observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

  • Welcome to my photo journal

    Living on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada Diane loves the scent of forests and rain, the rhythms of the sea, and holds discoveries and stories in high regard.

    Where mornings begin with a drum roll! --Diane M Schuller

    Updated on random Mondays ... simply an online journal of an ordinary life. Come on in to enjoy a breath of West Coast air.

    The Bright Side

    An optimist is the human personification of spring.  ~Susan J. Bissonette

    Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and a wide range of ducks on frozen ice here in Alberta. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and a wide range of ducks on frozen ice here in Alberta. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    ... notice the Northern Pintails in flight. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    ... notice the Northern Pintails in flight. Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

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    Taking Pictures of Your Dog / Pet

    Taking pictures of your dog, cat, or other pets are often similar to taking photos of your children. As promised here are a few simple, yet basic, aspects to keep in mind when taking pictures of your family dog(s). If there is interest, in future I can provide information to address more advanced approaches. These six tips will form a good base to get you started taking better snapshots of your family pet.

    1. Have an assistant, whenever possible. If you have a friend or family member you can put them to work in playing with the dog or pup or by acting as a distraction with a toy, for instance. Squeaky toys are good for getting dogs to perk their ears at attention and for directing which direction the dog faces.
    2. Turn off the flash and turn the beep feature off on your camera. Take your photos in a brightly lit room or outdoors so the flash is not necessary. Many animals become leary of cameras when the beep goes off every time the shutter is released. You don’t want your pet worried about the camera — you want him/her relaxed.
    3. Forget about posing! Attempting to pose a dog, especially with the dog looking straight at the camera, most times is so lifeless and lacks personality. The best photos are those where you capture your dog (or your kids) at play, concentrating or showing curiosity over something, or even relaxing after a long run or playtime. As mentioned, if you have some toys or treats with you, you can toss it out to get the dog moving or playing. When you forget about posing and simply allow your pet to be itself, not only will you capture personality but you’ll also find you enjoy these the  most because the real essence of your dog/pet is captured.
    4. Turn your camera’s setting to continuous mode. Whether you have a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or a 35mm film camera, you will have that capability. This allows the camera to take a continuous stream of photos while keeping the shutter pressed, hopefully so you don’t miss some unexpected shots especially if your pet is moving.
    5. Take lots and lots of pictures! Don’t worry so much about perfection. Be more concerned about capturing special moments. If you have a digital camera, you have the luxury of taking all kinds of shots without having to pay for developing/processing. Simply delete the rejects after downloading them to your computer and hang on to the good ones (be sure to get them printed).
    6. Get down! This one is key. When you get down to the pet’s level (again, this is important for photos of children too) and preferably the closer the better, your images will immediately improve. If you have a DSLR, you can get even better results by attaching your zoom lens. This will allow you to be further away (out of their face), less intimidating, and to still capture those close up shots. Ideally, you want to nearly (or fully) fill the frame with your subject. You don’t want your subject to be a blob or dot in the frame.


    The dog’s face fills the frame, concentrating on his eyes. He’s not looking directly at the camera (distracted) and the camera is not in his face because a zoom lens was used. The only thing done to this was to sharpen it slightly after downloading to the computer.

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    It doesn’t matter that this dog is not facing the camera — the image tells a story: she is hanging back while the other two are off hunting (typical of this dog). Taken down at the dog’s level and she nearly fills the frame.

    Here the dog is captured playing in the snow (with snow flying). It doesnHere the dog is captured playing in the snow (with snow flying). It doesn’t matter that the other dog’s head snuck in — it shows curiosity. Again, the dog mostly fills the frame.

    HereHere’s a shot taken after the dog had sufficient time to play and wear off energy. He’s keeping still yet his attention is elsewhere (a distraction) and has that ‘posed’ look.

    PhoDOGraphy: How to Get Great Pictures of Your Dog

    51mwkb8b9kl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-bigtopright35-73_ou01_How to Take Great Pet Pictures: Recipes for Outstanding Results with Any Camera

    Copyright © 2009 Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved. It is illegal to copy any part of this post or the photos without the written permission of the author. You may link to this page from your blog or website.

    Diane is an on-location dog, pet & livestock photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta/BC. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    What are you reading?

