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Posts Tagged ‘Shelly Timmerman’

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.

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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

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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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For those of you who had the pleasure of attending this year’s AWDF Championship and Team Challenge in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you would have seen a familiar figure up and down the sidelines snapping photographs of all the competitors. Betty Lindblom, of 5 Dogs Photography, is (in this photographer’s humble opinion) the master of Schutzhund photography. As we wrap up the series on Composing the Shot, it is well worth the time to view a video of some of her best shots, as well as visit Betty’s website to view the galleries of the more than 100 competitors at this event. Part 2 of Betty’s AWDF 2011 highlights has just been posted on YouTube.  Check it out!  You will see examples of many of the things addressed in the Composing the Shots series, including many of the challenges Schutzhund photographers face every day, which sometimes can be dealt with and sometimes not. Betty always makes the best of any situation!

As Betty has posted parts 1 and 2 of the video on Facebook and YouTube, many of you may have already seen it. But watch it again, this time with an eye towards composition and managing the often difficult lighting conditions. Also notice how she crops the photos to make the best of competition field with many visual distractions. Both Betty and Shelly Timmerman (of Shellshots Photography, the official videographer of the event) deserve a standing ovation for their efforts. They both work tirelessly at 12 to 14 hour stretches with no breaks. Thank you.

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Shelly is the first of what I hope will be an on-going series of interviews with Schutzhund photographers about their craft.  I also hope that by reading what has inspired other photographers, the equipment they use and how they go about taking pictures you will be encouraged in your own photography. Today’s post is the conclusion of  her interview.  You can learn more about Shelly and her photography and video services by visiting her website at http://www.shellshots.com.

What is you favorite type of picture to take?  How do you go about taking the picture?  What is the most challenging picture to take?  How to you tackle it?

Some of my favorite shots.  Well, there are quite a few actually.  During obedience, depending on if the field is set up for it, you may have the team heeling straight toward you on their way to the group…and many times this will be the best shot of the entire heeling exercise.  Naturally the jumps, but I also try to get the exact moment the handler signals the send away and the dog takes off…easier said than done.

In protection, as the dog comes to the find blind, there is a moment, when (if a GSD) his ears come up and the fire lights his eyes.  Some dogs like to do a very “enthusiastic” hold and bark…with a lot of jumping action and that can give some great shot opportunities.  I like to line up the decoy between the dog’s ears as he waits for the escape.  Of course, the courage test gives lots of great catches that everyone loves to see.  But this shot can be the easiest to miss if your camera doesn’t have immediate response and this is one time when I really do recommend holding the shutter down for multiple frames if your camera allows it.

This is also the most challenging photo to take at night events.  It combines distance, speed, timing and light issues, and I can say that my lowest keeper rate is this exercise.  Of course, harsh sunlight high overhead provides its own set of issues, but I still believe the night shots are hardest to get right.

Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?  Other thoughts?

A friend once told me an old yarn about the violinist who goes to New York and gets lost.

He asks a local guy who is standing at a corner, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

To which the man answers, “Practice, practice, practice.”

Seriously, if you take Schutzhund photos that make you happy, and that others like, you’ve won half the battle right there…and the rest is practice, practice, practice.

So, there you have it  – the art of Schutzhund photography in Shelly’s own words.   I hope you find Shelly’s insights helpful and will check back often. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome!

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Shelly is the first of what I hope will be an on-going series of interviews with Schutzhund photographers about their craft.  I also hope that by reading what has inspired other photographers, the equipment they use and how they go about taking pictures you will be encouraged in your own photography. Today’s post is the second of  three-part series, so please check tomorrow for the conclusion.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

My philosophy is pretty simple…find what is best about each team and capture that moment as best I can.   To elaborate a bit, some teams seem to have such harmony and grace together as they heel, that they seem as single being.  To capture that is my goal.  Other dogs have such amazing athleticism and great form with the jumps, that to get that exact moment that shows it to the best advantage is what I strive for.  For others, it is the spirit in their work…like the grin on the face of that dog when he is coming back to his master, a joy to be alive that I want to preserve for posterity.

What equipment do you use?  What is your favorite piece of equipment that you use for Schutzhund photography?  What are “must haves” for any serious Schutzhund photographer?

I currently use a Canon DSLR, the 40D.  It is a good camera for action, but the camera is only half the battle.  Especially for evening events, a “fast” lens is absolutely required. Most stadiums where these Championships are held have decent lighting for human and canine eyes, but the camera needs more.  Even if you are only photographing your training group on Saturday, it is imperative that you have a camera that doesn’t have a delay between pushing the shutter button and it taking the shot. In Schutzhund, if you have any delay, you’ll miss the shot.

My lens, not the fastest out there, but a good compromise on cost vs. image quality and speed is the Sigma 70-200mm 1:2.8.

Part 3 to be posted tomorrow.  See you then!!


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