Dog agility photography is not the easiest of skills to master. The speed of the dogs, together with the pace at which dogs change in the ring, means the photographer needs to be on the ball all the time, and ready for any eventuality.
Equipment: Personally I work with a DSLR, as the settings are easier to control. You need control over the shutter speed, to eliminate blurring of the dog. A speed of 1/800th may be required, going up to 1/1200th if conditions allow. A quick focusing lens is required, due top the speed of the dogs. Reach on lens should have a minimum of 100mm, and you normally wouldn’t need more than 200mm. This is due to the size of the rings.
Position: Where you position yourself in the ring is important, and will either make or break the pictures. Unless you are very lucky, you will not be allowed into the ring, and will have to stand on the outside. Ideally, you would like to be a position to get one jump at a 45 degree angle, one jump head on, and a ‘different’ obstacle. Different obstacles include items like tyres, dog walks, A frames, weaves etc. Do not position yourself side on to a jump. This will make the shots nearly impossible to achieve.
Working: When the dogs start, get your focus on the first jump or obstacle. Do this by focusing on the top bar of the jump, or the equipment where you want to capture the dog. With a DSLR this is easy to achieve, by half pressing the shutter button. Then when the dog is in position to jump, fully press the shutter. Remember, due to the speed of the dogs, you need to release the shutter just before the action you want to capture. Then move onto your next jump and next. With practice, this becomes easier. With dogs completing the course in about 25 seconds, you start learning how to change form one jump to the next at a very quick speed.
A few little pointers that will help:
- Watch the owners as the do the course walk. This will show you where they are going to be, and more important, what side of jumps they will be walking.
- Never be afraid of being told you ruined someone’s run. We get this all the time, and it is used as an excuse. Dogs should be able to complete the course regardless of distractions. If you are a distraction, the ring stewards or judges will tell you.
- Get down low. Remember dogs are smaller than humans, and the best shots are obtained by getting down low. Lay down if needs be, or at the very least sit on a low chair.
- Watch your camera settings in the ever changing light. This is very important if you are outside.
About the Author
Drew’s Animal Photography are a specialist animal event photography company. Attending many events throughout the UK, and providing an individual service to event organizers. Their website is drewsanimalphotography.co.uk.
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