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Archive for November, 2009

I am happy to announce that Eli (Leroy v. Rietnisse), our five-year old male German Shepherd, has earned his Schutzhund 3 (SchH) title.  We are very proud of him. The Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Association club trial was held last Saturday, November 21st.  It was a full trial, with five Schutzhund dogs and eight BHs.

Our club now has three dogs titled to SchH 3, and each of these dogs is handler owned and trained (HOT).  Congratulations Gary and Tucker, Mitchell and Matrix, and Peter and Eli.  Also, thank you to all who helped and encouraged us along the way. Schutzhund is a team sport, and none of us could have achieved a SchH 3 on our dogs without you.

Also, thank you to Frank Philips, who judged the event.  His humor was infectious and made the day even more enjoyable, and his critiques were insightful and very helpful.

I took some photos at the trial, which was an interesting experiment given the lighting changes all day. We started the day at 7 am for tracking and didn’t finish until about 4:30 pm – a dawn to dusk day.  I’ll have more to say about this and will share a few of my best photos of the day in my next post.

Best wishes for a Happy and safe Thanksgiving.

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MartyGanaApr09 Web

This is the next segment 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.

Louise Jollyman and her husband, Martin Barrow, are avid amateur photographers, and have photographed Schutzhund dogs at work in the US, Europe and the United Kingdom. They own Brimwylf Kennels and Brimwylf Photography in Norwalk, Connecticut. You can see their pictures on the Sport of Schutzhund Photo Gallery (www.bjspanos.com).  Also, visit the Brimwylf Web site (www.brimwylf.com) to view pictures Lou and Marty have taken at local, regional, national and international Schutzhund events.

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

My family has always taken lots of snaps of vacations and events, so I have been involved in photography in one form or another my whole life.  When we started the sport with my first dog, Bodeus, it seemed a natural combination. After a few snaps, it became a challenge to get that perfect shot – the heeling picture with drive, the flying long bite and so on.

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

After many years of hand-me-downs, my parents bought me a new Canon Sureshot 35mm for my 14th birthday. I loved to take pictures of our dog and a horse I had on loan at a local stable. It was also where I had my first exposure to the clarity of SLR photography as a friend of mine practiced taking shots of me jumping at competitions. The other half of our photography team, my husband, bought his first camera when he came to England as a masters student to document his European adventures.

Now, we take pictures at all the events we go to, trying to get that “ideal” shot of each other’s dogs working, and also take pictures of friends and other dogs at the same event.  We are not “official” photographers, just enthusiastic amateurs.  We took pictures of all the DFW (Dallas-Ft. Worth) Working Dogs trials between 2001 and 2005, South Valley Sports Dog club in the UK between 2005 and 2009, the 2008 South Central Regional, the 2009 South Central Regional Conformation Show, the WUSV in 2006, 2007 and 2009, and the BSP (German nationals) in 2006 and 2008.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

I try to capture the power and personality of the dog in the shot as well as the teamwork between dog and handler.  For example, I try to get a photo of each dog in the heeling work at that moment when the dog and handler are in perfect stride.

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?  How about for those just getting started?

My husband has a Canon 40D with a Canon 24 – 70 mm 1:2.8 L, and I have a Canon Rebel XTi with a Sigma 28 – 200 mm for basic training shots. I like the rebel as it is smaller and lighter for me to handle, but the 40D gets excellent depth and saturation.  When we are at trials we use our Canon 70 – 200 mm 1:2.8 L, it is absolutely worth the expense to get beautiful sharp action shots with either body.  For portraits and close action shots, the best lens is the Canon prime 50 mm 1:1.8. I would definitely recommend this lens, as it is amazing value for money.  For getting started, I would highly recommend a Canon Rebel with the Sigma lens and the 50 mm lens, which you should be able to get for less than $750.  If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, a mid-range Canon Powershot for about $150 can take some superb action shots.  Can you guess?!  I’m a Canon fan!  I’ve had quite a few, and they are very durable. Many of mine have been dropped off horses, in mud, sand, got hot and cold and have lasted several years.  The other important part of photography is processing the shots; we use Adobe Photoshop Elements for this.

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?

The action shots can look really amazing particularly in obedience and protection, but catching the exact moment is difficult. It helps to have a camera that can take a burst of several pictures very quickly, even then it is difficult to know when to start pressing the button to get the best part.

Some of the most atmospheric pictures we have taken have been during tracking early in the morning, a long shot of dog and handler in the mist or frost or presenting the article, with the dog looking up at the handler.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?

Digital cameras are great. Make sure you have a big enough memory card and take as many shots as you can!

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I’ve been investigating Canon’s newest DSLR – the Canon EOS 7D, and it occurs to me that I should amend my earlier post to include higher end cameras that do not have automatic scene settings, such as the one I use frequently with my Rebel XT for sports photography.  If you’re camera allows you to save custom settings, then I strongly recommend doing so.  Create a custom setting for bright sunlight and for overcast, both for early in the morning and midday – the times and conditions for most Schutzhund trainings and trials.  You can tweak these settings once you’re on site, and then just use the appropriate setting.  The goal, as noted below, is to minimize how much time you spend fiddling with camera settings so you don’t miss any photo ops.

BTW – the Canon EOS 7D looks awesome.  Very tempting!

Again, please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

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First – thank you for your patience and understanding with my lack of posts.  I’ve just completed a major work project, which had me totally consumed.  I value your reading my blog posts and hope they are helpful.

Now, on to business.

At a recent Schutzhund club trial, I was asked an interesting question about the automatic and manual settings for photographing Schutzhund dogs at work. I have a Canon Rebel XT and use Canon’s EF 100 mm x 400 mm and 70 mm x 200 mm zoom lenses. In my experience, using the automatic setting for sports photography with the burst mode enabled works best.  The action happens very fast, and you have to be ready at a moment’s notice.  During a dog’s obedience and protection routines, there simply isn’t enough time to manually adjust settings for each set of pictures. I’ve seen photographers miss really great photo ops, because they are busy looking at their camera, either checking the last set of shots or fiddling with the settings.

And, yes, sometimes I have trouble with focus, especially with a long series of shots.  I’ve learned to time my shots for the action I want to capture and when to start the burst shooting. I also position myself so the camera lens is not tempted to focus on something in the background rather than on the dog. Very frustrating to take a marvelous shot only to find the fence bordering the Schutzhund field in focus and the dog a blur. That’s why I love digital cameras.  Delete is a wonderful function!

A good friend of mine – Betty Lindblom who takes some of the finest Schutzhund pictures anywhere, anytime and was featured in an earlier post – advised me that the Canon EF lens tend to focus on the brightest area of the picture.  Anyone with any experience with Schutzhund dogs knows they are not the brightest part of any picture. For example, most German Shephards from working lines have fairly dark sable coloring, are bi-colored or are black. Consequently, I keep a sharp eye on the background and make sure I’m focused on the dog.  I follow the dog, refocus with the shutter button, time my shots and hope for the best.  Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and there’s a good bit of luck in shooting Schutzhund dogs at work.

That’s not to say that I’m not trying other avenues to take pictures that are in focus, have good composition, exposure, color balance and detail. Last week, I tried using the “P” mode on my camera, which allows more manual control over the focus.  I didn’t have much luck.  I can’t say as yet it was the camera.  I plan to experiment some more and will keep you posted on my results.

I also was asked about picture size:  Is it better to focus in on the action or take a wider shot and use photo editing software to zoom in.  That will be the topic of my next post.  Stay tuned and please let me know your experiences and any suggestions you may have.

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