Harvest Highlights 2011

Farmers are on the harvest home stretch, which is always good cause for celebration. All the beans in Minnesota were in over a week ago, and as of Monday (11/8) almost all of the U.S. soybean crop was reported in (92%). Corn growers were really haulin’ it in last week, and as of Monday, the U.S. corn crop was 87% in. With the good weather we’ve had, I’m sure the last standing corn I saw on my drive from here to Fargo last week is now in the bin. So to celebrate and say, “Congratulations!,” we created this little photo-video montage. Sit back and enjoy. We’ll worry about the yield reports and markets tomorrow.

(C) 2011 AgriLife Studios.


Backroad Barnstorming in Iowa

On our way home after a recent shoot in central Iowa for our friends at Pfizer Animal Health, Shawn and I dove off the interstate, looking for something to shoot. Shawn was crankin’ the tunes as we cruised the gravel roads singing at the top of our lungs (to the amusement of the rare passerby) with John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Good times.

We caught some great farmscapes, chased a few windmills and stumbled on a pasture full of what looked like White Park cattle. I’m not sure what they were, but they made for some interesting shooting. There was just one wire between Shawn and that bull.

I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as we did capturing them. It might help if you open your office window, crank up your favorite country song and hum along.

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Hot Summer Shots

Wow, it’s HOT. I know for those of you living further south (say, Iowa), this 110+ heat index stuff is just called “summer,” but to those of us living Up Nort’ it’s just bloomin’ miserable. But these hot humid days seem to be pretty good for growing corn!

Speaking of corn, we were down in St. Louis a few weeks ago shooting for our friends at Wyffels Hybrids and had a chance to get out of the city and run through the countryside. We shot some fun stills and video at a Wyffels test plot (check out their hot new hybrids!), then hit the back roads looking for some cool scenes to shoot. We hit a few flooded out roads (man, those folks are having a tough time with high water), but found some beautiful fields of tall corn and ripe wheat.

Enjoy these shots, and stay tuned for more. I hope to do a better job of keeping this blog more current!


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Oh Spring, Where Art Thou? – Kids Bring Hope

March in Minnesota means poor skiing and river flooding. The ice houses are off the lake, and the snow sleds are in storage — sure signs that the season is turning. A warm surge last week melted most of the season’s accumulated snow-pack, but apparently we have another fresh 4-6 inches on the way tonight. Ugh.

But spring is coming. I know it’s really true because the new crop of kids (of the goat variety) has finally arrived.

This past week, the Nielsen family began welcoming the first of their 2011 kids. I believe as of yesterday, they had at least five on the ground. The Nielsen girls and their mom handle most of the goat herd management duties, but Shawn manages to be helpful (organic waste management specialist). In exchange for his labor, Shawn enjoys the benefit of getting first shot at some fresh young models for the AgriLife Studios stock library.

Nothing brings a greater sense of anticipation and hope than new life on the farm. Enjoy.

Western Road Trip Retrospective – Part 2

This is the promised second edition of the Western Road Trip Retrospective. In my last post, we’d barely gotten out of the gate – we’d visited Billings and the Muscle Shell Creek area.

From Billings we headed West toward the Bear Tooth mountains, where we turned South to travel along the foothills and enjoyed a beautiful drive to Red Lodge, Montana, before heading Southeast into Wyoming to our destination for stage 2 of the trip: Cody, Wyoming, and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir State Park.

North of Red Lodge we saw beautiful cattle country – lush pasture on rolling foothills, with the Bear Tooth mountains and Custer National Forest in the distance. At one point, just south of Roscoe, we found a pasture full of yearlings. The following photo shows those yearlings, with the ski slopes of Red Lodge clearly visible on the mountain behind them.

(c) AgriLife Studios 2010

We camped that night at Buffalo Bill State Park West of Cody. In the following photo, you see the majestic bluffs (in Shoshone National Forest) overlooking our camp on the banks of the North Fork River as it empties into the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

(c) 2010 AgriLife Studios

While in Cody, we visited the Western Heritage Center and the Cody Night Rodeo (I’ll share some rodeo photos in my next post). On the way out of Cody, heading into Yellowstone Park, we drove up Shoshone Canyon and enjoyed seeing some beautiful ranches.

I saw this sign and just had to pull over and snap a shot: “Wyoming is Beef Country – Enjoy Both! Cody Cattewomen” I wasn’t sure if meant we were supposed to enjoy both the beef and Wyoming, or the beef and the cattlewomen!

(c) 2010 AgriLife Studios

A Mid-Summer Field’s Dream

(c) 2010 AgriLife Studios

On a mid-July run out to the Dassel area for a client photo shoot, Shawn pulled off the road and shot these beautiful images of fields of ripening wheat and hearty stands of soybeans.

