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Thread: Photographing Dogs in the field

  1. #1
    Senior Member HPL's Avatar
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    Default Photographing Dogs in the field

    I received a PM a couple of days ago asking for some input as to what equipment I thought would be appropriate for photographing dogs performing in the field. From the question, I assumed that the person asking wants to be able to get good, close photos of their dog running retrieves either at trials, tests, or on training days. He had seen some of the images I have posted, and probably some of Tony Zappia's and a few others who post here. I know from Tony's posts that those amazing photos he has of dogs pouncing in the water were NOT taken at tests or trials, but were (as were the close shots of my dog pouncing) taken by setting up conditions conducive for photography. I have shot two hunt tests, and NO trials. The distances involved even with junior dogs at Tests are actually pretty extreme.

    The following four images were taken at those tests and are full frame, un-cropped files. All were shot using a 600mm lens (that's a huge lens). All were taken from pretty close to the line (probably no more than 10 or 15 feet back.) The other salient points here are: 1. the dogs already have birds (so they are obviously on their way back), and 2. they are relatively small in the frame. If you want photos of your dog picking up the bird, you probably just aren't going to get it at a Test, and no way at a trial.










    This next photo was taken during a photo session using a 300mm lens, and as you can see, fills the frame much more, but I could decide what distance I was going to be from the dog and didn't have to worry about interfering with him.



    So this leads me to three points. If you want to take shots like this one, or like the ones Tony Zappia has posted, you don't really need a gigantic lens, probably a 200mm would be sufficient if you are willing to squat in the pond to get the shot. If you want photos of your dog running in with a bird in its mouth, you still don't need a huge lens, just wait until the dog gets close. If you want to take photos of your dog while it is way out in the field, you need a really extreme lens, or....... you can get one of the new higher end point and shoot cameras with an extreme zoom. Nikon, Canon, and Sony all make them with lenses that are at least equivalent to an 800mm - 1000mm on a DSLR (still probably not long enough to get that close up of the dog pouncing on the bird at a test). When using one of the point and shoots zoomed way in (400mm +) you really will have to be on a tripod even if they have image stabilization. They are just so small and light that there is no inertia to help you hold them steady. Hope this helps.

    HPL
    Last edited by HPL; 02-19-2014 at 09:41 PM. Reason: punctuation
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    Senior Member HNTFSH's Avatar
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    You'll also spend plenty of time in edit, need faster glass and will need the ability to bring in the subject, i.e. clarity from faster lens. And lastly - be in the correct position relative to the sun.
    We shoot dogs with a Canon

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    Senior Member HPL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HNTFSH View Post
    You'll also spend plenty of time in edit, need faster glass and will need the ability to bring in the subject, i.e. clarity from faster lens. And lastly - be in the correct position relative to the sun.
    All good points, but the PM specifically wanted me to address equipment and it is my impression that few realize that a new 300mm F:2.8 lens is going to set them back, what, about $6000.00 and a new 600mm (thank heavens I've had mine for about 10 yrs) around $12,000.00. That is why I suggested one of the more advanced Point and Shoots. Fortunately lots of dog events run in BRIGHT light so the really fast lenses, although very nice, are not as necessary as in some areas of photography. Technique another discussion entirely.
    Any doctrine that weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state.
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    Senior Member ADB391's Avatar
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    Great pictures! A few years ago I got a Nikon DSLR a D3000 which was their beginner DSLR I guess. Now their lowest DSLR is the D3100 that you can buy for like $450 that comes with a 18-55 lens and you can buy a 55-200 lens for about $250 so you'd be in it for around $700 total. For an amateur like me, who just takes pictures for fun of hunting, my family, my dog etc it works great! Easy to use. I took this at a FT a month or so ago. Middle of the day so the light wasn't great but I think it's a decent little camera for beginners like me or just for fun guys. Great thread too!

