There’s an old song that goes;
“How ya gonna keep ’em
Down on the farm,
After they’ve seen Paree?”
Well, I can’t speak for Paree, never having been there, but there is, from a photographic standpoint, quite a lot to keep a person down on the farm, for a few hours at least.
Quite apart from the cute and not-so-cute creatures that “moo, oink” and “baah” their way around the farmyard, there are picturesque barns, fascinating implements and pastoral landscapes, all of which provide the photographer with ample opportunity to use everything from macro to wide angle lenses.
If you decide to venture out into these bucolic surroundings you will quickly discover that one of the most essential pieces of equipment to bring on a trip to the farm, besides the camera, would be a stout pair of boots, preferably waterproof. You never know what you’re going to step in, out there in the field, and it’s best to be prepared. It also helps to be reasonably agile especially when you come face to face with a bull in that same field, as I can readily testify.
For most people, I suppose, the animals are the first things to grab the spotlight. There are few sights more adorable than a lamb in springtime and I’m not talking about the one served up with green peas and mint sauce! Even piglets are appealing in their own snuffling, mud-covered way.
Beware of the goats! They’ll eat anything left within chomping range including hats, gloves, and the tastier portions of your camera equipment. They also have a tendency to butt into you when you least expect it, such as when you’re bending down to get a closer shot of those fluffy chicks that are scurrying around the yard.
“Hey! Watch it!”
The farm buildings themselves are certainly worth a picture or two; the old barn that looks as though a strong breeze would blow it over but has probably been standing like that for years; the milking shed that has doubtless seen hundreds of soft-eyed cows file placidly through its doors on their way to providing the stuff that gets sloshed over our cornflakes every morning, and the farmhouse where generations of agricultural families have raised their children, struggled to pay the bills and prayed for rain, sun and a bountiful harvest, all tell the story of life on the farm, and it’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy one.
Farming equipment has come a long way since the ox and plough days but there is something, to my mind, so much more aesthetically pleasing about the old rusty scythe, brightly painted wooden wagon and weathered leather horse collar, and if, like me, you prefer photographing the accoutrements of a less mechanized era, there are still working farms to be found that embrace the old traditions.
My own childhood memories of vacations spent on the farm, even after all these years, are as vivid and colorful as pictures in an album; eating deliciously rip, red strawberries smothered in cream fresh from the dairy, walking across green pastures early in the morning looking for mushrooms, golden fields of wheat waving like flames in the breeze, the sweet smell of warm hay and the staccato clucking of the hens as we collected their eggs.
Of course there’s much more to country living than good food, leisurely strolls over gently rolling meadows and lounging around atop the hay wagon watching other people doing all the work; just ask the person who’s shearing the sheep, feeding the pigs or shoveling out the cow shed. But even these arduous chores make excellent subjects for the camera and no opportunity should be missed to capture all the day-to-day activities that constitute life on the farm.
The Volkening Heritage Farm, part of Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg, is an excellent place to take a photographic field-trip or, on a much larger scale, the farms of Old World Wisconsin, located just south of Eagle in Waukesha County, are sure to provide you with all the pictures of life on the farm that you could ever wish to take while getting plenty of exercise and fresh air.
So skip Paree this year. Who needs the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Moulin Rouge when you can spend a few glorious hours down on the farm.