5 tips and tricks for photographing dogs (and other pets)

I took some photos of my dogs Ollie and Mia recently modelling jumpers that I knitted for them. And that got me thinking about the tips and tricks I use when photographing dogs (or other pets) to try to get nice photos. I also have experience photographing foster puppies over the years and while I’m by no means an expert, I’ve built up a few tip and tricks for photographing pets that I find help.

So often when taking quick photos of my dogs, I don’t have my SLR on hand, so I’ve tried to tailor my tips and tricks to using your phone (although I’ve cheated because all of the photos in the  post were taken on my ‘good’ camera).

Dog Jumpers 047 square1. One word – Treats

Before you think about anything else make sure you are armed with a bag of treats. This may be the only way to get your dog or pet to sit still for anything more than 5 seconds. I find holding the treat beside the lens or beside my phone, tricks them into looking directly at the camera. Or as happened when I was photographing the dog jumpers, Ollie looks like he’s staring ponderously into the middle distance, but is instead looking at R who was holding the treats just off camera. If you’re taking an impromptu photo of your dogs, or other pets, and don’t have treats available, grab their favourite (squeaky) toy and wave (or squeak) it beside the phone to get their attention.

Week 4 (143)2. The same rules apply

The same basics that apply to all photography also applies to photographing dogs or pets. Think about your light source, get them near a window or in natural light. Have a quick scan of the background to make sure there is nothing distracting there and remember the rule of thirds. Try to compose the photo so that your pet’s head is at one of the ‘points of power’. Most phone cameras will allow you to view the ‘rule of thirds’ grid as a guide.

Dexter 8 week old Jack Russell foster puppy3. Get down to their level

You have three options here – get down on the ground, lift your dog or pet up by placing them on a couch, bench or rock, or compose the photo so they are meant to be staring up (or down) at you. I’m one of these people how likes to get down on the ground to play with my dogs anyway so I can just grab my phone (which is nearly always in arm’s reach :/ ). But if you’re outside it might be less messy to pop your pet on a bench and hunker down so that you’re face to face.

Foster a puppy, dog, cat or kitten4. It’s all about the eyes

You have to get the eyes in focus, there really is no way around it. This is true for photographing dogs and pets, as well as people. I have a gazillion photos of dogs where the eyes are out of focus and they just don’t have the same wow factor. This can be really difficult to achieve, but you should be able to tap on the screen of your phone to tell it where to focus. This of course only works if you have time before your dog or pet moves again. If you’re using an SLR it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the eyes are in focus until you upload your photos to the computer, so just keep shooting. (Agh, I’ve just noticed that the eyes are not in focus in the shot below, but the runners give such a good sense of scale I don’t care).

Four week old pit bull puppy

5. Natural habitat

When I was photographing Ollie and Mia in their new jumpers I wanted to capture them looking natural, so off we went to the park with my camera and a bag of treats in my pocket. I think this worked better than just plopping them on the couch, or in the back garden. It can be great to get some non-posed photos of dogs and pets too. Some of my favourite photos are of dogs just being dogs, although you’ll have to be quick (and lucky) to get these shots.

Kilmacurragh 185

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Tiny knitted pumpkins

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I’ve become a bit obsessed with these knitted pumpkins recently. I originally planned on knitting just one for my desk, but that was swiftly follow by a second, third, fourth fifth and sixth pumpkin. And I can’t say for certain that I’m finished. I’d love to knit one for my aunt, but I’ve run out of lighter weight orange yarn. The sixth pumpkin was for a colleague, so not included here.

Tiny knitted pumpkin in green, orange and white, knittingA friend of mine who knew I was knitting pumpkins sent me a photo last weekend of the pumpkin display in Fallon & Byrne, and immediately I knew I had to contact them to see if I could take some photos. So huge thanks to Fallon & Byrne who allowed the crazy knitting lady to take photos of her knitted pumpkins with their real pumpkins. I could happily have snapped away four hours and I’m so excited about the results.

Tiny knitted pumpkins in orange, green and white with a giant white pumpkin, knittingI bought the beautiful yarn for the orange pumpkins at HandmAid. I spotted it on the market stall and knew instantly that it was perfect, the colour is pretty much solid, but with some variation to give them impression of something more organic. It’s handspun yarn, spun by Eimear and is called Ashford silvers in orange. The skein was marked merino and silk, with 169m in the 50g.

