Photography by Jim Doty

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Ohio Wheat Harvest

The Ohio wheat harvest was in full swing as I drove across northern Ohio last Friday. I started looking for a field with rows that ran perpendicular to the road and at right angles to the sun so I could use a polarizing filter to darken the washed-out blue sky. (Too much moisture in the air makes the blue sky pale. The drier air in the Western U.S. makes for those wonderful dark blue western skies.

I found a field and got out to photograph the combine as it turned and came back my way. To my surprise, the two men involved in the harvest (one was driving trucks loaded with grain) asked if I wanted to ride along. They didn't have to work too hard to convince me.

I climbed up into the air-conditioned comfort of the cab which was set at a pleasant 73 degrees (it was 85 outside).  As we bounced along at 4 miles per hour, I learned more about harvesting wheat than I could remember or record here. The driver pointed out the differences in the stand of wheat in the field, based on moisture content and other conditions. As we bounced along we could see where deer had bed down in the field.

In pre-computer days, the slower you drove, the less grain you would lose as you harvested the field. With today's computer sensors, a little gauge with a green zone showed how fast we could go and still get the maximum harvest with minimum loss - hence our exciting speed of 4 mph. At our pace we could harvest 100 acres in a good day. A computer screen showed the total amount of wheat, the yield per acre, moisture content, and all sorts of other stuff. There was even a built in GPS unit.

The driver controlled our forward speed and the harvesting process with a neat looking orange joystick (see the photo above).  There were three brakes on the floor (photo below). I watched the blades close to the ground cut off the stalks of wheat while the auger blade and rotating bars swept the wheat into the throat directly below us. Wonderful things happened inside the combine to separate the grain from the stalk. The grain dropped into a container behind us while the rest went out the back.

As we made our way across the field, I saw a state patrolman off in the distance putting a yellow slip on my windshield.  Once we were close enough, I waved and he waved back. Everything was OK. The slip told me if I left the car for more than 48 hours on the side of the highway, the state patrol would be kind enough to pick it up and take care of it for me. How thoughtful!!

I really enjoyed my ride. A special thanks to Dwayne and Bill for giving me the opportunity! It confirms again that most folks really are nice. My apologies to all of the farmers out there if I got something wrong here.

All photos were taken with a Canon 10D digital camera. Most outside photos were taken with a Canon EF 28-135 IS lens with a polarizing filter. The photos inside the cab were taken with a Canon EF 15mm semi-fisheye lens. This lens is the reason some straight lines are slightly bowed. An external polarizing filter cannot be mounted on the 15mm lens. The lack of a polarizing filter is why the sky looks so washed out in the third photo from the top.

A larger version of all six photos


July 6, 2004

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