Fayston, Vermont. When I want the dogs to stop barking, I use the “Enough” command. Lucy generally obeys, but Linus and Charlie also need to “Come” and “Sit”. Lately, I’ve found I’ve been telling myself “Enough,” too.
I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation, no mojo, burn out. I’m taking fewer photographs and deleting most of what I shoot. When it comes to cooking dinner, I can’t even. The news of wildfires, hurricanes, civil unrest, unemployment, bleak economic numbers, and the recent report of RGB’s death have me turning off the news and away from social media. The pandemic has me staying away from people I love and places I want to go.
I’ve had enough.
I realize that I write this from a place of privilege. My family members are safe and healthy; my house and my car are paid for and not under threat of natural disaster; I have plenty of food; and I have a job that pays well enough – there’s that word again – and provides health care benefits.
And yet I feel overwhelmed. Lately I’ve been working long hours, and that adds to my fatigue. To re-center, I express gratitude for all that I have, every day. I take time for yoga breathing and stretching. Movement helps shake me out of my stupor, and I have ready walking companions in my dogs. Even a short walk does us all good.
The problem is that Charlie Brown is a sniffer, not a walker. Charlie doesn’t just stop and smell the roses, he interrogates each petal. His deep sniff everything approach is annoyingly slow when I want to move. To him, however, simply walking is boring. His analytical sniffing shows me that if I slow down and focus on the details, routine tasks become more interesting. Instead of counting how many miles we walk, I listen for the different bird songs I hear. I note the progression of foliage color.
I’ve applied this detail-centric lesson to my photography by taking out my macro lens and stalking butterflies. I also returned to a back-to-basics approach and shot in full manual mode. I blew through several rolls of film. Let’s hope I have a few good shots.
Lucy photobombs my kitten shots… When I give Lucy extra attention, Charlie sulks. Linus just snores.
Further, I have a new subject in the form of kitten Alice. Sleeping kitty photos are adorable. Doggo Lucy is jealous. Lucy photobombs my kitten shots. She becomes upset if I bring Linus or Charlie outside for a few snaps without her. When I give Lucy extra attention, Charlie sulks. Linus just snores.
Even with a fresh subject, still I am shooting less. I am working a lot, so I have less time. But I also question the relevance of my pet and butterfly photos when so much of the world is ill, angry, hungry, and broke. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough.
Applying Charlie’s sniff-the-small-stuff approach, success for me is now measured in tiny victories: Did I press the shutter today? “Yes” is a win. Did I eat a meal and not a Clif bar? “Yes” is a win.
Last weekend, I drove 50 minutes to South Burlington to drop off a couple of rolls of film for developing, then, masked up, I went next door into Michael’s for a picture frame. I immediately became sidetracked by the Halloween displays. I bought a bright purple wig for Linus. I forgot the frame. But I did find a spark of creativity. Probably not what the Michael’s marketing team had in mind, but I had been thinking about photographing my dogs in silly wigs for months.
Driving to the store was a win. Bringing home the wig was winning the tournament quarterfinals. The next day, I coasted through the semifinals by photographing Linus in the wig. He will do anything for a cookie. I need to find a black Joan Jett wig for Lucy to take home the trophy. But even if I only have silly photos of Linus, it will be enough.
“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” – John Updike
Fayston, Vermont. What happens when a life-long dog person adopts a kitten? The kitten fetches better than the dogs. Well, except for golden girl Lucy, who is the top fetcher in all the land.
In June, we adopted a tiny grey meowing fuzz ball from Central Valley Humane Society. From the first day, our kitten greeted us whenever we walked in the room. We kept her in a bathroom at first, but now she has the second floor to roam. She is constantly sneaking downstairs, so I am kitten proofing. The dogs wait for admission to my bedroom so they can play together.
Eventually, we settled on the name “Alice” for the kitten but we also call her “Beans” (she has extra toes), and sometimes “Stinky.” I won’t go into detail why on that last one.
I’ve enjoyed having something tiny in the house again, but it is a little work. Not that I mind. I have extra time because of COVID restrictions. Playtime entertains me as much as her. I have become “crafty.” I cut holes in a cardboard box that arrived with my new golf shoes to create the “Expensive Cat Toy.” I saved a larger box to make a cat-stle. I also crocheted a taco cat toy from my ever multiplying yarn stash. It was with the “flying” taco that Alice the kitten learned to fetch.
I’ve made several yarn tacos. The first one went with her to the vet but didn’t make it home. So I made another, only to find the original one in her carrying case after her next trip to the vet 10 days later. They kept the toy and returned it! Our thoughtful vet’s office is Valley Animal Hospital, Dr. Roy Hadden, in Waitsfield, Vermont.
