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Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

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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Merry Christmas!

This past week I watched a photography webinar offered by National Geographic in preparation for our grand adventure to Antarctica. The information offered was very helpful, but pretty basic, which is fine as the target audience is tourists, not serious amateur or professional photographers. A couple of tips, though, really will be helpful not only in Antarctica but also on the Schutzhund field.

Tip 1: When faced with a bright scene, such as a glistening Schutzhund field, adjust the exposure compensation dial to over expose the scene just a bit. This will fool your camera into darkening the scene, which will greatly help get the exposure just right. Same holds true for darker scenes, such as shadows. The rule is add light to light and dark to dark. It’s a bit counter-intuitive. Give it a try and see what happens.

Tip 2: On very cold and very hot / humid days, condensation within the camera body and lens can be a problem. On cold days, condensation can occur when you bring the camera inside from the cold. Conversely, on hot / humid days, condensation can occur when you take the camera outside from the cooler air-conditioned house or car. To keep condensation from forming, store your equipment in plastic bags and let it come to the ambient temperature before you fire it up. In other words, on a cold day, let the camera sit indoors in the camera bag for 30 minutes or so before you turn it on to check images or take photos indoors. On hot / humid days, let the camera sit for a bit to warm up before using. I use plastic bags, which really helps avoid this problem.

The webinar instructor Ralph Lee Hopkins has published a book on outdoor photography, called Digital Masters: Nature Photography: Documenting the Wild World (A Lark Photography Book). It’s available on Amazon.com and looks to be an excellent resource.

Look for new posts just after the new year, including photos from our grand adventure. Until then happy shooting and best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a happy healthy new year!  Thank you for visiting!

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Before continuing with the series on composing Schutzhund photos, I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the best images from this past weekend’s photo shoot at the 2011 SE Regionals. The competition was held at Lake Valley Schutzhund Club in Knoxville, Tennessee. I took more than 1,300 images, and I am just now starting to edit them. The best photos came from the protection routines. It was later in the day, with the sun behind me. As a result, the lighting was much better than in the morning, when the field glistened in the morning sun. Pretty, but not easy shooting!

I used a Canon 70 – 300 mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens, which is great for bright sun. But, as I learned this weekend, this lens is not that great for zooming long distances. It is much better as a medium zoom lens, such as when you can get on the field and get up close and personal with the action. During trials, I recommend a more powerful zoom, such as a Canon EF 100 -400 mm f/4.5 -5.6 L IS USM. In my experience, however, this lens tends to focus on the brightest spot in the image, which is not always where the action is – aka the dog! My favorite lens for Schutzhund is the Canon EF 70 -200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM. Great focus, great zoom capabilities, but like the 70 -300 mm is better for medium range. With the larger, heavier lenses, a tripod or monopod is definitely a help.

As one image shows, there were a couple of other photographers snapping away.

Next post will get back to the drive after the escape bite.

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One of the greatest challenges all Schutzhund photographers face is how to reduce glare and reflection on the Schutzhund field, especially when the sun is shining brightly. The problem is on sunny days Schutzhund fields act like one big reflective surface.  Landscape photographers (or as I refer to them masters of outdoor light) will tell you that ideally, outdoor photography should be done either early in the morning or late in the day, when the sun’s rays are more horizontal than vertical. Don’t we all wish Schutzhund operated on a photographer friendly schedule, she says reflectively (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). But since, tracking is usually the only thing going on early in the morning (not the most exciting Schutzhund activity to photograph), and training and trials are usually done by late afternoon, these ideal conditions are not usually available when we are trying to get our best shots.

Taking the cue from these masters of outdoor light, I have started experimenting with both neutral density (ND) and polarizer filters to lessen glare and reflection. I also have been surfing the Web for tips and tutorials about filters.  Professional photographer Paul Timpa has some excellent tutorials on his Facebook page, including one that focuses on filters.  (Yea, okay, I know I’m a fiend for puns and alliteration – what can I say; it’s fun!)

Part 1 will discuss polarizer filters and Part 2 will concentrate on ND filters.  The following is an excerpt from Paul’s tutorial on filters:

A good polarizer may be the most important filter you buy, and is usually the first.  It’s important for two reasons:

  1. Polarizers can have a dramatic effect on your photos that can make them look much better
  2. They are one of the only filters that cannot easily be replicated in Photoshop or with software.

So what exactly does a polarizer do?  Rather than get into the all the scientific details about how light works, let’s just say that polarizers help eliminate reflected light and that has various beneficial effects on your photos. [For a more technical discussion of polarizer filters, see BobAtkins.com, “All About Polarizers – Linear and Circular.”]

Some of the beneficial effects include:

  • Making blue skies a deeper shade of blue; this makes clouds really pop
  • Enhancing colors, especially of foliage / leaves
[allows you to see through the white reflective light to foliage’s natural color]
  • Removing reflections on water, allowing you to see through the water
  • Removing reflections on glass, allowing you to see through glass
  • Cutting out haze

So how do you use a polarizer?  Easy, attach it to your lens and look through the viewfinder to see its effect.  Polarizers are designed to be able to rotate while attached to the lens.  Rotating it varies the effect.  You can just experiment by rotating it to see how much effect it produces.  For blue skies, the amount it affects your photo (if at all) depends on where the sun is located.  Basically it works best if the sun is directly to your side (left or right) and somewhat lower in the sky.  Polarizers have less (or no) effect when the sun is directly overhead or directly in front of or behind you.

What Paul doesn’t mention in his tutorial is there are two types of polarizer filters: Linear and circular. Linear polarizer filters do not work well with digital cameras, so professional photographers recommend using circular polarizers instead.  One other note, as with most things, you get what you pay for. They best advice I’ve found is that if your budget allows, it’s better to spend more on a quality brand.

My limited experience with my polarizer filter (HOYA Pro 1 Digital Filter, Circular PL) has produced some excellent results (see photo at the start of this post). I really like how the colors are more vibrant and the glare is reduced. Notice how the coloring in the dog is really visible.  I really did not have to do much in the way of color or exposure correcting to this photo, and it was taken at high noon on a bright, sunny day.  I know Paul writes that polarizer filters have less effect in the midday sun, but I think my results were pretty good. I’m encouraged anyway and looking forward to taking more pictures and seeing what I can do with this filter.

If you have used a polarizer filter in your Schutzhund photography, please share your experiences.  Thanks!!

Part 2 of this discussion of filters will be posted over the weekend.

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