Friday, February 19, 2010

Life Outside the Agility Lane

SUMMARY: Walking, photos, funeral--

I've started a standing date [well--I guess a standing walking date] with a friend to go for a bit of a walk-hike Friday mornings to make sure I get out and move. The dogs go with us. These are for our own exercise, so we haven't been taking our nice cameras with us. Today we walked along the Los Alamitos Creek Trail--another one of our urban trails that meanders in a more-or-less natural setting alongside a creek, with houses and businesses lurking unobtrusively on either side.

It was a fantastic section of trail, and only about 5 minutes from my house. Wildflowers are starting to come out everywhere; birdhouses of various sizes are placed strategically all among the trees. We saw tons of birds of many varieties, up to a great blue heron soaring past. Talked for a bit with a photographer with his tripod set-up, poised to snap woodpecker photos, and we had a nice chat about birds and nature and all that. I am going to have to go back with my camera. In my copious spare time. Since I don't take nearly enough photos already. [Riiiiight--]

I missed my 52 weeks for dogs photo last week. Today, with help of aforementioned friend, I went into the yard with Tika and the camera specifically to get this shot:

This was about the middle shot of 30 I took from different angles while the friend baited Tika's attention with treats. I rather like this. BUT a little bit earlier, I was able to snap a whole bunch of "ready" photos of Tika while the renter baited her attention with her Jolly Ball, and I decided that it would be more likely that I could reproduce the ear photo at some later date than the nice ready pose. [Rule is that the photo must be taken & posted in the same week.]

Good thing we got in some photos and exercise today (also did some agility late this afternoon) because tomorrow I'll be gone likely all day to John Nunes' funeral. I expect to see quite a few other agility folks there, but he also has a huge extended family that I've never met, and from all accounts they're all as wonderful as he is. Was. Argh.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

52 Weeks for Dogs, week 1

SUMMARY: A photography challenge

I've been accepted into the Flickr group 52 Weeks for Dogs. The challenge is to post a different photo of the same dog every week for an entire year, stretching your skills as a photographer, because there are SO many dogs and SO many photos of them. Fellow agility blogger Many Muddy Paws got me into this; Mutts and a Klutz are also new members this year. They've stopped accepting people with Border Collies this year because there are so many already! But I'm going to use Tika this year in any event; she's getting on in years (well--9 in February--) and I think I tend to take more photos of Boost.

Here's my first week's photo:

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scully Retires

SUMMARY: Scully--Verwende Prinses--treats her friends to ice cream and it's COLD out there plus going nuts with the camera
You'd never guess that Scully is closer to 14 than 13. She's been mostly retired, trying to get just 1 last Q for her lifetime bronze but just not quite fast enough any more most of the time. Plus she's a LITTLE dog. Plus a princess. Scully's class-time retirement party was last night, so we visited the class and took photos of everyone there to celebrate.

OK, maybe they were mostly there for class. But Scully's human dad came up for the mini-party, too; he made awesome ice cream

and it was still excellent but would've been even more excellent had it been 2 days ago and 100 degrees instead of last night at 60 with a brisk and icy wind. Yesterday: Summer. Today: Winter. Gotta love california.

Scully could hardly hold still, she was so excited. This is about the only shot where she's not in full hyper motion-- with her human family, waiting for some ice cream.

Mostly the Little Black Dog looked like this in all the photos.

You would hardly believe that this little active fluffball, multiple agility champion and possibly the most-titled dog in the Mixed Breed Dog Club's history (to be exact: ADCH APD SACH RCH-Bronze SCH-Bronze TM-Bronze AKD-Gold AGD AJD; C-ATCH3 ExSN ExJP ExCL ExFH ExWC ChSN ChST ChJP ChCL ChFH ChWC ChJU U-CD MB-CH MB-CDX MB-RA MB-VM5; EAC EGC EJC CGC), spent the weekend in the hospital being treated for just-discovered kidney disease and a tetch of pancreatitis. She will be getting IV fluids two or three times a week for the rest of her life. I guess if you get ice cream with that, it's not so bad.

