Monday, 23 July 2018

Tiring weekend

it was a case of in two minds again this weekend. Could I face a sheep dog trial the day after a country show? From a lazy person's perspective sheep dog trials are great because there is no real need to get there early! Unlike poultry and sheep shows where the interesting stuff happens first thing and sort of fizzles out as the day progresses, a sheep dog trial is steadier in it's activity. Having just about recovered from what turned out to be almost the full day at the Royal Lancashire Show I was able to face a drive over the border by ten o'clock the following morning.

Having checked to see that the gates opened at nine on Saturday for the show I arrived a little after that to find the gates closed. Elf and Safety were at work. There were still vehicles moving on the show field and the public were being kept out. I'd miss the early action round the sheep pens.

Unusually, the sheep pens were under cover, with the showing taking place in a ring lined by crowd control barriers. As it turned out I wasn't too late and managed to sneak in to the pen area and tried to get some different pictures using 'better' lenses than usual. The different pictures I got, the difference between the lenses was less than internet wisdom would suggest. Certainly not at the longer focal lengths. I might well revert to my usual gear next time out.

Once more the traditional sheep were outnumbered by the minority breeds. The difference between the two is quite noticeable. The minorities are better presented - sheep and handlers are well groomed. The traditional breeds, sheep and handlers, look much more like they have come straight from the farm!

Although outnumbered by primped and preened minority breeds presented on halters by handlers in white coats,  the eventual interbreed show champion was a Lonk tup almost straight off the fell. A proper sheep!

Despite the judging taking place in a ring style enclosure it was no easier to get a good angle on the proceedings. Mostly I didn't bother trying to repeat what I've done before and kept looking for something different. When photographing people engaged in some activity expressions can make pictures better. Even if the face isn't what is in focus.

Animals have expressions too.

With another slightly disappointing show of sheep I had a brief look at the shearing demonstration, which was popular with the public, but difficult to photograph without getting in their way. Again I tried to find unusual ways to look at the event. More sheep here.

And so, inevitably, to the poultry tent where it was a case of repeating myself before photographing the prize giving. It being the first time back at the show for a poultry section a big effort had been made with new cups (the originals, for all classes not just poultry, having been sold off when the show hit hard times years ago), distinctive rosettes, cage number cards and fetching red rose ties for the officials. A few more poultry pics here.

Sunday saw drizzle greet me as I had my breakfast, putting more doubt in my mind about the sanity of going to a sheep dog trial. The internet said it would be dry, so I took a chance. This trial was a bit more of an 'event' than the others I've attended. It had been publicised in advance with signs and posters along the road, promising the public free entry and home cooked food for sale. The trial is run as a fund raiser for the Gargrave Show next month. There were seats set out and the field had a slope which made for a grandstand view.

The way things were laid out meant that I was further from the action than I was expecting, so opportunities for pictures of the dogs in action was reduced. I didn't really get anything I was happy with. I'm not sure if my brain was still a bit frazzled, but I couldn't see pictures. Nor could I manage to get action shots in focus. These subjects which demand technical knowledge and masterful technique aren't for me! Cropping was the order of the day for action shots.

Overall I performed about as well as the sheep did. More often than not they failed to do as the dogs told them to and frequently ran off wherever they fancied. Which was entertaining for the crowd, but the cause of much muttering among the handlers.

As the afternoon wore on I did start to perk up and looked for pictures of dogs and handlers. With limited success.

A few more (mostly rubbish) pics here.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Another hot Saturday

I'm not going to complain about the sun and the heat ebcause that might well be like doing a rain dance. The heat does make carting useless camera gear around a chore though. Once more, and for the final time, I tried the Fuji at an agricultural show. The focusing speed of the camera is agricultural. No, glacial might be more apt. For static subjects the camera's great, but even a slow focussing zoom on a 'real' camera beats it hands down. I know I'm slow on the uptake. On the other hand, carting a litre bottle of water around was worth the extra weight.

Although I had intended to concentrate on the sheep pens it just so happened that the poultry show was right by them, unlike in previous years. I couldn't resist. Even though I didn't spend much time in the marquee I did come away with a couple or three new ideas.

Because of the heat the organisers of the poultry section removed the front of the marquee to allow some breeze in. This allowed me to take the shot below.

Inside the marquee I played around with the patterns of light and shade from the stripes on the marquee's sides.

White on white is a tricky subject.

Even round the sheep pens I couldn't avoid poultry when one exhibit made a dash for freedom!

And so to the sheep and another disappointing turnout with booked pens empty. There were plenty of Texels and Beltex, but I'm more interested in native breeds. That didn't stop me photographing a Euro-tup having his make up done, or Beltex having its chin tickled.

Not to mention the classic Swaledale head-grip.

Other than that it was a case of looking for 'atmosphere' pictures. Sometimes I'm not sure if these are just snapshots. I do try to make them a little more than that, but I get the feeling I don't try hard enough.

 My more graphic pictures seem to work better as a 'different' look at sheep shows.

