Archive for October, 2010

The photo above is by far one of my all time favorite Schutzhund photos.  It is, of course, of the “Send Out”, the very last exercise in the Schutzhund Obedience routine.  I took this photo at the 2006 American Working Dog Federation (AWDF) championship in Gasden, Alabama, with a Canon Rebel XT and a Canon 100 – 400 mm – F/4.5 – 5.6 EF IS lens.  What I like about the photo is it shows the send out, plus the other competitor attending to his dog, thus showing the entire story of what is happening on the Schutzhund field during this exercise.  And – yes – this photo is in The Sport of Schutzhund: A Photographic Essay.

As I advised in previous posts, it is better to position yourself at an angle to the action so the picture will not appear flat but have some depth. That is true in this instance, also, as positioning yourself  slightly ahead of the action is a great choice that will achieve this goal. But, the send out also is an exception to this rule and benefits from a more direct, straight on shot. Try to position yourself on the dog side so you can capture the exact moment h/she reacts to the command. If you position yourself too far ahead of the action, you might miss the dog and handler’s expressions and the dog starting to run out right next to the handler. If you position yourself behind the dog and handler, it is likely all you will see is their backs – not very dramatic. Another interesting perspective is to stand at the far end of the field near to where the dog will down and photographic the dog running and catch the moment the dog goes down. In this instance, I advise panning from your right to your left, using burst mode to be sure to photograph the dog as h/she reacts, turns around (as most dogs do) and goes down.

One other thing – at trial, be sure to position yourself so the judge is not in the way. This is where knowing the routine will help, as you will be able to anticipate when the handler will release the dog to run out and be able to avoid the judge’s back. Takes a little trial and error, if you’ll pardon the pun, to figure out just the right place to stand, but the practice is well worth the effort. And, hopefully, the judge will stand in approximately the same place for all the competitors. During training, of course, your options are less limited, but then again, watch out for fellow dog handlers on the field who may be watching. They have an uncanny ability to get in between the you, the photographer, and the shot. In these instances, I nicely – but firmly – asked them to MOVE!

What works best for you? Please share your ideas and experiences!

Next post will be after we return from the USA National Schutzhund Championship (Nov. 5 -7) and the Central Alabama Schutzhund Club trial (Nov. 13), where several of our fellow club members are showing. My husband, Peter, is competing with Leroy v. Rietnisse (Eli) at the Nationals. Our best wishes to those competing at the Nationals and at the CASC trial for safe travels and great trials!!  As a good friend of mine says, “No matter what happens, it’s all good!”

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As with the the out of motion exercises, the retrieves are also among the most photographed of all the obedience exercises and also among the most difficult to get just the right shot. How many times have you tried to photograph a dark sable or black dog jumping over a lightly colored or white jump or scaling wall while the sun gleams brightly, causing an intense glare on the white surfaces? Do you try to set the exposure for the wall and jump or for the dog? Or, do you set the exposure for the dog and not worry too much about the jump and wall? Or, do you set the shutter speed and let the camera figure out the exposure? What about the field, which can strongly reflect sunlight, especially early in the morning when the grass is covered in dew or midday when the sun directly overhead?
With still photography; that is, objects that are not moving, photographers can use a bracketing method whereby they take the same picture at slightly different exposure settings and then blend the photos together using a photo editing software program, such as Photoshop. But with Schutzhund, there is no time to reset the camera as the dog will be there and back again before the first setting can be changed.  What is a photographer to do?

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Here are a few techniques that have worked well for me over the years. The slide show above shows examples of these techniques.
Decide what effect you are after and set the camera to achieve that effect. For example, at the WUSV in 2008, I took a number of photos of the jump and scaling wall early one morning. The wall / jump were back lit by the sun, which meant I was shooting into the sun. The reflection of the sun caused a silhouette effect and highlighted the dew on the grass. As I recall, I set the camera for the shutter speed to capture the action in focus and allowed the camera to set the aperture. I also played with the ISO setting a bit to balance the bright light from the sun’s reflection with the dogs, jump and wall.
Photograph from different angles relative to running on the flat and the jump / wall. There are many opportunities to capture different perspectives by moving around as much as you are able. If you can, avoid positioning yourself straight on such that you get only a side view of the jump. This will yield flat and less exciting images. Photographing at a slight angle gives the impression of depth and emphasizes the action.
Go for the close up. There are about a zillion photos around of dogs going over the jump and wall. Try looking for unique pictures that show the dog’s emotion as h/she runs out on the flat retrieve or goes over the jump / wall, picks up the dumbbell and happily returns. Focus in on the dog’s eyes. Depending on the dog, many interesting and fun moments may be captured as well as some really great expressions. Of course, the trick is to watch how the dog moves to be sure you can photograph the dog’s face. This also is where editing software can really help as it allows you to take a wider photograph and crop in. If you are going for the close up, set the aperture to blur the background.
Follow the dog. In my experience, keep the focus on the dog works pretty well. Some photographers like to focus on where the dog will enter the frame, and it may work very well for those who are experienced with this technique. It also may be a viable technique if you are going for close up of the dog just coming over the wall. I just have not had a lot of success with this technique, so prefer to follow the dog and burst shoot as the dog goes out and comes back.
Do you have any ideas or favorite techniques for photographing the retrieves?  If so, please share them.

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