Westminster Again…

Well, another year has gone by, and that means another Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

This year brought a change in venues, and that posed some interesting photographic challenges. The preliminary judging was held at 2 mammoth piers along the Hudson River, while the Best in Group and Best in Show events were conducted in the evenings at Madison Square Gardens.

The task of shooting 16 hour days, with 130 competitions over 200,000 feet of of convention spanning 2 miles of Midtown Manhattan was a monumental task. Limited access, multiple lighting scenarios, tight scheduling and deadlines all need to be anticipated and overcome in order to deliver the perfect shots to the client


But in the end, it’s another chance to push my self to my limits, doing the thing that I love.

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Feline Antics!

Photographing a large number of cats over the past month has given me a chance to ponder the difference between working with “professional,” “house,” and “rescue” animals for my advertising projects.

As a rule, I’ve opted for “professional” trained cats when a specific action is required. On a recent project to create the imagery for a line of cat food packaging, pros were the natural choice. Having an animal repeatedly “hit the mark” made composition, lighting, and camera setup much easier, and gave the client a level of comfort that we would deliver the shot they anticipated.

Amateur and rescue cats are another important part of my talent pool when a simple action is needed or maximum spontaneity is required. During the casting process, our animal handler will carefully determine each cat’s disposition and skills. Once we’ve found a selection with the personality we desire we can concentrate on a specific “look”.  In most cases we select 2 cats for each shot, a first choice and back-up, in case our hero decides to act… like a cat! From then on it’s repetition, anticipation, and patience: the three ingredients required to capture the perfect image.

At the end of the day, having so many rescue animals around calls into play my self-control; My studio is only so big, and I simply can’t adopt every animal that my heart tells me to!

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A Busy Summer…

2012 was a very busy summer here at the studio! It began in June, when this group of therapy dogs stopped by for a portrait session. Following  this goofy shoot, we focused on projects for Purina, Emerson, and Firestone in our Chicago Studio, and traveled extensively through July and August, shooting several different campaigns that are currently in post production.

Later in August I spent some time rejuvenating as I bicycled from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone with my wife and friends. This was my first time in Wyoming, and the extensive vistas and great company were a nice way to decompress from several weeks of non stop shooting.

We have a variety new projects on the horizon, so please check back to see more images. And don’t forget to check out our new  “Behind the Scenes”  movie for a quick look at all the work that goes behind each image I capture!

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Safari Time…

Base Camp from the air.

Last month I had the rare opportunity to fulfill a dream of mine; to photograph a large variety of the wildlife of Botswana. Not, as is customarily the case, in my studio, but to embark on a 14 day adventure to the center of South Africa.

Joined by my wife and 2 daughters, we criss-crossed the country of 220,000 sq miles, roughly half of which is protected as a national park. As we explored the magnificent terrain, it was apparent both the government officials and the local citizenry were committed to protecting this extraordinary natural habitat.


Wildlife photography is all about observing, planning, and then waiting. Anticipating the location of the sun, the habits of the wildlife, and the vagaries of the weather are only slightly different than dealing with clients, handlers, and deadlines back home. But, as is always the case, patience eventually pays off!














I won’t be trading my Chicago studio for a Range Rover anytime soon, but I do look forward to more opportunities to stretch my boundries and stir my creative juices visiting some of the most pristine ecosystems on our planet.


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The man behind the curtain.

If the shot looks simple…
…we’ve done our job, because it probably wasn’t. Every shoot involves the efforts of a team of individuals. Digital artist Dave Kreutz is the guy behind the scenes who makes my images come together. With a background in biology, music, and photography, Dave is truly a renaissance man who is involved in all aspects of the studio. During concepting, executing, and through post production, Dave’s influences are instrumental in making my photos shine. From subtle clean-ups and stylizing to multi-shot compositions, Dave’s skill and artistry help me deliver exactly what my clients demand – beautiful images.

As Dave and I celebrate 25 years of collaboration, I want to take a moment to say – “Thank You, Dave”.

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Dancing With . . . .

All modern domestic dogs are the direct descendants of the wolf. Tens of thousands of years ago, wolves came out of the forest and began their first interactions with humans. Some returned to the wild, but those that stayed were eventually domesticated and bred to become what we think of as “man’s best friend.” As a dog lover, I was thrilled to be awarded an assignment to photograph wolves for Emerson’s global advertising campaign. Many of the wolves used for movies and print have been bred to have a bit of domestic dog as part of their blood line, in order to make them more trainable. For Emerson, only a 100% purebred would be authentic enough for their needs.


