Proofs from the 2010 Mid-Florida Dalmatian Club Specialty Show and Obedience Trial held December 16-17 in Orlando are now available! Please contact me for details on how to access them online. Thank you MFDC for inviting me to be your show photographer this year!
I have so much to be thankful for in my life – a loving family, incredible friends, and three amazing spotted dogs. I also have one of the best jobs ever, thanks to my wonderful clients and supporters – you all mean so much to me and I hope you have a very, very happy Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to spending the day with my family, including little Derby, who will be going to the beach for the first time…so fun!
Happy Thanksgiving and THANK YOU all for your friendship and support – I couldn’t do what I love to do without you!
It’s not a big surprise to anyone who knows me, or follows my blogs, that Dalmatians are my breed of choice. I don’t think that there’s much that makes me smile more than a Dalmatian puppy, and as you may have noticed, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of dalpuppyitis lately. So naturally, when I learned of a litter of EIGHT puppies (sired by one of my favorite Dalmatians) was here in Florida, I just had to meet and photograph them!
These little guys and gals (5 males/3 females) were exactly five weeks old when I met them on Friday and oh. my. goodness. they. are. SO. CUTE. For the record, they were not the easiest subjects I’ve ever photographed – at one point I think at least 6 of them were either under me (working on untying my shoelaces) or attempting to crawl in my lap. Absolutely no complaints here though!
Those little smooshy puppy noses, their little grunts and squeals, the way they stumble/waddle/run – ADORABLE. And of course, I can’t forget to mention the puppy breath! They are all so darn cute and so much fun; I don’t know that I could even pick a favorite – although I’ll admit to being slightly partial to the little blue-eyed boy.
Now for my little public service announcement: As with any breed, Dalmatians are not for everyone. If you are looking for a Dalmatian, please do your research first and make sure that you find a reputable breeder that stands for outstanding health and temperament in the breed -or- support your local Dalmatian rescue. Of course, this is true for *any* puppy, but since I occasionally receive comments from individuals wanting to breed to my (both spayed/neutered, rescued) spotty dogs, I thought it was worth stating here.
A super big thanks to the R family for letting me come up and get a much needed puppy fix!
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! 🙂
Let this be a warning for cute little spotty dogs that decide to steal my Colt’s hat and parade around the house with it…
If you want to play with my hat, that’s okay, but it’s going to end up on your head. And, of course, that means I’ll have to take pictures.
Poor Peyton. Lucky for him, he’s extremely cute (and very charming) – I’ve never met a Dalmatian that didn’t use both of those traits to their advantage! I will say, no matter how many thousands of pictures I take of Peyton, I will never tire of his expressions. I’m so lucky to have such fun and animated dogs – they are such a great source of inspiration for my work.
The Holidays are very sneaky…one day it’s the middle of summer and the next thing you know, it’s Thanksgiving! I don’t know about you, but it’s seems as though I have misplaced the months of September and October. It just doesn’t seem possible that December is almost here and pretty soon, we’ll be welcoming in the New Year.
A few nights ago I was dwelling on this realization and found myself feeling very overwhelmed – I’m not ready for the Holidays! I started thinking about my “to-do” list that is miles long, the events I have coming up, and all of the other little things that come along this time of year. It’s not that I don’t love the Holidays – it’s just that well, every year they seem to come a little faster than the previous.
Just as the panic was starting to set in, I checked my voicemail and listened to one of the nicest, most complementary, and sincere messages I have ever received from one of my clients. And although it made me a little teary, it absolutely made my day. It was a nice little reminder of just how fortunate I am to be able to do something that I love and through my work, I can hopefully bring some joy to others.
And since today is Thanksgiving (I’m really not in denial), I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my clients – past, present, and future – for allowing me the opportunity to meet and photograph your pets. I truly do understand how special they all are and I’m sincerely grateful for the time I get to spend with each and every one of them. I have the best job ever – and it’s because of you.
I’m also thankful for my wonderful family, my friends, and my three crazy (but awesome) spotty dogs who manage to inspire me every single day. This Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful that Pongo (my senior Dalmatian) is still here with us. He had a few rough weeks back in the summer and I wasn’t sure that he was going to make it to his 15th birthday. And while thankfully he seems to be feeling pretty good these days, it’s certainly been a reminder that every day is a gift – and not just with our senior dogs, but with *all* of our loved ones.
So here’s to not dwelling on the “to-do” lists and instead taking the time to enjoy the Holidays with those you love – Happy Thanksgiving!
Peyton and I are still trying to recover from our last two weekends of agility trialing, but I thought I would share a few pictures of my spotty boy, who has decided that staying in a hotel is great fun! We stayed at the Microtel in Perry Georgia and I have to say this was a wonderful hotel – the rooms were a little on the small side, but clean and very modern. And best of all, they had fresh chocolate chip cookies every night!
If you are interested in seeing some of our runs, they can be viewed on my YouTube channel. Peyton and I both agree that traveling is downright exhausting!
A few months ago I decided to join Twitter…I was a little skeptical at first, but thought it might be a fun way to send quick little updates about my spotty dogs, especially while we are away at agility trials. Well, I found out quickly how addicting “tweeting” can be and have since formed little friendships with other “tweeters” here in Florida and all over the world. Well, in addition to being a cool way to connect with like-minded “tweeps”, there’s also an abundance of fun little contests you can enter. I think I’ve only entered one so far, but it’s by far the coolest one I’ve come across – Pet portrait artist Aimée Hoover in Southern California is having a monthly contest where you can enter to win a free custom portrait of your dog. And keeping with the Twitter theme of 140 characters or less, she’s doing these portraits in 140 minutes – and they are absolutely beautiful!
This month I decided to enter two of Pongo’s pictures in her contest. Not because I don’t have a ton of Indy and Peyton pictures that I love just as much, but since Pongo is my original spotty dog, I think he’s probably the most deserving of a custom portrait. And well, to make this long story short(er), he didn’t win, but he did get first runner up! Aimée really likes his picture, but apparently painting a (good) spotted dog portrait in 140 minutes would be extremely difficult. Sigh, leave it to a Dalmatian to be impossible in more ways than one!
Anyway, I am just excited that we made the honorable mention list…and I think it’s very cool that Pongo is getting some attention. Poor guy has to put up with Peyton and Indy being in the spotlight most of the time! I’ve included a black and white version of my entry below, but please go check out Aimée’s blog to see it in color and be sure to check out her galleries – she does awesome work (and she might just have me convinced to have this portrait done some day)!