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Bales of wheat straw are painted gold by the morning sunlight with the Highwood Mountains in the distance near Arrow Creek, Montana. → License Photo

Round bales have always fascinated me. I love their shape and the pattern they create when they are tossed about an open field. To my eye round bales are like modern symbols that punctuate a landscape otherwise consisting of rustic elements. I’ve spent time wondering why I photograph them so much. I’m not 100% sure why.

We didn’t have a round baler on our family farm. All of our bales of hay were small and square. Those small, neatly packed bales of hay (neatly packed when the baler was tuned just right that is) were the bane of every farm kid’s summer. Stacking them neatly in a hot, humid barn was tedious and painful. You couldn’t walk two steps in a mow of hay without your leg sinking three feet down between a seam. And it was a sweaty, horrible work. Unloading bales wasn’t much better, but at least got to work outside. Especially advantageous if there was even a slight breeze on a hot summer day. But you handled every one of them, whereas the mow usually had two workers. Some bales of hay would burst. Others would fall on your head if you weren’t careful. And still others would poke tiny thorns from thistles into the tips of your fingers. The good news was that the work kept you in shape. And the water, which you drank from the nearby hydrant, never tasted colder or better. Maybe that hard work coupled with the intense hope your father would buy a round baler to save you is a reason I like to photograph them.

Another reason might have to do with the fact that I once met an artist in Wisconsin who painted landscapes filled with round bales. I don’t remember his name or know where he was from…it was many years ago. But I do remember how found I was of his paintings. They were very beautiful.

Whatever the reason, I enjoy photographing them when doing farm photography. And I will likely continue to photograph them. Besides, Montana has a lot of round bales. Round bales of hay and round bales of wheat straw. I’ve never seen so many round bales in my life. And that might actually be the real reason I photograph them. Seldom does a summer go buy without an opportunity to photograph at least a few.

Below are 20+ photos of round bales I’ve made over the years. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed making them. After all, making photos of them is way easier than the effort needed to make and tend to them. No matter their shape or size.

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