By Joann M. Ringelstetter
On the first weekend in October of this year, Ruth and I spent three days photographing on the backroads of Minnesota. Throughout that weekend, we were blessed with numerous unexpected opportunities to meet some very friendly folks and to have them share information with us and allow us to photograph them and their special properties.
On Saturday morning, we left home at 3:00 am in order to be in Pickwick, Minnesota at first light. Our intention was to photograph a six-story stone mill, but when we arrived there in the dark, we knew there would be no opportunity to photograph this historic mill. The town was still recovering from a flood and things were in total disarray around the mill. As I assessed the situation, it began to rain, and this rain continued throughout the entire day.
Rainy weather presents some very interesting challenges when you’re trying to photograph, but it also bears the gifts of saturated colors and even lighting. The challenges I faced that Saturday were small compared to the challenges of a group of Amish men who were attempting to harvest the corn they had cut before the rain began.
We knew that we were in an Amish area, but since it was raining, we didn’t expect to find anyone working in the fields. As we came down a gravel road, we were surprised to have stumbled upon a corn harvest in progress, in the driving rain.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m very respectful of the Amish not wanting to have their picture taken. As I got out of the car with the intention of asking permission to photograph the teams of horses, a good-looking Amish gentleman who was loading a wagon near the road shouted, “You got your camera?” I said, “I sure do.” “Well, then,” he replied, “why don’t you take some pictures of us and put them in the paper. You can tell everyone about these crazy Amish guys who were so desperate to get their corn in that they were harvesting in the rain!” And then he told me that I could take as many pictures as I wanted.
So I grabbed my tripod, camera, and umbrella and began to photograph this amazing event. There were a total of six teams of work horses, each pulling a large wagon. Most of the time, there were three wagons in the field being loaded with cut corn stalks, one on the way to the silo, one at the silo where the corn was being chopped and put into the silo, and one on the way back to the field for another load.
In addition to the six teams of horses and wagons, there was a young boy waiting with a team of horses at the corner of the field. As soon as a wagon was fully loaded with corn, it would be pulled to the corner of the field where the young boy’s team would be hooked to the front of the team with the loaded wagon. Both teams of horses would then pull with all their might to get the heavy wagonload of corn up the embankment and onto the gravel road.
Ruth was in the car watching and I was standing in the rain capturing as much of the action as I could without getting in the way of their work. At one point, Ruth (bless her heart) stood in the rain holding the umbrella over me so that I had two hands free to work my camera controls and zoom lens as the teams came up out of the field onto the road in front of us. The action was fast and furious and it was accentuated by the steam coming off the horses, the sounds of horse hooves and harnesses, men talking to each other and to their horse teams, and smiles as they drove their teams past us.
We are grateful for the generosity of these men in allowing us into their world. This was an event that we never expected to see and certainly didn’t expect to be given permission to photograph. And it is something we will remember forever.