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Pupparazzi: One Last Chance To Change It All

Ever since the very beginning, dogs have always been my reason.

I remember the times when tiny 5 year old Kaylee would go blasting across the street at every dog that would pass by screaming my little head off with delight. (in retrospect, of course not the most effective way to approach a dog – but the sentiment remains. haha!)

I always knew I wanted to surround myself with the purity of dog. With their love, their kindness, and their unending joy. I never, in a million years, however would have believed you if you told me about the unbelievable journey I would one day go on with dogs by my side.

Honestly guys, all of this beautiful chaos and adventure with Pupparazzi is still completely surreal to me. I still have a hard time believing it’s actually happening and yet, it finally feels like I’ve arrived at a place where I was always meant to be – doing the one thing that I know I was put on the planet to do. Speaking for the dogs that I love so much.

The third episode of Pupparazzi airs this Saturday night, at 10pm on Nat Geo Wild. Right now, this is the last episode that will be aired and measured before the network makes it’s decision – a decision that could change the trajectory of my life forever — whether or not Pupparazzi will continue forward as a series. It’s my last chance to show the team of executives and creators at Nat Geo that people do truly care about these dogs and their stories, and the public has put a piece of their hearts in this mission I am on in bringing a voice to those who have been left behind in shelters all over the country.

So this is me, asking you, from the bottom of my heart, and for the love of dogs everywhere, to tune in live to Episode 3 on Saturday night at 10/9 PM Central on Nat Geo Wild for this last chance for ratings (and tell every single person you know about Pupparazzi too!! 😜)

And for anyone who missed it, here are some fun photos from the first two episodes (which you can still catch, streaming on Nat Geo’s website here!: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/pupparazzi/)

 

Hope to see you all, my friends old and new, on Saturday night on Nat Geo Wild!!

 

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Episode 1: Little Poindexter waited for 2 long years in his shelter cage for someone to come and change his fate forever. So we took him to a mountaintop to do his adoption photo, tune in to see what happens after this moment. 🙂 
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Episode 1: Chance is a therapy Pit Bull who works with emotionally challenged children at an elementary school just outside of Denver, CO. We decided to turn him into the proper superhero that he is. The behind-the-scenes of this shoot is just cuckoo bananas fun! Check it out in Ep 1!
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Episode 2: Breck was found wandering the through the endless expanses of the Florida Everglades after being abandoned there by his previous owner. We took an airboat to one of the most special locations of all time to tell his amazing story. 
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Episode 2: Kanga and Roo are two incredibly special little Chihuahuas who were born without front legs due to a birth defect. The good news? They don’t let that slow them down! Watch their epic photo shoot in Episode 2 of Pupparazzi! 

 

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Pupparazzi on Nat Geo WILD!

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HOLY BANANA SANDWICHES!!! YOU GUYS!!!

Oh goodness, I have something to tell you!!! I have been bursting at the seams with happy dance excitement and honestly, I can’t believe I conquered the impossible feat of keeping this all squashed inside my chest while I waited for the moment to finally let it out and shout it from the rooftops!!! (Run-on sentence, I know.)  

So, clearly, I have some news.

And it’s not just your regular ol’ run of the mill, ‘I’m rolling-around in a pile of puppies on a hillside somewhere’ or ‘Today I photographed a gorgeous dog’ kind of news. (Which are still great pieces of news in and of themselves, to be fair.)

No, this is cuckoo bananas, ‘is-this-actually-real-life?’, ‘I-can’t-believe-I can-even-say-these-words’ kind of news. It’s an announcement that feels too surreal to actually be made, and yet — it’s all about to spring forward from my fingertips despite that because, well…

because nothing is impossible.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I’ve been sitting here for ages staring at this blank computer screen – hands shaking – wondering how I might ever be able to come up with the words to say all the things I want to say in a moment like this one. After many failed attempts, backspace keys, writes and re-writes, I’ve come to accept that no arrangement of nouns or adjectives will ever be perfect enough to articulate the exact feeling in my heart in the wake of this occasion, so I’m just going for it anyway.

Photographing dogs has been the adventure of my lifetime. It’s everything I never knew I was truly meant to do. A lot of you have been here with me, cheering me on and lifting me up since the very beginning of my journey, and to you and your kind and beautiful hearts – I couldn’t be more grateful.

Collectively, dogs are a kind of magic that fills me up and makes me whole – their joy, whimsy and unrelenting happiness inspire me to be a better in every way. From the very first moment that I walked through the doors of the MSPCA and clumsily fumbled my way around my camera to photograph my first shelter dog almost 8 years ago, something shifted in my heart, and I knew I had found my very reason for breathing. Dog photography has been changing my life consistently since the very beginning and now, it dances to a place I never imagined it could go.

In less than 2 weeks, on September 15th at 10/9 Central, my brand new television show Pupparazzi will be premiering on Nat Geo WILD!

Pupparazzi will follow Dog Breath Photography on all our wild, wacky, dog-filled adventures all over the country (and hopefully, eventually the world!), with a highlight on focusing on the one thing that means more to me than anything else on the planet – the powerful stories of the rescue dogs that so desperately need a voice.

