Friday, April 29, 2011

Boy Toys?

Dog Blog Post #315:

Dearest Slinky,

We find ourselves a bit perplexed by your last missive. We can only surmise your human made a transcription error, garbling your intended message of...

Slinky is searching for her pair of golden boys' toy.


Slinky is searching for her pair of golden boy toys.

We certainly understand and sympathize with canine-human communication woes.

So, per your request, we have included pictures of one of our favorite squeaky toys in this post.

(Our mom mumbled something about "Daily Shoot" and "Illustrate a sound in a photograph today," as she was taking them - at least, that's what it sounded like to us - one never knows with humans.)




... but we'd love to share them with you.

Your Golden Boys,
Zachary and Henry

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

102 Pictures

Henry B&W

Dog Blog Post #314: Today marks the 102nd (consecutive) picture tweeted to the Daily Shoot, the 104th assignment done.

Have I learned anything from all this? I think so. I certainly know a whole lot more about my little point-n-shoot than I did when I started, and I'd thought we were pretty well acquainted then!

I've learned how to use the whiteness balance presets to make the best of cold light, warm light, and everything in the middle. I've discovered what ISO is, and why I should care. I've seen what happens when you do (and don't) use a tripod, and now consider it indispensable.

I've played games with iPhoto, turning disasters into something presentable, and things presentable into total disasters (and learned about "revert" in the process.) Saturation, brightness, contrast, tint, temperature, and sharpness no longer seem scary.

Cropping is now my friend.

And I've learned to embrace blackness in order to make my subjects "pop".

Hardy Geraniums
As for my subjects themselves, I've looked at them up close and from afar. They've been posed, candid, still, and in flight. I've looked at fur, feathers, teeth and tongues, ears and eyes. Together or apart, with props and without, indoors and out - they've tolerated me and my little silver box in exchange for more cookies than any two dogs should get.

The daily shoot has covered high-contrast and low-contrast, high-key and low-key, up high and down low, stripes and lines and circles, and shadows (way too many shadows) plus concrete, technology, time, and many dozens other topics not listed above.

Did I think I could actually keep up with the Daily Shoot this long when I started? No.

Did I think I could actually manage to find a way to get a dog in this many assignments? No.

What seemed like a limitation when I first started (one or more dogs per shot) has actually been liberating. Freed from having to pick a subject, I could focus on the theme or effect as required.

Speaking of themes and effects - today's Daily Shoot assignment was:

Make a black and white photograph today.

And as soon as I read it, I know what I was going to be taking a picture of: a dog. :)

Where am I going with all this? For better or worse, no where in particular. I certainly have no intention of quitting - I'm having even more fun now than when I started. The dogs love it. Some days they are trying, most days they are wonderful. I've learned that despite their initial outward similarities they are very different both inside and out. I've seen how they each have strengths and weaknesses, good sides and bad, and talents big and small.

Sue's Training Levels book is due out soon, and I will be faced with choices. I don't think I can go back to "just training" with the same enthusiasm I had in the past when I created 80+ videos (you can find them on YouTube, sadly silent these past 4 months) mostly with Beau and Zachary - but hopefully I'll be able to add a bit more balance into my boys' lives.


All recess and no school can't be good, can it?

Oh, and FWIW: The picture at the top started life as this...

Henry in Color

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Missing Skills

Bird Watching

Dog Blog Post #313: Ok, for the record, I did not do anything to make Henry look so sad for yesterday's Wordless Wednesday shots! :)

I think it's a combination of the camera angle (dead on) and the fact he was looking up at a cookie but keeping his chin down!

Trust me, no puppies were harmed and cookies were flowing free and easy. :)

On to the Daily Shoot assignment:

Make a photograph with a concrete surface in it today.

... and my "great idea" (see above) which turned out to be rather ho-hum due to all the Missing Skills of the Day.

My word, I don't think a single thing went right!
  • While trying to leash up Zachary, he just wouldn't stand still.
  • While trying to leash up Zachary, Henry was jumping all over everywhere.
  • While trying to get out the door, Henry kept trying to come with us.
  • After putting Henry behind a baby gate, to keep him from trying to come with us, he barked the entire time I was outside.
  • While I was outside (with Zachary), daddy came home, and Zachary instantly forgot I existed and his brain totally checked out until daddy went inside the house.
  • Once daddy was gone, grass sniffing stated.
And Zachary is supposed to be the good one!


Oh well, more things to work on... more things to train.

(Speaking of training, I hear Sue's new Training Level's book is due out in May. I can hardly wait, as I haven't had anything to write about on that front in ages!)

