Wednesday, February 27, 2013


(Shot with the Nikon D600 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens and SB-800 flash; aperture-priority with aperture set to f/4; camera set shutter speed at 1/320 second at ISO 100; +0.7 exposure compensation; slow-sync; -1.0 flash compensation; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Greyhound's nightmare


(Shot with the Nikon D600 using the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.4-4.5 AF-D zoom at 18mm; aperture-priority, with aperture set to f/4; camera set shutter speed at 1/100 second at ISO 800; center-weighted metered; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mika (2002 - 2013)

Earlier this week on Monday, which was my wife's birthday, Mika began to abdomen-breathe. Our daughter Rachel noticed it that morning. This was not a good sign, so she took Mika to the animal hospital where she works to consult with the vets there. First an ultrasound was taken, and then an x-ray showed almost nothing visible in her chest but her lungs, and nothing in her abdomen. It was evident that her belly was filling with fluid as her liver failed and a low albumin level was causing her blood vessels to leak. Sure, we could remove fluid as needed but it was a temporary measure and much too stressful for her. Her little body was shutting down.

Rachel brought her back home and sadly spent what few hours remained for them together. Mika jumped off Rachel's bed and walked down the hallway like she had for the past few days when you could not tell that anything was truly wrong. She would step into the kitchen and pause -- and sometimes sit -- and I would ask her in a voice feigning annoyance, "Where are you going, Mika-Mika?" And she would respond with a stare and a gentle to-and-fro swish-swish with the tip of her tail. I became accustomed to seeing this as she seemed to feel better during the past two weeks. And then she would move on with a purpose, as if she was on some mission to take in and explore all the sights and smells that had been denied her for the past two years.

"Seemed" to feel better. It was all fool's-gold.

Late that afternoon, for one last time, she walked into the kitchen and sat, looking at me with her once-green-but-now-sparkling blue eyes. I had my camera in hand, and as I took a few snaps, Sadie walked in to see what we were doing. She gave Mika a thorough, once-over sniff, touching noses in the process:

Mika and Sadie

After a few minutes in the kitchen she walked back to Rachel's room, jumped onto her bed and laid down on her comforter. She didn't curl up as she had in the past, but laid more-or-less straight out. I wonder if that made it easier for her to breathe as it became more difficult for her to do so. As it was dark in the room I turned on a light so I could get a few more photos:

Mika rests on the bed

This is my final picture of her:

Mika's last picture

We drove her back to the vet's a couple of hours later. After Gayle joined us from work, we spent some minutes with Mika after Rachel conferred with the vet that releasing her from her tired body was the best thing to do.

And then it was time to let go. She went quickly and quietly, her eyes still sparkling and blue.

This morning Rachel and I took her to the local pet cemetery where she was to be cremated. After a few hours I brought her home from the crematorium. She's back now, and -- more specifically -- back home with Rachel. This is as it should be.

But it was an all-too-short three weeks. When I wrote in Mika's photo gallery description that it didn't matter whether her days with us were many or few, I said that in the brave spirit that one does when it's easy to say or write the words. But reality often does not play nice nor does it feel the need to oblige the spirit in which those brave and defiant words are uttered. I hate that we got just three weeks.

And I've caught myself looking at one of her food bowls -- the one festooned with paw prints and fish and mice...and a cat with the words that say, "I'm hungry." It's just a food bowl -- and I miss her.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The cat who came to stay

We took in a 10-year-old female cat named "Mika" (pronounced MEE-ka) a couple of weeks ago. She is very ill, but we will make her remaining days -- however many or few that may be -- as comfortable as possible.

For the first week or so she stayed and slept in her own bed. But as she gained some strength back she's ventured out of her bed, exploring our rooms and hallways, and jumping on and off sofas and beds. Already she has claimed our daughter's bed as her own.

Mika sits on Rachel's comforter

We take her outside to soak in the late winter sun:

Mika sunbathes in the afternoon sun

Mika sunbathes in the afternoon sun

and let her wander in the front yard as what may please her:

Mika's front paws

I used our Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR macro lens for the preceding photo and for the next two. It's a lens we seldom use -- which is a shame. It's super-sharp but hefty, and a bit fat. I'd like to start using it more often for portraits. All of these pictures are center-weighted, using aperture-priority mode.

Mika chose to lie on her fleece instead of sunbathe today

Mika looks at me (this would've been cuter if I'd been able to focus on her eyes)

She will be cared for, until it's time for her to go.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I don't often get the opportunity to photograph a Greyhound and its owner together. Usually the owner begs off. I respect that; I don't like how I appear in photos, either. But it's a nice and pleasant change when the opportunity presents itself.

LouLou is a six-year-old cowdoggie. She acts much the same way that Sadie does with us: raises a paw to you while she's lying down; gets up on her hind feet and plants her front feet on your chest (which I don't mind, by the way) while furiously wagging her tail; inserts her head between your legs so you can rub and scratch her neck.

Early in the photo shoot her owner and I decided to separate her three dogs so we could photograph them individually. While one dog (Bailee-Mae) was in the kitchen and the other Greyhound (Tink) was in a bedroom I managed to catch LouLou give me a curious look while I was trying to make some embarrassing noises to attract her attention:

LouLou and Julie

I'm not good at all with being a noise-maker.

Later on we spent some time outside in the backyard. LouLou plopped herself on a couch, and I knelt down to her eye-level with my 70-200mm zoom attached to my D600. Unfortunately, I was at first too close to her and well within the five-foot minimum focusing distance. So I made several attempts of backing-up, trying to focus, then finding out I hadn't backed up far enough. As I was repeating the process I think LouLou was getting a little leery about what exactly I was trying to accomplish. I think this picture shows her suspicion:


Going back into the house to finish up with a few more photos, LouLou climbed up on the ottoman and laid across her owner's lap. The mood of the picture looks a little more serious than how things actually were:

LouLou and Julie

I played around with cropping and rotating this for awhile, trying to get something that I would be happy with. I think this came out okay.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Last week, on a warm (mid-70s!) January afternoon, I had a photo shoot with three pups: Bailee-Mae, LouLou, and Tink. Bailee-Mae is thirteen and a mixed-breed. Friendly. A tail-wagger. Big puppy feet. And soft, thick fur.

Trying to photograph three dogs individually when all are in the same room is not the ideal way to get any one of them photographed. So after getting a few photos of her (like this one):


Bailee-Mae was put in the kitchen behind a baby gate while I spent some time with the greyhounds LouLou and Tink. She quietly waited for her turn:


Then I went back and shot a few more pictures of the greyhounds. When I looked back at her, she gave me this face:


Ack! Okay, I said, let's try and take everyone out into the backyard and see what we can get. Switching from my 50mm to the 70-200mm I tried to back away far enough so that I was outside that zoom lens' minimum focusing distance of five feet:


I think perhaps the following photo turned out just as I had imagined it:

Bailee-Mae and Julie

Focusing on Bailee-Mae's face, a relatively wide aperture (f/4) makes a nice transition from her to her owner.

With a bit of good fortune and a pleased owner I'll get to do another photo shoot with these pups again.

Monday, February 4, 2013


A young Sadie and Nikki:

Sadie and Nikki

A young Katie and Nikki:

Katie and Nikki

Nikki and Sadie:

Nikki and Sadie

Nikki and Katie:

Nikki and Katie

Sadie and an ailing Nikki:

Sadie and Nikki