As the year winds down…

I’m taking time to play.

DSC_4261-2If you’re not trying to be real, you don’t have to get it right. That’s art.

Andy Warhol

I couldn’t have planned this year if I tried and looking back on it, I think that may be what got me through it.

Sometimes it’s just better to let things unfold and make choices on the opportunities that present themselves.

Life and art are a lot alike that way.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to listen to your gut and just go for it. The path that you should be on is often the easier one to navigate.

Is that you…

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Seneca

A lot can be learned from watching our canine friends and seeing how they live in the moment.

I recall the crazy antics of my bloodhound when she was presented with the “heel” from a loaf of French bread. Her joy knew no end as she pranced, danced, flung it around, rolled all over it, and then at last would eat it.

Another Stafford of ours would do “the green bone dance” when he was given a Greenie to chew on. Designed for dental health we had no idea why they inspired such antics but they always did.

My dogs are some of the lucky ones. They are cherished from the first day that they come to us until the last day of their lives. It isn’t so for many other dogs though and we, the P and I, have a plan to do our part towards making that happen for more animals in the coming year.

We’ll be sharing more about this as it unfolds in the upcoming weeks…

Stay healthy and happy during this holiday season and find joy in the little things.

 

Take creative control…

and see what’s in your camera!

DSC_2468-2Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.

JunichiroTanizaki

You don’t need to travel to exotic locations or buy expensive lighting to create unique photos but you do need to learn what your camera has to offer.

When’s the last time you scrolled through the menu in your camera to see what it can do?

When’s the last time you tried some of those features?

I can’t relate to the mindset of having a camera, setting it to auto, and then taking pictures. If that’s all you’re going to do you might be better served just pulling out your phone and using that to take the picture. I recently loaded the Lightroom ap onto my ipad and when I use that to take a photo I first jump into LR and click on the camera from there. Try it, you’ll see the difference!

Phones, ipads, and tablets have come a long way in the last while and can take some very nice photos especially for sharing on social media where the file size doesn’t matter. Try to blow those up though and you will run into some issues.

A good jumping off point from auto is to start using your scene settings. Match them to the conditions that you’re shooting in and then look at the settings that the camera chose. You will soon start to see what kind of settings are required for different conditions.

From there it’s a quick leap to going fully manual and taking creative control.

A feature of many of the Nikons in the DSLR line-up is the ability to do double exposure and then if the two shots that I want can’t be coordinated at the same time…in camera image overlay.

While you can create these types of shots in photoshop I like the challenge of combining them right in the camera.

Today’s shot was an image overlay. The secret to them is to visualize your lights and darks and plan where you want them to fall. They can be a lot of fun and really change the mood of a photo. I did a head shot outside and for my second image used the rainbow reflections that showed up when the sun hit my wood stove glass door. Beautiful, soft out of focus images can also be perfect for these types of shots.

What’s in your camera? What will you try today?

 

On inspiration…

whose work are you inspired by?

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A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.

Richard Avedon

Why don’t you take pictures of people? 

I sometimes get criticized, and perhaps that’s too strong of a word, maybe admonished is better, for not photographing people but that just isn’t where my passion lies. I find it challenging to break through the veneers that most of us wear and lose patience with the process of trying to capture that. Put a dog in front of me though and time stands still.

I find this a little ironic considering how much I admire the work of Richard Avedon and how his minimalist style always managed to reveal so much character.

I think an important part of growing as an artist is not just learning the technical skills behind it but figuring out what really moves you. I like to look at other art forms in addition to photography and see which ones resonate with me and why.

This information can begin to affect your shooting style.

This information can be taken and developed into something of your own.

There is a distinction to be made between outright copying a style and making it your own. Derivative work, changing just one or two things like perhaps the color or a slight perspective change, does not make it your own; I think one needs to consciously go beyond that.

I tend to shoot more black and white than I do color but occasionally when I find myself drawn to color it is usually because there is something in that scene that reminds me of that wonderful painter, Wolf Kahn. I fell in love with his landscapes the moment that I saw the first one.