On the bright side, I walked them by myself this evening, and while hardly perfect, they were the best they've ever been. (Probably trying to get back on my good side.)

Let's see - here's yesterday's Daily Shoot: Illustrate the word choice in a photograph today.

ds527 - Choice

... A bird in the paw vs. two in the "bush".

Oh - and I didn't mean to suggest the (missing) trick of the week is anything special, because it isn't. It's just cute, and unfinished.

And finally, how about a few shots of the first Bearded Iris of the season?

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Circular Logic (return of)

ds526 - Circle

Dog Blog Post #311: I'd love to blame it on the Easter holiday (although I'm not totally sure that would be fair) but there is no Trick of the Week this week.

There is a trick that I'm working on, and have been for a few weeks now, but Henry just isn't reliable enough for me to mark it DONE. I tested him (again) tonight, and while I got it the first two times, I foolishly asked for a third and he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about.


My best guess is that he's cueing off something other than what I think the cue is, as he clearly wants to do what I want, he just finds himself not knowing what that thing is, and so he starts throwing other (similar) behaviors.

But we'll keep trying! It will be well worth the effort, once he truly gets it. :)

On to the Daily Shoot assignment:

Make a photograph that features a circle today.

I had totally forgotten we had done this one before, until I went to type in a title and it auto-completed for me.

Well, fancy that.

For the record, here's what I did last time around...

#490 - Circle

... which is probably more aesthetically pleasing than what I did this time around - at the top of the post and down below...

ds526 - Circle

Although this is supposed to be dog training blog, and showing two dogs not eating cookies should be more impressive than just one. :)

For the record, both of these were shot with the camera on the big tripod. The "winning" shot (up top) was taken with the tripod down low, using the 10 second timer, with the dogs set and empty plates in place, and me crouched on the ground and reaching through the tripod legs to drop the cookies on the plate a few seconds before the picture was taken.

(While Zachary is pretty nearly 100% reliable (which means I haven't seen him break in ages, but realizing no dog is perfect!) Henry remains a work in progress, and with a temptation this large, and knowing a re-shoot wasn't really practically (too many calories), I was being extremely cautious!)

The higher-up shot was taken by putting the cookies on the plates, putting my foot over Henry's cookie, getting everything set, moving my food aside, and shooting the picture.

Henry was actually a very good boy, and only tried for the cookie once (the first time I put it on the plate) and after I subsequently barked "Leave it!", he never tried again.

(That said, I wouldn't trust him if I was out of range, and certainly not out of sight, as I would Zachary!)

And just to fill up space, here's an alternate Scavenge Challenge picture (combination Unusual Kitchen Tool and Tacky Knick-Knack). I put Mr. Hedgehog on the cutting board, cutting board on the entry tiles, then opened the front door to let the afternoon sun shine on him.

Mr. Hedgehog

... and a Pincushion flower. Darned wind, will have to try this one again on a calmer day, but the idea is to find a flower in sun (late afternoon, in this case) that is backed by shade, in much the same arrangement as Mr. Hedgehog above...

Pincushion Flower

If you can't get 100% black, but you can get it really close, you can usually lower the brightness and/or up the contrast to get rid of any faint shadings of color.

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 25, 2011


ds525 - Converging Lines

Dog Blog Post #310: Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Today dawned grey and gloomy for us, raining sprinkles down on upon my freshly washed car (figures, the old girl only gets a bath a few times a year, and it just had to be spoiled after just one day!)

Oh well, she's still beautiful to me. :)

Speaking of rain and beauty - today's Daily Shoot assignment...

Make a photograph that emphasizes converging lines.

... had me wondering where I was going to take my four-legged beauties since it was raining!

Thankfully, the skies cleared up by early afternoon, and thus I was able to get out and capture the picture at the top of the post. (Three cheers to hubby for spotting those lovely lines for me!)

Below is a larger view...

ds525 - Converging Lines

... certainly a better picture of Henry, but not as good a shot of converging lines. Besides, I rather liked the subtle coloration of the first one. It sort of grew on me after a time, and it is a bit different - at least for me!

This is a simple point-n-shoot shot, with about the only real thinking being where to put the leash (a lesson learned while sifting through the rejects of the Strange Colonnade shot.)

And finally, a shot I took as the sun was setting...


... I love how his ears flopped forward - will have to try this pose again some time. :)

Hmm... not shots of Zachary today. How sad. He was with us when I took the shots of Henry, but as hubby has Zachary's leash, and I have Henry's, guess who usually gets in the "outside shot" shots.

