Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Conversations and cloning

I wish I could do it justice. Imagine a keen foreign photographer, yours truly, sat at his kitchen table. With a beer. And a farmer. Who also has a beer. It's a scene that has been played out often. Frequently. Weekly even. Except that this time is different. We discuss the merits or otherwise of ASM (Clermont-Ferrand's rugby team) in the recent top 14 final. It is ASM's 10th final. And their 3rd in a row. And they came 2nd again. So there's a lot to talk about. Which is good, you understand. Because all the while I'm wondering how exactly I'm going to broach the subject of flies. How exactly am I going to ask him if he minds me putting bath oil and essential oils on his cows. The reason is clear enough to me. Very persuasive even. But I'm not sure he's going to even get to wondering why. And even then. Flies kind of go with the territory as far as he's concerned. So I think of this phrase and that. Of starting in a round about way. For quite a long time. Which is also good, because it gives us both the time to start another beer. And to get some way through it.

So when I finally broach the subject, he doesn't laugh. There is a very very long pause however. Long enough that I have plenty of time to wish that he had laughed instead. But, after a few deep breaths, he asks me one or two questions. And it looks like it might be alright. So he leaves, a beer or two better off, muttering about eucalyptus and citronella, bath oil and flies, and climbs into his car and disappears over the hill.

I'm still waiting for his reply. I don't know if I could start the same conversation again.

So I have tried a bit of photoshopping. And, amateur as I am, I think it might just work.

But to be honest, I really want to plaster his cows in essential oils now. Just so I can say I did. You understand don't you?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Smellies it is then

The rubbish weather this morning hasn't made any impact on the flies, so I'm about to raid the essential oil supply for some eucalyptus ... and the kitchen for vinegar

Cows and flies

I've been searching the web for fly solutions (no pun intended!) this morning. And there are a few out there. Mainly seem to be for horses, but flies are flies I reckon. So I'm going to run these past the farmers and hope to get their go-ahead to try them out. I'm going to go for the natural recipes I've found. Citronella and eucalyptus are popular ingredients added to vinegar bath oil and water.

It's pretty fresh this morning too, so I'm going to take a ride down and see if there are fewer flies today. The light's not good though ...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More cows

Flies. Are. A. REAL. Problem. Not sure what to do about them. Yesterday I waited til evening and wandered over to the first herd's new gaff. Having spoken to their guy first, me and my little lamb ventured into the field with them. They were quite curious. Not very, but enough to get up close and personal for some intimate shots. But God those flies ... not nice. So I need to have a think about that. Later we headed over to herd number 2's evening milking event. Not so many flies - great! But being an indoor gig, there's not much light either. Hmmm. What about first thing in the morning? Well I headed up hill to herd number 3's field at 7.30 this morning. They are a lovely colour, great hair, rather younger and sweeter than herds 1 and 2, and way more curious. Which is great - more up close stuff. But my God those flies ...

I reckon that some kind of cleaning operation is going to be required. Which raises the stakes somewhat. Otherwise it's plan B. Which little lamb came up with last night. What else is distinctive? Skin patterns. Not sure that's interesting enough for a photo book, but hey, don't knock it until you've tried it ...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Where SofoBoMo is taking me ...

My SoFoBoMo project is underway. This morning's crop of photos were accompanied by some free-ranging thoughts. The cows are the starting point and the focus. But the hills, rocks, hay fields, flowery pasture, silage, fences and walls are all part of the context. So I've taken some shots of those things too. The impact of dairy farming on the landscape is also interesting. And then there's the impact of grants, agribusiness finance, intensification and so on. So my challenge now is to integrate something of these contextual aspects into the book, while remaining focused on the cows. And of course the coiffures.

SoFoBoMo - Cows with Coiffures

SoFoBoMo is short for Solo Photo Book Month - a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time.

I've chosen cows with coiffures. This follows a project to take some portraits of sheep last year where I discovered some real individual characters. I thought it might work with cows, and that the hair styles might be the key. This is my SoFoBoMo project for 2009.

I started on the 30th May. So far I've been building relationships with the various different groups around the village. Visiting every day, getting closer, talking, mooing, belching and sniffing. The theory is that if I make similar noises, they may let me get closer, and be generally less disturbed when I eventually get in the field with them.

Last year I discovered that getting in amongst the animals was great for perspective, and background as well as just getting closer. Some of the more agressive cam close, but their darting runs at me made it quite hard to photograph.

This year I need to be more careful not to upset them. Cows are a lot bigger than sheep! They do seem to be less agressive and more curious though. This means they may get too close to photograph easily.

The other thing is flies. Flies love cows eyes, and they look foul. Even around 7am - the earliest I've tried so far - and with temperatures around 6-8C, they're already there. Not sure how to solve that one yet.

Anyway. Here's one shot to give you an idea.