In the studio, armed with a fan and tossing eco-friendly artificial snow, we ran them past the camera time and again. In order to keep these thick furred animals from panting, we lowered the temperature to 45°. Great for the wolves, but not so pleasant for our stand in dog – my daughter’s 4 year old Schnauzer, Gatsby.




Photographing these beautiful animals was a real treat, and if you’d like to see more Behind The Scenes photos, click here.

Client, crew, handlers and wolves.  A good time was had by all!


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My Therapist is a Dog!

Over the past year, my Lab Polly and I have been volunteering with the Canine Therapy Corps at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. CTC dogs have gone through a stringent screening process; training and testing in order to become certified for therapeutic programs at hospitals and institutions around the city. They are adept at helping profoundly injured patients with their therapy goals, as well as providing some light hearted “play” time that helps lower stress.

Last month, several of Polly’s “colleagues” dropped by the studio for a visit and photo session. All four of these dogs are family pets when they’re not working, and the fact that they’re so well trained made photographing them together a breeze. Once we placed them on the set, I simply asked each owner to cluster around my camera, instruct the dogs to stay, and keep them focused at my lens. What a pleasant alternative to the usual animal shoot!
If you’d like to see some images from behind the scenes of this photoshoot, please follow this link.

Next week we’re photographing Grey Wolves in the studio, and I have a feeling things may be a bit more up for grabs. But, that’s what makes my job so interesting, and so much fun!

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A New Year Begins!

Happy New Year!

As 2011 wound down, I learned that 2 of my photos had been selected as winners in the APA National Photo Contest; 1st place landscape & 2nd place lifestyle.

Also, as promised, here are a few of my favorites images from the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. This was our first time photographing this show for Purina, and we had a great time. Being a bit less restrictive than other shows, I was able capture some intimate moments behind the scenes and had great angles on the show floor. The worst part of such great access was getting hit in the head by NBC’s automated camera boom…
but that’s the cost of getting the shot!

We even took time to do a bit of sightseeing, taking in the Liberty Bell,
Ben Franklin’s Grave, and the oldest paved street in America.

Next month we’re back in NYC for the granddaddy of them all, the Westminster Dog Show. I’ll be sure to post about that, as well as some other interesting assignments and exotic travel planned for 2012, so do check back.

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A common question asked of me is how I became an animal photographer. Although I’ve had a life long love of animals, this speciality was not in my sights at the start.

I began my career as an advertising photographer specializing in table-top product photography, but slowly added larger products and automotive work to my portfolio. As my reputation for large scale subjects and productions grew, requests emerged for large animals as well. In 1995, I was hired by Chick-fil-A to produce a photograph depicting three cows wearing sandwich boards urging customers “Eat Mor Chikin”. The concept was the brainchild of Creative Director David Ring and Writer Gail Barlow of  The Richards Group. The photo we created increased sales for Chick-fil-A, won numerous awards, and is still being used as an integral part of the restaurant’s markeing efforts 17 years later. For the next 5 years, I continued to photograph cows for an elaborate annual calendar produced to expand the campaign. The exposure and awards these images garnered put me firmly on the map as a go-to-guy for animal photography.

In 1997, Chiat/Day Advertising, for whom we’d been shooting Nissan cars and trucks, unveiled their “Dogs Like Trucks” campaign. This image, which we shot for outdoor billboards, allowed us to combine two areas which were becoming our trademark: automotive and animals.

Through the early 2000s, I continued to photograph snakes, elephants, giraffes, and other amazing creatures, and in  2005, my crew and I flew to Melbourne, Australia for 10 days of photography for the marketing materials for Paramount Pictures live action film, Charlotte’s Web. This included print advertising , posters, coloring books, puzzles, and other promotional materials. Again, the exposure surrounding this shoot solidified my status as a photographer experienced with critters large and small.  There have been many other successful animal shoots along the way, but these three stand out as pivotal projects in my career

We returned just last week from the National Dog Show in Philadelphia, and had a blast photographing the behind the scenes at a top-tier competition. I look forward to sharing some of those photos with you next month.

Happy holidays to all!

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Best In Show

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our book Westminster Dog Show won an American Graphic Design Award, and was selected for inclusion in Altitude Associates book, Best of Cover Design.

I’m thrilled with the work Steve Liska of Liska & Associates contributed to this project, and with the fantastic reception this direct mail piece has received. Behind the scenes at a major dog show is a unique experience, and I think this collection really captures the spirit of the event. Thanks also to Brian Woolbright of Checkmark Communications for providing access to this amazing world of premier dog competitions.

Next month, we’re going to the National Dog Show in Philadelphia to photograph behind the scenes at that historic show. Please check this blog in January when I’ll share more stories and images from this year’s show.

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