Other guests/students:
Sparkle (Scully's Little Black Adopted Sister):

Bernie the Beagle:

MinPin Belle:

Porsche the Wonder Corgi:

Savannah who whupped everyone's butts in 22" Masters Gamblers last weekend:

Dylan, who looks perfect in sunset lighting:

Sooner,  the Papillon whose ears drape gracefully down the sides of his head instead of standing upright in a butterflyish manner, and who was curious about everything except what it would be like to hold still for the camera:

Boost and Tika had to wait in MUTT MVR until the 2nd class of the evening. Tika demonstrates that a really good shake, when in a freeze frame, looks pretty dorky:

Still dealing with my little crappy point and shoot, which likes neither motion (great for photographing dogs) nor any kind of darkness (great for photographing around sunset). But as long as I was there and the lighting and sky were beautiful and the nearly full moon was up--what the heck--get artsy and all that.

Waiting their turns.

Walking the course.

No hamming it up for the camera from the instructor demonstrating push-throughs, nope, not at all:

Tunnel. Moon. Agility handler. What could simpler?

Moon. Field light. Instructor. Successfully finishing a course. What could be better?

More photos uploaded here but mostly of interest to class attendees.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Recap and What's Next

SUMMARY: Who's anal, who ate too much of the wrong things, who needs a camera, who's doing some real hikey-climbey thing.

Who ate too much of the wrong things (at Vicon)

Spent Friday through Sunday at the 25th annual Vicon (VIsalia CONvention, although it's not a convention and this year wasn't even in Visalia, so some people are calling it Sarcon because it was in Saratoga this year). It's a giant 3-day sleepover party for a bunch of college friends who have somehow turned into programmers, tech writers, parents of teenagers, VPs of engineering, PHDs in psychology, executive administrators, retired Captains, and other sorts of things that you wouldn't expect to see at a sleepover party.

Except this year, because it was closer to home, most of the weenies showed up only for Saturday afternoon and evening. Only half a dozen of us slept over, even though it was only 20 minutes from our assorted houses. It's the spirit of the thing, really. Felt kinda lonely Saturday and Sunday morning from the usual 20 people for breakfast. But it was still fun and something like 34 people (including half a dozen small children) made an appearance at least briefly sometime during the weekend, so it was pretty successful anyway. I woke up to a stunning swath of bougainvillea both mornings. What could be better? (I slept on a lawn chair; one guy slept in a tent.)

No dogs at all--TMH Merle Girls stayed home with Renter--but coming out of the kitchen on Saturday, trying to negotiate the small children's toyfield, I almost tripped over this:

The hard part was eating healthy. We had robust healthy breakfasts.

Vegetarian lunches.

Hamburgers and thickly mayoed potato salad for dinners. Plus handy snacks.

And dessert. The cakes arrived with no phrasing, so I was volunteered to add appropriate messages.


After a weekend spent mostly trying to take photos in difficult lighting situations of mostly moving objects with a basic point-and-shoot that doesn't like difficult lighting or moving objects, I really really miss having a real camera. Took my borrowed one for a few photos, but battery is getting low. The difference in photos was obvious in most cases. Sighhhh. So what to do about... [ominous fwahhhh]...the Glacier Point hike?


It's T minus 5 days. Less. In 5 days at this time I should be on the trail going up. To some AWE. SOME. VIEWS. Need camera. Will figure out something.

This weekend, to prepare for the hike, in addition to my healthy diet regimen, I walked for 2.5 miles around the neighborhood--no hills, but inclined streets--on Saturday, another 1.5 on Sunday, and hauled tons and tons of heavy gear from my house to my car (kinda like dog agility, only not as furry) and in to the party site and helped set up and rearrange and so on all weekend, for a total of about 6 miles worth of steps saturday and not sure how much Sunday, since my pedometer somehow reset itself.

The neighborhood is fancier than my neighborhood. Neo-plantation homes, fancy shrubberies, huge lawns, like that.

