Saturday, 31 August 2019

What a difference a week makes

I had intended to have this weekend off from photography but when my camera returned form its holiday I was keen to make sure it was working OK with its new shutter. I'd managed to reset everything the way I wanted them so all I had to do was find something to photograph. A check in Farmers Guardian revealed a rare and minority breed auction I'd neglected to put on my calendar. It didn't need an early start, which suited me fine!

The drawback to arriving 'on time' rather than early is that there isn't much going on until the auction starts. I almost left immediately, but the rain had set in and I thought I might as well stick around for a while. Eventually I started thinking photographically, although it was only when the bidding began that I really got in the mood.

For some reason I'd not taken much gear. I had the 35mm on the camera and the 100mm in a jacket pocket. It turned out that the 100 was a bit too long, and the 28mm might have been more useful at ringside. Still, it made me think a bit. To be honest I didn't take many pictures, and hardly any worth showing. Most are nothing other than records.

When ever around sheep you'll see people adopting the 'sheep stance'.

 It's something sheep folk learn at an early age.

Mostly it was a case of trying to frame sheep action with onlookers...

...making sort of candid portraits...

..or trying to find odd views.

 The only picture I got with the longer lens was this failure.

The main thing is that the camera worked just fine. After a couple of hours I was feeling the frustration of the limited lens selection, and the repetition of the sale. There also weren't all that many entries left either so, as the rain appeared to have stopped and the sun was teasing, I set off for home along a long and winding route. As I should have expected, the rain was still about. More so as I hit higher round.

I hadn't planned it, but I ended up driving past the showground I'd been at last Saturday. It was nothing but an empty field. I pulled over and followed the public footpath sign. With the change in the weather from bright sunshine and heat to changeable and much cooler today the deserted showground had a melancholy feel to it, not least because of the sign advertising the date at the entrance.

All the marquees were gone, the posts and sheep netting dividing sections pulled up and taken away, sheep hurdles, crowd barriers and ringside seats all stacked up. Only the permanent features remained. There weren't even many traces of vehicle activity as the ground hadn't been too wet. The area where the sheep pens had been had only a few traces of straw to suggest anything had happened there last weekend.

Thursday, 29 August 2019


I'd been told that the Kilnsey Show was held in a spectacular location and the photos I found on-line suggested that it was true. This year the show was to be blessed with warm sunshine so I gave the Hope Show a miss on Bank Holiday Monday and set off the following day for Wharfedale. For once expectations were met.

Not only is the crag something to behold, there were lots and lots of sheep. Lonks and Gritstones included. However, these two breeds were segregated from the main sheep pens. Supposedly because of a larger than usual entry to the other classes. It can't have had anything to do with Lonks hailing from Lancashire. Could it?

While there was plenty of sheep judging going on the set up wasn't great for photography. You really needed to get in the judging areas to get anything other than the run of the mill snaps. So mostly I didn't bother and tried to find other stuff to photograph. Yet again, for reasons I can't suss out, teh camera with the flippy screen refused to focus in live view and the two best framed shots I took of the trophy polishing were blurred beyond usefulness. The one frame I took conventionally is in focus, but framed so as to require a crop.

 I tried channelling Martin Parr...

Although it's the standard shot I still wanted a pictre or two featuring the crag and sheep. I tried this around the main pens, which are right below the crag. thinking I'd not need a wide angle lens, not having used it at a show all summer, I'd taken the 20mm out of my bag before I set off. Using the 24mm setting of my standard zoom I couldn't get the pens and the top of the crag in the frame except in portrait orientation. I didn't like the results much. Then I had a brain wave. The Lonk pens were further away. I'd get the crag in from back there. But would I be able to make a picture of it?

Maybe not the classic Kilnsey sheep picture. Although that's not a bad thing. Then it was out with the flippy screen and see if it would focus for me. And hope the sheep would play ball too. On the fourth frame the Lonk got it right. As did the camera. Well, near enough for me.

I had hoped to drag myself away from Lonks this time, but with them and the Grits being penned where they were I was in with a better chance of a picture or two than round the main pens. There were less spectators for one thing. I didn't get much out of the ordinary but liked this shot of arms.

Wandering over to the main pens where judging was still going on after the Longs and Grits were done and dusted I was looking out for something a bit different. Shooting with the crag behind me and from under the only shady tree in the area I framed some shots using the ash leaves. The curious Mule helps lift this one slightly above snapshot status, I hope.

At the back of the sheep pens was the sheep dog trial field. The fence of which the Lonk pens were almost butted up against. The layout was such that the pen was in easy camera range. It was possibly the best chance I could have had to get some close views of dogs and sheep and I blew it. I took a few shots before the judging, but didn't make a concerted effort.

By the time the sheep judging was over it was time for lunch, including for the sheep, at the trial.

I wandered round the rest of the show field in the hope of finding some new subjects before returning to the trials. All I saw was some toy sheep.

When I got back there was still no action, it was red hot and I was knackered. I hung around for a little while taking a few general snaps. Not every photograph has to be a picture. But maybe in years to come they will still have interest.

Then I decided to call it quits. Only managing to call in for a look at the stick tent before walking the near half mile back to the car.