Having a 'good camera' does get me in over my head at times when people ask me to photograph their prize winner. So it was today. Except it wasn't one prize winner, it was two. I did at least manage to ensure I had the sun behind me, and remembered to get down to sheep level. I think I've got away with it. Of course my favourite of the shots is one where things aren't going to plan.

Next weekend I have another 'job'. This time it's my feathered friends. I shall probably mess it up completely because I'm intending to take my 'professional' lenses - and maybe the dreaded flashgun. More bloody weight to cart around. However, there will be sheep.

Here are a couple of half-arsed 'portraits'. I really ought to improve this side of my photography. Mind you, high noon sun and hats rarely make for great portraits.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

New angles

Another baking hot Saturday traipsing round a show field. One lesson I've learned (belatedly) is to arrive early so as to avoid the parking queues. It also means there are a few photo opportunities as people get livestock penned. I was still a bit late for the sheep arriving, and the poultry tent provided only more on the same old themes.

The only really different pictures were of people holding four day old chicks. Ever so cute. The chicks that is. The feathery ones...

I chose to miss out on the poultry judging and concentrate round the sheep pens today in an effort to make some actual pictures. The bright sun really does make it a struggle with harsh shadows. On the plus side it means ISO values and shutter speeds remain high. Not that those things bother me much.

Things started out pretty much as I left them. Looking for the unusual positions people get in when handling sheep, and trying for a tooth examination picture.

After shooting a load of 'same old' frames I decided to suffer the pain of kneeling down to get a lower viewpoint. If the sun hadn't been so bright I could have used my flip-down screen to save the worn out joints. Excusing the unintentional pun, but things started looking up when I got down low. Not only does it make the world look different, it also gets rid of a lot of the background clutter. Particularly when there is a solid blue sky. On a more normal grey sky day this wouldn't work so well owing to exposure differences. But today it was fine. Even if it did show up the muck on my camera's sensor. I started out pretty straight on, then got more experimental.

Capturing the humour of little moments isn't my strong point. I still try. At one stage the judge was discussing the finer points of a Blue Faced Leicester's ears with the sheep's owner.

I have no explanation for a cow wearing a hat...

An unexpected bonus, which either wasn't on the show's schedule or if it was I had missed it, was a demonstration of sheep shearing. Which got under way after a false start when the generator packed up. Again I put my knees through it and the pictures, which not great, did benefit from the change of viewpoint. It also allowed people standing behind me to get a better view. I don't want to be one of the inconsiderate photographers who 'have to be' at the front all the time.



Close ups and other 'vignettes' of these events are something I'm always on the look out as they help build the picture. Trying to get a frame which shows how the clippers peel the fleece away is tricky when you are part of an audience.

I should have waited until all the sheep had been shorn after the second demonstration, but by half past twelve I was roasted and ready for home. It felt like I'd been on my feet all day and I was metaphorically on my knees! So a half-clipped flock had to suffice.

Street photographers like to play around with pictures of pictures and real things or people. In that vein I was quite pleased with, once more on my knees, this picture of Kerry Hill sheep.

Lessons learned, or rather re-learned: get low, get close, but don't ignore the wider view.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Trials and tribulations

When there are people fighting moorland fires a few miles from your home as the crow flies it seems trivial to be thinking about how to improve your photography. And trying to make 'good pictures' of the fires seems even more ridiculous. But on Thursday I took a drive out to see for myself what the Winter Hill fire looked like from afar. Pictorially the balloon made the same point visually as I tried to  make above about the ridiculousness of what we do for fun when compared with things that are important.

Still, there's nothing most of us can do about the fires so life might a well carry on. One thing's for sure, the hot weather that has allowed the moors to burn isn't much fun for sheep. On my way to a sheep dog trial today I had to pull over and grab a shot or two of a flock lying in the shade of a large tree. As is all too often the case I didn't take as much care as I should have done and it's a bit soft as a large image. Story of my photographic life that is...

The venue was the same as last week, which meant that (in theory) I should have been well prepared for what to expect. I arrived a bit later this time as I knew the sun would have been in my face early on. I also had a better idea of where to get a good view of the penning. So much for preplanning. I still made a lot more bad pictures than I should have done.

Looking at last week's haul of pictures I thought that a series of rear views of handlers at the post might have some mileage. So I tried that tack. Trouble is everyone stands in a different place to the post! It's still something I might persevere with.

 As I'm trying to give a broad impression of the trials I'm steering clear of doing the obvious and photographing dogs in action. Although I'm sure those are the sort of pictures that would be marketable to the owners of the dogs. It continues to be pictures of people and their animals which interest me most. And vignettes of trialing.

Not forgetting the penning dance.

Or the mishaps.

It's a challenging subject all right, but with a lot of down time when the dogs and sheep are out of range. Time enough to have a short wander and photograph other things. And convert the results into 'arty' black and whites!

The handlers were having atough time and the general consensus (excuse?) was that the dogs were having trouble hearing the commands. I have my excuses for getting a load of rubbish shots. I'm not used to shooting action and my camera settings are wrong. Unfortunately that doesn't explain my cock-ups on static subjects. I'll blame the heat for messing up my thinking. The dogs certainly didn't like the heat any more than I did!