This 3-bedroom, 2-bath house is for sale. How much do you think they want?Did you guess $1.7 million? (Details here.) THIS is a depressed housing market? Sure, because it says that average listing price is $2.2M! Life's rough.

Here is some cool information about the trail to Glacier Point, with some photos and a link (at beginning of article) to a topo map of the trail and more photos; thanks, Dad, for the link.

That anal thing

Got home yesterday evening. Middle of the night, Tika starts licking her under-tail vicinities vehemently. Crap--could it be anal gland again? Have been trying to keep an eye on it. Will have to wait till after sleep and breakfast. By then, however, Tika had popped it open by dragging the afflicted vicinity across the hard soil. Very muddy. Bloody. Gross, actually. So I cleaned it up, applied warm compresses, applied ointment. Will repeat 2-3 times daily for a week. Plus MORE PRUNES!

OK, fans, that's all the excitement I can handle for today. And I am just not in the mood for rotating those photos because Blogger's upload is not behaving itself and I just don't have the time or patience. Turn your head sideways. I'm sure they'll work just fine that way.

I have many many photos to post for the weekend; will do later. Maybe much later.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Hiking Among Other People's Dogs

SUMMARY: Blurry photos of the day, with exercise.

Here's the plan for Aug 22:
* Meet friend in Hayward (40 minutes, elevation ~10 feet) at 6:30 a.m.
* Drive to Yosemite Valley (4 hours, elevation 4000 feet).
* Hike up the trail to Glacier Point (4 and a half miles, elevation 7000 feet). (It's called "four mile trail" but it's longer than that.)
* Hike back down.
* Drive home.

That's dang ambitious for moi, up 3000 feet and back down in one day. I was tricked into agreeing to it by another dog agility person whose name we wouldn't mention if it didn't happen to also be Ellen. The dogs will stay at home.

You want to know what 3000 feet straight up a granite cliff looks like? Here's a photo from Glacier Point looking down into the valley where the trail starts. That's a lonnnnng way.

With this in mind, on Friday evening I walked a brisk 4 miles around the neighborhood with the dogs--no uphill/downhill, though. Then yesterday hiked at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (hopefully not one that will be closed due to budget crisis) in the Santa Cruz Mountains with 2 other friends. About 6-7 miles round trip, cumulative elevation gain about 1000 feet (and back down again). It was a perfect day for a hike among the redwoods, but unfortunately, dogs weren't welcome on the trails we wanted to do. Fortunately, they were welcome on some trails, so I got in a few shots of dogs.

With my crappy point and shoot, which doesn't do well in low light (can you say redwood forest?) and particularly not with motion (can you say dogs?). But here ya go anyhoo.

Borzois. Turns out my friend's son was once a student of the borzoi owner. Small world.

Labrador. They zoomed past, playing tug, to distract the lab from the borzois.

Cattle dog. Following along with a group of people on horseback. Didn't matter whether it was trail or water; faithful doggie.

And finally, an eager Siberian Husky who had better things to do than posing, or even slowing down.

Then there's me at the obligatory redwood forest cutaway with historic dates. Left hand, birth of Christ. Right hand, 1066 and the Norman Invasion. Didn't have another limb that would reach out to the early 20th century.

The full photo essay (about 40 photos, with captions, crawdads, snakes, and more trees), here.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009


SUMMARY: More on the break-in

So--here is why they never bothered to open the door, which is why they took only the things they could reach through the front passenger window:
("Protected by Chapman vehicle security system".)

It's funny to see that in the remnants of my side window, but not funny in that having the alarm in fact DID probably protect most of the other stuff in my car. I am grateful for that.

The glass company came out and replaced my window--he finished exactly 24 hours after the break-in occurred (within the same 20-minute period), which is a nice symmetry. Just under $200. Much less than my auto deductible, but still a good chunk of change--although I'm trying to keep that in perspective, too; it's not much more than one dog's full entry for an agility weekend, and I write those checks all the time!

