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Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

This past weekend I had the pleasure of shooting the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club’s spring trial. Below are some of my favorite images. I shot all of the Obedience in RAW, but had to switch over to JPEG for Protection in order to get the burst shooting speed I wanted and not have deal with the memory card lag. I didn’t want to miss anything! In post-processing, I primarily relied on the Adobe Lightroom preset “PUNCH” in addition to tonal mapping in Lightroom. If you have Lightroom and haven’t tried this preset, I encourage you to give it a try. Marvelous for quick editing to up the clarity, contrast and vibrance. If time had permitted, fine tuning the images Adobe Photoshop would be beneficial; for example, removing light poles and other unwanted background elements. Also, in many of the Protection images, it would be good to balance the background separately from the dog. The full gallery of images is available on my website under the gallery name 2014 Spring Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club Trial (under the Dog Sport tab).

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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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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Hello! Now that my first class is done, I have a few months off before my graduate work in clinical mental health counseling gets going in earnest, which allows me some time to work with photography, digital painting – and yes – add a few more posts! I know, you’re thrilled. Seriously, I had a great time yesterday taking pictures at our local IPO (Schutzhund) club for the first time since November. Above are a few of my favorites, with more photos available for viewing on my website – 031414 Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club Gallery.

It was nice to get in some practice before the Chattahoochee Club trail the end of April, especially shooting in RAW. As noted in earlier posts, I’ve hesitated shooting in RAW because of the large file sizes and missing a crucial shot while the camera is busy writing the previous image(s) to the card. The technology is much better these days then when I first started taking photos of Schutzhund dogs at work, so with a fast enough card and camera processor, shooting a burst of images in RAW is not as daunting as it used to be. I only wish there was an effective way to shoot action in HDR. Something to investigate further while I have these few months off. Any ideas, please let me know!

My next post will highlight a couple of digital paintings I’m just now completing. I am very excited about sharing them with you. Until next time – Happy Shooting!

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As all IPO photographers can attest, IPO (Schutzhund) fields are among the hardest backdrops for photographing working dogs in action. The lighting changes from one end of the field to other and from one side to other.  And, I’m sure each of us has one field in particular that bedevils us every time. For me, it’s the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club field in Winston, Georgia. It’s a lovely place, very green, with many trees lining the field, plus horse pastures on two sides. As you can see in these images from the Chattahoochee Club’s fall trial, the horses graze very near to the field and keep an eye on what’s going on.

I really like photographing on this field. For example, I love using the horses as a juxtapose to the dog’s size and movement. I also like how the trees and pasture weeds add color around the edges of my images, and the field’s contours allow me to get some interesting angles and perspectives.

So, why is this field so challenging? For most of the day, especially prime shooting time when the light is just right, half of the field is in full sun and the other half is in deep shade. This is wonderful for handlers and dogs, but not so wonderful for photographers, especially as the action dances from shade to sun and back again. When the shade finally does retreat, the sun floods the field with bright, white light.  In addition, the dew is heavy here, as is the frost. As you might expect, until the field dries, there is a lot of moisture glistening and reflecting off the grass.

I have yet to figure out just the right balance of settings to get great shots every time. My goal is to create two sets of custom settings, so I can easily flip back and forth, depending on the lighting conditions. I’m working on it, and invite you to stay tuned for future updates.
As noted, the images above are highlights from the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club’s fall trial, which was held October 12, 2013, Enjoy!
Until next time – Happy Shooting!

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Color theory is all fine and good, but how can IPO photographers use color effectively in their images? We may not have control over the setting as landscape, commercial and portrait photographers do, but we can be aware of the setting we are in and take advantage of the colors that are there. We also can educate handlers and helpers about their clothing choices to create the best chance for getting the shot.

Consider the following examples:

Colors in IPO-1

This is one of my favorite images and has been featured in recent posts. The story here is a puppy contemplating his future life. The green says calmness and serenity, but the puppy’s expression is not all that calm and serene. He’s way too serious and just a bit worried! The red collar draws the viewer’s eye up towards the puppy’s face.

Colors in IPO-2

This is another favorite image, which like the image above features red and green, along with blue. This is a classic color combination! I would recommend this color combination to any handler. Also, notice the yellows in the background; nice highlights to what otherwise might be a boring, monochromatic background.

Colors in IPO-3

This image was taken in the winter, at a field devoid of much color. In taking this image, I choose to frame the dog and handler to the left of the yellow blind. The power pole also provides a frame, but I usually prefer to take power poles out as they are not very attractive. What is cool about this image is how the yellow strip on the handler’s arm picks up the yellow from the blind. His shirt also is a nice contrast to the background and his dog, as are his khaki pants. Another good color combination for handlers. Notice the handler by the blind kind of disappears into the background, thanks to dressing in black. That’s okay for this image, but might not work as well as the primary subject. More about dressing in black a bit later in this post.

