Happy New Year!

Goodbye 2010; hello 2011!

What an amazing year it was; thank you to everyone who helped make 2010 such a memorable year for Simply Spotted Photography. It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet and photograph so many wonderful pets and people over the past year, and I’m looking forward to meeting many more new friends in 2011!

To kick off the new year, I thought I would share a few images of my Derby pup. He’s 16 weeks now and growing up much too fast!

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve and while my spotty pups are all anxiously waiting for Santa Paws to come, I thought I’d take a little moment to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! I am so thankful to have such wonderful friends, family, and fans – I hope your day is  filled with lots of love and laughter.

Reagan + Bentley | Dalmatian Duo

Meet Reagan and Bentley – two super awesome spotty dogs that I met during my trip to Indiana. I was sooooo excited when their mom contacted me about doing a session while I was in town! I knew they would be a lot of fun, and they certainly did not disappoint…it was all I could do to *not* try to sneak them in my suitcase and bring them both home with me!

Reagan is 1 1/2 and little Bentley is only 5 months old. Two young Dalmatians…isn’t their mom brave!?

I  just *adore* Reagan! She is so much fun, has an awesome smile, and is total momma’s girl. She is also an awesome big sister – it’s so cute to see how Bentley follows her lead. I’m trying to convince her mom that she would have a lot of fun doing agility…and of course she would be more than welcome to send her down to Florida for a little personal training!

Bentley is an absolute doll, but I didn’t get to see his usual crazy happy puppy self since on the morning of our session he decided that a rock would make a great snack. Thankfully he was fine, but had a bit of a belly ache. Silly spotty boy! Doesn’t he have the sweetest puppy face? Gah! Not helping my serious case of dal-puppy-want *at all*!

I had such a nice time with my new Indy spotty friends! I wish I lived closer, but hopefully we can visit next time I’m in town. Here’s a fun outtake I couldn’t resist sharing…thanks Reagan, Bentley, and Nicole for being so much fun!

Pongo | Healing

Today would have been Pongo’s (also known as my “original spotty”) 16th birthday. He passed away in April and my little spotty house just hasn’t been the same without him. I wish more than anything that he was still here with me physically, but thankfully I can take comfort in some of the many wonderful reminders I have of our time together.

Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure (and admittedly, some heartache) of meeting some absolutely wonderful dogs who were nearing the end of their journey here on earth. I truly do understand how heartbreaking it is when the time comes to say goodbye. And while everyone deals with loss in their own way, I thought I would share a few things that have helped me through some very difficult days.

While photography has always been a passion, after Pongo passed, it became my therapy. I spent a great deal of time looking back through old images of him, most of which were never shared or published. I found myself looking at them with new eyes, and a greater appreciation of some of those little moments, that didn’t seem all that important at the time.

I am not a painter, at least not in the brush and canvas sense, but I started working on digital paintings from old photographs. They are still very much a work in progress, and may or may not ever be totally “finished”. But that’s okay…at this point, I’m not sure that I’m really ready for them to be.

I finally made the time to design a book, using images from one of my most memorable beach trips with him last November. And from those images, I put together a little video…

I’m not suggesting that the path to healing is through photography…or painting…or any other art form for that matter. But when I first started down this path, I really didn’t expect that it would be so therapeutic. kind of like why would you want to listen to depressing music if you’re already sad, right? I’ll admit that at first it was really difficult, but after a while, the tears were replaced by smiles. And now I have some lovely renewed memories of my original spotty dog.

Happy birthday, my friend. We miss you.

Goodbye Summer!

Even though we still have a few weeks before the official start of Autumn, Labor Day weekend is typically a time to celebrate (or mourn) the end of summer. Here in Florida, I’m definitely celebrating! As much as I enjoy the idea of summer, I am *so* ready for some cooler temperatures. The weather this past week has been almost pleasant, so it definitely has me thinking about fall.

First, my dates for my annual trip back to Indiana have been finalized! I will be in the Indianapolis area from September 22-27. While I’m still working on my exact schedule, it looks like I’ll have time for one or two more photography sessions. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me, and we’ll work out the details!

Next on my “things to think about” list is…are you ready…Christmas! I know, I know – it’s only September – BUT since I’ve already had a few inquiries, I thought it would be a good time to mention that if you’ve been thinking about the possibility of giving the gift of photography this year, now is the perfect time to schedule a session. This is especially the case if you are interested in custom designed holiday cards or other speciality items that may require a little more production time. I always try to be as accommodating as possible, but November and December are usually very crazy (in a good way!) months around here so it’s good to get an early start.