    “The beauty of the written word is that it can be held close to the heart and read over and over again.” ~Florence Littauer

    home-9025I’m so immersed in my photos I haven’t been doing nearly as much reading as usual. Other than a couple of technical books (on Lightroom for instance), I haven’t read some good fiction for a while. I’d love to know where your bookmark is currently resting.

    I’ve mentioned my friend Karen Bass in a previous post, but thought I’d mention her book again for anyone who may be looking for a good read. Karen’s novel, Run Like Jager is classified as Young Adult but I can guarantee it’s every bit an interesting read for adults as well!

    While I’m at it, a fellow dog writer/photographer recently sent me a copy of her lovely picture book, Salty Dogs. Jean Fogle has some fantastic photos of dogs at the beach paired with apt and interesting quotes. This would be a great gift book for anyone who simply loves dogs or those who love being near water.

    The reason for not reading some good fiction lately is definitely not because I don’t have some at hand; no, I have two piles of promising novels sitting in abeyance waiting for me to crack their fresh spines. As an avid reader, I’ve read a lot of really powerful, well written novels (and a few that weren’t so great too). I can never list an all-time favourite or even a top 5 or 10 for instance. That said, here is a sampling of some of the novels I’ve read that do make my list of favourites though I couldn’t put them in any kind of order — each was a favourite for different reasons. (These are simply notes I made on these novels and are by no means any sort of review.)

    The Secret Life of Beesby Sue Monk Kidd: Outstanding. I read and loved this book long before Hollywood got a hold of it. I’ve purposely not seen the movie because I know they could never do the book justice. It’s a feel-good book full of interesting facts on bees, wisdom of life, humour, and intelligence. It’s truly a book every mother and every daughter should read. Kidd writes with lovely descriptive prose and turns of phrase. More importantly, she is adept at characterization and the voice of this protagonist (Lily) is delightful. I loved Lily! She made me smile despite her circumstances.

    A Fine Balanceby Rohinton Mistry: a bountiful epic told in the most richly woven prose. Mistry is an artful wordsmith. Not a dry spell to be found in this book. I learned so much about India, their culture, politics, and everyday life in their different social castes. His writing is so full of imagery and so well wrought that I could smell the streets and see the colour as I read page-by-page. The fine balance was that fine line between despair and hope. A book I can never forget. (I also read it years before Oprah discovered it 🙂 )

    The Kite Runner Illustrated Editionby Khaled Husseini: An excellent book with great storytelling and total involvement in the characters. The protagonist, Amir’s shocking betrayal of his loyal friend Hassan is at the root of this novel’s intensity. Highly recommended.

    No Great Mischief: A Novel by Alistair MacLeod: A really pleasing read. Plain (in a simple/good way) lucid writing which used landscape as a prominent backdrop. A well told story of family, the historical parallels, and the strength of family ties — “always take care of your blood” as the characters would say. I really enjoyed a line used in the novel, which was repeated as the closing line, “All of us are better when we’re loved.”

    House of Sand and Fogby Andre Dubus III: a page turner. The fog, and sand to a degree, are characters in this moving story. I found the characterization of Colonel Behrani exceptional. Constant, and building tension, together with adept storytelling made this an engaging novel to read. I’d classify it as a contemporary tragedy. (I think I’m flattered that Oprah selected some of the books I had already read!)

    The Stone Carversby Jane Urquhart: The unique characters and subject — wood & stone carvers — were dealt with such clarity in this novel. As in past novels I’ve read by Urquhart, she uses the underlying theme of “a trace”. In this case, it’s the trace of the carver on the wood or stone, although I also saw the trace of a man on a woman theme. Each of the characters also had obsessions, which tied in so well with their adventures in life. A detailed, yet enjoyable literary novel.

    Memoirs of a Geishaby Arthur Golden: Beautiful language. What an engaging novel, full of voluptuous prose; an extraordinary story that was hard to put down. His indepth research has made the building blocks of an exquisite story. I didn’t want the book to come to an end and actually remember holding on to the book and not wanting to let it go when I finally did finish it. It flows like gentle ripples on a pond. I was so intrigued by her story and in learning so much about a life of which we all have far too many misconceptions.


    Oh dear, I could go on and on. See! It’s hard to pick just a few favourites 🙂  What books have you immersed yourself within that inspired you, made an impact, or even altered how you view your life?

