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These past few weeks have been restful and fun using digital painting, textures and other techniques to create unique photographic art. Below are some examples:

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There is so much you can do with these techniques to enhance images. So far I’ve primarily done head shots, but I think they will work well with action shots, too. The key, I’ve discovered, is to work with close up images that have a lot of detail, clarity and strong colors. I am not sure images with blown out highlights or deep shadows will yield good results, as there is not enough detail.  While I am in-between classes, I am accepting commissions and running a special, which you can view here.

Last weekend, I attended the USCA Southeast Regional Championship. The weather on the first day of competition was an awful (rainy and dark); better on the second day for photography. While I did not shoot the event myself, I did spy several other photographers snapping away. Remember when shooting from the sidelines, you need to zoom in to catch the action. In general, the camera lens does a much better job of focusing when it is zoomed in on the dog rather than trying to catch a more panoramic shot of the entire field. There are not many clear focal points on the IPO field so the lens will often focus on something other than the dog, especially if it is lighter than the dog’s fur. It takes some practice, but being able to anticipate the dog and handler allows you to zoom in, which in turn greatly increases the chance of snapping sharp images.

Next up is preparing to shoot the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club trial the end of April and more digital painting. Until then…Happy Shooting!

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Happy Holidays!! Happy Training! Happy Shooting!

Happy Holidays!! Happy Training! Happy Shooting!

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When photographing dogs, whether in a lovely pose or in action, paying attention to small things before and after the image is taken can make a big difference between a photograph that looks like a snapshot or one that looks polished and professional. For many photographers, grabbing that quick shot is all they are after, and that’s fine. But if you want to take your photography to the next level, remember small things do matter. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

Consider this image. It looks pretty good. It’s in focus and a nice pose. Yet, it could be much better.


Notice in the image below how much more dynamic it looks. All that was done was cropping to a 5 x 4 aspect ratio (8 x 10 print), using the histogram to make a few tonal adjustments (shadows, highlights and mid-tones), touching up with the dodge and burn tool here and there, sharpening the eyes just a tad, and finishing up with cleaning up the bits of yard dust on his head, eye crud and bubbles on his tongue. All told – 15 minutes of work.


In Schutzhund photography, backgrounds are a real challenge. The action gets lost amongst all the clutter. Even after considering all the options, it’s sometimes very hard to avoid unwanted background elements. Now, I love Shelly Timmerman of Shell Shots Photography. She is among the best around, but even Shelly would admit that she doesn’t add much to this image. So, by taking her out in post processing, along with the tent and fencing tape, this image goes from a snapshot to a cleaner, more professional image.

Little Things Matter-5

Little Things Matter-6

The following is a list of some of the small things I look to correct:

Unwanted elements in the background: Okay – these can be big or small, but look for the small things that can be distracting and either shoot around them or remove them in post processing.

Sun position: Ideally, it’s best to shoot with the sun over your shoulder. In addition to fully lighting the subject, sunlight adds a glint to the dog’s eyes, which brings a lot of life to the image. Remember that early morning or late afternoon are best for photographing dogs, especially dark or black dogs. The warm light brings out the detail and highlights in the dog’s fur. By mid-morning, the light is too harsh and often all you will get is a blob without much detail.

Eyes, ears, nose in focus: Your viewers will naturally look at a person’s or dog’s face first. It is what draws viewers into the image, along with the action. Make sure the eyes, ears and nose, especially the eyes, are tack sharp.

Dust and debris: To me, removing bits of dust and debris from a dog’s coat along with eye crud and mouth drool really helps smarten up an image. After all, who likes to look at drool or a crusty eye? It’s distracting at best and gross at worst.

Glare: Even the best Schutzhund photographers struggle with balancing exposing for the background and the dog, especially at trials. Take the time to adjust each area separately in post processing by isolating the dog from the background and vice versa. In addition, Photoshop’s dodge and burn tools are great for lightening or darkening a small area of an image.

What’s on your list of small things that matter? Let me know, and I’ll share them in an upcoming post. Next up, sizing images for printing and the web. It’s both easier and harder than you think! Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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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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Photography is a grand adventure!