We have been traveling all over the country since the beginning of the year with an incredible production crew who have blown our minds with their passion and talent, and we’ve just wrapped filming the first group of episodes. This experience has been completely surreal from the very first moment and the gratitude that I feel for this opportunity and the people who have feverishly supported me along the way is truly indescribable.

For years, I have received messages from wonderful people all over the globe, asking if there might be any way they could come along on my dog photography adventures one day. Well, now, there finally is! I hope you will all join me on my unforgettable adventures and follow me on a mission across the planet to capture the spirit of dog through my lens!

I think it’s worth saying – if something lights you on fire and you believe in it with everything in your heart, get out there and chase it furiously, unapologetically and relentlessly.

The fact is, dreams really do come true.

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At National Geographic’s ‘Further Front’ Upfront Event on the day of announcement in New York City.  2018.
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What Makes You Different Makes You Beautiful.

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There are some things that come into your heart and never leave you. There are some things that show you, that against all odds – love prevails and miracles are real. Kanga and Roo are two of those things.

Kanga and Roo are unique. Unique in their physical appearance, yes – but more importantly: Unique in their happiness. Unique in their enormous personalities. Unique in their unrelenting joy.

Kanga and Roo are biological brother and sister – born to the same litter. Tragically, as a result of imbreeding and overbreeding, these two were born without front legs. After about a year of their breeder attempting to care for these special needs angels, the process proved to be too difficult and eventually, Kanga and Roo were surrendered to a Georgia based rescue called Angels Among Us. For several months, Kanga and Roo sat patiently – quietly waiting for a new family to come and change their fate forever. Someone would surely come, right? But no one was interested. The rescue and their foster parents tried everything, including adoption events, but still, no applications ever came through.

Just when your heart begins to break – two of the kindest, warmest people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet are going to put it back together. Enter Therese and Duc – a pair of once-in-a-lifetime sort of people with hearts bigger than the physical limitations of the human body traditionally tend to hold – who had just recently lost their beloved dogs of 16 years. They discovered Kanga and Roo after finding a post about them online, and saw the sparkle in those sweet, shining eyes. They just knew they had to call them theirs. Therese and Duc had never had special needs dogs before, but they knew they could step up and do whatever it took to give Kanga and Roo the fairytale life that they’d always deserved. After much devoted research on adapting to life with differently abled dogs, they padded all the floors throughout their home so that the two Chihuahuas could wiggle and scoot their way across the soft surfaces to get from place to place. For all of Kanga and Roo’s outdoor adventuring needs, they had special all-terrain wheelchairs custom made. And the coolest part of all? Thanks to a friend of Therese and Duc’s who happened to work with human prosthetics, they had special sweaters made for their bouncy pups out of the same material that amputee patients wear before putting on a prosthetic limb. And remember when I told you that Therese and Duc are some of the most special people I’ve ever met? Well there’s always good reason for a statement of that magnitude: Since then, they’ve begun to offer these special sweaters to dog parents all around the world who might also have two-legged pups with similar needs. They do this completely free of charge.

Therese and Duc traveled up to Boston from Georgia with gorgeous Kanga and Roo for a special Dog Breath photo shoot at the very beginning of Summer. It was almost a year in the planning to organize our schedules and pull it all off, and I had been over the moon with excitement looking forward to our big adventure together. I’ve never felt so honored as I was when that day finally came – to know that I was chosen to capture the enormous legacies of these two incredible little dogs. It was a privilege so absolutely legendary that I find it hard to put into words, but despite that – I will try:
Kanga and Roo showed me their hearts that day. We played and explored through Boston’s gorgeous Public Gardens – treats, peanut butter and laughter flying every which way from our general direction. Kanga and Roo colored the park with joy everywhere they went – brilliant stripes of yellow sunshine being left in their paths as they meandered this way and that in their special wheelchairs. I heard some ‘squees’ to rival my own in volume and expression (which is quite a feat, let me tell you!) as we passed by smiling strangers throughout the afternoon.

Kanga and Roo taught me a lot that day. And in this very moment, as they stood there in that Wonderland of flowers – springing up like technicolor dreams above these two tiny heroes – I realized something:

Love and light know no predetermined shape and size. Happiness doesn’t fit inside a box, andjoy doesn’t discriminate based on physical limitation.
No matter how small. No matter how different. No matter how much extra bravery you feel you need to muster up – Your impact on this world is only measured by the size of your heart.

Because no matter how your journey started, the ending can be anything you dream it to be.

-Kaylee

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Secrets to Capturing Perfect Pup Photos – Part 2

Oh, I am so excited to be bringing you round 2 of some of my very best secrets to taking gorgeous images of your dog!

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If you haven’t gotten the chance to read Part 1, you can find that here.

But just to recap, here are the four tips I’ve already let out of the bag:

1. Make it a Positive Experience

2. Be Prepared and Bring Lots of Goodies!

3. Time of Day

4. Look for Dog-Sized Scenery

Over the past six years of photographing dogs professionally, I’ve uncovered all kinds of little tricks that have come to be part of my ‘secret sauce’ in capturing the perfect dog image. To pick up where I left off in Part 1, here are four more for you to try!

