How Photographing Animals Taught Me the Beauty of Connection and the Power of Storytelling

Allen Mowery
February 23, 2023

I would have never described myself as an animal lover, either in my personal or professional life.  As a photographer, I have always been drawn to capturing the essence of my human subjects. Each person has their own unique emotional makeup, wounds, and history which shapes who they are and how they interact with the world around them. In a way, photographing animals is not so different from photographing humans.

Just as each person has their own story to tell, so do the animals at East Hollow Highland Farm. They have their own personalities, quirks, and histories that make them who they are. In order to capture their essence in a photograph, I must first take the time to get to know them and build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

It is the Scottish Highland cows that immediately caught my attention when my friends first brought them to the farm. I was struck by their peaceful presence and gentle nature. At first, I was unsure of how to approach them, but I quickly realized that spending time with them was therapeutic. Most all of them are very friendly and docile creatures who absolutely love attention, so standing in a field brushing their long, flowing hair became a common occurrence. It’s as if they had the ability to calm my mind and soothe my soul.

Building Unlikely Relationships

One of the cows that stood out in particular was Momma Cream. She was the mother of Fergus, a beautiful young bull, and she was known for being particularly edgy and aggressive towards humans. When she first arrived at the farm, she would charge anyone who came near her, and I quickly realized that she was not to be taken lightly. However, something about her fierce spirit intrigued me, and I wanted to form a connection with her.

Momma Cream

Thus began my journey to earn her trust. At first, it seemed like an impossible task. Momma Cream was stubborn and had a fiery temper. She would lash out at anyone who came too close, even if they were offering treats (oh, blessed treats). But I refused to give up. Consistently, sometimes on a daily basis, I would spend time with her, talking to her, and working to gain her trust. At first, she was aggressive and would come at me with those long, pointed horns a-swinging.  There were wrestling matches in the pasture, flights for my life, muddy hoofprints on my clothes, and bruises on my ribs.  But as time went on, she began to warm up to me.

I learned that Momma Cream was a cow with a past. From what I inadvertently learned one day when she saw me carrying a pitchfork, she had apparently been mistreated before arriving at East Hollow, which explained her hostile behavior. She was only reacting to the pain and fear that had been inflicted upon her in the past. But despite her rough exterior, I could see a glimmer of hope in her eyes.

As I continued to spend time with Momma Cream, I noticed a change in her behavior. She slowly began to trust me, and I could tell that she was starting to let go of her fear and anger.  There were still some giant emotional walls, but she wanted to trust.  I could approach her without her flinching or attempting to attack me. In fact, she even started to seek me out for affection. It was a beautiful thing to witness, and I felt honored that she had chosen to trust me.

The bond that I’ve formed with Momma Cream was not easy to achieve. There were many moments when I thought it would never happen. There were times when I felt frustrated and discouraged, but I refused to give up. She was an incredible mother, and I knew that if I could earn Momma Cream’s trust, she would make a friendly and loyal companion.  She now trots up to me for a hearty sniff, accepts affectionate hugs, and loves to have her neck and jaw rubbed.

Finding Solace in Unlikely Places

Spending time with the cows has taught me many things. I’ve learned the importance of patience, persistence, and kindness when it comes to forming relationships with any living being. Animals, in particular, require a certain level of patience and trust-building. It’s not just about taking photos of them but also forming a connection with them.

Moreover, spending time in the pasture has helped me rediscover the simple joys in life. In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget the beauty that surrounds us in nature. The cows, with their gentle nature and calm presence, remind me of the serenity that can be found in the countryside.

The farm has become my sanctuary. It’s a place where I can escape the chaos of the world and immerse myself in the beauty of nature. It’s a place where I have formed a connection with the gentle giants that roam the pastures. It’s a place where I have learned to appreciate the simple joys of life and the importance of forming connections with all living beings.

Momma Cream will always hold a special place in my heart. She has taught me that even the fiercest of creatures can be tamed with patience and kindness. Her trust was hard-earned, but the reward has been immeasurable. I will always be grateful for the lessons she has taught me and the bond that we have formed.

Learning From Unlikely Teachers

This process of forming a connection with my animal subjects is similar to the process of connecting with a human subject. It requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to be vulnerable. Just as I must be attuned to the emotions and needs of my human subjects, so must I be attuned to the body language and vocalizations of the animals I am photographing.

In many ways, photographing animals can be even more challenging than photographing humans. Animals are not able to communicate with us in the same way that humans can, and they often move unpredictably or quickly. Capturing a meaningful image of an animal requires a keen sense of observation and an ability to anticipate their movements and behaviors.

Despite these challenges, I have found that photographing animals can be an incredibly rewarding experience. When I am able to create a photograph that truly captures the essence of an animal, it feels like I am doing justice to their unique story and personality. It is a way of honoring their existence and highlighting their importance in the world.

In many ways, photographing animals has helped me to become a better photographer of humans as well. By learning to observe and connect with my animal subjects, I have become more attuned to the emotions and body language of my human subjects. I have learned to look for the small details and nuances that make each person unique, and to capture those details in a way that is both beautiful and authentic.

Overall, the process of photographing animals has taught me the importance of building meaningful connections with all living beings. Whether I am photographing a bovine, a chicken, or a human, the key to capturing their essence is to first take the time to get to know them and build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. In doing so, I am able to create photographs that are not only beautiful, but also tell a powerful story about the subject’s unique personality and importance in the world.


In the end, the time I spend on the farm has opened up a new world of possibilities for me as a photographer. I have found new passion in photographing animals, capturing their unique personalities and beauty. It’s not just about taking pretty pictures, but about telling their stories and highlighting their importance in our world.

East Hollow Highland Farm has taught me the importance of slowing down and appreciating the simple things in life. It has given me a newfound appreciation for the beauty of nature and the creatures that inhabit it. Most importantly, it has taught me that the most meaningful connections in life are formed through patience, persistence, and kindness.

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