Running with the Shadows

LIlah Jasper and Tucker running with their shadows

Every once in a while, I take a picture and know — just know — as soon as I release the shutter, that I got a good one.

Right subject. Right place. Right time. Right lighting.

The photo above is one of them.

I love the golden orange glow of the late-afternoon sun in winter. I love the positioning of the dogs. I love their tails curled up over their backs. I love the motion of the dogs juxtaposed with the imposing staticness of the trees.

And oh, how I love the shadows!

How I did it; it’s not just luck

One might think that the photo was just a matter of luck, but you’d only be partly right.

For pet photography — and this is true of any type of photography where you don’t have control of your subject — you have to take advantage of every aspect you can and then shoot away.

For me, this means my camera is nearly always within arm’s reach. It’s in my bedroom when I go to sleep. I take it to the kitchen when I eat. I take it to my office when I sit down to work. I bring it into the family room when I watch TV. I bring it outside every time I take the dogs out (unless weather conditions put my camera at risk.)

Know your location, know your subjects

I also know a few locations (my backyard, or inside my house for example) really well. I know the lighting at different times of day, and different times of year. I know the camera angles that contain the least amount of distractions.

Plus I know my subjects very well, which means I know where they like to be. And when. And why. So I know the time of day that sun streams through my dining room window to land precisely on my hallway stairs. And I know that the cats know this too.

I know that some of the most dramatic canine activity happens in the first few moments that my dogs are outside. That’s when they can catch up on all the sniffs that have accumulated since their last visit, following some of the best scents to see what they can scare up. It’s also their best chance to see, chase and bark at deer, or rabbits, or squirrels — before those creatures find less dog-filled locations.

Chasing shadows by standing still

At this time of year, I love to take pictures in the late afternoon, when two maples throw striking shadows across my backyard.

The problem with taking pictures of shadows is it’s hard to position yourself where your own shadow doesn’t interfere with the story in the picture.

In this case, I knew that if I stood right up against one of the trees and kept my elbows tucked in, I could hide my shadow within the borders of one of the maples.

So when I take the dogs out in the afternoon, I bring my camera and position myself within the shadow during the first ten minutes or so of their outdoor time. And wait to see what happens.

Then, and only then, is when luck comes in. Once I’ve done everything I can to be ready for it.

So when three dogs come trotting by on their way to investigate a sniff, I am there to capture the moment.

After a few minutes — usually when the action fades away — I’ll stop taking pictures.

Now it’s play time. I run with the dogs, throw Frisbees (for Lilah and Jasper), and toss balls (for Tucker).

But my camera is never far away.

What are your favorite places and times to take pictures of your pets?

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18 Comments on "Running with the Shadows"

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  1. Great photo! I love how the dogs and their shadows are centered in the shadows of the trees! Long shadows are the best! Happy WW

  2. slimdoggy says:

    It’s a great photo – well done. Obviously lots of skill & thought into the making. I try to be as thoughtful, but most of mine are still just dumb luck. Working on the skills.

  3. I will try it your way, maybe I can take such a cool photo too :o)

  4. Great advice. Photographing pets is one of the hardest things for me ever! I was never good with a camera (still have tons to learn) so I appreciate good sound advice and helpful hints from those whose photos I admire (present company included). Thanks for sharing…

  5. Love shadow photos. I just took some last night from my cell phone. It was interesting due to combo lighting. Great tips. Golden Woofs

  6. Earl Lover says:

    Beyond lovely guys.

    Woofs from Earl, Ethel and I at Earl’s World!

  7. Thanks for sharing tips!

  8. Emma says:

    My photographer likes to keep the camera close at all times too, or at least her phone, just in case, but still there are always times she misses because at that moment the camera was in the other room. Nice shadow pic! This time of year is good for shadows.

  9. I love shadow shots! There is a fantastic tree by our house that we keep meaning to catch at the perfect time!

  10. Robin says:

    Thank you for the photography tips! I love the photo. You are right about the lighting – it is fabulous 🙂

  11. Kitties Blue says:

    Susan, Mom says now she knows why your photos are always so wonderful. You are truly multi-talented; though, we know it helps to have good subjects. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  12. meowmeowmans says:

    That’s wonderful! I love the composition and the lighting both. 🙂

  13. Gilligan says:

    Good photo, and solid photo tips! *wags* – Gilligan from

  14. I’m more of a random time/place, I see something cute photographer lol.

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