Small, knitted, orange pumpkin with other gourds. knittingI had never knit with handspun before but I really enjoyed it. The first pumpkin was knit with the yarn held double on 2.5mm needles. The fabric was really tight so for the second pumpkin I switched to 3mm needles. For the third pumpkin I added a few extra even rounds to use up as much of the yarn as I could, so it’s slightly taller.

Small knitted green gourd with orange pumpkins #knittingThe green gourd was Hedgehog Fibres Sock in seaglass. This was knit, with yarn held double, on 3mm needles.

Small knitted white gourd with orange pumpkins #knittingThe white pumpkin was knit with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Paper, again held double, on 3mm needles.

Small knitted orange and white pumpkin with other gourds #knitting

For the stems I used my Embellish Knits iCord knitting yokey, and I used some brown and green lace weight yarn held together to get a bit of variation. I love these pumpkins so much, I know I’ll be taking them out every autumn for years to come.

The pattern is Spice & Clove Knit and Crochet Pumpkins by Hannah Maier and is much easier than I was expecting. You essentially knit and stuff a ball and then feed the yarn through the centre of the pumpkin to shape them. The only issue I had was that as some of my yarn was quite delicate they broke a few times as I really tugged the pumpkins into shape. I highly recommend you download this free pattern, but I warn you – it’s addictive.

Dog jumper No. 2

Dog Jumpers 050As I said in my recent blog post, I finished two dog jumpers* in the last little while. Here Ollie models Biscuits & Bones Dog Coat by Patons knit using Cascade Yarns 220 on 5.5mm needles. It’s knitted from the top down, seamed from the neck to the belly and then the ribbing is added along the bottom edge and at the arm holes. I love the detailing on this jumper; the cables are designed to look like dog bones. However, I didn’t enjoy the double moss stitch (or whatever it’s called) and it was much slower to complete than the first jumper. Again, this jumper was easy to tailor to the size of my dogs and I think the end product is really cute.

Dog Jumpers 053I really wanted to give these jumpers a proper photo shoot. Dogs in jumpers, it kind of demands a bit of sillyness with the camera. So I packed my camera bag with treats and we headed to St. Enda’s Park for a nice walk. Padraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916, ran a school on these grounds and the building is now a museum. A previous owner, William Hudson, built follies all over the park. I have so many happy memories of playing on these stone structures as a child. The follies are in the process of being restored at the moment and are a really interesting part of the history of the park.

Dog Jumpers 047 squareI can’t find much online about the follies, so maybe I’ll have to go back some day with my camera and a notebook for another post. Anyway, in this case the stones made a great backdrop for my knitted jumpers. See Ollie staring off wistfully into the distance? Yeah, he’s really staring at Rossa who is holding the treats just off camera. The glamorous life of a canine model!

* To any US readers, in Ireland we call sweaters jumpers.

Dog jumper No. 1

Dog Jumpers 041I finished two dog jumpers* in the last few months, but because the weather has been seasonably warm (i.e. hot in Summer, which is surprisingly rare in Ireland) I haven’t had the chance to photograph them yet. It really didn’t seem fair to put the dogs in wool jumpers during a heat wave**. The temperature has dropped in the last week or so which meant that I could finally photograph these two jumpers without feeling guilty.

Dog Jumpers 036Mia models the Dog Sweater by Red Heart Design Team knitted in Cascade Yarns 220 on 5 and 5.5mm needles. I loved this top down pattern. It was a really quick, straightforward knit and a great base for experimentation. You just have to look through the finished projects on Ravelry to see what other have done with this pattern. It’s also very easy to measure and tailor the pattern to your dog as you go along. I would definitely knit this one again.

Dog Jumpers 005Now, I know what you’re going to say. She has finally lost her mind knitting jumpers for her dogs. And you may well be right. But I have my reasons.  Both dogs are long haired dogs and as such need to be groomed every 3 months or so. When we get their hair cut they tend to feel the cold and need a bit more warmth for about a week until they aclimatise to their new haircut. Image getting your hair cut very short, you might find that you need a hat. Well, that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it!

