When I go out to a farm or an equestrian event, I’m often asked questions like “Aren’t you bored with this?” Or people say “It would be hard getting a good photo of animals.”
They seem surprised when I respond with perhaps too much enthusiasm “I love this! I’m in my element here.” Or when I tell people that I don’t find photographing animals difficult at all. Sure, they don’t always stand where or how you want them to. They don’t always look at you. But that’s part of the challenge. And sometimes the photographs you take turn out much better than the ones you had in mind.
Here’s why I love photographing agricultural or equestrian subjects. I’m sincerely interested in these subjects, I want to learn about these subjects and have dreams of working in these industries one way or another.
I am not off a farm nor do I have a background with horses. I was the youngest of four kids and the only girl. I grew up trying to do everything that my older brothers were doing. From mowing the lawns to chopping wood (mainly the kindling).
My dad was a national park ranger and took us kids hiking, camping and skiing, so I learnt to love the outdoors. My mum did her best to get me to wear dresses and play tea parties inside. But I was happiest wearing jeans and playing outside (I did have the occasional tea party outside). If I was inside, I was often in my room on my own playing farms. Using pencils as fences, little plastic animals, little cars and tractors and lego men. This was my happy place and my down time away from my brothers.
Just like any young girl I had a love for horses that I’m sure my parents hoped that I would grow out of. When I was eight years old, I had discovered that I was allergic to horses so I had to make do with horse posters on my walls, reading whatever book I could get my hands on and the occasional ride on a friends horse.
When I was twelve years old, the Australian series McLeod’s Daughters came to our TV screens. I saw these strong female roles working hard on the land and realised that I could do that too if I wanted to. The more I watched McLeod’s Daughters, the more I wanted to be able to do what they did.
It was around this time that I had a fall off my friend’s horse which I didn’t think at the time I was hurt all that badly. However a year or so down the track my left knee started giving me problems.
When I was 14, I was diagnosed with asthma and bad hay fever. After some tests and a trip to an allergy specialist, it was discovered that I am allergic to practically all things involved in the Agriculture and Equestrian industries. From the dust particles, the grasses to the cows and horses.
I was advised against pursuing a career in these industries, and I went through several years of desensitisation programs. By the time I had finished VCE, and I had decided to study children’s services my doctors told that I was all clear to work in the Agriculture or Equine industries.
Instead, I became a Nanny working near Tamworth, I spent some time travelling around the western half of Australia and then moved to King Island, Tasmania, to work as a Nanny again. Travelling around these rural areas fed my dream even more and I finally decided to apply to Glenormiston College to do a Diploma of Agriculture. However, because I’d spent several years away from the industries, my allergies had come back. I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
I was a little apprehensive. Not only was I a female trying to get into a male dominant industry. I am a small female. I am short, and I am not exactly made of muscle.
I was relieved when I realised that of the Ag students we were all females. I was surprised too. There were only five of us young women doing the Diploma of Agriculture in what would be Glenormiston College’s last year of running courses.
On completing my Diploma of Ag. I eventually got a job milking cows back home in Gippsland (you know despite what “they” say it isn’t easy finding a job as a graduate). After three months of milking cows twice a day, six days a week my allergies really weren’t happy. I had to cover myself from head to toe to prevent skin contact with the cows and the cow’s poo (yes I’m allergic to cow poo).
I decided that milking cows wasn’t for me after all and got a job on a beef property instead as a farm hand which I loved. I only got an asthma attack on the odd day if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction while feeding out hay. However, my body was struggling.
One morning I woke up to find that my left knee would not hold my weight at all. After seeing a chiropractor and then a Physio it was discovered that my knee had spent 10 years overcompensating for the right side of my back which has led to early stages of arthritis, muscles that don’t do what they should and tendons that are easily torn. Or, as I put it, I have a worn out knee.
For the second time, I was advised to find another career. My body just isn’t up to handling the demanding work of a farm hand.
I was still determined to be in the Ag industry though so I got myself a job as a receptionist for a herd improvement company. At least this way I was able to still learn.
There was some hope that if I stuck with building the muscle up in my knee and did the exercises I was given then I might be able to learn to artificially inseminate cows. However, that never happened. My body was not in any condition for that sort of labour. If I spent too long standing behind cows or spent a couple of hours lifting heavy milk crates I would pay for it the next day or more.
So I mostly stayed behind the desk in the office with the occasional outing on farm to assist with AI programs or to deliver milk samples for herd testing.
After almost three years in this job, I was going through some other health issues which were eventually put down to stress. Just when I was diagnosed with this I had decided that I wanted to become a full-time photographer, giving the company 4 weeks notice.
I could see that I wasn’t going to be getting any further with the company and found it difficult to go to work most days, my mental health was not in the best condition, this I did know, but I did not realise that it would affect my health as much as did.
It took a good few months of starting a full-time photography business to find my niche. But I realised that I still had a passion for Agriculture and horses, I know what to look for in the Agricultural and Equine industries that appeal to not just my clients but to viewers of my images. I look at different angles to depict the animal’s personality and to capture our client’s needs/wants.
And the best thing is I still get to learn, I still get to be amongst the atmosphere, and I get to capture it and show it to the world. I get to teach other people what these industries are about and how they benefit everyone not just for the short term but for the long run.
You can trust KPN Photography to capture the images that you want to reach out to your audience. We do our job with enthusiasm and perfectionism, and in a manner that doesn’t stress out your animals or you and your staff.
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