5. Get Low 

We see dogs everyday, right? Unless you live on a remote farm somewhere in the middle of the desolate Canadian Yukon, it’s likely that you have experienced the joy of a dog walking by you at least once or twice per day, every day of your life. (And if you’re in the Yukon, you probably have bears…so…that’s awesome…) Dogs aren’t a terribly uncommon thing. (And thank goodness for that! Am I right?!) So, on those regular days, when we see dogs pass us by on the street, or even look down at our own dogs at our feet – how do we see them? You guessed it. From standing level. Not only do you see dogs from an average height of say, about 5 feet 6 inches, but you actually see pretty much everything in the world around you from that height. Photography is about seeing an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way. Take something commonplace and turn it into something unexpected – something brilliant.

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When you take a photo of your dog from standing height, looking down on him, you are recording an ordinary scene – something your brain has become very used to viewing and processing. But get down on his level, and all of a sudden you have magic. You have impact. You are in his world now. You have immersed yourself in the size of his entire existence, and suddenly you have a power in your images, a connection that truly can’t be made until you are seeing directly into the glittering iris of a canine. And sometimes – sometimes I push it even further than eye to eye, sometimes I get even lower than that. Photography is about telling a story, and for me, that story is all about the dog. It’s about turning my pup models into royalty. They are the Kings and Queens of their dominions. They are the superheroes watching over cities. So much of the impact of my imagery has to do with the angle at which I am shooting it.

And yes, folks, this sure does mean that you’ll spend 90% of your time laying in the dirt on your stomach and rolling around in the grass to get the perfect shot. (And if you’re lucky, a wild puppy might just land right on your bum!)

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6. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Crazy Sounds 

Yup, you heard me. You might just have to throw your humility and pride to the wind and get a little wacky while you’re photographing your pup. Don’t underestimate a dog’s sense of hearing. The average dog can hear at a rate 4 times greater than the average human. Above this, they have 18 unique muscles in their ears which allow them to hear sounds and detect the exact direction of a sound’s source. Ever see your dog cock his ears up and tilt his head just a bit? That’s most likely because he just heard something interesting. So, the thing is, you’re going to want to use your pup’s incredible sense of hearing to your advantage. Sounds will help direct your dog’s gaze in a given direction to attain an image with impactful eye contact. They will also help tremendously with expression while getting nice alert, confident body language. So, if you don’t mind appearing just a little bit like a crazy person, you’ll be amazed at the expression you can get if you look at your dog and give him a little bark. 😛 (As a note, it’s important not to overuse sounds. Use them sparingly and exactly at the right moments! Too many sounds, especially loud ones, can overstimulate your dog and stress him out quickly. So, just be sure to space those babies out and use them when they really count!)

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In addition to using my own vocal chords to make crazy sounds that will keep dogs’ attention on me while I’m photographing them, here are some other tools that I’ve found hugely successful at shoots:

  • Kazoos
  • Duck / Rabbit / Deer Calls
  • Whistles (not too high pitched, use sounds that are comfortable for your dog!)
  • iPhone Apps (I have a great one with farm animal sounds built in)
  • Squeaky Toys

7. Put Dogs Up on Things 

I know, this one sounds a little crazy. But hear me out.
This trick works especially well with smaller dogs, but in the right environment, can work on dogs of all shapes and sizes. When you have your pup model down on the ground, he’s going to do what he does best. He’s going to sniff, dig, bark at the squirrels, bounce about and play. This is not to say that you can’t get great shots of your dog standing just there before you in the grass – but I will say that putting dogs up on things and essentially separating them from a lot of those interesting distractions, proves hugely valuable with it comes to nailing a gorgeous pet portrait. (Now, of course, execute this tip at your next dog photoshoot with caution. Use your best judgement. Be aware of height – don’t put jumpy, clumsy dogs up on high walls or benches in which you think there’s a risk of them defying all laws of gravity and physics while hurling their cute bodies over the edge and hurting themselves.) Putting your dog up on something enables you to step back and gain both distance and time to get your camera into position for the perfect shot. This also helps with putting some space between you and very friendly, velcro sort of dogs who aren’t happy unless they’re essentially on top of you. 🙂 Not only that, but raising your dog up off the ground oftentimes gives you an advantage of a better background and the ability to get right on their eye level without excessive amounts of pretzel-ey yoga gymnastics on your part. 😛

Some great things to put dogs up on are:

  • Logs
  • Benches
  • Rocks
  • Tree Stumps
  • Stairs/Stoops
  • Low, wide walls

After I wrote this tip, I thought, I better go through my Lightroom library in search of some examples of this technique in my work to share. At first, I worried that I’d have to search for a while to find something good, and then I realized… holy moly… I do this all the time. At least two or three times per photo shoot! Quite a bit more than I realized, actually. I did it here, with Knox, Harper and Bear:

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And here, with Pogi, in front of the Boston city skyline:

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And here, with Bailey, on a rock in Lake Tahoe:

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And here, with Zaena, Zander and Zailey:

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(I could go on like this…) 🙂

8. Use a Stake to Keep your Pup Tethered in Place 

A lot of times, when I’m at my shoots and I say to my assistant, ‘Can you get the stake,’ my clients’ eyes will get wide and they say ‘Wait, you brought STEAK? Really?!’ I always have to crack up, because actually, bringing literal steak would probably be a very effective technique. If I gave out a survey to all the dogs that I’ve photographed in the past, I imagine they’d unanimously tick the box: ‘Yes, for steak.’

