If you’re familiar with DockDogs, you might be a dog lover, and particularly a lover of dog-oriented sporting events. DockDogs is a canine aquatics competition with a number of events including Big Air, Speed Retrieve, Extreme Vertical and Iron Dog.
This Sunset Print Award-winning image by Kelly Schulze, CPP, owner of Mountain Dog Photography in Monkton, Vt., exemplifies the essence of DockDogs. The subject, Madison, is retired from DockDogs, but still enjoys a leap off the docks into cold Vermont waters. Madison was adopted from a local animal shelter before her DockDogs career.
“The client knew she wanted a photo of the dog jumping off the dock because the dog used to compete in DockDogs. She also wanted the fall foliage in the background, so I scouted a few locations to find the best spot where the light would hit just right,” explains Schulze. “We did that shot at sunrise at a local pond. I knew as soon as the sun hit the dog and the leaves in the background that it would be bright and colorful. I was wading up to my hips in water to get just the right angle and to get closer. We did about 20 minutes of shooting so I knew I could get it just right with a good pose with the dog’s paws in the air.”
Schulze asked the client to throw a tennis ball straight off the dock to ensure the dog would be in the range Schulze set for sharp focus. Schulze measured the width of dock and found the f-stop that would encompass that range and set the shutter speed as fast as possible to catch not only the dog in mid-air, but the water droplets that flew off the dog as it jumped.
“In post processing I didn’t do a whole lot. I removed some interfering branches that were coming out of the dog’s head that I couldn’t account for when I was shooting. I darkened some of the trees because they’re bright white birches in that light, and I flipped the image horizontally. The dog was jumping to the right of the frame because that’s where the color and the light was. If I had gone the other way I would have been shooting against blue sky and wouldn’t have the same impact,” Schulze says.
Schulze knew she had a great image for competition and printed it on Hahnemuhle FineArt Baryta with her Epson Stylus Pro 3880. The image wowed the judges at the recent Vermont Professional Photographers Convention in late March with its combination of stop action and Vermont fall colors.
As the name of her studio implies, Mountain Dog Photography specializes in animal photography all over New England, including pets, show dogs, livestock and wildlife. “Sometimes the owners jump into the shot, but I photograph all different species and it’s pretty exciting.”