Sometimes, but certainly not always, I have a clear idea of the image I am trying to make even before I set out to take the photograph. This portrait of a Highland cow is a case in point.
From a lighting point of view I knew that I wanted the subject to be side/back lit, with bright sun to provide shadow areas and lots of contrast; although I was quite sure I would be adding more in post processing. The background also needed to be quite dark, so that the illuminated silhouette and backlit hairs of the animal would stand out. Compositionally I thought portrait would work better than a landscape, nor did I want to include the whole head or indeed both horns. As magnificent as they are one horn would be sufficient.
When it came to taking the shot, I deliberately included more in the frame so that I could crop later. I chose an aperture which would hopefully give me enough depth of field so that the nostrils, horn and hair on the top of the head were all sharp, but the neck or any visible part of the body were out of focus.
In many ways deciding what I wanted from the shot was easier than taking it! Animals move, they don’t pose for the photographer, The lighting was critical so the cow had to be facing the right way and just at the point when you are about to release the shutter, their head turns away and you have to be patient for the next opportunity. I took a number of shots which were out of focus, poorly composed or the background too confusing. There was a fence between me and the small herd of cattle, so I was restricted in my movement, but I felt more comfortable than being in the field with them! Finally I thought I had captured something which I could work on and you have now seen the end result.
These wonderful creatures are full of character. You sort of know that they can see you even though their long hair prevents you from seeing their eyes. They know you are there, wondering why you want to point this black object in their faces. However their initial curiosity does bring them nearer to you, before they decide that grazing on grass and straw is more interesting than a photographer who wants to turn his imagination into reality.
This image was taken with a Leica M Monochrom and 90mm Summarit f2.4 lens at f4, 1/2500 and ISO 320.
Do click on the image to view a larger version, particularly if you want to see the level of detail which has been captured.