Archive for September, 2009

Courtesy of the Central Alabama Schutzhund Bluc

Courtesy of the Central Alabama Schutzhund Club

I was thrilled to see this photo on the Central Alabama Schutzhund Club’s home page, and with the Club’s permission I am sharing it with you.  Let me set the stage for why I like this photo so much, and no – it’s not just because it is of our male German Shepherd, Eli.  The day was very wet and very dark.  The night before it rained maybe three or four inches.  Everything was thoroughly saturated.  The lighting was very dark, with humidity at nearly 100 percent.  Mist was in the air. Despite all these challenges to taking a really good photo, Lance Gardner achieved a really nice composition that captures the excitement and intensity of Eli’s hold and bark.  Yes, the colors are a bit over saturated, which I think is hard to avoid given the terrible lighting conditions.  With Adobe Lightroom, I was able to dial back the overly saturated colors just a bit.  The focus also could be sharper, but then again, a bit of fuzziness really highlights the motion.

I hope you enjoy this photo.  Thanks Lance and Central Alabama Schutzhund Club!

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This post is an interview with Betty Lindblom, the second in a series of interviews with accomplished Schutzhund photographers.  I 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.

Betty Lindblom’s specialty is photographing dogs in action and portraits, particularly head shots. She photographs dogs training and trialing in the sport of Schutzhund as well as her own dogs just “being dogs” at home in rural central Massachusetts, at the local state park and any other fields she can find. Betty and her friend, Julia Belyavev, have been the official photographers at several national and regional Schutzhund events under the name Outkast Photography.  You can see Betty’s pictures on the Sport of Schutzhund Photo Gallery (www.bjspanos.com).

Also, visit the Outkast Photography site (www.printroom.com/pro/OutkastPhotography.com) to view pictures Betty and Julia have taken at local, regional, national and international Schutzhund events.

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

I started taking photos of the dogs training at my club about four years ago. My inspiration was seeing the power in some of the dogs. I really wanted to capture it as well as capture the dog’s emotion.

How long have you been taking pictures? What events have you taken?

I took pictures as a hobby back in the late 70’s, early 80’s but never truly went forward with it. I think it was because I didn’t find my “niche”, so I lost interest in photography. I didn’t pick up a camera again until 2005 and didn’t get “serious” with Schutzhund photography until 2006. The events I’ve photographed include the following:

  • 2007 New England Regional Schutzhund Championship in New Hampshire
  • 2008 North American Schutzhund Competition in New Hampshire
  • 2008 WDA National Championship in New Jersey
  • 2008 Masters World Schutzhund Tournament in New Jersey
  • 2008 New England Regional Conformation Show in Massachusetts
  • 2008 New England Regional Schutzhund Championship in Massachusetts
  • 2009 OKSC Conformation Show in New Hampshire
  • 2009 QSC Affiliation Trial in Connecticut
  • A Protection Sport Association (PSA) event in Maine
  • 2009 New England Regional Schutzhund Championship in New York

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 started out with a Canon EOS 20D then upgraded to the Canon EOS 40D. The lens I mainly use to shoot with is the Canon EF 100 – 400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens.  At some point I’d like to add the Canon EF 70 mm – 200 mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. The 70 mm – 200 mm lens will come in handy on those real cloudy days. The 100 mm – 400 mm lens requires a lot of light for the action shots.

Must Haves:

  • A back up camera. I learned the hard way you should have one. You never know if your camera will die while shooting an event.
  • Minimum of two batteries and always have your charger with you. I also have a 75-watt DC to AC power inverter. I use this to charge my batteries in my van if there is no power at the field where the trial is being held.
  • Plenty of memory cards. At events, I tend to shoot any where from 2,000 shots up to 7,000 shots or more. It all depends on the kind of event, club trial, regional trial, national level trial and how many participants are entered.
  • An external hard drive and a card reader to move your pictures from the memory cards at the end of the day. Having one of those with you, you won’t have to buy a lot of memory cards. If you don’t have access to a computer to move the pictures to the external hard drive, you’ll need a laptop to bring with you.
  • Rain gear not only for you, but for your camera as well. I carry a couple of one (1) gallon freezer bags in my camera bag. I put a hole at the bottom of the bag big enough to just fit over the end of my lens. I use an elastic to hold it in place on the lens. The bag is big enough to cover my lens when it’s fully extended as well as my camera.
  • Carry something in your pockets to nibble on. You never know when you’ll get a break when photographing an event. Again, I learned the hard way. Now I bring a small cooler that has a couple of bottles of water and I have packages of Skittles and power bars in my pockets or camera bag.

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?

