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James Grant - Are You Looking At Me?

Blog Posted on 23 Nov 2011

I'm no wildlife photographer by a long stretch, I couldn't name more types of bird by sight than I have fingers on one hand. However there is just something that I have always found fascinating about the highland cattle on Baslow Edge.

Whether it's because they're traditionally something seen in Scotland or that they're just so tame (in one way) they are just so striking.

I had been up to Baslow Edge a couple of times and without fail they had all been munching on the grass just after Wellington's Monument.  I had a couple of attempts at capturing them and while relatively pleased with the results I found I hadn't really found anything different to what I had seen before.

On a summers evening in 2010 I headed up with a friend armed with my camera and a super wide angle lens attached. We walked around, often trampling through the heather that was in full bloom trying to get a cow that would play ball. After some wandering I managed to find one that was more co-operative, a poser I must say!

While these cows are often tame in the sense that they're used to walkers walking past and they tolerate this, they don't like being approached at close quarters. So to have found one that stood still I made the most of it. Shooting handheld I kept shooting, looking through the viewfinder trying to get as close as I could. The issue with shooting on a super wide angle lens is that you really can't tell how far away from your subject you are. My mate was stood behind in amazement at my "bravery". Seeing that I was starting to make the cow nervous, knowing I had my composition and knowing roughly where the camera would need to be I took a couple of shots off the hip (not looking through the viewfinder). The trouble with off the hip shots, especially when you don't have liveview like I didn't at the time you're taking them on a wing and a prayer. After taking these shot's the cow decided to do a runner so I was very relieved to find I had nailed it once reviewing the images.

I had decided to get for a composition that breaks all the rules, placing everything dead centre to add impact. I was fortunate that the cow was stood in perfect position so that the setting sun was adding great sidelighting to his fur and I opted for the super wide angle lens to add exaggerated perspective. I took the shot at 10mm. I also think and this is completely beyond my control, the fact that the cow's hair is covering it's eyes just really adds that finishing touch.

Strangely, being a landscape photographer somehow this has ended up being one of my signature images. I think what I like most about it is that it brings a smile to a lot of peoples faces. Often I've walked down the streets of a Peak District town with a framed copy of it to go in a shop and can see people pointing, smiling and laughing (hopefully not at me!).

This blog was brought to you by James Grant



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