Saturday, April 6, 2019

Training Levels

And now for something completely different...

I'm considering starting Toby on Sue Ailsby's Original Training Levels. I followed them for Beau and Zachary, then switched to the new levels for Henry.

I never quite got into the new levels, and Henry was a less than inspired student.

Since both of us preferred photography, and Zachary was as far with the original levels as I was going to go, the training just kind of fell by the wayside.

Enter Toby.

Toby is smart.

Toby gets bored.

A bored Toby bats the Lacrosse ball UNDER things (bed, sofa, furniture) the uses his big brain to try to figure out how to get the ball back out again.

While I admire his tenacity and inventiveness - it drives me nuts.

Sooooo... we are going to give Training Levels a try.

The Original ones. The ones I am familiar with, have a bunch of "teacher's aides" I made up for Beau and Zachary, and are readily available on-line.

To that end - here's Toby's first video on my long-silent YouTube channel (bzfischer) : Toby - Training Levels One

I've added a link to this blog (Toby's Videos) in the bar on the right under "Other Pages" with a handy chart to keep track of the videos/levels.

Beau, Zachary, and Henry's pages are also listed there.

This no way will replace Photography!

Mostly it's just to save my sanity (and possibly the furniture).

Dog Blog Post #2520

Dog Noir 13/52
The Student

Dog Noir
The Professor?

Photography Assignment

Click on images!

Little Dogie
Cowboy Toby

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

You're Never Too Old

You're never too old to cuddle your puppy toys!

You're Never Too Old
Mr. Henry

In this case, Henry, who will turn nine years young this summer, and eight month old Toby...

You're Never Too Old
Mr. Toby

You're Never Too Old
Mr. Toby looking sharp!

Dog Blog Post #2519

FWIW: I'm considering reconstituting my ancient training plans from when Beau/Zachary/Henry were youngsters.

Toby is sharp, but more importantly, he's bored.

Really bored.

And while he enjoys photo shoots - and so do I, so that's not going to change - it doesn't take up nearly enough time.

We'll see. Zachary loved learning things. Henry just wanted the Cookies. I'm thinking Toby is more like Zachary on this one.

Photography Assignment

Daily Dog Challenge 2693. "National Puppy Day"

Our Daily Challenge - Mar 23, 2019 - "Love Never Dies"

119 Pictures in 2019 - #89. "Sentimental"

Love the hat - purchased today for just $3! It's soft, lightweight, breathable, and just the right size.

You can never have to many hats... for your dogs... right? I have a few duplicates (black fedoras and green bowlers come to mind) but for the most part they are unique in some way.

Someday I should count them.

Or not.

100x in 2019 - #20 (Blue Check Fleece -#2)

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© 2018 BZ Dogs - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Spectral Hounds

Spectral Hound

You can tell Henry hops as spins, the slight hang time with each hop being picked up in the image.

Spectral Hound 9/52

Unlike Henry, Toby spins by twisting. So, no head bobs, but you get a swish instead.

Dog Blog Post #2518

This is always a fun shoot to do.

The boys enjoy the action and the Easy Cookies, and I think the effect is cool!

Photography Assignment

Our Daily Challenge - March 2, 2019 - "Otherworldly"

Daily Dog Challenge 2672.

119 Picture in 2019 - #60. "It's all about the light"

This is 1.6s exposure @ f/7.1 with rear flash. The CFL behind the umbrella illuminates for the duration of the exposure with the flash "freezing" Toby at the end.

I worked with Toby off and on all day to teach "spin" for today's shoot.

It's an easy trick to teach, and he's a quick study, the repetition mostly about me being able to cue the trick without getting in the shot.

Truth in advertising: Yes, I did have to clone a few bits of me out. He still needs a big arm signal to complete the turn.

Next time... we'll do better next time.

Such a smart boy!

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© 2018 BZ Dogs - All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Elegant Dog

I know... I know...

Have you ever let so long lapse between the last time you did something that you let even MORE time elapse because it makes you feel bad just thinking about it?


But hey, how about a few pictures of the boys!

The Elegant Dog
Mr. Henry

The Elegant Dog
Mr. Toby

Toby did much better posing on the dog bed this time. He is starting to get the idea that I want his paws to dangle over the edge, and that he needs to stay put while I move to the side.

The paw tuck was once again his own idea. If he had been a bit closer to the edge it would have been adorable.

The Elegant Dog
Look good!

Dog Blog Post #2517

Daily Dog Challenge 2662. "Elegant"

I'm not sure folks think Elegant when they see a Golden Retriever, but the boys gave it their best.

Photography Assignment

Our Daily Challenge - Feb 20, 2019: "Inspired"

As if you don't already know!

The boys inspire me to pick up the camera - in good part because they won't let me enjoy the evening until they've been paid their modeling fees!

I freely admit to running Zachary through his favorite tricks and then buying his silence with a handful of cookies, just to avoid breaking out the Big Camera.