But, what I’m referencing here is actually the kind of stake you can spin into the ground and tether your dog to. I have a couple of these in my bag and I bring them to every shoot. This stake tip actually has a similar effect to the previous ’Put Dogs Up on Things’ tip, but can be executed in situations where there simply isn’t anything good to put the dog model up on. Spin this baby into the ground and all of a sudden, you have a great anchor to leash your dog to that keeps him in the general area that you need him for his photo. The great thing about working with the stake is that since it’s so low profile, it’s easy to block with the dog’s body, so no one ever has to know that Fido didn’t do anything other than sit like an absolute rock star for his photo shoot. 🙂 Nobody has to know the dirty secret of what’s keeping him in place behind-the-scenes. 😛

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Whew! Well that about covers it! My eight absolute favorite sneaky secrets for capturing incredible photos of your pup! I hope you think of these next time you’re on location in incredible golden light with your best friend and you’re trying to snap an image of that unforgettable smile! If anyone has found anything else that works miracles when it comes to photographing pooches, don’t hesitate to share in the comments! Let us have ‘em!

Now load those pockets with steak and get to shooting! 😛

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(and one more photo because who can resist a puppy in panda bear ears?!)

-Kaylee

 

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Secrets to Capturing Perfect Pup Images – Part 1

Holy moly, I am so excited to bring you a two-part post brimming with eight incredibly helpful tips on how to get better photos of your dog (and no worries! No fancy cameras required! Even if you’re only trying to capture better images with an iPhone or point-and-shoot camera, we can still make magic happen!). Read on to get into the adventure!

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Many of you know that I live with a little sausage-shaped miracle who I was lucky enough to rescue from behind the bars of his cage at the shelter. His name is Joshua and he is the absolute love of my life. He taught me more about goodness, kindness and loyalty than any other creature on the planet ever has. Photography is what brought Joshua and I together. I went on one of my routine trips to the shelter to photograph the adoptable dogs and post their images to their adoption profiles on the shelter’s website. On my list of dogs that day, I saw a peculiar name: Joshua. ‘Huh. That’s a strange name for a dog,’ I thought. I walked into the shelter and began to hunt for him. When I saw his face, that was it. My heart dropped out through my feet and melted right there, down into the soles of my shoes. I took his photo for his adoption profile that day, but, here’s the thing…when I got home to do the editing and get the photos posted up online, I realized – selfishly – that I did not want to share Joshua’s face with the world. I was too afraid someone would come along and sweep him up out of my life just as quickly as he came in. So, I hesitated. It was with that hesitation that I realized what was happening in my heart — I wanted Joshua to be mine.

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Since photography is what brought Joshua and I together, I thought it would be incredibly fitting if I did this post for new pet owners and divulged some of the best tips and tricks for taking better photos of those fleeting, precious moments throughout their lives – from puppyhood all the way until the day they find their first, distinguished gray whisker.

So, over the course of this two-part blog post, I am going to provide you with some of the absolute best, most effective tips for getting better photos of your dog. Because, let’s face it, dogs are probably the most beautiful thing in the world to photograph. (Okay, I’m biased.)

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Tip #1 • Make it a Positive Experience

I truly can’t state the importance of this tip enough. I know it sounds extremely simple and straightforward, but it is often the single most overlooked concept when it comes to taking your dog’s photo. I can’t tell you how many times I hear it: “My dog hates getting his photo taken.” I can promise you from the bottom of my heart – your dog doesn’t ‘hate’ getting his photo taken. If we’re being candid here, your dog technically doesn’t hate anything. (That’s why dogs are the greatest creatures in the world, right? Their unconditional and unbelievable capacity to love literally everything and everyone…) 🙂 People who complain about their dogs disliking the process of getting their photo taken are doing so because they may have inadvertently made the whole thing a very negative and stressful experience for their dog without even realizing it.

Here’s a scenario for you. Dog owner asks her dog to sit for a photo, and pushes his butt down into the flowers. Confused dog doesn’t understand why he has to sit right there in the flowers when all the good smells he really needs to sniff are a few feet in the other direction. Confused and excited, dog gets up from his spot in the flowers to have a sniff and frustrated dog owner yells, “GAHH! FIDO!! SIT!!!!!” and pushes his butt back down. (Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.) Understand that your dog is incredibly sensitive to the environment around him and most especially – to your energy. You need to work with your dog to get great photos of him – not against him.

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So how do you make it a positive experience? Here’s how!

•Keep the stress low.

•Give your dog plenty of time to settle into his environment, especially if you’re taking him outside to a location he’s never been before. Let him sniff. Let him pee. Let him do all those wonderful dog things that he’s got to do.  Let him become comfortable in his environment before you go ahead and try to smash a camera in his face.

