Amish communities of Penns Valley and it’s not uncommon to see horse drawn wagons and buggies on the roads crisscrossing the area. They take up more space to park and the town reacts accordingly.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone cleaning up after their horse though.
Millheim is a prototypical central Pennsylvania town. The brick facades and construction styles can be found everywhere. They’re ordinary and invisible but on closer inspection they have their own unique hue and spirit. I could spend a lifetime and not see all the variants of color and texture.
Offsetting the quaint horse and buggies of Millheim was a gathering of Harley Davidson motorcycles at the Millheim Hotel. In addition to the main street lined with motorcycles there was a rich collection out back with a dazzling array of sparkling chrome and color. Not a filthy, hard ridden adventure bike in the mix. No Vespa scooter either.
I’m not a Harley aficionado so the machines can all sort of look the same to me but Paul provided a mini-lesson in some of the finer points of Harleydom. If the machines look alike to me, so do the riders. There is definitely a uniform of sorts for both men and women. While I’m sure there were helmets somewhere I don’t remember seeing any unless you call the red, blue or black bandanas tied to the head a helmet.
Everyone was having a good time. When we first walked down the street toward the gathering you could hear one extremely loud motorcycle revving it’s engine, moving slowly somewhere along an alley and continuing to rev, move and rev again. The sound echoed among the buildings and seemed to go on forever. The rider eventually emerged onto the main street and then roared out of town at a breakneck speed.
It was gratifying to see the Harley riders standing in front of the hotel just shaking their heads. I just kept walking and making pictures, wishing I would have ridden so I could park my little scooter among the motorcycles.
All part of a non-riding day.