Monday, October 20, 2008


I've had several people ask where I've been the last few months. Some of you know I've been getting steroid shots for the last 2 yrs, the relief doesn't last long and I'm tired of missing events (dogs and loads of others!) It's hard to get great photos if you can't get underneath, on top, twist, run, etc. basically do the things to get *the* shot that nobody else gets, well, you get the picture...ha!

I've decided to go ahead and have the surgery on my back. I'll be going in on Wednesday (22nd), doc said 3-4 days in then they'll send me home. I promised I'd be good *grumble* The short version; break it, fix it, heal it, hit the ground running. I plan on having cameras hanging around my neck and getting a dog's attention, disappearing to shoot candids, and finding magnificent angles to photograph the ordinary by early next year. While I already have my hands full with my own 6, I'm hopeful I will be doing well enough to be able to start fostering dogs again.

In February I will be shooting Dockdogs at SEWE in Charleston. After that I'm open and enthusiastic, bring it. :)

Seriously, thanks for your concern. I'm not sure how much I'll be able to get online for awhile, but I promise to let everyone know via my blog how I'm doing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I'm so far behind I won't ever catch up. I am sorry dear phodogfollowers (watch yer step) that I've not kept up as best as I had hoped. Things have gone to hell in a handbasket for the last couple months. I'm hoping I can get back on track. The Good: The Charleston Air Force Base Air Show in April, and the Agility "A" Match in May, and in June, Connor our new Border Collie pup who is determined to drive me out of my mind with giddiness. The Bad: My brother died in a single car accident a couple weeks ago. The Ugly: Our house after the water pipe broke and all of the carpets were ruined. We are just now getting our house back to somewhat normal. I've had two spinal injections due to my intense pain in my back and legs. Although I'm doing better now (back to my every three month injections) I'm still feeling displaced because of my home being such a mess and there's so much more I had wanted to do this summer, not reorganize my house! However, it has made me realize just how much junk we have, and a good deal of it is gonna be gone! We have too much stuff (thank you George Carlin, one of the most brilliant realist comedians ever, may you RIP) .... So, that has been what's going on with me, and why I've not kept up with my blog as I had hoped I would be able to. However, I have kept my trigger finger going and been taking pictures. I don't just shoot dogs... :) Lots of things catch my interest...keep coming back, you never know what I'll find to share or be shooting next!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pet Fest 2008 - Lowcountry Dog Magazine Model Shoot

What do you get when you add more than 250 dogs and over 1500 photos on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Mt. Pleasant? Easy answer! The Lowcountry Dog Magazine Model Contest at Pet Fest! The weather was heavenly, sunshine and warm temperatures made for a glorious day to shoot.

Here it is Tuesday morning and, as I sit here finally processing and uploading the last of the images taken, I am still very sore (heating pad, cold pack, heating pad, cold pack.) I can assure you, it is nothing I'm not used to, and I'm not complaining. If I wasn't sore, I'd think I had backed off and not done as much as I could have. To me the muscle soreness is part of the job. These aren't 'just dogs', these are beautiful, wonderful, spirited animals that deserve to be treated with respect and admiration. The unconditional love they give to us should be returned. While I will never be able to give them near the attention they all deserve, it was my pleasure to at least make the attempt to get the best shots I could in what little time we had together.

I think sometimes when people see me they're just not quite sure what to expect. I don't know for certain, but I did hear a few whispers about my tattoos (they are of my dogs who have passed away.) For those that didn't already know me, I think I surprised them. By laying on the ground to get just the right shots of the smaller dogs, on my knees for others, bending over, walking around. By midday so many of the dogs were obviously hot and tired and giving such stress signals*, it was more important to just get the dog comfortable and let me move. So that's exactly what I did. If I had one that just wouldn't co-operate (or maybe mom or dad wasn't quite sure what to do) the best thing is not to try to force the dog do what you want it to, but to work with the dog. Forcing an animal only causes stress, for both of you. So, I did the up and down and this position and that position and lean over here and there and well, anything to get the shot. I'd have stood on my head if I had to. I would have needed help, it wouldn't have been pretty.

All of this moving around and making the silly noises (lots of silly high pitched noises), is just another part of my job. Yes, I could've set up my tripod. Click "Next" Click "Next"... I even started to, all the time I was trying to set it up I had this nagging voice in my head, "You have to be who you are and how you are. The only expectations you have to fill are your own, and this is not the way you'll do it. Do what you do best." For once those voices in my head had some good advice. ;) So on came the kneepads, up went the hair and I became the dog (ok now I have Bill Murray and Caddyshack are now running through my mind, arrrgh!) Sounds silly to some and others will understand. To me, I shoot what I know, and I know dogs. It is who I am and why I photograph animals for a living. I love the dogs so much it makes my heart feel like it will burst right out of my chest. Getting dirty doesn't bother me in the slightest. Yes, I pay for it physically, but the multitude of happy faces, bouncy bodies and slobbery kisses are bonus checks worth far more than the muscle strains.

