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It started so innocently. All the ingredients for the perfect day out were present- a beautiful girl, a gorgeous chocolate labrador, perfect weather and a walk along Chicago’s Lake Shore. I’d even had a Skype chat with my good friend and talented pet photographer, Jeffrey Fielding, who gave me some great ideas for shots, techniques and some top tips on what to avoid.
I’d done my own research too. I’d looked at a number of different pet photographers’ portfolios, thought about different ideas, Points of view, lens selections and thought I was about as prepared as I could be. I’d even told Julie – whose Labrador I was going to take pictures of – that we should avoid the midday sun, make sure her dog had been walked first and she should not wear red as it would be too dominant a colour and distract us form the main focus, her dog. At least I think I told her that.
And then I met Chocco. Chocco is 75 pounds of solid, frenetic chocolate labrador. From the moment he arrived pulling the diminutive Julie along, practically leaving grooves in the ground where her heals fought for traction and her body for dignity, I knew I was going to be challenged. Granted Julie was wearing a red top and with the sun at its midday zenith, my preparation and advice clealry counted for zilch. There was little hope of finding that soft golden light that I had envisaged would permit me to help sculpt the portraits in Chiaroscuro style.
And for the next 2 hours Chocco demonstrated his disdain for me and what I was trying to achieve. Almost without pause he chased after his ball for the full 2 hours, pausing only to command water, before he would nudge the ball back towards Julie with a look that neither one of us was going to defy. To add insult to injury, he studiously ignored looking into the camera, or even catching his breath long enough for Julie to sit him down on the breakwater to put her arm around him for a potentially endearing shot.
So there is a moral or two to share. Firstly don’t let the distraction of a beautiful woman and her dog sacrifice your continued need for great light and basic photographic craft! Listen to the voice of experience (even if not your own). At the very least avoid the colour red and try not to be that “Mad dog or Englishman” that goes out in the midday sun!
And secondly? Well secondly I shall stick to what I am good at and leave the Chocco’s of this world to the experience of great pet photographers like Jeffrey Fielding! Perhaps I’ll focus more on people, portraits and travel.