House of Flying Dogs

Every now and then I set up our living room as a studio for doing some portraits. And each time I do that, my dogs think they should be the subjects.

It’s true. Whenever I get out the light stands and hang the backdrop, the dogs make a beeline for it and plop down. Maybe they know they make good subjects. I actually sold a photo of Shadow looking regal for a book recently. But they’re a bit of a distraction if I’m trying to photograph people. So usually they get banished to the basement until we’re done, then I let them back up for their turn.

As a black-lab mix, Shadow’s a challenge to photograph. That black fur

Vicious attack dogs!

just soaks up the light. As any good photographer knows, you don’t photograph subjects, you photograph light. So for Shadow, the answer is a liberal use of umbrellas or soft boxes to get plenty of light to reflect off her fur. New to our family this past year is Pringles, a stray off the streets of Kansas City who’s a mix of… well, who knows? What we do know is that he and Shadow love to play and chew on each other, and he loves to jump. So when it came their turn in front of the lights, that’s what I shot.

After they rolled around for a bit, I decided to get Pringles jumping. I’d toss a ball or rubber bone in the air and shoot as he went for it. He’s actually not very coordinated at catching, so that made for some fun pictures. But later when checking the sharpness of the images, I noticed some blur. And that actually wasn’t all that

Pringles shows off his (lack of) catching skills.

surprising. Electronic strobes vary greatly in their duration. With my big studio strobes firing, they were probably in the 1/500 second range. So I changed to smaller strobes. The Nikon Speedlights I use in my portable kit fire in bursts much higher than 1/1000 second as I power them down (at lowest setting, 1/40,000!). So I set them up and shot some more of Pringles, this time freezing him in mid-leap.

For the last twenty years most of my photography around home has been of the kids. With one off to college and another leaving soon, that will end. Which means Shadow and Pringles will get more lens time.