Sit! Roll Over! Fetch! Shake!!!

When dogs get wet, partially because they lack opposable thumbs, they can’t simply towel themselves off. Instead, they shake themselves off rather violently to help dry their fur. The shaking happens so fast and so briefly that it’s usually just a blur to the naked eye, but if you use a fast-enough shutter speed and some precise timing you can capture this action at various points of mid-shake. The results can be interesting and sometimes comical. The dogs can appear to have some weird seizure or look like some bizarre alien from a B-science fiction movie.

Portland, Ore.-based animal photographer Carli Davidson has even devoted and entire photo gallery to her website to dogs shaking (http://carlidavidson.photoshelter.com/gallery/Shake/G0000s_trsF9CDFI/), and the resulting pictures are hilarious.

0815Shake_001

A while ago my family and I took our retriever/Labrador mix, Lucy, out to Tower Park Marina and let her play in the water at a small beach there. Although she didn’t want to swim, she loved to romp in the shallow parts of the Little Potato Slough. Whenever she got out she would come up to us, then twist and shake herself silly with this wide-eyed gaping grin on her face. She looked like some kind of wild-yet-cheery Cujo-type canine.

A few weeks ago, I shot Barbara Stanfield of Stockton throwing a tennis ball into the waters of Lodi Lake for her 2-year-old golden retriever, Amiga Mia, to fetch. Amiga Mia would wait patiently, then make a flying leap into the water and dogpaddle out to the bobbing ball and bring it back. Once out of the water the dog was smart enough to shake well away from her owner as not to splash her. Amiga Mia looked like some sort of whirling windmill of fur and water.

I think the key to these pictures are the loose fur and skin around the dogs’ faces. The looser the skin and furrier the dog, the funnier they look. A dog like a basset hound or bulldog are perfect, but really any breed can make a humorous photo if you catch them at the right moment.

The shaking is quite quick, lasting only a few seconds, so be prepared. If you bring the camera up to your eye when it starts, by the time you focus and compose the shot it may be too late. Have your camera at the ready and be prepared to take several tries at it. Use a fast shutter speed. The faster the shutter the more you’ll stop the action. I recommend at least 1/1000th of a second or faster.

Get in close. Whether you use a telephoto lens or just get physically closer to your pet, the tighter the shot the better it’ll be.

Lastly don’t worry about getting wet because, whether a little or a lot, you’re going to get splashed on. But for the funny pictures, you’re going to get and laughs and memories that go along with them, it’ll be worth it.

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