Monthly Archives: July 2014

52 Mondays #29


So… another week. And if you thought it would be a quiet one, well, it isn’t. My sister arrives for a few days, and another friend mid-week. I’m in a frenzy of cleaning. Not to mention, I had a great idea last week. A really great idea. A time-consuming monster of an idea that should run itself once set up. Let’s just say it was really a job for the professionals, but with only my own meagre skills, I’m going it alone. I will no doubt introduce it to you in due course!

Sadly, it is not a money-making idea, though it could be I guess. It is actually a lot of fun. I needed to extend myself a little, rather than just working very hard in my comfort zone. Are you interested in it yet?

As you can see, new woof-woof Amigo is out and about with us. Today was his first off-lead experience. He has walked with me now on lead for almost four months, so he is well used to being by my side. He and Tilly just trot along very happily. Heston races off and races back when he is off-lead, which is not very often these days. He needs nose-blinkers so he doesn’t get distracted by scents he just has to follow.

Amigo is a griffon x border, apparently. If you ask me, he is pure muttley (and no less adorable!) and it is very hard to tell what he is, if he is anything. Definitely a Heinz 57. That was one boy who was delighted to be off the lead this morning. That’s why older dogs are so often easy adoptions – they often know the rules already, unless they have been purely working dogs. Thus, no house-training (okay, a little reminder) no pulling on the lead, no disappearing. And if I say ‘sit’, he does exactly that. He barks very rarely, and never barks at guests, only things that startle him. He doesn’t like thunder (he shivers and shakes and hides, poor love!)

It took a bit of getting to, that photo (Heston is just out of shot, but he was with us, promise!) as Amigo was not good with Heston. They didn’t have a good introduction and the first few days were a bit tense. Now, there are occasional warning growls from Amigo if Heston comes up behind him, but that is all. Mostly, they rub along very well, although they are never going to be best friends. I’d guess that Amigo has been in a one-dog house and has been the treasured pet. He is very well-behaved. A take-anywhere dog. He isn’t even interested in Tilly, and every dog is interested in Tilly. She is the most interesting dog of all dogs. It’s because she smells so very terrible. Plus, she has no airs and graces. If she wants to sit with you, she will. She does this with Amigo, and he always looks so very alarmed. She isn’t good with new dogs and barks like a maniac until she realises they won’t eat her, but after this, she is fine.

Anyway, it is heating up here this week – it has been very cold, certainly for mid-July. I thought mid 20s was bad, but someone told me it was 12° in Normandy last week.

The sister and I will hopefully have some trips and excursions, and a right good catch-up. I haven’t seen her since October last year, and it seems like forever.

Next week, back to normal. Peaceful summertime. Lots to do.

Hope you have a sunshiney day too – love this early morning freshness here.

Quoi de neuf?

It feels like ages since I have been here, properly. Save the odd 52 Mondays post. (See, I can stick things out!)

It is fair to say I have been busier than ever. What with exam build-up from April, then marking in June and July, it’s a four-month slog to the top of the mountain. I still have some clients here and there, but I actually have one whole week off from now until next Monday. One whole week! And a bank holiday as well! I bet I’m twitching by Monday evening.

Mostly, my life has been work & dogs. Work and dogs. Work and dogs. The weather is unspeakably cool for July (shhhh! I’m kind of enjoying it. 23°C and sunny is just my type of weather for outside work!) but it has been a busy time trying to finish things off.

In between, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the refuge trying to capture photos of the dogs there. One of the boss ladies was even getting a bit specific the other day. “Can you get some dog poses like this, or like that?” she asked. In my head, I was thinking, “They are dogs. You get what you get.” especially since the whole purpose of me taking them was that often the dogs only got photographed on entry from the pound, and then really for ID purposes, not for promotion purposes. Now I’ve done so many of the dogs (a good sixty or so have had a ‘re-looking’ – the French for a makeover!) everyone’s a critic.

I do notice that. I wonder if all people face the same thing? People who have a cheap point-and-shoot and no particular photography know-how whatsoever saying ‘you should do it like this…’



I took this photo.

Last week, a lady with a cheap point-and-shoot said “Don’t try and take a photo of them from above.”

Err…. why not? Little Jo looks wonderful for his ‘from above’ shot.

To be fair, you get what you get. Some dogs are happy to sit and pose for a photo. I found the easiest dogs are ones who will sit for a biscuit and look at you when you are doing it.

Like Victor.


Do I have any tips for it?

Get down to the dog’s level if the dog won’t sit and look up for a treat.


Put your camera on a low f-stop like 6.3. Not lower. Then you get the nose in focus, but not the face or eyes. Or you get the eyes in focus but a blurry nose. Then put it on a quick ISO, like 1600 or 3200. Anything less and even in sunlight you aren’t likely to get a clear shot. Zoom in fairly close, and you have to use auto-focus, because manual takes too long and they are gone!


Clean the dog’s eyes of sleep and yuck. I am always forgetting to do this. See above.

Have a good partner. One lady I walk with really loves walking the dogs. But the only time she is still with them, she has treats straight out. Her hands are in all my shots, or her body, or she says “this dog is bored!” and wanders off. Bless her. She means she is bored, of course! If you have someone with you who understands photography, so much the better. They’ll keep hands and legs clear. If you have a certain assistant, she will elicit the kind of looks of blind adoration from dogs that give you super winning shots.


