With there being a three-day trial going on elsewhere I didn't expect there to be a big turnout at the one I was at, and it seemed to be the case. My main aim was yet another gear evaluation task. To see if I could do away with the consumer telephoto zoom and use my superzoom to do the same job with the sheep dog action. This venue didn't require a longer lens so it was ideal for the job. The mostly sunny day also helped in making the autofocus of both lenses work to their best advantage. I was still trying to make pictures though. The only way I can evaluate gear is by using it as intended rather than doing 'bench tests' like most people on the web seem to do.
I keep trying for a good shot of a sheep being shed and got one that is heading in the right direction.
Silhouettes on the skyline always catch my eye. A pity about the power lines crossing the frame. Or is it?
The sheep were a bit tricky and had got to know where the escape route was. This lot were making a break for it when they stopped in front of me. It's almost a picture.
Not every trial has a livestock trailer in attendance as a mobile office, but when they do I like to get a picture of it.
The lens evaluation proved to be a failure. Most of the pictures I ended up keeping were taken with the telephoto zoom, or at focal lengths it covered. I also thought the pictures looked more pleasing in the out of focus areas. That was a bit of a blow as I was hoping to sell it as surplus top requirements! As it was I decided to take it to the final day of the three-day trial to see how it fared for photographing the sheep show being held there.
Day two was probably the busiest day at this trial, with lots of other attractions to draw the family crowds, but a sheep show featuring my three favourite Pennine breeds was of more interest to me. The venue is owned by the sheep dog society and features a permanent stand and judges' box, and a 'clubhouse'. The crowd isn't all sheep dog people either, there are plenty of 'normal people' there too!
The sheep show took most of my time, and most of the day too, which meant I didn't spend much time at the trial field. It is a pretty good venue with the pen close enough to the stands for a 300mm lens to get good shots from the fence at the field edge.
Unfortunately while I was by the trials the sheep were mostly uncooperative and most handlers retired before getting near the pen. That prompted me to look for pictures around the event.
There was quite a bit to photograph and I almost wished I had attended one of the first two days.
Regardless of missing out on the dog front I had plenty of opportunities with the sheep. Being further south than I have been before there was a good showing of Whitefaced Woodlands. So many that I overheard on exhibitor bemoaning the fact that there was more competition! Woodlands are listed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trusts as 'vulnerable'. Derbyshire Gritstones are listed as 'at risk' and were also well represented. Lonks are not on any RBST list and also had a good turnout.
Although other breeds are photogenic there's more to photography for me than making pretty pictures. I like my photographs to have a point. What this point is when it comes to sheep I'm not sure, but I have narrowed my field of view from sheep in general to the three breeds mentioned above. That doesn't stop me taking photos of other breeds, but the pictures tend to be stand-alones or parts of sub-sets. Something which I haven't considered as a project within a project, but which someone else pointed out to me, is hands. Rather than hands on their own I'm thinking hands on sheep might be the way to progress the idea.
Unlike the other Pennine breeds Woodlands have white faces. hard to believe given their full name, I know! I think they are a fine looking, and very sheepy, sheep.
The telephoto zoom did a good job of the close-ups. However, it's people interacting with sheep and each other which is my main area of interest. I was able to get in close enough to use a wider zoom and to alter my viewpoints to get the framings I wanted. Even so I shot a load of rubbish which needed deleting.
I'd been looking at an Elliot Erwit contact sheet which contained one of his best known pictures. The impression we get from seeing a great 'street' photograph is that it was a quickly grabbed frame that captured a fleeting moment. Yet there it was, the last frame of almost a complete roll of 35mm film. This made me think about shooting more frames of a scene until I either get a picture or miss out altogether.
Early on I spotted a personalised polo shirt being worn by one farmer. I took a quick shot of the wording on his back. As it was it made a 'one liner' as I call them. A picture that is worth a single glance of recognition of the message. Later I was stood by the guy and it struck me that a photo of a wider scene which included the shirt might merit a second look.
As I got into my stride I tried to capture the feel of the show rather than what it looked like. The results are a bit chaotic, which I like.
This isn't to say that I ignored details. One, which was another hand picture, got me close to making a picture of the awarding of a rosette.
Details do tend to be one-liners, but this sort of picture can work either as a group or to add to the rhythm of a sequence.
The lens evaluation was a bit of a flop. I didn't work out if using the telephoto and a wider zoom was any better or worse than using the do-it-all lens. Either in terms of the dreaded image quality or the user experience. I do know that the results from all the lenses I use are on a par when it comes to the ways I'm likely to show them. In fact, apart from light gathering I can't see any need to use fast 'pro' zooms at all. I can get subject separation with slower lenses by using longer focal length and standing further back. Most of the time I'd rather have more depth of field anyway. Bu tI'm not normal!
In terms of adding to my collection of sheep show pictures and idea development I was more successful. That's more important than gear. With good ideas the gear's not all that crucial.