Mr. and Mrs. Swamp Dog get a new dog! Documenting the moments of your life…

First Portrait of Mrs. Swamp Dog with her new best friend, Prudence, the proud new addition to the Swamp Dog family

When my youngest son was a baby it struck me this would be my last chance to fully document the life of one of my three sons, so I returned to my basic photojournalists’ indoctrination and started documenting my child’s every move. I must have 100,000 film and digital images of that kid, from birth to now age 21, and some of the images are honestly wonderful – yet 90% of these priceless moments exist only due to my habit of having a camera over my shoulder or nearby at ALL times – and USING it…

At home I kept a home camera with a wide angle lens sitting out at all times so it would be easy to grab when I saw those fleeting moments of my child doing something cool, cute, interesting or even amazing. Whether you are a Mom with an iPhone or a professional photographer, always remember the only point of photography (apart from commerce) is to capture the priceless moments and interesting elements of our lives.

But forget all that…. The Swamp Dog family has a NEW DOG!!! Last weekend the lovely bride and I journeyed to Oregon to pick-up the lovely bride’s new dog: Prudence, a 3-year-old purebred American Alsatian, a lovely and sweet young lady! During the long drive back to the Bay Area, we hit a freeway rest stop and it occurred to me I needed a “first portrait” of Kimberly with her new best friend so, as usual, I leapt from the truck with a camera to quickly make that first documentary photograph, simply as a first-day memento. Simple documentary photographs like this one, though probably not award winners in contests, are most often award-winners in the eyes of any family. Our families enjoy these moments which can then be passed on to our children… Photography is a wonderful way to vividly remember special moments in your life, simple or passionate.

A quick scan of the possible backgrounds directed me to this angle where none of the rest stop outhouse buildings or numerous vehicles were visible. Choosing the right background is everything in making images which direct the eye towards the point of the image which, in most cases, is merely a matter of awareness of background distractions. In this image choosing the cleanest background, while shooting at maximum aperture, resulted in a nicely out of focus background, effectively directing the focus to the subjects. As is often the case, this photograph was made using what I consider my most versatile lens, the Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens set at f/2.8 zoomed to 200mm so depth of field would be limited and the background would be void of gross distractions or busy elements.

Becoming keenly aware of finding non-distracting backgrounds is extra important. Avoiding nasty, distracting backgrounds can often be achieved by simply taking one or two steps in either direction or squatting so distracting background elements are not visible. Other time it’s mandatory for the photographer to move entirely to a position which has the cleanest background. Early in my career I was advised, “Try squatting to avoid all that junk in the background.” Though this is very simple advice, back then it came to me as a profound revelation. Now I move around til the background is free of clutter and ugly stuff avoided entirely or minimized. Awareness of backgrounds is basic but essential to internalize in order to make clean photographs. The camera used here was my trusty Canon EOS-1D Mark IV.

Btw, Swamp Dog feels no need whatsoever to upgrade cameras every time a new one is released. Solid photography is far more about capturing cool moments – then imaging them expertly in the digital darkroom – than it is about camera brand or cost. Otoh, if you want or need a new camera, do yourself a favor and check out my bud Ron Martinsen’s blog where you will find discounts to variety of products. Plus you can read Ron’s expert reviews of the camera you are considering.

Back home, appropriate Photoshop CS6 imaging was employed, using PhotoKit 2, handy plugin software from Pixel Genius as well as Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to make imaging this file quick and easy. I use both these products in imaging at least 75% of my work, mainly due to convenience and speed of workflow. Minimal depth of field was employed to better direct the viewers eye to the point of the photograph. Photographers must learn to visually direct viewers eyes to the point of the image, even if subliminally, so the eye will naturally go directly to the message in the photograph. Although much of my work does employee use of these nifty plugins, all of my work is highly custom apart from those plugins, though my preference is to use Photoshop in a natural manner, that is, without Flying Pigs…

1 comment

malcolm bramwell - April 9, 2013 - 8:28 AM

As usual a compelling and imaginative image! And thanks for the insight about distracting backgrounds.