Saint Patrick’s Day Dogs


Last weekend was full-on St. Patrick’s Day celebration time in Chattanooga. This, of course, included a parade. And what better way to celebrate that to dress up dogs in green costumes and walk them en masse in the parade?
Since I had a photography workshop scheduled on Action, I planned for us to meet in the park where the dogs would congregate so the group could practice getting shots of moving subjects. Well, some dogs were moving, anyway. Some were pretty content to sit around gazing at all the action.

I managed to grab a few shots of my own. Unfortunately, with daylight savings time having kicked in the weekend before, the sun was already glaringly bright by the time the dogs showed up at 10AM.

There was no green beer in the park and no drunken antics, but plenty of silly dogs performing tricks of their own creation. There was a silly mutt who preferred vertical motion over horizontal–he kept jumping straight into the air at his person, as if the excitement was too much for him.

A little too close to get the whole dog, but cracks me up none-the-less

A little too close to get the whole dog, but cracks me up none-the-less

Then there were the dogs meeting and greeting. Dogs greet one another differently than humans. Some start with a nose sniff. Nose-to-nose, they look like they are exchanging eskimo kisses. However, a dog in the face is really considered a breach of etiquette. Polite dogs approach from the side and start with a much less human-tolerated greeting by sniffing the opposite end of their new acquaintance.

Sometimes I imagine humans greeting like dogs. Looking, then looking away. Looking, then pretending to look at something else. Showing each other our sides. Approaching slowly, stopping to sniff the grass from time to time. Ultimately circling one another to sniff butts. That’s the part that just goes against the grain, isn’t it? But do you ever wonder if there was a time in human history when this was considered polite behavior?

I suppose it doesn’t matter–it’s not a behavior I advocate for humans. However, as humans, we really shouldn’t expect our dogs to greet the way we do. We put them into such stressful situations. Can you imagine being walked around in a collar and on a leash and being expected to greet strangers in the park but not in a way that’s considered polite by our fellow humans? Restrained, restricted, unable to escape and forced to face potential foes in this highly vulnerable position. Add to that a silly green costume.

It amazes me that the dog parade went as smoothly as it did. The occasional dog was walked away from the crowd when it became overexcited or encountered another dog it just couldn’t tolerate. But in general, dogs are so intent on pleasing their humans, they tolerate strange circumstances. Some even appeared to enjoy being dressed for the occasion.

It’s hard to find a better example of selflessness and tolerance that in our faithful furry friends–wouldn’t it be nice if we could follow that example?

‘Fraidy Cats

Bonnie trying to hide herself in a too-small corner

Bonnie trying to hide herself in a too-small corner

While staying with a friend in Columbus over the weekend, I pulled out my big hulkin’ DSLR with a 24-70mm lens on it and added a big hulkin’ speedlite along with an even bigger hulkin’ softbox made for speedlites.

There were 2 dogs and 1 granddog in the house when I got this piece of equipment out.  No one would have guessed that from the looks of the place.  All the dogs disappeared as soon as my camera came into view.

This was definitely a sign that my flash and modifier were an especially intimidating combination.  Although Bonnie has always been terrified of cameras (or any similar looking soul-sucking device), Paris and Elliott are normally posers.

Paris trying to blend in with the wall

Paris trying to blend in with the wall

I got down on all fours to better discover the hiding places of my four-legged friends.  I found Bonnie hiding behind the fireplace–she paused just long enough for me to get one shot and then she scurried off to some hiding place far more effective, not to be seen again until long after my camera had been put away.

Elliott was frozen under the coffee table, convinced he had become invisible until the flash fired the first time.  Paris, one who normally lounges in the open and gazes wistfully at the camera as if to say, “Oh yes, another paparazzi lurking about waiting to take my picture,” was stuffed under the side table, behind the cords for the various electronics in the vicinity.  Far from looking ready to pose, she looked nearly as terrified as Bonnie normally looks.

Elliott frozen in position

Elliott frozen in position

I got only one shot each of the dogs before they disappeared until little Elliott, fooled by the camera being placed on the coffee table for a while, decided it was time to reclaim his favorite spot on the sofa.  He curled his tiny body into a tight ball on the top edge of the sofa pillows.  As soon as I grabbed my camera, he hunkered down, attempting to hide himself behind the pillow fringe.

All I can say is he must have been really comfortable on that pillow not to jump up and run for cover.

