Monday, February 27, 2012

Mischief Monday at the dog show

I spent part of Sunday at the local dog show, talking myself out of spending a fortune at the different vendor booths and taking pictures of all the pretty dogs walking around.

This little guy is Wilbur. He is a six month old Ibizan Hound (wire coated) who was at his first show. Doesn't he look all sweet and innocent in this picture?

This is Wilbur deciding that my shoes needed to be untied, and working on that.

Though slightly out of focus, this is Wilbur pulling solidly on each shoe lace in turn, making sure my shoes were really truly untied and loose.

And no, that isn't a trained behavior. It is adorable though, just like the rest of him.

You can tell in this last picture that he really is a sight hound. His play buddy, a poodle boy, was walking down the aisle a bit farther down, and was getting the eye the entire time.

Have to say, after spending time with Wilbur and with a few other Ibizan Hounds at the show, they have definitely made it onto my list of dog breeds to consider when looking for my next dog in the future. I have no doubt that working with the right dog could produce a wonderful flyball competitor. I would also be able to do serious lure coursing with him. And, the fact that they have such expressive and easy to photograph faces would just be an awesome little bonus!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Over exposed

Least anyone think I am a flawless photographer of some kind, I will admit here and now, that I did not check the settings on my camera before starting to shoot. As a consequence, I ended up deleting 50+ photos that were way, way over exposed. 

However, I wanted to be a helpful DIY blogger as well. What to do if you have horribly overexposed pictures that seem like they might be able to be saved.

Well, you go over to Picnik, push some curves around (found under the advanced tab), maybe push around some of the levels if you are so inclined, and make it artsy, instead of a portrait.

This picture of blog visitor Lilly was totally blown out and over exposed. Almost all of the background and the bench was white at first glance. Pushing around the curves and levels a bit made the picture, if not portrait quality, at least something I find interestingly artistic (though I know some people still find it way too harsh to be pleasing to the eye).

This second one of Pallo happened not because I didn't check the camera settings, but because I messed with them in the wrong way. Same basic problem, it was totally washed out, over exposed, glaringly white and hurt the eyes to look at. Same method of using picnik (which I just used for the first time, by the way, and am now mad I didn't find it earlier), just curves and levels, and I have a funky picture of Pallo. Which I am kind of enjoying.

But then, you aren't forced to like my over exposed pictures that I attempted to salvage. I was just desperate to not have the whole photo shoot go to waste!

Mr. Chewy review

I was recently offered a chance to try out Mr. Chewy. Many of you probably know that this is an online store which sells premium cat and dog foods, flea meds, and litter. I have to say, I was super jealous reading the other blogs doing reviews, and was really excited when an email appeared offering me a chance to review their website.

I received a code for $50 credit on their online store. Since orders over $49 qualify for free shipping, I didn't have to pay a dime to try them out. I have been compensated in no additional ways for this review, and this review contains nothing except my honest opinions about the products and service offered. Check out the bottom of this post for a discount code of your own to try out

First off, I want to share some of the great things about Mr. Chewy. The selection on the website has to be the number one. I have a pretty decent pet supply store in town, but their prices can be pretty high sometimes, and though they recently expanded, there is only so much room in a physical store. Mr. Chewy has a much larger selection than I could find without driving 2+ hours or going to multiple stores (or likely both), and carries those products my local store offers for similar prices, and in some cases, for cheaper. Even when my local store has the same brand of, say, a grain free dog food, chances are that they only carry a few flavors and a few bag sizes. Mr. Chewy would carry all of the offered flavors in a larger variety of sizes.

I do, however, feed raw. And, I prefer feeding fresh, whole raw to any sort of processed, dehydrated foods (though those can be great for traveling or backpacking or emergency food supplies). So, instead of ordering any of the extensive foods offered, I took the $50 credit and ordered treats. Lots of treats.

