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Archive for August, 2009

Shelly is the first of what I hope will be an on-going series of interviews with Schutzhund photographers about their craft.  I also hope that by reading what has inspired other photographers, the equipment they use and how they go about taking pictures you will be encouraged in your own photography. Today’s post is the conclusion of  her interview.  You can learn more about Shelly and her photography and video services by visiting her website at http://www.shellshots.com.

What is you favorite type of picture to take?  How do you go about taking the picture?  What is the most challenging picture to take?  How to you tackle it?

Some of my favorite shots.  Well, there are quite a few actually.  During obedience, depending on if the field is set up for it, you may have the team heeling straight toward you on their way to the group…and many times this will be the best shot of the entire heeling exercise.  Naturally the jumps, but I also try to get the exact moment the handler signals the send away and the dog takes off…easier said than done.

In protection, as the dog comes to the find blind, there is a moment, when (if a GSD) his ears come up and the fire lights his eyes.  Some dogs like to do a very “enthusiastic” hold and bark…with a lot of jumping action and that can give some great shot opportunities.  I like to line up the decoy between the dog’s ears as he waits for the escape.  Of course, the courage test gives lots of great catches that everyone loves to see.  But this shot can be the easiest to miss if your camera doesn’t have immediate response and this is one time when I really do recommend holding the shutter down for multiple frames if your camera allows it.

This is also the most challenging photo to take at night events.  It combines distance, speed, timing and light issues, and I can say that my lowest keeper rate is this exercise.  Of course, harsh sunlight high overhead provides its own set of issues, but I still believe the night shots are hardest to get right.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?  Other thoughts?

A friend once told me an old yarn about the violinist who goes to New York and gets lost.

He asks a local guy who is standing at a corner, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

To which the man answers, “Practice, practice, practice.”

Seriously, if you take Schutzhund photos that make you happy, and that others like, you’ve won half the battle right there…and the rest is practice, practice, practice.

So, there you have it  – the art of Schutzhund photography in Shelly’s own words.   I hope you find Shelly’s insights helpful and will check back often. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome!

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Shelly is the first of what I hope will be an on-going series of interviews with Schutzhund photographers about their craft.  I also hope that by reading what has inspired other photographers, the equipment they use and how they go about taking pictures you will be encouraged in your own photography. Today’s post is the second of  three-part series, so please check tomorrow for the conclusion.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

My philosophy is pretty simple…find what is best about each team and capture that moment as best I can.   To elaborate a bit, some teams seem to have such harmony and grace together as they heel, that they seem as single being.  To capture that is my goal.  Other dogs have such amazing athleticism and great form with the jumps, that to get that exact moment that shows it to the best advantage is what I strive for.  For others, it is the spirit in their work…like the grin on the face of that dog when he is coming back to his master, a joy to be alive that I want to preserve for posterity.

What equipment do you use?  What is your favorite piece of equipment that you use for Schutzhund photography?  What are “must haves” for any serious Schutzhund photographer?

I currently use a Canon DSLR, the 40D.  It is a good camera for action, but the camera is only half the battle.  Especially for evening events, a “fast” lens is absolutely required. Most stadiums where these Championships are held have decent lighting for human and canine eyes, but the camera needs more.  Even if you are only photographing your training group on Saturday, it is imperative that you have a camera that doesn’t have a delay between pushing the shutter button and it taking the shot. In Schutzhund, if you have any delay, you’ll miss the shot.

My lens, not the fastest out there, but a good compromise on cost vs. image quality and speed is the Sigma 70-200mm 1:2.8.

Part 3 to be posted tomorrow.  See you then!!


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Shelly is the first of what I hope will be an on-going series of interviews with Schutzhund photographers about their craft.  I also hope that by reading what has inspired other photographers, the equipment they use and how they go about taking pictures you will be encouraged in your own photography.  I will be posting Shelly’s interviews in a series of posts – one a day for the next several days, so please check back often.