Will make every effort to make him the star of the show tomorrow (assuming the Daily Shoot doesn't conspire against us!)

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Horizon... of sorts

Dog Blog Post #309: Some days, the stars align and the events of the day and the Daily Shoot are perfectly synchronized and in such harmony that you would think some cosmic fortune teller had planned out the day just for you.

Today was definitely not one of those days.

Today was the sort of day where the dogs spend the majority of daylight over at the day spa (ahhh.... fresh, clean, fluffy, soft, sweet smelling dogs... is there anything better?)...

Smiling Henry
... so, of course, Murphy (that perveyor of cosmic irony) decides the Daily Shoot should be an "outdoor thing". An outdoor, not at home, thing.


Today's Daily Shoot assignment was:

Make a photograph that features the horizon.

... and while I suppose I could have tried using the edge of the kitchen table to create a horizon, or take a picture of a carton of Horizon Milk (hubby's suggestion), or use a dog's head head to create a horizon (been there, done that)...

Horizon... of sorts

... none of those things really "spoke" to me. In the end, I shot a few pictures of Zachary near some shrubs to create a horizon (not pictured), a few pictures of Henry near the same shrubs to create a horizon, Henry in the backyard smiling (included just because it was cute - no horizon potential there), and some artsy-fartsy (hubby word) shots of Henry illuminated by the setting sun while sitting on the sofa (created by taking some wretched "looking into the sun" shots and pushing the brightness way down the way down and the contrast way up.)

For the curious, I tweeted the shot at the very top of the post up, but I prefer the one below. Although I readily admit is just a plain ol' "pet shot", it's my pet, and there's something to be said for that! :)

ds524 - Horizon?

Editor's Note: Yesterday, Greyhound's CAN Sit was asking about reading histograms. The histogram on my camera shows the distribution of brightness from dark to light on a tiny little chart on the LCD. I took some sample shots this morning, so here's a low contrast shot (using a creamy stuffie, as the dog's weren't around) with a picture of it's histogram...

See all the (white) lines shmushed together in the middle of the little box? There's very little distance from the darkest (left) to the lightest (right) values.

And here's a high-contrast Zebra stuffie and histogram...

The large white lump on the left is all the dark in the shot, while the second (smaller) lump is all the white in the shot. The creamy blanket is probably the (much lower) lines in the middle.

(Truth in advertising - the histograms are approximate, as I took a picture with newer camera of the histogram as shown on the back of the old camera (on the tripod), moved the old camera aside, then shot (as best I could) the same thing with my newer camera. But hopefully you get the idea!)

If your camera updates the histogram dynamically as you move it around, without having to take a picture, then it's fun to turn it on and sweep it around the room, watching the bars jump up and down. Point it at your white sink, then move across a black pot and see how the bars move. Try looking a something with several bright colors - you might be surprised at how little contrast there really is!

What's it good for? Supposedly it helps you with exposure (not a big deal for us point-n-shoot folks!) If the bars are mid-way up the graph on the last line on the right, you're probably overexposed.

And that's about all I know about that!

Come on Daily Shoot. Throw me a bone tomorrow!


© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 22, 2011

Camo Dog!

Camo Dog

Dog Blog Post #308: Today's Daily Shoot was:

Make a low contrast photograph today.

I read somewhere that a Zebra is a high contrast picture, and a low contrast picture is a polar bear in a snow storm.

Hmmm.... ok. That helps. I think.

So during a brief window of time I had before lunch, I trotted out "the set", the camo fabric from the other day, the boy's puffy brown pillow, and my son's camo snuggie (which you might remember from the Mr. Tacky Knick-Knack shot.)

I grabbed Zachary (being the darker of the two), draped him in the snuggie (he is so patient) and was barely 10 shots in when my lunch window came to a screeching halt.

No worries - the pictures looked clear, and so I was reasonably satisfied, until later, when I got on the computer, and downloaded the shots, and saw the histograms...

Camo Dog

You know, my little point-n-shoot does have the option to display a histogram of what the lens is viewing, in real time. It's about 1/4" square, and sits in the upper-right corner of the LCD. Most of the time, I keep it turned off so I can see more of the image I am getting ready to take.

And today was no different.

Which is a shame, since had I had it on, I would have noticed that my low-contrast pictures weren't actually coming up out that low contrasty.

Nope, I didn't discover that little tidbit of information until later, when I got on the computer, and uploaded the shots, and finally saw those histograms.


So I went out into the living room, which still had good natural light, and proceeded to snap 30 or more pictures of paws, backs, sides, and tails - general fur pictures, bitey-face pictures, why-are-taking-pictures-of-us pictures... and I figured somewhere in there, would be something "good enough".