I used this as an opportunity to get a few of the treats I know my dogs love, plus try out some new brands that I have either been wanting to try or have never heard of but liked the looks of. The Natural Balance Tillman's treats (in two flavors) were just as big of a hit with my dogs this time around as they were last time I picked up these treats, as was the food roll that I cut up to make small soft treats. The PureBites we had not tried before, but were a major hit. PureBites are single ingredient treats, dehydrated. My only complaint with them is that the cheddar cheese ones were a bit hard to break up into pieces. I also picked up some duck jerky (one of Koira's favorites), and decided to try out two different baked treats: Three Dog Bakery and Sojos. It seriously took me almost three hours to make my selections, as the options were so varied that I spent forever adding things to my cart, then changing my mind and switching them out with something else.

With all the good things about Mr. Chewy, there were a few bad, or that I thought could use work, as well.

The first issue I had was trying to select treats. My dogs don't have food allergies, but I generally try to stay away from treats with wheat, corn, or soy as major ingredients (the Three Dog Bakery cookies are an exception to this, simply because the name is famous enough that I had to try them out- and they smell so good I almost tried one). In addition, I generally use treats for training only, not as a snack or bedtime-treat-giving-out item. For me, that means I need treats to be soft and easy to break or tear into pieces. Unfortunately, there was no way to sort the treats out as soft or hard. I had to instead go by experience with the treats (such as with the Natural Balance treats) and guessing.

Along the same lines, I think the descriptions could be made much more, well, descriptive. For most products, the description seemed to be nothing other than a short statement from the manufacturing company. I would have liked to be able to see a description and list of ingredients for every product. Additionally, with the issues due to chicken treats out of China, it would have been nice if the descriptions included information such as Made in China, Made in the US, etc.

My only other issue was with the shipping. I had high hopes, after reading other people's reviews, that the package would arrive quickly and with no issues. Alas, I was not so lucky. Though many people were reporting recieving their products within 2-3 days, mine did not arrive for 10 days. That alone wouldn't be too big of a deal, but the shipping company required a signature and could not find my house. They shipped the package back to their holding facility once, then tried again the next day, taping a notice to my neighbor's door stating that a signature was needed (I was pretty sure I had specifically said I did NOT want to have to sign for the package, since I knew I would likely not be home at the time of delivery). Thanks to my neighbors being on good terms with me, I was able to sign the piece of paper stuck to their door, which allowed for the package to be dropped off (again, at the wrong door). All in all, it was two weeks after ordering that I finally got the package.

Now, I know that most of the delivery issues were due to my address being difficult to find. However, this is something others may encounter when ordering products online, and should be noted for anyone thinking of ordering from Mr. Chewy. Just keep in mind, that no matter how awesome the company is that you purchase the product from, the shipping company may not be up to standards.  And, for something like your dog's food, it would be really bad to expect your product in three days and have to wait 16, potentially leaving you with the difficulty of switching your dog to a different, locally available, brand of food.

I do have to say, overall I did like the company. The website was decent to navigate, and while the shipping was obnoxious, that tends to be the case with anything I order to my home address. I would certainly think about ordering from Mr. Chewy again, just knowing that it might take two weeks to receive the shipment. Certainly their selection of treats is excellent, and the Pure Bites, especially, were a great product that I can not find locally.

If you want to try out Mr. Chewy, here is a discount code. Just type in FLYB8120 at checkout to receive 10% off of your order. Plus, Mr. Chewy will donate $10 to charity (in this case, split between three charities, Best Friends Animal Society, Bideawee, and North Shore Animal League of America). 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All I have to say is Yay Ohio!

For those of you who haven't heard, Ohio's governor has signed HB 14 into law. This will end the state wide breed ban and overhaul the dangerous dog laws of the state. With the new laws directed towards a dog's behavior rather than looks, this law should not only be much more effective in controlling dangerous dogs in the state, but is a huge win for those who have spent so much time fighting BSL.

