Spring, newborn lambs and a drive in the country

This sight of Ariel Vega's sheep grazing lazily in the cool morning made me stop. What do you think is missing from this picture? Photographers like to do that, don't they? They're often wondering what else can make their picture better. Maybe, that's just me.Â
Sheep rancher Ariel Vega spoke little English and I knew just those unmentionable Spanish words in polite company. I didn't let that get in the way of my intent of making pictures.

At today’s gas prices of an average $4.30 a gallon, driving around looking for pictures can appear frivolous but producing good photographs requires some investment in time and gas money.


A recent morning, I ventured into the outskirts of Moreno Valley, some of my old stomping grounds I used to cruise searching for feature pictures.

I came across Ariel Vega, a sheep rancher sowing alfalfa seeds by hand as he sat in the back of his pickup truck.

Around him were 2 Australian sheepdogs, both extremely alert, obedient and hard-working.

One of the most useful skills I acquired as a result of working at the newspaper is a self-assurance that I can approach complete strangers and convince them to let me take their picture.

These lambs were hardly cooperative. They would not allow me to approach even with the Vega's sheepdogs help of herding them into a corner.

This ability to make conversation with anyone I meet, especially if they are English-speaking, isn’t something you can learn from reading a book.

It happens only through experience.

Even with my halting Spanish I was able to ask if I could came on his property to photograph the newborn lambs.

Some were just a day old because they could barely stand and keep up with their mothers.

Ariel sits on the tailgate sowing alfalfa seeds with his sheepdogs keeping him company

It’s a shame I didn’t catch the shearing of the sheep in mid-February.


This will be on my calendar as a field trip for my photography class next Spring now that I’ve made a friend of Mr. Vega.

For now, I will just be content with these pictures.

If there is one thing I miss about my previous job as a news photographer, it is being paid to drive around looking for human interest pictures.

And that sort of “enterprising” happens quite a bit.

The combination of poor planning and big stories falling through, can create lots of space in the paper with nothing to fill it with.

That’s when photographers get the call, “We have nothing for tomorrow’s paper, find something.”

Fellow content creators or “space-fillers” the reporters have it easier.

The lazy ones can interview sources over the phone from their cushy air-conditioned offices.

Also, when it comes to judging a story and a picture, a bad picture is painfully obvious.

It registers in a matter of seconds.

Not so with a story.

You have to read at least 3 or 4 paragraphs into a story before you realize how bad the reporting or the writing is.