Tunnel back in time, seventy kilometres west from the historic city of Philadelphia, Route 30, Lancaster Amish County, in Pennsylvania, offers one motif after another for a colourful and different photo album. The first shot-wide angle, high speed, 100 ISO -should be the astonish panoramic view of the rolling hills with lush grasses and crops surrounding the neatly cultivated farms and windmills. Change wide angle for a200- 400 tele objective to take photos from the same perspective focusing in details of the wooden house, the black hanging clothes, the windows without curtain…details that talk about the way of living of the Pennsylvania Amish (Dutch) People dating back 16th, century, in time of Reformation, when the Anabaptist Jakob Amman split from the Mennonites. Later on, in 1730, Amish from Germany and mainly from dutch speaking Swiss, began migrating to America along with Mennonites and Brethrens, three of them sharing common beliefs concerning Baptist, non-resistance, and basic Bible doctrines being the Amish the most conservative, including their reluctance to adopt modern advances such as electricity, and their simply and functional dressing.
Immerse in the verdant fields laced with rural roads, slowly and attentively wandering, be aware of the beautiful patchwork quilts hanging in the wooden terraces of the houses, probably for selling purposes. The colour combinations and designs of most of them are replication of those made in the early 1900s. Nice shot will be-24-105 lens, fast shutter speed 100 ISO- the still picture of two or three hanging quilts, the wooden terrace background. Change to a macro lens, and using the tripod, slow shutter speed to capture a larger amount of light and wide aperture f 1/4, take a close up to emphasize the gorgeous patchwork drawing.
The sound of the trotting horses approaching captivates the camera, ready to shoot the buggy drawn horse, 70-200 lens using progressive scan at a slow shutter speed, following with the camera the object to be focused, in this case the buggy, at no more than 1/60 to trap the movement of the unfocused background and a focused scene of the buggy, different colours in the carriage top, indicating various clans within the fraternity. Amish community are not allowed to have motor vehicles, therefore, around Lancaster County moves a display of picturesque carriages; special wagon to be used when transporting goods to the market, hatchback opening to provide more space and easier loading, closed buggies, window in the back when visiting other members of the community, the one known like Courting Buggy as it seats up only two passengers…all of them ideal to photograph, taking in account, that Amish people don’t like to be photographed, unless permission required. There is no problem to take pictures of the houses, objects, scenery, but when it concerns to people it’s needed special care and politeness, specially for close ups, as Amish believe that photographs in which they can be recognized violate the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image” They want to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they left, not by physical appearance Accessible to take people photographs in the distance, for example of a man ploughing a field with a horse drawn plough with a 70-200 lens 100 ISO 1/60 focusing on the whole plough-man and horses. Charming pictures, 25-105 lens high speed 100 ISO- should be taken of the Amish buggies traffic signals inviting the cars to share the road with them or the unique shot of the horse drawn buggies caravan, each of them carrying the traffic red triangle warning sing in the back, highlighting over the black surface of the buggies.
Lancaster County has become synonymous with Pennsylvania Amish Country and their charming oldest towns and villages are worth to visit. Don’t miss to take an anecdotic photography of the signal announcing villages with very funny sexually suggested names such Bird in hand, Intercourse, Ephrata, Mount Joy, Paradise, Blue Balls…even more special, being aware of the strict moral code of the communities they represent. Do these curious names come from thieves? Where they name by tavern titles? Or it was simply someone’s joke? Who knows?
Exploring the back roads will be the perfect way to discover the bewitching covered bridges of the county. Emulating the photographer played by Clint Eastwood in Madison Bridges? Wandering around north central Lancaster County near by the town of Lititz there are colourful wooden covered bridges, which obligate to make a long stop, study the best light and perspective to set the tripod and with luminous 50 mm lens at a slow shutter speed, 100 ISO shot a whole frame picture of the bridge. Afterwards change the lens to a wide angle to trap the stream below the bridge, the forest covered hill backwards, to finish the session with a 70-200 mm teleobjective photo of quant details of the roof, corners, floor or nails in the old bridge. Same procedure with the covered bridges of southern Lancaster County towns of Strasburg and Christiana or the northern Amish Country covered bridges near Ephrata.
