I’ve traveled the world to see blue ice up close. In Iceland I’ve kayaked between icebergs in a glacial lagoon and watched the blue icebergs float by through the rain at the Jökulsárlón lagoon in Iceland. In New Zealand we took a tour on a zodiac boat through the glacial lagoon near Mount Cook. Unfortunately we couldn’t get too close, since icebergs can be so unpredictable.
So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that blue ice occasionally appears along the shores of the Great Lakes. Yep, right here in Michigan! It doesn’t happen all the time, the last time was in 2018. And since this was the first time I experienced the blue ice I can’t tell you if it’s always this amazing. But I can tell you that it exceeded any of my expectations.
And the bonus of having the blue ice in Michigan? We could take our dogs, which means a dog photoshoot on the blue ice!!!
So rather than keep trying to explain what the blue ice was like, take a look for yourself. Bernie and Violet thoroughly enjoyed their photoshoots. I went back three times over two days since we were only an hour and a half away at the time.
I would have scheduled clients and gone back more except that the weather has alternated between 8” of snow (can’t see the blue ice at all) or temperatures in the high 30’s and open water near the blue ice since then. As of late February it’s not safe to go on the ice anymore.
Why does the ice look blue?
Blue ice occurs when there are few air bubbles, affecting how the light is reflected back.
Where is the blue ice in Michigan?
Along the lakeshore of Mackinaw City, at the south end of the Mackinac Bridge.
Is there still blue ice in Mackinaw City?
You may still be able to see it from the shoreline, but as of the end of February I don’t believe it’s safe to walk out to the blue ice. A lot of people will say that it’s never safe to walk out to the blue ice. I felt comfortable the two days I went, but the next day it had warmed up too much and the risk of open water is much higher. At this point I wouldn’t risk it. But if there is a week where the temperature doesn’t get above freezing I would reevaluate (if the blue ice is still there at all by then). Update: as of early March some of the blue ice has shifted over to Mackinac Island and there is a lot of open water around the ice so I definitely would not risk going to it.
Style. What exactly is it? And why would I care when it comes to pet photography style is probably what you’re asking yourself right now. Stay with me, I think I’ll be able to answer both of those questions.
As a photographer I am always learning. Whether it’s a new editing skill, experimenting with studio lights, or even different genres of photography. I love taking courses and workshops, meeting up with other people who share the same passions. And the pet photography niche is no different, though it may be the friendliest group of photographers that I’ve ever met.
It’s also no secret that I’m obsessed with traveling. My dream job is to work with amazing pets and their people around the world. So when I found a pet photography specific workshop called StyleLab in Tasmania, Australia, that was accepting a limited number of photographers I knew I had to apply. (Full disclosure, I was a little nervous about going to Tasmania because have you seen how big the spiders are there? But I decided to apply anyway, that is how dedicated I am!)
What really appealed to me about this particular workshop was that it focused on the style aspect of photography. So what is style? It’s a representation of your unique vision of the world, a consistent feeling. When it’s done correctly someone might see an image and instantly know who the photographer was.
And the reason it’s important to have a pet photography style is so that a client knows exactly what they’re going to get. If you want images that are natural and light and bright but your photographer loves a dark and moody edit someone is not going to be happy!
So my husband and I flew halfway around the world to meet up with an amazing group of pet photographers (instructors Charlotte Reeves, Craig Bullock, and Alicja Zmyslowska) and I had four intense days of classroom, photoshoots, experimentation, and feedback. I was in heaven!!! And did I mention that it was in Tasmania???
Looking at the portfolio of images I had submitted the style descriptions the group came up with were whimsical, clean, natural, photojournalistic, and happy.
Breaking these down- to me whimsical is playful and fun but I think it’s also about capturing those personality quirks that make our pets so unique. That tongue hanging out of the side of the mouth? The crossed paws? The play bow before your dog launches into a game? A bright bowtie? I love capturing those details.
Clean and natural definitely speak to the lighting and clear backgrounds that I love. Spending so many years in landscape and travel photography helped hone my ability to see how the light hits a subject. And I’m obsessed with making sure the background plays a supporting role to your pet (yes, that means that I may ask you to move some furniture at a home session). I also spend a lot of time editing final images to make sure any little distractions are removed.
I think photojournalistic is another way to say unposed and relaxed. Again, it’s letting your pet set the flow of the session so they can be themselves. Don’t be surprised if I follow your pet around for at least the first part of our portrait session. I’ll throw in some guidance and use all my tricks to get their attention, but it’s all about them. Authentic would probably be another word that would apply, even though it’s completely overused these days.
Happy goes hand in hand with photojournalism in this case. Because we’ve done our homework and understand what situation your pet is going to do best in, and because I have lots of both patience and treats the goal is to make sure that everyone is having a good time. And that includes you, no stress! That happiness is going to come through in your images.
This is why you come to me as a specialized pet photographer. Subtle body, ear, tail, and eye position indicates when a pet is uncomfortable. If you don’t understand the body language your images might feel off, because that’s what the pet was telling you in various ways.
