Unleashed Education Blog

Nicola's Mentoring Session with Zephyr the Border Collie

mentoring Mar 12, 2014

Border Collies are a favourite breed of mine to use for mentoring sessions. Often well trained, confident in new surroundings, athletic and not bad to look at either, it makes it easier to teach photography concepts such as shooting action and backlighting. When Zephyr's model application arrived in my inbox (along with little sister Shay who I hope to use in the future), I immediately pegged her to use for a teaching session - those baby blue eyes sucked me in!

During my mentoring session with Nicola, Zephyr and her mum Jan were absolute superstars and made it such an enjoyable experience for us.

The location we chose includes a half hour walk to get there, but we stopped on the way and shot some action along the path. Such focus as Zephyr chases her ball!

Along the pathway we also found a screen of trees to use as a pretty bokeh-rich backdrop for Zephyr's colouring.

Backlighting was one of the things that Nicola indicated she would like to learn more about, so we placed Zephyr out in the open with some low bushes and the sun behind her.

When we arrived at our destination, it was time to let Zephyr loose with her ball while we practiced shooting some action!

Always keeping an eye out for candid portrait-style opportunities that present themselves of course.

No stranger to dog training, Jan rewarded Zephyr often, usually with a favourite game of tug!

To take advantage of the pine forest behind the field, we set Zephyr up and shot quite close and wide angle, to capture the light coming through the trees behind her.

Then of course, it was time for more action, as she showed us just how high she can leap for her ball!

Shooting in full sun can be lovely as well, just as long the sun is very low on the horizon. It was such a pleasure working with a dog with such a great 'stay' - as we were quite far away in this image and Zephyr sat there contentedly waiting for us to finish, even throwing us a little head-tilt action.

We also turned her around and shot from the other direction, with the sun behind her to create some backlighting instead. A similar shot in all ways but the lighting - which 'look' do you prefer?

We found some beautiful lush green grass and played around using different focal lengths and angles to get different looks.

Here's Nicola shooting from a slightly higher angle, to get more of the grass and less of the tree and sky.

The sun was nearly on the horizon and slanting perfectly along the fence line, so we place Zephyr next to it and used a long lens and different angles to create perspective using the fence as a feature.

Backlit action shots were next on the cards, and Zephyr happily obliged!

Walking back along the path to the carpark, the sky was glowing in tones of yellow and orange through the trees, so of course we stopped for a final few shots of this beautiful girl.

There's a little hill near the carpark so the last mission was to play around with shooting some silhouettes, by placing Zephyr clear against the sky and deliberately underexposing the shot.

Nicola had this to say about her mentoring session:

"Charlotte is an excellent teacher, very professional and obviously loves what she does. She interacts really well with the dogs and their owners and was very attentive when teaching me and answered all my questions with ease. I feel so much more confident now than I did before the session - thanks!"

Interested in learning how to take some of the shots above? My e-book Dog Shots includes recipes for many of the images in this blog post and can be downloaded instantly!

Start your pet photography journey with 100 free daily tips!

That's over 3 months worth of daily tips covering topics like working with light, obtaining expression, camera settings, shooting action, composition, using the location, dog handling tricks – and so much more. Delivered direct to your inbox so you can read and absorb straight away (no homework required).

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.