Monday, December 30, 2013

Pensive Heyokha

Dewey Beach had the worst weather this year in the five times that I've gone: windy and sometimes rainy, but mostly windy. The wind did not seem to bother the Greyhounds on the beach much but it did make things miserable for their humans. I had to cancel or reschedule some appointments for Thursday and Friday because of it.

On Saturday I did a couple sessions and then headed back to the rental house. My friends Meredith and Mitch's dog, Heyokha, was lying on the big sofa that turned out to be a popular sleeping spot for the hounds during the weekend. Lying on the new purple bed sheet protecting the sofa, Heyokha was bathed in the light flooding through the big sliding glass window and door that led out to the beach-facing deck.

He is an active, big boy. But at this moment he was quietly watching something (I don't remember what). I started taking a few pictures using center-weighted metering, zero exposure compensation, and aperture-priority:


(Note: On the Nikon the exposure compensation button is marked with "+/-" and sits next to the power switch.)

It's much too light, although I could fix that in post-processing. And he doesn't have the expression I want. I adjusted my exposure compensation to -1 (one stop), moved to his left, and tried again:

This looks better to me: the sunlit side of his face is not as blown-out as in the first picture while still retaining detail in the shadows. But I thought I'd switch to matrix metering and turn down the exposure compensation even further to -1.3:

I like this even better and I got a different (and better, I think) expression this time. Switching to matrix metering (the light meter samples everything in the viewfinder to determine what it thinks is the proper exposure; center-weighted emphasizes what's in the center of the viewfinder and less in the corners) got me the darker image I had in mind.

(Shot with the Nikon D600 and 105mm VR lens; aperture-priority with aperture set to f/4; ISO 800; normal JPG.)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

An extraordinary face

When I flew to Baltimore last October to go to Dewey Beach, I was picked up at the airport by my friend Aimée, her husband, and the two Greys they brought with them, Boo and Dazzle. I had met Dazzle when I first to Dewey back in 2009. It was good to see Dazzle because during Dewey 2012 she became extremely ill while Aimée was away at Dewey — so ill that Aimée nearly flew back home to be with her. (Fortunately, Dazzle recovered and is doing well.)

But I was looking forward to meeting Boo from the first picture that I saw of her. My sixth picture of Boo will explain why:

She is one of the most unusually-marked Greyhounds I've ever seen. The feature reminded me of the Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." Aimée and her husband took Boo in after a very close friend of hers fell gravely ill and could no longer care for her.

What a snuggly dog! The instant after I sat in the third-row seat of their van after getting in, Boo almost immediately rested her head against my leg so I could start scratching and stroking her head. She stayed like that for quite a number of minutes — until I had to move my legs to stay comfortable. After allowing me that little break, she came back for more head-scratching. I can't say I've ever been approached by a dog I'd never met before and be obliged to give it so much attention (these ex-racing Greyhounds are known to be like this):

Boo is truly a wonderful dog and I'm so glad I got to be with her for a few days. (Note: in both pictures I focused on her eye and set my aperture to near wide-open to keep my depth-of-field shallow.)

(Shot with the Nikon D600 and 105mm f/2.8 VR lens; aperture-priority with aperture at f/4; shutter speed 1/125 second at ISO 2800 (top), and 5600 (bottom); matrix-metered, auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

She who shall not be moved

Isis the Imperturbable.

She is "bombproof", as they say. There really was nothing that was going to make her move off the bed. And even lowering the dishwasher door onto her did not bother her in the least. Besides, we really did not have the nerve to move her; she looked so comfortable.

If someone was looking for a Greyhound that was so easy to care for, Isis is the dog. Everyone loves her.

(Shot with the iPhone 5; 4.12 mm at f/2.4 at ISO 400.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Twenty years and a month...

...since we adopted our first retired greyhound, Alex (racing name Sanja Blackeyes).

(He came from Oklahoma; his breeder was James Hicks.)

Twenty years? I can't believe it either.