Shattering that one window threw glass all the way through my van. Found bits in the far ends of the dogs' crates in the very back of the van. The repair guy vacuumed a lot, and then I spent another half hour vacuuming in even more detail. And every time I turned around, bits of broken glass had reappeared where I had just cleaned. Even big chunks of the safety glass. Which mostly breaks into chunks, but there are tiny shards and slivers among them.

I am truly grateful that the dogs weren't in their crates at the time; I vacuumed up some sharp bits. (Although--would the crated dogs have deterred them? Dunno. No way to know.)

My homeowner's deductible is much larger, but when I actually added up everything that was taken, it was way over the deductible, so I'll get some money back. Not enough to replace everything (because it's minus my deductible). But at least some small comfort. For the 12 or so hours that it took to research my losses, report them on the SJPD web site, report them to the insurance claim adjuster, go dumpster diving, make a flyer and post it in various locations, talk to Kaiser security, and so on and so on. Of course insurance doesn't cover THAT time, either.

Take a last look at my camera, telephoto lens, belt case holding another telephoto, and black and teal all-purpose jacket that I've had for 13 years and hardly shows the wear. It'll be tough to replace that. (Thanks, Steph, for the photo.)

But they didn't get my favorite Pluto Unleashed hat, thank goodness, which was behind the seat (covered with broken glass). Nor my hiking boots, nor my agility cleats, nor cell phone or digital camera, nor any other dog gear, nor the tools I carry for auto repair--All a great relief.

All things considered, I'm not feeling too bad. Concentrating on the "grateful for"s and just holding up a mental "STOP!" sign every time I catch myself thinking "If only..." and either dismissing it or turning it into "what did I learn that I can apply next time." It's tough to do but I think it's working pretty well. Like--oh, well, I do still have my point-and-click camera. And I still have a ton of unsorted, unlableled photos from the last couple of years that I can be working through instead of taking lots more photos with my "real" camera.

And I'll try to be satisfied with the point-and-click for a while. Its quality for tough lighting situations isn't great, but I can get SOME semblance of shots for things like these sunsets--April 20 and last night, after the break-in--which lightened my heart greatly, stopping to admire it--both seen from my car and dashing for the nearest place to pull over and get a photo. Not great, but OK after a little photoshopping.

Whatever gods or physics daemons are responsible for the universe--thanks for making it a beautiful place to live.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Still Life With Dogs. OK, Not So Still.

SUMMARY: It's not the camera that's the challenge.

We just want a slightly silly shot of the 3 of us for facebook. ("We" loosely interpeted to mean "human residents of Taj MuttHall".) Can't have the same profile photo for too long!

The cheap snapshot camera goes onto the laundry hamper and we do a test shot for angle and height. Tika starts rearranging the bedding for us.

Too low, so we shim up the camera a little bit. Set up the dogs, turn on the camera's timer (TMH doesn't have a remote control), and leap into position.

Oh, man, I almost had it perfect on the first shot! Except (1) just before the timer went off, Boost shifted to her left, so she's cut off, although she's looking at the camera, (2) I just look way too cheery compared to the dogs, (3) I kinda thought it would be fun to have the dragon/heart art hovering over our heads, and here it's kind of cut off, and (4) why is it so dark?. (OK, "almost perfect" by some people's definition maybe isn't so picky.)

Next try--

dagnabbit, kinda cute--both dogs are still looking at the camera--but how did the camera shim itself too high this time, cutting off my hands, I thought I put it back in the exact same way? And Boost refused to put her paws over the edge of the bed this time. Next try--

OK, Boost is getting bored or stressed and wants to leave, and I'm trying to talk her out of it. Great. But the framing's just about perfect if I can convince the beasts to just stay there while I'm leaping in and out of position to check and reset the camera. Next try--

OK, Boost's not totally looking at the camera, but I've got more important things to do and this'll have to suffice. Except that, being lazy, I left the pink curtains closed so everything has a pinkish tinge, and it's still a little on the dark side. So, into photoshop we go--

Took out the pink nicely. Better. But Tika's fur should be white and I could swear that it has a yellow cast. More photoshopping--

Indeed it sure did! To my eye, this looks closest to the "natural" colors of the room and its inhabitants. It might look blue to you compared to the previous one--that's because the previous one is so yellow! See, taking a quick snapshot just doesn't work for me any more. It's gotten so complicated.

