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Archive for June, 2011

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This next segment in a series of interviews with accomplished Schutzhund photographers features Greg Lanoue. Greg has been involved in Schutzhund with his dog Akudra for approximately one year (Akudra is the first image in the slide show). She is his first sport dog in what he hopes to be a very long line of them. It is through working with her and the two clubs that he is a part of that he has learned more about having a relationship and closeness with his dog that he never knew before. Despite having a pretty exciting job as a police officer, Greg finds that he often gets more excited and more personal satisfaction from working with his dog than a lot of other aspects in his life. Photography has been an on going interest of his that laid dormant for many years for a variety of reasons, but it was with the addition of Akudra and Schutzhund that photography has once again become a passion for me. His website – Lil Monster Photography is his pride and joy right now, as it displays a lot of his work and interest.

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

I have always had a passion for photography, but couldn’t really find a subject that I enjoyed enough to really want to spend some time learning how to shoot in the best possible way while staying excited about what I was capturing. After being introduced to the sport of Schutzhund a little over a year ago I found my subject!  For me the excitement comes from many angles. First, I enjoy seeing the bond between handler and dog, which often comes through in the pictures. Second, the power and precision that the dogs display during the protection phase frequently stuns me. Time and time again, I return to photos that I’ve taken (and those of others) and just marvel at how tenacious the dogs are within their own right and how happy they are while doing their job. Third, I find satisfaction in knowing (and hoping at the same time) that I can reach the same level with my dog and have the same type of relationship (on and off the field) that many of these teams have.

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

I’ve been doing photography for almost 20 years. I started back in high school with some introduction classes, and I haven’t really stopped since. I did find, however, that I faded a little from photography when life either got too busy (college) or there wasn’t a consistent interest where photography seemed rewarding. Schutzhund has definitely re-ignited that interest. Along with shooting a few club trials for the members of Southern New Hampshire Working Dog Club and members of the New England Working Dog Club, I have shot my sister-in-law’s wedding and continue to be a shutter junkie while on vacations (two stunning examples appear as the last two images in the slide show – bjs). In the future, I hope to do some private shoots, as well as continuing my love for shooting club training days and events.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

Schutzhund photography should be one that shows the power of the dog and the relationship with the handler. It needs to be technically clean from both a sport and photography standpoint. That being said, I also believe in having fun with the photos and giving people some different looks that may not traditionally be seen in Schutzhund photography. The use of black and white, sepia, and desaturation of different parts of the photo, as well as playing with the clarity pre-processing, makes the pictures in my eyes more appealing than simply looking at a flat color picture. I believe the pictures should reflect just how exciting and dynamic the sport is.

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?

Currently I shoot with a Canon 40D with my favorite lens, a fixed 60mm f2.8 IS prime lens, attached. While it does not have any zoom, this lens provides me with the shutter speeds I need to freeze extremely fast actions, such as barking, strikes, and running. Along with this lens, I also have a Canon IS 70mm – 300mm zoom lens, which comes in handy on trial days when I don’t have the freedom of walking on the field. While not nearly as fast, a good zoom lens is imperative in Schutzhund photography in order to save yourself from doing a lot or pre-process cropping, which can often times result in lower quality pictures. Some of the best pictures I’ve captured with this zoom lens include dogs running blinds, long bites, and back transports.

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 type of picture is the one that comes out  (LOL)!  Seriously, it’s the one that while sifting through the 1,000 to 2,000 photos of the day on the computer my jaw drops, and I wonder who picked up my camera and managed to catch that moment. I, like many Schutzhund photographers, subscribe to the method of quality by quantity and then improving quality pre-processing. Moments in Schutzhund happen so fast that it’s nearly impossible to just pick up a camera without knowing the sport and expect to get some great pictures. You have to know where to stand, what’s going to happen (or at least what SHOULD be happening), what direction the dog is going to go in, which way the helper is going to run…all the while thinking about where you are in relation to the sun and whether or not your shutter speed is going to be fast enough to catch the very second before the dog latches onto the sleeve or the dog apexes the wall or comes over the jump while holding the dumb bell. Schutzhund is a sport that even if it’s raining, the training or trial isn’t canceled and thus poses significant challenges to the photographer trying to catch high-speed photos with very little workable light. It’s through the use of better equipment, faster lenses, higher ISOs, and pre-processing that these photos can still manage to be fun to take and look at later.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?

