Working DogsThe Spirit of the Working BreedsPhotography
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Capturing the Spirit of the Working Dog
in Photographs: Part III


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By Dennis Glennon, Wildlife, Nature & Dog Photographer

Every dog has ‘spirit’ -- an individual energy, personality, and character. This is what gives each dog its uniqueness. The key to capturing spirit on film is to study the breed AND the individual dog you’re going to photograph.  Assuming you have some basic photographic knowledge, you can achieve superior results.  Even if you don’t possess a professional model camera, the good news is that you don’t need one, or a Ph.D. in Dogology, to capture the spirit of the working dog on film.  This is how I do it…  Click for Part III of the article.


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CAPTURING THE SPIRIT, Part III   [ Dennis Glennon ]

Taking Still Shots

Now, my first Chessie was a magnificent girl named Rachel. She was beautiful, strong, energetic, and had keen, sharp senses, always interested in, and aware of, everything in her environment. An adventurer by nature, she loved to explore and, even as a six-week-old puppy, she escaped the triple-fenced yard at her breeder’s home, something that had never been done before by any other pup. We knew we wanted THAT puppy!

Rachel had DRIVE. It was evident in everything she did. She traveled with me often and was truly a great companion. When she was almost two years old, I decided I wanted to capture some special images of my Rachel so I took her to the very woods I used explore as a kid. Late afternoon light is flattering and warm in tone, so I waited until later in the day, as I wanted to show off the beautiful color in Rachel’s coat and eyes.

A hunting dog is best photographed in a hunting environment, in my opinion, so I made sure to have tall reeds in the background. If you can put a dog in its proper environment, let them ‘do their thing’ to bring out their breed instincts AND their individual personality, and get great light on them, you will have a very successful image!

One of the images resulting from that afternoon adventure was a photograph of Rachel sitting among the reeds looking out into the distance as she responded to a scent or sound. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever in her shows through in the shot, for sure.

Click for large image of Intensity,  Dennis Glennon

However, the intense look in her eyes -- a quality of the Chesapeake yes, but an expression unique to Rachel’s profound desire to investigate -- is what's emphasized in the final piece. The image is called Intensity and it clearly shows the hunting instinct of her breed and Rachel’s strong personality.

Another image I was blessed to capture that day was a close-up of Rachel turning her head to check on me. She wasn’t distracted. She was doing what came naturally to her; watching like a sentry, keeping one eye on her environment and the other on her Daddy.

What was so compelling about this experience was how dramatically the look on her face changed when she went from thinking and focusing on the brush before her to looking to me. Her entire face softened. Her eyes, sharp and piercing only a moment earlier, were now full of wisdom, depth and love.

Click for large image of Eyes of the Soul,  Dennis Glennon

This is SO indicative of the breed, as any Chesapeake lover will tell you, and with a click of the shutter, I captured that beautiful moment in film forever. The result is Eyes of the Soul,  another favorite among collectors of my work, and one Jody and I will cherish always.

When I photographed Rachel that afternoon, the images were for me, and for Jody. I had no intention of selling them. I couldn’t have cared if anyone else liked them, or even ever saw them. I wanted our dog on film for us, to keep forever. Rachel almost died months before those pictures were taken, so when she was ready to go out and have adventures with me, I celebrated, in my heart, and on film. Less than a year after that special afternoon in the woods, Fate had its way and took her from us.

I urge you to take pictures of your own dogs at all stages of their lives, even if they are not "exceptional shots of quality." Who cares! We never know how long our dogs will be with us, and images of our dogs are powerful. Most of the time, our own personal dog pictures make us smile. Sometimes they make us sad because certain dogs are no longer with us. But most importantly, their photographs have bought joy to our hearts, and the hearts of others, and though our dogs cannot always remain with us, their images stay with us all our lives.

 

 


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