Colors in IPO-4

This is another example of a winter scene. The pasture’s grass features various shades of orange, along with a bit of green here and there. I like how the brightness of the grass allows the dog to stand out from the background. It is monochromatic, but it works, because it’s unusual to see shades of orange in a grass pasture and the color tones and shades are harmonious.

Colors in IPO-5

Back to summer. Green grass provides a wonderful contrast for black dogs! Taking this image from a position that shows the dog against the green grass and not right up against the helper, who is also in black, captures the action without muddying things up. There is also some red along the fence line, which adds a little interest and framing.

Although handlers and helpers love to wear black, it isn’t a great choice for photography as there is no contrast. Remember, black absorbs all light. As a result, a black dog and the handler’s and/or helper’s leg will likely meld together, without much definition or detail.

This is also true for white, which reflects all light. Very often, the white tends to blow out and all definition and detail is lost, not only in the white area, but also in the surround pixels. Many times, I will expose for the dog and then in post-processing separately adjust different areas of the image, such as the dog, the handler and the background. It takes more time, but it’s worth it, especially with those “money” shots.

Colors in IPO-6

This image is a very good example of a monochromatic image. I really like the image of the dog, but the background and dog are a little too close in color. As a result, the dog tends to blend in with the background. The white along the dogs chest, neck and muzzle offers a nice contrast, however. For this image, consider placing the dog on another background or change the background color in post-processing.

Colors in IPO-7

Puppies are fun to photograph as they have great expressions. The puppy stands out nicely from the green grass, but also notice the puppies hazel eyes.  Are you seeing a pattern here of how a single color can provide a focal point and/or highlight?

Colors in IPO-8

And, finally, this image illustrates what happens when a black dog and a helper in black are photographed one on top of the other. It’s hard to see the differentiation between the dog and the helper’s leg. It is good that the field and trees contrast with the helper and dog.

In closing, I encourage you to take the time to survey the field and think about how to use the available color to enhance your images. I also encourage you to explain to handlers and helpers how wearing contrasting colors to their dogs really helps you take high quality, dramatic images of their work. Helpers may not have a lot of options, as scratch pants most often come only in black, but handlers do!  It’s worth mentioning, even if they do look at you like you’re nuts.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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I attended a very interesting lecture recently on color theory and color contrast in photography. It got me thinking about how to use color and color contrast in IPO photography. Yes, I know, most all IPO photographers shoot in color, so you may be asking yourself, what’s the big deal? Well, as with many elements in an image’s composition, color plays an important part in telling the image’s story as it evokes an emotional response and draws attention to or away from particular elements. Used wisely, color enhances images and the viewer’s experience.

Before considering colors in typical IPO settings and how to effectively use color in IPO photography, a quick review of color theory will be beneficial.

We perceive color from reflective, absorptive or transmitted light. In other words, the color of an object depends on how much of particular wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected.  For example, an apple appears red, because it absorbs all of the other colors and reflects red wavelengths of light.  A black object absorbs all the wavelengths of light. Solid object reflect light, while transparent objects will transmit light through them.

This visible light spectrum correlates to a wavelength range of 400 – 700 nanometers (nm) and a color range of violet through red. The visible colors from shortest to longest wavelength are violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.  For more information, see the following articles:

With this in mind, go back to when you first learned about color as a child. Recall, that a traditional color wheel used by artists has 12 colors, as shown below, which can be divided into three categories:

  • Primary – Red, blue and yellow, which make up all other colors.
  • Secondary – Orange, green and violet, which result from mixing primary colors.
  • Tertiary – Red-violet, red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green and blue-violet, which result from mixing primary and secondary colors.

Color Wheel 1 - Shutterstock

Each color is called a hue. Color Value refers to a color’s lightness or darkness.  Within each color value are tints and shades. Tints refer to a color where white is added to lighten it, such as pink (red + white), and shades refer to a color where black is added to darken it, such as brown (orange + black).  See the color wheel below.

Traditional Artists Color Wheel 2

Color directly across from each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors; for example, red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. These colors can compliment each other or contrast with each other. There is no hard and fast rule about whether or not a particular color combination is pleasing.

But wait! There’s a twist when it comes to photography! Artists mix pigment, but photographers mix light, and light uses a set of different primary colors. As explained in the Franklin Institute’s helpful article:

“The primary colors of light are red, blue and green, and the secondary are yellow, cyan and magenta … Red and green paint, for example, make brown paint, but red and green light makes yellow light … When beams of light are mixed without any absorption, an additive process occurs. The more we mix the beams, the closer they get to white light.”

