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Two New Portraits: Swaledale Sheep

My two long-running nature photography projects are High-Key portraits on White & Low-Key portraits on Black, and I'm always working on ideas to create new photos to those galleries. If you browse through the two galleries you'll notice that I enjoy photographing animals with horns and antlers. I don't know what that is. I guess there's something quite graphic about them. And when you portray the subject in a human-like way as I try to do, that headgear becomes a real point of interest - one of the most visually striking features that separates those creatures from the human form.

For a long time now, I've wanted to photograph long-horned sheep. I love the stocky wild Bighorn Sheep of the Rockies, and the grand Ibex of the Alps (though they're technically goats), but I haven't been fortunate enough to encounter either of those species while I've been in the area. However I was equally keen to find some domestic sheep with interesting horns, as there are plenty in the UK, and I've been on the lookout for 4-5 years now. I think the most photogenic UK breed is probably the icon of the Yorkshire Dales National Park - the Swaledale. I happened to be in Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales this spring, and despite the thousands of sheep there, I didn't manage to find the individual and the conditions I was looking for.

Fast-forward to August, and I was in the Peak District National Park, photographing the flowering purple heather landscapes there. On the way back from our landscape location, on the edge of the moorland, I found this beauty, and couldn't believe my luck.

Portrait of a Swaledale sheep, photographed in low-key style, against a black background.
Swaledale on Black

The light wasn't ideal, but I made the best of it, and I shot a few photos for high-key and low-key results. These two are the pick of the bunch, and have made it onto my website portfolio - an honour indeed.

Portrait of a Swaledale sheep, photographed in high-key style, against a white background.
Swaledale on White

Nature photography can sometimes be a fruitless exercise, when you're dependent on weather, seasons, wildlife, etc. It can often mean juggling priorities and keeping several ideas on hold until the conditions for them arise. So it's especially rewarding when these long-term ideas do come to fruition. I love the dark menace of the low-key version, and the texture of the spiraled horns. The high-key version has a very different feel to it, with a more positive reflection of the subject.


For more about these High-Key & Low-Key projects, see my previous blog posts about them.




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