So I am out wandering around the four farms that I am photographing here in Danby with every intent to follow what is on my shooting list- landscapes- and to work deliberately and efficiently when my eye catches on a small herd of angus cattle tucked into the shade of an old barn. Perfect, I think- I need pictures of these animals and they are in the shade and they are up against a nice background. Landscapes quickly exit my little brain and I suddenly find myself in the barnyard of this small cattle farm with 8 moms and half a dozen calves staring at me.
Now you should know that I don’t jump into small enclosed areas with large, very dim witted animals on any whim. Especially with moms and their babies! I had asked farmer Steve about how calm and friendly these cows were a couple of days ago and he assured me that they wouldn’t be a problem. He was nowhere to be seen but what the heck, what is the worst thing that could happen?
Farmer Steve was absolutely correct- the cows were very calm and even the moms with very young calves didn’t act aggressively towards me. It helped that I have years of experience working very closely with cows over at the Bromley farm but they are still very large animals with astonishingly small brains so you still have to pay attention and be aware if they might be getting spooked.
I found that when I was standing up the cows didn’t think much of me but when I got down on my knees they were very attentive. Curiously, this is exactly the same response I got from women in college! Huh. Where was I? I got down on my knees because I wanted to photograph at the cow’s eye level. As I have always said- the most compelling pictures of wildlife are those in which you enter the animals world and you enter the animals world by photographing at their eye level. For cows you do this by getting down on your knees. For cows in a barnyard you do this by very carefully getting down on your knees!
So why was I excited about this photography? First, I am very easily pleased. Low expectations are the surest way to a happy life. Secondly, the photography was ideal- the cows were in the shade so the contrast inherent in photographing black animals on sunny days was eliminated. And the cows were up against a nice neutral background so the problems of bright objects in the farm background was eliminated. I suppose I couldn’t been a slave to my shooting list (that would be a first!) but I think not. You take your chances when they are presented. If you don’t, those opportunities will not soon, if ever, come around again.
You know I used to get excited about traveling to exotic lands and photographing big ferocious animals- polar bears, brown bears, lions, linebackers. Now I get excited about jumping in my car and photographing cows. A simple life for a simple brain. Is this a good or bad evolution? You tell me!