Friday, March 26, 2010
How'd I Do That? Olympia the Lamb in her Floral Lei
Thought I would let you in on the behind the scenes on taking the photos of Olympia in her Floral Lei. The idea began as I thought about images of lambs that I have seen in old Victorian postcards. Lambs are often depicted with flowers around their necks in the springtime grazing amongst a field of flowers or green grass. I thought it would be fun to portray this image in actual photos using a real sheep. It took me a while to knit and crochet the floral lei and then felt it. Olympia's birth and subsequent arrival in our farmhouse because her mama didn't want to take care of her made my project possible. Most of our lambs are not very tame nor friendly. Olympia is particularly good looking too - she's half Romney, half Coopworth and has a dainty face - perfect for my photo idea.
After taking the photos of the other lambs in coats, it became clear this wasn't a job for one person. I would need a photo assistant. When you're on the type of budget I am, you have to be resourceful. If The Farmer were more willing and patient, I would have asked him but he thinks I'm a bit nuts, if not a slight bit creative. I don't like to order him around in his barn and that's what I knew it would take to get the photos I had dreamed up in my head. He hasn't been on many photoshoots and doesn't quite understand the process, nor have the interest in it.
Enter our friend Stuart Kenney, Dad to Matt and Bridget (models from Color by Kristin and good buddies of Julia) and a friend of ours. Stuart is a musician (he plays upright bass and the banjo) so he doesn't have to run off to a day job. He used to be a glass blower too and understands art and loves the process. He's also been the subject of many photoshoots for the various bands he has been in. Stuart is always supportive of my work and curious to see what I'm up to. He also happens to drop his kids off at the school at a similar time to Julia's arrival (late...). I asked him if he was busy that day and if would mind helping out for the sake of art. He said he could help me out.
We met up at the barn. I had given Olympia a bath the day before in the kitchen sink (she didn't mind). I wrapped the Felted Floral Lei around her neck and told Stuart what I was thinking of. I had brought with me one of my large painted pieces of masonite I frequently use for backdrops for my photos.
We climbed into the creep feeder. It was the perfect place because the large sheep can't get in and the little lambs didn't want to be near us. We set up the backdrop and then hoped for the best. The light in the greenhouse barn is really nice - filtered and soft.
Olympia is very tame and wasn't interested in the other sheep. It took about an hour and probably 400 photos to get the 3 images I printed onto the postcards. Stuart would hold Olympia until I got into place (on the ground laying in the straw and manure - the glamour never stops here on the farm). Then he would slip Olympia in front of the pink backdrop.
We tried all kinds of things.... making funny noises, calling her name. The best was when Stuart started clapping to get her attention. The rest of the sheep thought it was The Farmer calling them for dinner. All 200 adult sheep came roaring into the barn baaaahing away - it was hysterical.
It is hard to know what you are getting when you are shooting animals. Every millisecond of their movement and expression is different. I knew I needed a lot of images to get the perfect one.
Stuart was a great assistant. Unbeknownst to me, Stuart starting doing cranialsacral massage to Olympia to calm her down. In between takes, I got up out of the manure and there's Olympia asleep in Stuart's arms. Amazing. He calmed her down, then set her down in the set and I clicked away. Awesome.
It was a fun morning and the images were what I was looking for. Thank you Stuart!
So that's the story folks. Good weekend everyone. Postcards available in the shop here.
Hope to see some of you tomorrow at the Knit-a-thon at the Wellesley Booksmith. I'll be there in the afternoon.