Desperate now, the sun quickly descending, totally devoid of ideas, I grabbed the boys and ran out back, banging off a slew really dull pictures of them staring up at me.

ds523 - Low Contrast


Now was getting ticked. I'd snapped 71 pictures and didn't think I had a thing to show for it.

One... More... Time

I grabbed the soft plushy blanket, Henry (he blends best), and prayed there was still enough light coming through my north-facing window for just a few more shots. I turned on every light in the room, laid on the floor with the little tripod, and asked Henry to do his best "Demure" pose.

I knew I had it after the first shot, I banged off about 20, then hauled off the computer to pick the ones with the lowest contrast.

What should have taken me 15 minutes took me 15*4 minutes, 95 pictures, and enough cookies to throw Zachary's diet out of whack for the entire weekend.

That said, I love my failed Camo-Dog pictures, and I'm even pretty happy with the low contrast ones (although it might be stretch to call them low contrast.)

ds523 - Low Contrast


(And just think, I get to start all over with a new assignment tomorrow!)

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved


ds522 - Water

Dog Blog Post #307: Today's Daily Shoot was:

Make a photograph that features water today.

Last time this one came around, I totally wimped out, resorting to a stream of water from the hose shot into the pond...

ds479 - Water

Not a bad picture, I suppose, but not a lot of effort on my part either.

Today, having a bit more time, I decided to get a bit more elaborate. Alas, the sun was no longer coming in the kitchen slider, but it was close. So I grabbed a kitchen chair, put it just outside the slider in direct sun, set up the tripod so the camera would be pointing into the (much darker) house, put a wooden cutting board on the chair, and got a lovely lavender-tinted crystal bowl my mother-in-law had given me some time ago.

A glass full of water, a handy dog (Henry, in the case of the picture at the top of this post) and a 10 second delay on the camera was all it took. Well, that, and a few shots to get the actual timing of the pour vs. dogs head!

As it looked like one of them would be "good enough" from the LCD, I decided to play around with the setup a bit. First, I just tipped the bowl a bit so Zachary could get a drink. I wondered if I could get a shot of his tongue, lapping, but the bowl shape and relatively shallow depth of water conspired against me....

ds522 - Water

I then dropped a cookie in water, and ended up with the picture below. Who would have thought both muzzles would fit in that tiny bowl!

ds522 - Water

The idea for the cutting board in the sun was taken from a Scavenger Challenge shot I made a few days ago, for my "Unusual Kitchen Tool"...

Unusual Kitchen Tool

... except that shot was taken just inside the slider. But again, it's the difference between the well-lit board vs. the unlit room that turned the background black.

(BTW: I think we finally decided it was a hamburger press, although if something knows otherwise, feel free to let me know!)

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 21, 2011


ds521 - Smile!

Dog Blog Post #306: What a busy day! And now it's late, and so this must be brief. The Daily Shoot assignment was:

Make a photograph of a smile, either literal or symbolic.

... and being somewhat pressed for time, I took the easy way out. Remembering the lovely smiles I captured the other day during the Motion assignment (which I saved for Wordless Wednesday, only to end using the Daily Shoot pictures instead - see below), I took the boys outside with camera, tripod, and a Lacrosse Ball or two, and played some fetch.

Sure enough, in no time I had smiles galore - including the beauty at the top of the page.


(Yeah, I know, ridiculously easy.)

Then, for kicks, I tried free stacking Henry in front of the camera. That turned out to not be so ridiculously easy.

The first was half on/off grass, and crooked...


This one was too close to the camera...


And this one would have been fine, if I had though to wipe Henry's mouth first...


Now, I admittedly know little about what he should look like free stacked, but from a purely photographic point of view, it seems the model was splendid and the photographer should hang her head in shame. :)

And finally, yesterday's Wordless Wednesday: Bird + Duck post was for the Daily Shoot assignment:

Illustrate connection in a photograph today.

ds520 - Bird + DogI'm not sure if my results were witty or weak (or somewhere in the middle) but do I think the boys looked pretty darn cute against the new camo-like fabric with the duck. Note that the duck is not a toy they get to keep (although it is theirs, unlike the beanie babies) for as greygirl25 pointed out, it would be ripped to shreds in no time.

ds520 - Bird + DogDuck comes out for "Find the..." only, and Zachary's happy association of duck and game meant that the only way I could get a picture of him with duck is if I held it, as shown in the first picture (had I not cropped my hand out of the frame!)

I haven't done much of that Henry, and so he was (after a time) able to pose with the duck with reasonable self control.