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    There, yes right there …

    I see the beauty there within you. Do you see it in yourself? It’s right there.


    I’m a tad late posting a photo for you to use as wallpaper. This month I’ve waffled about what two to offer you and hope you find the two soft ones I chose to your liking; they’re yours to use and to freshen your days. You are welcome to send others here as well to share in the soft backdrop as most of you are already well into spring (even if we aren’t there yet 🙂 ). Right click to save it and then add it as your wallpaper.


    A gentle reminder: these wallpaper images each month are being made available for personal use only. They are not to be used for commercial purposes.

    May you have a weekend filled with joy, laughter, and don’t forget to take some photographs!

    PS: Two upcoming blog posts next week will cover tips on photographing dogs (applies to kids too) plus a post on what book helped me make the most improvement in my photography skills.


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    Photographing Dogs

    Australian Shepherd by Diane Schuller dog photographer

    As I anticipate the arrival of spring up here, I’m looking forward to the opportunity of photographing more dogs. Last year the most fun I had photographing dogs, besides with my own, was one afternoon when I met a client in Grande Prairie (the nearest small city an hour from where I live). I spent just over an hour photographing her dog, Henry. He was an absolute delight to work with and my client was pleased with the proofs (I wouldn’t want it any other way!), selecting and taking three of her favourites.


    What are you looking forward to?

    PS: I have updated my “Pets” online gallery by deleting the ones that were up before and replacing them with a fresh batch. Please take a look if you like. To view them (by Carousel, Slideshow, etc) and to change the background colour simply use the toolbar at the bottom of the gallery page. Enjoy!

    Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    Cupcake & Spring

    Flirt’s “Fantasy Island”: with light lemon icing & smothered in coconut

    I promised more cupcakes from Flirt plus I thought I’d also share a few thoughts on spring north of 55.

    In the blog world and on Flickr photos, everyone has been posting scads of photos indicative of their individual signs of spring — and for quite a while. They include bare streets!! (I wish), grass, budding leaves (what!), and flowers (you have got to be kidding, right!). As you can tell from my comments (hoping my humour is coming through!), we aren’t anywhere close to any of those so I thought it was high time I share the reality of living north of 55. You see, even though we had plenty of snow on the ground already, a huge blizzard raged in last week that added to the snowfall but it was the winds that caused drifts as high as 5 and 6 feet — that is NO April Fool’s joke.

    We still have a few feet of snow on the ground, not a single tree is anywhere close to opening buds, let alone the perennials that are still buried beneath the snow and frozen in the solid earth. Yes, the first crows returned a few days ago and the Canada Geese are apt to arrive in the next week or two. But nesting — not a chance for quite some time yet. We’re beginning to get forecasts of days that will be above zero (single digits) but that doesn’t mean warm overnight temperatures. In fact, it’s uncommon to plant our gardens prior to the third week in May. Even at that we still get overnight frosts and need to protect our young seedlings or tender bedding plants after planting in May. There are a few exceptions to this but that’s primarily people who live in the city. It’s always warmer in the city because of the heat from the buildings and paved streets, not to mention that they don’t get the same effects from the blowing snow in winter (so snow melts sooner in the cities and towns).

    Hansa shrub in my backyard before last week

    Hansa shrub in my backyard before last week's storm -- now it's barely visible

    Thanks to our neighbour, we no longer have to trudge through the deep snow or don our snowshoes to take our dogs for a walk down our driveway (our driveway to the back is approximately the length of two city blocks). On Sunday he nearly got his huge 8-wheel tractor stuck when he attempted to go through some of the deeper drifts but what a relief to be able to go outside and actually walk upright like normal people. You have no idea what a relief that is rather than slogging through deep snow trying to make new tracks each day. Needless to say we are incredibly grateful when he comes by!

    getting plowed out -- but earlier in the winter before the heavy snowfalls!

    getting plowed out -- but earlier in the winter before the heavy snowfalls!

    All that said, there truly is hope for spring! It appears we are right at an important turning point. Hopefully from now on, the days will be warm enough to melt the snow and eventually thaw the ground. Spring is in sight even if it’s not actually here! I soon hope to begin reporting on the true signs of spring up here, north of 55.

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