To make your own magic taco, find the free pattern on Ravelry by searching the free patterns for “cat toys.” I also found a few other cat toy patterns I want to try: A doughnut and a small fish are on my list.
While the dogs are enthusiastically trying to be best friends, I am learning to speak cat. Alice follows me around (unless she’s sleeping). Of course a dog person has a FOMO kitty – and another shadow.
5:05 am Open eyes. Roll over and squint at clock. Stiffly thunk-thunk down the stairs to the kitchen.
5:10 am Flip on lights. Open dog crates. Weave through excited tails to open sliding back door. And they’re off to do dog things.
5:15 am Make coffee. Measure out dog food. Leave Linus’ bowl on the floor as he’s always the first one back for breakfast. Let Lucy inside, and put her food down.
5:35 am Realize Lucy ate her food AND Linus’. She’s sleeping it off under the dining room table. Call Linus and Charlie. Weird that they’re not back.
5:36 am Let Linus and Charlie inside and feed them.
5:37 am Pour that first cup of coffee and turn on the tv news. Sip slowly.
5:45 am WHAT’S THAT SMELL?!
5:46 am Send Charlie outside, locked on the deck. Back to coffee.
6:00 am Search for goretex pants, rubber garden clogs, cleaning gloves, and dog shampoo. Dress for bathing battle.
6:13 am Turn on the hose. Call Charlie, who’s now hiding. Bribe him with a treat as I put him on his leash.
6:20 am Bath time for Charlie!
6:30 am Peel off goretex and rubber layers. Eat breakfast.
So, how was your morning?
Charlie Brown in a dandelion field, Waitsfield, Vermont
Lucy & Linus pose at Sugarbush Resort Golf Club, where some of my greetings cards are for sale in the Pro Shop. We were trying to make a dog-golf photo for a card. Need more leaves on the trees, I think.
Linus, Charlie Brown, and Lucy sit for a photo during a recent walk in our woods.
What’s your go-to look for spring? As I sift through my closet for a cheerful floral something, I realize that my dogs have it all figured out: Perennial polka dots are Linus’ favorite, while Lucy likes fresh thigh-high stockings and the effortless straight-from-the-shower look. Charlie has mastered bed-head with a crust of something striping his coat.
It is mud season in Vermont. That glorious time when the world is one big puddle over a layer of decaying leaves and other unidentifiable matter. The mud is slick, thick, and smelly. My dogs are stoked.
The daily fashion show runway formerly my driveway features Linus wearing mud polka dots and dark socks. Lucy probably showered him with spots as she shook, making sure black dots were dispersed all over Linus’ light yellow hair. Lucy struts about sporting a more abstract print paired with her pond soaked golden locks. She leaves a gleeful trail of wet, muddy paw prints everywhere, like a flower girl tossing petals. Sweet Charlie resembles a tousled hair muppet exuberantly infusing the air around him with his latest eau de toilette creation.
Their enthusiasm for these spring looks remind me that it is too soon for white shoes. As for the leopard print trend, with enough paw prints, my once plain jeans have become fashionable. Sometimes, I miss the snow.
Charlie does a sit-stay
Linus with his longing gaze
Lucy in her Happy Place
An eft says “Hello”
Clouds blow in over the hayfield
Charlie steals my seat on our first “deck day” of the year
Charlie and Lucy watch the world go by. Or maybe a squirrel…
Fayston, Vermont. Wagmorevt has been sharing dog stories, tips, and photos for four years. I published my first post celebrating all dogs on National Puppy Day, 2015. Along the way, I’ve shared stories of readers’ dogs and my dogs, as well as giving tips for taking great dog photos. Thank you, dear reader, for following along!
This past year, I’ve expanded my photography into a true side-hustle: I launched my greeting card line and my Etsy shop. I have been fortunate to have my cards and prints in a local shop that’s otherwise full of locally-designed natural fiber knitwear. Then, earlier this month, my work was accepted at a local art & craft gallery.
What pieces of mine excited the gallery’s jurors the most? My dog photos!
If you’re in Vermont, find my cards and a large print at Artisans’ Gallery on Bridge Street in Waitsfield. All the work in the Gallery – and there’s a wide variety – is made by Vermont artists. My greeting cards are also at Product Think Tank, located next to the Waitsfield Post Office. Product Think Tank is full of beautiful natural fiber knits for men and women in seasonal colors.
Online, please visit my Etsy shop at RSilbernagelPhoto. I sell greeting card sets and a few prints on this site.
