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Posts Tagged ‘Schutzhund training’

This past weekend I had the pleasure of shooting the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club’s spring trial. Below are some of my favorite images. I shot all of the Obedience in RAW, but had to switch over to JPEG for Protection in order to get the burst shooting speed I wanted and not have deal with the memory card lag. I didn’t want to miss anything! In post-processing, I primarily relied on the Adobe Lightroom preset “PUNCH” in addition to tonal mapping in Lightroom. If you have Lightroom and haven’t tried this preset, I encourage you to give it a try. Marvelous for quick editing to up the clarity, contrast and vibrance. If time had permitted, fine tuning the images Adobe Photoshop would be beneficial; for example, removing light poles and other unwanted background elements. Also, in many of the Protection images, it would be good to balance the background separately from the dog. The full gallery of images is available on my website under the gallery name 2014 Spring Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club Trial (under the Dog Sport tab).

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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These past few weeks have been restful and fun using digital painting, textures and other techniques to create unique photographic art. Below are some examples:

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There is so much you can do with these techniques to enhance images. So far I’ve primarily done head shots, but I think they will work well with action shots, too. The key, I’ve discovered, is to work with close up images that have a lot of detail, clarity and strong colors. I am not sure images with blown out highlights or deep shadows will yield good results, as there is not enough detail.  While I am in-between classes, I am accepting commissions and running a special, which you can view here.

Last weekend, I attended the USCA Southeast Regional Championship. The weather on the first day of competition was an awful (rainy and dark); better on the second day for photography. While I did not shoot the event myself, I did spy several other photographers snapping away. Remember when shooting from the sidelines, you need to zoom in to catch the action. In general, the camera lens does a much better job of focusing when it is zoomed in on the dog rather than trying to catch a more panoramic shot of the entire field. There are not many clear focal points on the IPO field so the lens will often focus on something other than the dog, especially if it is lighter than the dog’s fur. It takes some practice, but being able to anticipate the dog and handler allows you to zoom in, which in turn greatly increases the chance of snapping sharp images.

Next up is preparing to shoot the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club trial the end of April and more digital painting. Until then…Happy Shooting!

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Hello! Now that my first class is done, I have a few months off before my graduate work in clinical mental health counseling gets going in earnest, which allows me some time to work with photography, digital painting – and yes – add a few more posts! I know, you’re thrilled. Seriously, I had a great time yesterday taking pictures at our local IPO (Schutzhund) club for the first time since November. Above are a few of my favorites, with more photos available for viewing on my website – 031414 Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club Gallery.

It was nice to get in some practice before the Chattahoochee Club trail the end of April, especially shooting in RAW. As noted in earlier posts, I’ve hesitated shooting in RAW because of the large file sizes and missing a crucial shot while the camera is busy writing the previous image(s) to the card. The technology is much better these days then when I first started taking photos of Schutzhund dogs at work, so with a fast enough card and camera processor, shooting a burst of images in RAW is not as daunting as it used to be. I only wish there was an effective way to shoot action in HDR. Something to investigate further while I have these few months off. Any ideas, please let me know!

My next post will highlight a couple of digital paintings I’m just now completing. I am very excited about sharing them with you. Until next time – Happy Shooting!

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Hello!  I wish to express my sincere appreciation to each of you for following my blog. I have truly enjoyed sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned about photographing IPO (Schutzhund) dogs at work. It is an adventure! After more than four years, however, I feel I need to change directions! Don’t worry! This blog will remain, and all the previous posts will still be available, but I will no longer post regularly.

Reason is I’ve been accepted to graduate school to study clinical mental health counseling. My goal is to work with patients who have been diagnosed with serious or life threatening illness and their families. These studies will occupy most of my time.

Yes, I will still be photographing IPO dogs as well as be available for photo shoots of your furry friends. And, on occasion I will post about my other types of photographic creative efforts; for example, digital painting. Below is an example. One of my goals is to use this technique to digitally paint IPO dogs in action, as well as portraits of non-working breeds. More about that in a later post.

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So, yes – do check back when you can!  Again, many thanks for your support and encouragement. Best wishes for a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

BJ Spanos

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As all IPO photographers can attest, IPO (Schutzhund) fields are among the hardest backdrops for photographing working dogs in action. The lighting changes from one end of the field to other and from one side to other.  And, I’m sure each of us has one field in particular that bedevils us every time. For me, it’s the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club field in Winston, Georgia. It’s a lovely place, very green, with many trees lining the field, plus horse pastures on two sides. As you can see in these images from the Chattahoochee Club’s fall trial, the horses graze very near to the field and keep an eye on what’s going on.

