Efrain the Shepherd and the California Poppies

On the way to scout a location for a couple’s shoot, I drove by an amazing field of poppies. Where I live, that isn’t uncommon, but this one had a herd of about a thousand sheep not too far away complete with shepherd. I couldn’t resist the impulse to stop and record this amazing sight. California’s State Flower flourishes nowhere else in the world like it does here in Lancaster, Ca. For most of the year, the Mojave desert here is barren, brown and desolate. When Spring rolls around, sometimes it looks like the rolling green hills of Ireland only laden with caution orange. I stopped to speak to the man who was tending his sheep very near one of the thickest patches of orange poppy quilt I had ever seen.

It turns out, even though I mistakenly asked him what his number was, his name is Efrain. He tends about 5,000 sheep in the Antelope Valley each spring and took the time to hang out with me for a while and try to bridge a language barrier. He seemed to like the photos I was taking as they played back on my camera’s screen. I’m not sure, but I think he asked me for prints of the images and I tried to communicate with him that I would bring him a few in the next day or two.

His dog, Frederique, was tending the flock during our meet and for a moment gave me a heart attack when I noticed the sheep spilled out on to the road blocking a car for a moment. I felt sure I had caused it all and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I have a huge responsibility as a photographer to not put people in danger. Sometimes people see cameras and they automatically get distracted and play to the camera and lose their surroundings. I need to mind my location, I need to keep my wits about me; lens choice, ISO, aperture and shutter speed be damned.

All in all it was a good encounter and I feel like I made a friend. As I left to scout the location, I thought how noble it is to carry out such a simple life in Los Angeles County, where many live a life of decadence and waste. I thought about how good I have it and how this guy’s job was too rough for me.  I thought about my promise to return and I looked forward to meeting Efrain and Frederique again.

All images taken with Canon 7D and 50mm1.4, fill flash with Canon 580 EXII and Lightsphere Collaspsible.

He was probably my best subject. This may be my best work all year just due to him.


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