Hayley | State College pet photography

I ask every client why they are choosing to get professional photos taken of their furry family members now. It’s important to me to know what is going on at this time in their life that prompted them to call me. After all, we don’t hire professional photographers often. Sure, we take photos almost daily with our cell phones, but hiring a professional photographer is generally reserved for special occasions. When Hayley’s family called me, they felt it was important to have a family photo now before it was too late. Hayley is 11 and in greyhound years, that’s getting up there. She’s still healthy and active, but they’ve noticed signs of her slowing down. So we set up a session for this fall. 

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Our original date ended up being too overcast and frankly, too warm. So we rescheduled for a few days later when the temperatures dropped to a more typical range. It was a beautiful sunny day and as the earth rotates, I find the golden hour even more spectacular in the fall than in the spring and summer. 

Hayley was a former racing dog who was rescued when she was about 2 years old. Retired because she was too slow, she found her way to PA and into the hearts of one couple. They had dogs before, but Hayley was their first greyhound. It didn't take long before they saw how special this girl is. They doted on and treated her like a princess. Here in central PA, we have a wonderful organization, Nittany Greyhounds, that has found homes for over 1000 retired racing greyhounds. Hayley was one of them. 

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Hayley was a little nervous and anxious when she got to the park. Lots of kids were out playing on the basketball court nearby. She wasn’t sure of all the brush under her feet in the field either. So I had her owners walk her around a little bit to shake off some of her nervous energy. Always on alert, it was hard to distract her with noises and flying objects as we tried to get her attention toward the camera. After a while, I swear she felt she was too mature for these kinds of games and tuned me out completely. In spite of that, we did get some great shots of her relaxed and ears perked forward. In fact, I might even go as far as saying she is smiling! 

Hayley's family portrait all hang on the wall next to an older family photo taken when she was much younger. It's sessions like this that I am grateful for being a part of capturing a moment in time that will be cherished for many years to come. 

Bark for Life - Part II

Over the weekend I was one of the vendors at the Bark for Life. Not only did I have a table with a display of my work, for a donation I also take photos of the dogs and/or their families who walk for the Bark for Life. Founded to raise awareness for cancer in both canines and their human friends, this is a cause that's near and dear to my heart having lost my first dog, Mika, to hemangiosarcoma (a cancer of the blood) a few years ago.

We had the picture perfect September day for this event. With the sun popping in and out of the clouds, it was the optimal condition for a photographer! I captured lots of head tilts on the bridge at the Pennsylvania Military Museum. While there was a smaller crowd participating, there were more vendors than in previous years. Hopefully next year, there will be a bigger turnout. It's a great way to spend an afternoon with your pooch and help a wonderful charity!

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Lessons from the Dog - Play Daily

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It’s the middle of summer and I’m in the thick of peak season of pet sitting. When folks are traveling, that’s when I’m busiest taking care of pets who can’t travel with their families. The busier I get, the less free time I have. Which means that my dogs spend more time home alone and get walked less often. I always say the best part of my day is coming home to them. Not only do I get to take my shoes off and put my feet up for a break, but I get to spend time with them.

Izzy and Kita on the other hand are full of energy and ready to play. Often, I push them away and say later. I’ve got emails to check, phone calls to make, laundry to finish and so on. Kita being the younger of the two, is usually more excited for some playtime. If she’s especially bored, she’ll get the toys from her toy box out and spread them all over the living room. To get my attention or to entice me to play, she’ll grab a toy and bounce over to me, wiggling her butt and then running away when I make a move toward her. Time for a game of chase, I can hear her thinking! It’s hard not to engage her, no matter what. And when I do, I’m always grateful I did.

Yes, phone calls are important, and I do need some clean socks to wear tomorrow, but seeing how happy they are after a game of tug of war, or chase makes me feel better than any amount of clean laundry! So I try my best to make time daily to play with my girls. Just like going for a walk, breaks from work, chores and the computer are good for my mind. Kita is so goofy when she plays she often makes me laugh. And laughter is good for the soul.

When I’m having an especially stressful day, Izzy and Kita are always there to remind me it’s the little things in life that matter most. Spending time together, having fun and most of all playing, even just for 10 minutes a day, can put the things I stress about in perspective. At the end of the day, what I remember most is how I spent my time with my girls simply living and enjoying life.

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Lessons from the dog - play daily

Puppies, puppies and more puppies!

When my friend and Sporty Dog daycare owner Julie announced that her girl Cantina was expecting, I can’t remember how many seconds it took before I suggested we needed to do a puppy photo session! I’ve photographed all of Julie’s dogs and have enjoyed every session with them. Because of their agility and obedience training, they are so well behaved. Which is perfect for me since I don’t need to worry about wrangling them in addition to capturing the shot I have in mind.  Granted, puppies won’t be as well behaved, but they’re puppies, and well, how is that not going be to be fun???

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Julie suggested I come over and meet the litter first and so I could get to know them. It also gave me the opportunity to figure out where to set up since I planned on bringing my studio equipment for this. With eight puppies in the litter, trying to do this outdoors would be nearly impossible. We opted not to get a group photo, instead just focusing on one puppy at a time.

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When we scheduled the session, the pups were six and a half weeks old. Old enough to start developing personalities, but young enough that they weren’t too rambunctious. I found this great little child’s chair that would be the perfect prop. I also have a collection of boxes and crates that I brought with me too. It had been two weeks since I met the pups, and underestimated how much they had grown. They had outgrown some of the baskets I had planned on using!

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The puppies did great! Once we got them into place, Julie spotted just in case they dared to jump. If I took too long, they’d start crying. My lighting equipment didn’t bother them, nor did the paper backdrop I had set up.  Time flew by and before I knew it, I was packed up and on my way back home. It doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyways…they were so delightful! With their tiny cries, adorable faces and cute playfulness, puppies have a way of making any day the best day ever! Here are a few shots from that afternoon!

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Lessons from the Dog - Be Present

When I was in high school, I played tennis. I took lessons for years and became a pretty good technical player. But tennis, like all sports, has a psychological aspect as well. While it’s an important part of any athlete’s game, I think it’s especially so for individual sports like tennis. My psychological game was what kept me from being a star player.

During a game, if I was up 40-love, I’d tell myself whatever you do, don’t double fault. If you do, then your opponent will be one point closer to winning the game. And what did I do? Double faulted. Next point I might tell myself, ok, just get the serve in the court, but then don’t hit the ball into the net. Can you guess what happened? Yep. I hit the return straight into the net. And before I knew it, I lost the game, set and match. Happened to me all the time.

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Why? Because I couldn’t stay in the moment. In my head, I created scenario after scenario that I didn’t want to happen. If you believe the universe responds to what you put out there, I got exactly what I wanted. Just by my thoughts.

I’ve done this in other scenarios as well. I read a book about being present and I never forgot this passage. Say you are driving to the school to pick up your kids. In the moment, you are asked what you are doing. Most of us would answer, “Going to pick up my kids.” But if you were living in the moment, your answer would be “I’m driving my car.” Think about that answer. Not quite the same, is it? One addresses specifically the moment, the other addresses what you hope the future will be. But what if you get in a car accident? Or your kids call and say they will get a ride from a friend? Then your future doesn’t involve picking up your kids. So now, you aren't going to pick up your kids. The only thing we ever know for sure is what is happening in this very moment.

Isn’t this how our dogs live? Now, they could get a pass because they don’t have to plan ahead and make sure they have enough food to eat dinner tonight. All they know is that it’s dinnertime and food will appear in their bowl around the same time every single day.

Ever hear of a dog complain he was up half the night worrying about tomorrow’s storms? Or walk faster because she knows it’s time to get home to get her nails trimmed? No, they live vicariously in the moment. Always. Shouldn’t we be more like them? Take a walk and smell the roses. Literally. Stop texting, or talking on the phone. Take in everything around you. Feel the sun, the wind, smell the flowers, see the butterflies, hear the birds chirping. Live fully right here, right now.

We’re too busy multitasking, racing through our days because we have so much to do. Who wouldn’t want a simpler, more full life? Learn from your dogs. Next time you take a walk together, be fully present. And let me know how it goes.

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Lessons from the dog - Be present