Photographing rescue animals with Wirral Animal Sanctuary

I love my little days shooting for Wirral Animal Sanctuary and last Saturday it was a pleasure as always… I love being able to see first-hand the success stories that result from the work that the charity does.  I had four visitors – full of their own individuality and personality.

Here are my favourite pictures of each of my guests. I dare you not to say “awwww” at least once.

The first to come was Benji – still just a puppy. Benji is a Bichon Frise/Maltese cross that had to be rescued rather rapidly.  Thankfully his new family made some quick preparations and were ready to receive him at incredibly short notice.  He has totally landed on his feet and is such a curious guy.

Phoebe, the ferret, was hand reared by the charity and spends a lot of her time accompanying the volunteers to the events.  She is a beautiful caramel colour and loves playing and people.

Mishka – oh Mishka.  I’ve kind of lost track of how many times I’ve photographed Mishka but I always look forward to my kisses. But apparently my face needed a good clean this time.  Mishka is Corrie (the Wirral Animal Sanctuary Rescue Co-ordinator’s) dog and likes hanging out at the events and the shops and is a very good ambassador for the charity.

And finally along came Hattie.  Hattie is a lovely boxer dog who eventually took a liking to a striped squeaky monkey but what she wanted was simple really – just to be close to and in the attention of her new master. How lovely.

Best of Dog Days Coffee Morning

After the success of this summer’s Dog Days photo shoots, we held another event a few weeks ago with a bit of a twist. It was Dog Days in the same format as the summer one but with a Coffee Morning attached!  So you bring along your dog for a picture and eat some cake at the same time.  What could be better than that…?

Each of the dogs that came helped to make the event a success on two fronts: financially for Wirral Animal Sanctuary and creatively for me by presenting me a great opportunity to capture the personalities of these unique dogs. As always there was a certain amount of chaos associated with each of our visitors…

With this in mind, here is a Best of Dog Days tribute to the dogs from the most recent Dog Days event.  Thanks to all those who came along, brought their furry family to visit, ate cake and supported the great work of Wirral Animal Sanctuary.  If you want to check out more of the pictures from the event, have a look here:

Biggest poser – Zak


Zak arrived at Melrose Hall full of his excitement and very keen to have his picture taken. After being slightly worried about the flashes, a big red squeaky rubber tongue seemed to calm his nerves.  And why wouldn’t it, I say!

Most crazy – Harvey and Kali


You know when there is a springer spaniel involved (Harvey) everything is going to get a little crazy. Throw into the mix a collie (Kali) along with her slight obsession to be next to, play with, jump on (etc etc) said Springer and craziness is taken to a new level.

Best yoga pose – Skye


When Skye demonstrated a down dog yoga pose directly in front of me, her family told me that this is her way of saying that she liked me. Well I was rather fond of you too, Skye!  Skye is also going to make a great Ms December in the Wirral Animal Sanctuary calendar in 2018.

Biggest fluff – Scruffy


Disguised underneath all that lovely black fluff was a little skinny puppy body.  I could have cuddled Scruffy all day.

Best on two legs – Bella


Bella showed us plenty of her belly when she came in for her session.  She loved getting up on two legs and I couldn’t resist giving her a tickle.  She also loved giving out a few sneaky kisses.

Best dancer – Minnie


Minnie had some great moves – I wish I’d had some music for her when she came in.  She had a great spin and also loved  dance with her front legs.

Best love tap – Rossi


After jumping over the top of me (well – I suppose I was in the way really), Rossi pawed my head in an effort to encourage me to play. Sorry I couldn’t oblige, Rossi – I had very important work to do to make sure I got a good picture of you and your ears….

Best heavyweight team – Gomez and Otis


Weighing in at 12 stone, Gomez was the largest dog I’ve photographed. And the slightly smaller Otis wasn’t far behind in size.  Despite challenging the natural limitations of our studio space, they were both gentle giants and are welcome to come back for a cuddle/flop anytime.

Outdoor Dog Photography Workshop with Elke Vogelsang

One of my favourite dog photographers is Elke Vogelsang  She takes some amazing pictures of dogs – particularly her 3 dogs Noodles, Scout and Ioli so you can imagine my delight when I found out she was holding a dog photography workshop less than an hour from home.  I signed up immediately.  I’ve met a couple of other photographers this year that I admire greatly and they were genuinely lovely people wanting to encourage us lesser mortals in the craft as much as possible.  Elke was no different.
The course was organised by Fujiholics and the venue was the lovely home of Martin and Sue located in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.  We started the day with Elke telling us her personal story about her photographic journey.  Much to my delight, we heard lots over the course of the day about her 3 dogs – 2 who were rescued from Spain and one who’s mother was rescued from Spain when she was pregnant.  We learned about the dogs’ personalities, their similarities and differences and what motivates them each to be such stunning subjects.  Elke talked about techniques for photographing furry subjects both in terms of technical settings and working with the dogs personalities.  She talked about perspective, expressions and other photographers that inspire her.  She also talked about the business side of pet photography and about social media success.
There was a lovely homemade lunch to split the day which was made complete by a lovely piece of homemade toffee cake.  And then the camera’s were out and the dogs were in action.  There was Luca the ball loving spaniel, the sophisticated Mr. Jinks, Molly with her wonderful ears, Cassie with her boundless energy and Rufus, Will, Maisy and Ruby the beautiful golden retrievers.  The weather was a bit touch and go but we managed a good few hours outside without any significant downpours.
Although I learned lots and lots of things, I think my 5 key learning points from the day were these:
1. Start a picture series – essentially a group of pictures of a certain theme.  The dog catching treat series went viral.
2. Get a tube of liver paste.  The dogs go crazy for it and it really helps with directing the dog and getting eye contact.
3. Go beyond just getting eye contact and look at the detail in the expressions being captured.
4. Get the shutter speed up, up, up for action shots.  Shoot continuously on continuous focus and use a fast memory card too.
5. Think about the colour of the dog’s fur and whether to tone or contrast with it in the choice of background, accessories etc.
I admire the way Elke works hard to improve her photography attributing her success not to talent but to hard work.  I love her genuine love and understanding of dogs and the real desire she showed for all of us to take better pictures.  It was great to spend a day learning from such a great photographer but it was also great to spend the day with like minded people who love not only photography but are mad about dogs too.