These primary colors form the basis of the “Additive Color (RGB) Model, named because black is the base and light is ‘added’ to eventually get to white, which is all of the colors together. Additive colors are seen in televisions, nature and computer screens.” Our retinas also are sensitive to these same primary colors. “Just as any color of the [light] spectrum can be made by mixing the three primary colors, so do our own eyes discern the various colors by sensing different wavelengths with these three receptors.”

With this in mind, a photographer’s RGB color wheel might look like this:

RGB color wheel

One more bit of theory before moving on. “Saturation is how intense colors appear. Over saturation of color can result in loss of detail or clipping. Vibrance is a smart-tool used in photo editing software that increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well-saturated colors as they are.” For more about the hue, color value, saturation and vibrance, see the following articles:

Without getting too much into the weeds of color management for image files (a topic for another day) and color theory, what’s key here is red, blue and green light are not only the primary colors in nature (the outdoors being the most frequent location of IPO photography), but they also are the primary colors we use to see and to create color in televisions and computer monitors, the most frequent viewing medium for IPO photographs. So, it makes sense to think of color in photography for the purposes of image composition in this context.

Part 2 of this series will discuss what colors may symbolize and how we perceive them on an emotional level. Part 3 will wrap up this series with examples and tips on how to effectively use color in IPO photography.  As always, thanks for visiting and Happy Shooting!

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During an IPO trial or training, spectators watch the dogs and handlers carefully to see how well the teams execute each exercise. Is the dog straight? Does the dog look happy and alert? Does the team move well together? Does the dog show power and confidence? Observations can get quite detailed, especially in a championship where there is just a point or two separating the winning team from the runner-ups.

Many photographs of IPO exercises can be quite dramatic, especially when the photographer gets low and close to action. As noted in a post from about a year ago, titled “Change Your Angle: How Low Can You Go?”, by shooting from a low angle, photographers can enhance the impression of power and motion. Viewers feel they are part of the action.

An extension of getting low and close is capturing expressions. Photographing expressions captures an important part of the IPO story – relationships between the dog and handler; between the dog and helper; between the handler and the judge; between dog and handler teams; and between the dog, handler and spectators to name a few examples. IPO is all about relationships!

The slide show below shows some examples. So, the next time your photographing IPO dogs and handlers in training or competing, focus in on their expressions. It’s a great part of the story that most IPO images miss. Until next time – Happy Shooting!

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Aspect ratio, as discussed in the last post, is critical for determining the size of a printed image. To review, aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between an image’s width and height. Different aspect ratios can significantly impact the image’s composition. So, when cropping an image for printing, it’s important to crop to the correct aspect ratio for the print size. Crop tools in most imaging editing software allow you to select the desired aspect ratio.

In selecting a print size and preparing the image for printing, also consider the viewing distance and the image’s resolution (ppi). According to Photography Stack Exchange, “The viewing distance of an image is based on two factors: first is the diagonal image size and second are the pixels per inch (ppi) required at the distance to give a sharp image.”

The rule of thumb is the optimal viewing distance is 1.5 to 2 times the diagonal of the image. An easy formula to figure the diagonal of the print size is take the square root of width2 + height2 (Pythagorean Theorem).

For an image to appear sharp at the optimal viewing distance also needs sufficient number of pixels per inch to “fool the eye in to seeing a smooth image”, according to Photography Stack Exchange. The minimum ppi for a given image is calculated by dividing the value 3438 by the viewing distance. Why 3438? This value is the constant for human vision and correlates to how much resolution a human eye can see.

The following table lists the optimal viewing distance and minimum resolution for some of the most common print sizes. For the sake of argument, the viewing distance is calculated at 1.5 times the diagonal. All values expressed in inches. Note that the larger the image, the greater the distance for optimal viewing and the lower the minimum ppi needed to achieve a smooth, sharp image.

Aspect Ratio

Print Size

Diagonal

Viewing Distance

PPI Needed

1:1

6 x 6

8.49

12.73

270

2:3

4 x 6

7.21

11

313

5:7

5 x 7

8.6

12.9

267

4:5

8 x 10

12.81

19

181

11:14

11 x 14

17.8

26.7

129

3:4

12 x 16

20

30

115

4:5

16 x 20

25.61

38

89

2:3

20 x 30

36.1

54.2

63

4:5

24 x 30

38.5

57.75

60

One more thing: To ensure good quality prints, there needs to be enough pixels in the image itself. Cameras with greater megapixel capabilities can produce image files that support larger sized quality prints, while cameras with fewer megapixels may be somewhat limited in available print sizes. B & H Photo has an excellent reference chart. Also, see the list of articles below for more information on PPI, DPI, print sizes and resolution:

Printing: Which Resolution, Long Answer 

PPI vs DPI: What’s the Difference

Understanding Resolution and the Meaning of DPI, PPI, SPI & LPI 

I hope these more technical minded posts have been helpful. Coming up – back to posts on the Art of Schutzhund Photography. Yes, I know, one day I must change the title of my blog to The Art of IPO Photography. Soon, but not yet. Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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For the most part, Schutzhund (IPO) photography is a digital medium; that is, most images are shared via social media sites. But now and again, you’ll get a great shot, with everything just right – exposure correct, dog in focus, no background distractions and the composition spot on – and you’ll want to have it printed. There is one aspect that you will need to consider in choosing the size of print and that is the image’s aspect ratio.

Aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between an image’s width-to-height.  It is expressed as two numbers separated by a colon, with the width expressed first. The most common aspect ratios in still photography include the following:

  • 1:1 – used in medium format cameras; also known as the classic square and is particularly popular in wedding and portrait photography
  • 2:3 – used in higher end DLSRs, including the professional full-frame sensors and the APS-C sensors, to correlate with the classic 35 mm SLR film cameras
  • 3:4 – used in most point-and-shoot cameras
  • 5:4 – used in medium and large format camera
  • 7:5 – used in large format and view cameras
  • 16:9 – used in cameras that can also shoot high definition video, as it is the standard format for HDTV monitors; also very useful for panoramic images

Sometimes, aspect ratios are expressed as a decimal number; for example, a 1:1 aspect ratio is expressed as 1.0, where as a 4:5 aspect ratio is expressed as 1.25. Dividing the long side by the short side of an image derives this decimal number. Some photographers find this a handy way to compare aspect ratios.

As Kat Sloma explains in her Kat-Eye Studio blog post, Exploring With a Camera: Printed Aspect Ratios, “The higher the number is above 1, the more rectangular the shape of the photo; the closer to 1, the more square the shape of the photo.” To make this a little clearer, the following table, adapted from Kat’s post, provides an excellent reference for the most common print sizes in the US, their aspect ratios and the long side/short side decimal number.

Print Sizes (inches)

Aspect Ratio

Long Side / Short Side

Pixels

1 x 1, 6 x 6, 8 x 8, 12 x 12

1:1

1.00

900 x 900 (6 x 6)
4 x 6, 8 x 12, 16 x 24, 20 x 30, 24 x 36

2:3

1.50

600 x 900 (4 x 6)
3 x 4, 6 x 8, 9 x 12, 12 x 16

3:4

1.33

1800 x 2400 (12 x 16)
8 x 10, 16 x 20, 24 x 30

4:5

1.25

1200 x 1500 (8 x 10)
5 x 7, 10 x 14, 20 x 28

5:7

1.40

750 x 1050 (5 x 7)
11 x 14, 22 x 28

11:14

1.27

1275 x 1650 (11 x 14)
16 x 9, 32 x 18, 54 x 36

16:9

1.77

1920 x 1080 (16 x 9)

By comparison, computer, laptop and/or tablet monitors typically have one of the following aspect ratios:

  • 4:3 (1024 x 768)
  • 16:9 (1920 x 1080)
  • 16:10 (1280 x 800)

The images below demonstrate how different aspect ratios affect an image. For images destined for the screen, cropping to a specific aspect ratio is as not critical. It is critical for prints, however. You can see how the image changes depending on the aspect ratio. If the action is too close to the edge, an important element might get cut off or placed in an odd spot. For this image, I really like the 1:1 aspect ratio. I feel I am right there with the dog, rather than just an observer.

Aspect Ratio As Shot 2:3

Aspect Ratio As Shot 2:3

Aspect Ratio 1:1

Aspect Ratio 1:1

Aspect Ration 3:4

Aspect Ration 3:4

Aspect Ratio 4:5

Aspect Ratio 4:5

Aspect Ratio 5:7

Aspect Ratio 5:7

Aspect Ratio 11:14

Aspect Ratio 11:14

Aspect Ration 16:9

Aspect Ration 16:9

Some cameras allow photographers to select the aspect ratio. Because photo-editing programs also have settings for cropping to a particular aspect ratio, changing the aspect ratio in the camera is a personal choice. If I know I am going to print an image to a particular size, then it makes sense. My preference (though I can be convinced otherwise) is to compose the image to make sure there is enough of a border and then crop for the most dramatic effect in Photoshop or Lightroom. If I am taking a portrait or landscape shot – the subject is not moving – then I do set the camera for aspect ratio. But Schutzhund photography is fast action, so in my experience, leaving some leeway for later cropping is definitely more advantageous.

Next up: More about aspect ratios and resolutions for presentation on computer monitors, tablets and prints.

As always, thanks for visiting and 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.

Little-Things-Matter-1

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.

Little-Things-Matter-2

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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