Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Lights at Longwood Gardens

I can't begin to tell you how long I have been wanting to photograph the Christmas lights at Longwood.  I went a few years back and was not allowed to bring in my tripod.  You just can't do it without a tripod at night.  Then I saw a CLASS at Longwood, specifically on photographing the lights.  I went to sign up, immediately, but the class was full.  I waited another year and tried to sign up for the November class in June.  Class was full by June, so I wait listed.  No dice.  The next year, the class was not offered.  I was so disappointed.  When last years catalog came out in November 2013, I saw the class and immediately signed up, a year in advance.  Phew! Made it.  Now I just had to wait a year.

Well, it was worth the wait.  The class (maybe 15 people) started at 4PM.  After a 1/2 hour briefing, we were sent out on our own to do our thing.  I got to meander the gardens alone, in the dark, lit only by the Christmas lights and an occasional lamp post.  No crowds to get in your way.  It was wonderful.  And I did end up getting a Christmas card out of it.
















Monday, November 17, 2014


After viewing some animal photography by a Polish photographer, Alicja Zmyslowska (see her stunning work here ),  I was inspired to get a dog.  After smacking myself in the head several times, I remembered that I can always borrow one from my sons.  Both boys have labradors.  So, I called up Jort and invited him to bring Murphy over to play in the leaves.

The plan was to use my Lens Baby lens to create pictures with those dreamy backgrounds.  So, with Lens Baby attached, we went outside and tried to get Murphy to lay in the leaves like a good boy.  Murph is a very calm, docile creature when he's inside, but when he gets outdoors, he has one thing in mind.  Well, several, actually:  ducks, balls, or bumpers.  All involve running at full speed to retrieve.  So, with much reluctance, I removed the Lens Baby and got to work with some straight photography.  I'll get artistic with it in the post production phase.  It is rare to see Murphy more than 5 steps away from my son's side, but he gave us a good sitting.

Lacking any real ducks...

Jort thought it would be a good idea to have some props, so he set up some decoys.
Murph thought this was an excellent idea and after the shot, 
crunched the head on the brown one.

Then we began throwing leaves on the poor boy and
we ended up with this hysterical rendering.

And this.

After the brown decoys demise, we added a pumpkin because Murph couldn't get it in his mouth.  

Back to chasing leaves.  He really liked this.

Poor baby.  The leaves are attacking.

After the trauma of the attack, he required a belly rub. 

See, he couldn't get the pumpkin in his mouth?  
A good try, though.

"Murphy, NO PUMPKINS!!!!"  Murphy puts on his 
I hear you, but I'm ignoring you face.

Portrait in the leaves.

Doesn't he look calm and docile?  
You had to have been there.

Panting because he's out of breath from 
running circles around us.

Murphy's silly face sea otter look.  
My grand dog is so multi-talented.

"You're catching this, right?  My master loves ONLY ME."

MY FAVE OF THE DAY...Now the real fun begins.  

Rolling in the leaves with his ball. 

At full speed...


As the tongue grew longer and longer, we called it a day.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Murphy, a 2 year old black Lab, fell into Jordan's lap from one of the most prominent trainers on the east coast.  Let's just say it was the luck of the Irish.  I won't go into details, but it was the luckiest day of Jort's life in a very long while.  So, he picks up the dog and comes straight to our house.  Murphy lived in a kennel until then.  He came in the house leaning on Jordan and barking at us.  Dick and I looked at each other and told Jort to be very careful with this dog.  He's 2, set in his ways and not very social.  Then he took him outside and threw dummies out into the yard.  The dog marked each one and retrieved them without a problem.  Jort was so thrilled with his good fortune that we didn't want to break his heart, but we never thought this would be a good pet/hunting partner for him. 

                                                                                                     Photo by Rachael Kane

Daily Training Sessions

Murphy comes to play at Nana's

Well, it's a year later.  Murphy now comes to Nana's and sits next to the counter waiting for his "cookie".  Then he follows us into the living room and makes his rounds for us each to pet him until he falls over from ecstasy.  Jordan has trained with his friend Patty, the trainer, almost every day for over a year now.  Murph is a fabulous retriever.  There is no duck that gets missed.  

During that year, Jort has finished him as a Junior dog and is working on the Senior dog trials next.  

                                                                                                                              Photo by Jordan Kane

Finished Junior Dog

So, Jort invites us to come see Murphy in action at his first field trial competition.  It's a rainy, miserable, cold October Saturday.  We have to get up at 6 to be there in time.  I lug the camera bag, or rather my caddy does (he's my husband and I pay him with ice-cream and beer) and we arrive just in time to see the test dog run.  Murphy is fifth in this run.  And when it's his turn, he retrieves his three ducks without a problem on the land runs.  I got some not so great shots that day because of the weather, the rain and I had an ID-1O-T error (IDIOT) with my camera operations (too early in the morning to think).  And I felt so bad that they didn't turn out well that I volunteered us to go back the next Sunday to do it all again when Murphy competes in his first HUNT TEST.

Here are the resulting pictures.

Murphy is in his blind holding paws while Jort gives him a pep talk.

If he only knew there were ducks on the drying rack right in front of him.  

He has his eyes on his Master, always.

Now he's moved up to the first blind and will go next.  
Hence the ear rub and more pep talking.

Murphy's turn...OK, Murph, let's go get some ducks.

Murphy…he marks his first duck.

He marks his second duck.

And he's off…He will retrieve the second duck first.  Way out in the field,
there is a hill.  The duck was shot to fall behind the hill, making it a blind retrieve.

Murphy goes around the hill and picks up his duck, no problem.  
He brings it back past the lower judges to show it off.

Notice the wing over his eyes.  

Well, I guess a dog can only run so far with a wing over his face.  
He sets it down for just a second to get a better grip on it.

And he's off again.  This time with the whole duck over his face.

But he gets it there.  And his time wasn't bad.  

Now he brings back the first duck, not as far, but he still had to
remember where it fell.

A happier trip with no duck face.

Good dog, Murph,  Good dog.

Now, knowing that his retrieving is over, I put the camera away.  The next part of the Hunt Test, Murph moves off to the side and sits at heel position.  The next dog comes up, they shoot his ducks and off goes Murphy got there before the handler could even send her dog.  Another lovely retrieve. Unfortunately, that's called breaking and he was disqualified for the day.  

In all fairness, that's something that's hard to train, because you don't have another dog when you are training alone.  But it's something that Jort now knows he will have to work on.

It was a two day Test.  We only went the second day.  On the first day, Murphy made it through the first two trials and was disqualified on the water trial when he decided to go for a swim instead of a retrieve.  

Back to the drawing board...

                                                                      Photo by Rachael Kane
Inseperable Buddies

Dog events are a whole lot of fun to watch.  It took me back to our days of dog shows and coursing with our Afghan Hounds, back in the 70's.  Lots of memories of a wonderful time in our lives.  We made some wonderful friends and learned so much.  Dog people can't be beat.  They are just the greatest people.  Everyone is willing to help you even though they compete against you.  I'm so excited to see Jort in a training group.  He's meeting some wonderful folks that are guiding him on his way.  And after all that work, he has Murphy the Wonder Dog for a hunting partner.

                                                                                    Photo by Jordan Kane

Murphy in Stealth Mode waiting for bewitching hour to start duck hunting.

                                                                                    Photo by Jordan Kane

Murphy photo bombs his hunting partner.

Jordan and the Murph