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Archive for January, 2010

One of our local weather guys commented awhile back that droughts often end with floods.  Boy – he wasn’t kidding!  Seems like every time I venture out to take photos and learn more about my new Canon EOS 7D, it rains or is so cold, I can’t stand to be without gloves. I’m not talented enough to work all the little gizmos and dials on my camera with gloves on.

Other days, it has been so dark and gloomy that to get the right exposure, I’ve had to bump up the ISO very high. Problem is the shutter speed then needs to be very slow to allow in enough light, which doesn’t work well for stopping the action.  All in all, not a good combination for capturing Schutzhund dogs doing what they do best – moving very fast!

The weather today in the Atlanta area (Saturday, January 30th) didn’t disappoint (I say facetiously) – rain and 34 degrees.  Good grief!!  Okay, okay – we could have received snow and ice like the Carolinas and Virginia, but still!  So, what’s a person to do when the weather refuses to cooperate on weekend training days? Conquer Photoshop, of course!!

I’ve been fiddling around with Photoshop for several years, and even have taken a few of Scott Kelby’s (Kelby Training and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals) trainings – very helpful – but haven’t had the time to really master even the basics of the program.  I am pleased to report that today I mastered the clone stamp tool.  Yippee!!

As many of you know, this tool is very handy for getting rid of unwanted things in a photograph. At the end of this post is a before and after picture of two puppies wrestling that I’m particularly proud of.  I must admit, I’ve gone a little wild and spent the day doing away with all sorts of annoying things, such as people, power lines, dumpsters, leashes, collars – you name it – it if was in the way of the action – zap! Gone! What power! What excitement!

I also learned out how to copy an eye from one photo and paste it into another photo (see below).  I took a series of pictures of Fila doing a hold and bark.  At one point, her eyes rolled back into her head (yuk!).  In the series, though, was another photo with her eye and head at the same angle as the “just the whites of her eyes” photo.  Using the selection tool, I was able to copy and paste her eye from one photo to the next.  And, yes, I used to clone stamp tool to do some fine tuning.  Pretty cool!

For all of you buried in the snow and ice, stay warm, stay safe!  Thank you for visiting, and may the weather clear soon for all of us, so we can get back to what we enjoy most – snapping pictures of our fearless, furry friends.

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This is the third post in 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.  My apologies for not posting on Friday or Saturday!  Thank you for your patience and understanding – time got away from me.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?

The hunter needs the right tools for the job.  I am now a believer in the power of a good lens – there is no substitute.  Skimp on the camera body, but save your allowance for as good of a lens as you can afford.  Start cheap and convince yourself that you have reached the level of your competence.  Once you realize your limitations are in the equipment instead of your own technique then you will feel satisfied that you are making a wise investment when you upgrade.

Be mindful of who you share your photos with.  Any photographer snapping photos of dogs working on the side of the field is likely to be swarmed by the handlers asking for “just a few nice pictures.”  Unfortunately, regardless of the nuances of intellectual property law, the bottom line is that once you have released your photos to someone else, they are no longer under your control.  The photos you take, the good and the bad alike, may turn up posted on the internet just about anywhere.

A formative example for me came a few years ago at a training seminar when a lady showed up with her aspiring brood bitch, a white-footed nerve bag whose only redeeming value was her prey drive.  During the obedience work she slunk alongside her handler like a shy alley cat.  Only during the prey work with a rag did she show some forward behavior.  I captured some photos of the dog lunging at the rag on a string and thought nothing at the time of sharing the photos with the grateful handler.  Much to my chagrin I saw my photos splashed across a popular German Shepherd dog (GSD) internet forum in an advertisement for puppies from this dog that never should have been bred.  Through bluff and bluster I managed to persuade the lady to remove the photos that I had taken from the internet ad and from her website, but this was admittedly sheer luck.  Happily the story has a happy ending, as the dog was only bred once and later rescued by a kind soul once the owner realized that perhaps breeding untitled dogs did not make for a good source of income.

Finally, remember that capturing a golden moment in the image cannot be done well by merely “point and shoot.”  Amateurs will just point the camera and snap photo after photo in the hope that some of them might be worth keeping.  Pfui!  This way of thinking is akin to a hunter who believes that success will come from firing a maximum number of random bullets.  THINK about the image you are trying to capture!  Where must you be standing to achieve it?  What angle must the camera be pointed from?  Where is your ambient light source in relation to the action on the field?  ANALYZE the situation beforehand and PLAN your next move.  Good photos are created by the combination of the right location, timing, technique and equipment.  A little blessing from Lady Luck doesn’t hurt either.

