Wait.....what?

Giant Amish Donuts
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2015

I did a double take over this booth at the Indiana State Fair last month. Wait…what? Amish donuts?

Photography
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Shuttle rides $1

The Indiana State Fair is my favorite place to practice candid photography of random strangers. This was the first time I ever tried it, and boy did I take the wrong camera: my Olympus OM-1. Even though it’s a compact SLR, it was still mighty conspicuous. Too often, my subjects noticed me photographing them.

But not this time. These two people were engrossed in their conversation.

The next time I shot street at the fair, I took a much smaller camera.

Shuttle rides $1 • Olympus OM-1 • 50mm f/1.8 F.Zuiko Auto-S • Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 • August, 2012

Film Photography

Favorite Photos Week: Shuttle rides $1

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State Fair at dusk

Margaret and I walked toward the midway at dusk. It can’t be happenstance that the setting sun provides the arch’s evening backdrop, indigo and blush, drawing people in.

We had been drawn to each other this night, our third or fourth date. We walked and talked, occasionally pausing for a photograph. I carried my Olympus XA; I gave Margaret my XA2.

But upon this scene I let go Margaret’s hand. I wanted to frame this photograph properly. It might have been the only time all night I wasn’t touching her.

State Fair at dusk • Olympus XA • Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800 • August, 2013

Film Photography

Favorite Photos Week: State Fair at dusk

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Ferris wheel

Ferris wheel at night
Canon PowerShot S95
2014

Photography
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Calf

Calf
Canon PowerShot S95
2014

Photography
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Music, Photography

Singing the Sacred Harp

It’s an American vocal music tradition with roots traceable through two centuries. Sacred Harp brings groups together to sing hymns and anthems in four-part harmony without musical accompaniment.

Sacred Harp arranges singers a square, grouped by part. Singers take turns choosing and leading songs from the songbook. They stand in the middle of the square, starting the song and keeping the beat by swinging their hands. The singers follow right along with their voices and their hands.

Sacred Harp

There is nothing modern about Sacred Harp. The songs are old, the melodies and harmonies are old, the method is old. But anyone with even a scant ability to sing can participate after learning to read the songbook’s shaped notes.

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Each note has a shape and syllable (fa, sol, la, mi, fa) that makes it fast and easy to sight-read any song and sing along. Also, the Sacred Harp tradition is to start a song by singing a verse using the syllables instead of lyrics to help newcomers get a feel for it. To hear what Sacred Harp sounds like, check out this video.

A Sacred Harp group sings every year at the Indiana State Fair, and I was fortunate enough to be there when they were this year. They are not performing for an audience, although one always gathers. Rather, they are singing for the joy of it, and they welcome everybody to join them. While I sat listening, several people walked in, sat down in the square, were issued a songbook, and participated.

Sacred Harp

I so wanted to join them. I love to sing, especially in four-part harmony, having sung in choirs as a boy and in an a cappella Church of Christ as an adult. The Church of Christ hymnal even used shaped notes. But I never learned to read them because I learn songs by ear very easily. Unfortunately, I can’t learn a song fast enough to participate before the end of a song I’m hearing for the first time.

Sacred Harp

So I lingered around the edges of this intense group, photographing them in action. These were not professional singers, just bold ones. And my goodness, were they loud! My experience in the Church of Christ taught me that you can have marginal vocal ability and still participate fully in this kind of singing. The sound is always better than the sum of its parts.

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