Anatolians : Snow Portraits in Motion

The past few days in the mountains of North Carolina has been icy, snowy, cold, and windy. Wind chills as low as 4° was common throughout the high country the past few nights. I decided to take advantage of the snowy days and photograph with the hope of getting an image I had envisioned since last winter. Our Anatolians, Apollo and Artemis love cold weather and true to their nature, they were busy outside keeping watch over the farm despite the cold.

The image I wanted was one with the brothers running in the snow showing their speed and intensity. As I have watched these dogs grow in the past year, it has become a favorite pasttime to watch these giant dogs run!

There were obstacles to getting the photograph I wanted. New camera, cold, windy, shutter speed, and just being able to capture them in the act of running were just some of the problems I encountered.

Timing in photography is everything. Many times capturing the moment involves knowing how to manipulate the camera settings for people to actually see what it is you want them to see such as motion. Translating what one sees in real time to a still image is sometimes a complicated passage.

I learned these past few days that capturing Anatolian movement can be an elusive subject. They are faster than you think! Over a period of three days I shot five different times for a few minutes each time. The wind was horrid, cold, gusty, and I had no choice but to photograph straight into it every time. Each time I went out with new confidence that this time was gonna be it. I was gonna get my shot! I am an manual mode shooter. My fingers know exactly where to go for what and when as I shoot. I have shot manual mode for the last eight years at least and never changed from it. Coming back into the warm house after a cold session with almost nothing to show for it, made me rethink my strategy. What if I set my shutter speed and let the aperture and f/stop be chosen around it? Even if I didn’t like what I got, I would know what neighborhood of settings I needed to be in to reason out the settings for the final image. It was too cold outside to be wasting precious Anatolian runs and time.

I know a lot about photographing for motion. I have shot motion successfully many times. These photographs are not one of these times. There’s so many variables in these particular attempts of the last few days. How fast is Apollo gonna run? Is he gonna put a lot of distance between him and his brother immediately? Is Artemis gonna react with as much intensity as Apollo at that moment? Is there any way to catch them head to head? What focal point do I really need to be at to catch the moment? Of course I knew, as close as you can get is the answer, but you need both dogs in the shot, that’s just gotta happen. The other rule is that an important part of the dog or dogs has to be in focus and that’s the head. No other body part is gonna work, the head of one of the dogs has to be in focus and that again is preferably the dog closest to you or in the lead depending on the composition of the image.

At the end of all of this, the sessions and the blog, I am not finished with my image. Hopefully I will have a few more chances this winter to get the image I so desire. I have learned that 1/30, 1/40, 1/50, and 1/60 is not fast enough. I have learned that I need to think through these shots again. Anatolians are fast, quick, and expressive. I will keep trying.

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