Functional or Fancified?
By: Jenny Schweigert
Photography and the outdoors are two passions which have followed me through most of life. I’ve been taking pictures for as long as I can remember and the majority of this time was spent behind a point and shoot camera. Whether I’m shooting with a P&S or my fancified Canon, farms and ranches lend so many photogenic opportunities putting this subject at the top of favorites to photograph. Its about representing the everyday processes, machinery, a blade of wheat grass, the birth of a calf, the planting of sweet corn, herding a lone cow, harvesting soybeans and overall, honoring a legacy. Whether its a P&S camera or a Nikon, pictures are waiting to be captured and stories told. With this said, I’ve had my insecurities about what I can and cannot capture. Will my photos qualify for award status? Measure up to others? Are these photos good enough to be used in blog posts?
Recently, it was brought to my attention that my P&S hesitation, among others, is shared by others. Here is a list of items which touches on dissolving some possible issues:
1.) Convenience. Although popular, the DSLR isn’t necessarily the best tool for farm/ranch photography. While you can produce fantastic photos, they tend to be bulky and therefore inconvenient for toting around the tractor. Not to mention the dust and blowing debris. In my experience, you have to be realistic rather than being enticed towards perfection through the lens of a DSLR. I think you too will find that a functional camera will capture your farm just as well as a fancy camera!
3.) Read the manual. Read the manual. Read the manual. While all cameras may seem the same, each has its own quarks. Even a P&S. Its important to know if the camera has a special setting for whatever it is you want to do, especially when you are in the field. Cows are like kids; when the opportunity presents itself, you need to be ready.
4.) Opportunity costs. Photography on the farm comes with its hurdles. Most obvious being a window of opportunity. When the good stuff is happening you are usually right in the thick of it limiting that window. We all know that time is money. So you can choose to take a little time off or incorporate those opportunities into your work (easier said than done). Always carry the camera with you and take advantage of situations like equipment breakdowns. Grab the camera while you wait for the milker to finish up or bring it out for the birth of a calf. Remember, sharing your story will increase support of farmers and ranchers, alike.
5.) Think outside the camera. Experiment with different angles and aspects. Try laying on the ground to capture a row of corn; having spent considerable time testing the technique, I have found it to be a whole new world. Ruminate on photographing atop your horse when herding cows or give a cotton plant a diagonal view. Don’t be afraid to try a new perspective-You’ll find that your photos will have more dimension, making the photo more interesting for your readers.
6.) Understand your flash. One of the most frustrating things about P&S cameras is the flash. In an effort to produce a small but exceptional product a P&S camera tends to be small. Which means your flash is close to the lens which over exposes the photo. My recommendation would be to ditch the flash altogether and work with the natural light.
7.) Stability. This isn’t quite as important for P&S cameras. If you are using DSLR this is key if your lens does not have a stabilizer. Brace yourself against a wall, door or whatever is nearby. Concentrate on your breathing so that you snap the picture in between breaths. And, relax.
Whatever the hurdle, let’s help America understand where their food comes from by starting with shooting pictures of your experiences. Grab your camera, seize the day and become a story teller. After you grab that camera, let us know other hurdles you are looking to conquer.
Jenny, aka, The Magic Mama, lives with her amazing husband, three crazy boys & three loyal dogs on an old farmstead in rural Illinois. The farmstead comes complete with a circa 1880‘s farmhouse & small hobby farm where the family raises chickens, steers, ducks & two pet goats. Jenny blogs at http://www.themagicfarmhouse.com/