Unleashed Education Blog

Kelly's Mentoring Session with Shogun the Golden Retriever

backlighting mentoring Oct 02, 2014

After the five hour flight from Brisbane to Perth, I was keen to get moving and explore! We had narrowed the shoot location down to a few options, but I knew that I wanted to check out Kings Park first as it seemed the most promising. Just a short distance from the CBD in West Perth, located on Mount Eliza overlooking the curves of the Swan River winding through the city, this 1000 acre park has so much to offer - the hardest part was going to be deciding which part of it to use!

Along with large tracts of natural bushland, family picnic areas, children's play parks, coffee shops and cafés - there were some gorgeous native gardens and being spring - wildflowers galore! Here's a few iPhone shots I took while location scouting.

Feet sore from walking the many trails and exploring the botanic gardens (I have a habit of just wanting to see what's around the next corner), I eventually came to the war memorial area that overlooks the city and spent a few minutes soaking in the view.

Perth really is a gorgeous place, especially with those vast blue skies above! Fun fact - Kings Park is the largest inner city park in the world! Even larger than Central Park in New York.

We'd opted for a morning session the following day which entailed a very early morning start. I arrived at our designated meeting spot, the DNA tower, and climbed up the 1o1 steps to watch the spectacular sunrise and wait for the others to arrive.

Although we were initially blessed with some warm early morning sunshine, it soon clouded over. It's good to know how to take advantage of different lighting conditions though, and the more indirect, softer light meant we could utilize spots and shoot in different directions.

I wanted to focus on creating interest in the photos using what I call "layering" - basically including various layers in the image through special attention paid to the background, middle ground and foreground.

The abundant wildflowers were perfect for demonstrating this, as we were able to place Shogun amongst the plants and on pathways, shooting strategically to create multiple layers in the image.

Creating layers also helps to frame the subject. By using a shallow depth of field and making sure the background is far away, it ensures a sharply focused subject on a nice soft background, but framed by sharper elements in the middle and foreground, as demonstrated in the shots below.

When shooting a head shot however, it's sometimes preferable to have no other competing elements, just a lovely soft background and an engaging expression. Noisemakers come in very handy for this type of shot as expression is just so important!

To create variety and interest when shooting a full session, I always like to include a few detail shots, emphasising the dog's unique features. Shogun's feathery legs deserved an image all of their own! Notice the soft light in the image - this was shot when the sun was behind clouds so even though the direction of light is coming across the legs, it's soft enough so that it wraps around and highlights the texture of the fur. The same shot in full sun would create too much contrast, i.e. too much of a difference between the highlight and shadowed areas.

Teaching students how to capture action is always the fun part for me and where I seem to get the most "lightbulb moments" from my mentoring students. It's always easier for the camera to track a moving subject when they are well lit, so I often run the dog towards the direction of light for this part of the session.

We finished up with some wide-angle blind shooting of Shogun happily messing around with some sticks he found. The success rate of these kinds of images isn't usually high, but when you get a killer shot it's worth it!

Here's what Kelly had to say about her mentoring session experience with me:

"Charlotte is a patient, knowledgeable and inspiring mentor. I am SO grateful the timing was right for me to attend her one-on-one session. Could not be more pleased!"

Since our shooting and editing mentoring session and an additional online business mentoring session via Skype, Kelly has been going great guns with her pet photography! She regularly updates me with her progress and I love hearing about how our sessions have helped her move forward in leaps and bounds. You can check out Kelly's Perth pet photography business on Facebook at 7 to 1 Photography.

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