camp Diggy Bones rescue

On site shooting at Camp Diggy Bones


A group of photographers and dog trainers set out to do a big job. The task? Photograph 249 large breed dogs that had been living in a boarding facility outside of Dallas. Abandoned there by the rescue group that had been paying their room and board, these dogs had been living in the kennel for (some of them) 2-3 years. Some had even been born there.

focus on rescue

Zola rocked the pink bandana


Needless to say, this is a very different challenge from following the family poodle around the house. Very different.
So we broke in to teams and set up at different spots around the grounds with the facility employees shuttling dogs to different photo teams all day. On the plus side, over 100 of the original group had been pulled by various local rescue organizations so our task was smaller than we originally thought — only about 120 big, strong, energetic dogs needed photos. The now-defunct rescue group had specialized in Pit bulls and Rottweilers so we knew going in that we would need some muscle and caution in handling these dogs. There were several dog trainers on the premises including Robin Terrell of Good Dog Fetch — so we felt pretty good about our chances but we triple cautioned everyone to be careful.
teresa berg portraits

Violet poses at Camp Diggy Bones


Because I can never do anything the easy way, I had already decided to put together some sort of simple outdoor set to use as a backdrop. I frequently get questions about what to do with a less-than-perfect shooting location so I felt that this would be a great opportunity to try something new. The flowers and roll up screen from the garden center (see previous post) were assembled in to a little shooting corner, complete with some nice clean mulch to stand on. We know everyone is on a tight budget so we kept the total cost to $100 — and everything (except for the mulch) went back in to the car to be used again. For shade from the midday sun, we pulled out a canvas dropcloth that we just happened to have with us. Other than that, everything came out of our $100 budget. For those of you that can find a nice solid privacy fence to shoot against, you can save the $25 we spent on the roll up reed screen… but for us, it was a life saver. I just happened to have a stand to hold my reflector in the car — and it was windy — so we used it to help anchor the canvas drop cloth we used as a shade screen.
The camera settings on this very bright cloudless day were iso 100, f2.0 with shutter speeds varying between 1500 and 5000. I used a white reflector between me and the dog and sat on a low stool with the reflector leaning against my knees for most of the shots. I used a 50mm lens on my Canon 5d MkIII.
setting up

use wire or twist ties to hold the screen to the fence


adoption photos

building the outdoor set


on site adoption photos

Our PHOTO SWAT TEAM at Camp Diggy Bones


Many thanks to Mark of Shagly Photography, Robin Terrell of Good Dog Fetch, Mica of The Dog Photographer, Lesa Truax, my assistant Jessiree Kubica, Daniel Thompson, Sheila Weaver and all the rest of the crew — you were amazing! The final step is spreading the love on facebook, google +, and on all of our different websites. Please share the story of the dogs and help them (and others) get adopted.

Photo Swat Team | Saving dogs with photography


Wish me luck. Tomorrow a group of photographers is leaving Dallas and heading to a boarding facility called Camp Diggy Bones in Lavon, Texas. They’ve been in the animal rescue news lately because a now-defunct animal rescue organization called Happy  Endings out of Waco, Texas abandoned 249 dog there.  Yes. 249.  They were being boarded there at a reduced fee when the rescue group went belly up and now they’re in limbo.

Please re-read some of my many posts about working with a responsible rescue organization!  Lots of crazy things happen when well-intentioned people get in over their heads.  Don’t get pulled down with them.

Because Camp Diggy Bones is out in the country and is NOT an adoption center, these dogs have little or no chance to get adopted without good adoption photos.  They are the toughest group to find homes for — big dogs (many of them black) that look like pit bulls.

So we got some local pet photographers together and some Unleashed workshop graduates and we’re spending the day photographing these dogs. Our goal is to create portraits showing happy playful loving dogs who don’t look like every other dog on Petfinder.com or Adoptapet.com.  The nice people at Paws in the City will list them and process the landslide of applications our photos will help create.

I am working on a portable outdoor set that I plan to take out there with me. Check back in a few days and we’ll post some of the results.

outdor studio for animal rescue

getting ready — our little outdoor studio