Pictures surround us these days. They are on our screens, phones, papers, magazines and hanging on our walls. It wasn’t always so, at least not to the extent it is now.
    I have always liked to look at old photos of family, of old farming practices and especially of cows. Maybe some of you have the same preferences. In the spring, or any of the seasons, photos remind us of the beauty that surrounds us. Popping up on screens lately are colorful tulip and daffodil photos. Flowers are not my talent, so I appreciate the dedication of good gardening friends and their willingness to document their pretty flowers and landscapes on a screen.
    Farms and rural areas are especially good subject matter for photographs. When I was a young journalist, I spent many days with a Nikon SLR camera on someone’s dairy farm, setting up photos and trying to decide if Kodachrome or Ektachrome was the best choice of film, loading cameras, attaching flashes, worrying about F stops and shutter speeds, and whether the shot would be too grainy for a good reprint in a magazine. The dairy farmers who were my subjects were always patient as I worked. Then as the film was processed, I waited to see if I had made good decisions. Sometimes they turned out well, while other times the photos were disappointing.
    Today, of course, photos are digital, instant and easier to edit. The problem now, at least for me, is how to organize and find the ones I want to see again. Very few are ever printed, and many photos are not very often revisited.
    When it comes to explaining how things used to be on our farm to our kids, it is great if there is a photo to show them.
    “Here’s how the tiestall barn looked before we turned it into a holding pen for the parlor,” for example.
    We don’t seem to have a lot of farming methods of a few decades ago, so a lot is left to words and the imagination. Taking some shots of everyday things on the farm seems like a good idea.
    My brothers-in-law, Mike and Eric, do a great job of this. Mike keeps a digital camera handy. When there is something noteworthy going on, or if he is climbing up on a bunker silo or another high place, he takes good perspective shots of our farm and the activities on it. Eric likes to take farming shots, snowy landscapes and close-ups of plants and flowers. These photos are great additions to walls and the yearly family calendar.
    One thing we do have from my husband’s family is old photos of farming from the 1900s through the 1950s. They are reprinted and captioned in a scrapbook put together by my mother-in-law for us to keep. They show how grain was threshed, how the farmers dressed, and what machinery and cars looked like. I wonder sometimes who the photographer was and why they placed such importance on taking these pictures. Did they know what a treasure they were creating?
    Today, dairy friends take and post shots of new facilities going up on their farms, detailing the transformation on an almost daily basis. What a great idea to have a record that is easily accessed and shows each step along the way. It is interesting to follow along with the progress being made.
    Pictures of families taken by amateur and professional photographers are also great to have. I like to take out our old ones and see how people have changed or how their early personalities show through on old photos. Sometimes, the spur-of-the moment shots can reveal a lot. But the carefully-posed, gorgeous background shots are great too.
    I admire my rural photographer friends who are creative and take beautiful, artsy cow and people photos. Keep up the great work. Their work enhances calendars, blogs and articles I read. Many know of the fine work of Ruth Klossner, for one example, who takes and posts thousands of photos at the Minnesota State Fair 4-H shows, auctions and other cow-related events.
    We plan to have some family photos done soon incorporating our Red and White cow family. Alba, the cow family matriarch, is due to calve any day, and her favorite thing is to escape fences and tour around the farm. (Rolf suggested she could just as well calve in the calf barn so we don’t have to move her calf, as she likes to visit there.) I will let you know how it all turns out and if we ever have all three kids home at the same time the photographer can come.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.