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Photography Challenge: Colouriffic

In my always on-going desire to learn more about photography in general, and pet photography specifically, I enrolled in Embark, the first of three 6-month courses put on by Charlotte Reeves and  Craig Turner-Bullock.  The course involves a new challenge every 2 weeks over the 6 month period, for 12 total challenges.  Feedback is given on each image submitted by the bi-weekly deadline, and the top 20 photographs for each challenge are selected.  There are over 100 people enrolled in this, and there are some amazing photographers.  I look forward to stretching my creativity and my skills with this!


The first challenge is called ‘Colouriffic’ (Craig is from New Zealand and Charlotte is from Australia, so the extra ‘u’ is free!) and involves color (or colour, if you prefer!).  I can’t give the specifics of the challenge beyond that, but you can assume that color is supposed to be an important element in the image.


My first thought was, “How hard can this be? I photograph murals all the time.  Piece of cake!”  Well, let’s just agree that there is more to the color challenge than just finding random bits of color and putting a dog in front of it.  


So, my first thought was to try using a colored backdrop and see how that went.  And as you can see from Daisy, it wasn’t terrible. Except I don’t really like paper backdrops – they are noisy, can be a bit difficult to maneuver in small spaces, and my dogs don’t like stepping on the paper.  (I worked on desensitizing them, and as you can see, I don’t have photos of Lucy-Fur or Bellatrix on the paper.)

This looks like this should be Daisy's LinkedIn profile photo!

I kept the paper background idea in my list of ideas in case I need to come back to it (you can re-submit photographs after the 2 week challenge deadline, after you get feedback, or if you just want to submit something else, you just don’t get any more feedback and it doesn’t get entered into the competition for the top 20), but I decided that really wasn’t my thing. 


So, I went to my trusty murals. There were a bunch of new murals that were created this year for The MuralFest 2024 in South Salt Lake City, and thought those might be cool. (And, they are!)  But, you couldn’t just have random colors all over the place for this challenge, so when I found my dog model, I picked a couple of murals that I thought might suit the dog, Moose.


The first one didn’t work so well because the horse hooves behind Moose’s head are distracting.  However, I knew that I was working with a supermodel in Moose.

In front of 'Southwest Utah' by Gerry Swanson (@silentswanart)

The mural that I really wanted to shoot was still getting some sun, so I went looking for other color that might work well with Moose.


I found a dumpster.  No, really.  It looked cool, and it was a bit rusty so I had that industrial look of which I am so fond, and so we used that. It worked out even better than I had expected. The color was great, Moose rocked the location, and I ended up with a few images that I particularly liked.


In fact, the one of Moose looking to the left was such a favorite of mine that I submitted it to the ISAP (International Society of Animal Photographers) Facebook group for review and got some great feedback on it. I really like this image, and will likely submit it to other competitions.


But as much as I liked the dumpster (and I REALLY like some of the images we got at that ‘location’), I wanted to see how the mural I had specifically chosen the site for would work.

This beautiful mural by @fatspatrol in also on West Haven Avenue near 300 West in Salt Lake City (if you are looking for it), and Moose’s coloring and the murals coloring are perfect together!



I ended up not picking this photograph for submission because the background was a little too busy, and I wasn’t sure it quite met the criteria for the Coloriffic challenge.  But, I was able to create another great image of Moose (really, he is a rock star model!) which his Mom loves!


Moose’s brother Diego had come along for the ride, so I was able to get a photo of the brother together, as well.

English bulldog in front of orange and white mural
Beautiful mural by @fatspatrol

My other thought for this first challenge was to used “gelled” lights (lights with colored plastic on them to create color effects).  I’m honestly not 100% certain that using gels on the dogs is actually acceptable for the challenge, but I am in love with gels. I have been playing around with them for about 6 months, and just love the effect.


So, my first attempt was with Daisy (she’s the best ‘in-house’ model; Lucy-Fur and Bellatrix are both pretty good models, but when I want to experiment, Daisy is my go-to girl!).


I love this image of Daisy, but it’s a bit dark, and like the mural with Moose that had a busy background, this background is beyond busy.  So, I didn’t think this would be a good image for the challenge. I began looking for something else that would work with gels.

On our regular morning dog walk I noticed a house that I have walked by every morning for decades had an incredible concrete retaining wall – the concrete was a little rough, and again, had that industrial look I like so much.  (If you are spotting a theme, yep. I love the ‘urban decay’ look – as my brother lovingly calls it!) I had seen the home owner for years – she has several dogs, but had never talked because my dogs were always going nuts, while her much-better-behaved dogs looked at ours in a bit of disbelief whenever I saw her. I didn’t even know her name


So, I wrote a note to her, explaining what I was doing, and asked if she would be willing to let me use her wall, and her much-better-behaved dogs (my dogs would NOT be comfortable in someone else’s driveway with their dogs in the house). She said, yes, and had seen my work, and knew my name from our local Healthy Pets Summit County pet boutique store.  It turns out she had recently removed the rocks from the concrete (so it wasn’t like I hadn’t seen the wall for 20 years – it had only become a ‘naked’ concrete wall recently), and wasn’t sure what to do with it. 

Much-better-behaved dogs than mine!

I had tested the gels outside on the side of our house, but I really wasn’t certain how this was going to go.  I had a feeling it was going to either be terrible, or amazing. 


It was amazing.


The photograph of the solitary black lab with the red and cyan colors on him and on the textures of the retaining wall was the image I finally selected for this challenge. I am not certain if it actually meets the requirements of this challenge, but this image, and the image of the 3 brothers were exactly what I was hoping for (I didn’t submit the 3 brothers only because 1 wasn’t really looking at the camera and it was a bit distracting to my eye). 


Even if this image doesn’t meet the criteria for the challenge, I will get feedback on it, so I can make it better (or take other photographs done the same way).  But I LOVE the gels.  Sure, this look isn’t for everyone, every day (and I will be getting more ‘natural’ photographs of the Labs for their Mom), but for an impactful photograph, I love this. 

Based on this first challenge, and the thought, time and effort that went into it, I will definitely be stretching my brain and my photographic and editing skills in the next 6 months.  After having learned the technical aspects of photography I was looking for something that would left me really work on my creativity and pet-specific photography.  These challenges will be, well, challenging, but I am looking forward to them. I have already gotten out of my comfort zone by shooting in new locations, reaching out to neighbors that I had never met beyond a quick greeting, and trying out new techniques. I have reconnected with friends and am going to be exploring locations all over northern Utah. I’m very excited for my photography, and for the images I will be able to create for me, and for you.

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