There were just some dogs that decided they did not want their picture taken and I did not get the best shots of them, I would love to have had the opportunity to take more time. Unfortunately the line remained very long for most of the day. Other dogs sat patiently. I got at least one picture of every dog. Some got several, others only two or three. I tried to give at least 30 seconds to each dog. It's important for the owners to remember too, even if I got their feet, or the leash, or anything else in the picture, I do everything I can to make the background nice and even. I would not post photos at all if I thought that they could not be improved, or were not already ready to go.

Some images I see from the artistic eye. I have some that all you see are the nose and one eye tongue lolling from the constant panting of the overwhelming heat that took over the day. Others show just a profile, or an angle where the eyes are only in focus, or just the nose as it sniffs the air, where the rest of the head seems just slightly softer. It relates an action, your dog doing something, being himself, just being a dog. A dog's nose is it's first line of "Hey what's that?" You'll do it too going down a road of fastfood restaurants.

There's a tremendous amount of stress on a dog when they are expected to be perfectly behaved and put in 'just so' positions in such a short time span. The owner gets stressed and that goes right down the leash to the dog. I would love to have a one on one opportunity with every dog that came in front of me this weekend to bring out the best qualities in them. With a lack of stress, a lack of such intense heat, and the ability to take time to let him or her just be themselves. I've been known to sit in the middle of a yard and just wait...and wait...and wait.

I was thrilled to see some of my previous clients, people that recognized me from other events ("Hey you're that dog photographer!"), friends I hadn't seen in a while, and even my vet's office personnel stop by to say hi. After a very long and hot day, meeting wonderful people who so obviously love their dogs (and sadly not being able to talk to them near long enough!) Pet Fest 2008 closed down. Right before it started to rain. Just like in photography, timing is everything.

While I am well known for my verbosity in writing, there are not enough words to offer my appreciation to the publisher of Lowcountry Dog Magazine, Leah England, for the invitation to do the pictures this year. Wolf and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. Our boy, Guinness Rockin' Rocket CGC was even in the breed show (*pat*pat*pat*pat* good boy!)

Given the multitude of breeds, sizes, and all else I photographed at Pet Fest, I can once again say I have yet to meet a dog I do not like. There are 1536 photos online at from this past Saturday reaffirming it.

P.S. I love my job. :)

* Stress signals - yawning, turning the head away, averting the eyes, slightly (or intensely) pulling away, ignoring commands, etc. This can be caused by stressful situations as well as people's stress around the animal. The more stress the owner shows (raised voice, insistent commands) the more likely the dog is to react to it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

If I Didn't Have A Dog...

(I can not take the credit for writing this. I don't know who did, but it hit me straight in my heart. For years we did rescue so we've always had 5 or more dogs. It makes me cry tears of joy and sadness, it makes me smile and laugh and nod my head in total agreement. It fits how I feel about all the dogs who've come through my life, including the wolfdog and husky, who passed last year, shown walking with me in the picture below. All photos are mine (excepting the photo taken of me and the underdogs by my husband, Wolf.)

If I Didn't Have A Dog...

I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.
My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated. All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of hair. When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.

When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through fuzzy bodies who beat me there. I could sit on the couch and my bed the way I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.

I would have money ....and no guilt to go on a real vacation. I would not be on a first-name basis with 6 veterinarians, as I put their yet unborn grand kids through college. The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: out, sit, down, come, no, stay, and leave him/her/it ALONE.

My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates or barriers.
My house would not look like a day care center, toys everywhere. My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats and an extra leash.

I would no longer have to Spell the words B-A-L-L, F-R-I-S-B-E- E, W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, B-I-K-E, G-O, R-I-D-E I would not have as many leaves INSIDE my house as outside. I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat ties them down too much I'd look forward to spring and the rainy season instead of dreading 'mud' season.

I would not have to answer the question 'Why do you have so many animals?' from people who will never have the joy in their lives of knowing they are loved unconditionally by someone as close to an angel as they will ever get.

How EMPTY my life would be!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Fun Canine Sports Weekend 3/29-3/30 2008 Bluffton, SC

READY!!!!!!!!! You could feel excitement in the air! I was watching happy dogs and happy owners! That's how my husband, three of our dogs and I spent this past weekend. I was fortunate enough to be offered the job to shoot the "Fun Canine Sports Weekend" in Bluffton, SC. at the astonishing Rose Dhu Creek Equestrian Center.

Oh, did I say fortunate? What a huge understatement, yet certainly true! As a photographer I take pictures to make money, just like anyone else, I go to work, I do my best. Sometimes the extra benefits are worth much more than any money can buy.

