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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Just Kidding Around

As I have discussed before, I grew up on a farm. The memories of the experiences I had growing up in that lifestyle are greatly cherished. I yearn to share this with my Sugar Bear. I want her to absorb all that growing up country has to offer. A "city girl" cousin recently described life on our family farm as "the simple life." She meant it in the most respectful, and admirable way. None the less, I think my dad took a bit of offense. What he does to keep our Century Farm running, is far from simple. He works hard....very hard, as does my mother. As difficult, and time consuming as it can be, I know they find great joy in it.

One of those joys includes sharing it all with their grand children. Their door is always open to "the girls." In fact, sometimes it is hard getting Sugar BACK once she has been there for a few days. They'd gladly keep her FOREVER. As the seasons change, there are revolving reasons for Sugar to pay visits to the farm. The baby cows, hay season, planting the garden, gathering the veggies, strawberry picking, grape ripening, picking out a pumpkin....the list goes on. I am always anxious to make sure nothing is missed, and Sugar Bear gets a chance to live the "simple life."

Here at home, we are quite lucky ourselves. We live on our own 5 acre piece of land surrounded by forest, and fields. We have some wonderful neighbors, and enjoy the country type of life on a daily basis. Recently, I began gearing up for what I knew was coming....the delivering of the KIDS! wonderful neighbor, Johnny, had 29 pregnant goats. It didn't take long to figure out that soon we'd have a bunch of sweet baby goats running around. A quick call to Johnny a few weekends ago, and Sugar Bear and I had a hot, early morning date. Just us, Johnny, and some 34 kids....oh and their mamas too. As of that morning, 7 expecting goats were still...ummm...expecting.

Bright and early, Sugar Bear and I donned our rubber boots, coats, and hats. We headed on over to Johnny's barn to experience one of the most time consuming, yet full filling chores of a farmer.....bottle feeding. You see, many of these mama goats had twins, and several even had triplets. Often there just isn't enough milk to go around. Johnny offers bottle to any baby kid that is interested twice a day. Sugar was over the top excited to be a substitute goat mama. We had a blast, and Johnny, a fairly recent widower, was grateful to have some company. It was a blessing all around.

We started the feeding inside the barn. If you have been reading my blog for long a day or know that I have a pretty intense interest in photography. In fact, I have been writing a simple series of photography tutorials lately as well. (You can find them off to the right on my side bar.) This barn provided me with a forced challenge to use my flash. You see....I am NOT a fan of flash photography. Well....let's just say "on-board flash". There are some nice external flashes that produce nice results, but the flash system that comes built into your camera, in my opinion, stinks. I have trouble getting nice natural looking photos using the on-board flash. I like my photos to accurately depict what I am seeing in real life. You'll see what I mean here. The next photo, I snapped while Sugar Bear was feeding her first baby goat the bottle. I framed her sweet face, and moved in close. I found the result to be quite startling.

Sugars face is washed out, and her eyes are simply NOT normal. I have never seen her look like this in real life, so why would I want a photo like this? Now, if I had a choice, I would have moved her outside, so there would be enough light to avoid using the flash all together, but....I had to work with what I had. I took a few steps back and snapped again. I think you'll find that this made a significant difference.

Now, I cropped it so that we'd have the nice framing, and up close more personal feel I was wanting. As you can see, this photo is far superior to the first. It isn't totally natural, but acceptable.

It is my advice that if you HAVE to use the flash, step BACK, and crop in your editing software. I think you'll experience better results. Try it out and let me know. In the mean time you'll find me always searching out the moments I can avoid the flash. I once heard a blogger recommend to her readers that they use the flash ALL the time whether they needed it or not. She felt that it would fill in shadows, and increase the quality of ANY photo in ANY situation. I was shocked. In my opinion, real life has shadows, and getting rid of them in photos takes away the depth of the scene, and presents a flat image. So, I recommend the opposite....use flash as a LAST resort. Here is another example I took as we headed out into the covered shed area to feed more kids. This one is taken with flash:

It isn't BAD really, but the baby goat's eyes are glowing, and Sugar is a tad washed out. So I switched to NO flash, and got a few more natural ones. I find that they accurately represent what it is like to be in an overhead covered shed. Isn't that the point?

Sugar Bear and I couldn't have had a better time. It cracked me up how Sugar was insistent on wanting to pet the few kids that just didn't want anything to do with her, but the ones begging for attention she ignored. I guess she likes "hard to get!" All in all though, she got quite a kick out of the bottle feeding process. This one was taken inside the barn, so as you'll see, the baby goat's eyes are un-natural, but the photos is still passable.

However, this one taken outside (without flash), in my opinion, beats it by a mile. Seriously....look at this darling little honey! Can you resist the cuteness?

This little one, was a real friendly little fella. Just before we headed back home, Sugar finally found interest in him. He was a curious little guy who if given the chance, might have taken a few bites out of my camera.

As for Johnny, we are grateful to him for sharing his kids with us. It warms my heart knowing that each and every one of us got something out of that morning together. I walked away feeling a sense of community, and wishing that we could help our neighbor out several mornings a week. If only my having to work didn't get in the way of life.....REAL LIFE, because as you know.........let's say it know what's coming, right.........


22 Live It or Love It:

Carolyn said...

Lovely post. I'm a city girl who knows absolutely nothing of the rural life. Thanks for sharing.