And, here is Ollie modelling his jumper.

* To any US readers, in Ireland we call sweaters jumpers.

** To any non-Irish readers, the temperature reached the mid to late-20s (celsius), which to us is pretty hot.

Stitch markers for HandmAid

As well as setting some of my stash free for a good cause I also decided to make some stitch markers for HandmAid this year. HandmAid is a craft day that has been held annually in Dublin for the last three years and is in aid of the Laura Lynn Hospice this year. On the day there will be various crafty classes, a market stall and a cafe, both stocked with donations. That means yarn cake AND cake cake.

Stitch markers 112So anyway, this decision kicked off a massive stitch marker making weekend. This is partly because I’m getting bored of knitting the border on my Winnowing. I needed a distraction. So out came my bead stash and pliers and several hours later I had quite a collection of stitch markers.

Stitch markers 133The markers I make use a combination of tigertail wire and beads, rather than a jump ring. I use these exclusively when knitting and I find them great. They’re lightweight and don’t snag on my knitting. I’m going to I have put a tutorial together. They’re so easy to make if you have a few tools to hand.

Stitch Markers 002I had initially intended on leaving them loose to be sold at HandmAid but there was such an amount I decided to bundle them into sets of four or five markers. So this is the final product. I should have a big box of these to deliver to the organisers to be sold on the day. So pop along on to Damer Hall on Stephen’s Green on Saturday 27th September 2014 from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

St. Patrick’s Day in New York

Before I begin this post, you may (or may not have) noticed my blog looks a little different. I spent the weekend playing around with different WordPress themes and getting to grips with some (very basic) CSS coding.I love coding when it works – when it works. Let me know if you have any feedback on the new design. I’m going to keep tinkering so it may change again, you never know.

NYC2014 244Our recent trip to New York wasn’t just about yarn shopping. The main reason for the trip with the Finglas Concert and Marching Band was to play in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

NYC2014 019Naturally I brought my camera with me and had a blast shooting away on the parade route. I borrowed an 18-200mm lens from my Dad and it didn’t disappoint. It allowed me to get up close and personal with my subjects while marching along behind the band.

NYC2014 217Despite the fact that I was moving, and the camera was moving, and the crowd and musicians were moving a nice quick 1/200 second shutter speed allowed me to freeze the action.

NYC2014 048I took so many photos I’m really happy with but here is a very small selection to give you a flavour of the parade.

NYC2014 239I can’t even begin to describe how cold it was on the parade. It was a much dryer cold then we get in Ireland. The instruments froze, something none of the musicians had experienced before, and fingers went numb and refused to do what was asked of them.

NYC2014 255There weren’t as many spectators as I was expecting, but then it was between -2° and -4° on a Monday morning so hardly surprising. But those that did come out to watch the parade did so in style.

NYC2014 230But despite the cold it was a really great experience and one I will always remember. Thank you Finglas Concert and Marching Band for allowing me to be a part of it.NYC2014 291

The Old Coastguard Station

I met a friend for coffee yesterday and I was telling her this story. It was then I realised that it’s a good story and a very Irish story. So I thought I would share it with you.

DSC_0634The week we spent in Mayo also happened to be Heritage Week in Ireland. This meant that there were all sorts of Heritage events happening around the country and old buildings that ordinarily wouldn’t be open to the public. One of these buildings was the Old Coastguard Station in Rosmoney, Westport.  My aunt that we were staying with had never heard of it, but directions were procured from a friend for Rosmoney and off we set.

We found ourselves on very small windy roads, with grass in the centre. That’s how you know you’re *really* in the country when there’s grass down the centre of the road. We quickly realised we didn’t know where we were going so my aunt spotted a house that looked like someone was home and told us to pull over. Off she went into the house to ask for directions. The woman living there came down to the car to point the directions out to us and warned us that the roads got very narrow, Two things to point out here, in the city I would *never* knock on a stranger’s door to ask *anything* and it was difficult to imagine that the roads could get even more narrow.

It took another few minutes of driving but eventually we arrived at the pier in Rosmoney. And really that’s all there was – a pier. No sign of an old coastguard station. We asked for further directions, hopped back in the car and finally arrived at our destination. But it seemed deserted. Not what we were expecting from a building that was supposedly open to the public. My aunt disappeared into another house to see if she could find someone and  Rossa suggested I ring the number in the Heritage Week booklet.

