Monday, March 28, 2011

"Food is People" Photography Project

This post is adapted from an email I sent to Colleen Cecil of the Butte County Farm Bureau regarding a photography project that's been brewing in my head for quite awhile now. I figured that this is as good a time as any to make that idea public...

I've been photographing farms and crops in the Sacramento Valley, both for personal pleasure and commercially, for the past 9 years. In the past couple of years, I've started photographing food as well. If you are one of the people who read this blog, you know most of that.

But I've never focused on photographing the people who run those farms or produce those crops that result in the food we eat. For me, that's a crucial element that is missing - both from my work as a photographer, and from the story I feel I can tell through my work. People grow food. I think we (non-farmers anyway) find it all too easy to forget that fact when all we see are piles of fruit and vegetables in the grocery store.

I've wanted to find a way to show that food is people (well, OK, not in the creepy Soylent Green sense) through my photography. I finally have come up with an idea for a project. I have no idea how it will be received, or even if it will be any good. But the idea is this: I want to create images (not just snapshots) of farmers in their environment and use those images - with text - to tell a bit of their story, the story of how food is people.

Essentially, I want to put a face on the food we all eat. I want people to realize that there are people, farmers and families behind every single thing we eat, even if we never see their faces or know their names.

It's still not completely cast in stone in my mind what the final form of this project will take. I'm planning (as a photographer, of course) to focus more on the images than the text, but I think that images alone can only tell part of the story. Certainly, I would be publishing the images and stories in this blog - and to our food blog. Some of the images might end up on my main website. Ultimately, it might end up as a gallery exhibition or hopefully a book. But right now, I'm just looking for farmers who are willing to work with a photographer and tell a bit of their story.

However, I'll warn any farmer considering participating that the reality of this project will be some idiot non-farmer coming out, asking a lot of dumb questions, setting up lights, and wasting huge amounts of your time fiddling with them to get the 'perfect shot', before he drives off not to be seen again until harvest time when you're honestly too busy to stand around waiting for him to fiddle with his stupid lights again.

Even I don't have a lot of patience for other photographers, but it's really a thankless profession despite all you hear about super models and trips to exotic locations. The most exciting model I've ever shot was a rack of lamb (for me, that's pretty exciting). And as for exotic locations... well, I did get to spend three days in gorgeous Modesto on a shoot last year. So, yeah, I guess photography is a pretty darned exciting profession.

Anyway, I apologize for that in advance, but it is a bit time consuming to get a truly expressive shot, and for some people it can take a while to develop the kind of relationship where you are comfortable having your photo taken. I understand that, and that's fine. At the very least, I'll get to know some cool farmers.

If you are a farmer (preferably within a reasonable distance of Chico, CA) that would like to waste your time with a photographer fiddling with his lights, I'd love to hear from you. If you don't have the patience for it, maybe you know a farmer who does, so please forward a link to this post to them.

I feel blessed to live in one of the most agriculturally productive (and let's face it, beautiful) areas in the world, and I hope that this project can be a small way of giving back to an area that gives us so much.

I'll close with my two favorite all time photos of farmland in the Sacramento Valley, both of rice fields...

Rice Harvest near Marysville

Monday, March 14, 2011

Snow Geese at Llano Seco Unit - Sacramento River National Wildlife Reserve

These images are part of the aerial shoot I did on February 26th. I'm still working my way through the over 1100 photos I took.

On our way across the valley toward Orland, we came across huge flocks of snow geese. I didn't realize it at the time, but they were in the Llano Seco Unit of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge. We circled above the geese for several minutes and I was able to get a number of fantastic images.

Snow Geese Over Llano Seco Wildlife Reserve
This is my favorite aerial photo of the geese - so far. Many more images to go through.

Snow Geese Over Llano Seco Wildlife Reserve
The geese were numberless when they took flight. It was breath-taking.

Snow Geese Over Llano Seco Wildlife Reserve
The flocks of snow geese were huge!

Snow Geese Over Llano Seco Wildlife Reserve
This is a nice 'close up' - we had to stay high enough to avoid potential collisions!

Snow Geese Over Llano Seco Wildlife Reserve
Snow geese flying over an island at Llano Seco

Snow Geese in Flight from the Air
Snow geese as seen from above - I love this image too

There are many more photos of the snow geese at Llano Seco still to be processed. I'm sure there will be another post in the next couple of weeks!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wildflower Workshop at Table Mountain - Only Two Weeks Left!

There are only two weeks left before my wildflower photography workshop on Table Mountain on March 26th! There is still space, so sign up now before it fills up.

A wildflower field macro photography workshop led by professional photographer, Tony Dunn. You'll learn beginning and advanced photographic and lighting techniques for capturing dramatic wildflower photos, learn the settings on your camera that will give you the best wildflower photos, and do it all in the field surrounded by dramatic displays of spring wildflowers.