Ohio has been a model of a BSL state for so long that their change in the state wide laws will hopefully have a greater effect not just in their state, but country wide. Those areas who have been thinking of enacting BSL may now think again with Ohio admitting it does not work. It may even have a positive effect in helping areas with current BSL in repealing their current laws and instead enacting laws which define dangerous dogs based on actions and behavior, rather than breed and physical appearance.

As awesome as this is, it is important to note that the law does not require counties and cities within Ohio to change their dangerous dog laws. Many counties and cities have breed bans in effect, so please continue to research carefully before taking your dog of ANY breed into this area.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daily Dog Challenge

98. "Three Things" Incorporate these three things in a photograph with your dog -- a pillow, something green and something made of wood. - last day Feb 12

99. "Shallow Depths" Make a photo with a narrow depth of field today to emphasize something about your dog (see topic for hints) - last day Feb 13

100. "So Emotional" Show us an emotion on your dog's face today. It can be whatever your dog is feeling today! - last day Feb 14 

104. "Just Desserts" - Our dogs all like to get rewarded in some way, what is your dog's idea of what his or her "just desserts" are? - last day Feb 18

102. "Picture Inside A Picture" -Take a photograph of your dog that has another photograph within it. - last day Feb 16

103. "Puppy Love" - Valentine's Day is almost here. Whether you have a human Valentine, your dog will always love you. Take a picture that celebrates that fact. - last day Feb 17 

101. "On The Job" - Our dogs all have jobs, whether it's one we give them or one they give themselves. Show us your dog "on the job" today. - last day Feb 15

108. "Up Close And Personal" - Give us a nice close up today! - last day Feb 22

107. "Something Funny" - Take a photo of your dog today that makes us laugh! - last day Feb 21

105. "Something On The Go" - Interpret it however you like with your dog, just show us your dog, or a part of your dog, on the go today! - last day Feb 19

106. "Be Mine" - It's Valentine's Day, so show us what it means to you. You can be sweet, simple or silly, just show us some love! - last day Feb 20

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A bit about morals, photography, and internet

A small confession.

I did a bit of a splurge for my birthday (which I tend to do every two years or so, with the last two being dogs for myself). Instead of a dog (which is not allowed by my landlord), I decided it was time for a camera upgrade. Trying to stay in budget led me to purchase a used camera at an awesome little shop called Focal Point Photography located in Dallas, OR (which I highly recommend checking out to those who are relatively local- it is certainly worth the drive down from Portland).

With the new-to-me camera in hand for a great price, and under a limited warranty for the next 6 months (something offered on all the new and used equipment Focal Point sells), I of course had to get a few lenses. I have ended up with three: a 50mm that I bought with the camera (as recommended as the best for both portraits and for shooting low light sports shots, such as flyball), a 75-300mm, and a 35-80mm. Then of course I had to make myself a great little camera bag to hold my awesome new-to-me camera, lenses, extra batteries, speedlight external flash, and any other little do-dads and whats-its I may acquire.

I bought the bag itself, then added the brown and pink shoulder strap and the internal cushion dividers for the camera and lenses. I think it gives a much more unique look than a standard black, square camera bag.

Of course, the camera itself is stored in the blank middle space. I normally store it with the 50mm on, since that is the lens I use the most.

It has been a bit of a learning process. As many will know, I have previously been shooting pictures with cheap used cameras that are in the "super zoom" class of point-and-shoots. Most recently was a used Kodak that I picked up for $30 on Craigslist. I sort of reached a wall, though, with what I could successfully shoot with that camera, and wanted to get something that would help reach beyond that. Another super zoom, newer, with more features and a larger mp would have helped. But there would still have been a wall to run into as to the capabilities of that camera. When I found out I could purchase a used, good condition DSLR for less than I would spend on a halfway decent point-and-shoot or super zoom, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just jump in. Obviously my current camera body is not a brand new shiny state of the art camera. I paid under $350 total for both the camera body and the 50mm lens, with two batteries, a memory card, and a few other nifty accessories thrown in. However, my lenses that I collect now will be able to be used with any upgrade of camera body that I purchase in the future, making them an investment rather than something that will soon be outdated.

