Anatolian Snow Portraits in Motion

by Sarah Ernst February. 04, 2021 280 views
Apollo & Artemis

Apollo & Artemis

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!

Artemis & Apollo playing in the snow.

Artemis & Apollo playing in the snow.

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.

The boys investigating a sound close to the farm gate.

The boys investigating a sound close to the farm gate.

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.

Artemis and Apollo walking back from a quick jaunt.

Artemis and Apollo walking back from a quick jaunt.

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.

Intensity

Intensity

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.

Running all out!

Running all out!

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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Benny Law 7 months, 3 weeks ago

These are beautiful dogs and it's definitely worthwhile to keep trying. Looking at the EXIF, I would say the shutter speed is definitely too slow for capturing your dogs running. You may want to fix the shutter speed at 1/500 or higher and set the ISO and aperture to auto. Use the auto continuous focus mode if it's available on your camera. When shooting, use a panning motion to follow the dogs and don't stop the motion when you press the shutter button. Hope these tips help, and I wish you success.

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Sarah Ernst Replied to Benny Law 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Hi Benny,  
They are beautiful boys.  Thank you. They are our livestock guardians. They  watch over our horses and other dogs on our farm. Your daughter's Malamute is gorgeous as well. 
I suppose I was not clear in my intent in this session. I was looking for motion. Its just these boys were not typical in a panning type shooting.  They run up to 35mph and can be fast to start or slow to start and space to pan can be limited in the area that I was photographing. To stop their motion I would have easily gone up  to 1/500 or higher, but I was looking for a lot of blur but these guys were faster than I anticipated. I started out shooting at 1/30 but that was too slow for them, 1/40 began to get me in the ball park of where I wanted to be, but again too slow. I was trying to photograph them in a specific area of the midst of their run but what speed they were gonna be each run was iffy. I finally at 1/60 got images I liked but really to still show motion blur, I think, I could have gone as high as 1/80 with them and maybe 1/100 and still see blur. I catch them quite often at high shutter speeds and stop their motion but this time in a snowstorm, I was after their motion and the snow coming down in the wind. Horses, motorcycles, cars, are objects that is pretty easy to pan and get shutter speed correct, but these boys were a challenge the past few days. I have been a wedding/event/ photographer for years so and I use this technique of slow shutter with intent focus to catch blur in dances etc but these particular shots were just something I had in my mind and really was working on what shutter speed I needed consistently with these two dogs to get blur and stop movement at place of focus. I was also being mindful of location behind them, thus I pan and shoot as I go. 
Thank you though for your comments.  I got to read some of your blogs earlier this eve and loved your animal posts.

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Benny Law Replied to Sarah Ernst 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you, Sarah. Sorry for misunderstanding your intention. Hope you can capture some nice images of your dogs with the desired effect. Sounds like you have a nice environment where you live with lots of opportunities for taking photos.

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
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