Alas, my inability to get either of them to (calmly) hold the duck (or anything else) in their mouths is a huge training failure on my part, and one I will have to address one of these days.

As for the fabric, it's this weird, almost mosquito netting-like fabric, weights almost nothing, is practically transparent, was cheap (on sale), is 100% polyester (ie: no wrinkles!) and takes up no space at all in my fabric box. Other than the fact I have to put some other solid fabric behind it to keep you from seeing the backdrop through it, it's perfect!

(And no, I have no idea what you would use it for in Real Life, but there were quite a few patterns to choose from and picked up three others while I was there.)

BTW: If anyone knows where my baby boy has gone, please let me know. I turned around an suddenly he's a dog!

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trick of the Week and Motion

Dog Blog Post #304:  This weeks trick both builds on previous tricks, and is another step to greater things...

Touch (with your nose)

This week, during dog class, I brought a palm-sized lid with me, and worked on Henry touching it with his nose during "Wendy's Talking" times. Henry can already touch a target stick with his nose, a mouse pad with his paws, and my hand with his nose, so this was mostly just extending existing behaviors.

What I'm hoping to do is attach a name to the behavior (not there yet) and then transition the lid away from my hand and then eliminate the lid but keep the behavior. The ultimate goal will be to be able to point out an obvious object, tell him to touch it, and he'll do so with his nose.

How cute will that be in a picture!

Not quite sure what my cue is going to be, just something other than Touch or Push (I'm open to suggestions if anyone knows of a good word.)

(Sorry about the bad picture - I didn't think about how it was going to look to the video camera, and while I recorded a half-dozen in a row, most where pictures of Henry's lovely fluffy tail and poofy breaches, and not much else!) 

On to the Daily Shoot, and whew! Finally, an "easy" one - or at least one that doesn't require research, strange props, or setting up "the set".

Illustrate motion in a photograph today.

Ball!... and I was fully prepared to take the dynamic duo outside for a game of long ball (at least, as long as I can throw it, which is thankfully less than our not overly long yard! Which is not to say I still haven't managed to bounce it over the fence a few times, but thankfully, just a few, and we have very nice neighbors.)

But it decided to rain.

Or, it decided to think about raining, as the skies darkened and it sure smelled damp, although ultimately very little in the way of precipitation actually occurred.

Anyway, while the outside was trying to make up its mind, I moved the party indoors, set up the tripod at one end of the house, turned on every light in sight, and proceeded to play fetch with Zachary.

I would chuck the Lacrosse ball down the hall (yes, it is heavy, and yes, it does make horrible sounds when it hits things. But my mother doesn't live here, if I break it, I'm already the one who bought it.)

So, I chucked the Lacrosse ball down the hall for Zachary, and then snapped a picture at some point either during the launch or during the return. I had already fixed the ISO at 100, which I hoped would make the camera slow enough to blur moving things, while keeping things everything else as crisp as possible (at least, I think that is how it works.)

I'll let you be the judge of the results. The basic background does seem to be "grain free", and the linen cabinet in the background (home to Mr. Tacky Knick-Knack) appears sharp as well. For reasons I can't explain, Zachary's head is totally crisp, while the rest of him is totally in motion. Henry is in front, being Henry.

Throw It!
Where did my baby go???
You might have picked up on the fact, at the start of all this, that I said I was playing fetch with Zachary. That's not because Henry wasn't in the room, but because Henry is still learning the finer aspects of playing fetch. He has the chase part down, the pickup is clean, and the return is lovely, but he's at the age where, despite clearly wanting to, he can't seem to get the ball out of his mouth.

He's my third golden, and all three have gone through the same phase. Much mouthing of the ball, and head tossing, and head shaking, but it's like they can't seem to figure out how to spit it out. Eventually (10-15 seconds later), he'll manage to let go of it, and then I can throw it again.

You can clearly see Zachary gets frustrated, and at times he looks ready to rip the ball right out of Henry's mouth (but that would be rude, and thankfully Zachary doesn't do rude.) Zachary's solution is to try even harder to get to the ball first, so he can get it back to me as fast as possible, so I can throw it gain. Henry, contents himself with feats of acrobatics (see above) and the joy of chasing Zachary up and down the hall.

Finally, we have the (non-dog) Scavenge Challenge picture - #5: "Cloudscape - sheep in the sky"...

Sky Sheep

... at least I don't think I've shown that one here. Unlike the daily shoot, I can do several challenge pictures at a time, but I'm just trickling them out here.

© 2011 BZ Training - All Rights Reserved