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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Picture Perfect, Part I

Anybody who has ever tried to take a picture of a group of people recognizes this experience: you tell everyone to "look this way," snap the pic, take a look at it, and Aunt Millie has her eyes closed. Or Uncle Stew looks like he's drunk. And Cousin Bertie was caught in mid sentence with her mouth pursed in a peculiar moue (always wanted to find a way to use that word).

So you take another photo--or two or three--in the hope that at least one comes out decently.

Now with children, it gets even more complicated. Zach can't stop touching Caitlin's hair. Little Gabby is crying because she wants her ducky now! Eli is busy looking at a bug instead of the camera. And Alex is bored and wants to go home.

Now try to take a picture of three dogs. That takes it to a whole 'nother level of complexity.

It can be done. 

It's just a bit of a challenge.

The most important aspect of the whole process isn't the camera or the lighting or the setting. It's working with dogs and teaching them important commands like Sit, Stay, Down and Look At Me.  Those are basics, and most dogs learn them pretty quickly. The key is getting them to do it under different circumstances. Like next to each other. Or Outside. Where there are many distractions. Like Squirrels. Or Deer. Or Really Good Sniffs.

Which is why I might take several dozen--or even hundreds--of pictures in order to get just one that looks good.

Sometimes the ones that wind up on the cutting room floor are pretty amusing. And with hundreds of pics of my pups, you start to notice some patterns.

The first goal is to get the dogs to sit or lay down. Next to each other. Close enough to get a good picture.

Lilah, Tucker and Jasper sitting, but they're a little too far apart.

Once I get them sitting together, I try to get them to look at the camera, instead of some other Distraction. This is where the Look At Me command comes in handy. Though Looking At Me isn't that easy when there are so many things that are so much more fun to look at.

Sitting, but staring off at some Distraction.

Something Else is much more interesting than me and my camera.

Jasper is looking at the camera. Tucker is looking at birds. Lilah is looking at a bug.

Once I get the dogs to Look At Me, I start taking pictures. That's when other issues show up. Like tongues. Lots of photos wind up featuring a large pink tongue swiping at a black nose.

Lilah demonstrates a perfect Nose Tongue.

And nearly all of my photo sessions end the same way. With a blurry dog who has just taken off after a Distraction that has proven to be just too Tempting. Usually it's Tucker. Usually running after a Squirrel or some such other fascinating Thing That Must Be Chased.

Tucker demonstrates The Blur.

Jasper and Lilah see the Distraction, but Tucker the young terrier Must Get It.

Here is a sample photo shoot, showing a typical set of pictures, in my attempt to get just one good one.

Pretty background. Lilah and Jasper looking at me. Tucker's got his eyes closed.

Three dogs. Looking in three different directions.

Wait! Jasper has a bug up his nose.

By now we're getting a little tired, so we're laying down instead of sitting. And Jasper is bored. I love Tucker's paw on top of Jasper's--something Tucker loves to do, but it makes Jasper nervous.

And it ends with The Blur. And some Jasper tongue.

Another photo session.

Once again, looking three ways. Though they all seem to have very majestic and serious expressions.

Three dogs, looking in one direction. But the wrong one.

All three looking at me. And a great big pink Tongue.

The familiar three dogs looking in three directions.

Moving away from the tree, a better picture, with three dogs looking at me. Tongues hanging out, but Jasper is a bit squinty eyed and Tucker has his ears back in an impatient expression.

These next few pictures are what happened next. They represent just a few seconds of picture taking.

We see something.

It's Really Interesting.

There goes Tucker.

And now there's two.

I love my dogs, and love taking pictures of them. I'm not so sure they like it as much; I think they probably tolerate it for the treats. Yet sometimes, we actually succeed with a perfect shot.

And  sometimes we don't.

Tucker expresses exactly how he feels about getting his picture taken.

Check out my blog next week to see some of the Good Ones--where everything worked out just so, and I managed to catch three dogs in nice light, looking at the camera, in focus...before Tucker ran away.

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