I really enjoy photographing farmyard animals and livestock, which tend to be overlooked by most nature photographers, as they're not wild. You don't get the 'thrill of the chase' feeling that you get when out looking for some scarce or timid creature, but on the flip side you do get to work with an animal which is used to humans, and that will allow you in closer, for a more intimate and expressive portrait. And increasingly these days, that's what interests me.
I took these photos at Animal Edge - a small open farm, just outside Flitwick, in Bedfordshire. They keep a small number of animals, providing enjoyable and educational encounters for children. To my shame, these photos are now over a year old! Although I'm really happy with them, they've been in the queue behind other projects to share, but now is their time to shine!
All these photos were taken in natural light, against a white backdrop. It all sounds very controlled when I put it like that, but it was a lot more chaotic in reality! Some animals were happier to pose than others, so we had to be patient, and not push our luck too much. The exception was with the horses & ponies, which are too large, so I photographed them in their field.
This is just a simple portrait on white, of a classic farmyard chicken. One thing I like about this style of presentation is that by removing the background context it leaves a lot of room for just the shape and form of the subject. This is a classic posture for a chicken - something that's very familiar to everyone, having been painted and drawn like this for years, so I'm pleased to have photographed it like this, against the white backdrop.
Lavender Pekin Hen
This is Daisy, the lavender pekin; A really striking breed which I'd wanted to photograph for some time, as the idea of this pale colour palette against the white backdrop really appealed to me. I'm really pleased with this photo. I like the form of the bird, combined with the lack of colour, and the face which offers an enquiring gaze towards the viewer. In a change from the norm, I haven't pushed the background to completely white here. I wanted a subtle colour and vignette, which softens the portrait and provides a slightly more classic feel.
This was the only full-length portrait I managed to get, as they didn't hang around for long. But I really like it, and it shows off the entirely feathered feet, which is another feature of this British breed.
One last one of Daisy, who's looking more animated here. I really like the tone of these feathers. They're very soft and delicate, and they offer a contrast to the texture of the face.
Indian Runner Ducks
Here they are; the lads. Ernie, Paige, and Jemima. They were full of character, and full of beans. Great fun to photograph.
I did get some photos of them individually, but I really think they're best captured together, operating in their little gang. To me, these photos represent the fun of hanging out with your mates.
There's something cartoonish about their energetic enthusiasm. Makes me think Pixar could do something fun with the idea.
Carlos the rooster was a tricky customer to photograph but I persisted because, like the ducks, he was just bursting with character. Strutting around like a total boss, he was a little sceptical of me, and generally kept his distance. He also continuously moved his head at high speed, so capturing a sharp in-focus portrait was tricky. He'd give me a fantastic pose like this, and within a split second, he'd turn his head away.
I like this side-on profile portrait. He looks like he's bowing his head in contemplation. It shows a more relaxed posture.
I'd love to capture a rooster like this against a black background one day, with just that red head detail standing out from the dark. But on the day, we only really had the opportunity to to shoot in high-key.
Horses & Ponies
This rather suave horse was very photogenic, with his Taylor Swift wind-swept fringe. I enjoy equine photography. They can be tricky subjects, and their proportions can be tricky to balance at times, but they're engaging subjects, and I like their subtle blend of colours.
This is Bobby; a horse-pony cross. He was so easy to photograph. He was very friendly, and kept a great eye-contact, which always makes for an engaging portrait.
Lastly, it's Tara, the Shetland pony. I decided to go black and white with this one, as the colour still wasn't as minimal as I wanted. In fact most of my high-key portraits on white are in black and white, so the rest of this set are more unusual in that sense. Tara's looking great here too.
Thanks so much to Danielle from Animal Edge, for letting me photograph these animals. The farm is open to visitors this summer, so check out their website for availability.
As I said at the start, I really enjoy photographing cattle and domesticated animals, and it's a subject I always aim to return to. I think these animals have a lot to offer in terms of personality and familiarity.