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I don’t bokeh … much.
It isn’t my kind of thing. Living in a location with some of the most incredible scenery in the world makes me want to stray away from this particular technique of photography.
From the grassy, rolling hills of the Palouse to the basalt rock outcroppings of Eastern Washington and lush forests and glacier lakes of North Idaho, Mother Nature is more than kind to me and my lenses.
Bokeh … what the hell is bokeh?
The term “bokeh” has only been around since the late 1990s and the dawn of digital photography.
It refers to the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas in a photograph, often with perfectly round blobs of light. The word “bokeh” is derived from the Japanese word “boke,” which means “blur” or “haze.”
If you know old school photography, like this ink-stained wretch from print journalism’s glory days, you might recognize its simpler description “shallow depth of field.”
The technique creates a dreamy, visually pleasing effect by rendering the background or foreground elements as soft and blurred while keeping your subject sharp and in focus.
What dog photographers love about bokeh
Bokeh can certainly add a touch of magic in dog photography.
The lighting conditions need to be perfect: soft and diffused to create a smooth transition between the focused subject and the blurred background. Harsh and direct sunlight are not your friend; golden hour or shaded areas can help you achieve bokeh more successfully.
And if you want those glowing orbs, you have to look for a background, like trees, to filter direct light.
Or an overlay in Photoshop.
It does also require the right equipment, usually a lens with a longer focal length and a wide aperture, like f/1.8.
The distance between the camera and the dog and the distance between the dog and the background also come into play. (I never really wanted to math that much but a lot of photography is about mathing. Bleh.)
When all these factors come together, your subject – the love of your life, your dog – will pop off that soft, blurred background and draw the viewer’s attention right to her.
And that’s really a key part of dog photography, putting all the attention on your beloved. It’s like a spotlight on your dog, bringing her into sharp focus and eliminating any distractions that might clutter the background.
Your dog, his personality and all his quirks that make you love him most – that one broken ear, the inquisitive head tilt, the snaggletooth or the blep – are front and center.
And then there’s me.
Part dog photographer, part landscape artist
I am constantly in awe of that which Mother Nature has created.
I am that person who yells out “STAAAAWWWP” on a road trip so I can jump out of the car and see the majesty that lies before me.
And I have lived in some of the most stunning areas of the world: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, British Columbia, Alberta and the U.S. Inland Northwest. I love visiting Montana and, absolutely every year, the Oregon coast.
Before I launched this crazy dog photography business, I spent my free time exploring where I live, visiting ghost towns and drinking in the wonderful scenery around me.
It has always been a part of my story … and it’s a part of your adventure dog’s story too.
My goals for your dog’s Adventure Day
The Inland Northwest is home some of the most stunning landscapes in the United States. Nestled between the Rockies and the Cascades, our region boasts an abundance of diverse ecosystems: dense forests, pristine lakes, rolling hills, sagebrush-covered shrub steppe and snow-capped peaks.
It’s a place where nature’s elements converge to create an ever-changing backdrop for my dog photography and your dog’s Adventure Day. When I see my studio colleagues ask “what’s your favorite backdrop for dog sessions?,” I think, “oh you poor bastard … go outside.”
And to create a masterpiece in dog photography, a piece of art that celebrates both your dog and the places where you adventure with him, I have to look at bokeh and say, “meh, you’re not my type.”
It’s better for me to shorten my focal length and tighten up my aperture.
Now, one of the photographers who inspires me, Kaylee Greer of Dog Breath Photography, takes it to the extreme. She shoots ultrawide at 11mm and f/22. That means everything from nose to tail to mountain peaks are in focus, tack sharp.
Her signature style requires off-camera flash all the time and, while I love the dramatic effect I achieve, it’s tougher when you’re a one-woman show. (Kaylee has her partner Sam Haddix as a light director … and man, I would love to have a Sam.)
But then there’s also my other top source of inspiration, my dear friend Craig Turner-Bullock of Furtography in Christchurch, New Zealand. He celebrates both dog and landscape with his Dogoramas, panoramas of multiple images carefully stitched together in Photoshop.
To take inspiration from both incredible photographers is how I created this image, which finished in the top 100 at the International Pet Photography Awards this year.
With a nod to Mother Nature, this was at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, looking out over a 400-foot-high, 3.5-mile-wide cliff created by the Ice Age Flood. More than 13,000 years ago, water teemed over that cliff wall and time has left us with a big sky, deep gorges and dark, reflective lakes.
Places like Dry Falls, like the Palouse, like Hauser Lake, like Farragut State Park … they make my job easy. They allow me to celebrate your dog and the places you love to explore with him.
They allow me to pay homage to Mother Nature and the work she has done.
They allow us all to experience the world through your dog’s eyes.
And that’s the clincher, folks. Because seeing the world through our dog’s eyes gives us a new perspective on our own lives.
To see what matters most.
To slow down and live more in the moment.