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Tag: photography

The nose knows but the ears tell

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Many of us may be most familiar with infrared thermography from its least valuable (I’d argue) use — ghost hunting.

It serves many far more sophisticated purposes, though, than providing fodder for those shaky-camera paranormal TV shows — from assessing medical conditions to military reconnaissance, from finding missing children to sensing mood changes in humans.

And, no big surprise, dogs.

In the latest post on Dog Spies, her blog on Scientific American, Julie Hecht recounted a recent study at the Animal Behavior, Cognition and Welfare Research Group at the University of Lincoln in the UK.

Researchers found, through infrared thermography, that the ear temperature of dogs decreased (turning blue on the camera) when they were isolated, and warmed backed up (turning red) when they reunited with people.

It’s similar to findings in studies of human stress levels — except in humans it’s the nose, instead of the ears, that is the most common giveaway.

As Hecht explained, infrared thermography picks up changes in surface temperature. When frightened, stressed or placed in unfamiliar surroundings, blood rushes away from your extremities, in dogs and humans. They get cooler as your core gets warmer and ready to react to whatever threat may be ahead.

The tip of a scared person’s nose gets cooler in such situations, just as rat paws and tails have been shown to do in experiments. In rabbits and sheep, the ears are the most obvious indicator.

Stefanie Riemer and colleagues placed dogs for brief periods in an isolated and novel environment. As the researchers expected, thermographic images of the dogs in isolation showed their ear temperature increasing, then rising when they were reunited with people.

The study appears in the current issue of Physiology & Behavior.

Six dogs were included in the study, and several were found to be unsuitable for study because their fur was too dense to get a good reading.

It seems like a technology that could be put to good use when it comes to studying dogs, and in learning more about those with behavioral issues and what triggers them.

That seems to me a better pursuit than chasing ghosts who aren’t really bothering anybody. Non-invasive, physically, as it is, even infrared photography has the potential for being cruel.

In a study in Italy two years ago, 20 bank tellers who had been robbed at gunpoint were shown a series of faces — happy, neutral, angry, etc. On the fifth face, the researchers exposed them to a loud and unexpected blast, and recorded, thermographically, how the blood left the noses and face.

Half of the tellers had already been diagnosed with PTSD.

Whether the researchers ended up giving PTSD to the other half is not addressed in the study.

(Photo: S. Riemer / Physiology & Behavior)

The short, sad lives of dog toys

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Poor things, they never had a chance.

Even the so-called “indestructable” ones would end up torn and in tatters — victims of the enthusiastic canines to whom they were gifted.

Rope LionVirginia dog photographer Hannele Lahti — after seeing how quickly her dogs went through dog toys — decided to document the not-at-all-surprising phenomenon.

The project began out of frustration, Lahti, of Manassas, says.

“Every cute (expensive) toy I brought home for my dogs ended in a mangled mess destined for the landfill,” Lahti wrote in a photo essay for The Washington Post. “I decided to photograph the toys in their pristine shape, then again months later, observing this savage demolition with the scrutiny of an anthropologist.”

She started taking before and after photos of toys she bought her own dogs, Boston terriers.

Friendly Octopus“I started the project in late 2013 after noticing how grotesque a green stuffed snake had become. I photographed the chewed-up snake, but felt in order to really understand how disgusting it was, the viewer had to see how cute it was in the beginning”

Other dogs were later recruited into the project and presented with new toys to have their way with.

“It’s funny — it seems all of the dogs have their own objectives when playing with the toys, she said in an interview the American Society of Media Photographers.

lahti2“One of my dogs, Annie, will suck on a toy for hours as if it’s a pacifier. Murray, my senior, removes the eyes before he de-stuffs it. A Newfoundland buried his for a few weeks while another snuggled with it for a month before systemically tearing it to shreds. Two of the others ripped theirs apart immediately then had no more interest in them.

“I have not analyzed what any of this means about their personalities but it was interesting to see how different their methods were.”

You can see more of the mangled toys on Lahti’s website

(Photos by Hannele Lahti, from the Washington Post)

Making the best of a sticky situation

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I’ve got to admit, when I saw the story about how a photographer is turning his photos of dogs eating peanut butter into a book … and calendar … and more, I got a little jelly.

Jelly as in jealous, that is, and not so much of the photographer’s skills — but of his entrepreneurial abilitities.

You see, I barely have enough of those to spread on a Saltine.

I can take a decent picture, write a decent story, but when it comes to creating anything you might call cash flow, well, it gets sticky.

