Client Session ~ Hero the Great Dane
Hero’s session had been a long time in the planning. His mum Abbey had contacted me in 2012 to discuss booking a session while they were in Queensland in early 2013. Yep that’s right, Hero came all the way from a little town in South Australia for his photo session! Unfortunately it wasn’t all fun and games though, as the main reason for coming to Queensland was that Hero needed a hip replacement.
Since they’d come such a long way for the session, I wanted to choose the perfect location. Abbey and Hero were staying with family up near the Sunshine Coast, so I thought it might be interesting to shoot in one of the many plantation pine forests that blanket the area. I did two lots of location scouting, trying to find the perfect mix of large trees and lush green grass, with the sunshine coming from the right place behind the trees.
On the day of our session, the weather was perfect and Abbey and Hero were ready for their glamour shots. We arrived at the pine forest that I had scoped out only a couple of weeks earlier…. to be met with a disastrous sight! The undergrowth, including all that nice lush green grass, had been burnt off, leaving only dry charred vegetation behind. We had to make a quick decision – stay and make the best of it? Or leave to try and find greener pastures?
We decided to stay and see what we could do, and in hindsight I am so glad we did. The soft golden afternoon light coming through the trees, Hero’s gorgeous merle colouring, the blackened tree trunks and the charred earth all contributed to a palette of tones and range of textures that worked beautifully.
Next to the pine forest was a big open field with lush green grass. Fortunately, they didn’t attack this bit with fire! Hero was an absolute star and posed for us beautifully. I think he enjoyed getting out and about in the peaceful quiet of the countryside after his long trip up from South Australia.
One of my favourite things to do during a session is to play around with the natural light on offer. It always amazes me how different the same subject in the same spot can look depending on the angle of light and my shooting position. In the shot above, I was shooting with the sun directly behind me and falling straight on Hero. In the shot below, I was shooting directly into the light. Everything in the image takes on a different feel and even the colours shift into new and beautiful tonal ranges.
Hero totally adores his mum and walked up the dirt farm track with her beautifully, backlit by the sun and with the pine forest providing the ideal backdrop.
Another image shot with full sunshine with a soft blurry background due to my long (200mm) lens. I love this effect. Hero continued to pose perfectly, head high and ears forward to catch distant sounds that only he could hear.
Since I just couldn’t let go of the picture in my head of pine trees and long, green grass, we finished up at the original spot with just enough time to head off looking for the place in my mind. A short drive down the road, we came across this – pretty much exactly what I had pictured. The light was failing quickly so we had to shoot fast then move on.
Just down the road even further, there was park with a little bayside beach. I love the expression in the first shot, oh the power of the mighty squeaky toy!
Something I love capturing in my sessions is the bond between dog and human. Abbey and Hero were made for each other, they understand each other so well and he responds to her like no other.
Right at the end of the session as the sun was dipping below the horizon, we captured some beautiful silhouettes on the little beach. Silhouettes have a wonderful way of capturing the personality of the dog through movement, posture and gesture, something that is accentuated due to the lack of detail visible.
I contacted Abbey for an update a couple of days ago and was happy to hear that Hero is now home and doing well. He spent a grand total of three and a half months away from his beloved mum while recovering from his hip replacement surgery. Two weeks after the first operation they needed to go in again and reposition it, then unfortunately four weeks later had to remove it completely as his body rejected it. He is now left with a ‘false joint’.
Back home again now, Abbey happily reports he is still a character and has not lost any of his quirks. He still talks back constantly and is more of a shadow to Abbey than ever before, taking over his favourite household role of bed hog once again.
He isn’t putting much weight on his leg but lots of short controlled walks will assist him in the long road to building back his muscle and improving this. He has quite a bad ‘limp’ at the moment but the main thing is it’s no longer painful for him. From the way he acts, Abbey says, you wouldn’t even tell what an ordeal the poor guy has been through, still the goofy puppy and not letting anything slow him down or get in his way, which can be a bit of a issue at times!
Abbey also had this to say about her session with me:
“Thanks so much for the gorgeous photos Charlotte. I am so happy I decided to get them done, they are stunning and I’m so happy with them. You were also so great with Hero on the shoot… sometimes it can take a while for him to warm to people but he liked you from the word go.”