Monday, August 11, 2014

The Blessing of the Combines

This is sort of a late post, for which I apologize in advance.

    Last week was the Blessing of the Combines ceremony in Snow Hill, Maryland. Basically what happens is all of the combines from the area are driven into town, where they are blessed to ensure a good harvest. A one day festival of activities is built around this, with the entire town getting involved.
"The Town Together" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/400, F/5.6, ISO 200

    Naturally, I took this to be an awesome chance for me to play around with street/event photography. I do have some experience with this, as I got to explore the streets of NYC on several awesome occasions, as well as my work documenting battalion life/events at while at the Academy. While plotting things out in advance, I decided that I wanted to travel light, so I brought only a single body and lens: The Sony A99 and Minolta 28-85 F/3.5-4.5. As I've mentioned before, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with this lens. I really think it is just too heavy of a lens, considering how soft and slow it is. I can't wait until I can afford the 24-70 Zeiss, which is supposed to be the best mid-range zoom in its class.

    The event kicked off at about 11:30, and I positioned myself at the main intersection of town. Down the road, I could see the parade heading towards us. Crossing the draw-bridge, they came into range of my camera, where I was able to score a number of good shots.
"American LaFrance Fire Truck" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/800, F/4.5, ISO 200

"Little Tractors" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/640, F/4.5, ISO 200

"Ford Tractor" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/500, F/4.5, ISO 200

    Finally, after many smaller pieces of farm equipment trundled through, the distinct roar of the combines could be heard. A column of them followed the parade in alternating models of red and green. Even without the wide harvesting implement on the front, they barely squeezed through the small streets.
"Case Combine" Sony A99, 30mm, 1/500, F/4.5, ISO 200

    Once all the combines were in position on a side street, people began to head for the festival stage, where the National Anthem was about to be sung. I tried to cut through the crowd, but was unsuccessful.

"Man in the Crowd" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/500, F/4.5. ISO 200

    When I finally did arrive at the stage, a man announced the day's schedule, and I took a snap or two. There appeared to be many photographers at the event. I saw plenty of garden-variety T2i's, as well as the odd 60d and even a 7D, which seems to be the preferred semi-professional camera of choice here. As far as I could tell, I was the only full-frame shooter there. I saw a couple of Nikon D3200s, but overall, the cameras were decidedly in favor of Canon. To my great surprise, I actually saw a Sony A700, which thrilled me to death, as I had not ever seen another Sony SLR/SLT in the wild.
    The weather was warm and fairly overcast, which made for some good street portraits. As I weaved down through the town, I saw this guy standing around:
"Portrait of a Man and Dog" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/800, F/5.6, ISO 400
    Because of lessons learned with low shutter speed, I ramped up my ISO so that I could get a fast enough shutter speed to get crisp results. I think the result was quite pleasing.

    The Blessing of the Combines is sort of a county fair flash-mob. the whole thing is set up, visited, and removed in one day, but includes all the accoutrements of a fair. Food stalls, games, a petting zoo; it's all here.
"Horsey" Sony A99 85mm, 1/640, F/5.6, ISO 400

"The Petting Zoo Prisoner" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/320, F/5.6, ISO 800

"Peeps!" Sony A99, 85mm, 1/400, F/5.6, ISO 1600
"Good Food" Sony A99, 50mm, 1/1250, F/4, ISO 200


    Overall, I think the event was very fun, and I hope to go again next year if I'm not at the Naval Academy. I think that the A99 proved itself as a great street shooter, and that Minolta lens proved surprisingly sharp at the long end. At F/5.6 it was awesome. Well everyone, that was the Blessing of the Combines in 11 photos. Thanks for reading!

These pictures and many others can be found at the author's Flickr page, here.

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