Archive for June, 2010

Pardon the sidebar from my usual posts, but wanted to share some good news.  The Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Club held Board of Directors elections on Saturday, June 26th:

  • Peter Spanos – President
  • Stefan Mannsbart – Vice President
  • Larry Hodge – Treasurer
  • Tracy Schaeffer – Secretary
  • Fabian Walker – Training Director
  • Gary McGillivary – Member at Large
  • Ashely Barrientos – Ex Officio (property owner on which our club field sits)

Our helpers are Mitchell Walker, Mark Patillo and Fabian Walker. BJ Spanos (that’s me!) was appointed webmaster.

The Board has a lot of energy and great ideas, including a complete redo of the GASA website and to become more active at the regional (Southeast Region) and national levels of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America.  Our club members also shared some excellent ideas at the meeting.

The Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Club is an all breed club that is dedicated to providing excellent quality training for all levels of dogs and handlers.  We are a family club and have not only individual memberships but also family memberships. We welcome new members and those new to Schutzhund who would like to visit and see what Schutzhund is all about.

Next post will be in mid-July due to travel and work deadlines!  Thank you for visiting and your encouragement!

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Flip Finish

Left About Turn

Among the least photographed elements in any Schutzhund obedience routine, whether at trial or in practice, are the about turns and finishes, yet they can yield some very interesting and dramatic character studies of a dog at work, as noted in the above photographs. In the previous post, there also is a great shot of a left about turn. Here’s where planning ahead can really help capture just the right moment.

These turns happen pretty quick, so there often is not enough time to set up and get the shot on the fly. These sketches can help you plan your attack, including determining what you are interested in photographing and the best position to get that shot. Be aware of the type of turn the handler will ask the dog to execute as that can make a big difference in how you set up for the shot. Also, be aware of the sun and any background distractions. On the other hand, look for background elements – like the blind in the left about turn photo above – that can add some interest and perspective. In my experience, it is best to shoot these pictures very tight to get as much detail as possible, especially if the dog’s expression is your main goal.

Speaking of taking tight shots, I will close this post with some great advice from Scott Burns at PhotoFocus, an online photography magazine:

Your images should be direct and to the point. When in doubt, leave it out. Think about making your photographic point and moving on. When you’re about to make your next photograph, ask yourself if you’re being visually brief. If not, put your back into it and decide what you can do without.”

Next Up:  Out of motion exercises – among the most photographed elements of the obedience routine. This post will look at how to get photos that are distinctive and different.

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Using the three tips offered in the previous post, let’s take a closer look at the heeling pattern and how analyzing the pattern can improve picture composition and increase your chances of capturing high quality photos.  The image above was taken by Betty Lindblom of 5 Dogs Photography.

Survey the Field, Decide What to Shoot and Position Yourself for the Best Shots: Where you position yourself depends largely on how the field is set up, whether you are at a club or stadium field, the location of the sun and the time of day. Also, as noted in the earlier post, be aware of potential background distractions and keep your back to the sun, if you can. The best time of day to shoot pictures is early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are horizontal to the field and the light is warmer and not as harsh as midday. Training days on club fields are a great chance to practice and try out different vantage points. At trials, available vantage points may be limited, especially at regional and national events.

The schematic shows the three best vantage points for capturing the various parts of the heeling pattern. The vantage point I use most often is the one to the right and at the center of the field. From here, you can move up and down the field, shoot the heeling going out, the about turns, the fast and slow heeling and the group. If you are particularly interested in the about turns, the position at the upper left provides interesting perspectives on both about turns. The position at the lower left allows you to shoot the dog / handler team coming straight at you and also is a great place to capture the left turn on the way to the group. From here, you also can easily move closer to the group and get the start position from both sides of the team.

Analyze the Pattern, Anticipate the Action: Schutzhund is a sport of moments – whether you are training a dog or taking pictures. Thus, it is very important to be able to anticipate the action you want to capture, which takes patience, practice and a careful eye. Studying this schematic will give you a good idea of what happens when. The first leg of the heeling pattern is 50 steps. After the first about turn, the handler goes 10 to 15 steps, then 10 to 15 steps fast heeling, then 10 to 15 steps slow heeling and then 10 to 15 steps normal pace before the right turn to begin the “L” of the pattern. After the next right turn, the team goes about 10 steps before the next about turn and then the team stops after about 5 steps with the dog sitting by the handler’s side. Remember that the team must make a left turn going into the group and do a figure-8 around two group members, which two is entirely up to the handler and then the team must stop and the dog sits by the handler’s side. The team does not have to stop very close to a group member, just somewhere in the group. Knowing all this will help you anticipate the action, but you must also carefully watch dogs and handlers train and their performances during trials to really learn the routine inside and out.

At home fields, watch fellow club members work their dogs and get to know them and their routines, which will give you insights into what are best shots for this particular dog / handler team and where to set up. For example, some dogs have really marvelous head positions, while others have snappier about turns or are extremely attentive during the fast / slow heeling. Unless you are shooting an entire event, you can be choosy about which parts of the heeling pattern you photograph for each dog / handler team. At trials where you may not be as familiar with the dogs and handlers, watch the first few teams to get a sense of how they move on the field and adjust accordingly. Pay attention to details – the look on the handler’s and dog’s faces, how they move, when does the handler reward the dog with the ball and the dog’s reactions and be ready for the unexpected. Some of the best photos are those that are completely unplanned and just happen.

Composition Basics, Tracking the Dog: As noted in earlier posts, different photographers have different ideas of how best to compose shots. Is it better to fill the frame with the action or take a wider shot and crop? Is it better to pre-focus on the area where the dog / handler team will enter the frame or track the team? With respect to filling the frame or taking wider shots, I prefer to fill the frame. Unless you are zooming in real close, be sure to leave some place for the dog / handler team to go. In other words, divide your frame into thirds, with the dog / handler team filling two-thirds of the frame and the last third free so the team has some place to go. Experience also has taught me to follow the dog.

The following pictures show examples of heeling shots from different vantage points. The second photo was taken by Betty Lindblom of 5 Dogs Photography. Each photo captures not only the action, but also the emotion on the dog and handler’s face. Each photo tells a story of that particular moment. The first one is good example of using the rule of thirds. The second one is composed to frame the dog / handler team with the blind.  The third is not as well composed for the rule of thirds, but shows the dog’s joy in the work. The goal with the about turn photo was to focus in close on the turn and not to detract from the moment with extra real estate. While rules are great guides, use your creativity and let the moment inspire you.

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