Though discretion and privacy are a must for Amish people, lately, the most part they have accepted the influx of tourism as something they cannot change and some of them have even opened small shops and restaurants, adding tourism profits to their income. A gentle photo will be the allowed shot of the huge restaurants resembling barracks, cozy wooden furnished, where everybody seats together in banks waiting for Amish ladies to serve they delicious and natural food, as, dried corn, whoopee pies, schnitzel, free range chicken, delicious jams and butter and home made lemonade to quench thirst. Take your time; enjoy conversation with your table neighbours and after savouring the unique lemon pie for desert, set the tripod in a convenient corner of the huge room, and at a slow shutter speed, wide-open aperture, 100 ISO, shoot a panoramic of the whole place full of guests sited in long banks while cap and white apron Amish ladies come and go bringing delicious Amish Country Home style food, fresh produce. Try to catch a cute contrast of an Amish lady, and jeans, sunglasses, flower shirt, trendily dressed outsider young woman, or the peaceful expression of the no make up Amish faces, vs. the made-up ones… For these close up pictures it is advisable to use a 50 mm luminous lens, convenient for interior pictures, high speed, wide-open aperture and ISO 800 minimum. Although it’s always a fine gesture to ask for photo permission, the Amish people working in public places as restaurants or shops don’t matter to be photographed as they feel it like part of the tourist tour. Before leaving the Amish restaurant have a look and take a picture of the Amish groceries and gift shops where you can buy jellies, spices and seasonings, candles, cookbooks, Agave natural sweetener and their famous quilts. Set the macro in the tripod and at a slow speed, wide-open aperture and ISO100 shot a slow and detailed photo of these products and crafts.
Stepping outside the shop an evening sun has painted the lushed fields and the wooden houses with a satin pink tint, ideal to be remembered in a picture, 24-105 lens shooting at a fast shutter speed, closed down the aperture for a blurred motion of people and buggies, 400 ISO. Another colourful motif to photograph of that extraordinary day could be a black drawn horse buggy-backlighting shoot against the sun, using a teleobjective 70-200 that will enlarge the image of the black buggy crossing the red inflamed ball of the sun, before heading to the charming and quiet Bed & Breakfast.
- Time required for this trip: Two days.
- Traveller profile: Amateur. ( What´s this? )
- Itinerary difficulty: Quite easy.
- Adventure level: Low.
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- Full frame digital DSLR bodies Canon EOS 5D-Nikon 800.
- Canon 16-35 mm f4-Nikon 16-35 mm F4.
- Canon EF 24-105 mm- Nikon 24-120 F4.
- Canon 100-400mm-Nikon 80-400mm f4.
- Enough CF cards to store 500 photos per day. A big stack of 8 GB cards (each holds 500 RAW)
- Polarizing Filter or UV Filter (also called Haze)
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- Wander around Lancaster County, hunting pictures of the houses, restaurants and shops around the villages curiously called: Bird in Hand, Intercourse, Ephrata, Mount Joy, Paradise or Blue Balls…
- Wooden Bridges near Lititz in central Lancaster County and the ones in Strasburg and Christiana in southern Lancaster County, or near Ephrata in northern Lancaster Country.
- Amish buggies, gray, black, yellow or white, depending on the religious order, ride all along the region. It’s known to what sect each one belongs from the colour of the top familiarly called “yellow topers” “white toppers” or “black toppers”.
- Windmills are found all over Lancaster County and make delicious shots especially at sunset when the red ball of the sun frames the windmill blades.
- Handmade art crafts and groceries are a good subject for still pictures.
- Don’ts miss to take a photo of one of the many Mennonites restaurant around the county where people sits together in large banks, and the chicken, mashed potatoes, the Harvard beets and the custards and gravies taste like in the old good times, and are ideal for a very special picture from a very special way of living.
- File format: RAW so you can fiddle with exposure later on.
- Set the camera lens 24-105 at 100 ISO while wandering around to trap details of the farms, patchwork quilts hanging in the ropes, people walking. You’ll feel secure with that lens.
- To make portraits of people in the distance you will need a 100-400 lens at a 400 ISO at daylight, smallest aperture.
- It makes lovely pictures that ones of the farms surrounded by fields, framed by autumn leaves trees. A 16-35mm. will be the lens for these special photographs, at 100 IS, wide aperture.
- To photograph the roofed wooden bridges at a nice dawn or sunset light place the tripod few meters from the entrance, the sun on your back, wide aperture, slow shutter speed, 400 ISO.
- Be aware of the autumn haze for a polarizing or UV filter.
- Insure your camera gear before trip and be sure that your company includes any type of loss and that the coverage is in force worldwide.
- Have a copy of your insured equipment list.
- Drive carefully and keep an eye out for slow-moving Amish buggies, meanwhile you can take a quick photo of them. Don’t intend to take pictures of the schools or close ups of people in their farms and houses.