By Mike Rankin

*Editor’s Note: This article is part of the “Story Behind the Photo” series featuring first place 2018 AAEA Communication award winners.

Many good photos are the precipitate of random, fortunate events. Such was the case for this photo — on several different levels.

Myself, along with several of my office colleagues from W.D. Hoard & Sons Company, were on a multi-day photo trip in Michigan during June 2017. It was late in the first day when we got a phone call that our early-the-next-morning farm visit was canceling. We needed a substitute and so I started making some phone calls. I was put in touch with Tom Cook, who runs a dairy-grazing operation in Pewamo, Mich. He was gracious enough to let us stop by on very short notice.

Tom was one of those hosts that journalists die for. He showed and chauffeured us around the farm while at the same time doing whatever chores needed done. He patiently waited as we got our fill of photos at each stop. Also in our favor that day was one of those nice “photo skies” — deep blue, highlighted with puffy, white clouds.

The final stop was the milking herd on pasture. Tom’s herd consisted of mostly Holsteins with a smattering of Jerseys. Perhaps no creature on earth is better suited for photography than the Jersey cow. They are naturally curious, exude human-like personality, and their brown hair coat almost always comes out perfect in a photo, especially against a green pasture and blue sky.

For me, taking good pasture photos requires becoming “one” with the cows. This entails walking out into the pasture, sitting down, and letting the cows come to me. I like to stay low in the grass (my agronomy training, I guess), sitting or lying down. (Editor’s note: When in the South, select a fire ant-free location.)

For this photo, I picked a spot where the timothy heads offered some additional foreground. This naturally curious Jersey cow provided me with an entire series of shots as she approached, sniffed, grazed, and generally annoyed her herdmates. I was lying flat on my back when the photo was taken.

I shot the photo in manual mode with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (f10, 1/500, ISO 200). I had recently purchased the camera from our former art director, Ryan Ebert, when he decided to upgrade to a Mark IV. The lens was a Canon EF24-105mm, f3.5-5.6 STM. This photo was used on the cover of the August 2017 issue of Hay & Forage Grower with very little editing other than some slight cropping.  

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