Capturing Our Four Legged Friends

with Dan Poulton

By Dan Poulton

I’m a Manawatu based amateur photographer who has always had an interest in photography, starting out with a small point and shoot which I would slip into my pack. This was replaced on a trip to the United Kingdom where I purchased my first DSLR - I wanted the ability to capture memories of spending time with family I don’t see often, and the landscapes and history that is very much removed to that here in New Zealand whilst having greater flexibility of a multi-lens system. My interest in photography has turned into a hobby which encourages me to get out exploring and I find that my Canon M50’s small size and large range of compatible lenses suit my needs well, it never gets left behind because it is too heavy, or won’t fit in a small backpack (or even jacket pocket depending on the mounted lens).

One of my favourite and most reliable subjects has got to be dogs, even more so, our four year old Black Labrador, Pepper. It’s always a surprise getting home after a walk with her and flicking through the frames to see how my camera is able to capture her fleeting expressions, a split second of action or surprising movements unseen by my own eye. The photo above was taken at her favourite spot on the Oroua River in Feilding at the beginning of summer, this frame shows her usually unnoticed facial expression as she starts to shake the cool water from her coat, her ears pulling her face every which way, but her eyes still fixated on her favourite ball.

When photographing Pepper, I often have an idea of what I would like to capture before I leave the house. I usually remember to pre-set my camera before we leave the house as one thing’s for sure, she will be ready to go as soon as we get wherever we're going. I’ll set the aperture priority mode to somewhere around f8 to capture the static shots, more often than not opening it up after a few safe shots have been captured, to start isolating her from the background. I will also set the shutter priority mode to 1/800 to remove any motion blur when she is chasing a ball, or shaking. Pre-setting these two modes allows me to quickly flick between the two depending on what is going on. This works well, letting the camera do the work due to changing light under the trees growing on the river bank.

A helper is always handy too, being able to hold her attention or throw a ball to where I want her to be. If there’s no getting her attention due to either food or toys, it’s always a bit of fun seeing what can be captured with a wide aperture, isolating the desired elements from the background, drawing attention to what is important to her. This is seen in the photo with Pepper grasping her Kong. There is considerable bokeh throughout the background, although it is still recognisable as her back yard, which adds to the story.