Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New hounds in town

There are ten new hounds in town -- ten newly-retired greyhounds transported from the Caliente racetrack in Mexico to an eager and expectant group of Fastfriends Greyhound Adoption volunteers.

While we waited for the hauler to appear, I wandered down to a corral to meet a four-year-old bounce-back male greyhound named "Arrow". He's in wonderful shape, is very friendly, and will lean on you if you give him just the slightest chance. I don't think it will take too long for him to be placed in another home:

I stayed with Arrow for awhile and took a few pictures when he wasn't trying to get in my face and plant his nose on my lens. He is so much like Katie in this respect: you can't kneel to his eye-level and photograph without him walking to you.

I walked back up the hill to the driveway and met Nascar. Poor guy had his right wrist broken, repaired twice and it's not quite right yet. Using my 10-24mm I took an overhead shot of him napping:


Then I walked over to the converted garage that now houses a bathtub and a number of kennels and looked at the kennel muzzles hanging at the entrance. I always liked the different colors used for the muzzles. I have this vague idea in my mind of how I want to show these but I haven't gotten it yet:

Kennel muzzles

Kennel muzzles

Then Tom and the hauler appeared and it was time to see the new arrivals:

Tom pushes the dog hauler down the driveway.

Joyce shares a brief moment with one of the retired greyhounds, Nike.


The greyhounds were quickly taken to the corral where they were checked for ticks:


...took a quick dip in the pool to cool off a bit:

Gem (front)

...then bathed:


...then photographed for their website, examined, and taken back to the corral to be small dog- and cat-tested:


For one particular hound, taking a second dip in the pool is better because being cat-tested is a bother:


In most of these pictures I used fill-flash to lighten shadows. Arrow's and Nascar's pictures are in open shade with no flash used. The 10-24mm zoom was used most often, although I did switch to the 50mm f/1.8 to take some informal portraits:



It was fun to see the new retirees prepped to be made ready for fostering and eventually placed in their forever homes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Retirement day

I'm going to our greyhound adoption group's next retirement day this Saturday and photograph the hounds arriving from the Caliente racetrack, examined by group volunteers before leaving for their foster homes. I hope to get some decent pictures.

I photographed a retirement day in June 2010. Here are some pictures taken during that day:

Bowden (AKA Bella Bowden)

Getting rinsed

Queen (AKA Queen) gets thoroughly bathed

Queen (AKA Queen)

Elegant (AKA Crystal Elegant)

Elegant (AKA Crystal Elegant)

A greyhound kiss is a reward worth getting

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sadie sleeps

When I was taking photography classes in high school we shot exclusively on black-and-white film. I learned the basics using both 35mm rangefingers and SLRs (even got a few football pictures in the school yearbook using my dad's cameras), and with 4x5 view cameras. I was never any good at printing them, though. They always looked flat, and when using high-contrast paper they looked even worse. I was never happy with my results.

Despite my past experiences I've never tired of black-and-white photography. I like to convert color pictures to black-and-white just for the sake of seeing what I'll get. Katie can look pretty good in black-and-white, but I think Sadie is a natural (she's a tuxedo to begin with).

I caught Sadie napping on the carpet one afternoon last week. I happened to have my 50mm lens on, so I stood over her and focused on her eye after changing the aperture to f/4 to get a bit more depth-of-field. My ISO was set to 400 but I didn't want to increase it to, say, 800 or higher, in order to keep the electronic noise down. But this was going to make for a longer exposure so I really tried to make sure I exhaled while I was taking the picture. The exposure turned out to be 1/10 second, so I'm surprised I didn't blur the picture too much.

Afterwards, I imported the file into Lightroom, cropped a bit, and applied the grayscale preset. I then dodged around the tip of her left ear, added negative clarity to blur the carpet, brought the white highlights down a bit using a tone curve, then applied a vignette.


(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm lens set to f/4; camera chose 1/10 second at ISO 400; center-weighted metering; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One of these dogs is not like the other

Sadie, Sadie, Sadie...were you like this as a puppy?

Sadie and Katie

Catching a moment like this of our girls playing is so much easier to do on a 35mm SLR (either film or digital) than on most point-and-shoots. Set the camera on shutter-priority mode and continuous-servo autofocus, pick a fast shutter speed (I chose 1/2000 sec on this occasion), let the camera choose the aperture, and off you go (or you could also set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture manually, too). You might be amazed at the sort of pictures you end up with of your pups at play.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 with the 18-200mm zoom set at 72mm; shutter-priority mode with shutter set to 1/2000 sec; camera chose f/5; ISO 1000; cloudy white balance; normal JPG.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cooper's hawks

For the past couple of months our neighborhood has echoed with the cries of Cooper's hawks. There are four or five of them at the moment -- at least three are youngsters. You can usually hear them in the morning and late afternoon or early evening calling to each other. They often stand atop the power poles, watching for birds that they can pick off in flight:

Cooper's hawk

Cooper's hawk

When we hear them calling out to each other we often find them in the sycamore trees that line our neighborhood streets:

Cooper's hawk

That doesn't mean they can do whatever they want, though. The crows give them a hard time, and mockingbirds are certainly not afraid of them, either:

Mockingbird harasses a Cooper's hawk

Having the hawks in the neighborhood puts an interesting contrast to the mix of songbirds (finches, sparrows, phoebes) that are common here in southern California.