Henry's perfectly happy to get the Cookies without the work, and Toby is just starting to make the connection between a posed photo shoot and a plethora of treats.

Given time, I'm sure he'll be as addicted to photography as the rest of the family!

100x in 2019 : #13 (pink/blue gauze)

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes

The shoot was over but Henry hopped back up on the dog bed and posed so beautifully I just couldn't resist.

I'd already disassembled the camera and flash from their tripods, so you get an iPhone happy-snappy Behind the Scenes look.

Let's see... Henry is sitting on the dog bed, which has been casually draped in a length of crushed panne velvet fabric (cheap and washable).

The umbrella is just off camera to the right, while the reflector (clipped to the big white fridge) is on the left.

Today's backdrop fabric was very sheer so the backboards were first draped with the black velvet (not cheap) to prevent the cabinets/backboards from showing through. Yes, I know you can see it along the sides, but those aren't in the final picture!

The fabric is held in place on the backboard with binder clips (we're a high-tech operation here) and a few unbreakable but kinda heavy objects at the top corners (cookie containers today).

The black velvet is also clipped to the backboard as well having an extra clip on each side that is tucked into the top of the drawer to hold it taut.

The "backboard" is actually two tri-fold (think "science faire") cardboard backboards, binder-clipped together at the sides with one elevated about 8" over the other to get extra height. A rubber band is looped over each side binder-clip and then looped over the nearest cabinet door pull to keep the whole thing from falling over.

Did I mention how high-tech we are?

The whole "studio" goes up in about 10 minutes and disassembles just as quick, with the actual shoot being 3-6 shots per dog (5 minutes each? Henry is obviously less work than Toby.)

And that's about it!

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© 2018 BZ Dogs - All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 14, 2019

Vacation's Over

Henry: "I think I like the beach better."

Dog Blog Post #2517

I guess their California vacation is over.

Photography Assignment

Daily Dog Challenge 2625. "Dress Up"

Seriously, how could I pass up "National Dress Up Your Pet Day"? (January 14)

Our Daily Challenge - January 14, 2019 - "Warming Up or Cooling Down"

This was a totally uneventful shoot - from setup to take down.

Yes, I know, the picture looks a lot like the others of late - the boys sitting side-by-side with/wearing a couple props - but it's really hard to do interesting pictures when your model is trying to eat the props.

Especially when you work solo.

Trust me on that one!

So, the general process is:

1) Teach stay
2) Get the pup to accept props without trying to eat them
3) Work on where the pup is focusing his attention

I'm pretty happy with 1 and 2. Toby's stay is good for at least one picture, often for multiples, including when I walk (backward) toward the camera to get better head positions.

The last few shoots I've worked with him a few times during the day to build familiarity with the clothing/props. Today I just sprang it on him during the shoot and he acted like an old hand.

That leaves 3, focus. We've been working on "Leave It" for weeks, and he's pretty reliable so long as I'm holding the treat. This week I'm going to introduce "Leave It" with the Cookie NOT in my hand. With luck, by the end of the week I'll be able to get a picture of Toby staring at a Cookie on the floor!

100x in 2019 : #5 (Snowflakes)

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© 2018 BZ Dogs - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 13, 2019

California Dreaming

California Dreaming 2/52
California Dreamin'

Dog Blog Post #2515

This is one of my new backdrops. Unfortunately, it turned out to look a bit more wrinkled than I thought it would - and Henry's wagging tail didn't help.

What I should have done was clamp the sides tight.

But I didn't.

So you get the post-processed version, where the clarity has been pushed all the way down to create a dreamy look, and a brush used to bring the clarity back just to the dogs.

In other words, I cheated.

But I do rather like the effect, especially given today's challenges.

Don't worry, I love the backdrop, which was ridiculously cheap - $15 for 7'x5' microfiber - and I'm sure there'll be another opportunity this year to try it again.

With clamps.

Photography Assignment

Our Daily Challenge - January 12, 2019 - "The 1970s"

Toby's head might look grown up, but his chest sure isn't. Every time I wanted to take a picture I had to grab his collar and pull it up again! Switching the collars between the dogs was even worse, as the fleece is stretchy and the fringe weighs it down.

On the bright side (aside from the picture itself!) Toby was totally cool with the collar. He seems to have figured out that when Momma drapes things on him Cookies happen - and he's down with that!

What a good puppy!

2019 Weekly Alphabet Challenge - B is for Bright

100x in 2019 - #4

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019


At least it was SUPPOSED to be Anticipation, but my favorite shot was Satisfaction.

Slurp slurp sluuuuuuuuurp!

Dog Blog Post #2514

A fun shoot!

Yes, the results might had been better had I banished the pup and used Henry, alone. But then Toby wouldn't learn anything, would he?

