Saturday, April 27, 2013

Week of Bloopers

 Has it been one of those weeks for anyone else? Case in point - an hour ago I went out to the garage to see if there was any cranberry juice to be found,  so that I could have a cranberry vodka because it's been one of those weeks. But, upon walking out the door I realized the burning pile of paper was getting away, and spent an hour shoveling dirt and monitoring the flames. Oh, I did eventually check for juice too, and my sister drank it all.
So, while waiting to see if I need to do any more fire monitoring prior to showering, and praying nothing else happens, I thought I would share some calf photography bloopers with you from the last week or so - they seem fitting this evening. I typically delete these as I find them, so I'll be short a couple examples, but have enough to hopefully give everyone a chuckle for the weekend!
Just as with any form of photography, not every shot is perfect. In fact, I typically average a handful of what I would consider usable photos from every batch I take.

There are the cases of closed eyes.

 and squinty eyes.

 Lots of tongues sticking out, particularly when it's breakfast time.

Focusing on the grass near the calf's butt instead of its face, and another tongue.

Really messing up the focus. This has happened a lot lately as I have been working on improving my usage of depth of field.

Very over exposed objects, especially baldy calves in the snow.

 The occasional nose/head/foot/tail getting chopped off

 The look of death when the subject doesn't want to pose anymore.

Followed by inappropriate behavior.
There are also lots of images catching someone going to the bathroom, with no consideration for the photo being taken. Infant photographers have nothing when it comes to the peeing thing compared to a pasture full of baby calves.
The other point I would like to make is that even after years of taking cattle pictures, there is still a learning curve, every day, and I do not always get the shot I want to turn out "right." Some days it seems like they all look beautiful, and other days I wonder what possessed me to even take a photo when I look at it on the computer. Then there is the time spent looking at other photographer's work,which sometimes makes me pat myself on the back, and sometimes makes me want to buy all their work, hang it on my wall, then throw my camera away.
One such break spent looking at another person's work a couple weeks ago is what made me realize that I could really improve how I approached a photo from a depth of field perspective. I have gotten into the habit of adjusting my f-stop to reach the right exposure, and that was resulting in some photos not looking the way I wanted them to.
So, I have been consciously working to adjust how I work things in manual mode to get photos the way I want them, without always adjusting the f-stop. This is really just the latest in what is a continual pursuit to improve at something I love to do. Below is one non-blooper photo where it all came together.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day

It's Earth Day, where we celebrate our planet and participate in activities to help keep her sustainable and healthy.
I was reading up on Earth Day this morning, and found that in 1970, Earth Day helped Democrats and Republicans form an alignment to get the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Act passed in Congress, which was somewhat of a letdown for me.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about protecting and improving our planet. My lifestyle and job depend fully upon my ability to do so. I also love that those who do not live in an area or have a job that allows them to improve earth daily are willing to help make a difference on this day. That's wonderful, and it's amazing to see what people can accomplish, even in the most urban areas, when they set their minds to making the earth better!
The part that bothers me is that so many people associated with the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and numerous other supposedly helpful acts, laws and causes for the environment hate me, my neighbors, and my lifestyle. They jump on the bandwagon of one day of physically helping earth out, then spend the rest of their year negating everything those in my profession do that is also helping and improving the earth.
This becomes particularly frustrating on months like this one, where everyone I know has spent countless hours dealing with inclement weather, working tirelessly to ensure the health of their livestock, planned ahead and reduced numbers to make sure the land and ecosystems on that land are cared for, even if it's another drought year. When a few blog comments pop up damning me and my profession in the midst of all that, with no justification beyond stating that I am in the wrong because of what I am and how I make my living, my good humor takes a dive.
This is because these less than fun days on America's privately owned lands are the Earth Days that make the most difference, be it good or bad, and we aim to make every single one good. We take our responsibility of being stewards of the land to the extreme, regardless of weather, breakdowns, health or personal sacrifice. We set a standard based on our children and grandparents, rooted in generations of work and personal responsibility, paid for in sweat equity.
And, perhaps most irritating to those who hate us - we do what we know is right for the land without fail, regardless of the monetary, social or personal loss. Even more frustrating to them is that we don't care about that "loss," because to us the permanent gain of improving the environment far outweighs any temporary gain that may be found through their misguided options.
While today's official Earth Day itself is fun, and a wonderful opportunity to help make a difference, it's one of 365 celebrated and practiced by farmers and ranchers every year. We love our big and little pieces of earth beyond measure, and care for them accordingly.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fun in the sun

 The calves felt great after our blizzard. These are just a few of the photos I got of them fighting, playing, running and jumping.

Let's play.