Enough crowing. My anniversary post is supposed to be short on words and long on photos from the past year. Those images bring back memories of warmer days and happy but cold noses. I also have to share a very special shout-out of gratitude to the people of Golden Huggs Rescue, from where all three of my dogs were adopted. If you are thinking about adding to your pack, check out the available and adorable puppies and dogs on their site.
I hope you enjoy the photos, and I look forward to sharing the coming year with you. May you celebrate National Puppy Day 2019 on Saturday, March 23 with a slobbery kiss and a long walk with your forever puppy.
Podium shot: Charlie, Lucy, and Linus on the plow-created snow Mountain next to our driveway
Fayston, Vermont. It has been so cold that the snow left behind by storm Harper complains with squeaks and grumbles under my boots. Just suiting up for a short dog walk down the driveway is an epic adventure. The bundling up and unbundling take as long as the walk.
Linus won’t go outside. He stands on the threshold like an old man caught up in a memory, unsure of the present. I coax him outside with the promise of a cookie.
Charlie rushes out excitedly. But after about a minute, he freezes with one leg in the air as if tagged by an invisible “It.” Slowly, the raised leg lowers and is carefully placed on the ground. A different leg is haltingly held aloft. The deliberate leg exchange is repeated, resembling a dog version of Tai chi.
Lucy runs ahead, clearing the driveway’s giant snow bank in a graceful leap and landing a perfect bellyflop in a pillow of powder. She pops up snow-covered with her goofy golden grin and begs me to throw a snowball. I oblige. Many times.
Satisfied that Linus has relieved himself, we return to the house for cookies, and for me, a cup of hot tea.
Williston, Vermont. Although the wind gusts persuaded me to not set up my wagmorevt.com photo booth, the rain held off and another CaniCross to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue and Catamount Outdoor Center is now in the books. Dogs of all shapes and sizes came with their people to participate. A local youth cheerleading squad was even on site for encouragement. Special thanks to Long Trail Veterinary Center’s Dr. Ericka Canales for organizing and sponsoring this event.
If you are interested in ordering any prints, please go to my photo website, Rebecca Silbernagel Photo on SmugMug. As I didn’t set up the photo booth, any money I make from the sale of CaniCross prints or products I will donate to Golden Huggs. A 4×6 inch print costs .21¢ and ordering is easy through my site. I’ll leave the sale open for a couple of months. (I don’t usually sell my photos this way.)
We adopted all three of my dogs through Golden Huggs Rescue. I can’t say thank you enough!
Simple design using head shots I took then created this composite image with Adobe Spark Post
Fayston, Vermont. The Halloween candy is in the stores, so that means it’s time to prepare your end of the year holiday cards. You’ve had a lot of practice since my last how-to photograph dogs blog post, so hopefully you have saved a few favorites. If not, don’t worry! Here are a few tips for taking a “studio” head shot in your own home with your cell phone that you can use for your card. No snow required.
What you’ll need, in addition to your fully charged smart phone:
A clothes hanging rack. Not a sweater drying rack, but a tall, adjustable rack on which you normally hang pants and dresses.
Pant hangers – the kind with clips. Or drapery clips. I used pant/skirt hangers.
A festive and clean backdrop. A tablecloth or large throw/blanket works well. I used a plaid fleece throw, but if you choose a solid color you don’t have to worry as much about hanging the backdrop super straight. If you live near a fabric store (I don’t), buy a few yards (3-5, depending on the size of your dog and if you want some floor coverage) of velvet – try a dark red or blue or black. A roll of craft paper works, too. Use a seasonal color for whatever holiday you celebrate. Maybe you want to make a Halloween card AND a holiday card!
A tripod for your mobile device is also recommended, especially if you want to be in the photo, too. Mine is a Joby GorillaPod, purchased a few years ago for around $25. Search Amazon or B&H Photo for a similar gadget.
A room with lots of natural light that’s big enough to set up the clothes hanging rack and space to take a photo. I used my palatial master bath/laundry room because it has large windows and a lot of floor space. The garage with the door open also works for this project. Or, if it’s a nice day, find a flat spot in your yard without direct sunlight.
Treats, squeakers, or whatever you need to get your dog to look at the camera. Lucy responds to my Donald Duck voice. If you are feeling ambitious, gather other seasonal props, such as costumes, scarves, hats, lights, etc.
Your dog, after you’ve set up your studio.
Rack and hanger set up
My iPhone tripod, with an old phone
Clip the long end of your fabric to the hangers and hang on the rack. Take care to hang the fabric straight if you are using patterned fabric. The clips should hold multiple pieces of fabric so you can flip one over for a new look. (See image, below.) Perhaps you’ve seen a “photo booth” at a party or fundraising event – this is a down-and-dirty simple version.
