Archive for January, 2011

With the start of the new year, seems like a good time to get back to discussing how to compose shots that dramatically capture the action during a Schutzhund routine. The next series of posts will focus on the Protection routine. First up – the blind search.

The blind search is a challenge to capture as the dog and handler are in constant motion moving down the field. There are many vantage points from which to take great shots, but you can’t be in all places at once. If you are taking pictures during training, there will be many more opportunities to move around and take photos from different angles. During trials, photographers – even the event’s official photographer – are usually asked not to be on the field to avoid distracting the dogs. Photographers on the side lines should also consider their position to minimize distractions. Suggest finding a spot in the stands where you can zoom into the action rather than being on top of it. If you’re at a club trial, try to position yourself so you are not directly in the line of sight of the dog.

As with the obedience exercises, it really helps to know the routine and to analyze your best vantage point for the shots you are trying to capture. As noted in earlier posts, consider the position of the sun and the background. Also, watch where the judge and trial secretary set up so your are not blocked from getting that perfect shot. If you’re at a trial, watch a couple of teams and see how they move down the field as well as how the judge and trial secretary move. Chances are the judge and trial secretary will take up similar positions for each dog / handler team. Also note whether the blind search is right-to-left or left-to-right. In addition to the dog and handler moving down the field, there are three other key elements, including the dog actually searching each blind (judges want to see the dog looking in each blind), how tightly the dog runs around each blind, and the interplay between the dog and handler as the handler directs the dog downfield.

The real trick to getting great shots is to decide just what you want to capture: the release to the first blind, the dog searching the blind, the tightness of around each blind or the handler directing the dog. For example, to get shots of the dog moving across the field in front of the handler and the handler directing the dog to the next blind, set up at the end of the field or maybe at a slight angle. A lot depends on the power of your zoom. If your goal is to capture the release to Blind 1, try moving closer to that end of the field where you can zoom in on handler and dog team. As the dog and handler move down the field, this is one instance where following the dog is your best bet, if you want the dog in focus. If you want the handler in focus, then track the handler.

If your interest is the dog looking into each blind, then pick a blind and track the dogs as h/she come into the blind and then leaves again. Consider varying your position from standing where you are looking down at the dog to getting down closer to the dog’s level. If you are like me and don’t have the best knees, use a beach chair! Of course, you have to find a spot where you’re not photographing through a fence, which is often tricky. Easier to do during training than at trials.

Another consideration is whether to focus in tightly while you’re shooting or crop in later. Again, it depends, but if you’re trying to capture the emotion and expression of the dogs and handlers, you will have to focus in. Not easy, I know, but give it a try – you won’t be disappointed. Also, I strongly recommend that if you’re camera has a burst mode, where you can shoot continuously, use it! It’s very hard to snap the shot at just the right moment. You will have better luck with the burst mode.

The slideshow below shows examples of photographs I’ve taken over the years of the blind search. Note: WordPress publishes all the photos associated with a particular post into the slideshow, so there is some duplication with the images above. Sorry about that.

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While I’m happy with some of the images I’ve taken, I’ve yet to master photographing this exercise. So, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the shots you want right away. Except for perhaps the courage test, the blind search is the hardest protection exercise to shoot. It takes practice and an element of luck. Happy shooting! Let me know if you have any questions or share your ideas. Also, I would love to see examples of your work!

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This next segment in a series of interviews with accomplished Schutzhund photographers features Vahneesa (Vinnie) Norberg.  Vinnie grew up in suburbia where she inherited not only a love of nature and animals from her father but also a love of art and creativity from her mother.  In 2003 she opened a small freelance photography studio in rural Minnesota under the name of Black Dog’s Photographer in honor of her dog who had been the subject of many of her photographs. He is considered the CEO (Canine Executive Officer) of Vinnie’s business.  In the beginning, Vinnie did portraits and freelance photography.  Eventually, she dropped the portrait end of her business to focus exclusively on freelance work, which allows her the freedom in photography that she truly enjoys. Vinnie is a probationary club member with St. Croix Valley Schutzhund Verein in east central Minnesota and intends to become a full club member in the spring of 2011.  To see more of Vinnie’s work, visit her photo blog.

