'Twas a big day yesterday.
I had the privilege to be a pinch hitter for my sister Jill -- who's a very talented photog up in Tofino, BC -- and help out with a palliative session for her friend. One of her two beautiful rescue doggos isn't well and has been going through tests and treatments at a local vet clinic, but there's not much more medicine can do so it's now about enjoying what's left.
Of course I accepted... how could I not?
It was very last minute, but that's how these are sometimes. So much unknown can make planning hard, but when it needs to work out, it does. We met at a local beach, but with strong winds and pouring rain, it just wasn't going to work. So we took a little drive to find some shelter and hoped that the weather would give us a break... and it did. Two dogs, two humans and one photog (me) found a window of space and time amidst a rain and windstorm where sun shone through the trees onto a magical rock covered with moss under trees covered with lichen.
Thank you L, P, K + J.
UPDATE: December 14/21: I just found out lovely, little Lily passed away. Much love to her humans for rescuing her and giving her a life of unconditional love.
A few hours later I was off to photograph 3 dogs. These would be former sled dogs coming into care of a local rescue. Three more dogs who were now going to be covered until animal protection laws. Bamboo, Meso and Saturn are #s 206, 207 + 208 in my decade-long project advocating for the adoption of former sled dogs. But numbers aside, they were beautiful beings, understandably nervous of all the newness in one day, but whose lives are going to change for the better with the love, care and support of a huge community.
I'm no stranger to photographing dogs who aren't feeling well - both mentally and physically. I think most of my work follows that commonality. I try to branch out, but I'm always drawn back to them. "Them" being those who've been discarded, left behind... utterly in need of help. And this year, well I just realized that the bookends of my work this year have been palliative pup sessions - as well as one in the middle too. So when I think back over the year, along with the last 10+ too, it becomes more clear, that this is me. My place. I want to be that person who can be there with a camera, capturing moments that may be otherwise unseen. Being a part of that sadness while being able to see some joy in the memories that are created. To take that pause and hold that space in time. It may take a bit to understand it all, but having lost one of our dogs this summer - not unexpected, but more quickly than expected - I wished I'd had someone there near the end, capturing our little Bella Boo surrounded by us and our love for her.
It was almost a year ago when I reached out to Mel and the Victoria Bulldog Society (VBS) to see if they'd be interested in participating in a piece for Wunderdog Magazine. They said yes, so we met up a couple times (in December 2020 & January 2021) for some photos and chats. I've known Mel for years, but this gave me the chance to really hear what her day-to-days are like running a rescue from her home. The piece made it into Issue #5 and is keeping company with the likes of Nowzad Rescue, Wuhan Rescue and sooooo many other like-minded people around the world who are doing their best to help dogs.
Thanks to Tonic for being the star of the piece and to Gerty and Tanker (RIP) for letting me photograph them for this piece.
VBS going global!
You can get a copy of the magazine through Wunderdog Magazine's website as well as Barnes & Noble stores (in the US only).
Since this piece, VBS has taken in so many more bulldogs and they could really use your help! To see what they're up to and to donate, visit them on social media (their website is under construction):
Here are some photos that didn't make it into the piece.
I bought a new camera last week, then returned it the next day because the lens stopped working.
It was smaller and lighter and meant to be easier on my body - the days of lugging heavy cameras and lenses around are numbered for me sadly.
Long story short, I decided not to get a replacement, but now I'm second guessing that decision. It ticked a lot of boxes on my wishlist, but it's kind of taking a step backwards in the gear world in some respects. And I didn't fall in love with it when I took that first image like I've done when pressing that shutter release for the first time on my other cameras.
As well as the camera tech stuff I take into account when photographing, there's also a connected feeling I get. It may be a wee bit different, depending on which camera I use, but it's always there, no matter what camera I'm using. I didn't feel it during that short visit and I questioned if it will ever come?
I know photography isn't just about the camera -- there's knowledge of the gear, the gear itself (camera bodies, lenses, filters), the human behind the lens, their unique perspective to their subject, post processing, etc. - reminding me of a story:
"a photographer goes to a friend's house for dinner and the host says 'you're a wonderful photographer, you must have a fantastic camera!'. At the end of the meal, the photographer says to the host 'what a wonderful meal, you must have a fantastic stove'!"