Alfred Stieglitz, will always be my first love. His painterly style of photography inspires me to this day.

Michael Kenna’s photography has such simplicity and clarity to it. It reminds me to pay attention to composition first and foremost.

Photography today has changed so much in that now almost everyone is walking around with a camera and we are inundated with imagery. Now more than ever I think it is important to ruthlessly edit our own work and be more conscious of how and why we are taking a photograph.

Is there someone who inspires you?  I would love to hear who that is and why…

I know who stole the Christmas tree ornaments…

but can you tell me who was the thief of time?

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decorations for his tree

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Fifty two weeks of blogging. Fifty two weeks to link images and words. Fifty two weeks of growth and direction.

When I started this project I wasn’t sure how it would look or where it would take me. I worried that it would become a self-imposed “assignment” that would loom like a dark cloud over my week-end.

The time has literally flown by though and this has become an enjoyable part of my week. Much to my surprise I have never had to struggle through the writing of the post and as an added bonus, I have a lot more clarity on my own direction.

It brings me great pleasure to see people from around the world taking a few minutes out of their day to see what images and words I have shared. Time is in short supply for most of us and I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who have signed up to follow my blog, comment, or just drop in from time to time.

For me this has been a valuable lesson in not having expectations but just going forward and letting things unfold. Do it for yourself first! I know that I harp constantly on creativity and how important is it to feed it but for those of you who struggle with it, I swear that if you make a commitment to yourself to feed your art on a daily basis you will have more inspiration and ideas than you will know what to do with!

Merry Christmas, may the season bring you joy and inspiration and time with those you love… two-legged or four!

In this month of excess…

don’t forget to check in with yourself…and get committed!

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If you deny yourself commitment, what can you do with your life?

Harvey Fierstein

December is my month for reflection; to think back on the year and to consider the next. It is also a month of excess and pressure that flies along at such a pace that if we aren’t careful, we can be left feeling depressed, out of sorts, and like we have missed something.

For me it is a time to set goals and to put those things into play before the end of the year so that when the first of January rolls around I already have a head start. Such has been the case with my first year of blogging.

My goal was to post a weekly post and on that first day as I sat down in front of my blank screen I began to wonder just what I had gotten myself into. Like most other things though if you commit to it, it has a way of finding its own path. For me, because I see my world in images first that seemed to be a natural starting point…the image. Once I had that in place, each week seemed to just write itself.

This has been the second of such challenges that I have set for myself and both times the rewards have been unexpected and far more than I had hoped for. The first of these challenges was to post an image every day with the requirement that the image had to be taken on that very day. I was introduced to this site that had its start in Scotland by a dear South African friend, an immensely talented photographer and painter whom I had met many years ago while spending time in Africa. I posted for two straight years and not only learned far more about the art of photography but I learned about myself and how I see the world around me.

A more in-depth look at some of my images took this further yet and now as I sit ready to hit the publish button on my 51st post, I feel a sense of confidence and even more importantly self that I earned by making a commitment to myself and my art.

So what are you waiting for? There’s no better time to get off of the sofa and follow a dream!

In a perfect world, getting a dog…

would be a commitment that would last for the lifetime of that dog and not just until it was no longer convenient…or… why I buy from a breeder.

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The chief ingredients in the composition of those qualities that gain esteem and praise, are good nature, truth, good sense, and good breeding.

Joseph Addison

I can’t tell you how many times I get a look of disgust from people upon finding out that my puppy did not come from the shelter but that I in fact waited over a year for him to be born and that was after I had done my research and chosen a breeder who was breeding the lines that I was looking for and doing the appropriate genetic testing for hereditary conditions. Even more appalling…this is NOT the first time that I have done this nor will it be the last. On each occasion I have received exactly what I was looking for at the time.

Do I not feel guilt when thinking about the dogs already born who are looking for their forever homes? Of course I do.  Perhaps the guilty feelings come from my compassion for all animals and if I walked into a shelter would I be likely to come out empty-handed? No, how could you look into those eyes and not want to make their world better?