I have several favorites!! I love to try to capture the perfect moment during the send away. Getting both dog and handler in focus and seeing the power behind the dog as he leaves his handler as well as the emotion at that moment on both handler and dog. I also love to try to capture the dog launching during the escape or long bite, but just before the dog hits the sleeve ready to bite. To get these shots, I focus my camera on the dog and follow the dog. I know many who focus on the helper and take the shot when the dog comes into view. I say, do what is most comfortable for you. I find following the dog, my shots are more in focus and I’m able to capture what I want more often. Another favorite is when the helper is driving the dog. There is so much emotion on the helpers face and on the dogs face. Some helpers really bend into the dog. I love those helpers because the shots are so intense. The helper’s veins are sticking out of his neck, the dogs eyes are on the helper full of intensity, the padded stick is bent towards the dog or over the dog. You can feel and see the power in those shots.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?

I would say, practice, practice, practice. I took hundreds of pictures at club training for a year to get a feel for photographing this sport. I went to club trials and took many, many pictures.  You really need to know where to stand to get the best shots.  Sometimes you are limited on where you can stand and sometimes the judge will get in the way of your shot. Always ask the judge and the people running the trial where you can stand on the field and where you can’t. I move around a LOT on the field if I have to. Don’t be afraid to kneel down to take shots. Some of my best flat retrieve shots I took while kneeling down.  The most important thing is, try to capture the emotion at that moment. It’s nice to get great shots, but if there is no emotion in the shot, it’s missing something. Being involved in the sport is a very big plus. You always know what is coming next, where to stand, and in some cases, you know the helper, some of the dogs and the handlers. Also, you pretty much know the “count” so if you don’t have the perfect place to stand to capture a shot, you’ll have a pretty good idea of when the dog will come into view for the shot. Try to capture a shot you don’t see all the time, which is getting harder to do because there are several very good Schutzhund photographers out there compared to a few years ago. The best tip I can give is, have fun!

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This past weekend, we attended the Central Alabama Schutzhund Club’s trial.  Eli, our four-year old male German Shepherd, earned high obedience with a score of 92. A fellow club member, Mitchell Walker and his dog Matrix, a three-year old male German Shepherd, earned a SchH 2 with high protection and high in trial.  At this trial, there were six Schutzhund dogs (one SchH 1, four SchH 2 and one SchH 3) and 10 BH dogs.  Congratulations to Peter and Eli and to Mitchell and Matix.  Our club trial will be on November 21 in Monroe, Georgia.  Visit the GASA website (www.gasaonline.com) for details about this event.  If you’re in the Atlanta area, please come by and watch.

Also, thank you to the Central Alabama club for their hospitality. Although the weather was wet, and fortunately cool for the dogs, the club members warmly welcomed all the competitors and spectators, which made the day a lot of fun! We look forward to attending future trials at Central Alabama.

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I realize this isn’t the typical Schutzhund action picture.  In fact, this photo isn’t of a typical dog breed you see around Schutzhund, but it is my favorite picture of all the photos I took this past Saturday (August 29) at the Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Club. This photo is of a female Fila Brasileiro or Brazilian Mastiff.  For those unfamiliar with this breed, Fila’s are a mix of mastiff, bulldog and bloodhound. They are natural guard dogs, very loyal to their families but do not like strangers.  They also are not a breed for everyone; so do not take this post as a recommendation to purchase a Fila for Schutzhund or for any other purpose.  Only those who know how to handle a Fila should consider having one.

In addition to taking action shots, I also really enjoy capturing Schutzhund dogs’ faces.  These are very intelligent dogs, and their faces show the intensity of their drives and their interest in the work. I found this dog’s very expressive facial expressions intriguing; particularly her eyes are they peered at me through the crate bars.

To capture their faces, I use a zoom lens (Canon Ultrasonic EF 100 mm x 400 mm 1:4.5 – 5.6 L IS or Canon Ultrasonic EF 70 mm x 200 mm 1:2.8 L IS USM).  I have my camera (Canon Rebel XT) set on automatic or on action burst mode.  I find that using a zoom allows me to capture the dog in action and unaware of my presence.  I zoom in as close as I can get, if the dog is relatively still.  If not, I pull back a bit to allow the dog some wiggle room, which I crop out later.  The resulting “candid” shots usually yield some interesting expressions.

I then import the photos into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, which is a must have for serious photographers.  If you’re not familiar with Lightroom, I strongly recommend checking it out.  For me, it has been indispensible for keeping my photographs (more than 10,000 of them) organized, for cropping and adjusting much more easily and more quickly than in Photoshop with the same results, and emailing / burning to CDs.  I also can create slide shows in Lightroom, thus displaying them is much easier and classier, too.

Lightroom sports very powerful tools for cropping, adjusting and adding effects.  Lightroom also has some really cool pre-sets.  For this photo, I cropped way in to accentuate the dog’s eyes, and I used the General: Punch preset.  I love the edginess this preset brings to the photo.  It really adds depth and character.  What I really like about Lightroom is if I don’t like the adjustments I’ve made, no problem.  I just hit reset, and I’m back to the original settings.  All the work done in Lightroom is virtual.  The original file is not changed.  Nothing is set in stone until you export the photo.  Cool!!

So – try zooming in on dogs’ faces as a part of your Schutzhund photography.  Take a lot of pictures as you never know exactly what you’ll get.  I’ve also gotten some great “out takes” that are really pretty funny.  I would love to see examples of your work!

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