Tuesday 25 July 2023

Size Matters?


Used primarily as an "action" camera, the GoPro can also make some nice stills

Today's camera technology is mind boggling. GoPro cameras are absolutely great if you can get close to the action. They are small enough to carry in your shirt pocket, but you can mount them virtually anywhere and get some awesome content. 

Saturday 15 July 2023

Shake It Off

A dog learning to swim is one of my favourite things to photograph.
Canon 80D w/EF70-200 f2.8L IS II
ISO 320 f2.8 @ 1/8000th sec

I love dogs. Especially sporting dogs. I love to photograph dogs. Especially sporting dogs. I love to photograph dogs in water. Especially sporting dogs. 

Enough said. 

Sunday 5 April 2020

You Got Yourself A Bird Dog...

German Shorthaired Pointers cover a lot of ground quickly when searching for game birds. © Dan Brodie 

Wow! It's been 2 full years since my last post. The time has passed so quickly for me as I have been caught up in the wonderful world of training and working bird dogs. In my previous post, I shared the elation I felt when I saw my dog, Trooper go on a real point for the very first time during a CKC Field Test. Well, the following spring, we entered ourselves into another Field Test, this time hosted by the BC All Breed Pointer Club. What the dog did in his first run on that weekend absolutely blew my mind.

I met the judge at the the starting line of the first of three Field Dog Junior tests we were signed up for throughout the weekend. The judge was a well respected dog handler named Adrienne and we had made acquaintance on social media but never in person. As we were introducing ourselves, Trooper eagerly bolted off the line before I had given him the ok. I had to call him back for a restart, apologizing to Adrienne and making note that, "Manners matter." After the recall and a short wait, I released the dog and he tore away with the speed and enthusiasm that I had come to expect from him. Adrienne asked, "What do you think he will do?" I replied, "Well I think he will probably..." Then mid-answer I corrected my response with, "Actually, I don't really know what he will do, but he just makes me smile when he runs." And I was smiling, from ear to ear.

Six months after Trooper went on his first point and with no exposure to game birds or formal training since that day, he hit the ground running. I was astonished to see him find and point 5 planted Chukars! It was obvious to me that in the off time, he had processed what he had learned previously and that, combined with a long lineage of breeding√ for this purpose, had figured out exactly what to do on this day. When our run was over, I called him in to snap his leash on. I wasn't even sure if he had passed or not. Truthfully, I didn't even care. I was just so thrilled to be a part of such an exhilarating experience. On our way off the course, our judge commented, "Well, you got yourself a bird dog."

I have to admit, that wasn't the first time that I had heard that, but this time, the message seemed to have much more merit. My previous pup, Barley, was also a German Shorthaired Pointer and was a pretty intense bird dog in his own right. People often commented on his behaviour when we were out on walks and he would show that he really only had one thing on his mind. Even so, Barley was an unfinished dog in terms of a hunting dog. He never had the opportunity to hunt real game birds or hunt to the gun. I picked him up as an 8 week old pup in the summer of 2002 and had all sorts of romantic aspirations of working with him in the field on birds. However, life got in the way of those dreams and despite the many hours of training and bonding with that beautiful boy, things didn't quite go the way they were intended. My wife and I were raising 3 kids and they were all involved in various types of sports and activities. We were always busy. My photography career was starting to roll and that demanded a lot of my attention. The quality time spent with my best buddy was reduced to early weekend mornings. I had started my C.O.R.E. training but a fatal accident involving a gun that left our only nephew dead at the age of 17, suddenly voided any activity with firearms. Needless to say, every reference to guns or shooting of any capacity, became a very sensitive subject.

"He showed me that he was a bona fide bird dog and that he deserved to fulfill his destiny as a finished gun dog."

Trooper spent his first year as an impressionable pup with Barley and I believe whole heartedly that the senior canine mentorship he received, was a tremendous influence on how he behaves today. Especially in regards to the way he hunts with such speed and range. I believe that following the senior around helped build his confidence and independence. When Trooper came into our lives, I didn't have nearly the same desire to take him hunting as I did with our previous pup. I was just a sucker for GSP puppies and he was the perfect distraction in an otherwise unsettled phase of our families growth. In other words, he was just meant to be another part of our family, to bring all that dogs bring to the table. And he did that, but he also showed me that he wanted to be more. He showed me that he was a bona fide bird dog and that he deserved to fulfill his destiny as a finished gun dog. I have just been trying my best to facilitate that.

