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a future article, "How to Photograph Puppies," I will share my tips and tricks
for getting great, general puppy images, but for now I will give you a wonderful visual
example of breed exemplification and individual dog concentration as the method for
capturing the spirit of the working dog on film.
CAPTURING THE SPIRIT, Part
II [ © Dennis Glennon ]
I will start with one of my favorite breeds, the Chesapeake Bay
Retriever. The desired traits of this breed include alertness and an intelligent
expression. You can capture both, as well as a dogs unique personality, in a Chessie
pup simply by following the rules. Know the breed, know the dog, and have a camera ready.
|One example of following the rules is the
photograph I've titled Timber.
It's a fantastic autumn
portrait of a young Chesapeake pup investigating a fallen tree, yet instinctively poised
for action when alerted to a sound in the distance.
This is a very distinctive image that I worked over two hours to
Waiting for the Right Moment
Another superb example of how an enchanting
puppy image can be achieved, simply by waiting for the right moment, is a photograph taken
on winter afternoon when no photo session was planned. It is of my very own puppy, the
irresistible Ichabod Crane
Whenever I would leave the house and
Ichabod was playing in the yard, he would come over to the fence that surrounded it to say
goodbye to me. At three-months-old, he already understood that when I left home, I might
not be back for a while, as I am frequently taking extended trips for photo expeditions
and art shows. So, when I walked out of the yard and to my truck, Icky would
either stick his head through the fence slats or jump up and try to get his paws to the
top rail to see where I was going. I always got the feeling, from his expression alone,
that he was asking me not to go; telling me to stay home and play with him instead. No
yipes and barking squeals; just a sad, soulful stare as I headed out.
particular day, I was packing my truck to go on a winter photo excursion and Icky was out
in the yard enjoying his first experience with snow. Wed just had a wonderful winter
storm and everything was covered with thick fluffy white flakes. Icky was pushing his nose
in the stuff, trying to find the ground he knew must be hidden beneath. He would bulldoze
through the snow, picking his head up at any distraction. Like a true hunting dog, he was
more intent on seeing what was going on when he heard a noise, than to be concerned about
this strange cold stuff all over his face.
Each time I left the yard to put something into my truck, Icky
would stop investigating this new stuff called "snow," rush over to the fence,
push his head through the slats, and watch me. His cute little puppy nose was covered with
snow, but he didnt seem to notice or care. His only concern was me. I felt SO
conflicted about leaving, and so touched by his endearing expression. And I was affected
by it too, in a way that moved me. The look was pure Chesapeake, a natural
result of Ichabods breeding: pensive, slightly melancholy, and thoughtful all
at the same time.
The last thing I packed that day was my photo gear. As I was
putting it in my truck, I couldnt resist taking a quick shot of my boy as he stared
at me, wondering where I was going, why I had to leave at all, and silently begging me to
stay. I grabbed my camera and clicked, thinking Jody might enjoy seeing Ichabods
adorable snow-kissed face. I took only three shots because I was at the end of a roll of
film. I then packed up my camera and went off on my adventure.
I didnt think about the photos until I got home from my
trip and saw the images developed. One was especially captivating. It warmed my heart, and
I knew Jody would love it. I proudly handed her the photograph, the best of the three
shots, thinking she would be pleased and surprised at my gift. She was
but she was
more surprised by the distinctiveness of the image itself, and surprised me by suggesting
I sell it. The photograph, she pointed out, had the qualities I seek to capture when I
photograph dogs: breed exemplification and individual dog concentration.
I had not taken that shot with the intent to create a limited
edition print. I had taken it purely because I saw something in Ichabods eyes in a
moment that stirred my soul, and it was precious; something I wanted to share with Jody
and have for myself. After all, he was our boy. But Jody realized the image
showed so much more than "our cute little Ichabod". It conveyed spirit, and she
insisted I share it with others.
|The photograph now called Ickabod's First Snow has
become a big hit. It is one of my very best sellers, as many dog enthusiasts, especially
Chessie lovers, appreciate the depth of Ichabods expression. They see it as
indicative not only of this dog's mood, but also of how very expressive the breed is as a
||The photograph became the
cover shot for the Year 2000 Holiday issue of one of England's Chesapeake magazines
and is a frequent request as a donation when I offer prints to animal assistance
organizations. Yes, Ichabod is a true working dog! He helps to raise money for rescue
groups. Boy, am I glad I had film loaded in my camera that winter day!
What makes the image successful is
that I was able to compliment the breed, while showing Ickys individual personality
on film. His expression is priceless. Capturing it was simply a result of paying attention
to how that expression made me feel. But it was also the result of clicking my camera when
the dog was relaxed enough to SHOW me his spirit -- that which is of his breed, and that
which is his alone.
Ichabod is now one-and-a-half and, though he is much
bigger than he was in his photograph (and now able to jump OVER the fence!), he still has
the same sweet, soulful expression.
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