Finding Creativity, Connection and Credibility in Agriculture Photography

Learning to see is half the battle of being a photographer. As 2017 quickly came to a close, its time to review, reflect and continue planning for the future. There’s no question that 2017 is one that I will always remember. Agriculture photography became a major focus for about 3 months through the summer and early fall. In June, I decided to leave my full-time marketing job, and catch up on myself, friends, and life on the ranch. The stuff that I had been neglecting, and wanted to get back to.

So I took full advantage of it, spending many hours volunteering, travelling to ranch rodeos, driving down gravel roads, and standing in crop fields. The time went fast, but I feel extremely blessed to have had the experience. 

This year, my agriculture photography inspiration came from 3 simple words, creativity, connection, and credibility. These words were chosen in early January, and have helped guide my learning. I worked hard to produce images that portrayed these themes. They grounded me. These words forced me to focus, experience more, and get better at being a photographer.

Creativity – Pushing your boundaries

Often, when I’m out taking photos of agriculture I find myself in the same settings. Its a challenge to be creative when you’ve been in the same pasture or field many times looking at the same crop or herd of cows. I am guilty of leaving the camera in the bag with a feeling that there’s nothing worth clicking the shutter for. It’s the same story.

During harvest, I learned a valuable lesson while capturing the photo below. I had the pleasure of spending many hours in the combine cab with a good friend. While the conversation was good, I was also on the lookout for the next agriculture photography moment.

Back and forth across the field we went unloading wheat into the grain cart and continuing on. There was a time when we stopped, and I finally saw it. A different view of what I’d been seeing all day. Right from the steps of the combine there it was. Proof that you can always see something different if you look for it. I have many pictures of the combine chewing through the crop, but not with this perspective. It’s different, and it was a moment of creativity. My agriculture photography learning was, ‘Push your boundaries when complacency sets in no matter what you do.’

John Deere Combine harvesting wheat
The combine cab view of a wheat field being harvested near Trochu, Alberta
Connection – Living in the moment

Our lives are busy. I’ve been trying to spend more time living in the moment and not worrying about all of the other stuff pushing its way in. Sometimes it’s not easy. I get off balance often. But when I manage to be in the moment, there’s always a new learning or observation.

The day that I took this photo, I was just plain happy to be where I was, away from my computer, and enjoying the outdoors. Its always fun to photograph a branding. I was super excited because the pen wasn’t your typical corral setting. The background was beautiful with trees and clouds in the sky. The foreground was even better with cowboys and cowgirls to photograph. Dan and Natalie were charged with the roping duties for the afternoon. They got the work done, loop after loop, catching calves and bringing them in for their shots and brands.

There’s a deep connection between a horse and rider. Together, these 2 teams demonstrated their ability to read each other, and maneuver with essence in the pen. It was fun to watch them execute their talented roping and horsemanship skills. Their silent commands and ease helped them to perform their tasks seamlessly.

Afterwards, we drank and ate. We laughed at stories. It was all part of the day. My agriculture photography learning was, ‘Living in the moment brings more happiness than being busy checking off the items on the to-do-list.’

Roping calves in the branding pen
A team of ropers working the branding pen both catch calves at the same time
Credibility – Finish what you start

I believe the greatest occupation in this world is a farmer. Consumers and the rural population are removed from understanding where their food comes from. It puts the agriculture industry under fire by activist groups pursuing their own agendas. Unfortunately they do not take time to ask questions, understand the facts or look at the science behind delivering high quality food.

This image symbolizes the credibility of the agriculture industry. This malt barley crop is ready for harvest. Hundreds of dollars per acre have been spent by the farmer to get this crop to the this stage. Because luck has a big part to play in the success as Mother Nature, and the environment can dictate whether this barley makes a malt grade or not.

All farmers finish what they start. They work hard to produce high quality grain for bread, beer, cooking oils and other proteins in western Canada.

I was up early to get the photo below, and negativity stepped in. I didn’t think that there was going to be the light or the opportunity to get some good images of this crop. Time was ticking because the harvest crew would be in this field shortly. So rather than take the easy way out, and walk back across the road to the house, and crawl back into bed, I decided to wait.

Then, Mother Nature finally showed up. There it was, a spectacular sunrise moving up from the horizon. What I remember about taking this photo was the quiet serenity that surrounded me in the field. I was happy that I waited.  My agriculture photography learning was ‘Finish what you start. Be patient, especially as a photographer. Good things come to those who wait!’

Agriculture Photography - Malt Barley Crop and Sunrise
The sun rises over a malt barley crop near Trochu, Alberta
Wrapping up

As a result, I’m really excited about evolving my photography in 2018, and expanding my portfolio. The journey has been incredible. Thanks to all of the people who let me on their farms and ranches to take their photos. I love capturing every aspect of the agriculture industry and sharing it with others.

Now, it’s time to choose 3 new words for this year. Do you have any ideas? Send me a note, and let me know where you will find your inspiration for 2018. They should be words that challenge and encourage you. Make them matter to you, and pay attention to how they influence and change your life. And, just like in photography, if you focus the result will become more clear!

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