Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Turkey Time

Every November since 2001 I have been photographing turkeys on a farm as a Thanksgiving feature. Today was my day to head up to Sonoma County to visit my feathered friends.

When I arrive I notice that the birds aren’t outside today. It’s supposed to rain later and the worker told me that they usually keep them inside before a rain. Kind of a bummer, they usually do some funny stuff when they are out on their little pasture. I can hear them gobble gobbling inside the barn as I put on my dirty boots. I sneak around the side to look at them through the chicken wire. They spot me. In unison, all their necks extend up.
As I slide open the big wooden door I am hit with a heavy ammonia smell. It takes my breath away. The turkeys all stop to stare. They’re confused. As I enter the barn they all move backwards with my every forward step. There are hundreds, if not thousands of turkeys in this barn. But there is still plenty of room for them to move about.

The dirt floor is thick with turkey poop. Thankfully, the smell is subsiding. I’ve only walked about 15 feet into the barn and the bottoms of my boots are caked with the poop. The birds are back to gobble gobbling and its pretty loud. They are funny little creatures, very curious and skittish at the same time. I imagine they aren’t very trusting since they are constantly watching their buddies get whacked. They definitely aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.
I have found over the past seven years that you can make some funny shots of these guys with remotes. If you set up a remote on the ground and go to a different part of the barn, they will create a huge circle around the camera and stare at it. One brave guy will eventually get closer and all of his comrades will follow. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Today was not a very successful day. But, it’s the only way to get really close to them without using a long lens. You can also stand very still in one spot and have them gather around, but they usually keep their distance. They’re really dumb, just not that dumb. The turkeys make a circle around the remote camera
before moving in to check it out
The shot from the floor remote.
One got pretty close to me today and pecked my foot. Another was pecking away at the Pocket Wizard on the remote camera while his buddy pecked food off of his back.

I spent close to two hours with the turkeys today. It gets harder and harder to shoot these little guys, especially when they are inside. It is challenging on many fronts. The light is sometimes pretty bad and it is increasingly difficult to do something different from last time. I mean, they’re just turkeys they don’t do much other than stand around, eat, poop and gobble gobble. Nevertheless, I love coming up and hanging with them and then eating one of their cousins a few days later.


Jared said...

Those are some cool photos.

Jan Luursema said...

Hey Justin, there's some kind of bug with your blog, making the links to the large images (except the first) not clickable.