Elliott curled on the couch

Elliott curled on the couch

Dog House

Even scratching is cute when a puppy does it

Even scratching is cute when a puppy does it

The vet we saw on Saturday specializes in dermatology.  Similar to a specialist in human medicine, his office is far more luxurious than most vet offices.  Rather than a stark, sterile place, it’s a house on a lake that’s been converted to a vet practice.

They kept a large, open room in the front as a living room setting with lots of big furniture to lounge in and wide open spaces for pets to run around in.  They even provide a big bowl of tennis balls in case you didn’t bring your own toys.

Out front they have a fenced play area with a miniature agility course and small goldfish pond.  Through a gate there’s a large fenced yard that slopes down to the lake.  The fence ends at the water and a large flock of domestic geese hang out at the water’s edge in spite of having been chased into the lake by more than one dog.

Conner, the vet’s brand new puppy, has quite a life ahead of him.  He will go to work every day with his dad and be surrounded by dog lovers.  Between the assistant, the collection of vet techs, and the puppy-loving customers, he was having a hard time getting enough sleep.

When we first arrived, he was napping in a chair next to another customer.  When Tisen rudely squeaked his latest toy, Lamp Chop, repeatedly, Conner managed to open one eye part way and slightly lift his head, just enough to identify who had the audacity to disturb his nap.  I sat there wishing I’d brought my camera in with me.  So much so, I went out to the car to get it.

Of course, as soon as I returned, the vet was ready for us, so I missed the opportunity to catch Conner napping.  But when it was time for us to leave Tisen for an hour, Conner was waking up.  The assistant took him out in the yard to play and I was quickly reminded how unpredictable puppies are as I chased Conner around the small yard trying to get a shot.

Conner rears up to take the jump

Conner rears up to take the jump

True to form, in my rush to catch Conner every time he didn’t something cute, I forgot to check my settings from shooting at the park we’d stopped at on the way in.  When I finally got a good look at the images, I was dismayed that I had too slow of a shutter speed to get much that was worth keeping.

But Conner was so cute, I couldn’t discard all the images.  Especially when he made an attempt to jump over the low jump in the agility course.  The vet had just picked up Conner the night before, so this was the first time he’d seen the agility course.  We were all impressed.

For those of you worried about Tisen from yesterday’s post, he is still sick, but improving.  He saw our local vet today and we are hopeful his stomach will settle soon.

Conner changes his mind mid-leap and darts around the jump instead

Conner changes his mind mid-leap and darts around the jump instead

Second Look

Tisen demonstrating he really does know how to pose

Tisen demonstrating he really does know how to pose

Getting from the first overlook at Cloudland Canyon to the second overlook is an easy walk.  The path is mostly asphalt and smooth and easy.  Since we’ve had a very late spring here, we even got to enjoy some late-blooming Hawthorn trees along the way.

I tried to get Tisen to pose for me as we made our way down the trail.  I need to do some more intentional dog training with him.  He’s really quite easy to train, but I have found I am very happy with our relatively casual relationship vs needing him to walk exactly where I want or constantly work to figure out my next command.  However, whenever Pat is walking him and I want to take his picture, I wish I had taught him a “pose” command.

For a second I thought I shot this at 70mm or so, but it was shot at 24mm--the other side of the gorge is close!

For a second I thought I shot this at 70mm or so, but it was shot at 24mm–the other side of the gorge is close!

I would like to be able to say, “Tisen, Pose!” and have him turn towards me, doing something cute like stick out his tongue and tilt his head or pick up his favorite toy, and then freeze.  As it is, Tisen walks down the path ahead of me with daddy.  I call to them to stop.  Pat, my accommodating husband, stops, turns, smiles and waits.  Tisen, however, continues to face the opposite direction.

Looking out of the canyon and into lookout valley

Looking out of the canyon and into lookout valley

I, of course, call Tisen to try to get him to turn around.  He invariably turns around, looks excited that I want to see him with his tail wagging like mad, and then tries to walk over to me.  Pat then tries to get him to come back to him to keep him in position.  This, predictably, causes Tisen to turn back around so his back is facing me once more.  And so it goes in this constant tug-of-war trying to get Tisen to both face me and stop moving.

Another view of the canyon

Another view of the canyon

Every once in a while, Tisen will pause just long enough for me to get a rapid-fire series of shots off.  Usually, in a series of 8 shots, I’m lucky if he’s holding still in one of them.  The rest will have various parts of his head blurred.  On this particular walk, he managed to pause for me in near perfect position in a puddle of Hawthorn blossoms.  He looks so happy; it makes me smile.

