Well, it seems that I misidentified this lovely animal. I thought it was a leopard but have come to find out it’s actually a cheetah. I need to give out a special thanks to Mr. Jordan Briskin and a Mr. Ali Mahad on Google + for discovering the mistake before I did.
Anyway, this beautiful cheetah sits in the shade relaxing and watching for any tell-tale signs of her next prey. Or perhaps, like all cats she sits there feigning complete apathy for my presence.
The cheetah is a stunning animal both powerful and sleek in design. It’s counted among the 5 big cat families along with jaguars, lions, tigers, and leopard.
In part one of our journey of animal photography we discussed that perfect controlled conditions are often found in an environment like a studio. We also agreed that things such as fully monitored and controlled lighting and a properly handled dog may make our job a little easier. We wanted to make a more artistic approach to photography, so we are taking pictures from different angles or waiting till the dog performs different actions to create a message or story.
Now, let’s give it more of challenge by taking the dog outside. By doing this, we have now introduced some real issues to our taking the perfect picture. The biggest challenge in taking a photograph outside is the weather. No one wants a picture or the smell of a wet dog in the car afterwards. So generally, most people will choose a nice sunny day with no or little clouds. Of course, that means we have to deal with lighting in those conditions. What I’m referring to of course is the sun.
The sun is the bane of any decent outdoor photographer. But, there are tools and tricks to help. If you want a shot of the dog in the sunlight, it will be a better idea to take the photograph as early or as late in the day as the light will let us. During the mid-morning to late afternoon the sun is constantly producing a very harsh light. This type of lighting will easily produce overexposed areas on the picture and even worse it will mute your colors. So the best time to take your shot is early morning or evening when the sun is lower on the horizon.
But what do you do if you want to take a picture of the dog at this particular park, but the park doesn’t open till mid morning? Your answer lies in the use of a UV filter or a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. Think of them as sunglasses for your camera. They help take out the harsh light.
You can also try taking the dog into a shaded area where the sun is not so intense. If you have a team of helpers, you can also set up and use reflectors to direct the light on the dog just as you see fit.
Another issue with lighting outside is the sky. Watch your clouds. The minute a cloud crosses the path of the blazing sun is now a different amount of light to adjust the camera for.
Yet another problem is wind. Remember those reflectors used to cast directed light on the dog while it was in the shade? Well, in a nice breeze, those reflectors make fabulous kites. Worse, if you are trying to use those large umbrella lights and don’t weigh them down they will take off to the delight of everyone but me. So, now I not only have to time my shot for what’s in the sky, but in between gusts of wind.
It’s ok though, because I love the challenge. So I get the dog in the shade and I’ve chosen the shot I want to take. I’ve watched for the sunlight, put on a filter, worked the reflectors and even setup the camera settings for the proper aperture and white balance and here comes the fun part! I am so going to rock this thing.
Quickly, however, I realize that I am now not the only stimulus to the dog’s attention.
Indeed, the audacity! That cute puppy that viewed me as being the center of the known universe now has a myriad of shapes, smells, and movement competing with me for it’s attention. Trust me when I tell you that as important as you are to a dog as the provider of praise and tasty snacks, you will pale in comparison with the squirrel that just ran behind you or even the bird in the tree above you.
Other dogs nearby will cause problems and even other people can cause an issue. After all, according to a dog’s logic it only makes sense that I am a human with praise and treats; ergo all the other humans may have praise and treats too! The only answer to this is patience. I might need lots of it.
So, after outwitting the sun, the wind, rain, camera settings, types of filters and the natural instincts of the dog to want to investigate everything or just chase tasty squirrels, We now have a work of art you we are proud of. Or, you might also think about owning a cat.
Want a bigger challenge? This is still too easy? I admire your spirit. Imagine trying to do these things with a non domesticated animal in their natural environment that wants to eat you.
There is little doubt that animal photography is one of the most celebrated forms of photography found in the world today. The sheer number of photographs of pets and other animals is astounding. Most people don’t think too much of taking a picture of their pet, but for the photographic artist however, taking pictures of the animals leads to some unique challenges.
The biggest challenge the artist faces is giving their personal vision to their work. The basic problem is the science involved with taking a picture means that I as the photographer must use the light that is available to me. While a painter or sketch artist can change the color and lines of their subject to suit their whim, a photographer must change his equipment to suit the conditions.
While I can change the amount of the type and angle and intensity of light using a studio and various filters and equipment, the result is still a picture that can only accurately represents the lighting conditions that existed at that moment you release the shutter. That is the unavoidable science behind every picture.
So, let’s take a moment to deal with the inherent challenges of the aesthetic aspect. Why is this so much more of a challenge in particular to the natural photographer? Well, often times our subjects are living animals. These animals tend to have a will and conscience of their own and we often cannot control their actions.
For instance, if I take a picture of a dog in my studio looking at me, it is because the dog show an interest in me. I’m human and the dog wants to play or petted or given a treat. However, as cat owners would generally agree, if I were to take a picture of a cat, the cat might look at me, or not at all. Because, while the dog wants your attention, the cat could care less. After all, there is a reason the famous behaviorist Pavlov chose to use dogs and not cats. It’s up to the individual animal and their temperament.
So, you might think that taking a picture of that same dog is easy. Or, at least easier than the cat. In a controlled environment like a studio with a friendly dog and maybe a handler I would agree. But, let’s spice it up a little. To get an artistic vision of your dog, we have to create something unique. A different angle, a new slant on how we can look at your dog. Do we want to show her teeth? Are we looking for action? Do we want to see how high she can jump? How regal she behaves? Just standing up, putting the camera to my face and clicking away is not going to cut it. The photograph will look bland and unexciting and that is not what we want. We want art.
Ok, so now we’ve made the dog portrait a little more challenging by wanting to add an artistic side to it. Not impossible, mind you but a little more challenging. In the second part of this entry, I’ll explore the hidden challenges that seem to make it only get harder.