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The Cow and the Factory

Posted by
Ian Bramham (Manchester, United Kingdom) on 12 November 2009 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

It seemed surreal to me that the cow was more interested in me than in the hulking smokey factory just behind it but then I guess it saw the factory every day of the week whereas I was something new.

The factory produces lime for the steel industry and it's owned by Corus who are Europe's second largest steel manufacturer. It is located on the edge of England's most beautiful national park - 'The Lake District'

NIKON D40 1/60 second F/8.0 ISO 200 28 mm (35mm equiv.)

Like what you see here and are interested in photographic composition?.....the blog section of my website now has a complete set of 5 articles covering my personal approach to the subject: Ian Bramham Photography - Blog

For purchasing high quality archival prints of any of these photos you can send me an email by clicking here or by going to my website Ian Bramham - Fine Art Photography where prices are listed in the gallery sections under each individual photo.

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Very beautiful contrast between the land the nature and the factory Beautiful BW

12 Nov 2009 5:49am

Mirko Herzner from Mühlheim am Main, Germany

I would call this almost surreal. Such a strange combination of the curious cow and the ancient looking plant. Could be from my history book's "industrial revolution" chapter.

12 Nov 2009 6:05am

Foto-aksent from Binkom, Belgium

Nice shot with that cow on the foreground!

12 Nov 2009 6:55am

Reiner from Brensbach, Germany

This is really a little bit surreal. Precisely why I like the photo. Great work.

12 Nov 2009 7:10am

Babzy from Besançon, France

I like the shot , could be ages ago ...

12 Nov 2009 7:29am

Ajoy Krishna from New Delhi, India

superb shot! i love dark variation.

12 Nov 2009 7:35am

Mirjam from Kiev, Ukraine

Life goes on... I like your photo

12 Nov 2009 8:05am

gentse koppen from Algeria

great b&w and well seen

12 Nov 2009 8:17am

LM from Aix en Provence, France

nice composition, well done

12 Nov 2009 8:26am

Theys from Charleroi, Belgium

superb shot and nice composition !

12 Nov 2009 8:40am

Frida from Sweden

Wow didn't expect a cow in these industrial mono shots. Really nice though :-)

12 Nov 2009 9:27am

Sarito from Basingstoke, United Kingdom

The cow is posing as if you have asked it to stand right there and look at the camera :)...

Fantastic shot.

12 Nov 2009 9:48am

k@ from Paris, France

Oh, Ian, one of your best (well, you have so many now ;) - love the interplay in your composition, it's so strong !

12 Nov 2009 10:11am

Alfredo J. Martiz J. from Panama City, Panama

Nice composition, interplay and contrast. Surreal!

12 Nov 2009 10:41am

Daryl Johnson from Farnham, United Kingdom

Really good having the cow looking at you! Surreal...

12 Nov 2009 12:19pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria


12 Nov 2009 12:25pm

JoeB from Brampton, Canada

It is surreal and tragically it has humour a strange combination at the edge of a park.

12 Nov 2009 12:47pm

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

Great image, and a surprise, one would not dream of finding a cow so close to a steel plant. Nice burning work too.

12 Nov 2009 12:57pm

hugo poon from hong kong, Hong Kong

Oh Ian, an immediate favourite again!!! Such amazing drama and humour; reality and absurdity... And the scene was captured in the most masterful way! Fabulous work my friend!:-)

12 Nov 2009 1:41pm

Luca Bobbiesi from Milano, Italy

wow what a supershot, it's so strong

12 Nov 2009 1:58pm

Ralph Jones from Detroit, United States

How surreal! excellent composition and processing!

12 Nov 2009 3:01pm

Momo from Montpellier, France


12 Nov 2009 3:59pm

Séb. C. from Nancy, France

Wow, excellent !

12 Nov 2009 4:55pm

Francesc B. from région parisienne, France

Atom Heart Mother 2009 version. :))
Excellent B&W... I like your composition and this intrigued cow.

12 Nov 2009 6:31pm

Ted from South Wales, United Kingdom

fabulous Ian...has a Python-esque quality!

12 Nov 2009 7:54pm

Bishop from Houston, United States

Just love the tonal range of your pics! :)

12 Nov 2009 9:16pm

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

the cow does have a somewhat funny look on its face... quite a contrasting image in the main subjects being so different - a great rural/industrial combination!

13 Nov 2009 1:18am

Josh from New York, United States

Ian, what can I say. I'm completely jealous. I see photos like yours and I think, well maybe his camera is great or he is using some amazing filters or equipment, but I see you shoot with a D40, very similar level to my D50, and it just proves its not the camera, its the guy standing behind it. What is your secret? I absolutely love your work. I'm sure its not something you could just pass along in a few sentences, but if you have any tips, man would I love to hear them. Great work!