Vertical version

Vertical version

On the way to the second overlook, I was teased by a Pine Warbler who, I believe, was following just behind me, singing enough bars to get me to get my long lens in place and then fly just out of sight when I turned around to photograph him.  This happens a lot when I happen to have a camera with a long lens on it handy.  It’s one of the reasons I often leave the long lens at home.

The second Overlook is my favorite.  You can see down both sides of the gorge and off into the distance between the peaks that surround the canyon.  The sky usually does interesting things as a bonus–even in mid-afternoon.

Tisen almost walking out of the frame

Tisen almost walking out of the frame

 

Backup Plan

Book ends

Book ends

Tisen is a one-human kind of guy.  Or, at least, he has trouble showing affection for more than one person at a time.

Twiggy, on the other hand, seems to treat everyone as her new best friend.  Her dad commented that she didn’t even seem to care when they went out of town,–she didn’t miss them.  I laughed and said, “It’s not that she doesn’t miss you, it’s just that she always has a backup plan.”

As I watched Tisen stress over whether he was losing out on any portion of affection that he felt was his while Twiggy lied contentedly on the floor, I suddenly wondered if Tisen was living whole-heartedly while Twiggy lived with one foot out.

Book ends looking the other way

Book ends looking the other way

Let’s face it–Tisen is all-in.  He’s put everything he’s got into me.  I am the the center of his universe and if I’m gone, or even if I’m there but paying attention to something else, he feels anxious.  While this seems extreme and dysfunctional, at the same time, when I leave and come home again, Tisen goes nuts.  He experiences a euphoria of joy that his wagging tail cannot keep up with.  He throws his body against the couch and runs along it, thumping his tail down the length of it.  He grabs a toy and is so joyous, he cannot stand still.  Eventually, having burnt off the burst of energy that comes with me returning home, he climbs into my lap and has trouble deciding if giving me kisses or flopping over for a belly rub is his first priority.

Twiggy's demonstration of how interesting she finds me

Twiggy’s demonstration of how interesting she finds me

Twiggy, on the other hand, looks up when I come home and wags her tail a few times.  When I sit on the sofa, she stands, stretches, and then climbs next to me and demands to be petted.  She occasionally looks curiously at Tisen, as if she’s trying to make sense of his antics.  I am just a friend that passes in and out of her life periodically.  But, her reaction is not far from her reaction to her parents coming home from a trip.

This seems to be the core difference between having a backup plan vs being all-in.  If you have a back-up plan, you don’t have to worry about what happens if the current situation changes.  If you don’t, when you’re all-in, when things go your way, it’s a huge celebration.  But when things don’t, it’s conversely depressing.

I remember playing Canasta with my family once when I had an incredible hand.  I was ready to lay down my entire hand and win the game except for one card.  I just needed a good draw on my next hand to be able to go out and win.  I started sweating waiting for me next turn–if someone else went out first I was done.  I had no backup plan.

And boy, when I won, I felt like I’d just won the lottery!

Dogs and Pillows

Tisen looking ridiculously comfy

Tisen looking ridiculously comfy

I thought today’s collection of iPhone images (shot using the Camera! app) made for a good comparison–perhaps even providing an explanation between shooting action and shooting a still subject.

For anyone who has been keeping up with this blog long enough to know that I often post photos of Tisen (my dog) sleeping and far less frequently post photos of him doing something more exciting, perhaps the comparison of what iPhone photos of an excited Tisen running around with Big Dog vs. a sleepy Tisen enjoying the comfort of pillows will make my preference for Lazy Tisen photos understandable.

Yes, that is a custom-made American Leather throw-pillow my dog is propping up his butt with

Yes, that is a custom-made American Leather throw-pillow my dog is propping up his butt with

There are several things that make the iPhone as a camera challenging when shooting Excited Tisen.  First, the iPhone is slow.  One thing to remember is that it will start taking the picture at the point when you let go of the volume-up button or lift your finger from the screen–not when you start.  This is important when you’re trying to take a picture quickly.  When Tisen is prancing around with Big Dog in his mouth and I’m trying to get an adorable image of Tisen carrying a toy that’s almost as big as he is, getting the camera to take the image at the moment I want it to is important.  Otherwise, I end up with images like this one, where Tisen is not caught carrying Big Dog, but rather the moment after he dropped Big Dog and started sliding to to the floor relatively gracefully.