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This is the second post in 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.  I will be posting Yvette’s interview in three parts: Part 1 was posted yesterday, Part 2 today, and Part 3 on Friday or Saturday.

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 – aspiring?

My camera body is a Canon Rebel XTi, a treasured Christmas present that my husband and parents pooled together their financial resources to buy for me.  My first purchased lens was a cheap compromise: a $150 Quantary with a good reach but an insufficient eyelid… I had plenty of “zoom” but not enough aperture to let in the light required.  For Christmas this year my first “real” lens:  a Sigma 70-200 f2.8 bought on-line for $700 and worth every penny.

Also a Christmas gift this year was a collapsing monopod, which is now also on my sine qua non list for Schtuzhund photography.  The heavy weight of the large Sigma lens would tire me out in no time, and the blur caused my fatigued arm shaking would be ruinous in the hunt for the perfect photo.

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

My favorite photos are from the protection phase, because this is the time where the power of the dog is most evident.  Protection photos are the most challenging of prey to hunt because of the speed that dog and helper move across the field.  The opportunity for photos of a lifetime may be presented with only an instant to snatch them up into the lens.

The most challenging quarry of all is the “attack on the dog out of motion”, which we Schutzhund fans lovingly refer to as the “courage test.”  To catch the dog completely in the air at the moment of launch, or the twist of the body as the helper takes the dog stick side or sleeve side, this is “the moment”!

To capture the courage test well is not an easy art to master.  I must guess at where on the field the helper and dog will merge, and I must position myself accordingly.  I do a lot of running up and down the side of the field, and this is a must to be in the “right place at the right time.”  A sense of timing is indispensible as the four frames per second that my camera and lens together can take may seem like a luxury, but in fact may be a “day late and a dollar short.”  Extraneous body movements can destroy an otherwise good shot so remind myself often to move fluidly but sparingly when I shoot.

Tune in tomorrow for the final installment of Yvette’s interview, in which she will offer tips for new and experienced photographers.

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This is the first post in 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.  I will be posting Yvette’s interview in three parts: Part 1 today, Part 2 tomorrow and Part 3 on Saturday.

Yvette Woodward is an avid amateur photographer.  She lives in Vienna, West Virginia, and trains with Sugar Run SchH Club, a newly formed United Schutzhund Clubs of America club.   You can view some of her pictures in the Art of Schutzhund Photography Gallery.  Yvette contributed photographs to the book, The Sport of Schutzhund: A Photographic Essay.

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

My first time behind a lens was with my first “real” Schutzhund dog in 2002, and my motivation at the time was just to document training and send photos as progress reports to the breeder who lived out of state.  Armed with a toy of a camera, a Kodak “Easyshare” bought on sale for $300 at the local electronics superstore, I first got the taste for the thrill of the “hunt.”  To me, Schutzhund photography is akin to hunting, and my prey is the “perfect shot,” where the dog is captured faithfully in the image – frozen in a moment of time that captures the emotion and intensity of the animal in full force.  Just as hunters may return home empty handed, I also often experienced the frustration of shooting hundreds of photos, which all looked terrible.  However, I never gave up and instead improved my tools and my skills.

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

My first attempt at serious photography came in 2004 when I first hiked the Grand Canyon.  Far from the hoards of sweaty tourists piling off the tour buses, my partner and I backpacked on remote and primitive trails in the canyon’s vast wilderness.  The sheer majesty of the place was overwhelming, and I had only my Kodak Easyshare with me to capture the journey of a lifetime.  When I returned from that epic adventure, my photos were sharper than my memory, and I learned the priceless value of the artistic photograph as a tool to preserve and cherish the emotion of the moment.  When I returned to hike the Grand Canyon again in 2009, I was better equipped with a Canon Rebel XTi .  The stock 18-55 mm lens did an admirable job with such a splendid and static subject as time-worn rock.  The improvement in the quality of the photographs is remarkable.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

The essence of Schutzhund photography is the capture of a fleeting instant:  a pose that a dog may strike for only a fraction of a second, the sense of movement in an otherwise static image, and most importantly the heart and intensity of the dog.  The eyes are the window to the soul, and the ideal photo of a Schutzhund dog working will show the eyes – the expression of the dog is vital to give context to the event frozen in the image.  What does the dog feel?  What is the reaction of the helper?  What is the handler thinking about?  These are questions that I aspire for my photos to answer as clearly as if they were in spoken word.

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