Sunday, May 18, 2014

Veterinary Vision

Photo #1
One of the high points of my shooting year is the complimentary eye exams given to registered service dogs by Veterinary Vision, which specializes in eye care for animals. Leaving nothing to chance, I thought it best to schedule a shoot when they would be examining several dogs at once, allowing me more opportunities to get a suitable shot. It happened that I fell in with Warrior Canine  Connection, a group that helps place service dogs with veterans who could benefit from an appropriately trained service dog.

Luke was not too excited about the whole process, and backed away from the veterinarian preparing to check his eyes. He began to back up, perhaps too distracted to notice that he had backed into the space between my legs. Luke's handler thought this would make an amusing photo, so I handed her my second camera body equipped with a wide angle lens so she could make the shot. I held on to my other camera and looked down at the dog, just in case the photo was needed in the future. With a camera in my hands I'm a photographer, not somebody who happened to be in an examining room.Photo #1 was the result.

During my visit to Veterinary Vision, a total of four service dogs from Warrior Canine Connection were present. For the most part, photographing dogs from an adult eye-level perspective is a little bland. But when you get down on the floor and photograph them from their vantage point, the view is quite different. You can see more dog from a lower shooting position but you will have to endure more sniffing and doggie kisses, so come prepared with some cleaning wipes and a change of clothes.

Photo #2

Photo #3
All of the dogs were moved into a single examination room. Because there were three golden retrievers (2 can be seen in Photo #2), I needed to find a way to make sure I could properly identify them. When the first dog was examined, I wrote down its name, and shot away. When it was the next dog's turn, I made a quick photo of the ceiling as a separator between dogs (Photo #3). You can see, there wasn't much space to work, but a wide angle lens makes it look almost palatial. Nearly all of the work was done with a Tokina 11-16 2.8 lens, set to 11mm for most of the shots. Because the lighting was so even, I went with aperture priority, ISO 1600, F 2.8, and a shutter speed of whatever, but somewhere around 1/100 of a second.

This is Miss Bea, the second dog to be examined. She was a little nervous, so both her handler and the veterinarian gave her some extra attention to calm her down. When the situation changes this quickly, I usually fire as quickly as I can and I won't stop to chimp (examine) the images as I take them. 

With several photos to choose from, I examined each one, looking for the one shot that had the most visual interest. On first glance, all of the images are essentially the same. But if you look closely, You can see the images 3, 4, and 5 of the composite show the dog in a more relaxed position. The technician's left hand is flat in the second image, suggesting that the dog is being slapped. There were subtle changes in technician's face, which would influence the choice.

Photo #4
I decided to submit the fourth image in the sequence (Photo #4), as it combined good facial expressions, along with a hand that suggested gentle scratching. If you look at the photo long enough, you might convince yourself that Miss Bea is actually smiling!

I guess working with these wonderful dogs is the high point of my shooting year. If only my human interactions could be as simple and straightforward as those I have with these wonderful dogs. 

Color: For the most part, florescent lighting in small rooms can be a real nightmare. Add to that the contrast from top lighting and color contamination from the walls and furniture. Not much you can do about that. Also, the images were converted from Adobe RGB to Screen RGB, and by the time they finally get published (in print and online), the colors look even worse. I'm sure that when I get my final photo assignment, it will be a photo essay on purgatory, made in a room with a blue floor, green walls, and a random selection of old and new florescent lights!