How did I get the dogs to look at the camera? Foul trickery--I just pointed at the camera right before the timer went off, when it was making little beeping sounds, and said "what's that?" Bing!, instant attention. In other situations, I might have used food and done the same thing.

For another self-portrait-with-dogs adventure, read this old post.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Busy Weekend Again Even Without Agility

SUMMARY: Friday and Saturday, dog playtime, then photo expedition.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Last night I took the dogs up to Palo Alto and we had dinner with friends to celebrate their Bump's 10th birthday, right after he finished his LAA-platinum. What a guy. Boost and the 9-month-old Border Collie, Dig, played as if they had never been allowed to play before in their entire pathetic lives. They wrestled all over each other, the floor, our legs, the chairs... Tika mostly hung out and looked for food scraps.

Dig, being an actual puppy still, eventually tired Boost out enough that my girl WANTED to sit on my lap for about 10 minutes! Usually I have to insist that she come up and then kind of hold her there while I stroke her a bit before letting her go. This time, she was plenty happy to sit there and lean her chin on my shoulder. Very sweet. They did go back at it eventually. Not that it apparently REALLY tired either of them out completely.

Today, I picked up a friend at the airport and dropped her off at her mom's. Then I went driving and photographing nature with another friend. We thought we were going on a wildflower hike but it turned out slightly differently. See photos with notes here. (Addition Sunday Feb 15: View the friend's take on the trip.)

Then I shuttled a friend around whose car is in the shop (see post from last weekend--), then finally got to work sorting through and editing today's photos. I'm wiped out, and I hardly took a step all day. And dogs were completely neglected.

Tomorrow it's a movie with another friend and then holiday/birthday celebrations with my secondary family. No wonder I never get anything done even when I'm not doing agility!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Experiment from Slide.Com

SUMMARY: Turned my Lexington Reservoir photos into a slide show to see what it looks like.

If you hover your cursor over a photo, it displays a caption. I think this is how it's supposed to work... Hmm, OK, if you click on it, it takes you to a separate page with full-sized views of photos and fairly easy browsing or automatic slideshow. Cute tool if you don't have another photo sharing site, I guess. This is from You can pick a bunch of different ways for it to display here; I picked the newspaper version.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Poll: Digital Photography at Agility Trials

SUMMARY: Curious what other people think about digital photographers who server dog agility events.

So I've created this poll. (And/or you can read my earlier post on this topic.)

How do you feel about buying dog event photos from a pro who posts many dozens or hundreds of photos online?
Love it; don't mind the cost or the time.
Like looking at the photos but it's often too expensive.
Don't like spending the time but don't mind the cost.
Don't like spending the time and it's often too expensive.
Never look because it takes too much time.
Never look because it's usually too expensive.
I'm not interested in photos of my dogs.
Never look for some other reason.
Usually look but just not interested in buying.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Digital Photography at Agility Trials

SUMMARY: Here's what I hate about digital photography.

In "the old days", when a photographer shot photos at an agility trial, the usual routine was to shoot all day Saturday, print the photos overnight, then make them available Sunday by posting, stuffing into albums, or just putting into boxes for you to leaf through.

I could spend maybe 5 minutes, usually less, looking at the photos to identify my dogs. If I liked the shot, I whipped out $6, bought it, took it home, and put it into my album.

Compare and contrast:

Digital photography has put the onus of work on the dog-agility buyer. Understand that I do a lot of digital photography and I spend hours going through my photos, tweaking most individually, labeling them, and uploading them to my photo site. But some--if not most--photographers at trials do only the uploading, with minimal or no sorting and minimal or no editing of any of the files. And they take a whole lot more photos now than they did then, too.

