MIC Q&A November 2023

UPAA Blog 2023-24 #8 12/14/23  (Text and photos by Abbie Lankitus)

Who are you?      

I’m Abbie Lankitus, a University Photographer at the University of Missouri. I’m from Cotton Center, Texas – an incredibly small school with a graduating class of 12. My dad and uncle are cotton farmers and cattle ranchers in the area. I went to school at Texas Tech University where I got a B.S. in Agricultural Communications and a B.A. in Electronic Media and Communications. While at Texas Tech, I took several experiential photography courses and freelanced for the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. 

After college, I moved to Wooster, Ohio and was a communications specialist for Certified Angus Beef writing features and news releases, editing long form videos and TikTok’s, managing social media, photographing events and anything else under the communications gambit. After three years there, I moved to Columbia with my husband for the job at Mizzou where I knew I’d just be taking photos – my dream! 


How did you do that?   

Canon R5

102mm (70-200mm lens) 


ISO 800

Shutter 1/400

I’ve been on many agriculture shoots before, and this one was no different than the others. It starts with getting in the producer’s (industry term for farmer/rancher) truck and driving around with them as they point out what they have and answering questions about their operation.

This photo was our second location. I had already taken pictures of many sows and piglets so we needed to see his finishing hogs. This barn sat below the ground I was standing on so my eyeline went through the upper window—the angle of this shot. It had been raining earlier in the day and just so happened to have the sun breaking through the clouds as Russ was spreading hay. I was initially on the left side of the barn (where the pigs ate outside) when he went in, and instead of following him inside, I thought I’d see what it looked like when I stood outside the window at my eye level. I immediately let out an audible gasp and many profanities under my breath when I saw the rays and just held my finger on the shutter after quickly framing. 



What was this photo used for?

This photo and the others on the shoot are for a story in our alumni magazine about Russ Kremer, the subject in the photo. It will be part of the Winter 2024 edition. Russ owns a co-op brand of range free pork. His story starts many years ago when he was just starting out as a producer and got injured by one of his hogs. He ended up in the hospital and treatment resisted antibiotics. That changed the way he raised hogs and produced pork to prevent antibiotic resistance. I will say his way of farming is not uncommon, but also not your typical hog farm. 


Was there an inspiration for this shoot?

I think I’ve seen a good number of agriculture images with sun rays and have always wanted to make one. But that wasn’t in my mind when I went to this shoot. My inspiration for any agriculture story is authenticity. There’s many out there that would misconstrue his story. A bad image from my end creates problems for him and misunderstanding of the public. So, I’m always going into these shoots with a careful eye to not create more misunderstanding of the agriculture industry while also portraying the producers in a thoughtful and authentic light. These people are the salt of the earth and Russ is no different. Just a genuine, kind, and brilliant man who helps put food on our tables through hard work, dedication and a true love for what he does. 


What kind of help did you need?

It was just me. Our business coordinator, Susan, set up the date and time, but otherwise I was given a brief summary on who Russ was as well as a draft of the story. I took a Godox speedlight and umbrella just in case, but I didn’t need to use anything other than what we’d been blessed with that day. 



What were the technical difficulties to overcome?        

So many barns are dark and trying to pull a light around to get an authentic moment just doesn’t cut it. My main concern whenever I’m on shoots like this is making sure I have enough light. Obviously, for this image, it was more than enough and ethereal too. 

Would you approach it differently if you had to do it again?

Nope. This was one of those magical shoots where everything goes right and then some. It’s a shoot that reminds you why you do what you do. 


Did anything stand out to you during the shoot

I got to sit in a pen with a bunch of piglets that sniffed all over me and nibbled on my fingers. The mother had no issues with me and Russ kept telling me how incredible that was, that she wasn’t threatened by me. I thought that the day couldn’t get any better after that – then I took this image. Russ is also just an incredible human and he gave me some compliments that I’ll take with me forever. I put it in the caption in the MIC, but after I showed him this image, he told me that “The greatest honor anyone can do for people like me is to show what we do with dignity. That’s what you’ve done.” 


Is there anything you’d like to add about this project?        

I think I overexplained everything so you probably don’t want anymore, ha!

If you have any questions or have a photo and story that you think would make a great feature next month please contact David.Dick@cwu.edu