During the workshop we also had the chance to explore our style a little bit and challenge ourselves. I was a little surprised at the results. I definitely found a few new themes that I want to explore further, like silhouettes and more dramatic lighting including some off camera flash. I don’t think my style will change significantly but it’s always evolving and being refined.
So what kind of pet photography style appeals to you? If you like the more formal, everything must be perfect and your pet must be at attention the whole time then I’m probably not the right photographer for you. Actually I’m sure I’m not the right person for you. But if you like whimsy, fun, and want to celebrate what makes your pet unique then let’s chat!
In the end was flying halfway around the world to experiment and define my pet photography style worth it? Hell yes. Just getting to know the other photographers alone made it worth the trip. And thankfully I didn’t see any of the monster spiders or venomous snakes.
But I think I’m also much more aware of my style and how to communicate that to my future clients as well. My portfolio is a representation of that style. There should be no surprises, you should know exactly the kind of images you’ll get with me.
And if for any reason there is a disconnect or you aren’t happy with your images my portrait sessions come with a full money back guarantee. So don’t wait, get on the schedule now.
Impromptu dog photoshoot on the highest peak in Germany
I’m standing on the observation deck of the Zugsptize, over 9,700 feet up in Germany, looking out over the snow covered peaks. It took a nerve-wracking ride on the record breaking Seilbahn Zugspitze cable car (currently closed as of 2018 due to a maintenance accident, yikes!) to get here, but the views are worth it. You can see the alps across three countries from this vantage point, or you can walk over to the Austrian platform to check out the view from that perspective. No matter country you choose to stand in, you will not be disappointed. If you’re crazy enough you can even climb the last little bit to the summit (I am not that crazy). And as always, there is a restaurant (best pretzels of our trip and I tasted many just to be sure) with the prerequisite beer while you’re enjoying those views.
I gaze around at the scenery in all directions and suddenly catch my breath. I turn to my husband and whisper, “Oh my god!” He twists around toward where I am staring, trying to see what has me so excited. “There’s a dog up here”, I say with glee. He sees the dog, then looks back at me. He grabs his backpack, pulls out his book, and says, “I’ll go get a beer and read, have fun”. This is one of the many reasons why I love him, he just gets me. No matter where I go, I’ll always be a dog photographer first!
I approach the woman with the dog, a gorgeous Australian Shepherd, and hope that she speaks english. She does and only looks somewhat confused when I explain that I’m a professional pet photographer and would she like me to take some images of her dog. But she agrees. I lead them over to the best spot on the observation deck near the stairs. It’s the only part where there isn’t any fencing to obstruct the view of the mountains in the background and I start posing her dog, Danny. He’s very well trained, which is not normal in most of my experience (is it me or are dogs in Europe generally better trained?). People are walking up and down the stairs and I’m working the background to make them as unobtrusive as possible but it’s a busy day on Zugspitze. Luckily I have my dog squeaker in my camera bag (always), so I’m able to keep Danny’s attention despite all of the distractions.
Pretty soon I am laying on my stomach to get the shot, and other tourists are taking photos of me taking photos of the dog. Another tourist wants his photo with the pup. I hardly notice them or the puddles of melted snow that I’m laying in. I’m working fast, the platform is filling up with more people and I don’t want to disrupt this woman’s whole day, but I am in heaven. Seriously, I’m in a gorgeous location halfway around the world from Michigan, taking photos of a dog. It doesn’t get much better than this. I exchange email addresses with Anne and promise to send her gallery when I get back from our trip.
Eventually I join my husband for a beer and pretzel in front of the view. But now he’s into it, pointing out other dogs and encouraging me to take more photos. What was supposed to be an hour long adventure to see the tallest point in Germany has turned into half a day but we’re both having a fabulous time.
We were having so much fun that after our descent back down to Eibsee we decide to walk around the lake one more time. I had met some huskies along the edge of the alpine lake on our hike the day before and had managed to grab a few papparazzi images of them. And we ran into them on top of Zugspitze, too, it’s such a small world! I hoped to see more dogs in the same location and I was not disappointed. We were entertained by a happy little Jack Russell terrier named Henry (you might recognize him from my top 2018 derpy dog moments). Eventually though, we had to move on.
Not long after I sent Danny’s images to Anne I learn that he tragically passed away in an accident. I’m incredibly sorry for her loss, I know all too well how difficult that is. But I’m so glad that I approached a woman halfway around the world about an impromptu dog photo shoot on top of the tallest mountain in Germany. At least she has the images of her boy, on top of the mountain in the sunshine. We’ll both have those happy memories.
I hope you enjoyed the images from our trip to Germany. It was a fun challenge to make the best possible results within a limited time frame in a new area, sometimes with a language barrier. Imagine the kind of images I could take of your pet, with more time and your input for pre-planning. While I am based in southeastern Michigan I do love to travel. So don’t let location stop you from setting up a portrait session for your pet. Destination weddings are a thing, why not destination pet portraits? Because pets are family, too!