The Dog I've Always Wanted

Canine Behavior, Training and Photography

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Cartier Bresson

June 23rd, 2008 · · On Photography

Henri Cartier-Bresson is without a doubt an enormously important photographer. He is considered the father of photojournalism. He is responsible for coining the term ‘decisive moment’.
Recently I have been trying to capture interesting, well-composed, action shots of fast moving dogs. Doing this involves making a great many choices and hoping that you can make them quickly enough in order not to miss that decisive moment. To quote Cartier-Bresson, “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

It is quite challenging to compose a frame that fast. It improves with practice. Making an image that doesn’t need cropping is difficult under such conditions. I used to do a lot of tripod work at very slow shutter speeds up to a second or two using slow black white film. The decisive moment in this type of work was discerned at a considerably slower pace. I could focus my attention in a very different way. The time between the shutter opening and the end of the exposure seemed very long.

These days I am surrounded by a swirl of dogs, a dozen or so. The whole yard erupts into play and the chase is on. Sometimes I hear the “1812 Ouverture” in my head. Other times it is old silent movie themes, a Keystone Cops chase scene tune. The agility of the dogs is remarkable and at its most glorious it is a dance. Through my lens dogs are flying, unexpected tails, ears, entire dogs intruding. I have been considering doing a tripod- mounted, long exposure of this scene maybe a 2 second exposure, possibly longer. The only obvious problem with this plan is the question of using a tripod in that situation; dogs and tripods can be an unfortunate combination.

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