Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Yorkshire show in Lancashire

Taking photos at poultry and agricultural shows I sometimes get asked where people can see my feeble offerings. Partly with that in mind, as I don't do Facebook, I'm trying to build a website to easily display my photographs so they don't have to read my ramblings on here. Today's efforts round the sheep pens at the Todmorden Show (helpfully held in Holme on the right side of the border) can be seen in gallery form here (for the best viewing experience click on the first picture and click next to scroll through) or here for a slideshow. The site is tablet and mobile friendly so tapping and swiping should work. I hope!

Despite the picture above the weather was mixed. Cooler than of late and showery. The poultry tent kept me dry a couple of times. And that was where I started the day. Struggling to find anything to photograph that was different to the hundreds of pictures I already have of poultry shows.

I tried to channel my inner Martin Parr for a while, but it didn't go well. The only way I can think of to take the project further is to step right out of my comfort zone and ask people if I can take portraits. I'm not too sure that's the kind of pictures I want to be making. While it isn't easy for me to ask, it is a bit of a soft option because I'll have a set idea in mind for what I want to achieve. Much of the attraction of photography to me is the unexpected.I t could also become a collection of pictures of 'characters'. Which would feel kind of exploitative.A tricky balance would have to be struck. Meanwhile at the sheep pens...

Things didn't go much better. Not being in close to the action puts obstacles in the way of the lens and demands the use of longer focal lengths which put a psychological distance into the pictures making them less immersive for the viewer. I saw three photographers around the show using 70-200 lenses. My 28-300 might not be as optically superb as those, and it doesn't always give the same subject/background separation, but it does go wider so I can get in close when the opportunity presents itself.

Another advantage it has over the 'pro' lens is that its closer focusing  allows me to get close-up detail shots. And I don't have to keep swapping lenses or camera bodies!

Overall my haul of pictures to add to the project files was slim. I did get the obligatory sheep judging picture of the teeth examination. And a decent example too. Something I have noticed me getting lazy about is making pictures that have a satisfying visual structure as well as interesting content. I must concentrate more. Although when my viewpoint is restricted so are my framing options.

I also got some human/sheep interaction shots which work quite well, as images an as story telling. Capturing moments is something that is difficult and often at events such as country shows it's easier to fall into the trap of photographing characters from afar. As I often mention here and to myself when I find the lens zooming out and pointing towards some weather beaten soul.

I don't often photograph children in these paranoid times, but some pictures demand to be taken. It's all about expression and gesture.

 Smiling people aren't a common sight in my picture files but when there's a sheep complaining in the same frame...

Although all the sheep pictures were taken with my trusty do-it-all lens I had intended to use the little Fujis. I started out with one in the poultry tent. Got a couple of sharp, well exposed pictures of a chicken then missed some people pictures because of the focusing and put the ting back in my bag for the rest of the day. I saw one or two people using small cameras and I still found I could get in close with my cumbersome old thing without anyone batting an eyelid. It really is all down to having the confidence to do it and be brazen enough too. I don't always have what it takes, but some days i do.

I didn't just photograph poultry and sheep. I took some snaps around the show. Cattle aren't my favourite animals. I prefer them slightly more than horses. While goats might have some similarities to sheep they don't appeal to me the same way. However, both cattle and goats can be photogenic.

And finally. Going through my four hundred plus wastes of disc space I did the old trick of converting to black and white to see if a picture still worked. I came to the conclusion that black and white is more forgiving than colour. You might not be able to make monochrome silk purses from coloured sows ears, but you can get away with more in black and white. Distracting blocks of out of focus colour become far less distracting blocks of grey as soon as you desaturate a picture. Compositionally there is less to worry about when framing shots. And if you give it that good old black border and present it on white a mono shot instantly becomes art!

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