Pet

Penny the 18-year old dog at The Crofting Inn Cloudcroft New Mexico

Penny the 18-year old dog at The Crofting Inn Cloudcroft New Mexico

Penny, the 18-year old dog of Cloudcroft New Mexico

My rural land photography work recently took me to Cloudcroft, New Mexico, which is about 30 minutes east of Alamogordo.  It is a small mountain town, almost like a place you might think is hiding up in the Alps in Switzerland.  The town has a lot of charm and while there I stayed at The Crofting Inn B&B.  The is where I met Penny, the 18-year old dog.

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Unique Pet Photography - Kiki sitting upon her chair

Kiki fits snugly but somehow comfortably in her own chair in front of the window - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/125th - Strobist: SB-600 @ 1/1 power to frame left in shoot through umbrella and SB-800 @ 1/4 power to frame right in 43" brollyAfter making a headshot for a client in my home photography studio, while I had all the lights setup, I tried to coerce Kiki into letting me make a photograph of her.  She is very, very reluctant to do so for some reason being very resistant to the whole idea.  So this time I put her favorite chair in frotn of a white background (though later digitally edited for a pure white background) and had her curl up into it in her usual manner.  She spends a lot of time lying down like this staring out the sliding glass door beside my work desk.  

She was actually facing into the living room and not out the window, her distant look is just her trying to avoid looking at me and into the lens!

Unique Pet Photography - Kiki & Jason out of perspective

How can you make a unique photograph?  How can you push the bounds of what a photograph can be?  A single exposure, a single shot, that can create a great pet photograph no doubt.  However, it is limiting in just how unique a shot can be.  I am always thinking of ways to make unique and interesting pet photography shots, and photographs in general.  In the above composite photograph of me and my beloved puppy Kiki, I took a shot I made of Kiki over a year ago and combined it with a self-portrait I just made this afternoon.  Below is how I did it:

I already had the shot of Kiki edited onto a white background.  The original photo was mostly white in the background, but I still used the Quick Select Tool in Photoshop to cut Kiki out of it and then paint in a digital background.  I have that photo printed out and on a shelf in my bedroom so I see it every day.  It popped into my head recently to put myself into that image to make it appear that Kiki was about to swallow me.  There was not enough space under her upper jaw for me to really be seen, so instead I used a flipped self-portrait in a perspective showing me to be actually smaller than Kiki, adding to the uniqueness and strangeness of the final composite image.

Kiki's 4th Birthday!

Kiki was born on February 19, 2009.  It is hard to believe that it is already 2013 and Kiki is now 4-years old!  On the day she was adopted, as you can see, she almost fit in just one of my hands.  Now she is full grown and hard for me to pick up even with two arms!  No matter how old she gets, I am sure I will think of her as my beloved puppy and call her a puppy, as I still do to this day.  I never feel prouder about anything I have ever done in my life than when someone complements how well behaved, how friendly or how sweet Kiki is.  

As she has gotten older, though, Kiki has become totally camera shy!

Using a collapsible background to make a home photography studio St. Petersburg Florida

Kiki & I in a self-portrait featuring my new Botero Collapsible Background - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/60th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly to frame right & SB-600 pointed up at background with blue gel and HONL snoot (open)I am always looking to improve the range and quality of photography products I can offer to clients.  In the pursuit of this I invested in a collapsible photography background (view on bhphotovideo.com) that measures 5'x7' is neutral to dark gray and folds up like a car sunshade into a circle when not in use.  Such a background allows one to setup a small studio space virtually anywhere, including your own living room.  

My new home studio setup featuring a 43" brolly on a light stand, 5'x7' collapsible background & gelled speedlight (behind me)The collapsible background does not require any special holder or stand.  I simply took a canvas print off the wall and rested the background up against it.  It took a little fiddling and flipping it over to get it to stay in the space I wanted it too, but all-in-all a pretty easy setup.  The background is easily big enough for two people, and maybe three or more depending on how they are posed.

This self-portrait headshot took MANY takes to make!If you like to make portraits and do not have the space to maintain a dedicated photo studio in your home, then my photography tip is to invest in a collapsible background that can be used in any room in the house and easily taken over to the homes of friends and family too.

Strobist fun with friends & dogs

Terry holding his dogs Lucy & Sadie with my dog Kiki frame left - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/250th Strobist: SB-800 in brolly to frame left & SB-600 on a chair to frame rightOn a recent visit to eldest friend Terry's house I brought with me a good bit of my strobist portrait gear planning to make some images of us with our dogs.  This involved not only getting the lighting and logistics correct for shooting in his living room, but also giving Terry some quick tips for how to shoot using my Nikon D300.  Once I got the above image of him with my dog Kiki and two of his three dogs, we switched players and I began coaching Terry how to first focus on my eyes and then recompose all while holding down the shutter halfway and shooting from a position lower than my eye level.  He learned fast, which should not be surprising as he was the valedictorian of our high school class after all!

Yours truly with Kiki & her best friend Sadie - Terry pushed the shutter on this one - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/250th Strobist: SB-800 in brolly to frame left & SB-600 on floor to frame rightHere is the image Terry and I created together.  This is all without mentioning the random element of the dogs and their movements, who were actually rather stoic for them.  Once Sadie laid down I got Kiki to come in behind her and I just rested on both of them, Terry was in position, and boom, we got the above shot.

Lucy kissing Kiki - background added digitally - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 800 1/60th SB-800 hotshoe mountedLucy was hanging off the sofa with peoples' legs in the background for the above shot, but I liked the kiss Lucy was giving Kiki so I took both dogs out of that busy background and then using Photoshop painted in a color sampled from Lucy's own hair color with a slight gradient added as the final touch to the digital background.

All these shots were done in just a few moments of time, just a fraction of the time we were there, but now thanks to a little photography know-how we will always have these memories of our dogs together.  

Vinoy Park Pet Portrait with Beth and Logan dog St. Petersburg

Beth & Logan in Vinoy Park for their human & pet portrait session - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame right SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame leftOn a blustery evening I met long-time dog park friend Beth and her Australian shepherd Logan for a dog and human candid portrait session.  As I have written about before, it is much different when working with a client you already know, in fact I would go so far as to say it is nearly totally different.  We started out with The Pier and Tampa Bay as the background. 

Candid pet portrait with Beth & Logan dog - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame left SB-600 @ 1/4 power behind benchNext we went over to the bench with the best view in all of downtown St. Petersburg.  From it you can see the entire downtown skyline with a fantastic sunset view on most evenings.  Logan, however, was much more interested in passing inline skaters than the view!

Candid smiling pet portrait with Beth & Logan dog - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame left SB-600 @ 1/4 power behind benchIt was way, way too windy to use any light modifiers besides a couple of diffuser caps on my speedlights.  For this shot I placed one on a lightstand to frame left and the other on a tripod directly behind the bench.  I used my trusty Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens for all these shots.  The wind though did have one benefit, that being keeping temperatures very tolerable and actually rather comfortable, even for me shooting and scurrying about setting up the shots.  

Beth & Logan all smiles in Vinoy Park - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame right SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame leftIt was a lot of fun to make these photographs for Beth and Logan.  By nature a portrait session including a dog has to be candid so for me it was just a matter of getting my lights where I wanted them and letting Beth enjoy spending time with Logan and pushing the shutter.