Owls Clover on Table Mountain

Table Mountain, North of Oroville, Butte County. We'll meet at the parking lot at the Table Mountain Wildflower Reserve on Cherokee Rd (see map below - zoom out to see the general area). We will hike down to the waterfall where there is the highest concentration of wildflowers.

View Larger Map

Saturday, March 26, 2011, 4:00-7:00pm (sunset). Please arrive promptly as we will leave the parking lot for the field immediately at 4:00.

Poppies on Table Mountain

How Much
The workshop is $65 per person in advance. Because of limited space, please make your reservation in advance, as the workshop will sell out. You can pay via check or PayPal. Contact me for more payment information via email or phone (530-321-1753).

Tidy Tips

Is This Workshop for Me?
This workshop is for beginning, intermediate and even advanced photographers wishing to either begin learning the basics of wildflower photography or learn and practice more advanced macro photography techniques.

Owls Clover on Table Mountain

What do I Need?
We will be hiking about a half a mile each way over relatively gentle but occasionally soggy terrain to the main wildflower area, so you should wear sturdy boots and clothing appropriate to the weather. Since the flowers are very close to the ground, wear clothes that you won't mind getting down on your knees or belly in. Bring water and snacks if you wish.

You can bring a tripod for your camera if you wish, but it is unlikely that you'll use it.

You will need to bring a camera that is capable of capturing close up images of wildflowers. Most point-and-shoot and 'prosumer' cameras have some level of this capability. For DLSRs it depends on the lens. Some lenses have a 'macro' setting that does not really allow you to get close enough to take pictures of wildflowers really close up. For DSLRs, you will have the best results with a 'real' macro lens.

How can you tell what your camera will do? Try taking a photo of a quarter.

Quarter Macro view

If you can get a quarter to look this big (or bigger) in your camera's viewfinder (in focus!), then your camera is OK for wildflower macro photography. If your camera won't let you get this close, then you can do general photography of wildflowers, but won't be able to capture the dramatic close ups that true macro photography gives. But that might be all you want.

Make sure your camera's batteries are charged!

What happens if it's Raining?
The workshop will occur if it is overcast and or cold. If it is rainy or extremely windy (which makes it difficult to photograph the wildflowers), then the workshop will be cancelled. If it is possible to reschedule for Sunday the 27th or for the next weekend, we will do that. If not, all participants will receive a full refund. 

For more information,  email or call me at 530-321-1753.

Wild Violet on Table Mountain

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crop Duster Dusting Almond Orchards

A couple of weeks ago I was out on the west side of the Sacramento Valley shooting the beginning of the almond bloom. I noticed an Air Tractor crop duster working the orchards and found a good (and safe) place to park so that I could photograph him as he made his runs through the orchards.

Crop Duster Spraying Almond Orchards

It wasn't really part of the shoot I was working on, but I thought it would be fun to take a little time to try to catch the crop duster as he went by.

Fortunately, I was in a great spot, so I put my 100-400mm zoom on my 7D, giving me an effective focal length of 640mm, and started firing away. It was a lot of fun and the pilot waved at me several times as he went by.

I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to photographing airplanes in flight, but it was a fun bonus to the shoot.

Crop Duster Spraying Almond Orchards

Crop Duster

Crop Duster

Crop Duster

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Almond Orchards from the Air

Okay, I'm still going through the 1109 photos I took a week ago on a flight over the almond orchards in the Sacramento Valley. And I'm still stunned at the photos I got from this shoot - I give all the credit to the beauty of the almond orchards in bloom!

I won't say any more, but just let you look at some of the shots I got.

Almond Bloom from the AirRows of young almond trees

Almond Bloom from the Air
Alternating colors of almond flowers

Almond Bloom from the Air
I can't get enough of the orchards bloom

Almond Bloom from the Air
Almond flowers as far as the eye can see

There are a lot more photos from this shoot to come, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Almond Bloom from the Air

Last weekend I finally got up for an aerial shoot of the almond bloom. Saturday was a cold but clear day, coming right after a storm and right before a big freeze.

Almond bloom from the air
Rows of almonds in bloom

I took over 1100 photos in a little over two and a half hours, so it was a very productive shoot, but I've barely had a chance since then to look over the photos I took. Here's the first part of the path of our flight (Google divided it into two parts):

View 2011-02-26 in a larger map

But despite that, I thought I should try to upload at least a few images from the shoot. These were all taken at the very end of the shoot, when we were flying in circles around one particularly beautiful orchard southwest of Durham.

Almond bloom from the air
Intersecting orchards

Almond bloom from the air
More almonds in bloom

Almond bloom from the air
Interesting "V"-shaped almond orchard south of Chico.

Almond bloom from the air
The last shot I took shows the setting sun turning the almond flowers bright pink!

I love the patterns that the rows of trees make, and I love images that show off those patterns in interesting ways. 

I'll lots more images from this shoot in the coming days (weeks?), so keep tuned.