Taken with my 50mm in Sports mode, auto focus, the first week I had the camera

All this is a somewhat long way of getting to the original point of this post. With the addition of my new camera, I have started following more photography blogs, facebook pages, and other photography related sites, many focusing on pet photography. Some of these sites are part of what inspired me to purchase a new camera to begin with. (One of my long-time favorites is Artis Photography in Seattle.) Others are new finds that pop up when I do searches (often about trying to do a specific something with this new and often baffling new camera).

I am sure that when I say these sites inspire me, I am not alone. The photos these people can take of dogs that show so much emotion and have such a dynamic, moving lay out make me see some of what I would like to be able to achieve someday. But along with this comes the issue of copying. Where is the line between being inspired by a photo or idea, and copying that photo or idea?

An example of a photographer whose work I enjoy a lot, and who I am pretty sure many in the pet blogging community are already familiar with, is Scruffy Dog Photography. The photographer manages to really capture each dog client in a very unique and interesting way. The photos are beautiful and I love scrolling through the blog to check out the highlights of various photo shoots. In particular, a photo of two corgis posed on a white, old fashioned fancy white chair set outside in nature made my hands itch to try something similar with my dogs. The trick of it is, how do you take a great idea like this and make it your own? I would never want to insult an artist whose work I admire this much by carelessly stealing away the idea. At the same time, though, I know Scruffy Dog is not the only one who has ever used a chair pose out in nature to create a portrait. There is no copyright on this idea. It is not a matter of legality so much as morality and courtesy.

A photographer has to work hard to come up with unique, interesting ideas. It is as much the creative ideas of the artist as the technical skill that sells a photographer's work. Someone can have amazing technical skills with a camera and editing programs but still not be successful if they lack that creativity and imagination for creating interesting and unique photo designs. For such a technical photographer to use the ideas other, more creative, people have come up with does seem very wrong. With the internet and social media making the world a small space, physical distance doesn't even matter much, as far as this goes, since a photographer's unique style can be seen around the world.

I'm going to confess, at this point, that I am not really sure where to draw the line between inspiration and copying. I think the line has to be placed a bit differently for those people who are professionals and selling the idea to their clients versus those people who only do photography for themselves, for free. I did read an interesting blog post about this issue. However, this post is pretty obviously geared toward those who are selling their photography.

I'm interested in hearing what you guys think. Where would you draw the line? Would you find it appropriate, irritating, or offensive if, having seen the photography shared on the Scruffy Dog blog, I posted a picture on here of one or both of my dogs posed on an ornate chair out in the Oregon wilderness? If you loved the idea of this photo, would you go ahead with the shoot? Would you make an effort to change some aspects on purpose to make it more different? For most of us, the chair, dogs, and setting would all be at least slightly different, of course, but how much variance from the original would be enough? How different would your answer to these questions be if it was a professional photographer interested in the idea, instead of a casual picture taker and blogger? Would it change your opinion on this if the photos were to be sold? If they were to be posted online (say on a blog or in a Flickr group)? In what ways, and why?

Anyone have any other input? A different perspective, a what-I-did story, or other reference points?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Daily Dog Challenge Update

First off, an apology on not posting more this week, and not getting much of a chance to visit and comment on all of your blogs. I'm house sitting for the next few weeks, and the addition of twelve animals to care for has been a bit time consuming. And me not being able to figure out the wireless internet doesn't help at all either.

So, here are the Daily Dog Challenge photos, new since last time.

94. "Front and Center" Make a photograph with a central point of focus today. Don't forget the aww factor that dogs bring to a picture! - last day Feb 8
95. "Purple Haze" Take a photo that features the color purple today! - last day Feb 9
96. "Time Passes" Use your dog to take a photo that illustrates the passing of time today. - last day Feb 10
(I think Koira is telling me it is past time to clip her nails)

I also wanted to share a picture of Koira's new holiday collar for Valentine's Day coming up next week. This fabric was sparkly and on sale, and seemed perfect for Koira.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Happy Gotcha Day!

