Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I always look forward to coverage of our state fair here in boise. I especially enjoy doing photography of the traditional animal competitions put on by the FFA and 4H Clubs. I also check out the winners in the agricultural events. It’s always fun to see who grew the largest pumpkin each year! I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the people who work so hard producing the food we eat. I think these competitions are crucial in attracting our young people to careers in agriculture. After all the animal husbandry and agricultural shows were the reason for the original county fairs. 

By going behind the scenes photography of these old fashioned, timeless events I can show what few people these days—outside of the actual competitors—take the time to witness at a state fair. It’s sad that even in a major agricultural state such as Idaho I rarely see our local media covering these events. In fact I’m usually the ONLY professional photographer out there, getting my shoes dirty, documenting the boys and girls with their animals.

 f6.3 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 168mm
Jessica in line for the horse showmanship competition. I had photographed her before when she won the Rodeo Queens Competition (Teen Queen) for the Meridian Lions. You can tell she’s all stressed-out here! An outstanding young lady; a real competitor with a great attitude.

When I show up the competitors and animal owners are delighted and will pretty much do anything I ask of them, so that I can create great images. One of my goals this year was to do a nice portrait of a long horn steer, but it couldn’t be just any steer and I wanted really nice portrait lighting. All of the animals barns are total black holes with very low and directionless levels of light. So, when I arrived at the longhorn barn when the light was perfect outside, I saw they were hosing down some longhorns outside the barn. While I was doing some images of these longhorns a lady (Vicki) approached and asked if I wanted to photograph a prize winning example of a longhorn.  Yes, indeed, I said, that’s why I was here. Then, she said, you need to see Apollo!

 f10.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400
So, we brought Apollo out of the barn and I placed him in that great light of the setting sun. Vicki said that they use Apollo in local parades usually with one of her girls riding this beautiful steer. 

The horse showmanship competition gets under way in the large arena…

f6.3 @ 1/1250 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 100mm
Notice the lack of audience in the stands. This is typical at most animal competitions; the audience that does show-up are mostly family and friends. 

Meanwhile, behind the scenes I witnessed another line-up…

 f6.3 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens at 200mm
Yeah, it’s nose scratching time! That second horse really looks ready—Me-too me-too! It’s a rough life being a showmanship horse. 

Over at the swine competition a very different (short) life awaits these “market hogs”…

f4.5 @ 1/200sec., ISO 3200
Here the animals are being judged for the amount and quality of their meat. Don’t ask me what the hog handlers are doing here—it all looks very mysterious! This is one of those dimly lit barns I mentioned earlier. Since I’m hand holding and there’s action I had to bump my ISO to 3200, which increased the noise level a lot. Going to Black & White and adding noise reduction produced a usable image.

Over at the goat barn I found some light….

 f6.3 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400
The girls here at “Birds of a Feather” were eager to help me set-up a pose with Vincent Van Goat, one of their blue ribbon winning pygme goats.

Over at the smaller arena….

 f5.6 @ 1/1000 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
The competition for the, very cute, miniature horses was fun to watch.  Here the “horsemen” must run along side, leash in hand, very much like a dog show, through the serpentine course with multiple jumps.

So, next time you go to your State Fair check out the FFA and 4H Clubs events usually on the outskirts of the fair grounds, the farthest you can get from public parking! You may get dirty and sometimes it’s smelly, but it’s enlightening and you may learn something—besides the walk will do ya good.

’Til next week…I will answer your photography questions…just ask…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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