(Pictures 1-3 used the Nikon D300 with a Nikon 300mm f/4 lens. All pictures used +0.7 exposure compensation because of the dark bird against a bright background. Picture 1: shutter-priority mode with shutter speed set to 1/2500 sec; camera chose f/4; ISO 400; auto white balance; normal JPG. Picture 2: shutter-priority mode with shutter speed set to 1/2000 sec; camera chose f/4; ISO 400; auto white balance; normal JPG. Picture 3: shutter speed set to 1/320 sec; camera chose f/9; ISO 800; normal JPG. Picture 4 used the Nikon D200 with a Nikon 300mm f/4 lens. Program-mode; camera chose 1/320 sec at f/10; ISO 100; normal JPG.)

Nikki and the flower

My friends who had owned Turbo (the subject of my last post) are going to take a look at a brindle boy named "Teddy" and may end up adopting him. When I saw a couple of pictures of him posted on Greytalk yesterday I immediately noticed the white stripe running down the middle of his face. This reminded me of a picture I took of Nikki, who also had a white stripe when she was young.


This is a scan of a print from a roll of color negative film -- probably Kodacolor.

The occasion for taking this picture was a little photoshoot I was asked to do for a story that appeared in Celebrating Greyhounds magazine over 10 years ago about the many types of collars available for sighthounds. While we waited to get the collars together we had Nikki in an exercise pen that sat in the shade next to a friend's house. As she was standing next to a flower I thought I'd position myself so that it would be next to her collar as they were a little similar in color.

I'm positive I just used 1/60 sec as the shutter speed since I used a film camera (I'm not sure if it was a Nikon N70 or a Canon AE-1 Program) and knew nothing about fill-flash. The more I've looked at it the more mistakes I think I made here (could've removed the ex-pen, a background that's too bright and distracting, the light is too harsh...I'm sure there are others).

But I will say what redeems this picture to me: Nikki's youthful face without a hint of age, her alert expression, and her bright eyes. Funny, and a bit sad, that I don't really remember her looking this way. I just remember all the white on her face as she matured. But, either way, she was a gorgeous greyhound.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Turbo (2001 - 2011)

I am lucky that we have greyhounds to photograph. But I am also lucky that people allow me to photograph their hounds, too. In this way I have met many of them, if even for the most fleeting of moments. I've tried to see and photograph "things" in the four greyhounds that we've adopted (first with Alex, then with Nikki, and now with Sadie and Katie), so that you might know a little about them as we know them. As I have tried to do with our hounds, so too have I tried to do the same with others.

But in pursuing these things therein lies a toll, and I find that I grieve for others' greyhounds as I have grieved for our own.

When I was at Greyhounds in Gettysburg a number of us went to have lunch at a friend's house. While there I took a number of pictures of Turbo:

...lying on his bed:


...looking out the front door:


...and napping on a favorite couch:


She'd asked me to take a family picture of her, her husband, and Turbo at Dewey last year but we didn't get the chance. Just before I had to leave for my flight home I asked her if we could spend a few moments to get that family picture she'd wanted. We stepped outside in the wet grass of their front lawn under overcast skies and took two photos. I used fill-flash to lighten the shadows a bit as well as add a catchlight in Turbo's eyes. I was done within a few minutes. I hoped I got some good images.

Then it was time for me to go.

Turbo passed away unexpectedly on 25 June. He was only 10.

Meredith, Mitch, and Turbo

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens; first three photos camera set to aperture-priority with aperture set to f/2, f/2, and f/2.5 respectively; camera chose shutter speeds of 1/1600, 1/160, and 1/80 respectively; ISO 800; exposure compensation set to +0.7, +0.7, and 0 respectively; auto white balance; fourth picture camera set to program mode and slow-sync with SB-800 flash attached; camera chose 1/320 sec @ f/10; ISO 800; auto white balance. All pictures RAW and processed in Lightroom.)

What has been seen cannot be seen... me, anyway:

Katie and Sadie

I've watched one or both girls stop whatever it was they were doing and suddenly stare off in the distance looking at something. And many times I have looked down their line-of-sight to see what they see -- and see nothing. I bet other greyhound owners have done the same thing and got the same results.

Case in point: yesterday evening I wanted to take a few photos of Katie since I've been feeling like I've been neglecting her picture-wise. I attached my 50mm lens onto my D300, set the camera to aperture priority and the aperture to f/2 for some shallow-depth-of-field shots. Then I led them both onto our front lawn and took a few snaps because I like the failing light. But Katie decided she'd had enough and so started to slowly walk off the lawn and onto the sidewalk that parallels the street. Sadie walked alongside Katie when she suddenly stopped and stared down the street. Katie stopped and stared as well.

I love it when their ears point out to the sides, and as they stayed like that for awhile I focused on Sadie's ears and took three shots. At f/2 Katie (standing at Sadie's 11 o'clock) was too unfocused to me (I previewed the pictures on the back LCD display), so I closed the aperture down a bit more to f/4 and took a few more pictures. The background was more in focus but not overly so (if I had wanted the background to be more focused I could've closed the aperture down even more to something like f/8 or f/11 but that wasn't the effect I wanted). Then I imported into Lightroom, applied the Ultimate Fighter preset and added a bit of fill lighting.

Oh...I never did figure out what they were looking at.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens; aperture-priority mode with aperture set to f/4, camera chose 1/250 sec; ISO 200; auto white balance; RAW file.)