10/5/16 White Cattle

As a follow on job after a horse show event at Rodbaston I kept on the subject of photographing four legged animals and went to visit Paul Pennington at Oldington Farm, just outside Bridgnorth, Shropshire. God I don’t know where I get the energy from sometimes, even as a photographer :)! Anyway, Paul has a herd of British white cattle – a really rare breed and one of (if not the) oldest native breed in Britain, dating back as far as the Viking invasion. As you can see I picked up some history education at the same time!

Paul initially started with a cow and a calf in 2009, moving up to a herd of 70 pure bred breeding, show and beef cattle which are award winners at shows. One of the best things is that the beef is sold about a mile down the road at Apley Farm Shop – really demonstrating locally sourced products. He certainly knows his stuff and I had a fascinating conversation and learned loads, one of the advantages of this job is that it brings me into contact with a really broad range of people. These photos are destined for a series of big banners to promote locally sourced produce.

Three generations of the Pennington family. Canon 5d MkIII, 24-70 f2.8L, 1/125 @F11

I was aiming to get a photo in the evening and I visualised capturing him and his herd with three generations of the Pennington family with warm oblique evening sunlight. I’d attempted this photo a few weeks back and it absolutely poured with rain so I was hopeful having had such a sunny day. I phoned Paul at 5pm and confirmed we were good to go – he’s 40 minutes away and as I drove the sky became more and more overcast until when I finally arrived the sun (which had been out all day and given me a sunburn to my arms which were now a painful shade of red), was exasperatingly hiding behind a layer of cloud almost as white as the cattle – and wasn’t going to emerge either! Best laid plans or what! There was clearly a storm starting to form with thunder off in the distance but never mind, it’s still nice light at that time of day and the view from Paul’s top field was perfect. I made the best of it and got some great photos with a warming filter and enjoyed a really good chat with him and his family. They had a barbecue as their evening meal…..steak of course!

I’ve got an old (1970s) book about photographing livestock which I’ve had for ages. Well since the 1970s anyway. It recommends photographing cows on a slope to enhance their form – and if a slope isn’t available then the advice is to get them to stand on something. That’s a bit optimistic isn’t it, I mean what are you meant to get them to stand on? And for that matter, how do you do it??? Thankfully there was a good slope…..

Paul Pennington with his quite tall (and very tasty) cows. Canon 1DX, 70-200 f2.8L, 200mm 1/640 @f3.5

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