Prints that Win: All Systems Go!

All Systems Go by Kelly Schulze

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.”

Prints that Win: I Could Be Great!

Dog Photography by Kenny King

Kenny and Debra King help rescue dogs. That’s not all they do with their stellar portrait photography, but they’ve honed their process for animal photography to the big benefit of a local animal shelter, and particularly the animals themselves.

“We are big dog people and we rescue. One of our cocker spaniels passed away about five years ago. We started looking around at the rescue sites and noticing that all the photography was not just poorly taken, but it made all the animals look like you didn’t really want to take them home with you,” explains Kenny King, who with his wife, Debra, owns Dream Copy Photo in downtown Owensboro, Ky. “My wife and I decided that we would look for a local shelter and take more happy pictures, not behind a cage or a screen, or on a leash. Since that time, about four or five years ago, we’ve been photographing about 100-150 animals per year for them.”

Though it’s easy to say they have the process down, Kenny says, “It’s really like we’re doing it for the first time every time; it’s just unpredictable with an animal. They’re not able to adopt animals out until they’re fixed, and once they are they’re immediately able to put them on the website, so sometimes the day of their surgery is when they’ll bring them into the studio. So they’re a little groggy and easier to hold still for a few minutes, but on the bad side they don’t look as playful.”

The dog that garnered a Sunset Print Award, and a perfect 100 score to boot, at the recent PhotoPro Network competition in Owensboro was a little different. In this case, the dog was a little wild and King took about 50 shots until someone came into the room and dog stood at perfect attention for the perfect capture.

“I was on the print crew at the competition, so I was setting the print on the turntable spinning it around and I can hear the judges saying, ‘This has to be a show dog. The pose is just amazing; I don’t know how they got the dog to pose like that,'” Kenny recalls. “You get what you get most of the time, and that’s exactly what happened. I think the judges liked the lighting and how the rim light came down the side of the dog and the back of the legs to create separation from the backdrop. It’s just a two-light setup, but keeping it off the trunk is always a major deal because it has a shiny surface.”

Kenny adds that Debra does a lot of the color schemes for backgrounds and props, and this particular setting was the perfect complement to the dogs coloring. “The white in the dog is cream enough so it works well; it toned just perfect.”

Congratulations to the Kings, who are now automatically entered into the Sunset Print Award national competition. To find out more about a regional or state competition where a Sunset Print Award is being presented go to Remember, only winners of each of those competitions are entered into the national competition. Good luck!

A Photographer’s Best Friend: Dogs Underwater

Underwater photography sessionsSeth Casteel is making a splash with his underwater HD photography of dogs as they dive in after tennis balls. The results of his experiment have created an Internet sensation, with ball to ball coverage on blogs of all stripes, from ABC News to the Discovery Channel and throughout social media, primarily Facebook.

“I was photographing a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Buster. We were meant to do an ‘on-land’ shoot in his backyard, but he decided he would play in the pool the entire time. Watching him jump in time after time after a sinking tennis ball, it occurred to me that I needed to see what that looked like,” explains Casteel. “I had no idea what to expect, but I just thought the results were so fascinating and fun.”

As the name of his business, Little Friends Photo, implies, Casteel specializes in pet photography. To say Casteel loves man’s best friend would be an understatement. Like photographers who specialize in human portraits, Casteel seeks to bring out the unique personality of each pet. Casteel’s experiment yields personality plus as determined dogs paddle their way to their play prey.

Photographing dogs underwater“From the water’s surface, it’s a simple exercise: a dog’s leap, a splash, and then a wet head surfacing with a ball, triumphant,” says Casteel. “But beneath the water is a chaotic ballet of bared teeth and bubbles, paddling paws, fur and ears billowing in the currents. From leaping lab to diving dachshund, the water is where a dog’s distinct personality shines through; some lounge in the current, paddling slowly, but others arch their bodies to cut through the water with the focus and determination of a shark.”

The timing of all this viral attention comes at a perfect time for Casteel, who is putting together a book to be released this fall called Underwater Dogs, which features 80 portraits of diving dogs, which Casteel says “gives playful and energetic testament to the rough-and-tumble joy that our dogs bring into our lives.”

Casteel also has an exhibition opening in Brazil this month, which will be followed over the summer here in the United States. The photographs are available at Casteel’s website as art prints up to five feet wide. “They look so cool when they are big,” says Casteel.