As for flash - I'm with you. I use it for fill-in only when the subject can't be moved and it's strongly backlit. Something to add - if you must use flash, many digital SLRs have a feature where you can decrease the intensity of the flash itself. I always turn mine way down so the flash itself isn't so "flashy". (Or, if you have a ridculously expensive camera like my brother does, you can take really high ISO photos without any graininess. If you check out the latest post on my blog, the one of the cake alone on the table was taken in low(ish) light at iso1100 with no flash, but it isn't grainy. I know it looks bright in the room, but it really wasn't. Sure would be nice to have his camera!)

My dad is also a wonderful photographer and one of his biggest rules of photography and children is "bend your knees". One of the reasons your photos of Sugar Bear are always so gorgeous is because you get down to her level instead of towering over her. Beautiful results!

(Sorry for the long comment!)

Megan Cobb said...

:) Yeah, I find myself constantly turning my flash OFF and trying to get natural light in the right place at the right time. I agree. Last resort.

I have a feeling that if Bean and I ever came to visit y'all, you'd have a mighty hard time getting rid of us. You two have so much fun (YEAR ROUND) and I'm glad you both appreciate and take advantage of all that outdoorsy, fresh, natural, educational goodness. It's nice to live vicariously through you, when we can, too. sigh.

jennwa said...

Life is Good!!!!!

Great picures. Those goat were so cute. So is Sugar Bear but you knew that already.

Anonymous said...

I love pretty much anything baby. Those kids are very cute.

Amy said...

thanks for all your photo tips! regarding the flash, i totally agree.

these some very sweet photos. you have a way for capturing such special moments! =)

Laura said...

Awww, another fun adventure in the life of Sugar Bear! I love her little hat, and the goats are too sweet.

Thanks for the built-in photography lesson too. We just have a point-and-shoot digital camera, but one of my main complaints is the way the pictures with flash turn out. I hate them! The subject is washed out and the background is dark and weird. I could probably make it look somewhat better if I knew at all what I was doing, but I don't. Our house has very little natural light, so I have to resort to flash a lot. Argh!

Autumn said...

Oh baby goats, I love them. However I am no longer swayed by their cuteness... I know what happens when they get big! LOL.
I love that first picture of sugar in her hat, with her hair peeking out underneath. So cute!
I agree about the flash, what I'm trying to figure out though is this, when I take inside pictures without flash they tend to look like I applied a sephia tone to then. I may look to see if my camera has the flash has the decrease intensity setting like Carolyn commented above. That would be cool to play with.

:) said...

I have the same problem with indoor photos. My house doesn't have a lot of natural light so the photos come out dark A LOT and I don't know how to fix it and I don't think my camera can accommodate it. I have a Kodak Easyshare and it's basically a point and shoot camera. No bells or whistles.

Anonymous said...

I am with you 100% on the no flash. I hate the way it makes things look flat, unnatural and washed out. I recently got a point and shot for when I don't want to lug my DSLR that has a setting that takes two pictures in a row, one with flash and one without. The without flash version is almost always the one I keep.

Heidi said...

Life is good! Love the photos! The kids are cute!

david mcmahon said...

If I were allowed one wish for every human being, I would wish that we could all spend some time on a farm ....

Unknown said...

This is such a lovely post. You are so very lucky to live in the environment that you live in.

John-Michael said...

I give you a gift ... Toilet Tissue!

Yep, a 'trick' learned many years ago (source not recalled) is to simply moisten your flash lens (yes, the 'lick the thumb and apply' method is used) and apply however many layers of facial, toilet, table napkin, whatever ... tissue serves to "mute" and soften the flash effect. Really makes a world of difference with those close-up photos where you simply cannot avoid flash use. Experiment with layers and textures for effect. You will be amazed. And the price is SO right! (and it is so much fun to see the funny looks from bystanders when you tear off that tiny bit of paper, and do your magic!)

Deb said...

I've never really thought much about the flash before - most of my pictures are indoor ones and the automatic flash on my camera just usually goes off. I do turn it off when it really interferes with the picture that I want to take or when it goes off outside and doesn't really need to. I really do need to dig out that user's manual... :)

My friend Mary grew up on a dairy farm and they raised goats as well - your post reminded me of visiting her there. :)

Maude Lynn said...

I totally agree that the pictures without the flash look more natural and have more depth.

But, I gotta, tell you, Corey, I was a bit shocked. Sugar Bear looks so grown up all of a sudden!

tommie said...

Those are so great. I'll keep the flash tips in mind.

an external flash is on my wish list!

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a great time! And the kids are cute... all of them! :)

Cath said...

What a wonderful post! Came over from David's and found a fellow country bumpkin! Like you, my children do not get the opportunities I did as they are in towns not the country, even if it is a rural sort of village / town where we are. Sugar will love those experiences. Everyone should have them. This is life!

And thanks for the photo tips. It's useful to know even when you are a real amateur like me.

CMB said...

This is why I LOVE reading blogs from other parts of the US. I am a city girl who has visited a farm or two, but never got out of it what your daughter did that morning. I only wish I could give my kids an experience like that. I love the post - one of my favorites.

Daryl said...

Wonderful post, great pix. I almost never use a flash, I just up the ISO

David sent me.

Almost American said...

I'm with you on the flash. I often turn mine off, or at least set it to 'slow'. Photoshop is my friend!

David sent me.

Misty DawnS said...

I find I'm missing lambing season now that I read this post. That is something I never thought I'd say ;-)

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