Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Newfoundland in Newfoundland

Deanne McNeil lives in heaven - at least she can see if from there…… Well, kinda. From her home in Nova Scotia, she has fairly easy access to Newfoundland - that wicked island that stole my heart and kept it when we visited last year. She asked my opinion on a striking photograph she took of her Newfoundland Dog, Angel, at Rose Blanche, NL.

When I first saw the image I was impressed with it's simplicity. She has carried off something that isn't always easy to do - photographing a Newfoundland on a white rock with water behind it. It can be a technical nightmare.

One thing that sets a "photographer" apart from a casual "snapper" is care with location. Make sure your background is free of clutter - cars, legs, phone poles - these are all things that can distract a viewer from the subject. Dee has done a beautiful job of isolating her subject and she has set Angel in a location where she contrasts nicely with both back and foreground.

Before I continue, a word of caution - ALWAYS photograph using the highest resolution you can. Yes, if you set your camera right you can get a zillion images on one memory card, but they will be too small to crop or enlarge successfully, so get in the habit of shooting large files.

Now, a couple things that might strengthen this particular image. First, move in closer. There is a lot of sky that doesn't give us any information. I use sky in my images if there are impressive clouds, but a little open blue sky can go a long way, so we're going to crop a bunch of that out. This gives the dog more prominence. We haven't lost the significance of the water, but by allowing Angel to occupy more space in the image, it is now more about the dog and less about the vastness of the ocean. While cropping, let's straighten the skyline up a bit.

Second, consider moving the dog off-center. There is a rule called "the rule of thirds" where you divide a frame into thirds horizontally and again vertically. Place your subject where one of these lines converge for the strongest position. Since I liked the texture of the rocks better than the empty expanse of the sky, I placed Angel along the top third of the frame and to the left. Since she is looking to the right of the frame, this gives her room to look off at the world.

Third, our eyes naturally are drawn to what is lightest and since the rock is white and the sky is light - the eye goes to the dog, then wants to drift away and out of the frame. So, I pulled out a program called Lightroom that I use for times like these and put a slight darkening around the edges of the image. This subtly pulls the viewer back to the dog and has the added bonus of adding just a wee bit of texture back into the rocks. Check the computer program you are using - you may have this feature as well.

When I asked Dee what her motivation was behind taking this image she said it was about her Newfoundland at her birthplace and she wanted to pull in the significance of the water. In a perfect world, I'd have taken Angel down to the water's edge, but I know that location and getting to the water is no easy, or safe, task. I think she succeeded in reaching her goal with this shot!

This is a challenging location to photograph. It is rugged and beautiful and sits high above the sea. It is an amazing coincidence that the image I use in the masthead of this blog of Arayo digging around on the rocks - was taken at the same place!

Thanks, Dee, for letting me use your image as an example. Very nice job in a beautiful but tough place to photograph!


  1. This is awesome Karyn!!! Love that you are doing this!! I will submit one when I get up enough nerve!! But thanks to Deanne for being the first one to dive in....lovely!!

  2. The goal is not to rip anyone apart but to offer gentle suggestions that will help everyone.

  3. I just read your review of my picture, Amazing! It looks so much better after you made those changes! I will certainly remember your comments when I photograph in the future.

    Thank you so much!!!

    I can't wait to see what comes in next!

    Deanne McNeil
    TowLine Newfoundlands

  4. Great start to the Newf-photo blog, Karyn! Very helpful advice on the composition of that picture. (I learned about the rule of thirds when I was in grad school studying 18th century aesthetics, and thought at the time it was kind of silly. I have since learned, of course, of its powerful importance, and its application certainly improved that photo --as did straightening the horizon!)

    Well done!

  5. I found out about this website from one of my Facebook friends that has a half sibling to one of our Newfs. I love taking photos of our Newfs and am always trying to learn new ways I can capture a good image of them--usually I learn just by trial and error! The image you used for this critique was beautirful to start with and you made it even more pleasing to the eye! I would like to get a critique on a photo I took this last spring, but the only link I have is my Facebook profile--I am using the photo as my profile photo, but it is cut off and FB just doesn't do it any justice.

  6. Will the above person who left the anonymous comment send me another comment with a different e-mail addy? I tried to respond and it was rejected as an "illegal domaine"!