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Saturday, 22 November 2008


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I'm surprised that you haven't tried photographing dogs before! (as a follower of your blog, I believe you are a dog owner)

I too, orginally thought kids were the toughest subjects, and then that's when I discovered the hyper-active critters that the kids are chasing after are much harder.

My earliest attempts at getting a critter, on digital:


And just like you say, it was only in that position for a fraction of a second. They're so consistantly fluidly in motion, it's only noticeable after you try to freeze them in frame.

As for switching systems, in my experience, moving from a Canon to Nikon for a month, and then moving back to Canon, the hardest part surprisingly was relearning the Canon system. Nikon's setup, imho, just felt well placed and dare I say, intuitive.

Btw, that highlight recovery is really impressive! Imagine all the digital dark room fun you can have messing around with exposure for all your photos...

I can't even begin to count the number of shots of my mutt (well, purebred black lab, but you get the idea) that have too shallow a dof, are of her dashing out of frame, or otherwise positioned perfectly to ruin the composition of the shot! Thanks for sharing these though - always nice to see the approaches and experiences of others.

I have made something of a hobby, or at least a project, out of photographing dogs tied up waiting for their owners. Especially in NYC.


a) One learns from mistakes, not from the [coincidental] correctos.

b) You might see the very light 3-way portrait as a mistake - I do not necessarily. The question is always: what do I [the photographer] want.

c) 'Technically correct' or 'rules-conforming' are excuses for lame photos. The first term is misleading since any photo taken will essentially be technically correct, it may just not be what we expect to see. The second is a last resort to get something usable. Something like the short programme, where we are more interested in the freestyle following.

Wow. I've got to go against the grain here. I think kids are pretty easy to photograph. Kids do something adorable at such a high ratio, it is almost impossible to not get great stuff from kids minute after minute.

I tend to put myself in the exposure area where my stop is not QUITE deep enough or my shutter is not QUITE fast enough. You get plenty of shots where the kids are still for just long enough to get some "perfect" shots, but the focus blur or motion blur can really make an image of a truly active child.

Granted, I've never been wholly responsible for the well-being of my cousins when I've shot them. Being able to devote all of my attention to the shooting likely influences my ability.

Squirrels looking for nuts are no easy feat, either!

Mike, it's comforting to know that 50-60 years from now (how old are you again?) I'll still be making the same mistakes. I feel better now ;-)

I still think dogs are easier to photograph. With children, besides getting them to hold still, you have the added hurdle of getting a decent expression. Not necessarily a big, toothy grin, but at least something other than a blank stare. A dog always has an interesting expressions on his face. Slobber is an imminent danger with both.

I too was prone to shots of wet border collie nose approaching the lens at full tilt, due to my having knelt down, thus meaning I really wanted to be licked in the face.

Then I realized that one of his traits is to be capable of being obsessed by just about anything in particular (birds, small children, big children, sheep if he was let, and balls of all kinds) and trying to hypnotize it while remaining stock still. The last in the list pays great dividends when held just to top left of the lens. The rest probably would too, but the ball's most practical!

You say your pug shot is "static" and "doesn't look all that exciting". A pug face is *always* exciting. Anybody or any-dog looking you right in the eye with that mixture of astonishment, horror and sympathy ... it's like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning.

Anyway, I love the picture,and I agree* with you that the leg on the right side of the frame is a good and necessary part of the composition.

[*though you didn't say it, I'm 97.2% sure that's the way you feel]


Mike said: "It appears that the camera—this is the Sony A900—has just gobs of headroom for a digital camera. I don't think I've used any digital camera that can recover this much."

I have found the same thing is true of the D700, and I imagine the D3 as well. A D700 image accidentally shot with +2 EC can be brought back to normal levels and fool almost anyone. That's just as exciting as the sensitivity of the D700.

Maybe digital is finally getting some exposure lattitude in both directions. :^)

I think the term chops comes from slang referring to a trumpeters lips and mouth. They need to stay in shape and practice continually to keep the muscles strong enough to play. It then got picked up for all musicians. (I'm not 100% sure of this, but it sounds good).

About the overexposed pictures... the overexposed version has details on the black blouse, the "correct" version just shows a pitch black area (its the same for the trowsers of the other women). So, both photos don't show what the human eye can see, just as usual. :-)

Tell me about it.

90% of my dog pics are blurry so I tell people it is a design element and I like em that way.

1:- Cats are are more difficult than dogs, to certain extent you can tell a dog what to do but cats have minds of their own.

