Archive for April, 2011

For those of you who had the pleasure of attending this year’s AWDF Championship and Team Challenge in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you would have seen a familiar figure up and down the sidelines snapping photographs of all the competitors. Betty Lindblom, of 5 Dogs Photography, is (in this photographer’s humble opinion) the master of Schutzhund photography. As we wrap up the series on Composing the Shot, it is well worth the time to view a video of some of her best shots, as well as visit Betty’s website to view the galleries of the more than 100 competitors at this event. Part 2 of Betty’s AWDF 2011 highlights has just been posted on YouTube.  Check it out!  You will see examples of many of the things addressed in the Composing the Shots series, including many of the challenges Schutzhund photographers face every day, which sometimes can be dealt with and sometimes not. Betty always makes the best of any situation!

As Betty has posted parts 1 and 2 of the video on Facebook and YouTube, many of you may have already seen it. But watch it again, this time with an eye towards composition and managing the often difficult lighting conditions. Also notice how she crops the photos to make the best of competition field with many visual distractions. Both Betty and Shelly Timmerman (of Shellshots Photography, the official videographer of the event) deserve a standing ovation for their efforts. They both work tirelessly at 12 to 14 hour stretches with no breaks. Thank you.

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The 2011 AWDF National Championship in Bowling Green, Kentucky was a marvelous event, with more than 100 handler / dog teams competing. While I am a German Shepherd Dog enthusiast, I greatly admire the work of other breeds such as the Belgian Malinois, Rottweilers, American Bull Dogs, Giant Schnauzers and others that were represented at the AWDF this year. I must admit that when it comes to photographing Schutzhund dogs at work I have a real fondness for Mals, not because of their work, which is a joy to watch, but for the color of their coats. They always look good, regardless of the lighting, which at this year’s AWDF was a real challenge. One day cloudy, the next day a mix of sun and clouds, the final day a spit of rain here and there, sun, clouds, wind and dust. Also, the lighting changed dramatically from one side of the field to the other. Yes, a great blog topic!

In the meantime, above are some of my favorite pictures from this year’s AWDF. Next post will finish up the series on Composing the Shot, with a look at the long bite (courage test). After that, a closer look at how to meet the challenge of difficult lighting conditions and come out with great photos.

Be sure to visit Betty Lindblom’s 5 Dog Photography website to see her photos from the AWDF. She was the official event photographer, and while there were a number of photographers at the AWDF with great equipment, Betty offers a unique perspective by being on the field and have a real eye for the sport. Her photos are superb and exceptional examples of the Art of Schutzhund Photography!

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This post is a follow on to the last post on composing photos of the helper (decoy) driving the dog and putting the dog in the pocket. As this is one of the most action packed part of the protection routine, it also offers excellent opportunities to examine photos for composition problems and how to fix those problems. As noted in the previous post, many composition problems can be fixed during the photo shoot by just being aware of them and then setting up your shots to avoid them. Sometimes, though, the action happens too fast, so the fixes must wait until later. That’s why photo imaging editing programs were invented. The ones I use are Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS 5. I do as much as I can in Lightroom and save Photoshop for targeting small parts of an image that may need adjusting. The following photos offer some examples.

The images above illustrate the importance of eyes. Ben Willmore emphasized in his Kelby Training seminar, Photography & Photoshop CS5, that the eyes always connect. The examples he showed were of people looking at the camera. In Schutzhund, this powerful connection is best demonstrated between the helper and the dog. It is here that the battle is joined and the real drama of the protection routine is played out. Capture this and you will have dramatic photos indeed.

One thing to watch out for during the drives is a blind showing up in an odd place. While the image above shows the connection between the dog and helper, it looks as if the blind is growing out of the helper’s back. We know that it is not so, but to the untrained eye – someone who is not familiar with Schutzhund – their attention will be on what is that thing behind the helper, rather the focusing on the drama of the helper driving the dog.

The top photo above shows several composition problems that were resolved with cropping. Notice the jump, the long line and how the photograph tilts a bit to the left. Also, notice how the top of the photograph seems to be cut off and the bottom is not. Now look at the bottom photo. Ben mentioned that an effective composition technique is to leave something to the viewer’s imagination. Taking Ben’s advice, this image is cropped to remove the distraction of the jump, bring the action closer to viewer and not show all of the helper – let the viewer complete the picture. The long line also was edited out as it makes for a cleaner picture. During cropping, the tilt to the left was corrected. Recall in the last post, that lines in an image are important – they must line up with edge (as in the case of the shelter post) and the horizon needs to be straight. Otherwise, it looks like the helper may tumble down the slope or the viewers’ eyes may slip off the image to the left – neither a good outcome.

The image above addresses another point made at the seminar and that is the center of the image is often dead space, but in this photo the helper and dog in the pocket is more dramatic dead center. Notice, however, that the helper and the dog’s faces are not dead center. The reason for the concern about the center of an image is people tend to look to the top left or the top right first before going to the center. See an earlier post on the Rule of Thirds. Viewers can lose interest if they are not quickly drawn into the image.

The image above illustrates the power of isolating a particular part of a photo and cropping in. When shooting static images, such as landscapes, portraits or architecture, it is easier to do this at the time of the shoot. In Schutzhund, my experience is sometimes it is better to pull back and then crop in later. As noted above, it also leaves the viewer to complete the picture, as the rest of the picture really isn’t the point of this image. The point is the dog’s expression. This fellow just can’t wait to get the bite and is waiting on pins and needles for the helper to twitch.

This post concludes with one of my favorite shots of the drives from the SE Regionals. The next post will wrap up the series on composing photos of the Schutzhund obedience and protection exercises with the long bite also known as the courage test. I will be at the AWDF National Championship, so the post most likely will be published after we return – a couple of weeks.  Thanks for visiting!!

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