The Art of Photographing Animals


No, this is not a tutorial on the best practices of photographing our fine feathered friends, the wild and wooly wildebeest, daringly destructive deer, or the bulky brown bear. This article is better described as an expose’ of my sad attempts at capturing the wild kingdom on [digital] film. Try as I might, I have found it virtually impossible to command a photogenic pose of any species of the animal kingdom – and yes, that includes the human species. I find that trees, lakes, mountains, flowers, architecture, vehicles or anything without a personality or the ability to move away on its own accord is more to my liking and ability. My own dogs, for example, seem to forget the command “stay” when I have camera in hand; the only time they don’t move or give me the evil eye is when they are peacefully snoring in their own dream world, and even then, most times are chasing dream rabbits. Oh Pshaw, you say? Don’t get me wrong, there are some shots that have turned out pretty good, but that’s as good as it gets – pretty good. So, in order to justify the Animals gallery on my SmugMug site, I should refer to it as A Humorous Look at Animal Photography, or How to Create Mediocre Animal Art.    Some examples:

Dogs
We have had Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for about 16 years, and to say that they are a challenge for me to photograph is an understatement. I have a forum friend in Scotland, a retired Veterinarian, who simply sits her Cavalier in beautiful field of wildflowers, snaps a shot and voila, a calendar-ready portrait is instantly developed. She even has the dog looking off into the distance as if not only contemplating the meaning of life, but understanding it. She is my animal portrait hero. My sorry attempts at capturing the fun-loving personality of a Cavalier have ended in the dogs either trying to hide, giving me the evil eye, or just plain bored with it all.  As you can see, these angelic-looking dogs are the devil to photograph.

Crosby fenced
Crosby trying his darnedest to hide from the camera.

Wally asleep
Wally trying his darnedest to ignore the camera and chase his dream rabbits.

three on porch
Crosby, Buddy and Ollie wishing me dead (or at least somewhere else with the friggin’ camera).  Buddy is the pooch in front and has the most disgusted look of the three.

Wally in trash
Wally either hiding his head in shame or using the vomiting guise to make me go away.

Crosby halloween
A very young Crosby somewhat displeased at his Halloween costume.  He was in the beginning stages of bolting to another room.

three asleep
Crosby, Buddy and Wally expressing their excitement at the prospect of having their portrait taken.

Cavaliers aren’t the only canines that thwart my artistic craving. I can misjudge an opportunity for a dog photo with almost any breed.

stampede
These guys just wouldn’t listen to reason. The more I tried to plead to their vanity to be immortalized on film, the more dirt they kicked up in my face (read lens).

And then there was the incident with Cosmo and the clown costume. The costume would have looked so cute especially with the little clown hat. He just didn’t appreciate all the work and money that went into trying to make him a one-of-a-kind pooch. His owner (who is still a friend by the way) really wanted a cute picture in his costume for Halloween, but she should have had her husband take the shot or anyone other than me! Here is the sequence of events:
Cos with hat The hat – not the hat! Cos 2 Working it off. Cos 3 Still working it off. Cos 4 Frantically working it off. Cos 5 Will this never end?
And speaking of ends…
Cos 6

Other Animals
Dogs aren’t the only animals that have no respect for the camera – or me with a camera that is.

cat
When asked to stay were he was, this guy simply walked off and then turned around and meowed “Bite me”.

duck butts
A local pond where I get no respect.

refuge pair
I think there is a theme going here.

efuge
Yes, definitely a theme.

seals 2
I can put up with being laughed at, but really – a belly roll laugh?

alpaca
A local Alpaca with problematic personal hygiene.  She sort of posed for me, but wouldn’t let me pull the straw out of her hair or comb her bangs. No shame whatsoever. And then there’s that hog-wire fence!

But then one day the photography gods smiled down on me as I did a ‘drive-by shooting’ of a group of deer resting in a field. The same deer that ate most of our plants in the garden, pulled up any grass around the house by the roots and at times stood guard awaiting a handout from our apple orchard. The same deer that defecated where I normally walked and usually bolted the minute they saw a camera in my hand. But also, the same deer that we loved to watch especially with their beautiful spotted fawns and yearlings. It’s not the best photo, but is one that I treasure only because they actually cooperated!
deer in field

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