•Give him praise and be patient. Do not get frustrated. Frustration will get you nowhere, very, very quickly.

•Do not force him into any given situation, let him ease himself into it on his own accord. This is where patience comes in! Sometimes this takes 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour, depending on the dog! Just enjoy the moment with your dog and roll with it!

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Tip #2 • Be Prepared and Bring Lots of Goodies! 

Treats and peanut butter, guys. I’m telling you. This stuff works miracles. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Make this a super fun occasion! You know when you head toward your front door and you pick up your dog’s leash and he goes absolutely wild? That’s because he’s associating that leash with all the incredible, exciting things you get to do together once you leave that front door to go on a big adventure! Do the same thing with your camera. Make it a positive experience — a positive association for your dog, so when he sees that camera, he thinks of wonderful things! Treats provide positive reinforcement. There are very few dogs on the planet that will turn down a good, stinky treat.  You ever hear the phrase ‘the best way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach’? Well holy banana sandwiches is that ever true! (For me too, as an FYI, in case you want to know how to win me over!) 😛 Bring treats to your photo shoot, and give your dog a small reward each time you click that shutter button. This process will very quickly create a positive association in your dog’s mind, and the rest is beautiful, wagging history!

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Tip #3 • Time of Day

If you plan to head outdoors, consider the time of day that you are taking your dog’s photos. I very strongly suggest getting your dog out into the natural environment for his close-up! Try to avoid taking photos in the middle of the day – anywhere from 11 a.m. to about 4 p.m. (depending on the time of year) is typically the danger zone when it comes to incredibly challenging, very unflattering midday light.

When the sun is very high in the sky, it casts harsh light from directly overhead causing both bright, blown out highlights in contrast with deep, dark shadows across your image. Instead, get outside with your dog when the sun is lower in the sky, closer to the horizon line. Typically, the two hours after sunrise, or the two hours before sunset are going to be the absolute best time of day to capture a magical outdoor portrait. When the sun is lower in the sky, the light comes in sideways across the horizon and creates a phenomenon known to photographers the world over as ‘the golden hour.’ Early or late light like this is much softer, more even and warmer in color temperature, which can turn any image from flat to magical.

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Tip #4 • Look for Dog-Sized Scenery

What do I mean by dog-sized scenery, you ask? It means you’ve got to start to look at the world from your dog’s point of view — you’ve got to get down on his level. Look for greenery, flowers, stoops, logs, etc., that are about the same height or size as your dog. You may think a location looks gorgeous from standing level, but when you put your dog in front of that view of the city skyline and you’ll realize when you’re only two feet tall there’s actually a big, gnarly fencepost blocking your view. Keep your eyes low as you scout out your location, and look for flowers, short bushes or details on streets that can be incorporated into the images of your dog!

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Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this post coming soon! I’ve got even more sneaky tips and tricks up my sleeve that will help bring your dog photos from ‘blah’ to brilliant!
-Kaylee

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Barkarica: An Out-of-This-World Pet Photography Retreat

Holy banana sandwiches!

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve last posted over here on this little blog of mine! (bad, bad blogger!) Yikes! The long hiatus is mostly due to the fact that I’ve been off on all kinds of wacky, beautiful adventures, hanging out with puppies all over the world and I’ve struggled with finding the time to just take a minute to stop, breathe and reflect on it all. So, I’m grateful to be writing this post, as it’s giving me the opportunity to do just that.

Some of you might know I was just very recently in Costa Rica, exploring through the jungle of Manuel Antonio, photographing shelter dogs, and teaching a pet photography workshop. It was an unbelievable experience. I find it difficult to put it all into words, but if you know anything about me it’s that I’m sure as heck going to try. 🙂

To give you some context as to how this whole thing started, I’m going to go back about a year and a half in time. Two of my favorite people in the pet photography industry (who I am proud to call colleagues and grateful to call friends) and I put our heads together and dreamed a very big dream. We were all teaching in our respective areas – passing on knowledge to other pet photographers and helping them grow both their creative skills and their businesses. So, we put our heads together and we thought – why couldn’t we all come together? Why couldn’t we join forces to team up as one – and teach the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime kind of pet photography retreat. Those two other photographers are Charlotte Reeves of Brisbane, Australia and Nicole Begley of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

So, it was with those intentions that our ‘Out-of-this-World Pet Photography Retreat’ series was brought to life – an experience where the most passionate and driven pet photographers from all across the world could come together in an endlessly beautiful location – always a different place on the canvas of our world –  to learn and shoot alongside each other.

Our first retreat was in Olivella, Spain, just outside of Barcelona at exactly this time last year. We were struggling with what we wanted to name it when I casually ran it by my Mom in a conversation over coffee one afternoon. I said ‘Mom, what would you name a dog photography retreat that takes places in Barcelona, Spain?’. Without skipping a beat, she cracked a sly little smile and said ‘Barkelona’. I giggled until my sides hurt and at that moment, the ‘Barka’ series of pet photography retreats was born. Please note, my Mom is incredibly proud of her clever involvement and reminds me of this each time I see her. (Go Mom!)

