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Today we did another photo shoot. We originally were schedule to shoot last week. It was an outdoor shoot and the weather last week wasn’t desirable. It was postponed until today, the day after our big “dog party”. The weekend we have a bunch of dogs and people over for dog fun- this year we had 20 dogs.

I knew when we rescheduled it for today I could have adrenalin-hung over dogs to handle. And maybe a little tired and sore added in there too. I didn’t think it’d be too much of a problem. The shot was to involve 2 little girls, big dogs and a wading pool.

We were doing the shoot on location and therefore not in the studio, but at a photographer’s house where there was green grass. They wanted green grass and sun. The original date had been overcast and cool…good dog weather, but not for the kids. Today was 88 degrees and high humidity. Good pool weather for the kids, but probably the worst weather to try to work Leonbergers-in full sun no less. I was hoping they would last a little bit before melting right into the pool.

We all met at the studio and then caravanned out to the location- a nice country home on a county highway with some acreage and no fencing.

I got out to survey the site while leaving the dogs in the air conditioned truck. I was greeted by 4 loose fowls strutting around the yard. Ledum saw them from the truck immediately. They were rounded up and placed in the hen and rabbit house facing the set up wading pools.  One rooster protested LOUDLY to this roundup. Ledum was following very closely from the truck.

When I knew the birds were secure I let the dogs out of the truck. Ledum’s brain was fully engaged in roosters. He knew where they were and he wanted to get a snuffle. He doesn’t hurt things, but he likes to chase them to snuffle and slime them. Snuffling a rooster was the ONLY thing he could get into his head. I had a leash and flat collar on him, but he was trying to convince me the most important thing in the whole wide world was snuffling a rooster.

I got Ledum, Mara and Tringa out of the truck. Ledum was super jazzed and it took me quite a lot to get him under some semblance of control. Mara and Tringa were put in a down while I was trying to bring Ledum back to earth.

While that was going on, the two little girls (7 and 4) were getting introduced to the dogs. Like our first photo shoot a few weeks ago, the youngest wanted NOTHING to do with the dogs.

While the photographers (3 all together) were setting up equipment, the mom and I were trying to get the youngest to just touch a dog-even fluff I pulled from Tringa and had in my hand. No success.

Then it was time for the fun.

The first shot they wanted was Ledum sitting in the wading pool towering over looking down at the tiny, youngest girl obviously upset he was in HER pool. The girl would have none of it. We had to use the older child. Ledum kept turning his head to look at the roosters and rabbits. He doesn’t have a good WATCH ME command…something I’ve never really taught him but is now top on my to-do list. We used toys and motions and all sorts of inventive things to get him to at least appear to be looking down at the girl. The girl’s job was to look up at Ledum, right in his face, with visual frustration. They wanted her hands in a certain way, her face held a certain way, her knees placed just so. Trying to get both the dog and the child to do what they wanted simultaneously was fairly challenging.

It was so hot Ledum was not interested in playing this game. True, he was sitting in a pool of water, but he was fading.

So the photography director who owned the house thought maybe a live rabbit would help Ledum focus where he need to be. Absolutely, it would focus his attention for sure.

Keep in mind, he is sitting in the pool approximately 10-15 feet (I moved around) in front of me. No leash. Mara and Tringa are in a down about the same distance behind me in the shade. They also are unleashed and aren’t even wearing a collar.

Rabbit came out and sat between director’s legs. She was caressing it and trying to get it to move in a more enticing manner. Ledum was sitting in the pool VERY interested, but kept his sit in the pool.

Then….the rabbit squirmed loose and was hopping away.

I grabbed Ledum as he leapt out of the pool. He tried to get me to lawn ski behind him after the rabbit, but didn’t succeed. It was taking me all I had to keep that from happening, but while I was working to keep Ledum under control, the bunny hopped right past Mara and Tringa. It was too much for them. They broke their downs and were off.

So there was the bunny, with Mara and Tringa following with all 3 photographers bringing up the rear-all headed towards the road. My commands were falling on deaf ears while I was getting a leash on Ledum hooking it to a conveniently located post on the patio. With Ledum secure, I could join in the chase.

As soon as I rounded the corner of the garage and said Mara! Tringa! OFF. COME. They stopped and came to me. The rabbit had come back in a circle and the director got it back into the pen. No one was hurt. I wasn’t too happy Mara and Tringa broke, but the photographers thought they were awesome because they could have had the rabbit more than once, but showed great self control. HA! Guess it’s all in the perception…

We continued on from that by doing some shots of all 3 dogs in the pool with the girl standing outside the pool. The youngest refused to do that, too. The older girl did these shots too. At least for these shots, the dogs didn’t have to look down into a face so it was much easier.

Then the kids were done. We shot a few more of Mara holding the hose with the water running filling the pool for the Leos.

