Friday, August 10, 2018

To the Beat of His Own Penny-farthing

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    “Photography is a love affair with life.” - Burt Uzzle

  My wife and I have been taking morning walks this summer, stepping off from our house early to beat the heat. Leaving kids and dog behind has been liberating as we're free to roam where we wish at whatever pace we choose. Our pace was admittedly quite slow at first as we both needed many days to build up our endurance but we're now covering at least five miles a day as measured by our trusty Fitbits and actually passing other pedestrians occasionally. She often carries her water bottle on our walks. And of course, I take my camera.

  Many days, we choose to walk through the neighborhoods as we stroll towards the beachfront boardwalk. But on this particular morning, we instead headed towards the avenue and walked through the heart of town. Sunrise was well underway but the yellow sun was still low and shone in our faces as we slowly made our way to the boards. The great tourist crowds on the sidewalk were still many hours away but we had the company of several other early risers and the local shopkeepers were busy getting ready for the new day. Smells of dark roast and sugar wafted in the air as we passed by already lively coffee shops. Cars jockeyed for parking near the shore and families unloaded their brightly colored beach gear onto the sidewalk for the happy trudge to their claim in the sand. I thought I might be able to take a photo or two in the golden light at the beach.

  And then I saw him. The happiest and most carefree fellow I've ever seen rolled slowly by. And he wasn't in a rusty old VW van or flower power Beetle as you might expect. Instead, what made this aging hippy happy and quite delightful to me was his Penny-farthing.

To the Beat of His Own Penny-farthing

  Plus the fact that he was shirtless, wore a headband, had bare feet, and held his whiskered face up towards the light.

  Originally called a high-wheeler bicycle, and later an ordinary bicycle, these strange looking machines were ingenious devices that allowed for high speed travel on rough terrain with relatively slow pedaling. Looking from the side like an English penny coin followed by a farthing, they were all the rage until the lower seat height of the safety bicycle and the introduction of pneumatic tires superseded it in design and technology.

  I will admit I tried to capture this photograph a few moments earlier when he was more alongside me. But my camera wasn't on and I was slow to get it up to my eye. I'm always relearning the basic lessons of keeping the camera ready at all times. You just never know when an interesting subject happens by and if your lens cap is still on or your camera is off, you're going to miss the shot.

  What I really like about the image, apart from the man himself, is the sharp contrast between the bicycle and the road, the long shadow from his figure, and the highlights on his face and beard. This meant I had to process in monochrome. I also added a bit of grain to give a little artistic flair to the final photograph.

  I've been keeping an eye out for Penny-farthing man but I haven't seen him again. But you can be sure my camera will be ready if I do.

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