Barkelona was more magical than I can describe (I suppose that one is for another post!) and was an enormous success. We came together with our attendees as strangers, but we left as dear friends, all on fire with a common dream. It was such a special experience that we just knew we were onto something brilliant, and had to continue our series.

Cut to this past February, when we headed down to Costa Rica’s breathtaking west coast for Barkarica, our second annual Out-of-this-World Pet Photography Retreat!

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The house we stayed in was like something out of my wildest, most colorful dreams. (and let me tell you guys, my dreams are seriously colorful so this is really saying something!) It was a 12 bedroom, 5 story tree house nestled into the jungle of Manuel Antonio, overlooking the sparkling aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean. We had our own private chef who cooked us 3 unbelievable meals per day and 3 different swimming pools to choose from. As soon as we arrived at our jungle home, I could be found running up and down the stairs screaming ‘Is this real life?!?!”

But even better than all of that?? THE MONKEYS!!!!! I kid you not, there were monkeys around every single corner. From my bathroom window every morning, as I would brush my teeth, I’d simply look out the window and watch monkeys play just feet away. Howler Monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys, even tiny little Squirrel Monkeys! Entire families of monkeys would just hang out, having little monkey parties, on our house’s rooftop deck every morning, barely blinking as we would walk past them to lounge in the hammock just feet away. And let’s not forget the Toucans, Scarlet Macaws, Iguanas, and Sloths that were in enormous abundance in the trees all around us as well! I think my squeals of delight could be heard all the way back here in Boston. I truly found the most perfect version of paradise there in Central America.

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Oh yeah, and there was also the whole pet photography workshop thing that I mentioned above as well. 😛 That part is also pretty important..

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As I was going through my images from my absolutely magical Barkarica adventures, culling and prepping all the ones I really wanted to share – I realized – holy moly – I’ve got an unreasonable number of photos here.. And then I thought.. oh what the heck! I’m going to show you them all because I can’t possibly pick my favorites and maybe sharing one bajillion photos in this blog post will make up for me not posting anything for the better part of 2 years. 😛

So, basically, what I mean to say is, prepare to go on a great big photo journey, because I’ve got all kinds of fun images – both behind-the-scenes and final finished dog shots – to share with you! These images are a look into what goes on at an ‘Out-of-this-World Pet Photography Retreat’ and all the silliness, fun, and magic that comes with it. These images were captured over the course of 2 weeks, each week with 11 pet photographer attendees from all over the world.

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Paul from The Dog with a Bow Photography photographing our gorgeous Poodle Mix model in front of this colorful stone wall we found at Nahomi Park.
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Final Shot of this golden eyed girl in front of the the colorful stone wall!
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Bethany of Bethany P Photography front and center!
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The best part of the whole retreat!? Snagging kisses from unsuspecting puppies!
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We found these great, organic clay tiles to put sweet Amber on for the perfect shot.
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Final Shot of Amber with lovely afternoon light and some outrageously creamy lens compression. 🙂
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Sam’s camera and muscles together at last, silhouetted into forever in front of an endless sunset.
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Week 1 Attendees – Photoshoot at Matapahlo Beach
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Action shots at Matapahlo Beach with Lucy
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Two of our high-flying, action dog models having the time of their lives!
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Whatever it takes to get the shot!
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A gorgeous girl in some seriously unbelievable golden afternoon light.
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Candice of Candice Daum Photography getting creative with our pup model in our house’s hammock!
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Hey, that’s me! 
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Our chef Marcos with his gorgeous food!
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He also liked to set things on fire. So… that’s fun too.
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Instructor’s excursion – in between workshop weeks, Charlotte, Nicole and I went shooting on Rainmaker Mountain.
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This is me in my natural state. Getting a little too friendly with the dog models. This is also me at 11mm.
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The dog model from above, this time with her tongue decidedly inside of her mouth. (and not in mine.)
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A real life rope suspension bridge in the jungle! Gahh! Must. Shoot. It.
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Yup, I shot it.
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Looking down on this motley crew from my spot on said rope bridge. 10 seconds earlier, Charlotte almost lost her speedlight in the river. You see it there in her hand because she just barely rescued it before it rolled in. Nice Work, Charlotte.
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I said, let’s get our portrait taken at 11mm! It’ll be fun, I said! Charlotte is literally going to kill me or at least give me a swift uppercut when she sees this photo.
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Our classroom spaces weren’t too shabby.
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Wendy of Canines of Chicago and Candice making magic with Sasha the Husky. (at one of our home’s many pools. I figure I’ll say that again, since I might not be able to say that too many times in life.) 😛
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Sam making friends with the talent.
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Bridget of Bridget Davey Photography and Craig of Furtography photographing Hershey at Rafiki Lodge.
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This is truly my tribe. Everyone is as interested in a gravity defying dog in gorgeous light as I am! That never happens at home..
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Mickey under the golden tree canopy at the beach.
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My favorite. model. of. all. time.
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Sharing some of the gems with Romeo’s owner. (Also being unashamedly, disgustingly dirty., because… dog photography! heyo!)
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Creative powwow on the beach!
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Bridget, Craig and Josie of Jellybean Pet Photography hanging out with this comedian.
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Photographers, assemble!
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Holly, our heaven sent gift and director of the local PAWS shelter in Quepos, Costa Rica.
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A sweet, adoptable new Mom!
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Sam (Dog Breath Photography assistant extraordinaire) making more friends.
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Post hugely successful beach photoshoot with Week 2
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Hiking out to our magical river location for the shelter dog shoot! Hi Nicole!
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Me. With a hairstyle so glorious and frizzy I can barely describe it. Hanging out in a river that almost certainly had alligators lurking in it somewhere. Hm. Hindsight is 20/20.
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Unbelievable sunset on our last photo shoot with Week 2. What. a. DAY.
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Trying some continuous lighting with sweet, adoptable Peanut.
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Did I mention there were KITTENS?!?!!
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Yes, Kittens.
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Also, puppies. Listen, I told you it was magical..
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Ready for a quick magical story that is technically way too long for a caption? Miss Coco here, a sweet adoptable girl from the PAWS shelter in Quepos, Costa Rica, ended up going home with one of our very own Barka attendees – an amazing person with an incredible heart – Christine Crosby of Sunlight Inspirations! WAHHHHH! Coco went from street dog in a tiny Costa Rican town, scouring for food from trash cans, to loved family member of a multi-dog family on a gorgeous, spacious property just outside of Portland, Oregon. How’s that for a Cinderella story?!
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Our unbelievable Week 1 ‘Barka’ crew! There is more talent, dedication and compassion in this group of people than I can describe, and I am grateful for every fairytale moment we got to spend together, swapping stories and sharing dreams, there in the jungle.
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Getting wild. Because life is short. 🙂
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Clearly, we couldn’t decide exactly where to get wild, so we tried it again in a different location. Nailed it.
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Our ‘Barka’ crew from Week 2. All alumni from Barkelona, our retreat in Spain the previous year. People who have become more like family than simply fellow photographers. 
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…..annnnnd a wacky one!
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Julie Gould of Bright Eyes Pet Photography putting her iPhone skills to practice. 😛
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The two women who motivate and inspire me beyond words. Women who are strong, brilliant, creative and compassionate. Women who I couldn’t possibly do any of this without. Women who are leading the industry to greatness and who I am indescribably proud to stand, and teach, alongside. Thank you Nicole and Charlotte from the bottom of my heart for believing in dreams and going on brilliant adventures alongside me.
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Timeless. Perfect. Endless. Costa Rica.
Whew! That was a lot of photos. If you made it this far, you get a gold star. But hey, there were puppies, kittens and various monkeys so that’s pretty alright if I do say so myself. 🙂