If you are doing it on the lead, hold the lead fairly tight (not straining or pulling – that makes the dog look like a lead fiend!) about a foot away from the dog’s head. The dog’s movement is restricted but they look free.

Take photos after a walk, if possible, so they are happy and a little less energetic. If you have a ball of energy like I had with Rosalie, my toughest dog yet, you may have to find a bit of space and give them ten minutes to tire themselves out off-lead. Every single shot of Rosalie, she was moving too quickly to capture. Plus, she has zero recall and zero interest in treats. Plus, being on a lead is stressful. She has serious and sad weals that you can feel with your fingers where she has been restrained for long periods of time.


But it will happen! This shot took 30 minutes to get, including walk!

If you can take a photo without treats and toys, so much the better. Then they won’t strain at the lead and the pose looks more natural. A miaow is the best way to get most dogs’ attention, especially refuge dogs who don’t know their name. The camera click can give you the money shot… head on one side out of curiosity, and great focus.


Don’t take the shot in full sunlight… it is too contrasty. (see above) Shade is great, though you need a faster ISO and shutter speed.


And it is best if you know the dogs a little, to try and capture a little of their character. When you can catch a little old guy having a rest, it’s fab

usty2I am a big fan of uniform backgrounds. Doesn’t matter if it’s a grey one, a stone one, a path or a load of greenery. But not too much of everything. This is true of body shots as well as close-up portraits.

julietta3And of course, for every Rosalie that takes a half-hour for one decent shot, there are hundreds who give you smiles and eyes and happy faces.


There are also some who are out-and-out posers.


As well as some who are camera shy, who are so upset by the camera that you have to give them a bit of time to do their best

havilaIf you are lucky, you get some great ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots that capture the different aspects of the dog on arrival and after they know they are safe.



This is Chance. He was saved from euthanasia in another pound. Here he is a couple of days into his stay. (above) And a couple of days after (below)


And even…


So this is what I have been doing two or three afternoons a week. Oh, and then the evenings, I spend editing. It’s not just a case of take a photo and bang it up on the website. I haven’t time to do a lot of editing, but a simple crop, colour adjust and balance adjust will usually make the most out of most images.

Though I would like to say, yes, animal photographers make it look incredibly easy. But whoever said you should never work with children or animals was right. Especially animals.

So what else? Not to mention a lot of walks with my own beasties. Amigo, my refuge dog, took some time to settle in – that’s another (not very traumatic) story – but he can now come on walks with my own two as well.

IMG_1626And there has even been a little of this:


And some of this:


What a busy few months it has been!








52 Mondays #28


Feels more like April or May than July. It’s okay with me. I prefer mild to stinking hot. Just could do without the storms and the rain.

Storms are lovely for me, for Tilly and for Heston. We don’t mind ’em. Amigo, on the other hand, well, he is terrified. He is a quivering, shivering wreck during the storms. Poor boy. And we have been having so many of them!

This week marks the first time since his arrival that I have been able to walk all three dogs together – that, in itself is an achievement. Amigo, it seems, is not used to other dogs. He tolerates Tilly, but was most alarmed when she licked him on the nose. Sometimes, Tilly and Heston play – I say ‘play’ and I mean Tilly gives him a feeble little slap with her paw and Heston pretends to bite her legs – and that was upsetting to Amigo as well. No, Amigo has been in a one-dog home and he has been a loved and treasured pet. He walks to heel, never fusses, doesn’t mind being left, likes to sleep at the foot of the bed, loves cuddles, watches me constantly, loves treats and got so excited when I got my wellies out that I’m very certain he knows that wellies mean a walk or some time outside.

So to be able to walk all three, well, that is progress. Plus, it saves me a walk a day. Amigo and Tilly trot next to me. Heston runs in big circles on a long lead, unless he is in a field and I let him off.

It just makes me sad that a dog that is so lovely and so sweet, so well-trained and so good-natured, should have found himself at the refuge. What can have possibly happened in his life that led to him being abandoned? Poor guy.

Anyway, from having to sit and keep him and Heston separate, managing every situation that was stressful, from food and being in the garden, now there is only playing that they cannot do together. Balls are worth fighting for, even if there are two hundred lying around my garden.

I’ve been finishing off my marking as the farmers have been out harvesting the winter wheat. Although, the end is never really the end. Once the initial marking is over, all the remaining scripts go into a big pot and it becomes a free-for-all. Sometimes, it takes weeks to finish marking them all. Sometimes, they are gone in days.

Although most of my lessons finished on Friday, I still have ten or so clients who are putting themselves or their children through a little extra over the break. A holiday of sorts, then, for me!

And the rest of the time, I am busy trying to capture the refuge dogs at their most photogenic. I don’t know if it helps them find homes. I hope it does. It’s nice to have the time to spend there – the staff and volunteers are amazing and we have a really great time walking the dogs or helping out. I just hope I get to put in a few more hours over the school break.

52 Mondays #27

52Mondays27Another busy week. We’ve passed the half-way point for the year, and I’m afraid, realists, that it is all downhill from here.

By next week, I’m hoping my workload and marking load will be a little easier. But just when you find a space in your diary, the phone starts going mental. What looked like being a quiet summer looks like it will be a little more busy than I had anticipated.

Oh well.