Unleashed Education Blog

Charlotte's Top 10 Photos of 2023

news Dec 28, 2023

The year of 2023 was a big one for me! Along with all the usual online Unleashed Education membership and community activities, we held Unleashed Workshop in Arrowtown in April (see the wrap-up) and hosted the International Pet Photographer of the Year Awards for the very first time. In September, I headed to Las Vegas to speak at Shutterhound Conference, then continued on with a complete loop around the globe, stopping in Alaska, Iceland (for Style Lab Workshop, wrap-up here) and then home via Europe. Craig and I also managed to get a couple of trans-tasman trips in as well, wrapping up the year with a quick trip back to Arrowtown in November.

Let's take a look at my favourite ten images from 2023!

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS @ 147mm, ISO 6400, 1/500 sec, ƒ/2.8 

In January I escaped the heat of the Queensland summer and headed to Christchurch, New Zealand, to visit Craig. We spent our time together shooting for a brand new resource in the Premium Membership called Unleashing Light on Location. We've quietly released the first instalment of these in the Membership, but are planning on completing the course and launching in April 2024. Stay tuned!

We had three different sessions at three very different locations - the river, the forest and the city - with (you guessed it) three different dogs! Our forest session was quite cloudy which was great as we were able to demonstrate how to find the light and work with the location. I love this shot of Kea - it's a bit darker and richer than my usual style but it seems to be what I gravitate towards when I don't have pretty sparkly light to work with - and I actually really love it!

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 135mm ƒ/1.8L, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec, ƒ/1.8

This is the only shot of my own dogs that has snuck into the top ten this year! And surprise, surprise, it's Enzo, who I often think is the least photogenic of the three furry terrors. I think because he so rarely gives me a good expression (he mostly looks half asleep) that when I do get one, I really appreciate it!

This little guy turned three this year and is just the funniest little character. He's super lazy and does not like competing when it comes to fetch, instead he takes on the support role of always bringing the frisbee back and handing it to you personally (after stealing it off the others). He also answers to Pickle and Wee Man and has an extreme obsession with food.

I love this shot of him standing on our patio at twilight. The lighting is so soft and pastel toned, but it's his quirky expression that makes this shot and why I keep coming back to it. It's taken pride of place as the August image in my annual calendar project of my own dogs.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS @ 119mm, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec, ƒ/2.8

Kara was one of our wonderful dog models at Unleashed Workshop in Arrowtown, and I loved her look and energy so much I got her back for her very own shoot along Arrowtown River after the workshop, as we were lucky to stay for a few extra days. My intention was to play around with some water action shots with her, but the autumn foliage was just so incredible, I couldn't resist shooting some portraits along the river first.

This is just one of the portraits I love from Kara's session. Her colouring stands out so well against the autumn foliage and her pose suits the framing by the tree in the background. It feels like an illustration in a storybook.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 135mm ƒ/1.8L, ISO 320, 1/800 sec, ƒ/1.8

The orchards in Cromwell were a popular shooting spot with our students during our Unleashed Workshop, so of course Craig and I couldn't resist going back there afterwards to take advantage of the stunning autumn colours and natural framing provided by the endless rows of fruit trees.

I've lost count the number of times I've photographed Enzo (pictured right) as he's one of my favourite NZ dog models. He's also super sweet and cuddly - he's got it all, personality and good looks! This time he brought along his brother (also a Husky cross Border Collie) called Koyo, which incidentally means autumn foliage in Japanese! Both dogs are owned by Lu, who is always up for adventures with her pack when we visit.

You can check out some more of my photos of Enzo and Koyo from this day on Facebook.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 135mm ƒ/1.8L, ISO 500, 1/640 sec, ƒ/1.8

A trip to Arrowtown wouldn't be complete without a session with Merran and her boy Benson, who is definitely our most popular Arrowtown dog model. This time we headed to an amazing location called St Bathans, which was once a thriving gold mining town of 2000 in the late 1800s. Mining halted in the 1930's when the giant pit threatened to engulf the town, and it's now a beautiful blue lake surrounded by cliffs of white quartz tailings. A beautiful place to explore, it's also perfect for a picnic and a swim for the dogs. On a calm day, the reflections in the lake are mesmerising!

