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Archive for November, 2012

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In an earlier post about perspective, the question was asked, “How low can you go?” In Schutzhund (IPO) photography, it’s a lot easier to go low than go high or wide, mostly because that is what is available as Schutzhund fields do not offer a wide variety of opportunities to stand on ladders and peer down on the dogs. Also, shooting wide often yields more field than anything else.

On the other hand, higher angles allow for the “surrounding environment to take on more prominence,” as described in Robert Hirsch’s book, Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age. The higher you go, the less important the subject in the overall image. Higher angles suggest “vulnerability, weakness or the harmlessness and/or openness of the subject.” Obviously, in Schutzhund or IPO, photographers do not want to show dogs as vulnerable, weak or harmless. On the other hand, it’s an interesting perspective in the protection work to see how much of the field the dog is asked to cover in the various attack exercises or the long bite.

Bird’s eye views are rarely available to Schutzhund photographers and are not the best choice as they can be “perplexing an disorienting to viewers…A bird’s eye view enables viewers to hover over the subject from a Divine perspective. A subject appears inconsequential, reinforcing the idea of fate or destiny – that something beyond the subject’s control is going to happen.”  The higher up, the less the action is apparent and the less impressive it becomes.

The same can be said for oblique angles, where the horizontal line is at a very odd angle or tilted to one side. As Robert Hirsch explains, “This may suggest angst, imbalance, impending movement, tension or transition, indicating a precarious situation of the verge of change.” An oblique angle may be a creative choice during those brief moments of transition in the hold and barks, right before the escape bite, and as the handler approaches the dog and helper. Yet, so much of Schutzhund is about precision that I am not sure oblique angles really show the sport or the dogs to their best advantage.

On the other hand, at home, photographers can have a lot of fun photographing dogs from various angles. The slide show above shows one of my favorite pictures of our dog, Kira. She was sitting in the backyard and I was on our porch. I aimed the camera from my perch dead center on her. The result is a photo that looks a bit like a fish eye. Another image taken in our pasture, shows Kira and Eli (Leroy v. Rietnisse) chewing on sticks. I like this photo as it over dramatizes the difference in sizes between Kira and Eli and between the sizes of the sticks each choose. Also included is a picture of Kira taken in my office, very much up close and personal as a counter point. Other images in the slide show were taken at higher angles than at field levels. Photos like this are only possible when taken at a stadium, unless you are able to stage a shot on a club field. Now, that would be a fascinating experiment!

So, from this photographer’s perspective, shooting at angles that best show the action up close and personal is preferable as what I am really after is to show the power and impressive nature of these magnificent animals, as well as their skill and tremendous training.

On a personal note: My husband and I are in the process of moving to a new home and shortly thereafter embarking on a trip to Antarctica over Christmas! If you would like to follow our travels, visit the Lindblad / National Geographic website, where daily expedition reports are posted. We are traveling on the National Geographic Explorer. The expedition leaves on December 19 from Ushuaia, Argentina!

Please understand if I am not able to get another post in until just after the New Year! I will try, but my time right now is very much not my own. Yes, I am taking my camera and will share a lot of photos from Antarctica! Until then, best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year!  Thank you for visiting and Happy Shooting!

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While at the 2012 USCA National German Shepherd Dog Championship in Nashville, Tennessee last weekend (November 2 – 4), I had a perplexing dilemma. Some where along the way I changed the autofocus settings in my new Canon EOS 5D Mark iii and had forgotten about it. This led to some unanticipated results as I tried to sort out what I had done and how to get back to the more familiar autofocus settings I typically use.

Rather than lose the opportunity to photograph several friends who were competing, I elected to shoot in full auto, and worry about sorting things out later, which I am happy to report, I did. I also used a Canon EF 100-400 mm 1:4-5.6 L IS zoom lens. I don’t often use this lens as the focus tends to be soft, and the lens targets the brightest place on the field, which typically is not the dog. On the other hand, I needed the extra zoom power my other lenses do not have. Most of the images were shot with a fairly wide open aperture, which also contributed to the soft focus.

The key point here is if things go awry, don’t panic! Even experienced photographers have bad days. The other key point is to test your equipment before you need it to be sure it is in good working order and if you can, bring duplicate equipment with you. Yes, I should have done this, and I know better, but I was very busy right before we left, and well, you know…(she says with a red face).

As with composing your photographs, your attitude is also very important, especially when you’re having a bad day. Try not to panic but keep your perspective, and use it as an opportunity to experiment or shoot in full auto. The downside to full auto is you may not be able to set the auto focus to a particular focal point or zone or change other exposure settings, such as aperture and shutter speed. On the other hand, the camera is figuring out exposure, so it’s a great opportunity to concentrate on composition.

The images I took are softer in focus as expected, partly due to the lens, the low light in the early morning, long distances between the camera and the action, and likely some camera shake and vibration from standing on bleachers. Even so, the Nationals provided some interesting results, which you can view in the slide show above. Some images are silhouettes, some are good examples of motion blur, some are focused tightly in, while others take a more expansive view of the field. Also, some images have special effects added. The next post will continue the series on perspective, including a more in-depth look at some of these images.

Until then, enjoy the highlights and happy shooting!

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I bet you’re wondering when the next post will be up, as I try to post every two weeks or so. I appreciate your patience as I work through a very hectic period in my life, including a lot of travel (9 states in 5 days with one trip) and a new house. Look for a new post this weekend, with highlights from the USCA National German Shepherd Dog Championship and continuing the series on perspective. The slide show above offers a few of my favorite shots from the Nationals to whet your visual appetites, including one with an oil paint look for fun.

Again, thank you for your encouragement and support. Your visits to my blog and your kind words both here and when we meet in person are very much appreciated!!  Happy shooting!

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