Barley, May 13, 2002-June 04, 2016 © Dan Brodie

Trooper went on to earn his first title that weekend. He earned the title of Field Dog Junior. That left us wondering if we were ready for the next step, which had a retrieving component in the test. Even though I felt Trooper was a natural retriever, we started working on it. My biggest worry at the time was that he had never had a dead bird in his mouth. I struggled with the idea of a Force Fetch. I wanted the dog to do it because he loved to do it, not because he was being forced to do it so I relied mostly on his prey drive to go out and pick up whatever I threw for him. As the test weekend approached, we still hadn't worked with real birds, only bumpers and dummies. I was fairly concerned. I had heard stories of dogs that wouldn't pick up birds because they didn't like feathers. At the last minute, a friend of mine offered me a frozen Teal Duck that he had. I brought it home and immediately put it to use in our yard training. It took a few tries but by the end of the session Trooper was retrieving the bird like a champ. We were full of confidence and headed off to try our luck at the next level of testing.

It takes 3 legs to earn a title in the CKC Field Tests for Pointing Dogs. © Dan Brodie  

Thursday 5 April 2018

Trust Your Dog

"Trust your dog", were the last words of advice given to me from a fellow handler as Trooper, the German Shorthaired Pointer, and I headed out for our second of two field tests at the 2017 Field Tests hosted by Vizsla Canada on Sept. 30/Oct. 01 in Deroche, B.C.

Trooper, at the time, had no previous exposure to game birds even though he was already 2-1/2 years old. On the Friday before the actual tests, we participated in a training day and our pup got his nose on to some real live game birds for the very first time. Other than the drizzly wet weather, it was a great day of learning and hanging out with other dogs & handlers. However, the lasting memory I went home with that day was that of Trooper busting a planted pigeon during a mock run and chasing it across the vast field while I fumbled to get a whistle to my lips. I had just missed stepping on the check cord and away he went, hell bent on catching the bird and completely ignoring my repeated recalls. As I eventually brought him back in, one of the instructors half jokingly mentioned to me, "That...would be a fail." However, everyone assured me that it's better to have that strong desire in a dog than to not. Still, I wished he would have gone on point, even for a moment.

The next day was a test day and we arrived early with my intention to get in some "training" before our run. I was quickly advised that was against the rules in place as a Canadian Kennel Club sanctioned event. So we waited. I took the opportunity to use the situation for some "wait" training, a very important lesson for a dog to learn. When it finally was our turn to go, Trooper was busting at the seams to run. We went out in the field and he ran like, well, he ran like a GSP with a lot of pent up energy. Fast and far with exuberance and some reckless abandon. He did find some birds. However, he bumped and chased them. Failure. Not the result I was hoping for and by now I was feeling pretty hopeless about achieving our most basic goal of pointing on game. Everyone who was interested, wanted to know how we did and I had to tell them that we failed. When our supporters reminded us that there was still another day to go, I facetiously replied, "Ya, but it's going to take a miracle."

During the ride home and well into the evening I questioned our purpose. Why were we subjecting ourselves to this failure? I mean, we didn't have a vested interest in earning titles to promote our stud value or a breeding program. We weren't even hunters. We were just a guy from the suburbs who had long romanticized about pointers in the field and his wannabe bird dog. What were we doing here? Do we even belong here? After considerable deliberation, I came to this conclusion. We were doing this because this is what the dog was bred to do. This is what the dog loves to do. This is what the handler loves to do. With all these thoughts racing around in my head, I drifted off to sleep.

Morning came and it was another rainy one. I awoke with the decision that I was going to enjoy whatever the day had to offer and approach the next test as a training opportunity. We had a good placement in the running order so we were in no rush. After a little breakfast, we loaded up the truck and headed out on the 1/2 hour drive to Deroche. While we drove, I recalled a conversation that I had with someone about the belief that dogs take what they learn and process it while they rest. "Maybe that will happen with Trooper," I thought to myself, optimistically.