I really like photographing on this field. For example, I love using the horses as a juxtapose to the dog’s size and movement. I also like how the trees and pasture weeds add color around the edges of my images, and the field’s contours allow me to get some interesting angles and perspectives.

So, why is this field so challenging? For most of the day, especially prime shooting time when the light is just right, half of the field is in full sun and the other half is in deep shade. This is wonderful for handlers and dogs, but not so wonderful for photographers, especially as the action dances from shade to sun and back again. When the shade finally does retreat, the sun floods the field with bright, white light.  In addition, the dew is heavy here, as is the frost. As you might expect, until the field dries, there is a lot of moisture glistening and reflecting off the grass.

I have yet to figure out just the right balance of settings to get great shots every time. My goal is to create two sets of custom settings, so I can easily flip back and forth, depending on the lighting conditions. I’m working on it, and invite you to stay tuned for future updates.
As noted, the images above are highlights from the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club’s fall trial, which was held October 12, 2013, Enjoy!
Until next time – Happy Shooting!

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Color theory is all fine and good, but how can IPO photographers use color effectively in their images? We may not have control over the setting as landscape, commercial and portrait photographers do, but we can be aware of the setting we are in and take advantage of the colors that are there. We also can educate handlers and helpers about their clothing choices to create the best chance for getting the shot.

Consider the following examples:

Colors in IPO-1

This is one of my favorite images and has been featured in recent posts. The story here is a puppy contemplating his future life. The green says calmness and serenity, but the puppy’s expression is not all that calm and serene. He’s way too serious and just a bit worried! The red collar draws the viewer’s eye up towards the puppy’s face.

Colors in IPO-2

This is another favorite image, which like the image above features red and green, along with blue. This is a classic color combination! I would recommend this color combination to any handler. Also, notice the yellows in the background; nice highlights to what otherwise might be a boring, monochromatic background.

Colors in IPO-3

This image was taken in the winter, at a field devoid of much color. In taking this image, I choose to frame the dog and handler to the left of the yellow blind. The power pole also provides a frame, but I usually prefer to take power poles out as they are not very attractive. What is cool about this image is how the yellow strip on the handler’s arm picks up the yellow from the blind. His shirt also is a nice contrast to the background and his dog, as are his khaki pants. Another good color combination for handlers. Notice the handler by the blind kind of disappears into the background, thanks to dressing in black. That’s okay for this image, but might not work as well as the primary subject. More about dressing in black a bit later in this post.

Colors in IPO-4

This is another example of a winter scene. The pasture’s grass features various shades of orange, along with a bit of green here and there. I like how the brightness of the grass allows the dog to stand out from the background. It is monochromatic, but it works, because it’s unusual to see shades of orange in a grass pasture and the color tones and shades are harmonious.

Colors in IPO-5

Back to summer. Green grass provides a wonderful contrast for black dogs! Taking this image from a position that shows the dog against the green grass and not right up against the helper, who is also in black, captures the action without muddying things up. There is also some red along the fence line, which adds a little interest and framing.

Although handlers and helpers love to wear black, it isn’t a great choice for photography as there is no contrast. Remember, black absorbs all light. As a result, a black dog and the handler’s and/or helper’s leg will likely meld together, without much definition or detail.

This is also true for white, which reflects all light. Very often, the white tends to blow out and all definition and detail is lost, not only in the white area, but also in the surround pixels. Many times, I will expose for the dog and then in post-processing separately adjust different areas of the image, such as the dog, the handler and the background. It takes more time, but it’s worth it, especially with those “money” shots.

Colors in IPO-6

This image is a very good example of a monochromatic image. I really like the image of the dog, but the background and dog are a little too close in color. As a result, the dog tends to blend in with the background. The white along the dogs chest, neck and muzzle offers a nice contrast, however. For this image, consider placing the dog on another background or change the background color in post-processing.

Colors in IPO-7

Puppies are fun to photograph as they have great expressions. The puppy stands out nicely from the green grass, but also notice the puppies hazel eyes.  Are you seeing a pattern here of how a single color can provide a focal point and/or highlight?

Colors in IPO-8

And, finally, this image illustrates what happens when a black dog and a helper in black are photographed one on top of the other. It’s hard to see the differentiation between the dog and the helper’s leg. It is good that the field and trees contrast with the helper and dog.

In closing, I encourage you to take the time to survey the field and think about how to use the available color to enhance your images. I also encourage you to explain to handlers and helpers how wearing contrasting colors to their dogs really helps you take high quality, dramatic images of their work. Helpers may not have a lot of options, as scratch pants most often come only in black, but handlers do!  It’s worth mentioning, even if they do look at you like you’re nuts.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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If you look at the thousands of IPO photographs gracing Facebook, Pinterest, Intagram and other social media sites, they pretty much look alike, especially with respect to color. The style of photography is photo journalistic; that is, photographers capture the moment as it happened. This isn’t a surprise, given the nature of the sport and of where training and trials are held.