DSC_0655 (1)The secretary who answered the phone sounded almost as surprised by my query as I was that she didn’t know what I was talking about. I was put through to the proprietor who was also slightly surprised by my call. I should point out that the details had been published in a Heritage Week booklet that had been distributed with a national newspaper. Anyway the man was very nice and said that, yes, we could take a look around, that there was someone living in one of the renovated apartments in the Coastguard Station and that we could knock on her door if we wanted. We had a long conversation about how I came to hear about the Station and how the man had fielded many similar calls all week and that he hadn’t seen this booklet with the published details. I’m not sure if he forgot the advertisement or what but he seemed unperturbed.

Then he asked if I had any biscuits with me? No. That was a pity as the donkeys love to eat biscuits. Right. Did we have any sandwiches with us? No. Well the donkeys really love biscuits so if we did have any with us we could give them to them. We didn’t have any biscuits or sandwiches.  Eventually I got him off the phone, he really loved to chat.

My aunt reappeared with a neighbour who seemed equally confused as the secretary, the proprietor and we were, but chatted away with us as R and I snapped away. When I mentioned the name of the proprietor it turns out he was the solicitor for my Grandpa’s estate. Of course he was. This morning couldn’t get any stranger.

DSC_0658Until it did. The tenant appeared and said she would let us into the main part of the Coastguard station, which sounded great, until we realised this was the man’s sitting room. With all his stuff. And he wasn’t very tidy. We beat a hasty retreat and literally as I said I was going to take some photos of the donkeys before we left, the donkeys appeared at the front door and then positioned themselves in front of the perfect view. A few quick photos were taken before we legged it back to the car. The whole thing was just too surreal. But at least we have a great story to go with some great photos.

The Reek

I submitted my Capstone project (group thesis) the week before last. I’m proud of the work that we did and the paper that we produced, but some time off was badly needed. Myself and R headed West to visit some family and to enjoy some rest and relaxation.MayoAug13 011 (2)Of course I took my camera with me, although the weather in Mayo was predictably rainy and the light wasn’t always great. But when the sun comes out it is the most beautiful place on earth. And the sun obliged for the photo above looking out across Clew Bay towards Croagh Patrick. I think this one of the best photos I have ever taken. I’m very proud of it.

MayoAug13 040And then three donkeys appeared and began modelling in front of The Reek (that’s what the locals call it). They were so friendly and let us pet their lovely noses.

MayoAug13 050We headed up Croagh Patrick then to take some photos looking out across Clew Bay, and the sun came out for about 5 minutes before the rain started again so we didn’t get very far before we headed back down.

MayoAug13 056This photo was taken in Newport, Co. Mayo. Part of my heart lives here. Some day I would love to have a cottage somewhere in West Mayo. Although we only had sunshine about 25% of the time, it’s worth it for views like these.

Where is your favourite place? Where does your heart live?

Allotmenting

This morning my Capstone (group thesis) group had to present our project to a number of staff members from the department, as well as some external commentators. I’m so tired now I’m not sure if this post is evening going to make sense. We were running on so much adrenaline that now that I’ve relaxed I can barely keep my eyes open. The presentation itself went great and we had some good questions and feedback in the Q&A session. I actually feel excited about the project again. I think we had gotten so bogged down in the project it was hard to see the wood from the trees, so it was great to get an outside perspective.

And then I took the afternoon off.

Allotment (87)It’s been quite a while since I’ve taken a chunk of time off, I feel like I’m always tipping away at the project, there’s always something to be done.

Allotment (21)R has an allotment that I haven’t visited much because I’ve been so busy. He was heading there for the afternoon so I decided to join him and bring my camera and knitting along. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves as, to be honest, I’m too tired to type much more.

Here are some of the yummy produce…

Allotment (80)

… kohlrabi…

Allotment (111)… and loganberries…

Allotment (149)… some potatoes …

Allotment (90)… hops, weaving their way around a bench …

Allotment (93)… and my knitting in the sunshine. Bliss. A most delightful way to way to spend an afternoon I must say.