More pics here.

Monday, 26 August 2019

More sheep, dogs and shows

The summer round of sheep and agricultural shows continues when the weather permits. Two more were visited since the last one, both in real summer weather. The hotter it gets, however, the less motivated I become. I cope about as well with heat as a sheep with a heavy fleece! Another jaunt north took me to a small show of sheep with a sheep dog trial.

The trial field was difficult to photograph, or at least the pen and shedding area was owing to a drop in the ground which hid the sheep and dogs when they got within camera range. I could have persevered, I suppose, but there was much going on at the sheep pens to keep me interested. I tried to keep away from the Lonks, but kept getting drawn back to them.

The law of diminishing returns is really kicking in now with over 30 shows photographed, so it was more a case of trying to capture the feel of the venue and event while keeping an eye out for fresh pictures. Whether this one 'works' is still open to debate.

I forced myself to take some photographs of the Herdwicks, which I usually avoid as they are so popular with photographers.

There were the inevitable scene-setters and details.

Did I mention there were Lonkheads?

It was such a friendly show that I stopped almost to the very end, leaving after the prize giving but during the auction.

At the Barbon show my main camera had thrown up an error message and frozen on me. I got it working again and it was fine for the rest of the day. However I decided to send it off under a service advisory notice it was under. I knew it was an affected serial number but thought I might as well wait until it started playing up before sending it in. I was quite glad that I still had the crop sensor body which I'd bought to photograph sheep dog action but had decided to part with.

The sheep show was photographed with a combination of crop and full frame bodies. For my next outing I went with the one full frame body and the superzoom. The only drawback to the superzoom is that it can be sluggish to focus. It might only need the contacts cleaning. As far as focal length range goes it does everything I need. 24mm at the wide end instead of 28mm might be useful, but not all that often for me. The 300mm end gets used a lot, especially at close focusing distances - which 70-200mm and 70-300mm lenses can't match.

I was looking at some photos from agricultural shows on-line which had obviously bee taken with wider angle lenses than 28mm. To my eyes they look weird and journalistic. It's the old 16-35mm and 70-200mm cover all bases approach. It gets a photo every time no matter what the situation. Trouble is the pictures aren't always up to much. They can have immediate impact, which is what is required in a news situation. They're not something I would like to look at repeatedly though. If I'm in close I'd rather crop bits of people at the edge of the frame than get them all in with balloon heads!

Come the weekend and with England having thrown the Ashes away I set off to Chipping Show resolved to ignore the cricket. It wasn't long before the sun was baking hot and my imagination frazzled. I just couldn't get into the zone at all.

If I check my files of sheep show pictures I reckon I'll have quite a few side on shots of sheeps' flanks, some with bars or mesh in front of them. Maybe it's time to sort through and make one of my grids?

 The quest for the ultimate testicle checking picture continues. Closer, but still no cigar.

After the breed classes had been judged I took a look at the sheep dog demonstration, which was more informative than the usual duck herding displays as there was an explanation of how a dog is trained in line with it's natural instinct to round up sheep and bring them to its handler. The demonstration ended with an example of practical sheep dog work putting the sheep in the trailer.

With that over I went for a sit down in my car before returning for the afternoon session of the pairs, supreme champion, junior handlers ad trophy presentation.

On my way home I took a circuitous route and tried to get a distant view of the showground. A combination of haze and wobbly hand syndrome resulted in a not particularly good photo.

When I got home and checked the score in the test match I knew I had to maintain my ignorance or things would go wrong. At close of play it was clear that I would have to reverse the procedure for Sunday. The sheep dog trial would be missed in order that I could listen to every ball bowled as England set off in pursuit of an impossible dream or they would be all out before lunch. My plan worked!

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Surprise sheep show

Yesterday I decided to give the Gargrave Show a miss in favour of a sheep dog trial at Barbon. The reasons being that while the Gargrave Show was enjoyable last year I fancied going to see somewhere new. As I approached the entrance to the trials there was a banner advertising the event as a trial and a sheep show. Bonus!

This is a local sheep-only (apart from a sticks) show concentrating on local breeds. Rough Fells were the 'stars' with Bluefaced Leicesters and Mules also in evidence. There was also a high percentage of people with cameras in evidence.

As I'd arrived quite late judging was well under way. With all these other people taking photographs in and around a small area I felt quite restricted by trying to avoid being either in the background of other people's photos or getting in their way. I was also struggling to find anything fresh to photograph. It was more of the same old stuff.

The sheep dog trial was up a short but steep hill and less popular with the photographers. It was a struggle for the competitors with uncooperative sheep. This made it a struggle to get any action shots around the pen, which was close enough for photography.

With a stiff and chilling breeze blowing it was another day of people sheltering in their vehicles to keep warm meaning that, once more, there wasn't much going on around the field to photograph either. That forced me to start looking for anything at all that might make some kind of picture.

Now it seems that sheep shows have become another event for photographers (think Whitby Goth Weekends) I think it might be time to start looking elsewhere after this show season is over as I'm not into competing for pictures. Although having looked at other people's sheep show pictures I do seem to select 'different' things to point my camera at than most people. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing!