A Photographer’s Best Friend
Dogs are some of the best hiking companions and models that an outdoor photographer can bring along on photo adventures. Whether you leave at 3 a.m. to catch a sunrise on a mountain, or at Midnight to find some stars deep in the countryside, these canine companions eagerly spring up from that half-asleep state and are immediately ready for any adventure.
Their primal excitement and boundless energy motivate me to go out and take their pictures.
My dogs cannot speak but they sure know how to enjoy the moment. Watching them discover new smells and new environments is beyond satisfying, and catching these raw behaviors on camera in diverse landscapes has become somewhat of a recurring theme in my photography.
Despite the fact that I have a soft spot for traditional landscape photography, it does sometimes leave me with an empty, unfulfilled feeling artistically. A big reason behind that response might be due to my background in animation storytelling. At times, it feels like I have this insatiable hunger to tell a story, to go beyond that same old landscape shot taken by many others before me.
It is not to say a landscape itself does not tell a good enough story, but being surrounded by dogs has encouraged me to tell a different kind of narrative through my lens, which has helped me fill in much of that artistic void. To me, dogs add such a pleasing and inviting sense of scale and character to my images.
Living in Korea has given me a unique opportunity to explore new colors, compositions, shapes and textures with my wife and two dogs. Most dogs are welcome in outdoor places (except for National and Provincial parks), as long as the owner monitors the dog and keeps them on a leash in busy public places. There is most definitely no shortage of fascinating locations in Korea to take pictures of our four legged companions. My favorite locations so far have been Jeonju Hanok village, random beaches along the west sea coast and, of course, the many mountain trails spread out all over this country. Korea is after all 70 percent mountains.
My two biggest challenges in taking appealing dog photos has been keeping the dogs in focus and the Korean weather/ pollution conditions. Dogs are very much like kids on an extreme sugar rush x100, at a Chucky Cheese birthday party.
They run around and you do not know when or where they will stop. It is especially tricky when you are after those “shallow depth of field” shots. With repeated practice and a lot of playing around with camera settings, it has become easier to get the shots that I want.
Weather on the other hand is something that cannot be controlled with knobs and switches. Most weekends the weather and lighting is really uninspiring, but when the weather does sync up with my schedule and gives you amazing conditions, be it some nice layers of fog and mist or a Miyazaki-picturesque sky, Korea transforms into the most inspiring set that allows me to explore my creative take of dogs exploring Korea.
After living in Korea for 5 years, I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what this country has to offer visually and so the adventure continues, with my dogs alongside me.
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