The other day I decided it was time to take some more stock photos. They are the photos I am collecting and which one of these days I will put up for sale on the internet. I also use them to choose the subjects for my watercolour paintings, and I wanted to paint a chook.
That's the plan anyway - try and make some money when I'm old and decrepit (next year the rate I'm going!). Yes, I know its not a great plan but its all I've got for now, ho hum. Anyway, full of optimistic fervor, I grabbed my little camera and went in hot pursuit of my two pet chooks, Henny and Penny. I didn't have to pursue very far - they were, as usual, camped on my back door mat and peering inside hoping I would emerge bearing some yummy food.
There used to be three chooks for me to photograph, Henny, Penny and Jenny, but Jenny went to chookie heaven (and before you ask, no we didn't eat her - we paid a vet $150 to peacefully send her to chookie heaven as a matter of fact - and no, as far as I am aware, the vet did not have chicken dinner that night either). Henny and Penny are two standard little red chooks to whom I am eternally grateful as they dedicatedly keep my back yard free of weeds and snails and earwigs and millipedes and just about any other thing that crawls about eating my plants, and they give me eggs (and fertilizer, mostly on the aforementioned back door mat). Mind you, they are not delicate of step and anything that couldn't survive a good ol' chook foot stomping has gone by the wayside (evolution in action - only the tough, tall and strong survive). Yes, the yard looks good and I no longer need a machette to fight my way to the garage door, nor do I worry about which deadly species of snake could be lurking, waiting to get me if I were to step forth into the garden.
Sorry, I digress. The first problem with photographing our feathered friends is the height difference (unless you're photographing Emus). They are generally a lot shorter than we are. Now if you are still young and supple this is not a problem as you can put your graceful, slender and lithe body in any number of anatomically impossible acrobatic positions to achieve your goal. If, however, you are of my vintage with bits of your anatomy that seem to have forgotten what it means to stretch or bend, photographing a chook can present a bit of a problem, but undaunted, I came up with a method to try.
Firstly, I waited forever for Henny and Penny to stop in one spot and then I tried kneeling down gently on one knee. After the pain subsided and I had stopped gasping, I quickly abandoned that idea. Lying down on my belly, flat against the nice soft concrete (splattered with chook poo) was equally unsuccessful (it was so easy when I was younger....). Equally unsuccessful were my desperate calls for help "Ron, Ron, Rooooonnnnnn - help me, heeelllllpppp - I can't get up, HEEEEELP!!!!
Eventually I realized help would not arrive any time soon as my only hope of rescue was still inside, dedicatedly connected to his electronic gadgetry by impenetrable ear phones and blissfully unaware of my predicament. Looking a bit like a beached whale I rolled over on to my side and finally managed to haul my not insubstantial weight up off the ground. Gasping as I sat down on a chair attempting to remove the chook poo, the idea of photographing chooks was beginning to lose some of its appeal, but stubbornly I persevered.
I guess what followed next was a sight to see and I must have looked a bit odd to anyone peering over the fence. I refer to the sight of me as I waddled crab like, head down and bum up around the back yard, with arms extended towards some chooks, whilst I groaned and went red in the face. It is not surprising that they wonder about my sanity.
It was at this point in the exercise (and I mean that literally) that I found out I had a great expertise in photographing chook bums. It is not that I had any intention of photographing a chook's bum, it is just that I found out that they have some secret inner sense that allows them to know just the moment when the camera is going to take the picture. When this previously undocumented sense is combined with their equally unrecognized ability to execute a perfect 180 degree turn within a nano second, the result is a beautifully photographed image of either one or two chook bums. Through much study, I have found that they also have the skill to co-ordinate their movements and perform their turn around at exactly the same time.
|Classic Chook Bum (side view)|
Now don't get me wrong, I am sure that chook bums can be of interest (to another chook for instance) but I was not putting myself through physical torture just to get chook bum photos. Although I am now a bit of an expert on a chook's bum and the interesting things that can stick to it, what I really wanted was a chooks head, so I changed my tactics. I went to the tub of budgie seed and lifted the lid. Budgie seed, I have discovered, is Henny and Penny's favourite food in all the world. Why this is I am not sure as they have their own delicious food (organic wheat, organic oats, yummy chookie layer pellets, chookie mixed grain), but what they really crave is the seed I feed to the budgies. Maybe it is the chook equivalent of forbidden fruit, their secret little craving. Maybe they are just jealous of the budgies, who knows?
Anyway, I had barely lifted the lid and they came running, looking hysterically funny as they did so. Watching them run always cracks me up laughing - I just can't help myself as I watch them heading towards me, clucking excitedly (cupboard love). They lift their feathery skirts to reveal their feathery pantaloons, stretch their wings out and go to mach 2, heads extended and bobbing from side to side as they run. Before I had the lid completely off, they were there. I sprinkled the seed on the ground, got the camera ready, put my own head down and bum up and got ready to take a prize winning photo.
It was at this point that I found out that they could still beat the camera. They can put their heads down, peck the seed and raise their heads again so fast that my camera was still only thinking about focusing. I now have a nice collection of photos with beautifully focused chook bodies (and bums) with strange reddish blurs in the head region. They all look like something out of a surrealistic art gallery (Dali would have loved them).
I am sure you have heard the term "running around like a headless chook". Well, I know the real truth of where that saying originated. Everyone thinks it refers to a chook with its head chopped off. My theory is that it was coined by an extremely frustrated photographer who discovered that chooks have the ability to quickly move their heads forward just as the camera clicks and that no digital camera, no matter how expensive, will beat them. Hmmm, lots of photographs of well fed, decapitated chooks.
|Typical Decapitated Chook Photo|
By this time, the light had faded and the flappy, flighty, fast footed, feathery fowl were off down the bottom of the back yard (no doubt snickering). They strolled slowly around and then sat down nice and still and I knew it was just to taunt me. I looked at them in frustration and they looked right back at me. Have you ever really looked into a chooks eyes, the chooks you think are so cute? When you look into those eyes you can really see how they are descended from dinosaurs - a T-Rex would be hard put to better the evil gleam that was in their eyes as they watched me putting away my camera.
|Look At Those Eyes - Wouldn't Want to be an Insect|
And when you do finally get a photo, you realize you have been so busy focusing on trying to get the chook's photo that you have completely failed to observe the background, so your lovely prize winning photo ends up with such decorative items as garden hoses, rubbish bins, old shoes, clothes lines, etc. (sigh....).
|I'm Sure They Were Snickering|
Next time I'm going to photograph the cat (she's too lazy to move).
|Where's that camera?|
|I'll give her a break and hold my head still, just this once mind you (and I bet she hasn't noticed the hose (chookie chuckle).|
|The T-Rex With Feathers|
Cheers from Heather, chook photographer extraordinaire (not!).