The dog has become camera-shy.
It is not certain whether he knows what the huge Nikon is for. I doubt it. It’s a big piece of logic, connecting the black thing with the huge eye which pokes out to observe its subjects with pictures which he probably never sees anyway.
But I don’t think he likes the telephoto lens at all.
One unwavering gaze from its uncompromising eye, and his ears go flat against his head and he assumes a tragically haunted air. He takes steps to avoid its surveillance. He does not walk away: he senses somehow he is essential to the scene; but he hunches unhappily like a 1940s squaddie who has been deprived of fags for three days in a row. He shuffles his feet and looks away.
So: no more posing. If I photograph him now, it must be by deep stealth.
And maybe a little research.
I have just joined the Twitter stream of the man who has bagged the title of Scotland’s Master Pet Photographer of the year five years running. He owns schnauzers, which account for half of Macaulay’s ancestry. One of his latest tweets reads: “Shall be going to meet a duck later today…” and another: “Just eight dogs in the one session tomorrow…I’ll need a master plan..”
He grew up in Yorkshire with a house full of pets. One of his greatest childhood photo ops was the response of the family yorkshire terrier, Penny, when the ice cream van came round the corner, its siren song blaring. Penny knew what it meant: a mini cone and chocolate flake. She would race out of the door, with Paul and his camera in hot pursuit, haring up the road to claim her prize.
These days he specialises in crystallising that ‘ It’ moment. The one which sums the dog up.
Paul says you find the place which expresses the animal most. And if you watch him in action, or take a look at his gallery you will see he practices what he preaches. Getting a dog to pose under bright lights just isn’t his thing. Dogs can’t say cheese.
“The most important thing…is for that picture to really characterise a stage of their life,” Paul told STV in a recent interview. “Really observe the behaviour of the dogs and just have lots of fun with your camera. Make sure you enjoy it above anything.”
And so, armed with this advice, I shall not ask the dog to say cheese any more.
Instead I must follow him into the darkest, smelliest recesses of the forest and catch him in the places he loves most, with that obsessive terrier-focus which only bacteria and the vagaries of microbiology can bring out in him.
Better buy a pair of waders.
And buckets of antibacterial hand gel.