Shelly Timmerman has been involved with dogs and photography most of her life. Her first purebred dog was a German Shepherd (GSD) when she was in my early teens. She has had many different breeds, including GSD’s, Dobermans, Rottweilers and lots of good old-fashioned mutts. I currently own two Rottweilers and Australian Cattle Dog rescue. The Australian Cattle Dog and one of her Rottweilers is being trained in Schutzhund. Shelly is the secretary of her local DVG Schutzhund Club. She also is the editor of the LV AMERICA DVG magazine and the SEKG newsletter.  To learn more about Shelly and to view her work, please visit her website at http://www.shellshots.com. Her photos also are included in the Sport of Schutzhund Photo Gallery (www.bjspanos.com.).

How did you get started in Schutzhund photography?  What was your inspiration?

As a frustrated artist, I’ve been taking photos off and on all my adult life, but, like many people in the era of film, found the hobby too expensive to take the number of photos I needed to learn the craft.  So, when my Dad gave me the new “Rebel” digital SLR as a birthday gift one year, it was only natural that I take it out to the club to try it out.

As a general rule, our group trained in the evenings, and of course, the results were less than satisfying.  The camera with kit lens just wasn’t able to get the shots without using the flash, and that was limited to being pretty close to the action…okay for training, but I don’t like the idea of a flash during trials.   I’d manage to get a few decent photos of the participants up close at a night trial, but no action shots.  So I was stuck with daytime events until I was able to purchase faster lenses and eventually upgraded my camera as well.  I went to as many events as possible, and took as many shots as I could, just learning what looked good to me, and appealed to others.  (My video work has evolved along a parallel path…but that’s a story for another day!)

Finally, I’d found an artistic outlet…the sport of Schutzhund and my love of animals could be combined with my passion for photography  So, my inspiration is pretty simple: I’d like my dog to look as good as she can in every photo, so I try to find that in every image I take.

How long have you been taking pictures?  What events have you taken past and future?

I started showing up to all of our local events, trials, seminars, etc.  Then I started taking some shots at our regional events…and people started seeing the work I was doing, and offering to pay me for it. I had several people, a photographer and some of the top names in Schutzhund among them, who encouraged me, and let me know that my work was good and worth pursuing.

The first big events I had the opportunity to photograph, (2006-2007 DVG America Nationals) I was pretty lucky NOT to be the event’s “official” photographer.  I say this because there wasn’t any pressure on me to deliver. I was able to practice, to learn and to experiment with angles and lighting.  And practice I did…with many hundreds, maybe thousands, of shots.  And more and more people liked my work and wanted to buy it.

After a couple of those, “trial runs,” I finally felt I was up to the challenge, and I offered to shoot the photos for the 2008 and 2009 DVG America National Championships.  I’ve also been invited to provide the photos (and video) for the 2009 American Working Malinois Championship in December.

Part 2 to come tomorrow – please check back!

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I am pleased to introduce Shelly Timmerman, owner of SHELLSHOTS (www.shellshots.com), as the newest Schutzhund photographer to be featured in the Art of Schutzhund Photography Gallery, which you can view at http://www.bjspanos.com.  Shelly has an extensive portfolio of still and video in Schutzhund, including being the official videographer of national Schutzhund events, such as the 2008 US GSD National Championship, 2009 DVG America National Championship and 2009 AWDF National Championship.  She will be the official videographer at the 2009 US GSD National Championship and videographer and photographer at the 2009 AWMA Championship.  In addition to Schutzhund, Shelly also does portrait photography (dogs, horses and people) and sport photography of dogs and horses. She is a talented designer and can turn pictures into works of art.

An upcoming post will feature an interview with Shelly.  Later posts also will highlight the other photographers featured in the Gallery.  These interviews will give you insights into how these talented photographers go about taking pictures, their preferred camera gear, favorite shots and tips for capturing incredible Schutzhund photos.

Stay tuned and check back often!

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