    1234.jpg

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    Senior Member Todd Caswell's Avatar
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    It's tough to get good images when your sitting behind the line, lighting to me is the single most important factor between good images and great images, and the judges never take that into account when setting up a test Iv'e done alot of my retriever photography with a 70-200LF/4 and a 30D or a 50D Iv'e had fixed length primes and I always figure I'm missing something, by being either to close or too far so I prefer zooms, but good glass is a must, I would much rather have a pro grade piece of glass than a pro grade camera and a consumer grade lens. The first three images are either training photo's or set ups and the last three are either HT or FT images from behind the line.










    Last edited by Todd Caswell; 02-19-2014 at 11:29 PM.

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    Senior Member HPL's Avatar
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    Howdy Todd! Really glad you joined in. Wish Tony would drop in too. Wouldn't you love to be able to consult when they are setting up the tests? At the the two I shot, seemed that all the tests were set up so that the light direction was wrong!!! Theoretically would make it easier for the dogs to see the marks and be easier on the judges' eyes too.

    I too agree about spending money on glass and in my response to the PM suggested one of the IS members of Canon's 70-200 L series family. The Canon 300 F:4 IS L is also a wonderful lens, and a real bargain at less than a grand for a gently used one. I still think that the high end P&S cameras are a viable choice for many folks though. In truth, the best camera is the one you will actually carry and shoot, and premium glass tends to be big and heavy, so perhaps less likely to come out of the bag.

    Man those first three are spectacular!! Last two are nice also, but there really is something to be said for being able to set the shot up.
    Any doctrine that weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state.
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    Senior Member Todd Caswell's Avatar
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    Agree the 70-200 F/4 non IS is my go to lens, for what I use it for I personally don't believe the IS is needed, the lens is light, tack sharp and can be found used for around $500. Just sold a 300 f/4 IS, it was too short for wildlife and spend more time in my bag than on a body so I sold it. I ordered Tamrons new 150-600, it has some really good reviews so far and some not so good so we will see, it's a slower lens so it will definatly need more light. The 100-400 is another option that will not break the bank, I had one of those befor as well and if this new Tamron doesn't preform like I hope it does I will most likely go back to the 100-400. The best part is if you buy a good used copy you will never loose any money, I always encourage people to buy good clean used glass..

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    Senior Member HPL's Avatar
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    I love IS, never know when one might need it, but I'd rather have the non IS 70-200 L than one of the kit lenses. The glass in the L series lenses is so superior to that in the consumer lenses. Personally, I love the 300 F:4 and it is a great length when shooting from some of my prepared photo sites. Unbelievably sharp, light, and quick focusing. I have used the 100-400, and just wasn't that impressed. Too heavy, center of gravity changes too much when zooming, and I just don't like the variable minimum aperture. That being said, I know several folks who really like them. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the quality of the lens, just personal biases.
    Any doctrine that weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state.
    (John Dewey)

    Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
    (George Washington)

    Gig'em Aggies!! BTCO'77HOO t.u.!!

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    Senior Member tzappia's Avatar
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    Hi Hugh, Todd and everyone reading this thread. First I'll apologize for the brevity as I need to get ready for work. I'll try to log on later. Lens: Use the best your money can buy. Personally, it is very difficult to get the money image at any field trial. Because of a number of restrictions (judges, lighting, et al) I find the 600/4 to be the best field trial lens. But, then, you have to deal with the weight issue and depth of field issue. So, like Hugh said earlier - if you want the money shot, you must control everything (or as much as possible) through a set-up. My fav lens: 300/2.0 and my every-so-trusty 70-200/2.8. If I'm photographing in or near water, I'm either wading in shorts or wearing waders. The image I'll attempt to post is a toller shot with my 300. I'll post more later, but I have to run.Tollers_00003.jpg
    Tony C. Zappia
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    FTCH Adirondac Tea for Two WC, ** (Tea), 2009 GRCA National Specialty Derby win, Open Win
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