When back at the test site, I followed behind a couple of teams in the gallery with my DSLR and snapped some photos. I was also invited to come watch the water retrieve portion of the Field Dog Excellent tests where I also snapped some pics. (None of which are published here. Only photos that I snapped with my phone are on this blog.) Follow the link to my Facebook page for those. :)
CKC Field test 2017 Deroche, B.C.

I was still having some difficulty with the timing of everything i.e. when to get ready and get to the start line, so as I wandered around with my camera, the thought of missing our run was creeping around in head. I was assured by the event coordinator, Heidi, that she would never let that happen.

And then, it was time. Time to adorn the blaze orange hat & vest and head to the start line. While we waited for our start, I noticed the dog was relatively calm. We sat and watched the team that was working the field in front of us. He was alert with ears perked up and nostrils twitching. There was silence. The clouds were parting and a beautiful rainbow appeared over the test field. It was a magnificent moment in time, but as per CKC rules, we were not allowed to have a cell phone with us during our test so I couldn't take a photo. Story of a photographer's life right there!

The judge called us down to the line. Trooper politely heeled and waited for the leash to unsnap from the collar. I tapped him on the head and gave him the "okay". He bolted off with that infamous GSP enthusiasm and I encouraged him to, "Go find the birds buddy!" A few hundred yards or so into the run, I looked down in front of me for an instance and when I looked back up, I saw Trooper was on to something. Then I realized he was on point! It wasn't a point with the greatest style or anything but the intensity in his face told the story. I raised my hand in the air and proclaimed to the judges, "We have a point!" I approached him with the "Woah" command (it was less of a command and more of a request) and a couple of "Good boy" praises. One of my initial thoughts was, "I wish I had a camera!" I was pleasantly surprised that he held steady until I got up next to him and in position to flush the pen raised Chukar that was basically right under his nose. Critics and afficiondos will have their say about that, but for us, it was an exhilarating and monumental moment.

The flush didn't quite go as planned, but the bird eventually got in the air and I fired off a shot with my starters pistol. The dog gave chase and I had more difficulty with the recall but we got back on track and finished our run with a couple of more moments that I wished I had a camera for. Like the part when he was trucking through some marshland where the water was about 2-3 feet deep. I remember thinking to myself, "You're never going to find birds in there, but you sure look awesome powering through that stuff!"

At the end, I received some words of advice for future training and development from our judge and was assured once again about Troopers potential as a bird dog. "You got nothing to worry about", he stated. I was so happy and elated after that inspiring run. It felt like such a big step in the right direction and I certainly didn't expect a ribbon but to receive one was like "icing on the cake".

One ribbon is nice but it takes three to earn the first of four titles. 1) Field Dog Junior. 2) Field Dog. 3) Field Dog Advanced. 4) Field Dog Excellent. We have another test weekend approaching quickly on the weekend of April 21, 2018, this time hosted by the B.C. All Breed Pointer Club of which I am currently a member of. Unfortunately, I have to miss out on the training day, but I am looking forward to meeting others and having some fun on the test days. Hopefully, Trooper remembers what to do and can progress towards his Field Dog Jr. title. I trust he will.

Howard demonstrates Chukar handling.

The art of pigeon planting is explained by Terry.

Handlers get some sage bird planting advice from Howard.

Handlers and their dogs get ready for their practise runs.

Two handlers and their dogs appear diminutive against the backdrop of the training field.

"Wait" training.

More "Wait" training.

Dressed in blaze orange and ready to go have some fun. Time for a selfie!

A souvenir from a very rewarding weekend.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Action, not words.

I discovered a long time ago after photographing countless static scenes, that I was not a "Still Life" kind of photographer. I wanted to capture action and drama in my photos and quickly realized that I had a passion for capturing peak moments. I honed my "skills" by snapping pics of my kids playing their sports. Next thing I knew, I was on a fantastic ride...

I read one of those "How many _____s does it take to change a light bulb?" things way back. It went like this...