The spoons (yes, there's two) held Maple Yogurt - the remainder destined to be slathered on the pup's KONGs but a few spoonfuls put into service as the Prop of the Day.

This the first time I've tried using yogurt for this kind of shoot, and the jury is still out on it. I would have given it a definitive thumbs down due to lack of visibility and the difficulty keeping it on the spoon long enough to get the image


... then I saw this image of it dripping all over the place, and, well, who doesn't love that?

It is also MUCH easier for the dogs to clean up yogurt from the floor than peanut butter, which is what I've used in the past.

Photography Assignment

119 Pictures in 2019 - #96. "A Spoonful Of..."

Daily Dog Challenge 2620. "Dear Diary"

It was a good day.

100x in 2019: #3 (I never said I wouldn't include ANY black backgrounds!)

That thing in my left hand is the remote for the camera, so I suppose this is also somewhat of a behind-the-scenes shot. :)


Such good self-control!

What good boys

Mr. Henry
Henry: "See you next time!"

Lighting/Focus check site. Henry is broadside to the camera because that was my original intent for this shot.

After looking at the results of the first round, I decided to retake from a front position.

There were no complaints from the models about the retake. :)

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© 2018 BZ Dogs - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Teddy Defenders!

The Boys and Teddy 1/52
The Boys and Teddy

Dog Blog Post #2513

Toby is such a wonderful, sweet puppy, so full of personality... until I tell him to "stay", and then he turns to stone.

While that IS kinda what I'm looking for to take his picture, I just wish he would relax a little!

Today's new experience was a wad of blankets (for height) covered by a silky/shaggy length of fabric.

The fabric slipped and slid on the hardwood floor, and the pile of blankets underneath made things soft and squishy.

Toby handled it well, although I could tell he (rightfully) found the experience different and new.

Teddy was pretty much ignored.

While I did get a few shots with Toby's paws on the Teddy (i.e. more interesting) this was the only one of the six where both Toby and Henry were even remotely on the same page.

The other problem was that Henry was really tired.

We watched both football games, and Toby was awake for pretty much the entire time. This meant that Henry was being pestered off and on all morning and afternoon.

Poor Uncle Henry.

He much prefers bursts of activity followed by an hour or three of peaceful napping.

Photography Assignment

119 Pictures in 2019 - #51. "Grey"

One of our Disney Teddys, and a favorite prop of mine over the years.

Daily Dog Challenge 2617. "Blue"

100x in 2019: #2

Today's backdrop is two yards of fleece, straight from the local fabric store. I've used it in the past and really like the nice soft look it gives to high-key shots.

Fleece made up the bulk of my initial round of backdrop purchases when I first got into photography. It's wide, wrinkle resistant, and the fabric store often has it on sale.

The downside is the often garish colors and simplistic patterns - neither of which is a problem with this piece.

I'd actually forgotten about the "fleece bin" when I took pictures of my backdrops last weekend. It will certainly add another 3-4 good pieces for the year, under the right circumstances.

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© 2018 BZ Dogs - All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 4, 2019

Happy New Year!

As always - new pictures are uploaded every day or two to my Flickr stream:

I'm hoping to get back to blogging here more regularly now that Toby has more freedom in the house, including the computer room - at least when someone is in it.

Momma's Helpers
Momma's Helpers

Momma's Helper
Henry looks unimpressed

Momma's Helpers
Work with me Toby - you're supposed to look IN the basket!

Momma's Helpers
I guess that's better.

Dog Blog Post #2512

This is my...

Daily Dog Challenge 2612. "New"

... backdrop and floor! My main photography...

Our Daily Challenge - Jan 2, 2019 - "Resolution"

... for this year is to use a broader selection of backdrops (instead of, well, one!)

Aside: This added a good 30-45 minutes to my setup/takedown time, mostly due to the backdrop being a bit too large for my backdrop stand within the confines of the kitchen.

Mechanical Engineer Hubby came to the rescue with a few bits of PVC that allowed me to use a longer pole without spreading the stands further apart.

With Toby's help, I was then able to complete the shoot in only twice as long as it would have taken without him! :)

Note to self: buy a length of white baseboard!

Photography Assignment

119 Pictures in 2019 - #12. "Basket"

100x in 2019: #1

For the record - I did complete all 118 Pictures in 2018... with a dog! Here's a link to the finished album:

If dogs aren't your thing (then, well, you wouldn't be here, but...) here's the same list taken during a 5-day family vacation to Disneyland last January:

I also finished 100x in 2018, where my 'x' was "studio shots with a dog". The album is here:

It's bittersweet to scroll through the albums, as this is the first year I actually finished either of those challenges (in eight years, in the case of the first!) making me rather proud of my accomplishments.

That said, knowing Zachary was there at the start and not at the end still hurts.

Moving forward, I am embarking on both 119 Pictures in 2019 (same idea - new list) and 100x in 2019. The latter will be studio shots again, but trying to diversify my backgrounds this year.

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