Tisen sliding into the down position

Tisen sliding into the down position

This is called missing the shot.

I do this a lot with the iPhone.  It’s hard for me to retrain my brain to release the volume-up button after spending so much time learning to depress a button to take a picture.  Some day I will be able to switch back and forth

Another way to increase the odds of catching something like an Excited Tisen with the iPhone is to use the Fast Burst setting in the Camera! app.  While this reduces the resolution of the images, it allows for the camera to shoot multiple images in rapid succession.  While it’s still a lot slower than, say, rapid fire with a DSLR shooting JPEGs, it’s still a big improvement over the normal amount of time between shots, when you use this feature, you push the button and hold and it will shoot until you stop or the memory fills.  It does not, however, help freeze the motion of Excited Tisen–that is dependent on shutter speed, which is a different issue.

An almost sharp shot of Tisen carrying Big Dog

An almost sharp shot of Tisen carrying Big Dog

Shooting Sleepy Tisen is a much easier option in many respects.  He holds still, I get to try different angles.  It’s easier.  However, one of the short comings in this scenario is how the iPhone over exposes his white fur.  There’s not much that can be done about this other than using the flashlight feature to try to brighten up his dark spots.  This has the disadvantage that once the flash starts, Tisen quickly turns into Excited Tisen.

Tisen licking the fur fuzz off his lips after dropping Big Dog

Tisen licking the fur fuzz off his lips after dropping Big Dog

Fishing Along the Riverfront

Tisen looks so happy rolling in the grass

Tisen looks so happy rolling in the grass

If I am guilty of getting carried away with my new fisheye lens for my iPhone camera, please forgive me.  It’s pretty darn fun.  And combining fisheye with Hipstamatic is particularly fun–the square format works well with the round shape of the image created by the fisheye attachment.  However, I do like the increased bulging effect of the fisheye lens in the rectangular format.

Tisen rolling Hipstamatic Tintype Style

Tisen rolling Hipstamatic Tintype Style

The biggest problem with the rectangular format is that the lens must be perfectly centered over the built-in lens or I get uneven roundness and even wide black edges in some cases when the fisheye attachment gets bumped off center (which seems to happen frequently).

This problem is compounded by the inability to see the screen to tell that the lens attachment isn’t centered.  This results in images like this one:

Oops--the fisheye adapter got bumped

Oops–the fisheye adapter got bumped

By comparison, the Hipstamatic version (which is really the equivalent of a cropped image) is zoomed in far enough that the curved edges do not show.  Even when the lens is well off-center like the one above:

Same shot with Hipstamatic

Same shot with Hipstamatic

Of course, cropping the first image would eliminate the issue. For some reason, I just really like the bubble effect.  I guess if I’m going to go fisheye, I want it to be obvious.

I really like the fisheye effect for putting Tisen into an image that includes local landmarks across the horizon.  While I had fun with this in the images posted yesterday, I especially like the images of Tisen rolling in the grass in the foreground with the Market Street Bridge (and glimpses of Walnut Street Bridge) in the background.

Tisen on the steps is also cute, but then, I have a hard time not loving any picture of Tisen.

Looking through the railing

Looking through the railing

For those of you who are Tisen fans, you may notice that he is not carrying any of his beloved toys in these images.  However, if you happen to look back at yesterday’s post very carefully, you might notice that Tisen has his armadillo/opossum toy with him in those images.  Those images were shot on the same walk as today’s.

Tisen on the steps old style

Tisen on the steps old style

This is a sign of SPRING!  Finally!

As the weather gets warmer, Tisen’s interest in walking around with a furry toy stuck to his tongue decreases.  He still insists on grabbing a toy before we go out the door, but by the time we get less than halfway through the walk, he’s ready for me to take over carrying it.

I, however, do not employ the same method of carrying his toy that he does.  I feel foolish enough walking around the park with a stuffed animal.  I’m fairly certain people who only see us in warm weather think I have some sort of phobia that causes me to carry stuffed animals everywhere I go–one more thing to blame on the dog.

No Tisen in this one, but I like the extra curve of the sculpture

No Tisen in this one, but I like the extra curve of the sculpture

Perhaps I should shoot Tisen’s toys with the fisheye?  Why do I suddenly see a future of retaking every shot I’ve ever taken with a fisheye lens now?

And, yes, I shot it with Hipstamatic as well

And, yes, I shot it with Hipstamatic as well