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

About a month after getting involved in Schutzhund training, a fellow club member asked if anyone knew how to take pictures.  No one else volunteered, so I offered.  I explained that I was a nature and still life photographer and had done some portrait work but had little to no experience in sports or action photography but would give it a try.  I was handed his camera and shot a round of tracking photos for him.  He was happy with the photos I took, so I asked if I could bring my own camera the following week and take pictures for everyone.  I was looking to gain a little experience photographing action shots and an additional avenue in which to learn more about Schutzhund.  I thought of it also as a way to contribute something back to the club members who were so willing to share their knowledge with me.

I have to give credit to my club members and friends for inspiring me to continue to take pictures week after week.  Not only do they continually enjoy my photographs, but they also challenge me, give me helpful suggestions, new ideas and they share my work with others.  Even when I think I’ve had a bad day, they are still thrilled with the photographs I’ve taken.

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

I started in photography while I was in high school in the 1980s, back in the days of film.  I first took an elective course with a phenomenal teacher, Mr. Newhouse, whom I remain in contact with to this day.  After taking this course and with Mr. Newhouse’s encouragement, I joined the high school yearbook staff as a photographer. I have continued to enjoy photography ever since.

I have taken photographs for friends at local trials and a regional trial, but I mostly enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere of Schutzhund training.  I honestly am not sure that I’d want to do any big events as the paid photographer in the future, but I’m always more than happy to tag along with friends and photograph their dogs competing at trials.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

For me it’s twofold:  One. I try to capture the true dog: the beauty, strength, determination, focus, power and pride of the dog. Two. I hope to take photographs that people can learn something from whether it’s the dog’s owner seeing their dog progress or an outsider gaining a better understanding of Schutzhund; sort of like documentary photography.

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?

I use a very old digital camera body, a Minolta Maxxum 7D.  I’ve grown really attached to the old gal, and I really dread the day I have to give her up.  So I guess you could say the camera body is my favorite piece of equipment I own. After all without the body, the lens is pretty much useless.  I have several different lenses, but mostly use the 70 – 200mm f2.8 zoom with a circular polarizer for outdoor shooting and a 35 – 80mm for indoor.

A must have? A good padded shoulder strap for carrying around that brick of a camera is nice, but seriously I don’t think it’s necessarily a piece of equipment but rather an understanding of Schutzhund that is a must have.  If you don’t really understand the training, sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.

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?

I’m always looking for something that’s new and different maybe with a bit of fun or humor.  I guess I’d say this is my favorite and the most challenging for me.  I don’t want just the standard same ole same ole serious Schutzhund photographs.  I want ones that really capture the spirit and attitude of the team and that haven’t been seen before.  That’s why I really liked the recent post on “Using Aperture and Shutter Speed Settings Creatively.”  This posts talks about some of the ways I tackle something new; for example, just experimenting with aperture and shutter speeds can result in some really unique shots.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?

Enjoy yourself.  Be original.  You don’t have to take the same picture as everyone else to be good, and you don’t need the most expensive equipment.  Use your own vision and show the world the amazing sites you see.

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Happy New Year!  Thank you so much for visiting my blog and your encouragement.  I hope you have found the posts helpful and fun to read.  The blog topped 6,000 visits by the end of 2010!  I am thrilled – thank you! I thought you might be interested in an e-mail WordPress.com sent me with overall 2010 site stats – see below.

Thank you again to all visitors and to those who have contributed to the In Their Own Words series.  Speaking of which, next week I will be posting a new installment of In Their Own Words, featuring Vahneesa Norberg from Minnesota.  Don’t know Vinnie? Well, check back this week and learn more about her and her inspiration for Schutzhund photography.

High Level Summary from WordPress.com

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

By the numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 33 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 55 posts. There were 121 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 8mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 20th with 82 views. The most popular post that day was The Art of Schutzhund Photography in Their Own Words: Yvette Woodward. (Way to go Yvette!)

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, ifreestores.com, en.wordpress.com, bjspanos.com, and icreditcard.biz.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for t floyd summer camp, schutzhund, rule of thirds, schutzhund photography, and t floyd.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


The Art of Schutzhund Photography in Their Own Words: Yvette Woodward January 2010


T. Floyd’s Youth Schutzhund Summer Camp: Investing in the Future of Dog Sport April 2010


Schutzhund Photo Gallery May 2009


Polarizer, Neutral Density Filters: Two Options for Reducing Glare and Reflection – Part 1 March 2010


T. Floyd’s Youth Schutzhund Summer Camp – Adventures in Photography July 2010

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