Merran and Benson have a gorgeous connection and I love that this image captures that in this stunning setting. That little hint of rim light really makes this image for me.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 50mm ƒ/1.2L, ISO 1250, 1/640 sec, ƒ/1.2

In June, Craig came to visit me in Brisbane so we could work on some Unleashed projects together. The weather was perfect, as it often is in winter where I live, perfectly acceptable to Craig who cannot deal with heat here at other times of year!

To get us out of the house and give us a break from all the computer work and planning, we met up with my friend Kay who runs pet supply store Chew Chomp and Chill (where I used to have my consult room) and her new Husky boy Rider. We spent the afternoon on the beach at Bribie Island, watching (a little nervously) as the smoke from a bushfire made it's way closer to us during the course of the afternoon. Luckily it was just a controlled burn, and provided some smoke over the sunset to give us incredible colours for sunset and twilight.

It was one year-old Rider's first trip to the beach and he handled it in a very calm and un-Husky-like manner, allowing us both to capture some gorgeous images - you can see more of mine on Facebook.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS @ 200mm, ISO 1000, 1/800 sec, ƒ/2.8

After the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas where Craig and I attended and spoke at Shutterhound, we escaped to the natural wonderland that is Alaska for a few days. We were hosted by the lovely Cris, who lives near Anchorage with her husband and furry pack. A special shoot with Cooper was on the cards, so after some false starts with weather and locations we headed to the river where there was some autumn foliage. How lucky I got to experience two autumns this year!

Cris has had Cooper since he was eight weeks old, when he immediately began daily training as her medical alert service dog, otherwise known as a blood sugar dogs or "DAD" (diabetic alert dog). He passed his public access test at 14 months old and has been by Cris's side ever since. Now eleven years old, their bond is so evident and beautiful to witness, and I feel honoured to have captured it for Cris for all time in a set of images from our shoot.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS @ 81mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, ƒ/2.8

It wasn't easy choosing only a couple of favourite images from our adventures in Iceland for Style Lab Workshop! I decided to share images that had a story or a sense of place, which coincidentally both happen to be taken at Reynisfjara Beach (the iconic black sand beach). We shot at a variety of locations, but there was just something familiar but also totally alien about this location that I felt drawn to.

Luna the Border Collie was one of a few dog models who actually ended up coming to a couple of the shoots. Luna is actually her mum Ragnheiður's service dog, and their bond was evident in how they obligingly worked together to bring all our student's creative photo ideas to life. You can follow them on Instagram here.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 50mm ƒ/1.2L, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec, ƒ/1.2

Also taken at Reynisfjara, I feel like this image captures Stormur perfectly, as he's actually a search and rescue dog. The beach is surrounded by towering cliffs with caves and plenty of boulders perfect for posing dogs. Stormur and his sister Elja (also a Golden Retriever with an occupation - she's a hunting dog) were absolute super stars during the shoot, obligingly clambering up and posing on all manner of rock formations while looking stunning and windswept like the true supermodels they are.

You can check out more photos of these two, along with the rest of my Style Lab Retreat images, on Facebook and follow Stormur and Elja's adventures on Instagram here.

Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 135mm ƒ/1.8L, ISO 1000, 1/800 sec, ƒ/2

If any dog is going to get in my top ten twice in one year, of course it will be Benson! Craig and I headed back to Arrowtown in November to plan out Unleashed content for 2024, which just happened to co-incide with early summer when the Lupins are flowering. Although are they an introduced species of plant that are being systematically eradicated in New Zealand, we managed to find some beautiful spots where they still exist in the Glenorchy area, which we took full advantage of with Benson and another gorgeous boy, Grimm.

At this point in time, I'm still working on the editing of this session but I couldn't resist sharing this early favourite in this year's top ten post. If you look carefully, you can see his mum Merran in the catchlight in his eye - he's never far away from her.

So there you go, a little about what I’ve been up to this year, and some of my personal favourites from 2023. What are your personal favourites? We’d love to see you share them in our Facebook community.

If you'd like to find out more about Charlotte Reeves, you can check out her About page here, or find out more about Unleashed Education here.


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