Tip: If you want the whole dog in your picture, puddle the fabric on the floor so that the floor doesn’t show in your photo. Have doggo sit or stand on the fabric puddle. You can also use a second piece of matching fabric for the floor.
Set up a test shot to make sure you know where to sit to take the photo and where your dog will sit. Use a stuffed animal or a backpack as a stand-in and take a test shot. You’ll need to be about four feet from your subject. (My phone camera warns me when I’m too close or too far. Apple thinks of everything…) If you don’t have enough room, pick up the rack, fabric and all, and find a new location.
Adjust the backdrop to the light source, if necessary. I changed the angle of my backdrop slightly after my initial test.
Test shot for lighting with Charlie Brown
Take your shot
Now it’s show time. After you’ve exercised your dog, it’s time to take photos. I had to wake up Linus and motivate him to leave the couch.
Bring doggo into your “studio” and have him sit in front of the backdrop. Set up any props or costumes.
Use the “Stay” command while encouraging ear perk with a squeaker or small treat held near the camera lens.
Select the Portrait setting if you have it.
Hold the smartphone camera level with your dog’s eyes. On the screen, tap on your dog’s eyes.
Then snap! For best results, use the tripod to prevent camera shake.
This will likely take a few tries, but your dog will love the attention. Stay positive and task focused. Reward and praise your dog! If you’re not seeing the image you like after a few takes, try again later.
Plan B: If your pooch is used to being held (and has trouble with “stay”), consider being in the photo with her. Figure out where you are going to sit and do a test shot or two. Now the tripod is mandatory. With your phone in the tripod, set the timer on your smartphone camera for three seconds. Gather your dog and sit on your mark, looking at the camera (or kissing, laughing and of course smiling) until the shutter clicks. If three seconds is too short for you to find your mark, try 10 seconds on the timer.
Caveat: My dogs are NOT used to being held. After setting the timer on my smartphone, I crawled over to sit next to test subject Lucy. She saw this as playtime and began enthusiastically licking my face. (I should have known this was going to happen – it’s why my dogs are banned from the room when I need to stretch.) My photos were a hot mess of blonde blur. Bonding, 10; quality photograph, 0.
Plan C: Consider asking a family member or friend to help by hitting the shutter button. Bribery (um – reward) works for people, too. Coffee is a fine offering for my help, but you might try wine. Invite your helper to use your studio, too! Swap out the fabric for a new background and a different look.
Edit time (or, fun with apps)
One you have taken the photo you like, it’s time to let doggo finish his nap while you edit. Simply using iPhoto’s magic wand (or whatever photo app you use) and a bit of cropping will improve your image, but with a few more clicks, you will create more professional looking results.
Tip: Browse through the printed photo card choices online and pick out a few favorites before you crop. Knowing what aspect ratio you’ll need will save you from re-editing if you choose a card that calls for a 3:2 image but you’ve made yours 1:1. Wait a minute – what? 1:1 aspect ratio is square – the top and sides are the same. 3:2 is the size that will yield a 6 x 4 inch print – a rectangle. Your phone is 4:3. Aspect ratio is the width to height comparison of a photo.
For printed photo cards, you have a lot of online options, including Snapfish, Shutterfly, mpix, and Nation’s Photo Lab, to name a few. Many companies offer dog specific cards. If you don’t have a favorite printer already, ask a few friends who send great cards for recommendations. Once you browse the cards and make your choice, simply upload your photo and choose quantity.
For a complete and easy-to-use photo editor, one of my favorites is Snapseed. Snapseed is a Google product found for free on the App Store and also available for Android. It has editing “tools” and filters, called “looks.” Sometimes I need to lighten my image before I apply a filter, so I go to the “tools” section before going to the “looks” section (filters). Snapseed lets you save a copy or modify the original, and it lets you undo edits even after you’ve saved them.
Magic wand and cropping in iPhoto
Image brightened and Snapseed portrait filter applied
Another editing app I use is PicsArt. PicsArt has many fun filters and easy-to-use editing tools, plus it has a cut-out feature. If you want to remove the background on your headshot, tap the scissors icon, then swipe your finger over the areas of the image you want to keep. Fine tune the cut-out with the eraser tool. Apply the filter and you’ve just created a sticker that you can add to another image. Or, you can change the background to a solid color or a pattern. I used PicsArt to create the image of Linus, below right. Even though the background of my original image was simple, the plain black gives the image more punch.
