A while back we entered a competition to win a studio session with Alex Cearns from Houndstooth Studio for two of our pets to get some professional portraits done. We decided that we would start with Bender and Barbie as they are both getting older and greyer these days. I think middle age is really the most glorious time for a dog - they have learned all the rules, but they still have energy to keep up with every day adventures and health problems are hopefully pretty superficial. It's a great time to capture with professional photographs.
Alex has two gorgeous rescued puppies of her own from Greyhound Angels of WA (the organisation I volunteer for). Pixel is a greyhound and Pip is a greyhound cross - they have a Facebook page called Black Beetle. You should check them out if you are big on Facebook, as well as the Houndstooth Studio page (which currently has a cool 88,404 likes!).
Alex is incredibly popular and well known in my social circles as she does a lot of pro bono work for animal rescues. Her photography is everywhere, from every Vet clinic I've been in, to the fenced doggie area at Whiteman Park.
|seductive Barbie number one - this photo didn't make the cut and get printed but I love it still!|
The first time I met Alex was actually at Whiteman Park during a big dog focussed event they had there. I had Bender and Olive with me at the time and they both got a bit of fussing from her. She must have made a great impression on Bender because he remembered her.
When we pulled up at the studio, the dogs were a bit confused. Then Alex came out to greet us. Bender recognised her right away and started bouncing up and down and doing his excited puppy squeak. He reserves his puppy squeak for his absolute favorite people. The first time we ever heard it was when he was about 8 months old and we took him to visit the lady who bottle-fed him as a rescued pup. Barbie seemed a bit embarrassed to be seen with him, but she hadn't met Alex before so she was probably wondering what the hell was going on.
|Bender's happy face! We picked this one for one of the smaller prints|
Bender usually works really hard and he was very focussed during the photo session. Alex just took the reigns and he was very willing to comply with her directions. We didn't really emphasise to her how obsessive he is about toys though, and she pulled a tiny squeaky Kong ball out of the treat jar and squeaked it before we could stop her. I had a feeling of dread as he jumped around everywhere trying to get to the ball. We distracted him whilst Alex hid it, and what she did next was quite impressive. By being firm and digging deep into the Magical Treat Drawer, she managed to get him refocussed on the food treats. He forgot about the ball! I don't remember anyone else managing to break his ball fixation like that.
Barbie was a little bit harder to motivate. She just doesn't have the drive or stamina that Bender has. She's also a bit uncertain about jumping up on to things so the couch was a bit of a challenge for her. Then when we were doing the photos of them both on the couch, Bender didn't want to jump up next to her. I think he was afraid that if he took a misstep she would tell him off. She wouldn't have, but Bender is very respectful of Barbie's space like that. We got Bender up first and I lifted Barbie on to the couch.
|cute couple, this is the photo we chose for our massive print|
Alex took thousands of photos, and she posts a preview of them on Facebook at Houndstooth Studio, before you go in for a viewing session to choose your prints.
The Viewing Room is at a different address to the studio, and we made an after work appointment. The Room is small but adorned with a comfy couch and a projector so that you get to see the photos at their vibrant best. We started with 70 pictures and narrowed them down to 5 by trading them off against each other and choosing different poses and facial expressions. We chose a 'set' which consisted of a massive 30" x 20" print and three 5" x 7" prints, in classy black frames. We also got a 5" x 7" print as part of our prize, so I let N choose that photo so she could take it out to work with her (she chose one of Bender, surprise, surprise!)
Due to the time of year the photo printers/framers seemed to be running behind as they were closed most of December, so we had to wait 5 weeks for the photos to be done. They are guaranteed to last for 100 years, so not only will they outlast the dogs, they will also outlast us, and probably even the house we live in!
They are really a central feature of our lounge room now. I think I did a pretty good job of hanging them straight, though the bottom small one of Barbie has two holes behind it because the first one I drilled was a bit low!
|Bender on parade! (this is the photo we picked for our unframed pic)|
There was a bit of a hiccup with the prints - we had organised a time for pick up, but when Alex got them they weren't perfect - there were some smudges she could not clean up. Alex knew I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to pick them up when Nic was at work so that they would be hung on the wall by the time Nic got home. She rescheduled a new pick up time, and told the lab they had to do something to make it up to us. They upgraded our unframed print to a bigger size! I was very happy with that.
Overall it was an excellent experience, and I imagine we will back with the Mouser to get her photos done some time after our mid-year holiday.