I’m only beginning, but my advice to anyone is to learn the sport before trying to shoot it.  Because with knowing what is going to happen comes the knowledge of where to stand, what to expect, and what is a technically sound picture of dogs doing well in their sport.  Last, try new ways of taking the photos (from the hip, laying down – when safe) and processing the photos with a certain creative flair, but most important, have fun with it!!

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Within the past couple of days, the number of visits to this blog has topped 10,000!  In the grand scale of the blogosphere, this may not sound like such a big deal. But considering how close-knit and small the Schutzhund community is, I am thrilled and consider it a very important milestone!

Thank you to my readers for your support and visits. Also, thank you to the Schutzhund photographers who have been interviewed and to commenters for your insights and encouragement. I am delighted that you find these posts helpful. As with Schutzhund (Dog Sport), so it is with photographing these marvelous dogs – a team effort. We learn from each other, and Schutzhund photography has advanced towards becoming an art form in its own right as a result.

χρονια πολλα (chronia polla)  That’s a Greek expression meaning “many years.” It is used as a wish for a long life and many more happy years. That is my wish for this blog and for all of us in Schutzhund. May we have many more happy years of fun and enjoyment with our dogs, our cameras and each other!!

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Recently, a good friend of mine told me about a disturbing event. Someone had made unauthorized screen shots of photos from her SmugMug site. She had taken the necessary precautions by posting copyright protection notices and disabling the right-click method of copying / downloading photographs. This person bypassed these security measures and used screen shots to gain access to the photos anyway and then posted them to his Facebook account. Facebook takes copyright very seriously and after being notified of this person’s unethical conduct removed the photos from his account. Compliments to Facebook. But, that is not the point!  The point is the copyright protection is no joke.

It is not uncommon for people to copy/download photos from the Internet for personal use, thinking that it is perfectly legal. Technically it isn’t, unless the owner’s expressly gives permission and/or provides for free downloads or copies. The Board of Directors of the American Society of Media Photographers, the Professional Photographers of America, Photo Marketing Association International (PMAI), the Association of Professional Color Imagers, the Professional School Photographers Association International and the Coalition for Consumers’ Picture Rights, have adopted guidelines about copyright practice for members of the photo industry. They are reprinted on the Kodak website, with PMAI’s permission. I urge you to read them. The following offers a very brief quote from these guidelines about what copyright protections are extended to photographers and their work:

“The US Constitution and the Federal Copyright Act gives ‘copyright’ protection to ‘authors’ for their ‘original works,’ such as photographs. Among the protections that copyright owners have are the exclusive rights to:

  1. Make copies of the work
  2. Prepare other works based on the original
  3. Distribute copies of the work to the public by sales, rental, lease, or lending
  4. To publicly perform and display the work.

These rights are protected by laws which provide for damages and criminal penalties for violations. Both the customer and the lab are subject to the law…The law says the ‘author’ is the owner of the copyright. The author of a photo or image is usually the person who snapped the shutter or created the image.”

What does this mean to Schutzhund photographers? It means your work is protected, but you also are responsible for educating those who view or may want copies of your photos about copyright laws, and being clear about what rights you may wish to extend to them for the use of your photos and whether your signature (copyright) on the photos should remain visible. I have run into problems by not being clear with clients, for which I have taken full responsibility. Even so, relationships have been damaged. Don’t make this same mistake!  Following these few steps will save you a world of hurt later on:

  • Get educated and educate clients, friends, family and colleagues about copyright
  • Be clear about what rights you will extend to them for the use of your photographs – put it in writing!
  • Be sure to get proper release forms signed, if applicable to your photo shoot
  • Be sure you know what, when, where and of whom it is legal to take pictures and whether or not you need permission – Wikipedia has a good summary
  • Respect copyrights of others and encourage others to do the same

Next up: An interview with Schutzhund photographer Greg Lanoue.

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