2:- Are we beginning to see the real reason you go down to the dog park? - lots of dog owning ladies to chat up. :-)

3:- That spot metering story helps explain why some of us look for cameras with as few options as possible - less chance of nasty surprises.

Cheers, Robin

The one thing I miss from the 7D was its memory banks (The Nikon approach to this feature is brain dead). I kept memory 1 at failsafe settings that I could swiftly switch-to when wanting to get a few quick canidids after which I could take my time and study my needs and settings. (It would also return to the selected memory settings after being switched off and on which could easily be done with the camera at eye level)

Very capable as it is, I find the learning curve for the D300 much steeper than for the 7d but then thats probably just old age

Paul Mc Cann

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one to muff a shot because of a forgotten setting!

Thank you for raising my photographic self esteem.


Dogs are the worst and probably make for one of the best practice subjects around. They won't sit still, always moving their heads at the last moment. I have 2 little ones and yes they hone my skills in preparation for bringing home that decisive moment photo.

Getting one's "chops" back after a stretch away from photography is a huge issue for all of us passionate amateurs with day jobs. Unless I've been shooting with some regularity, it takes me at least an hour, sometimes a whole day, to get back into a groove of consistent competence. This can be a painful and expensive lesson; I manage on average one big photo trip every two years, sometimes attending an organized workshop. Yet often the first day is a washout because my skills have gotten so rusty.

I spent a fabulous week in the Badlands of South Dakota a few years ago. Unfortunately the best light of the entire week was at sunrise on the first day, and I felt like I had ten thumbs. It took me a couple of hours to really find my mojo again, and by then that perfect light was gone. Sigh.

Julie Heyward wrote: "A pug face is *always* exciting. Anybody or any-dog looking you right in the eye with that mixture of astonishment, horror and sympathy...it's like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning."

I feel reminded of the Brain Bug's face in "Starship Troopers."

-- Olaf

Flowers & relatives at the graveyard?

As to the mutts, all dogs are photogenc, however
as with homosapiens not always willing.

Bryce Lee

I like to shoot pet photos with an old manual focus film camera. All -- without exception, every last one -- of my best shots have something technically wrong with them. The most common flaws, predictably, are out of focus and motion blur. But that isn't as important as expression, action, color, texture, and composition. One of my favorite shots of my cat is an inadvertent abstract that she created by twisting around quickly during a 1/30 sec exposure. I try to remember this when I'm in danger of getting too obsessive about the test results at DPReview.

I can only get away with that because I'm shooting for myself, not a client, and part of the reason I like to do it is to get better at manual focus. I'm not trying to denigrate skill. But I do like being reminded that "sharpness" is not the only important property of a good photograph.

I agree with Robin P that cats are harder than dogs. In addition to being even less predictable, they're smaller. If you want to fill the frame with a cat, you have to use a longer lens/get closer, each of which creates problems.

If you can find a small squeaky toy, one that you can hold the end between your teeth, and then get more or less into position, a short squeak will usually freeze the dog into an "on alert" pose , looking right at you, for an extra fraction of a second. Often helps for me when I try to get a picture of my dog(s).


As an user of A700, I believed this generation of Sony CMOS sensors (A700, A900, D300, D3 & D700) had 2 to 3 extra stops of highlight headroom when shot in raw; a major improvement not being fully described by most reviewers or written in spec. I had no proof of the above Nikon cameras used Sony's sensors; it's just a coincident that these sensors shared similar characters and these two companies had not released DSLRs of the same class within the same month or so.

Hi Mike,

It takes a big person to admit to their mistakes for the edification of their readership. Thanks especially for this post. I try to remember that part of the thrill of photography is the pursuit of perfection, although hitting it out of the park is nice too. I can attest that switching systems really sets you back. That’s why I settled on the D700 for the foreseeable future. Finally, if you want a cooperative model, try a basset hound. Ours is perfectly content to pose for me anytime.


The corrected image of the 3 sisters is not the same image as the uncorrected one. Any reason why you did not correct the first image?

"Any reason why you did not correct the first image?"

Because it's not the select. I used it to show what the base exposure was like on the second image before I corrected the raw file in ACR.

Mike J.

Random thought... but you mentioned that the d3 has a shallower depth of field because it's full frame. I'm wondering then, why there isn't any talk of "35mm equivalents" in the f-stop category for APS-C sensors? I've become accustomed to doing the "divide by 2 and add" routine for focal length but it never occurred to me that f/1.4 isn't f/1.4 on an APS-C based camera. Is there a simple mathematical equation for figuring out the 35mm f-stop equivalent for APS-C? Sorry if this topic has been covered elsewhere.


- chris

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