Before PicsArt sticker
After, with a solid black background
If you have some down time and really want to play with photo editing, try Enlight Photofox. I have the older, paid version of Enlight; Enlight Photofox is free but has subscription-based add-ons. Either Enlight or Enlight Photofox will let you layer images to create something completely new. Don’t be afraid to play! I had a long wait at the doctor’s office, so I followed one of the tutorials to create this stylized portrait of Linus (below).
To make a funky digital card for social media, try Photo Lab – you pick a frame, then add animated effects and type to your headshot. (See Linus image at the bottom of this post.)
For a more sophisticated look, take a look at Adobe Spark Post. It’s another graphic design and collage app I like for graphic layouts such a digital holiday message for social media. I used Spark Post for the title image.
PicsArt collage of Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy
Tip: If you are using more than one headshot, make all the heads the same size. I need to resize Lucy in the above collage.
Design note: Many of the card designs are so colorful that your photo in black and white makes an elegant finished card. (See image at the top of the article.) Duplicate your image and make it black and white by using your photo editing app. Upload the black and white version to see which way you like it. Some of the card makers will let you edit your photos, but I feel that I have more control (and better results) if I make a second version to upload.
P. s. Why am I writing this post in September? This home studio set-up also works great for showing off your dog’s Halloween costume!!! Plus, if you have your holiday card ready to go early, you’ll likely find a great price on printing and have one less thing to do once December comes. Because it’s all about the cookies, really.
Finally, please share your work with wagmorevt.com! I’d love to see your dogs! I’ll add your photos to a future post. Thank you.
Linus head shot in Photo Lab. Scrooge effect is all Linus…
Linus, Charlie, and Lucy pose for a Father’s Day tribute
Fayston, Vermont. “You know they all bark when you leave the house,” my son reported. “Even Lucy.”
My son is home from college for the summer. My work schedule has become temporarily more demanding, so he’s been home with the dogs more than I this month.
“Linus sounds like he’s being tortured – it’s part howl, part bark,” he continued.
“Then Charlie chimes in with a high-pitched alarm bark. It’s annoying.
Lucy adds a low grunt, more of a mild complaint,” my son concluded.
“No wonder the neighbors don’t talk to us,” I replied.
“I don’t think so. Their dog barks, too,” he said.
“Do the dogs stop barking when you come downstairs?
“Yes, but sometimes not right away.”
This news surprised me because we take the dogs for a long walk in the morning before leaving. They are usually all sound asleep when I close the door behind me. Last spring, before my son came home, I forgot my phone and had to return to the house, only to find all three dogs asleep, right where I left them. They came to greet me blinking and stretching from being stirred awake.
But I am not usually gone as much once June hits. This year, however, household projects are left undone; vacation plans scrubbed; day trips canceled. I had to take a personal day so that I could accompany my son on a photo assignment for his internship. The extra money I make will be nice when the holidays come, and the end to my crazy schedule is near. But tell that to my dogs.
I look forward to setting my summer rhythm to the beat of tail thwapping. And less barking.
Linus at home
Osprey overhead, DAR State Park
Lucy on our morning walk, after a night of rain
Super Charlie in flight
Lucy, DAR State Park
Hay was cut on the very next day
Receiving line, Fayston
Old apple tree frames a very Vermont scene, Waitsfield
Fayston, Vermont. I recently gave Charlie Brown a bath. At 10 pm.
As was our routine, dog-dad had let our dogs out before going to bed. He let them out into the yard, but not the fenced-in part – our neighbors are seasonal and mud season is not one of their seasons. Spring feverish, our three dogs took off into the night.
After a few minutes, Lucy returned home but Linus and Charlie did not. Dog-dad continued to call them, with each repetition growing louder and angrier. I came downstairs, grabbed my wallet and car key, then tapped the button to open the garage door. I hoped the sound of the door clanking up would bring them back, but I only heard the peepers. No familiar jingle of dog tags. At least I heard no more yelling.
I started the car and pulled out of the garage, crawling down the driveway and expectantly searching for Charlie and Linus in my headlights. Twenty five yards down they appeared, looking quite happy and excited, tails and tongues a-waggin’. They eagerly hopped in the car.
Charlie snuggled up against my neck. He smelled like he spent the night at a frat party. A wave of nausea hit me at the stench. Into the shower we both went.
In the morning, dog-dad and I agreed to keep the dogs in the fenced in part of our yard. I arrived at work tired. My mind had ruminated on “what might have been” and my sleep was restless. As I was settling into my morning coffee and emails, one of my co-workers announced that she had a sad story to tell me. She looked upset. Quite unexpectedly, she said, she had to say goodbye to her dog last night. We hugged and cried; their time with us is too short we told each other. She told me how her dog suddenly became very sick over the weekend. We cried some more.
Dogs are only with us for a short time. Make every day a good one.