This is my neighbor, Gino. He is a third generation Petaluman… and third generation ranch kid. He got his first cow when he was 14. Now he has 4 cows. Gino will be graduating in a couple of months and his mom wanted some senior photos. But not the yearbook kind, she already had to buy those, and she wasn’t that happy with them. She wanted to have some of Gino in his own environment…. so she called me… which was convenient because I live one house away… and because I like nothing more than to photograph in fields with farm animals.
So we did some of the standard, look and smile photos… but then we went into the pasture and the clouds started to break-up, and the family members started joining the fun and even the cows couldn’t stay away… so senior photos turned into full family photo shoot… cows included.
I have been wanting to do a 3-generation photo with this family for Project Here so it turned into the perfect occasion.
After all the formal stuff was over, Gino changed back into his real senior attire. Dress-up photos are nice to have, but this is how Gino really spent his Senior year: dog, jeans, a baseball hat and truck… the cowboy hat above was just peer pressure… but maybe he’ll see how good it looks and trade in his baseball hat…. maybe.
And below is a strange phenomenon I wanted to share with you all. I am not sure why or how, but on this particular shoot, for some reason, my camera kept taking photos of people from the nose down… and sometimes just the belly button down. Seriously, I don’t even remember taking them, and when I looked at the photos during the editing process, I wondered, “Why I would take that photo.”
I think it was the magnetic draw of those belt buckles, even hidden under jackets my camera still gravitated towards them. But I guess it makes sense, because when Arann and I lived on his mother’s farm, the rancher neighbor across the street always accused me of taking photos of his butt… but something about tight jeans, big belt buckles, and boots is just graphically irresistible for my camera… must be the camera…. always blame the camera.
And because I often work with MALT (the Marin Agricultural Land Trust,) and they love to have photos of green hills for their annual reports… I have been trying to take the back-roads home, which has been nice because not only do I get to avoid the traffic, but I also get to build my 2009 library of green hill photos.
Here is my next installation of parallels between the two worlds that are not so far apart.
Farming has changed greatly over the last two generations, as Gene Ponica knows that first hand. He says, growing up on a dairy ranch was not fun for a kid. But the dairy cows are long gone these days. It was too expensive and challenging to upgrade all the old equipment to meet today’s strict dairy standards, so now the only cows on Poncia’s 700 acre West Marin ranch are beef cattle… and, that means, for the first time in his life, Gene has time to go fishing.
For the 2008 Annual Report for MALT (The Marin Agricultural Land Trust,) the theme was: Tools of the Trade. So I went to four different ranches and photographed tools old and new to help illustrate some of the changes that farming has gone through over the years.
These are some samples of where farming has come from…
I was told that in the “old days” ranchers were very resourceful… because they could not afford to buy new fancy equipment, they often had to build a lot of their tools, in order to make their chores a little easier. I saw lots of homemade tractors, and my favorite… the milking track shown in the photo below. These old carts ran on a track around the barn to distribute the hay, that dropped from the barn above, to the cows waiting to be milked in the barn below.
Then I saw some tools that were used in the “old days” and that are still going strong today… like The Straus Family Creamery’s organic milk bottling and washing machines. It was such a beautiful process to watch. And as a quick aside: Albert Straus is absolutely the nicest (extremely successful) business man I have ever met… all of his employees in the office and the factory clearly like and respect him. It is refreshing to know that a good man is behind a good product… and it makes me feel good to buy that beautiful milk bottle in the grocery store, even if it is more than my budget would like, because good quality products are not cheap.
And then I got to experience a modern milking industry in action… and I saw the process of cheese making from start to finish, at the Giacamini Ranch, where they make Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese.
Definitely no milking by hand here, because in order to keep up with their demand, they need to milk over 300 cows in 5 hours. And the secret to their rapid success… this handy little machine below…
I have spent many hours milking cows by hand… and I am really glad I had not seen this machine during that time period, because I didn’t fully understand how easy it could have been…. no spilled milk, or hours of hand cramping milking, in this super sterile barn.
Then all that milk ends up here… where the rest of the magic begins…
And the beautiful final products…. cheese…. and manure. The cheese is carefully packaged and shipped off to grocery stores across the US… and the manure is carefully collected, processed and diverted from the waterways… in order to protect our environment for the next generation of farmers and consumers.
My conclusion… get to know where your food comes from… how it is made and who is making it… and you will appreciate it all a whole lot more. Support your local organic farmers and cows.
For the last three years, I have been lucky to get assignments for MALT, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. I do all kinds of things for them, including, documenting events like Taste of Marin, and their hikes on MALT protected ranches. It has been a wonderful partnership, because I have been able to go places that I wouldn’t normally get to go to and meet people who I wouldn’t meet otherwise.
And for the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to collect images for their Annual Report. The theme is ‘tools of the trade.’ I will post some of those photos next. But in addition to tools, Elisabeth also wanted powerful overall landscape photos… photos that show nature, with a slight trace of human impact and some animals. My first round of photos weren’t so impressive… which isn’t surprising because landscapes really are not my specialty.
So, I had one last night to try again… but it is challenging with our bright blue cloudless skies, because without anything interesting in the sky, it puts all the pressure is on the landscape itself… and the window of opportunity for good landscape light lasts about 10 minutes… and then it is gone. So it is a game of wait…wait…wait…wait…wait….then…. go-go-go-go-go…. and then it’s over… until next year’s Annual Report… so I hope, with these photos, I got what she wanted.
On my last night in town before I flew home to South Carolina, I had to get a few more landscape photos for an assigment. So Arann and I decided to multi-task… date night with mussels and french fries, landscape photos, and photos of him in his chicken suit… of course. (The cows were very intrigued… it was not a typical Tuesday night event for them.)
For those of you who don’t know, Arann is the lead singer of The Bluebellies, and he writes and sings a lot of songs about chickens. He really wants everyone in the band to buy chicken suits for their next band photo… but chicken suits are not cheap… so he is having a hard time convincing the other members it is a worthwhile investment. This one came from Target and was about $70. I bought Arann’s suit, because I figured it can be a write-off, since, as you can see, it is for my very serious photo-business.
One funny detail… the tag says the suits are ‘one-size-fits-all,’ but as you can see, they weren’t expecting one of those All’s to be 6’4.
And I really like how Arann left the hanger tag on the suit… it is very Arann…