Most of the time when I take pictures of cattle, they show concern or, at the least, concern about my presence. They look at intensively with their ears cocked forward wondering what I’m going to do next. Not this Longhorn. This darling of a Texas ranch really did not care about me at all. That was an attitude I could really appreciate.
Of course who could blame him? Weighing in at around 1200 pounds and standing 4 or 5 feet tall at the shoulder this big boy does what he wants when he wants.
That description doesn’t even include the huge rack of horns on his head. Those horns can reach lengths of 80 inches or close to 2 meters across. They are the signature item of this breed of cattle. The Texas longhorn is a true creature of beauty.
Once again I found a perfect use for the white vignette on the border of this work. It enhances the details of the steer and yet dramatizes the lush green grass around him. The trick to this work was getting the white of his hide to not be a pure white. There are touches of brown and black in his coat and I did not want to lose those shades.
I’ve seen longhorn with different markings and colorings before, but this is the first opportunity I enjoyed with one of these magnificent animals this close. The white and black in his hide and the brown nose come together to form indelible impressions of what Texas ranching is all about.
Going out on a photo shoot takes time, concentration and, now and then, a bit of luck. The general idea is to carefully notice everything around me and look for potential angles and light displays that captivate my inner artist. It could be the light of the early morning sun as it hits a bird in just the right way, or the shade of a palm tree protecting a flower from the harshest of the sun’s rays.
But, as hard as I try, sometimes I do not realize what I have captured until I get home and start intensively critiquing and processing my raw work. Such is the case with our new piece of art Striped Cow. The pattern of stripes and color on her head and flanks was simply mesmerizing.
She turned her head in my direction giving me that classical bovine look of curiosity with ears propped up listening to see if I was a threat to her peace and quiet. In the field I noticed she turned her body slightly to get a better view of my approach. She was only interested in what I was going to do. More than likely worried that I meant her or her herd possible harm. I always find it humorous that cattle do not seem to think that the same fence that keeps them from harming you also keeps us from approaching and harming them.
In any case, it wasn’t until the final stages of processing these pictures that my attention caught the unusual. I was working on the edges to give it that classic overexposed vignette when I noticed the anomaly.
It appears out indelible friendly cow only has 3 legs. It’s not true of course. She had four legs when I took the shot, however, the angle of her far right front leg matches up perfectly with her left front leg. Further adding to the illusion is the blackish striping she has at the top of her leg. It makes her shoulder appear to camouflage into the rest of her flank.
A strange illusion indeed and definitely not one that you see everyday. Sometimes it is the hidden illusion in a picture that add that sense of wonder to a piece. I believe this is such a case.
In Close Enough we see another example of the shorthorn cow. Like her blond counterpart, this cow seems to have the privilege of being the herd’s guard cow.
She was the most interested in my advance than any in her group of friends. It was unclear whether this was more out of curiosity or careful investigation to see if I meant any harm.
This cow looks experienced in her role in the herd. She probably is the matriarch or an alpha female. The greyish white fur that highlights her muzzle, neck, and parts of her flank suggest that she has definitely seen several years in the pasture.
What is fascinating about her though is her posture. Her ears are fully extended to allow them to hear any intruding sounds that would alert her to any danger. Even though her eyes are on the side of her head to give her the greatest field of view, she is clearly focused on what is in front of her.
Her head is slightly tilted back, also paying attention to the intruder to her tranquil pasture. If you look closely you will readily see that even though she shows interest in what is occurring in front of her, almost inquisitive even, she appears to have a look of almost recognition.
I believe that she recognizes what she sees, namely a human, but she is at the same time very wary because she doesn’t recognize this particular human. She is asking herself, “Who is that?” “What do they want?” “Do they have food?”. But somewhere in the back of her mind her instincts are informing her of the possible danger.
So, in response to the greatest question on her mind, “Does this human I like BBQ?” she has taken that last step as a guard cow. Her whole body language sends the message, “You have come close enough!”
Our subject today is Maybelle. Maybelle is the capture of a true bovine ice cream pin-up cow. She is a true blond and quite a looker among the local bulls, as I guess. In fact, I’m willing to bet her picture probably graces the local barn stalls of all the young bulls in the county.
Indeed, Maybelle is a gorgeous 1200 lbs of lean milk making machine. Like most milking shorthorn cattle she is quite content to hang out with her girlfriends and chew her cud while contemplating the rigors and stresses of life as a milk cow.
She sat quietly munching on the occasional bluebonnet and the sweet grasses that grew nearby, when she suddenly raised her head in my direction. I took this as a sign that perhaps I had wandered a little to close to the herd for her comfort and her duty that day was to act as the guard cow.
I stop dead in my tracks and noticed several other heads of the herd look in my direction. Those ears and eyes were giving me the look over as I brought the camera to my face and started to snap away. I wasn’t about to get any closer. The headlines of “Man Killed in Field by Dairy Cow” seemed all too much a possibility.
Milk cows are not small animals and I wasn’t going to risk there being a calf hanging around somewhere out of sight. It was only later that I understood that someone behind me played the car stereo a little loudly.
So, it seems that not only is Maybelle a great photographic model but she is a cultured cow of artistic taste. The music on the radio was Chopin.
So, raise a glass of milk and have a Oreo cookie for Maybelle. She is out there working tirelessly on your next bowl of ice cream. Or, maybe, cows that like Chopin make gelato?