Monday, 14 August 2017


Yet another agricultural show cancelled it's poultry section because  of the uncertainty over the avian flu restrictions. This one was at Trawden, a little too close to Yorkshire for comfort. Maybe that's why the Lancashire flag was flying defiantly? With a reasonable amount of blue in the sky I snapped a few shots of it to provide myself with a desktop background pic for my computer screen.

With  only a handful of poultry entries in the children's pet tent I once more found myself spending most of my time around the sheep pens. It being hill country there were plenty of sheep being exhibited. What has been noticeable at both this and last week's show is the presence of rare breed sheep. While they are nice enough, the North Ronaldsay being tiny but energetic I still find the traditional upland breeds more interesting. I think that is because I am naturally drawn to the utilitarian rather than the fancy, and because they are northern. Even so there were plenty of Texels and Zwartbles. I wonder if they'll get repatriated if there's a hard Brexit?

While mostly sheep simply stand still for judging, with their backsides most prominently displayed, it is wayward sheep playing up that can make for good pictures. getting them takes patience and luck. So I haven't got any really good ones yet.

Inevitably there are lots of 'characters' around the sheep pens. As I've said before it would be easy to spend the day snapping away at them. I mostly don't bother as I'm trying to find pictures that convey the experience. I suppose one or two might not go amiss, which is why I give in to the obvious now and again.

I continue in my quest to make 'complicated' pictures and these shows are a good place to practice. There is lots going on and trying to get a few different things happening in one picture, that 'works', is a real challenge. That said I don't ignore detail pictures as they have a part to play in telling the whole story. The advice for improving your photographs is often to simplify. To remove extraneous detail. yet if we look through the history of painting we find pictures which are very complex, with more than one figure vying for our attention. For example Pieter Bruegel the Elder's paintings are far from simplified! There is space (pardon the pun) for both approaches to making pictures.

 I often get it wrong when trying to grab a shot of something that catches my eye. A sheep judge holding a crook is a bit of a cliché, but what the heck. My first frame almost got it. Its hard to tell at web size but it's a bit blurry where it matters. A few seconds later and he was partially obscured by another judge and I couldn't get the framing I wanted. Although everything I wanted sharp is as sharp as it could be. I resorted to a crop on the computer. Even though I hate myself for it. It has made a better picture though. I sometimes wonder if my no cropping/keep the aspect ratio 'rule' should be less strict. On the whole I think not as it would make me even lazier than I already am.

Away from the sheep the other attraction that I keep photographing is the heavy horses. Maybe I ought to spend more time around them?

Show season doesn't end until late September which gives me more time to experiment with  my approach. I've become reliant on the 28-300mm which is very handy. I'm not sure why some people sneer at variable aperture zoom lenses. I can only imagine it's some kind of snobbery. I actually find a lens that has a smaller aperture as the focal length increases to be useful as it compensates (somewhat) for the decreasing depth of field longer focal lengths have. But then I'm not obsessed with shallow depth of field. Which is not to say that controlling depth of field isn't important to me. The only time I see a need for a fast lens is when the light levels are low and I can't get a fast enough shutter speed.

Even so I might try another approach next time out. The wide angle zoom as my main lens and something longer, but fixed, as number two. Not too long, though, as that should stop me 'sniping' shots of characters. I'm sure old faithful will be in the bag though.

More from the show here.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Weather effects

It's typical of my luck that when I sort of plan something events will conspire against me. This summer's refusal to do what it says on the tin has seen me stay away from one agricultural show and get wet at another. While yesterday's show took place under mostly blue skies, and there was no need for a coat to keep warm, the showfield was a little muddy in places.

The knock-on effect of last winter's avian flu restrictions continues and the poultry entries were down on numbers. Budgies and rabbits, being unaffected by avian flu, seemed well represented, however. Budgie showing doesn't interest me much, and the rabbit fancy isn't much more appealing. Both seem a bit weird to me. I guess poultry showing has become normal to me now!

Of the regular sections at these shows it's horses and sheep that appeal to me as subjects. I'm no fan of horses as animals, I find them stupid creatures, but the formalities and conventions of th  'scene' is fascinating. In a Martin Parr sort of way.

Horsey women judges seem to favour hats of a certain style, and there's the riders' attire which seems to make them look regimented.

There's also a dress code in the heavy horse ring, although it's somehow more workmanlike and less showy. The shires and their adornments make good subjects, and I'm sure there could be a body of work to be made about them.

Wandering around these shows class divides become apparent' Not the old one based on financial wealth, but the new divide of town and country made obvious by the division of attire. There are notable differences, some more subtle than others.

Mostly I spent my time around the sheep pens. These smaller shows seem to be more aimed at country folk rather than townies having a day out. There was more animal feed and farm machinery on display than clothing and nick-nacks. Although I did buy myself a new flat cap. The whippet can wait.

Sheep are unbiddable creatures. While this gives them a reputation for being stupid I think they just know their own minds. Minds which always find the grass on the other side of sheep netting tastier than that inside their pen or field.

The junior handler sections are always entertaining. Most in the pygmy goat section, which I arrived too late to spend much time with, were able to manage their tiny charges. With children as young as three showing off sheep it was a different matter. One poor lad ended up in tears after his lamb flattened him.

I was hoping to take some ideas I'd begun to formulate at this show to another on Tuesday, but a check on-line this morning revealed it to have been cancelled owing to the recent and predicted weather. See what I mean about my luck? I start to get a handle on how to approach the agricultural show scene and I'm thwarted!

More sheep pictures here.