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What’s Really Happening With Animal Photography? Part 2

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.

Do I see a tasty squirrel?

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.

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