I brought home Koira on February 3rd, four years ago. Pallo came home on February second, two years later. I just can't resist getting birthday presents for myself, but since Pallo came home, I have managed to resist bringing home any more dogs!

This little picture, though blown out with light and a bit blurry, shows Koira when I first met her, in the kitchen of the house that was her home up until that point. Koira was a teeny tiny little baby puppy, with a naked little belly and a pink little nose.

Two years later, me and Koira attended our first flyball tournament. Disaster though it was, I still came home fired up to do more. And when I looked on the website of the local pound, and saw this pathetic picture of a scared little tan and black dog labeled only as a corgi mix and a number, I had to go pick him up. He was a chubby little thing back there, still intact (though not for long), with ear infections and major scarring in his ear leathers as well as a huge load of worms.

Now, I have two loving companions. Two titled flyball dogs. The two best friends and best team mates a girl could ever ask for. Its hard to believe Koira has been with me four years, and Pallo two, but it is even harder to think about ever living life without them here with me.

They make me smile, they make me laugh, and they comfort me when I cry. They are two best friends in the world, keeping me company in it, and I am so very privileged to have them by my side.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Daily Dog Challenge

I decided on Jan. 30th to actually start participating in the Flickr group Daily Dog Challenge, which many of my blogging pals participate in as well. I don't really want to inundate the blog with tons of pictures from it, though, so will probably be making a post about once a week (though I promise nothing) to feature the pictures loaded onto Flickr for the challenges.

The photo captions include the number the challenge is, the challenge title, the challenge description, and the date the challenge is due by (each challenge stays open for 7 days, so if you have to take a day off, you don't have to fall behind because of it). I also post additional descriptions of some of them.

85. "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" See if you can capture a photo of your dog asleep or at rest today! - last day Jan 30

86. "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" Tell us a story with a photo today! - last day Jan 31
I was trying to get a picture of Pallo with his front feet up on the fence. After jumping over it a few times, he decided I must want him to jump up ON the fence with all four feet. I guess it seemed like a good idea to him... At the time.

87. "The Back Side" Show us a part of your dog fro
m the side we rarely see, the back! - last day Feb 1
Pallo's gigantic backside

88. "Patterns" Take a photo of your dog that includes some kind of repeating pattern, whether it's something you create or something found in nature! - last day Feb 2
The stairs, of course, are the pattern.

89. "What's Your Angle" Make a slightly off angle photograph of your dog today. Use the angle to emphasize your pup! - last day Feb 3
I didn't mean to cut off parts of his face when I took this picture, but when I loaded it onto the computer, I ended up really liking it just how it was.

90. "Dream Photo" What's a photograph you've wanted to make for a while but haven't for some reason? Shoot it today! - last day Feb 4
 I've been wanting to get a good tongue picture of Koira for a while. Thanks to some peanut butter, I finally got one I like!

91. "Who's Got Game" Does your dog have a favorite game? Be as creative or literal as you want to be! - last day Feb 5
Koira loves "deathing" sticks, just like her pal Skye, but rarely gets a chance to show off one of her favorite games like this

92. "What's in a name?" Take a picture that tells us something about your dog's name or how he or she got it today. Feel free to embellish! - last day Feb 6
Pallo is the Finnish word for "ball". Koira was named first (meaning "dog" in Finnish), and I wanted Pallo's name to fit in. His total love of balls of all shapes and sizes made Pallo a name that just seemed to fit.

93. "Our Daily Walk" Take a picture and show us what your dog enjoys on your daily walk today! - last day Feb 7
 With the flood waters finally receded enough that we can get to our favorite park again, we decided to take a stroll down there yesterday. Of course, the large pools of water creating lakes that are generally not there gave Koira a great opportunity to do some swimming, resulting in the inevitable "shake off"

And there you have this week's updates to the Daily Dog Challenge.