13 Nov 2009 3:25am

@Josh: Thanks Josh!....there's no big secret really other than lots of practice and looking at the work of lots of other great photographers (look up the fine art photographer Michael Kenna to see where I get big chunks of my own inspiration from!)

If you are interested there's some links on my website to articles I've written which explain my thoughts on photographic composition:

Apart from that, I listed out my workflow in a reply to a question similar to yours recently....this is it: My post processing skills are actually very basic and the only things I know about Photoshop are what I've picked up over the last 2 years or so from participating on the D40-D90 forum at DPReview from members Ian Smith, John Leech (Jkjond ), John Clinch and Alex Bazeos (Alexring)

Over the last year I've gradually established a workflow that seems to work for me most of the time:


I shoot in RAW and expose the initial photo using the ETTR histogram method (there's plenty of explanations on the web for this method)

I open the RAW file in Capture NX2 to make any fine adjustments of exposure or white balance.

I then save this file as a 16 bit Tiff and work on it further in Photoshop CS3 (we had a spare licence at work which is why I use CS3!). I find that for B&W conversions in particular, where contrast needs to be added, that the 16 bit Tiffs hold their quality much better than the 8 bit Jpegs that I used to post process; in particular, it minimises the risk of posterization or banding of tone that you can get when you push the contrast in Jpegs.

I use layers but not in any kind of complex way and 99.9% of the processing I do is the kind of thing that could be done in a traditional darkroom with film and prints: I adjust contrast using the 'curves' tool to areas that I select with the lasso tool and I occasionally use Photoshops 'dodge' and burn' tools.

I'm not very good at all at using 'masks' so if there's something that looks a bit tricky I take it back into NX2 and use that software's excellent 'U' point technology which is really intuitive to use and excellent at auto masking.

It's true that pure technical post processing skills are important but it's what you do with those skills that is the key. The best advice I've ever got concerning photography was 2 years ago from John Leech the first time I posted photos at DPReview (There's a link to his Aminus3 site at the top of the page) - he told me that my processing of photos at the time was taking too much of a documentary approach and that I should look to make more of a statement.

He told me that the best photography conveys emotion and I think he's right.

Find a subject that you are passionate about, photograph it to the best of your ability in the most interesting light available and post process it in a way that attempts to convey to the viewer your feelings about the subject of your photo.

I hope that helps a little!

Alun from cheshire, United Kingdom

Another cracking image, love the cow in the forground

13 Nov 2009 6:27am

gavin hart from Gold Coast, Australia

Ian, I'm glad you posted the above reply to Josh. I have been running into trouble with posterization and banding problems too. I had suspected that 16 bit processing might help but hadn't tried it. You have confirmed my surmising. Great image BTW. That factory looks so imposing on the ridge there with the light behind it. Lucky you had a friendly cow. I once had a whole herd of the beasts run away from me. lol.

13 Nov 2009 9:45am

@gavin hart: No problem Gavin...I'm pleased it was of some use!

16 bit Tiffs aren't the complete answer to the problem of posterization during post processing but they do hold up much better than 8 bit Jpegs. By the way - just in case you don't already know, posterization and banding can also be hidden by the adittion of noise or simulated film grain.

Raj from London, United Kingdom

Love the composition, and the toning looks to be perfect for the scene. Once again, a very well done.

13 Nov 2009 2:30pm

Jeremie from St-Etienne - Paris, France

Awesome, I love this kind of contrast...

13 Nov 2009 3:56pm

Pavan Kaul from Mumbai, India

The first thing that struck me was the cow's interest in you Ian:)) Besides your reasoning for the same I'm sure you're a much better looking subject than the factory...your about page bears testimony!!! The picture of course is vintage Ian Bramham and simply wonderful! Loved reading your tips on technique too!

14 Nov 2009 5:54am

@Pavan Kaul: :-)

I always knew that one day I'd be attractive to the ladies!

Antoine from BOURGES, France

Beautiful composition. Have a good day. Antoine.

14 Nov 2009 10:42am

Jason Kravitz from Brussels, Belgium

awesome shot Ian - thanks for the photo process info as well
I don't know why but this reminds me of a Pink Floyd album cover, maybe a combo of Atom Heart Mother and Animals :)

14 Nov 2009 3:40pm

@Jason Kravitz: Hi Jason!.....I never bought any of the Pink Floyd albums but since taking this photo I've been told that they had one with a cow on the cover and one with a factory. This view was certainly surreal enough for a Pink Floyd album.

Fusao from Tokyo, Japan

so strong in great B&W. wonderful.

15 Nov 2009 2:48pm

digitalCG from Manchester, United Kingdom

Love the contrast between man and nature here and the cow's posture is perfect. A very striking shot, as are most of your others here.

21 Nov 2009 9:00am

Marie from FRESNES, Afghanistan

excellente composition, avec ces usines en décor de fond.

22 Nov 2009 9:58pm

1/60 second
ISO 200
28 mm (35mm equiv.)