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Archive for December, 2009


Leroy v. Rietnisse SchH 3 (Eli)

The following article was written by my father for the Asbury Village Retirement Community’s newspaper, Village Life.  Asbury is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, just northwest of Washington, DC. The holidays are a great time for lighter fare and a good time to remind all those involved in Schutzhund – and those who are not or may have some misunderstandings about Schutzhund dogs – how wonderful these dogs are and what a joy they bring to family life.

Happy New Year – and may all your dogs be brave, their tracks true and their obedience flawless.

It’s a Guy Thing

This is a story about a very special guy that I met while visiting my daughter and son-in-law over the Thanksgiving holiday. The guy’s name is Eli, and he lives with them. He weighs about 85 pounds and is absolutely bursting with friendliness, is full of energy and has boundless love.  In fact, shortly after we arrived, while sitting around talking about plans for Thanksgiving day, Eli climbed on the love seat next to me and proceeded to thoroughly and very gently wash my face ear to ear, from forehead to chin, and all in between. The process took about five minutes.

By now, I’ll bet you have guessed that Eli is my granddog. He’s a full grown male German Shepherd, and has just achieved the Schutzhund (SchH) 3 level of training. For a dog, that’s about equivalent to a PhD.  The Schutzhund process involves training dogs in three categories: obedience, tracking and protection.  For obedience, the dog must instantly obey his trainer’s [handler’s] commands under all circumstances and especially under external distraction. For tracking, the dog must follow, with no hesitation, a trail in an open field made by a person walking. For protection, the dog must find a hidden assailant, and back actively until commanded by his trainer to stop.  He also must, on command, attack the assailant and not be intimidated by external noise or by the assailant’s evasive action.

Now ladies, if you have a sensitive nature, I suggest you stop reading right now, and go on to the next article in Village Life.

Very few dogs achieve the SchH 3 level, and those that do are in great demand for breeding. I am proud to report that Eli has been successful a number of times. I will also report that when a pickup truck with a dog cage in the back rumbles up my daughter and son-in-law’s long gravel driveway, Eli is beside himself with excitement.

He’s a real guy.

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Another really terrific question that I was asked recently is which is better: Wider views of the action or closer in views?  The answer is that all depends as much on personal preference as on what it is you’re photographing.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a wider view if the action warrants it and then crop in as needed.

For example, when I’m trying to capture the dog running for the long bite, I pull back to be sure I get the entire dog.  I also follow the dog and use the burst mode on my camera so I can shoot multiple pictures really fast. It’s a balancing act to pull back just enough, but not so far that the dog gets out of focus or is so small that any amount of cropping doesn’t help.

According to Bryan Peterson, one of the foremost experts on photography and author of a series of excellent books on the topic, filling the frame is essential to a superbly composed picture.  In his book, Learning to See Creatively, he advises figuring out exactly what the subject is for the picture and fill the frame with that subject.

Notice the difference in the two photos posted above.  The photo on top is a wider view.  It’s a nice picture of the send away, but the two fellows in the background are a distraction to the main subject of the photo.  Also, the view of the training field dilutes the picture’s impact.

The photo on the bottom is a close in view, which I achieved through cropping.  Notice that without the distractions, the photo has a much more dramatic impact of showing both the exact moment the dog is released for the send away and the expressions / emotions on the dog and handler’s face.

This cropped image also employs the Rule of Thirds.  Photos have more impact when the composition “breaks up the space within the frame into any combination of thirds” (Bryan Peterson, Learning to See Creatively).   The handler and dog take up two-thirds of the picture. The right side third gives the dog some place to go, which enhances the feeling of movement.  In the photo on top with the wider view, the handler and dog are right in the center.  When I look at the photo my eye is drawn to the right and left before it settles in on the center.  Also, there is neither drama of seeing the expressions up close nor a real feeling of action or movement.

Next time, try zooming in on your subject keeping the Rule of Thirds in mind.  Admittedly, in Schutzhund photography, it’s tricky as the action doesn’t necessarily stay in the frame just where you want it.  Dogs and handlers are pesky; they like to keep on moving.  In those instances, some well-placed cropping can do wonders, as shown in these examples.

Bryan Peterson’s books: Learning to See Creatively, Understanding Shutter Speed, Understanding Exposure, and Understanding Photography Field Guide are all available on Amazon.  I recommend them.  They are helping me understand the science behind photography, which is enhancing my artistry.  They are becoming essential guides as I’m learning to use my new Canon EOS 7D.

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