Thanks Elke. Here are a couple of my favourite shots from the day.  I hope you like them.

Book Review: Reading Fifteen Dogs with one beside me…

I have just finished reading a book which I got for my birthday (thank-you Lauren!) and I thought I’d tell you about it. It was called Fifteen Dogs by the Canadian author Andre Alexis.

It’s a story of Fifteen Dogs (so an aptly named book then!) who are given the power of human intelligence by the gods Apollo and Hermes. It falls into the fantasy genre and I liked the idea of it when I read the synopsis on the back of the book. What came on the following pages I found to be quite a surprise…

As I already think that my particular furry baby really is human with associated sensitivities and intelligence, the concept of a dog with human intelligence was very appealing to me. I had conjured up in a my head a lovely little whimsical story of 15 dogs developing deeper relationships, loving each other and enjoying their new found intelligence. But it turns out that dogs with human intelligence aren’t always lovely, cuddly and kind.

The dogs were divided pretty quickly in the book between those who embraced the new power and those who resisted it. This divide was reflected in a raw violence and lack of sympathy which was unexpected for me. I struggled at times to get through some of the scenes – and I admit I actually skipped some of the more descriptive, violent sections.

Now that I’ve admitted what a wimp I am, I can’t fault the uniqueness of the plot and how clever the writing is. The main protagonist, Manjoun, was a well-developed character and I fell in love with him. This black poodle ends up being taken in by a couple and becomes part of their lives developing heightened relationships with them. He is so incredibly loyal and kind although his canine instincts never leave him so he never “becomes human”. I particularly like the scene where he watches a movie with his human companion but finds it all a bit flat because he can’t smell anything from the scenes.

I loved the Toronto setting and the description of the streets, High Park and the Beach. I love the sense of familiarity reading about Toronto gives to me. The final pages moved me to tears which must be the sign of a successful author to evoke such emotion in their writing. (I hate it when that happens when I’m travelling on the train!)

So do I recommend the book? Yes – it’s an interesting, unique story but be prepared that it may not be quite as you expect.

Dog Days Round Up

This summer we organised mini dog photo shoots to raise money for Wirral Animal Sanctuary.  We called it Dog Days.   We had such fun meeting all the dogs and their owners and each dog brought their own very special uniqueness to their shoot.
This got me thinking that it would be fun to make a Best of Dog Days list to celebrate the dogs that helped make Dog Days a success.  So here we go then:
 Daisy-9835Best trick – Daisy 
Holding that treat on her nose was something else.  We’ve tried many times to get Stella to do this and failed miserably.  Well done Daisy!
Best mutitasker – Buzz
How many toys can one dog play with at the same time?  It turns out that the answer to this question is lots and in fact, more toys than I had available at the shoot in fact!
Best head tilt – Coco
From side to side and back again… And again. Coco reacted to funny noises, talking, toys and well just about anything really!  After a while, most dogs tend to become immune to the sounds but not Coco.
Best entrance – Buddy
Buddy arrived for his photoshoot in a pram.  How awesome is that!? Buddy also probably wins the award for the best impression of a koala bear.
Biggest Mummy’s Boy – Taylor
When the lights and the treats and toys got too much for Taylor, he went to his Mum for her to tell him it was all okay.
Biggest thief – Oleg
Oleg just loved rummaging around trying to find and steal treats wherever he thought they might be.  It’s kind of funny because Oleg actually won his photo shoot for appearing as a police officer (alongside his Mum who was dressed as a robber) in the New Brighton fancy dress parade! It seems the true nature of his character is just the opposite!
Best dressed – Poppy
Poppy had her very own poppy patterned harness to match her name hand made by Dad making her a clear winner in the best dressed category.
Hungriest dog – Oscar
When a Labrador is involved, you pretty much know that there can be no other contenders in a category involving food.
Best role overs- Tillie
She just kept going for it with her roll overs… Although she didn’t mind stopping every once in a while to have her tummy rubbed.
Most blurred dog/owner boundary- Ness
When Ness’ Dad put a treat in his mouth to give to Ness, it made me feel slightly less crazy about doing the same with a ball for Stella!
Best tongue – Morgan
Well it was definitely the one we saw the most anyways….  I only took one picture that didn’t feature Morgan’s tongue and this is it!  Good thing sticky out tongues don’t mean the same in dog speak as they do in human speak!
Thanks to all those who came along, brought their furry family to visit and supported the great work of Wirral Animal Sanctuary.