Say Cheese: animals and the camera

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.

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47 thoughts on “Say Cheese: animals and the camera

  1. I am so deeply not a fan of pet photography, yet McCauley (is that right?) has become the exception. Next week we’re dog sitting our daughter’s two poodles so the “Adventures of Trigger” (and new lady friend, Gypsy) will be starting on Sunday and I’ll be in denial over not liking pet pictures..

  2. Come on Kate – your captured dog photos are his equal . We all love Macaulay because of your portrayal of him and also your wonderful photos. You have completely revealed his character to us.

    1. Good to see others love him, Rosemary, though his odour would test allegiances, I feel sure 😀 What I love about Paul’s work is that he takes photos of dogs in action, where they love being most. It has to work!

  3. I agree with Tandy. Mac in the bath is priceless. The look on that forlorn face, so different from the ones where he’s dragged himself out of the water with wet dog glee.

    I think dogs don’t understand the camera-in-front-of-face thing. It is different from the norm, and it gets their hackles up because you look different to them. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the photo Mac project. I’ll bet he starts outright posing for you.

  4. A Yorkshire terrier named Penny who likes ice cream, you say? I’ve been reincarnated before I’ve passed on. tee hee I find the same photography skills, the “it” moment, works when trying to capture our granddaughter, Kezzie, as well. She just won’t pose.

    1. The moments we snatch a freeze frame- those moments are very special, aren’t they, Penny? These days I have to guard against people posing. The children are far too used to the lens.

  5. My mum’s dog has perfected the art of looking long suffering in the photos I take of him, harassing him with all kinds of lenses. I think it’s the ears with Macaulay, that and those big eyes. 🙂

  6. I love all the pictures you’ve posted of Macaulay. He’s such a handsome devil! Who’s the hugely grinning pooch sitting with him on the red carpet? It looks like Mac’s thinking, “There he goes again, hamming up for the camera. No dog dignity! It’s almost enough to make me howl.”

    1. The other pooch is Clover, a regular visitor who belongs to my sister. Clover is eerily focused; but she does also have presence. McCartney to Macaulay’s Lennon, if you will.

  7. I’ve had a good lunchtime laugh with this one, Kate! I adore Macaulay, and I do think there is a whole world of wisdom in that little head. I think he gives an occasional nod to dog-like behavior just to see if he can throw you off, and a camera might reveal his secrets! Before I started taking photos of Darwin I probably didn’t think too highly of family “pet photographers”–but I get it now! I hope you can convey to Mac that we think he’s a very lucky dog…his family loves him and even takes him on vacation–by train, no less! He really should cooperate with the camera. D

  8. hahaha – your photos are a hoot! Macaulay in the bath 🙂 Sheba can smile sometimes when asked to smile – I will video one day (problem is she only really smiles for the hubby which is insufferable, really, as I am the one who feeds etc., – ungrateful I say).

  9. What a brilliant MacGallery, Kate!! Really enjoyed it and those images oooze doggy personality.

    My springer Rolls used to know to wait to have his picture taken but the best ones were the ears-flying action shots rather than the posed. 🙂

  10. Good action shots!
    I find that it is ridiculously difficult to get good pictures of our mob. By the time I click, that perfect pose is no more. Even worse, quite often there is a dog- or cat-sized chunk of open space.

      1. I find it difficult to adapt to the idea. So many years of counting the cost of each click!
        BTW *helpfully pedantic mode* Is there perhaps an invisible tautology one cannot see in your blog preamble?

  11. you’ve done a great job of capturing the essence of Macauley, i’d say. He is such a cute guy, i’d imagine even his dejected hunch pose would be adorable!

  12. I really enjoyed your post. It’s like you can read my mind. My post next week is about this subject. My granddaughter, Kaitlyn, really enjoyed your blog, too. She loves photography and has a Yorkshire-mix puppy, Riley.

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