Cleveland photographer Greg Murray, on the other hand, is managing to turn a simple idea — a very simple idea — into a potential empire.

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A couple of years ago, trying to make a mastiff in his studio have an expression that looked less sad, Murray fed the dog some peanut butter.

“I wanted to make her happy, you know. I wanted to get her to drool and hang her tongue out and nothing was really working,” he told TODAY.com.

Now he’s turning that concept — dogs eating peanut butter — into a book and calendar, expected to go on sale sometime between this summer and October.

First, to cover his costs, he launched a Kickstarter campaign, setting a goal of $3,750. As of today, it has raked in $14,348.

That’s a lot of Jif.

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Pledge $40 and you’ll get a copy of the calendar when it comes out. Pledge $75 or more and you’ll get a softcover copy of the book. Pledge $390 or more and he’ll put a photo of your dog eating peanut butter in the book (assuming you bring the dog to Cleveland) and give you a hardcover copy.

Pledge $2,500 and he’ll come to your house and take photos of your dog, and you’ll get the book, and he’ll sign it for you. (I’d don’t think he’ll wash your windows, or scoop up poop, but you could ask.)

It’s really quite an ingenious set up. Publicity about the book — and there has been a lot — boosts his contributions, will add to his book sales, and will likely benefit his photo business.

On his Kickstarter page, Murray does point out that peanut butter can be bad for dogs (if it is a brand that contains Xylitol, which, he points out, Jif does not).

Some of the photos I’ve seen are quite charming, others strike me as little more than dogs with dirty faces.

To me, they don’t quite have the appeal of those Underwater Dogs.

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Nevertheless, the news media — always in search of stories allowing them to use the word “adorable” — gobbles it up. His venture has been reported on in, among others, the Huffington Post, BarkPost, Mashable, Fox News, the Daily Mail and the aforementioned Today.com.

On his Kickstarter page, there is a prediction the book will end up on the New York Times Bestseller List — but, keep in mind, that prediction comes from a dog he gave peanut butter to.

So yes, I am experiencing a little envy. Not so much of his idea. More of how he deftly he is turning it into a profitable reality.

But I’ve decided to squash that negative emotion and devote my energies to a project of my own:

Dogs eating jelly.

(Photos from “For the Love of Peanut Butter,” by Greg Murray)

Dogs looking skeptical

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These dogs appear to share a common expression, something akin to what we humans might call skepticism.

But the German photographer who put together the collection of outtakes from photo sessions in her studio calls it, “Dogs questioning the photographer’s sanity.”

And who’s to say they aren’t?

Elke Vogelsang, also known as Wieselblitz, is a photographer of dogs who specializes in portraits — but not the kind of portraits dog owners traditionally look for.

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Instead, she likes to capture them mid-expression — even though she knows what we humans see in those expressions may not be what the dogs are expressing at all.

“I usually prefer the pictures, which don’t look like that one portrait the owner would hang on his wall. I like the outtakes, the bewildered, quirky expressions,” she said in a post on Bored Panda.

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What the photos she posted had in common, she said, is that “the dogs look like they think that the photographer lost her mind.”

“With my dog portraits I try to explore the different expressions and characters of dogs. It’s all about emotions and personality. I love the challenge to get funny, silly or sometimes even melancholic expressions.

“Of course, these are snapshots, a moment in time, captured in a fraction of a second. Often we have our own interpretation of those expressions. The dogs appear to be laughing or smiling or they look sad. Like all dog lovers I’m guilty of humanizing them. But yes, dogs do feel all emotions humans feel, too.”

For more information on Vogelsang and her photography, visit her website or Facebook page.

Love a terrier, get a scholarship

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Five incoming students at Hiram College in Ohio will be receiving $1,000 scholarships, and all they have to do is prove how much they love terriers.

Through the end of this month, the private liberal arts college will be accepting applications for the “Terrier Scholarships,” which must include a photo or 15-second video that depicts a student’s love for terriers.

“Be creative!” the application advises. “Show us how your terrier is part of your family, a loyal friend or a fast learner. Show us why you love terriers!”

hiramterrierslogoThe terrier, you may have figured out by now, is the school mascot. But school officials say the type of dog also embodies “many of the qualities we love to see in Hiram College students,” including being playful, curious and loyal.

The terrier has been the school mascot since 1928.

Before that the school, founded in 1850 as the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute by members of the Disciples of Christ Church, used the nickname “Farmers,” and later, “Mudhens,” for its sports teams.