"How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer, "5. 1 to actually go up the ladder and do it, and 4 to stand there and say, That should be me up there!"

Armed with this mantra many years ago, I took my first real steps towards reaching my goal.

Action. Not words.

Sunday 20 August 2017

What Is Real?

Photoshop almost ruined my love of photography, until I realized the true potential. 

When I sat in class for the first of what was to be three college courses to learn the vast photo editing program and the instructor showed us a finely detailed image of a New York scene made entirely in a computer and without a camera, I just shook my head in awe. "Photography is dead", I thought.

Then one evening I was out with my camera. I saw an ultra-light aircraft off in the distance heading towards me. I had a vision in my mind of the image that I wanted to create. As the small plane approached I composed the shot and snapped a few frames, but the end result was not even close to what I had imagined. Later, at the computer, I started working on a composite using two of the frames that I captured and eventually produced the final piece above.

Is it real? Not according to some in the photographic community, but it is definitely a more "realistic" rendition of my vision. Besides, what has ever been real about photography. I have always believed that if a photograph is disclosed as a composite or digital illustration, then all is good. Some of my peers have revealed that they were afraid to use Auto-Focus on their cameras because "purists" would frown upon it. I say, use the technology. I say, use it to tell your story. I say, use it whether it's real or not.

Sunday 12 March 2017


© Dan Brodie

"So let's get one thing straight, once and for all. No one---and I mean no one--gives a hoot about your photo credit in a magazine. No one!!!! The only person who reads American Lacrosse Enthusiast and gets excited about the photo credit on page 26 is you and your mother."

The preceding quote was taken from an article published on Sportshooter.com that I read a long time ago. Follow the link to get the rest of the story...



Photo credits don't pay the bills or feed the family but if they are lacking, it does show a disrespect to the photographer. 

Friday 7 October 2016

The Smell of Freedom

© Dan Brodie

I have often said, "The smell of a wet dog is like the smell of freedom."

For me, there is no greater peace attained than that of the time spent in the field with a sporting dog. Autumn is especially fine as it is the time for bird dogs to do what they do. Early mornings and the changing weather seem to keep the crowds down and the world can sometimes feel like your own. Working with an animal that is so eager to please is an absolute delight and when you are able to communicate and operate as a team with very little distraction, the outings are very rewarding. It's too bad that the spaces to do this are becoming ever so hard to find. Very often, instead of exploring wild places, we end up at a dog park and just pretend to be Rene, the young orphan and Big Red, the champion Irish Setter, preparing to take the canine world by storm. lol

Maybe I'm just an idealist romanticizing about days better left behind, but honestly, is there anything better than the smell of freedom?

Friday 1 July 2016

Back It Up!

Back up your positions, back up your equipment, back up your plans, and back up your files. After I shot the U19 Men's World Lacrosse Championship in 2008, I learned a hard lesson about backing up digital files. I learned that you can drive a loaded dump truck over an external hard drive, but you can't drop one from 12 inches off the ground! All the original files from my days of shooting this prestigious international tournament were unrecoverable after a little mishap that occurred while transferring the files from the single hard drive that I was using for temporary storage.

Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Right. But just because you deserve it, doesn't mean you will get it, so back it up and back it up again. Trust me.

Saturday 25 June 2016

I Can See Clearly Now

When Holly Cole sang her cool jazzy rendition of Johnny Nash's, "I Can See Clearly Now",  at the Holiday Festival On Ice held at the Langley Events Centre, it gave me chills up my spine.

As much as the night was frustrating for me as a photographer trying to get some recognition, it was also just as inspiring. I thought of my beloved grandmother, affectionately known as Betty to most, who absolutely loved figure skating and jazz.

On one of my last visits with her before she
passed on from this material world, she laid on her hospice bed and proudly addressed me to the other family members in the room as Dan Brodie...the Photographer. I shrugged it off like I do with almost any type of compliment. Who I was or what I did, was the last thing I cared about at the moment I was about to lose one of, if not the most important and influential people in my life, but during that performance, I knew whole-heartedly that I was indeed a photographer and that I was being lifted by my grandmother's ever-lasting spirit.