 Then there was this guy...

 So happy and excited!


 All together now.



 Why are you no fun?

Irresponsible kids! I am not with them.

I'm linking this post up with The View From Right Here's Weekly Top Shot linky party. Check her and all the participants out!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

After the storm

Perhaps you watch the weather and heard about the west getting pounded with snow this week? We were right in the path of the storm, and couldn't have been happier about the prospective moisture! However, it did come in blizzard form, which wasn't anyone's first choice, but dry as it has been around here no one was complaining.
When we have a blizzard, we try to get our cattle fed up ahead of time, then we leave them alone during the storm. Our rough, deep draws (small canyons) provide awesome protection, and our cows are used to taking care of themselves. If we were to try to feed in the middle of a blizzard, it would cause the cows to leave their protection, and result in more problems and calf deaths than if we just leave them alone. The cows will hole up somewhere out of the elements, and keep their calves warm and cared for too.
Everyone was fed well on Monday, then left alone as several inches of snow and some serious winds blew through our part of Wyoming Monday afternoon through Tuesday night. Today our top priority was getting our cows fed, which took extra time and equipment compared to a normal feed day. Here's how it went:

First ones out on the county road this morning, which was hard to see at times.

This is always a problem spot. While my mom, sister and I were in the lead until here, we had to stop and wait for backup.

Here he comes, working his way through.

Getting closer. Aside from us, one other family will be grateful for this road being cleared so they can feed their livestock too.

Making an extra pass to help those of us in pickups get through.

I was the cake pickup driver.

My brother and his girlfriend Sam were in the hay pickup. Everyone came to help feed this morning so they could see the cattle, help, and find out how much snow we really got. This is the most moisture we've had in well over a year, and the first blizzard in just as long. We were all excited about the moisture and concerned about our animals.

We got plenty of snow blown into some places, and I got stuck.

and pushed out
We eventually made it the roughly 6 miles from our house to where we were feeding - a carefully selected, south facing bowl out of the wind and right next to one of our rough draws. This was also where the cattle were fed prior to the storm, after taking into account which direction the wind was expected to blow out of, and which way the cattle would drift as a result. We always make sure we feed in a location that causes the cattle to drift into a draw when a blizzard or cold weather hits.
 There was more getting stuck, With our sagebrush and rolling plains, sometimes it's very difficult to tell where the snow is deep.

 Dad packed a path in the snow prior to feeding.

 The cows came from various directions,

 However, the majority trickled in from this draw, called Cedar Draw, which was where we hoped they would end up. While you can't see it in my photo, this draw includes shear cliff walls several stories high in places, thick brush and cedar trees, sandstone overhangs, some that are almost caves, and many twists and turns, all of which are about perfect for a cow to weather a storm in. You can only get a horse across it in about four places along its approximately 1/2 mile length.

 As more cows arrived, dad ran a couple straw bales through the hay buster, both to fill and warm up the cows and to give the calves something warm and dry to lay on.

 He unloaded  the bales off the stuck hay pickup, and worked a long time on getting him out of there.

When everyone arrived, we fed the cake and dad ran a combination of oat, grass and alfalfa hay through the hay buster for them.
 I took a lot of pictures - several of the cute calves. It was great to see so many newborns arrive healthy and alive. It's one thing to know they'll probably be fine, and another to know and see them and make sure all is well. No one rested real well the last couple days as the bad weather went through as a result of worrying over our livestock, in addition to being excited to actually be getting some decent moisture.

 Finally, we headed home. Here's the bunch from the road. Tucked out of the wind, getting full, and still right beside a good draw in case it gets cold and windy tonight.

 Then we ate lunch, while heading out to the second bunch to feed them. Normally our feed days are done at 12:30 p.m. at the latest. We weren't even done with the first bunch by that time today. So, dad and I ate on the go to make sure we had plenty of time to get our second bunch of younger cows fed, regardless of any setbacks we might encounter.

 Off we go, up another one mile of two-track road with our hay and cake.

 Our three year olds were also stragically fed so they would drift into this draw, which also offers great protection. While the cows looked a little rough, I'm not sure these guys even noticed there was a storm. They were happy and content.

 The same process was repeated. They were fed a combination of grass and alfalfa hay and also given a straw bale, mainly as bedding, and filler if they want it.

 Here's my dad laying in some straw in another little bowl that drops right into the draw for the calves in this bunch.

It was immediately put to use.

And after that, at 4 p.m., we were finished for the day. While the blizzard may have made feeding more difficult and time consuming today, it also provided us with desperately needed moisture that will be the difference between selling out and making it another year for some people. We're all very grateful for it, and the chances we have for more later this week!