All in all, Costa Rica was an unforgettable adventure. We laughed. We cried. We ate lots of incredible food. We toured the jungle at night. We Climbed Rocks. We Swam in Waterfalls. We ATVed through a Palm Tree Plantation as macaws flew over our heads. We screamed when we saw a scorpion but couldn’t find it in our hearts to kill it so we caught it in a cup and flung him ‘humanely’ out the window. We rode horses through rivers and across wide open fields. One of us ate a handful of termites. On purpose. (Josie, I’m looking at you.) And most importantly, we met and photographed beautiful canine souls beneath swirling sunset skies while making connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

So Charlotte, Nicole and I – our dreams really have come true. We built a retreat – an experience – built on a common passion that is truly ‘out of this world’, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the journey we’ve found ourselves on.

This August, we’re doing it again. This time, in the South of France.

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Yup, you heard it right. And of all places, we’ll be staying together in a chateau from 1156, once owned by the King of France himself. We will be in the medieval village of Saint-Maximin, just south of the French Alps, in a valley nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, about an hour outside of Marseille. We’ll be photographing French pups in some of the most magical locations of our retreat series so far – places you truly have to see to believe. And get this – Are you ready for the name? (Mom is going to be so excited about this one!): Barkjour.

Holy moly are we clever. 😛

While Week 1 is fully booked out, two spaces have just opened up in Week 2. This means, if you are reading this and were bummed to have missed your opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime French puppy-filled adventure, it’s your time to shine! (wow, that was a run-on sentence.)

Week 2 is designed for more experienced photographers already operating their own pet photography business, who are keen to receive that final skill and knowledge boost to become extraordinarily successful in their field. If you are interested to apply for one of the last remaining spaces, click on over to www.petphotographyretreats.com to discover everything you need to know!

I hope you to see you in the golden, sunlit valleys of Provence where we’ll eat lots of cheese and a baguette or two, explore through centuries-old cobblestone alleyways, and capture the unmatched spirit of canine together.

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Underwater Adventures in Lake Tahoe

Well, Hello!  : )

I have the lucky privilege of calling some of the most brilliantly talented pet photographers in this industry dear friends. And these wonderful friends / rockstar pet photographers, decided to start a monthly blog ring in which we could challenge ourselves and showcase some of our most recent work.

So, here’s the part where you’ve reached my section of the blog ring! WAHHH! How exciting! (or maybe you’ve started here, in which case, my former statement is invalid – but my previous exclamation of ‘WAHHH!’ still rings true.)

