The historic town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is a feast for a photographer's eyes. My downtown neighborhood is one of my favorite places to photograph everything from people on the street to architectural detail. In fact, I get so overwhelmed at times with all the potential subjects that I recently decided to zero in on interesting porches. And there are plenty of them.
A couple weeks ago I took my new travel camera out to practice with it and came across a very unique porch. Actually, what was unique was the occupant of that porch. As is my habit, I rang the doorbell to ask permission to take photographs. There was no answer, so I only took photographs from the sidewalk. As is also my habit, I later printed and matted a 5x7 of my favorite image and delivered it, along with a thank you note. No one was home so I didn't meet the owner that day either.
This morning I returned to the porch with my "good" camera and rang the doorbell for a third time. Kathy (with a "K", nickname for Katharine with an "a") answered the door. She seemed delighted to meet me, thanked me profusely for the photo I gave her, and enthusiastically invited me to photograph her porch anytime. I asked many questions about the "Fish Lady" and the antique sleigh. The female porch visitor is actually the third one. The first was stolen (and wasn't the thief surprised when he/she discovered that it had no legs!); the second just didn't have the right look and was returned; but the third fits the bill even though she has no hands under those fishing gloves.
The sleigh has an interesting story too. Kathy's father bought it for her many years ago for $30 at an auction on Route 34 in Carlisle. A little while back someone offered Kathy $500 for it, but that wasn't enough to make her part with the special lady. I'm glad I didn't wait too long to return to this porch, because the fish props will soon be replaced by a floral display. And when the flowers fade, Dr. Suess will make an appearance. Kathy collects hats and has lots of ideas for future porch visitors.
Kathy had to get dressed for a meeting but urged me to meet her in the backyard before I left. I wasn't surprised to see a little piece of paradise, a relaxing natural landscape with layers of shrubs and flowers accented here and there with whimsical frogs and old galoshes. A small fish pond teamed with bright-orange koi, but they could not compete with the busy brood of chickens in the tidy coop nearby. Kathy's grandson recently built this for her, along with a shed where the hens roost and lay their eggs. Nine hens of nearly as many varieties and colors seemed quite content to eat the fresh grass clippings that lined the coop. Kathy gets the grass from her neighbor who owns a landscaping business. Another young neighbor is caring for the animals for her 4-H project and is doing a great job.
By now nearly an hour had passed, and both of us needed to get on with our day. Kathy graciously offered me some of those grass-fed eggs with their bright orange yolks, and I accepted of course. (Omelets for dinner tonight!) I promised to return and was given an enthusiastic okay to photograph Kathy with her chickens the next time. There will be more to say later on that I'm sure. But my point in sharing this story is that I have found, time and time again, that when I go the extra mile to respect people's privacy and property, I am almost always rewarded with experiences (and photographs) that far exceed whatever I could have "snatched" along the way. I'm not making judgements about taking photographs without asking permission. I do it all the time in public, and it is perfectly acceptable. I'm just saying that taking extra steps and extra time can enlarge and enrich our experience. It never hurts to ask....