It had been over an hour and half baking in the sun. We were all toasted and it was time to go home. The director’s husband walked with me to the truck. He complimented me on how well behaved my dogs were. They were incredible and I should be proud. They were much better behaved than the child…

I got in the truck and drove home, laughing and shaking my head most of the way home. Good thing I have a sense of humor.

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In our house around this time of year we start thinking about taking a family photo for our holiday newsletter. Subjects in the photo are varying numbers of dogs, depending on the year (the cat always seems to have good excuses for not being in the photo) and us most years. Some years we have good excuses for not being in the photo, too!

Inevitably, without fail, at least one person will ask “How did you get them all to sit there?” To which either my husband or I will answer “We told them to”.

Honestly, many people forget this, but obedience commands have their place in everyday activities…such as picture taking.

A simple SIT or DOWN depending on how you want your photo composed is a start. The attention command such as WATCH gets the dog looking at you who has the camera so therefore…the dog looks at the camera.  Simple.

Well, simple for one dog. It gets a little more challenging with multiple dogs. The more dogs, the better the obedience will need to be.

For those occasions when you want to be in the photo with your dog, unless you want your dog looking at you when you take the photo, the WATCH command won’t work. WATCH means to focus on you. You can teach a separate PHOTO or LOOK command to get the dog to look away from you and to whatever it is you want them to concentrate on (in this case the camera).

If you don’t have time (or the desire) to teach a LOOK there are a couple tricks to get your dog to focus on the camera (or at least the direction of the camera). These tricks still require solid enough obedience for your dog to hold their SIT or DOWN commands in mild distractions.

If you’re using a helper to take the photo for you, have them make interesting sounds, shake a treat box or squeak a favorite toy.

If you’re using a tripod to take the photo yourself (with a remote or a timer) try throwing a treat bag or toy in the direction of the tripod just before the shutter releases. Be aware the dog’s gaze will be wherever the object ends up so practice throwing before taking your photos.

I’ve also hung something of interest to my pack from the tripod with a small line to where I would be seated. When we were ready, I’d tug the line slightly to move the toy or feather or whatever near the camera. Dogs focused there and viola, family photo.

Here are a couple photos from years past. We’re still waiting for snow for this year’s attempt.

Oh, and remember to HAVE FUN and BE PATIENT.

Using holiday type props can enhance your photo

 

Family portrait from years past

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Around here our lives revolve around wildlife and dogs, literally.
My husband, Mark, is the Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Northwoods Wildlife Center (NWC) in Minocqua, WI. We spend LOTS of hours there taking care of injured and orphaned wildlife. Sometimes it takes times away from our pack. Sometimes members of our pack lie quietly in Mark’s office while we attend to things. Trained dogs have the privilege of going lots of unusual places.
NWC is a non-profit always scrabbling for funding to keep food and medicine in animals’ mouths. Funny thing – wildlife doesn’t carry health or accident insurance.
One of the things we do for fund-raising is an amateur Photo Contest. While the categories are primarily wildlife and nature, a pets category was added. All proceeds benefit the work of the Northwoods Wildlife Center.

• Entry fee is $10 PER photo entry.
• Entry MUST be in a white, cream or beige 11” x 14” mat with 7.5” x 9.5” inner dimension (fitting an 8×10 photo).  We  WILL NOT accept framed pieces, photos without mats, or photos of smaller or larger size. Uniform entries are the only way to ensure fair, unbiased judging.
PHOTOS WILL NOT BE RETURNED. The Northwoods Wildlife Center will not be held responsible for the condition of your photo. Do not send your only copy.
• Each entry must have the following information attached to the back of the photo:

~Entrant’s name, address, phone number & e-mail address
~The Category entrant sees photo best fitting into
~Title for the photo entry
~There can be no identification on the front of your photo. Voting/judging is blind.
~This is an AMATUER photo contest. You must not make more than 25% of your annual income through photography in order to enter this contest.
~The winners of the 2008 Photo Contest will not be able to win in the category in which they won in a previous year.

Entries should be mailed to or dropped off in person:
Northwoods Wildlife Center
Attn: Beth Burns
8683 Blumenstein Rd
Minocqua, WI 54548

We cannot accept electronic entries at this time.

The top five (5) winners in each category will be notified by being mailed a certificate.
Anyone can be sent the winner’s list if a SASE is included with photo entry.
The First Place Winner’s photos in all categories will be shown at NWC throughout 2009.
The winner of the North American Wildlife Category will be NWC’s 2010 Artist of the Year.

2009 Categories
North American Wildlife…..$100.00 first prize
Nature……………………………..$100.00 first prize
Insects/Flowers…………………$50.00 first prize
Pets…………………………………..$50.00 first prize

The Northwoods Wildlife Center reserves the right to re-categorize or deny any photo entry.

Photos must be postmarked by February 1st, 2009 to be eligible for contest.

2009 Photo Gala is February 28th at the Campanile Center for the Arts.

Please e-mail Beth Burns with any questions you have about the contest: babnwc@hotmail.com or see
Northwoods Wildlife Center.

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