This weekend was so much fun to see all of the dogs and the owners give the name of the event real meaning! There was Agility for the beginner and experienced, the "Parade of Breeds", Frisbee demos, Freestyle Dance, Obedience and Rally presentations, rescue booths with info and much, much more. All the rage among the food was the wonderful creamy chicken salad sandwiches filled with grapes and nuts! Yummy!

I spent my time on Saturday mostly shooting the Agility, but occasionally getting the portrait shot in. A lot of time on my knees, up and down and getting the right spot (thank goodness for good kneepads!) This was my first opportunity at shooting Agility, so it was a true new experience for me (a HUGE thanks to Windi for her ideas and suggestions!)

Sunday was a lot more portrait and candid shooting, and admittedly a good bit of time I took for selfish reasons. One of the other offerings was CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Testing. It is a very basic 'title' for your dog, but certainly one that should not be underrated, as it proves your dog is a social and well behaved animal. The CGC title says he can be around other people, other dogs, noises, etc. and still be a Good Dog listening to his owner without distraction. I took my German Shepherd over and got him through it so he now has his CGC, I am thrilled that he has his first title!

I met wonderful people and gorgeous dogs. I learned the difference between breeds that look very similar, and I found information on a few more breeds I wasn't aware of previously. I had help to remain calm when Rock kept getting up from his sit/stay, and I'd like to think some of the advice I gave was taken well too. I am really looking forward to next year where I expect it will be an even larger event.

Dog people are a strange bunch. We love our guys and gals immensely. It is an incredible bond only another dog person can understand, it shows in the way we look at them, the way we are so happy when they complete a task, when they just do the most simple thing, and sometimes when they do nothing at all but lay quietly at our feet or give us those wonderful sloppy kisses. I hope that shows in my photography too.

The benefits to just being at an event like this is incredible. To shoot pictures? Priceless.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A little over a year ago

February of 2007 I made an investment that has changed my life and the way I look at things. I picked up a Nikon D200, a couple Tamron lenses and entered the realm of my dreams. Two weeks later, after a mere 30 or so pictures, our wolfdog, Odin, unexpectedly fell ill and passed through the veil. I have some very beautiful pictures of him now. I've learned a lot since his departure. I also think he hasn't gone far. But that is for another time, another blog...

My sense of photography is that it can be cold, senseless, in your face schizophrenic screaming paradoxical art, and beauty, softly caressing the delicate harmonics of life in still form. It is what you make it. I see things a little different. I try not to take pictures. I try to feel moments and freeze them for others to see. I want to bring emotion to my images. If you don't look at them and choke up, laugh, smile, or even frown because it's completely odd to you, then I am failing at my attempt. I'll just keep on trying. I will continue to do my best.

Since my D200 purchase a year ago, I have packed on the equipment to not only make my photography better, it makes it easier. I'm not going to lie, it serves no purpose. I've picked up a couple Nikon lenses that I feel are imperative to what I enjoy, the 105mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8. I also have the 50mm 1.8. I do still have my Tamron lenses and I do not dispute the education I received from using them. But they do not compare to the Nikon lenses I now have. I also picked up the D300 when it came out last November. I love it. I've also managed to pick up a few props, lights, and "magic tricks" along the way, inexpensive ways to do things that other people do for lots of $$, I'll be sharing those occasionally.

After a year of taking my photography seriously, I realize there are many ways in which I have grown as an artist. A bit of a whirlwind actually. Taking everything that I knew and incorporating intuition, logic, know how and lots of today I will play with this, I can see how much my photography has changed in just a year since 'kicking it up a notch' to the D200 and D300. The difference is huge. I still have my Canon S70 p&s, I love that little camera. I think it was that one that convinced me to start taking my photography seriously.

Although I mostly photograph dogs, I also enjoy sitting in my yard watching the butterflies wisp their way by the flowers (until Rock chases them away) and the birds twitter back and forth among the trees. I like taking the opportunities as they present themselves for micro work on small creatures that most walk right on by without ever noticing. If I have a passion for something, I want you to feel it too.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My first picture the one I see in my head from childhood. The problem of course is that it changes with each memory. As I get older those moments seem to fade, although a few are so vivid I feel sometimes I could reach out and touch them. Babies grow, learn to walk and talk, and off to school they go. Before you know it they're off and the house is empty. The playful puppy you brought home so many years ago sits by your side now, that salt and pepper beard, the glazed eyes. He's slow to get up and pad behind you to the bedroom each night. Keep the memories. It doesn't mean going out and spending $5,000 on the latest and greatest Nikon or Canon equipment. You can use your camera phone. The importance is simply the ability to look back and smile, laugh, grieve, cry, allow yourself some time with your memories. Keep them where you can see them, in a photograph.