Today, in the quietness of Christmas Eve, I have been thinking about my Schutzhund (Dog Sport) friends, especially my photography friends.  You are an inspiration to me as we strive to capture Schutzhund dogs doing what they (and we) love best – being on the field training, trialing and just having fun. Just as Schutzhund is a team sport, so is photography. I have learned so much this past year, particularly from you as we talk over camera settings, share frustrations over difficult lighting, figure out the best angles and congratulate each other on getting “THE SHOT” of the day. So, thank you for sharing in my adventure! Here’s to 2012 and many more photography adventures!

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to you, your families and your furry friends.

BJ Spanos

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Happy New Year!  Thank you so much for visiting my blog and your encouragement.  I hope you have found the posts helpful and fun to read.  The blog topped 6,000 visits by the end of 2010!  I am thrilled – thank you! I thought you might be interested in an e-mail WordPress.com sent me with overall 2010 site stats – see below.

Thank you again to all visitors and to those who have contributed to the In Their Own Words series.  Speaking of which, next week I will be posting a new installment of In Their Own Words, featuring Vahneesa Norberg from Minnesota.  Don’t know Vinnie? Well, check back this week and learn more about her and her inspiration for Schutzhund photography.

High Level Summary from WordPress.com

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

By the numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 33 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 55 posts. There were 121 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 8mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 20th with 82 views. The most popular post that day was The Art of Schutzhund Photography in Their Own Words: Yvette Woodward. (Way to go Yvette!)

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, ifreestores.com, en.wordpress.com, bjspanos.com, and icreditcard.biz.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for t floyd summer camp, schutzhund, rule of thirds, schutzhund photography, and t floyd.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


The Art of Schutzhund Photography in Their Own Words: Yvette Woodward January 2010


T. Floyd’s Youth Schutzhund Summer Camp: Investing in the Future of Dog Sport April 2010


Schutzhund Photo Gallery May 2009


Polarizer, Neutral Density Filters: Two Options for Reducing Glare and Reflection – Part 1 March 2010


T. Floyd’s Youth Schutzhund Summer Camp – Adventures in Photography July 2010

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While we were in New Jersey, we had the pleasure of watching 7-year-old Samantha Jimenez prepare to show her dog, Hesy Naspo, at the USA Working Dog Championship. Samantha is the daughter of NE Regional Director, Pedro Jimenez, and was coached by T. Floyd, one of Schutzhund’s most successful trainers and handlers. She is clearly a part of Schutzhund’s future and did a marvelous job at the WDC event! You can view Samantha and Hesy’s obedience and protection routines on YouTube. They scored 91 in obedience and 92 in protection.

Speaking of the future of Schutzhund, T. is hosting the first annual youth Schutzhund camp at his home training facility July 8 – 11, 2010.  T. lives in Westampton, New Jersey, which conveniently located just off the New Jersey Turnpike and Rt. 295 and is only about 30 minutes from the Philadelphia airport. Handlers and helpers under the age of 18 are invited to attend (registration is free – hotel and travel are not) to learn about training, showing at trials, caring for Schutzhund dogs and making long-lasting friendships with other youth in the sport.

A SV judge will visit to talk about what judges look for on the trial field and veterinarian will discus canine health care.  And, there will be a mock trial for obedience and protection, complete with trophies and ribbons for everyone! In addition, there will be an afternoon visit to a Water Park and a cook-out with a bon fire and s’mores – YUM!  Even if youth do not have a dog they are working, T. will provide a dog for the seminar.

For  more information, visit the T. Floyd’s Youth Summer Camp 2010 web site.  Also, if you would like to sponsor the event, please contact Glyn Clayton at Glyn.Clayton@Accenture.com or T. Floyd at EastCoastk9.aol.com. Glyn also can provide you with registration forms. Spaces are limited. Deadline for registration is June 21, 2010. All youth are welcome, regardless of organization affiliation. We are pleased to be among the sponsors by donating a copy of the Sport of Schutzhund: A Photographic Essay for each participant.

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