So, instead of maybe 2 to 5 minutes at the trial, now I wait until the photos are available, days or weeks later. Then I scan through barely legible thumbnails on sometimes hundreds of pages containing hundreds or thousands of photos, trying to identify my dogs. Thank goodness that all of my dogs so far have been easier to recognize in thumbnails than, say, black and white border collies, or shelties, or corgis. But it's still a challenge at thumbnail size. It takes real concentration.

For example, I just spent an hour and a quarter going through one photographer's photos of a recent show, and that's without finding anything that I particularly wanted to buy.

If you find a photo of your dog, you click the thumbnail to display a new page to confirm what the photo looks like somewhat enlarged. But of course it's still not quite the same as what you'll see in print; I've been disappointed a couple of times. If you like it, then you click the "buy" button. Then you fill out what size you want and whether you want it cropped and so on, then click the add to cart button. Always waiting for the pages to load, which even on broadband often takes time.

Then you find your way back to the thumbnail page that you were browsing and continue, repeating the whole process for every photo that you're possibly interested in.

Then you go to your shopping cart, fill out all your personal info, go to the payments screen, pay for it via paypal or credit card, meaning that you're going to have to deal with that payment later when it comes due. And you pay postage, which often isn't trivial--it usually makes it so that buying just one photo makes that photo seem amazingly expensive.

Then you wait a week or so for the photos to show up in the mail--which means that someone somewhere is spending the time to package and label them, and ship them, and there's the material used for the shipping container, which now most likely goes right into the recycling bin.

And furthermore, most (not all) photographers charge a stunning fee for the photos. No $6 or $8 prints. We're talking sometimes as much as $20 for 4x6 prints, here. I mean, really. They promote them as works of art, I guess, that are color corrected and cropped and all that. They must get buyers, because they keep doing it. But I resent having to spend all that time and then PAY SOMEONE ELSE more than I used to spend on snapshots. The ones who are still in the under-$10 range are particularly the ones who don't seem to sort (for quality) or do any precropping or anything like that. OK, I can put up with some of that for a lower price.

But I can't even offer to process and print them myself to save $; most photographers charge at least as much for the digital version of a photo on the assumption that then you could, heaven forfend, print as many copies of the photo in any size that you want and THEY wouldn't get any more money for it.

And many of them sell photos through a photo service, removing some of the advantage of dealing in digital--no individual dealing or edits or anything. For example, I recently won cert's for about 6 free photos from one photographer who was generous enough to donate them to various raffles. But I found out afterwards that (a) you can apply only one cert per order and (b) you can apply it only to the photo, not to the postage and handling. And the photographer said, sorry, that's the way it's set up.

From a business perspective, I guess I can understand that. But now i have free cert's that will probably never be used. I guess that makes the photographer happy, too: Looks like a nice guy but never has to deliver.

And are the photos I get any better than the ones I used to get? I'd argue not--because in the day, I bought only the ones I liked that turned out well anyway. Do the photographers make more money at it and are they happier about it? OK, unhappy customer, happy photographers. You figure out how often I buy photos of my dogs any more. Makes me sad, but thank goodness for friends who like to dabble in photography and sometimes do it at agility trials, or I'd have nothing.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Off to Nationals to Create More Unsorted Photos!

SUMMARY: Have skimmed through some photos from the weekend, but mostly it's been getting ready to go to Scottsdale.

Well, I have not by any means finished going through all my Monterey photos. You can pretend that the birds in these photos are dogs if you need a dog-photo fix.

Because the area was socked in with fog, we spent our "sunset shoot" looking for cool images like these, which were just lying around on the beach waiting for our cameras to suck them up.

In case you were wondering, this is sort of what you see a lot of when you go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a group of 50 photographers:

And here I am in another experiment with self-portraiture.

Meanwhile, traveling companions Debbie and Porsche (the dog, not the vehicle) dropped by most of their stuff today, and it's now all neatly stowed in my van waiting for the very last last-minute additions bright and early. We expect to be on the road by 8:00 and in Scottsdale by 10 p.m.

I seriously doubt I'll get a post in tomorrow, but hopefully Wednesday, unless my computer fails to recognize its power cord again--

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