In 1928, the nickname “Terriers” was adopted after coach Herb Matthews, speaking at a sports banquet, described Hiram athletics as “a little bull terrier that holds on until the end … No name would seem more appropriate to me than just the Terriers.”

While the school’s mascot is a bull terrier, any breed of terrier is acceptable in the scholarship contest.

hiramterriers2(To the college’s credit, its mascot role is filled by a student in a costume, as opposed to a live animal.)

The college says scholarship submissions should show “what makes terriers special: how they are a part of the family, a best friend, a fast-learner — and more.”

“The Terrier Scholarship is our way of paying tribute to our long-time mascot, the bull terrier, and rewarding prospective students for their creativity and drive to become a Hiram student,” said Vice President of Enrollment Lindajean Heller Western. “We know how special our Terrier is, and now we want to see what makes other terriers great!”

A panel of Hiram media and photography specialists will choose the winners based on the creativity and originality of photo and video submissions. Scholarship recipients will be notified in February 2016.

Denali: A “little” film with a big message

Denali from FELT SOUL MEDIA on Vimeo.

Denali is a short film, but definitely not a “little” one.

Documenting the bond between a nomadic photographer and his dog, it is beautiful and sweeping, both in its photography and in what it says about the human soul, the dog soul, and that “team soul” that often forms when dog and person are thrown together.

Ben Moon and Denali came together in 1999, when he and his girlfriend adopted the dog from a shelter. After breaking up with the girlfriend, Moon and Denali hit the road, traveling around the Pacific Northwest as Moon photographed surfers, rock climbers and other adventurers.

In 2004, Moon was diagnosed with cancer. While in the hospital for surgery and, later, long chemotherapy sessions, nurses permitted Denali to be in the room — and you get the impression neither of them would have allowed it any other way.

Moon beat the cancer, and the pair hit the road again.

More than a few times, in the years that followed, Denali was featured in Moon’s published photography.

In 2014, Denali, at the age of 14, was diagnosed with cancer.

One month later, he was gone.

In Denali’s last weeks, Moon began compiling what would turn into the movie, Denali — his tribute to the dog he’d traveled with, over peaks and valleys both literal and figurative, for nearly 15 years.

A collaboration between Moon, director Ben Knight, and cinematographer Skip Armstrong, the film premiered at 5Point Film Festival, winning both Best of Festival and People’s Choice.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and I highly recommend viewing it on your full screen. And given it’s a work aimed at exploring emotions — not tugging at them — you may also watch it with a fully open heart.

It shows us how resilient humans can be, how resilient dogs can be, and how that resiliency — and the joy of life — can reach even greater heights when dog and human bond.

In his eulogy for Denali, Moon noted that, painful as losing him was, it was a time to celebrate.

“…However difficult the transition, it’s cause for reflection and a celebration of how much love and joy this incredible dog brought into my life.

“Thank you Denali for giving me the courage to hit the road with a camera, a van, and no plan back in 2001, for never taking your eye off me through a year of cancer treatments, surgeries and countless other challenges. Thank you for your uncanny ability to walk into a frame at precisely the right moment to elevate an image, for teaching me patience and the joy in the simple quiet moments as I watched you grow older, and most of all, giving selflessly the unconditional love that only a true friend can give. It’s impossible to put into words all that you were and will always be to me — I was always convinced you were more human than dog, and all of the countless lives you touched felt the same.

“Thank you for your unwavering belief in me, happy trails my friend!”

Dogs taking pictures of what excites them

On your next family vacation why not let the dog take the photos?

Granted, you’ll likely end up with lots of shots of human knees and other dog’s butts, but you’d be on the cutting edge, technology-wise.

Nikon Asia has introduced “Heartography,” a photographic system that takes photos not just from a dog’s perspective, but — via a shutter trigger activated by increases in the dog’s heart rate — takes them of those subjects that excite a dog the most.

Heartography consists of a heartbeat monitor, a camera and a special housing that includes a shutter trigger activated when the dog’s heart rate rises.

The company video above shows how one dog, Grizzler, became a canine photographer with Nikon’s help.

Nikon Asia is billing the device as one that “turns emotions into photographs.”

CNET calls it more of a gimmick — a “publicity stunt for the Nikon Coolpix L31” — and predicts it won’t catch on.

“The camera and 3D-printed case together are bulky, making the package an unlikely candidate for commercial production,” CNET reported. But the system “does give us a set of amusing images showing off all the things that get a dog excited, like people, upset cats and other dogs.”