For now I'm mired in indecision so am sharing some of my test images, to "put them out there and add them into my work" to see if that changes anything for me. Some of the images have had post processing, some not.
Thanks for looking!
When the chance to go hang with horses one afternoon came up recently, I jumped at it! After all, it was part of an equine assisted learning program developed by family in Saskatchewan and they are now certifying others to teach the program and it's one of the coolest things to participate in. On this afternoon we ran through a couple exercises and although it wasn't my first time taking part, each time seems new and different, and each time I learn something that surprises me and is soooo cool.
In one exercise Feather (the sweetest of horses) was to push a yoga ball forward between two curbs. She wasn't to leave the aisle, but we (my human partner and I) also couldn't touch her. So while my partner walked on one side of her, my dog-knowledge instincts kicked in and I started calling to her like I would my dog friends. And these horse people watched in earnest, along with a healthy dose of confusion as I said "Feather, come on Feather! That's a good girl, Feather" I called in my saccharine-sweet and higher-than-ususal voice. Each time I called her, she moved forward towards me. When she finished the short course everyone laughed and said they couldn't believe she responded to my calls. To me - someone who knows way more about dogs than horses - it seemed natural, but to the horse folks, well, they were pretty surprised by what happened. In the end we agreed that horses can pick up on energies and the energy I was giving out was not one that would be met with anything other than love and praise when she got to me. I'd only known Feather a short while, but that little bond was evident and proved once again that horses can teach us a little something... or two.
This program was at Heart Lake Farms in Victoria, but you can learn more about the full program at www.cartierfarms.ca.
I can't share photos of the event due to privacy, but here's one of my and my new bestie, Feather.
Daphne is the companion of my friend Maggie. Recently adopted after a being part of a cruelty investigation, Daphne has finally put on some weight and is building up muscle through lots of activity and hikes.
Daphne, like all Great Danes, is a gaggle of legs. She's also silly and funny and sensitive. She can be a bit shy, but she's learning to trust herself and others and the bond these two have formed is magical. I just love that they've found each other and will get to share some fun years together.
For the photo session, we met at a local park that Daphne knew and was comfortable at. Plus, it had tall grass. The kind of tall grass that a Great Dane can hide in. It would also obscure parts of her, just like she hides some of her personality.
It'd been a hot day, but the magic hour found us so I was able to create images like I'd imagined. I'm a sucker for back-lit grasses, so Daphne got to play, meet some dog friends and show off some skills, but also just toodle along for a summer evening walk.
I've included a few photos from a recent session along with some words Maggie agreed to share about how she and Daphne met.
Thanks for visiting,
i saw some flowers at the grocery store, i'm quite sure they were dyed yellow, but they were pretty nonetheless
i brought them to my studio where i found a dead bee on the floor under the skylight (sorry little bee)
so i pulled out my bone collection to see what I could do with these three pieces
then i grabbed some green velvety fabric, a piece of wood i'd cut and a few other props i have on hand
and started to work
my studio is in a cottage behind my parent's house
so after a bit i went outside to enlist my dad - who'd been working in the garden - to hold flowers
dad had a desk job for years but he always kept busy doing manual work - gardening, painting, puttering in the yard
the tint of his forearms reflect his time spent outside this year
i haven't been to my studio much over the last year because of, well, a bunch of reasons
but there's something that happens when i'm there and get in the flow
it's a very cool feeling
and afterwards when i'm done reviewing and editing the images i made, i have to decide what (and if) i'll share - put out there into the word - and often times i don't because i don't want to be judged, or have to explain my fascination with bones or dark subjects, or confuse people as they wonder why i'm not sharing more images of dogs... or whatever people think (or don't) when they see my work
but it's not about that right now... it's about just getting on with it, creating, and allowing that part of me to just do its thing without judgement... and i'm going to try to share it... or at least put it out there, right here.
thanks for visiting,
note - images were taken back on june 3, 2021
Two more former sled dogs retired today!!
Welcome to Cally (left) + Ice!
For more about these sweeties and their photo set, please visit my Sled Dog Blog at: I Was A Sled Dog
I have two speeds when it comes to my work.
Just get it done.
-- and --
Just get it done is just that. Do it. Make the magazine, create the project, set up the session, make the call.
Procrastinate is my default though. Mull it over, overanalyze, hum and haw, wait for the right time, right feeling about the project, right way to do it... whatever that means.
But this was today.