Speaking of great gift ideas – I’ll admit that I’m *very* behind on sharing some of my latest and greatest specialty products, but hope to have some new samples up very soon.

I thought I’d share our 2009 holiday card – while it makes me sad to think that my cards this year will be missing Pongo, this makes me smile and is a reminder of just how special our last Christmas was together.

Peyton, Indy, and I hope that you all have a wonderful (and safe) Labor Day weekend!

Pet Photography Tips – Part Two

As I shared a few weeks ago, my number one tip when it comes to photographing pets is just to get out there and take LOTS of pictures. Even I have to remind myself to *make* time for photographing my own dogs! With that said, once you have your camera out (and possibly dusted off) here are a few tips that will hopefully be somewhat helpful. Please keep in mind that these are intended for the average user with a basic camera – hey mom, are you reading?

1. Lighting: Whenever possible, try to use natural light. Outdoor lighting is particularly lovely early in the morning or late in the evening, and it’s usually best to avoid strong direct sunlight that you’ll find in the middle of the day (especially here in sunny Florida). However, overcast skies can make for some really nice lighting, so don’t be afraid to bring your camera out on a cloudy day. “Even” light is generally best – if you are working in an area with both sun and shade, or strong backlighting, your camera will likely have a hard time finding the correct exposure.

If you are indoors (and if your camera will let you) try turning off your flash and find a nice well-lit area near a window. If you have ISO control on your camera (remember the “film” days?), you can try using a higher ISO (400+), but keep in mind the higher the ISO, the more likely you’ll have issues with camera noise and grain. If you’re in a pinch and must use your flash, you can avoid or lessen the effects of red eye (or more often green eye with pets), by not having them look directly into the camera.

2. The camera user manual is your friend: Ah, I can hear the groans now! Seriously though, know your camera. I understand that sitting down to read the manual is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but you might be surprised at what your little camera can really do! At the very least, make sure that you have your camera set to the highest quality file setting. RAW files are best, but you’ll need to make sure you download (and use) the software that comes with your camera. Otherwise a JPG set to the highest setting (usually super-fine or fine) is the way to go. If needed, you can always reduce the file size later.

There are a number of good photo editing software options out there, but more than likely the software that came with your camera will be be sufficient. Here you can make basic color corrections and adjustments to the exposure, brightness, and contrast of the image. While it’s always best to try to get your image as technically perfect as possible to begin with, your software can certainly help.

3. Action!: Let’s face it, most pets like to *move*! Of course this is fun, but often results in blurry images. This is another case where it really helps to know your camera! In general, point in shoot cameras are not known for their ability to capture great action shots, but if you are able to adjust your camera settings, you should see an improvement. For action, you’ll want a high shutter speed and a good amount of light. Some cameras have a “sports mode” which can be helpful and others may have a shutter priority mode where you can manually enter your desired shutter speed. You also might be able to manually adjust your ISO to a higher number, as mentioned above. Regardless of your camera’s abilities, I generally recommend following your subject with the camera (panning) and snapping the picture while both the subject and camera are in motion. This can take some practice, but is especially helpful when using cameras that have a bit of a delay from shutter lag – the time time between when you press the button and when the images is actually captured.

4. Location: Probably the most common concern that I hear is “but my backyard is not pretty!”…and while I can most definitely relate, a “pretty” location is generally not a big concern for me. Since my primary focus is always going to be the pet, the background is well, just the background. As a general rule, less is definitely more, and a clean, simple background will keep the focus on your pet. Look at what you have available – fencing, the side of your house, foliage, and even plain ‘ol grass works. Even if you don’t have the “perfect” setting, using your camera’s zoom lens (if you have one) relatively close to your subject, is a great way to help blur the background. And if you have an aperture priority mode on your camera, you can use a wide aperture (which is actually a smaller number) to help throw the background out of focus.

5. Smile!: So you have good light, an idea of your camera’s capabilities, and your location, so the only thing that’s left is your pet, correct? I generally tend to take a very hands-off approach when photographing pets – and yes, this applies to even my own dogs! While I’ve certainly met a number of natural “models”, most pets are not exactly thrilled about sitting perfectly still for a picture. And that’s okay…making sure they are happy is the key to capturing their personalities! Keep it casual and fun – treats, toys, funny noises – these all come in *very* handy.