Things over here in Dog Breath land have been so off the charts crazypants busy with shooting and traveling, that I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in the blog ring as of yet — but finally, this month, I’ve managed to find some time to work on my entry – and I’m super excited to share with you! Our theme this month is ‘water’, and I about jumped out of my skin with happiness when I heard that one — because I have the absolute perfect project that I’ve been working on. GAHH! : )

To start, let me tell you a little bit about my water shots.

I’ve had very special plans that have been in the making for quite some time now.

All those years ago, when I started my adventure into photography, I made a promise to the creative fire inside of me – and that promise was that I was never, ever going to settle – no matter what. It’s important to me to constantly innovate and change. To keep my head and my heart pointed firmly towards the stars – to keep working and pushing my boundaries – to constantly find my way to the precipice, that scary spot that rests quite frighteningly outside of my comfort zone.

Last year, while working abroad – teaching the Zoomies Pet Photography workshop in Australia – I had the life changing opportunity to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in northern Queensland. From the moment I stuck my head underneath that crystal blue water – I felt something inside me shift. There was MAGIC under that water. A whole world that I had never seen before. Colors and light dancing all around me. Corals and fish and tiny little lifeforms in splashes of brilliant neon swaying in the soft current. I was so overwhelmed with that fairytale landscape that I held my hands out before me to make sure that it was all real, and I felt a tear form in the corner of my eye. At that moment, I realized that a whole world of magic and inspiration had always been beneath me – sharing this beautiful earth — and I had never known of it before. It was in that moment that I fell in love with water – and with the endless landscapes beneath the surface that sit so quietly waiting to be discovered.

It was that moment, and the days followed that I began to dream up ideas of mixing two of some of the most beautiful things that this earth has to offer – dogs and natural bodies of water. I researched and researched and researched underwater photography and underwater landscapes for endless hours. Finally, at the very beginning of this year – standing in that really scary spot that’s located boldly outside of my comfort zone – I had a custom underwater rig made for Dog Breath Photography.

Just a few weeks ago, I made a great big journey out to Lake Tahoe in Nevada to give it all my very first go. (Can you think of anywhere more magical to discover a freshwater, beneath-the-surface landscape? I couldn’t! Thats why I bought a plane ticket there and spent 5.5 hours sitting in a window seat and really having to pee but not being able to get up the guts to wake my sleeping neighbor.) : P

When we first arrived to our location in gorgeous Incline Village, Nevada, I was breathless.  I climbed down from the path and up to the rocks that kissed the water’s edge and I squealed with delight over all that beauty. It was like nothing Id ever seen before. We had 4 1/2 straight hours of shooting scheduled in and I was over the moon with excitement. Laying my eyes upon the scene, I felt like a little kid on Christmas just before the biggest gift. : )  I snapped this shot before we started, in an attempt to remember that moment forever…

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When we started our day, it was a bit overcast – with dramatic clouds swirling and dancing across the sky. Miss Morgan the Bernese Mountain dog was up first and she swam happily through that crystal clear water in search of her favorite ball.

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As the day went on, the clouds started to move and change, letting little glints of sunbeams in here and there, as the sun passed behind the holes between the clouds. The color of the water reminded me of a turquoise stone – glittering, and sparkling underneath all that sunshine. As the afternoon went on – the water started to pick up a bit – small waves forming and crashing here and there against the shiny rocks. I took another snap as I reveled at the color of that crystal water.

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The moving water lent itself quite well to this image of gorgeous Maverick sitting happily atop this rock. I loved watching the rhythm and sway of the lake from this newfound perspective. Maverick was such a fabulously behaved little wiggler! He wanted nothing more than to fling his body off of that rock and splash down into the water. Cause, you know…Labs… 🙂 Luckily for me, as a trained service and crisis response dog – he was meticulously well-behaved and sat patiently like a rockstar while he waited for me to click the perfect shot!

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And while the day did present its own set of challenges (very, VERY cold water, moving waves tossing us about here and there, and eventually, one of the major batteries that powered our rig falling off my assistant’s shoulder and splashing into the lake) .. I am so SO thrilled with the energy and aesthetic of the resulting images, and I absolutely can’t WAIT to do it again! 🙂 (minus the battery part — $400 and a whole boatload of inconvenience later, that was a little devastating. No pity though! We happily survived!)

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Above, is a sneak peek at what it looked like behind-the-scenes, while I was working with gorgeous Morgan. Holy banana sandwiches thank goodness for my ultra thick wet suit!! I’m pretty sure it saved me from Lake Tahoe induced hypothermia. 😛 (forgive the poor quality of the above shot – its a still that was grabbed from a GoPro video that I was lucky enough to have shot as behind the scenes footage of the whole adventure! Many thanks to my best bud Megan for filming this for me! Oh and for being by my side while freezing your cute little bum off!)

I hope you loved hanging out with me here in Dog Breath land! (Come back now, y’hear?!) <– is that super cheesy?? 🙂

Now it’s time to click on over to discover what kind of water-themed magic the incredibly talented Holly Montgomery of Brindleberry Pet Photography has in store for us! Enjoy your trip around the ring!