Although IPO fields look monochromatic on first glance, they really are not. They are plenty of colors all around. And, even if a variety of colors are lacking, such as in winter on a gray day, much can still be done with the tones and hues that are present. As noted in Part 1 of this series, color communicates an emotion or message in an instant. It also creates a mood, draws viewer attention to or away from a part(s) of the image, or adds an interesting highlight. In short, color is an important part of the story.

The following list of colors and meanings and feelings associated with them is adapted from Latrice Eiseman’s book Pantone® Guide to Communicating with Color. PANTONE® is recognized worldwide as a standard in color management among printers, artists, painters and designers. The Pantone Institute studies how color influences human thought processes, emotions and physical reactions. So, this seems like a great place to start!

RGB color wheel

RED:  Seeing this color creates a physical response with the release the hormone epinephrine, which causes people to breathe faster, raises blood pressure, and increases the heart rate and perspiration. The human mind connects RED with excitement and high energy. Red literally turns people on. Latrice writes, “It has an aggressive nature, commanding attention and demanding action.”

PINK:  “Vivid, shocking or hot pinks share the same high energy and spirit as mother red,” Latrice notes. Pink is associated with energy, youthfulness and creates “a feeling of movement and wild abandon.” Pink is fun, but it can be faddish.

ORANGE: This color is among the hottest of all colors. It brings up feelings of glowing and vitality. “In its most vivid intensities, it is perceived as a color that shouldn’t be taken too seriously; a dramatic exclamation point…It’s seen as playful, gregarious, happy and childlike…Orange contains some of the drama of red, tempered by the cheerful good humor of yellow.”

YELLOW: A color often seen on the IPO field from the sun, to blinds and the one-meter hurdle. It is “equated with splendor and heat of the sun…light and warmth.” It also is associated with imagination and enlightenment. As noted, yellow is cheerful and energetic. The human eye sees yellow before any other color. Good reason to use yellow for blinds and jumps as this color makes them stand out from the background. I’m not entirely sure the dog cares one way or the other, but for the handler and spectators, yellow pulls the eyes to these key elements on the IPO field.

BROWN: This color “is the ultimate earth color associated with hearth and home, substance and stability.” It also is associated with durability. Some view brown as dirt or dirty; not necessarily a positive response. In the IPO world, dirt and being dirty is a way of life, but for spectators or people not familiar with the sport, too much brown may be a negative. The key here is to bring out the connection with the earth – not a hard thing to do, since IPO is an outdoor sport.

BLUE: This color is a constant in our lives and “is strongly associated with sky and water…Blue is seen as reliable, trustworthily, dependable and committed. It inspires confidence.” Blue is also restful. “Humans are soothed and replenished when they view blue, and there is some evidence that when blue enters our line of vision, the brain sends out chemical signals that work as a tranquilizer.” Darker blue communicates power. Brilliant blues are dynamic and dramatic, a stark contrast, that can be used advantageously.

GREEN: This color in its many hues and tones “offers the widest array of choices.”  Blue greens are thought of as cool and clean, but also can communicate warmth. Mostly, green is associated with nature, and communicates freshness.  Deeper, richer greens are identified with money and prestige, safety and security.

PURPLE: A color with many meanings “from contemplative to regal…It is both sensual and spiritual.” Purple is not a color typically seen in the IPO world, although sunsets and sunrises are, and they can have purple shades. Consider, for example, a dog tracking early in the morning with a hint of purple in the sky or a silhouette of a dog working at sunset.

NEUTRALS: There are a lot of neutral colors, such as beiges, grays and taupe, in IPO. These colors are “seen as solid, enduring, timeless, and above all, classic.” They are safe and non-offensive.

WHITE:  Most often, IPO photographers encounter white as blown out highlights (joke!).  Seriously, this color “imparts purity and simplicity.”  It is not a color seen very often in IPO, except on handlers who wear white on hot summer days.  As it is a very difficult color to photograph, I encourage handlers to avoid wearing white.

BLACK: The most popular color in all of IPO! Many dogs are black or have a lot of black in their coats. Handlers love to wear black! Black “is associated with magical mysteries of the night.” It also communicates power, elegance, sophistication, expensive and dramatic. All good qualities of IPO dogs and handlers. Yet, it too, is difficult to photograph.

For more about these and other colors, I encourage you to look up Latrice’s book. It’s a quick, easy read. Part 3 of this series will look at IPO images and how color was used to highlight the action and to enhance the viewer’s experience. Until then, Happy Shooting!

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