… on photographic training


The Princess. Official Photo.

I wanted to practice my photography today, figuring that – like musicians – we wicked professional photographers need to work on our craft each day to get better. Buuuuut it was eleven degrees outside. And I was feeling lazy.

In New England, it takes a bit of an effort, getting ready to go outside this time of year, and… you know… live.

I’m telling you, I was feeling seriously slothful

The closet looked really far away. The hooks in the hall, where coats also live, felt just as unmanageable. Plus, diving into the giant MSW basket (Miscellaneous Winter Stuff) just felt daunting (dawn-ting). On days where you feel really inert, the whole attempt to match mittens and/or gloves feels like a giant game of Husker Du… and I always lost that game, mostly to my cousin Chris, so in addition to the whole pressure not to be lazy thing, I was feeling a bit PSTDish.

So I began to rationalize.

“Okay, I have my sneakers on and these unlined nylon Adidas track pants and matching not-even-close-to a wind breaker (more like a wind slightly-bender) will be totally fine… so c’mon dawgs, LET’S GO!”

And, Oh. My. God., we did.

And for the first few steps, it seemed like this was a fine idea. In my mind, all those people I pictured sporting parkas, gloves, and creepy hat facemask thingies were wimps with a capital ‘W’. But then it got kind of cold and I was telling the dogs, who were hippily hoppily happily leaping around, showing me all the snow they just found, that they ought to just count on a few minutes outside because – I reminded them – I was furless.

Which I think made them chuckle at me, because ‘furless’ is dog language for ‘naked’,  but I do not know what a dog chuckle sounds like. It was just a feeling.

So I was all, “Okay Blaze, c’mon over here and pose. Okay, don’t move… okay…”

Now, when I say things like that, I actually don’t expect my dogs to listen to me. Dogs being dogs and all.

A stray snowflake here, a dropped acorn there, and we are going to have turned heads and hop-ups and blurriness and stuff.  Photographing dogs, I have learned, is all about anticipating the dogs’ behavioral tendencies, considering the environment and …

I’ll stop now.

A great pic is a total crap shoot.

At least with my dogs.

But today?

Blaze came right up and lied down and looked right at me… and stayed still!

And that is the shot at the top of this post.

I was so happy with her, and I told her that and promised her cheese as soon as we went inside, which was going to be soon because my speech was slowing measurably and I was beginning to wonder that, if I couldn’t feel my chest from the outside, was I in imminent danger of cardiopulmonary distress due to… perhaps… a heart icicle formation event.

I totally knew a photo of Marshal was a pipe dream. I couldn’t even see him. But I called him anyway and he came right away… and looked right at the camera…

And stayed still!


Good Boy!

And I was all “Good boy!” and something about cheese.

And the feeling washed over me that maybe I had two dogs who were becoming very well trained due to some universal force who was not me. And that they were now the types of dogs who would understand my wishes with one or two words… then I got rolling and thought, “Or maybe they will just know what I want, like, telepathically!” and I had visions of Hollywood casting calls and Marshal playing Lassie in the remake of Lassie Come Home.

What. Lassie was a boy named ‘Pal’ in real life. Why couldn’t Marshal do it?

We’d spray paint him into a collie, and he’d be so well trained that he would sit still for the hours of makeup each day, like Jeff Goldblum had to for his role in The Fly (but way less gross).

And then, sure enough, as I was making my way back toward the patio, he came up – as if on queue – and lied down and struck a regal pose… and stayed still again!


No way!

And I was totally stunned, snapping away and telling him that, not only would he get a whole bunch of cheese, but that he was a very brave puppy for slaying the now frozen, previously gutted (and hence very flat) bunny toy he found under the snow and was holding between his hands for the photo.

And that’s when he seemed to realize what he was doing and stood up.

Clearly realizing I was now so cold that he ought to lead me inside to safety.

But no.




He lunged for a stick and leapt off the patio and started running all around the yard, and then decided killing the stick was, apparently, important.

I called to him.



But the stick was undeniably dangerous. And then I thought, well, maybe he thinks it is dangerous to me and he is doing me a favor.

So I called to him again.

And, I swear, he did look over to me… which is like an acknowledgement, right?



And then, the crushing reality of things hit me.

Marshal was not going to Hollywood any time soon.

My dream of me being Marshal’s Rudd Weatherwax was dashed.

Pal he was not.

And I told him that… hoping he would pay me some attention, and also show some semblance of shame.

But he did not.

He just kept on mauling that stick, and running around with it as it broke into smaller and smaller pieces.

It was imperative that I get inside to safety. But… I needed that shot.

And so I did the only thing I could do

I stopped.

I adjusted my camera.

I planted my feet.

I focused on where I thought he face was going to be, based on my plan.

And, used the tool that all of the great photographers who’ve come before me have used.

I yelled… as loud as I could…




Gotcha, you little mongrel.

Thanks for readin’.

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