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Archive for January, 2013

In earlier posts, a lot has been wrotten about the various elements that go into creating exciting photos of Schutzhund dogs. One element that has not been covered is lenses. We all have our favorite lenses, and which lens we use often is dictated by whether we can up close to the action or are relegated to the sidelines, such as in a trial. I am presently reading a very informative and fun book about pet photography, called Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide for Modern Pet Photography, by Jamie Pflughoet. I recommend it – easy to read and a lot of very helpful information.

Among the guidance she offers is an excellent description of a variety of lenses to achieve different looks. Admittedly, not all of us can afford to have a whole arsenal of lenses, but it is helpful to know what’s out there, especially if you’re interested in going for a particular look or feel.

f/1.2 and f/1.4 Shallow Depth of Field Primes: These lenses provide that very attractive soft, blurry background, called bokeh. The advantage is the subject really pops out of the photo. These lenses are not practical for moving targets, such as Schutzhund dogs at work, but are useful for shooting portraits.

Wide-Angle: These lenses can provide whimsical looks, such as big noses, but they also can offer a wide scene, such as the entire Schutzhund field.

Mid-Range Zoom: Many photographers uses these lenses, including the ever popular 70-200 mm. As Jaime notes: “Every lens has a sweet spot in terms of aperture (where it has the best sharpness, clarity and contrast). Find out where yours is, use it with your mid-range zoom.”

Macro: With these lenses, you can capture details, such as paws, tails, eyebrows and whiskers. The trick, of course, is getting the Schutzhund dog to stand still long enough to get the shot. Personally, I don’t think Macro lenses have much place in Schutzhund photography, but I could be convinced otherwise.

Telephoto: These lenses are used for serious zooming, such as the 100 – 400 mm lenses or higher, that you commonly see at Schutzhund trials. They are great for getting up close to the action that may be happening some distance away. From experience, however, my Canon 100 – 400 IM USM lens has a tendency to focus on the brightest spot in the field, which usually is not the dog. In this instance, try to shoot from an angle where the background, such as bleachers, is not significantly brighter than the dog and handler. Also, lighting conditions from one side of the field to the other can vary. On the other hand, without telephoto or zoom lenses, getting shot is less likely. A trade off to be sure.

So, what do I use? I rely heavily of two lenses: The Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM lens and the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L II USM telephoto zoom. They are both very reliable and produce excellent results. I also really like the EF 100-400 L IS USM telephoto lens, but as noted above, in my experience, it does have some limitations for Schutzhund photography. Let me know what your favorite lenses are and why!

My apologies for not having photos to illustrate these lenses, but I am with my family these next couple of weeks attending to a serious family illness. I hope to post again in a couple of weeks, but if not, please be patient as a new post will be coming soon.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Happy Shooting!

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So, are you intrigued? What do penguins and Schutzhund (IPO) dogs have in common. Quite simply, they both can be tricky critters to photograph as they move fast and sometimes in unanticipated ways. While on our trip to Antarctica, I was thrilled (on the inside, of course) when experienced National Geographic photographers grumbled that photographing penguins swimming is very difficult, much to their annoyance. I think they much preferred photographing the ice, as ice moves at a glacier pace, if you’ll pardon the pun. More about ice in a future post.

Their advice for photographing penguins confirmed my own approach to Schutzhund dogs. First, you must understand and learn their behaviors. And, then you must learn to anticipate. As with Schutzhund dogs, penguins are often the darkest part of the image, especially if they are hanging out on an ice berg or snowy area. At times, they are on rocky beaches, which offered welcome contrasts. So, like Schutzhund dogs, choices must be made as to whether to expose for the penguins or the background. We were blessed with marvelous weather – clear, sunny and very little wind. Temps were in the 30s. Simply lovely by Antarctica standards. Days were 23 hours long!

Penguins on land are funny – really – they’ll make you laugh at their antics and awkward ways of moving and stealing each other’s rocks, used to feather their nests. Even penguins look down and watch where they are walking in the rocky, icy, snowy landscape that is Antarctica. And, sometimes, they slip and lose their footing. Photographing penguins on land is more about capturing their expressions and funny behaviors.

Penguins hang out in flocks, as there is safety in numbers, but they also are sometimes alone, which makes for a very poignant photo. They fuss at each other, play, walk about, and are very curious. They also create highways in the snow to the water, and if you stand in their way, they’ll just wait for you to move.

Penguins in the water are elegant and fluid; such a joy to watch. I had a lot of fun and success one day photographing penguins swimming. I was on deck, which gave me a birds-eye view. The water is so clear that the penguins showed up very clearly. They dart about, but they also display flock behavior. Not being a birder, I had to watch and learn. They are very, very fast in water and unpredictable, so I tended to frame wider rather than trying to follow on particular penguin. And, I used a fast shutter speed – 1/750 or better – and burst mode. Yes, they are that fast!

On another note,  I asked several of the National Geographic photographers, who also act as guides and skilled zodiac drivers (inflatable rubber boats with outboard motors that got us up close and personal to the ice, penguins and landings), did they compensate for the bright light and white ice / snow. One fellow say he did not use exposure compensation, but tended to shoot in neutral. That, too, was my experience. While some like to over compensate (add light to light), I found that neutral worked very well. I still will try to add light to light when on a Schutzhund field to see if that helps.

We saw, by they way, four species of penguins – Adele (blue eyes), Gentoo (orange beaks), one Emperor, and Chin Strap (have a chin strap). We also saw many whales, including Humpbacks, Minke and Killer Whales. After one day’s shooting of nearly 700 images, I had to ask myself how many images of dorsal fins did I really need – more about that in my next post. Also, an upcoming post will focus on ice, which is really a discussion about exposures and other camera settings for Antarctica and how what I learned can be applied to Schutzhund photography.

Until then – Happy New Year – and thanks for visiting!

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