How I Got the Perfect Puppy Picture

Photography is one of my passions.  This is one of my favorite award winning images I took a few years ago and what better day to share it on than National Puppy Day!  Especially since our very own Ruby is in it (second from the right).

This is the backstory for “Lean On Me”:

From time to time, when you are a photographer, there is a shot that you can’t get out of your head. You know it could be amazing if only you had time to work on it.  Days, weeks, even years may pass and somehow it’s still there in the back of your mind, calling to you, asking you to make it what it needs to be. “Lean On Me” is one of those shots.

Remarkably, this moment wasn’t planned, preconceived, or anticipated – it just happened. It was taken on January 15, 2012, the day we went to pick up our new puppy, Ruby. I was in heaven having ten romping subjects to photograph and I just happened to see four of the pups sitting side by side on top of a large granite boulder.  It was an overcast day but I swear there was a beam of light shining on them.  I couldn’t run fast enough! I desperately signaled my husband (aka Sherpa) and the breeder to run over there and try to hold them in place long enough for me to take a shot. Amazingly, they were able to sneak up from behind and squished (technical term) the unsuspecting puppies together. It quickly turned into a comedy of errors as the puppies started to squirm and wiggle their way out of the hold.  I just kept shooting – hoping and praying I’d catch “the shot”and I did!  This filmstrip captures the chaotic sequence of events.

While the science of photography has taught me to see the light, the art of photography is my true love. I love the possibilities of “what can be” with a photograph and this was a shot that I couldn’t get out of my head.   I kept imagining what it could look like.  But when you are looking for THE image to enter in a photography competition you’re supposed to remove your emotions from the equation and let objectivity reign.  When I finally revisited this shot for competition consideration (two years after I took it)  I tried very hard to to do that, asking myself, “Why? Why this image? Is it really worthy?” but a little emotional voice inside me kept shouting YES! YES! YES!  I chose to let my passion for art lead the way and I’m glad I did!  “Lean On Me” is a Best in Show winner and the perfect example of how I found “the heart in my art.” And my heart still tells me this is the BEST PUPPY PICTURE EVER!

For the photography buffs out there, here are the technical detail of the shot and how I created the artwork:

Basic editing was done in Lightroom then I moved over to Photoshop. I extracted the subjects from the background and put them in front of something much more appealing. With the darker background, the original foreground was too light and distracting. After trying to make it work with burning and textures, I gave up and replaced it with the brick ledge that complimented the background and the puppy’s color. I then used duplicate layers, texture overlays, layer styles and variable blending modes to create the depth and richness in color and texture. After that I expanded the canvas to create space for the presentation mat/frame. It was amazing to see the vision in my head come to life on the canvas! The image became art. I found the “heart in my art.”

Technical details:
Created by:       Kim Hales (Kim Hales Photography)
Time:                 2:00 pm
Conditions:       Overcast
Equipment:       Canon 5D Mark II
Flash Fired:       Canon 580EX II Speedlite
Lens:                 70-200mm F2.8L
F-stop:              f/3.2
Shutter:            1/250
ISO:                  400
Focal Length:   95mm
Post Process:   Lightroom, Photoshop, OnOne & Nik Software

KJ. Hales is the author of the children’s book series, Life’s Little Lessons by Ellie the Wienerdog. The first two books in the series, It’s Hard to be Good” and “It’s Hard to Swim” are now available every where fine books are sold. Signed, pawtographed and personalized copies are available at https://www.opendoor-press.com/the-shop/.

 

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