Maggie is still here

For those of you who are not familiar with Greyhound health issues, it won't take too long before you'll come across stories of those who have been diagnosed with, or have succumbed to, osteosarcoma. Katie was the first Greyhound that we adopted to get it in the twenty years that we've had these retired racing dogs. I suppose it was bound to happen to us eventually, but we had hoped that we would not be so unlucky.

Usually the first sign of trouble is that the Greyhound begins to suddenly limp (in Katie's case she couldn't settle down in bed after waking up one night; her limp began a few hours later). By this time the osteo is well-advanced and has likely started spreading to other areas in the body, particularly the lungs. Depending on how early one finds it (and we thought we had detected Katie's OSA early because her humerus had quite a bit bone left that had not yet been eaten away by the tumor) an owner can be advised to amputate the limb and start chemo. Unfortunately for other owners, the way they found out their Greyhound had OSA was when the leg broke because it had been so weakened by the cancer. In these sad cases the only choice is to put the Greyhound to sleep quickly. Depending on how early the cancer is found and what treatment is rendered to the dog, one can expect the Greyhound to live for a few months to possibly a year or more.

There are exceptions to the rule, though: there are Greyhounds that have survived far, far beyond expectations. One of them is Maggie. She's survived six years post-amputation.

I had the pleasure to meet her and her owners at Dewey Beach. On a windy Thursday evening they all came by our rental and spent some time with us. I had to try and get a few photos in of her. She's a blue Greyhound (an unusual and rare color), and spent most of the time curled up in her bed that was placed in the middle of the kitchen floor. She even roached while she slept:

It is heartening to see that it is possible for a Greyhound to survive years after a limb amputation due to OSA. Seeing hounds like her, and reading of some of the discoveries that researchers have made this year, gives us owners hope that a cure for this disease will be found in the not-too-distant future.

(Top picture shot with the Nikon D600 using the 105mm VR macro; aperture-priority mode with aperture at f/4; shutter speed 1/50 second at ISO 6400; bottom picture shot using the iPhone 5.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three months

It's been three months since Katie's death from lymphoma.

I think of her (and of our other two departed greys, Alex and Nikki) every day. And there are many days where I browse through some of the several thousand pictures that I took of her. She was with us for nearly nine years, and even now those thousands of pictures seem inadequate. Oh, most are terrible and not worth sharing with everyone, to be sure, but I saved them.

I cling to these pictures as a way to hang onto her for as long as I can. I won't say that looking at these pictures always brings me comfort — it doesn't. But when it does I go back and think of how well she recovered from her amputation. We were so pleased and happy for her that she gained weight during her chemo treatments because it can cause appetite loss and Katie was never really food-motivated.

I'm rambling now and I can't write a coherent train of thought, so I will leave you with this picture of Katie as she was back in 2008, a couple of months after Nikki had died:

I used light coming in through a window to get this. I added +0.7 exposure compensation because I didn't want the light meter to render her in a dull gray. She had this wondering look on her face as Sadie was standing in front of her. Katie's eyes were wonderful and I tried to capture that.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 and the 18-200mm zoom; aperture-priority with aperture set to f/4.8, ISO 1100 at shutter speed of 1/30 second; cloudy-weather white balance; +0.7 exposure compensation; normal JPG.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Katie's memorial portrait

We were informed yesterday that an artist friend of ours, Xan Blackburn, was commissioned by a group of greyhound friends to do a memorial portrait of Katie, based on a photograph I had taken of her back in 2011. Xan is writing a work-in-progress post on her blog about the portrait, and using this photo as reference:

I don't really know what to say about this kindness shown to us by our greyhound friends. We've always wanted a Xan painting on our walls but never got around to getting one. But now we'll have one, featuring our very own Katie. We can't thank Xan or our greyhound friends enough for making this happen.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

More passings

Tex (1998 - 2013)

Winnie (2000 - 2013)

Pistachio (? - 2013)

Rest well, all of you.