Try sitting down on the ground so that you’re at eye level with your pet. Shoot from different angles. Focus on the eyes. Be silly. Have fun. And don’t be afraid to experiment. I had one of my overdue “spotty dog sessions” this past weekend and decided it was time to play! The two images taken below were at a very slow shutter speed. The result…a little different, but fun! I love the strong feel of motion in these images…

I think that’s about it for this post…now go grab your camera and have some fun photographing your pets! 🙂

The Honest Kitchen – Sharing the Love

The spotties and I are excited to announce that we are now part of Honest Kitchen Allies program! We’ve been big fans for many years, but as “Allies” we’ll now be able to share literature, samples, and coupons with our friends.

If you’re not familiar with The Honest Kitchen, here’s a quick little rundown…

The Honest Kitchen makes dehydrated pet foods, supplements, and treats for dogs and cats.
– They use 100% human grade ingredients that are produced in a human food facility in the USA!
– Their recipes use high quality ingredients including free-range chicken, cage-free turkey, organic sea kelp, and *no* genetically modified produce, artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, or by-products.
– All of their diets (with the exception of Preference) are 100% balanced.
– They dehydrate their fruits and vegetables at a low enough temperature that they are still considered raw, and meats are dehydrated enough at a temperature high enough to eliminate the risk of Salmonella and E Coli.
– They are an approved member of Green America and use re-usable, recyclable, and biodegradable materials whenever possible.

We love Honest Kitchen foods because they offer the same (or more) health benefits as a properly formulated raw or home-cooked diet, but are much more convenient. In just 5 minutes, my dogs can have a healthy, wholesome meal. Anyone who knows me can attest that I prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. And yes, (unfortunately) my dogs do eat much, much better than I do!

While we like to rotate through the different Honest Kitchen formulas for variety, we are currently using Embark and Keen. Because Indy has some issues related to urinary incontinence, she is limited to grain-free diets (such as Embark), but has been “leak-free” since we first started using The Honest Kitchen over 5 years ago. We’re also excited about their newest grain-free fish based diet, Zeal, which is coming soon!

Now for the good stuff…
– If you’d like to learn more about The Honest Kitchen, head over to www.thehonestkitchen.com. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter and join their facebook fan page for news and special offers.
– Click here for coupons! Enjoy $2 off a 2, 3, or 4 lb. box or $5 off a 7 or 10 lb. box of dehydrated food. The coupons are valid online or at a store near you.
– If you would like to try The Honest Kitchen, please feel free to contact me for a few samples!

And finally, Peyton would like you to know that while he would love to eat *all* of the Honest Kitchen samples (and yes, he did try!), he’s going to try very hard to be a good spotty dog and share with his friends.

Please note, we do not sell The Honest Kitchen or profit from the sale of their products. We just think that they are an awesome company and want to share the love with our friends who are also interested in all natural pet foods. If you have any questions, I recommend chatting with the folks over at The Honest Kitchen. They have always been super helpful when I’ve had questions or needed advice!

Remembering Pongo

One month ago today I lost my best friend. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been a whole month…it seems like just yesterday I held him in my arms while he took his last breath. Where does the time go?

Since Pongo’s passing, I’ve been working on a few special photography projects. When he first started having health problems early last fall, I found it difficult to do much with any of his images. I just couldn’t look at them without thinking that they might be some of the last photographs that I would ever have of him…and at the time, that was not something that I wanted to accept.

But now that he’s gone, I just can’t stop looking at his photographs. It’s not that I need a picture to help me remember him, but every image sparks a memory of our time together. Ah, the power of photography. It’s been so therapeutic to finally be able to go back and work on some of his images from the past several months.

I hope to share some of my projects soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d share some photos from Pongo’s trip to Venice dog beach last November. Pongo absolutely *loved* the beach…I remember he used to make the strangest noises on the car ride there – I think it was a cross between a whine/cry/moan, and it made us laugh every time! This was our last trip to the beach together and I’m so glad that I have these images to help remember such a happy time.

Love and miss you Pongo!

Remembering Pongo - Venice Beach

Pongo - Venice Dog Beach

Goodbye Pongo

Beach Dalmatian

Pongo - Venice Paw Park

Pongo - Venice Beach

Remembering Pongo