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The Art of Dog Photog

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

photo by Shila Wilson

Maybe some of my faithful readers (586 since my hit counter was installed Jan. 8 :-0 ) are wondering how to get good photographs of their dogs. I will share a couple of bits of advice.
First, it helps to have a dog who listens to you, and will come to you when called. Occasionally, though, this backfires. It is especially liable to backfire if

a: You have a Boston terrier or
b. liver treats are involved or
c: you are lying on your back or stomach (another favorite vantage point for taking photographs).
In this case, I had a vision of the picture I wanted: Chet Baker, backlit in a miniature forest of Lycopodium clavellatum. I sat down on the forest floor in my good green khakis, leaned back, called Chet to come a little closer, and was climbed upon.
I favor the ground-level vantage point because I still have functioning knees, because it's not all that far to the ground for me anyway, because I enjoy using ZOUT to take stains out of my slacks, and because it gives a monumental look to the humblest doggie. Wanky tilted horizon lines notwithstanding. Understand: I'm not pretending to be a good photographer; I'm just riffing on dogshots. Shooting from ground level produces an image that is much more evocative of a dog's world than a picture taken from five feet over the dog's head. Most dog photos are shot thus: from above. But it's hard to get an idea what the dog really looks like (or what it's thinking, a more elusive thing to capture) when you're shooting from directly overhead. Using flash on Boston terriers almost always produces a Village of the Damned look about the eyes. Blecch. Plus, shooting from ground level amuses the subject. The whole point is to have fun.

Here I will digress for a short treatment of the Novelty Dog Photo. Discerning readers of this blog may have noted that I am collecting photos of Chet Baker on the laps of long-suffering visitors to Indigo Hill. This will continue, and it's just one example of the kind of set-up that can drive your picture-taking.
The truly inspired photo can rarely be planned for. But taking photos constantly means you've got your camera ready to rock when the moment presents itself.So when I realized that the world's largest Boston terrier was grazing right by our mailbox, Chet and I were ready for the shot.

As you might have guessed, I have a library of Chet shots. It is large, and growing exponentially. Now that Bill bought us an external hard drive, the madness cannot be expected to abate. Somewhere out there is the perfect Chet shot. It will be mine, oh yes. It will be mine.
I hope that this non-comprehensive guide to dog photography (keep those Bil-Jac liver treats in your pocket and he'll always be willing to sit and stay!) inspires you to fire away at your own little darlin'. It's good for his ego, and great for your knees.


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