Satchi is our Hungarian Vizsla and today is her 5th birthday. She is, as I write this, somewhere on the Baja Peninsula in the back of a big black truck with her brother Ziggy heading home to me. My cinnamon girl has been frolicking on the beaches of Mexico for nearly a month now and I haven't seen her in 2 weeks! In her absence I can't spoil her with snuggles and treats so I will honour her here and celebrate her life with you instead.
Since the day we brought our little girl home 5 years ago there has never been a dull moment. She has gotten herself into heaps of trouble by ruining anything special or important to us especially things made of wood, wool or leather (including not 1 but 2 leather couches). She has taken us through the ringer of emotions by getting poisoned several times, running into a barbed wire fence complete with a solid throat puncture, scratched her cornea with spear grass, ran away from home and wound up in the pound, got attacked by a street dog over a toy and got hit by a car in Mexico which almost cost her a leg (and did cost us a wedding). All of these things happened right under our noses and have taught us many lessons. We learn though to tuck those bad things away and with any luck we remain focused on the positives.
Over these 5 years I have found myself inspired by this little sweetheart more times than I can count. She has motivated me to get outside and go play- two things I aspire to every single day. It brings me back to childhood as we trudge through our beloved forests rain or shine. The tall trees and fresh air are enormous in my well being. Seeing how sensitive she is to my feelings daily makes me believe so deeply that all sentient beings deserve respect and love no matter what and I am continually proud of my decision 20 years ago to stop eating meat. Most surprisingly Satchi has taught me many lessons about my photography. In honour of her 5th birthday I would like to share 5 lessons and 5 years of getting wiser with you. So here it is:
5 things Satchi has taught me about photography
Often times failing at something we tried can provide us with opportunity to see where we went wrong and what we can do better. Photographing Satchi and having so many adventures together inspired me to start a business called SnifferKiss Photography. I got out with other dogs took some photos, I even had business cards. Then my job changed and I moved and I let it go. I failed. I have learned though that if you love something and have talent and motivation then keep going and try again, success will come.
2. Take Risks and Be Proud In the Moment.
I am my own worst critic and I always get in my own way. I am learning though, slowly but surely, not to pick apart each image so closely. There has to be a moment in each edit where you just stop obsessing, step back and let it go. I sent this image into the Globe and Mail when Satchi was a pup and was so worried that it wasn't good enough- but it did get printed both online and in the news. I look at it now and I think it's not my best work- but I am proud of it because I can see how far I've come.
3. Play With Your Angles and be Patient.
A dog will only sit still for so long. Just when you think you have them where you want them with perfect light, they are looking right down the lens and you're feeling the money shot- boom...something distracts them and away they go! So be creative with your angles- sneak attack them when they aren't so ready. It takes a lot of time to train a dog to sit and stay (and look at you) while you fiddle with settings. On your walk find an interesting pathway beneath them, get your settings ready, grab their attention and shoot from above!
Or from below, dogs don't care about double chins so go for it!
Just like with children- when photographing dogs the best moments are often captured when you get down at their level.
Get out there and don't be afraid to go off the beaten path. I have allowed Satchi, on some of our walks, to lead me places I wouldn't dream of going on my own (like into tiny unseen pathways through a bush!) and have discovered lots of interesting spots that create great backdrops for images! If you're looking for variety - take a new trail!
5. Don't Stress
About your gear, the light or that you can't get your edit to look perfect. Sometimes the best images happen in a fleeting moment with an iPhone in your hand.
Happy Birthday Sweet Satchi!