Photographs of Farming
I have been taking photographs since 1979 and it all started when I worked in a hotel in Wales and thought it would be nice to have a record of my time there. Few of the photographs I took survive, lost to time. Now I keep everything. I spend much of my time photographing products and interiors built in a studio but the real interest lies in getting out and about around farms and the landscape capturing images in what I find there. Below are some of the subjects I like to cover.
the ploughing match
The ploughing match has turned ploughing into an art form, or has it always been so. To some ploughing is just a process carried out to “black it over” as they say but to the true ploughman that is surly the statement from hell. If you don’t believe me then go to a ploughing match and mention the “black it over” phrase, then stand back. Most of the ploughing matches I attend are run by local vintage tractor clubs therefor by definition most of the tractors are the models that I drove when I was a young lad working on local farms. Does that make me vintage?
People have asked me why I like photography and farming photography in particular. For others this question leads into a deep philosophical reasoned explanation of there love of the environment and that old chestnut of "capturing the moment". My simple answer is "I like tractors", now move along.
Hay making is a different process now using bigger machines and round bales but I am still on a mission to find a small square baler in action, I live in hope. I am lucky that in my area there are some farmers who are still using older tractors some over forty years old and still earning their keep daily on the farm. Photographing and videoing hay making or as it was known in my youth "hay time" is a favourite as you can be assured that if the machinery is working so is the weather. There is something about the distant sound of a mower or baler that makes you want to go and find them a see what is going on. Can't wait for it to be a small square baler.
the silage team
Silage in this area is now mainly carried out by contractors who have the biggest machines and can cover the ground quickly. This gives the farmer a better chance of making good quality fodder for the winter feed. I have not seen a trailed chopper in a long time and the Claas Jaguar is the forage harvester of choice in these parts. Photographing and videoing the silage team is generally hectic as there is so much going on but this does give a great variety of subject matter and a lot of big kit. Some of the silage team wrk I see is for the local Bio Plants, I must admit, a practice that I do do not fully grasp. There seems to be a lot of energy going into producing energy and that is not sustainable.
working vintage machinery
Photographs of vintage working tractors are very popular at the moment and there are so many around. Some are restored to show room condition where as others are as is, aged, a bit rusty but still working and ready for work. Many of them reside in back yards and garages owned by ex farm workers or ex would be farm workers who never got the chance to drive these tractors before they became vintage. I was lucky enough to have driven many of the models I see at the club events. The first I ever drove at the age of 11 was a Massey Ferguson 35 but I think my favourite was the International B275 Which I first drove on a frosty February morning spreading muck.
farming in mono
Love it or hate it mono photography is often used to make an image look old or give the feel of times past, therefor you will often see it applied to steam engines and old stuff in general. In my mono photographs you will see that I apply the finish to all sorts of subject matter that I personally like, modern machines, old machines, landscape, buildings and whatever. The side effect I have noticed with photographing modern machines in mono is that when the colour of the machinery is taken away the identification of the subject is less immediate and leads the viewer to looking more closely at the photograph. Now that might be a load of bollocks but it has fleshed out this paragraph and goes towards my “Photographer talking shite” qualification.
farming in acrylic
I have painted and drawn in the past but I simply don’t have the inclination any more, but I do like creating art on the computer and that is what I do in this section. Depending on the final look you are trying to achieve the initial photo edit will be different from the norm. It has taken a while but I think it’s getting there. Acrylic is the look I am creating at the moment but back in the day when I had the easel out and donned the beret and smock, pastels was my medium of choice so I will be having a crack at that in the future. I do not consider subject matter to be important, if the photograph is well executed then it will convert to a farming in acrylic print.
Getting photographs of harvest is a time of patience and simply waiting for the weather. The problem being that up here in Northumberland and Durham is, starting in July and early July at that we have to suffer farmers in the south, and that includes Yorkshire, banging on about how well the harvest is going while we up here are looking at crops that have barely started turning yellow. Most farms I know have their own combine and there is a mixture of old and new and colours and brands. The livestock sector in this part of the country demands straw so a sizeable proportion is baled, some in round and some in large square bales and all moved off the field in quick order to allow the following operations to commence.
Taking photographs of sowing crops is mainly taking photographs of direct drilling. This practice does not require any initial cultivation, ploughing, discing etc. The seed is planted directly into the previous crops stubble. If time allows the previous stubble will be raked to disturb the slug eggs and encourage any weed seeds to chit. There are farmers who plough and cultivate and this gives me more to look at and photograph. When looking at the direct and conventional drills they doo look like complex pieces of kit but in reality apart from the electronics and air delivery on some models they still deliver the seed via a tube and coulter into the ground as in the Jethro Tull design of the early 1700s.