The steamy weather in central Minnesota has made for great growing conditions for small grains. According to the USDA report for July 18, spring wheat was 67 percent ripening, compared with 13 percent last year and 34 percent for the five-year average.

It’s a “dream” scenario for for Minnesota farmers with wheat prices rallying from early-season lows. According to Bloomburg (Aug 6), wheat may potentially reach $10 a bushel, a price not seen since global grain shortages in 2008.

(c) 2010 AgriLife Studios

It will be exciting to see what fall harvest has in store for us… but I’m not ready to let go of summer just yet!

(c) 2010 AgriLife Studios

Western Road Trip Retrospective – Part 1

We’re back!  The odometer rolled over three times, and the van looks like it’s been through a war zone. The tent has a few more holes in it (and most definitely needs aired out!), and all the kids think they have seen more bison, antelope and geysers than any person needs to see in a lifetime. Bottom line: the Whitmans and Nielsens had a great time, experienced some of the most beautiful country in the world, and we captured hundreds of new images for the AgriLife stock library.

Rangeland Still Life
Rangeland Still Life - Muscle Shell River valley, MT

In the next few blog posts, I want to share some of the images we captured, and provide some perspective on what we saw.

In this first Road Trip Retrospective, we offer up a few images from Montana. We connected with Scott’s uncle, Richard “Butch” Whitman, an independent beef nutritionist and consultant who now works primarily for West Feeds, based in Billings. Butch took us on a tour of the Muscle Shell River basin northwest of Billings, Montana. It was beautiful cattle country, and with all the spring rains, the pasture was in prime condition. Butch said the pastures must “bank” as much forage nutrients as possible during the short spring growing season. The grass grown now will have to last through the dry summer and into the fall. With the great snow pack and good spring rains, most western ranchers and rangeland managers are looking forward to a good year.

Hereford Hiefers - Muscle Shell River valley, MT
Black Hiefers - Muscle Shell River valley, MT
Commercial Bull and Cows - Muscle Shell River valley, MT

In my next post, I’ll share images shot from the road as we headed southwest out of Billings along the Beartooth Mountains through Redlodge, Mont, and into Cody, Wyoming.


The AgriLife Great Western Shootout Tour

Yes, as insane as it may seem, the Whitman and Nielsen clans are packing up and driving west. To Wyoming, that is. Our destination: Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. By way of Billings and other points between. For anyone keeping a scorecard, that’s 4 adults and 6 kids in 2 rigs covering about 2,400 miles (30+ hours of road time) in about 12 days. Our objective: to enjoy some beautiful country and “quality time” with the families, as we capture images of cattle country (and whatever else we can see) for the AgriLife stock photo library.

2,400+ miles. 5 states, 30+ road hours, 12+ days - Yikes!

Our plan is to attempt to post images and notes from the road, and share some of our adventure. We’ll see how that goes. We’ll be in country where mobile communications is limited, and the necessities of pitching camp and feeding the crew will take priority. But I’m excited to see how this little experiment in remote recreational blogging shakes out.

So stay tuned, check in, wish us luck, pray for our sanity and enjoy the adventure with us!


Of eCows and such.

AgriLife had the opportunity recently to make a trip to Iowa to do a shoot for a swine genetics company.  While on our way, we took the opportunity to take photos of the wonderfully rich agricultural area of Southeastern Minnesota and Northeastern Iowa.  One of the things that caught our eye was a larger-than-life wall mural for eCow* in Waukon Iowa.  Another was a group of curious Holstein heifers peacefully chewing their cud in a pasture near Harmony Minnesota.  Many more photos were taken, but you’ll have to check back in the near future.

Enjoy.  Remember…be Authentic!

~ Shawn Nielsen

* Note: eCow is one product from eAnimalProducts (www.eanimalproducts.com) – we just liked the mural, which was painted by Valerie Miller of the [Steel Cow] Gallery: http://www.steelcow.com … if you like cow art this is cool stuff!

In the dusty fields of Fowler Indiana

April 19th was an interesting day for AgriLife Studios.  We began our day taking beauty shots of boars (no lipstick). If you’ve ever shot photos of livestock you know it’s like shooting photos of kids. As soon as you figure it out, they do something different. Pigs are like hyperactive 2-year-olds. It was a fun challenge, and we got some great stuff for our client, but by the time we showered back out of the facility we were ready to call it a day. Until we saw this awesome Case sprayer running a field on our drive back to the hotel in West Lafayette.

We ran down two different side roads before we found the best spot to catch him up close in a turn. Then we took off down the road, running in parallel with him, matching speed while Shawn shot out the window. Fun stuff. It’s a long drive back to Indy in the morning. Wonder what we’ll shoot tomorrow.