I do however have strong feelings about the need to preserve breeds that have been in existence for decades and in some cases, centuries. Breeds that have been developed to serve a myriad of purposes ranging from home and livestock guardian, search and rescue, hunting, companion dog, and like my current breed, all-purpose dog just to name a few.

Take the bloodhound for example. After completing my own personal training and being certified by the National Association of Search and Rescue I was ready to find my partner to work with on our team. We did not have any bloodhounds currently working tracking/trailing so I searched high and low for a conformationally correct bloodhound. They are scenting marvels with every part of them designed to fulfill a specific purpose. The neck must be long enough to comfortably reach the ground, the ears are designed to waft scent towards the nose, the skin must be loose in order to slip through underbrush more easily, the drool helps to rehydrate the scent and that nose! A human’s nasal cavity is about one and a half inches square while the bloodhound’s comes in at roughly twenty-two and a half square inches. Their testimony is admissible with proper training documentation, in a court of law. From clear across the country I bought a puppy from a Chief of Corrections, a breeder who knew from many years experience exactly the dog that I would require to do the job that she would be trained for. She was utterly fabulous and at the age of 10 months was running 24 hour aged tracks at a flat-out run during a law enforcement training seminar.

For me this is just one experience among many and one excellent breeder among many that I have met. Are all breeders good? Certainly not but this is where doing your homework comes in. It’s been my experience that the breeders who are doing it right, are not making money off of their litters. They are testing for genetic inheritable problems and like the breeder above, working towards producing excellent dogs that are a credit to the breed and this does not come about by cutting corners. Does this guarantee that I will not go through the heartbreak of any health-related issue, certainly not, but it gives me a known starting point. I filled out a lengthy questionnaire before I was even “allowed” to make a deposit on my current dog. My buyers contract was several pages long. Am I happy with him? I am thrilled, he is exactly what I was looking for. Will I show him? More than likely but only if he also enjoys the process. Will he be first and foremost a family member? Absolutely. Another wonderful thing are the friendships that have developed with these breeders who actually care about what happens to their dogs and what they accomplish in their lifetimes. They are an endless source of information and insight on the breeds.

These days when confronted by someone who is appalled that I did not go to the shelter for my dog, I ask a question of them.

Do you have children? If the answer is yes, I then ask why they did not adopt a child who needed a home instead of having one or more of their own. More than 250,000 children enter the foster care system in the US every year. Not adopting a child who needs a home is readily forgiven but with rescue organizations being very PC, not adopting a dog from the shelter and buying from a good breeder somehow makes you a bad person.

I think that we all should be allowed to choose who we live with without criticism or judgement. When adding to my “family” I owe it to those that are part of it already to choose someone who will be the right fit.  I hope that the small time breeder, who goes that extra mile to produce purebred dogs with not only the traits that we have come to expect from that breed, but also ones sound in body and temperament, will be allowed to continue producing dogs of merit and will not be legislated into the ground.

I think that our efforts would be better served attempting to weed out puppy mills as I believe these to be the source of many shelter dogs. These poor animals are treated very poorly as breeding stock and no thought goes into producing sound dogs. As a contrast to my puppy, their first very formative weeks of life are not filled with excellent care, appropriate socializing and the astute observations of the breeder to match puppy and future owner. The uneducated, perhaps soft-hearted buyer then comes along and finds that he has a nightmare on his hands and the dog is turned into the shelter for aggression, destructive behaviors, and a host of other potentially avoidable traits. Ahead of him then lies a long road to try to “fix” these issues so that he may one day become adoptable.

That’s not the life that I would choose for any dog and when I look into the eyes of my puppy, I think he knows that he’s one of the lucky ones to have come from a good breeder.

Update: There remains a huge difference between puppy mills and responsible breeders. The responsible breeders that I know rarely come out ahead monetarily when having a litter. I will never condone having a litter of puppies for any reason other than a strong belief that a sounder dog can be produced. Going one step further, I believe that my next dog will come from a shelter.