We are incredibly fortunate to be working with farmer, Tony Woollacott, his dogs and his sheep – all of whom are very patient when we attach webcams and GPS devices to them.
We want to record their movements whilst they naturally interact with one another and it is this data that we then work from to make the drawings and paintings. The cameras we use are light-weight and specifically designed to put on animals collars. They are low-res, only 640 x 480, which gives a grainy, more intimate feel, to the footage, which suits our way of working. We’re not looking to produce hyper-realistic paintings from the video, but instead capture the sense of what it might be like for the sheep or dogs when they are moving across the fields. Through trial and error, we have found that we get the best results on very bright sunny days and also by choosing tall sheep to be the camera bearers, as they get a better perspective on the rest of the flock as they move around.
It’s also good if the dog has a trimmed coat under its chin, otherwise all of the footage can be obscured by dog hair! The collar for the dog has to be very robust, as the speed they run and their ability to hit the deck on command, can snap off the camera and therefore lose the footage. We are experimenting with painting the cameras fluorescent and attaching sound-sensitive whistle fobs, to try and find them in the field if they do detach. Tony also wears a camera, attached to his overalls, and this gives us the third perspective to work from. Additionally, we have been talking to a group of model-aircraft enthusiasts, to see if we can attach one of our cameras to their planes, to give us an aerial view.
So far, we have experimented by sending Sara up in a microlight with a camera attached to her arm to see what is viable using such a low-res device and we have been really surprised and pleased with the results.
I was even more pleased that Sara came down safely – she’s much braver than me…!!