One of my favorite things about being a professional pet photographer is discovering new locations to shoot at. Here in San Diego, we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful city with so many different types of areas that are perfect for taking photos. So, when Hudson & Nickel’s mom, Dorte, suggested we do her San Diego pet family portraits at UCSD, I couldn’t wait to see what the campus had in store for us (it had been about 15 years since I’d visited there). She specifically choose this location because she works there, which I thought was a perfect reason. One might assume she works as a teacher or other administrative position, but to my surprise (and probably yours as well), she’s actually responsible for taking care of the lab rats. Crazy, right?! Crazy cool! Imagine having a job where you get to take care of those little furry friends every day. I wonder if Hudson & Nickel are aware of their mom’s unique profession, and what they think about her playing with rats all day. Haha!
As with any pet photo shoot, I arrived about an hour early so that I could scope out all the best spots to photograph. I quickly realized how beautiful the UCSD campus truly is. The students and faculty must love spending days there. We started the session in a quiet little nook that was adorned with bamboo. It was a must for Dorte, and not a bad backdrop if you ask me. It was also a great spot for the dogs to get acclimated to the situation. From there, we moved on to what ended up being my favorite spot…a cozy courtyard that had recently received a fresh fall of leaves. The colors of the trees was spectacular! I seriously could have photographed in that area all day.
Because it was Sunday, the campus was virtually vacant. This really helped keep the distractions to a minimum and allowed Hudson & Nickel to focus on mom and me. They were so well behaved…sitting nicely, looking at the camera when instructed, listening carefully to mom, and just taking it all in. Dorte had cautioned me that Nickel can sometimes be weary of strangers, but she did a fantastic job and honestly never stopped smiling 😀 Hudson isn’t much of a smiler, as he portrays himself more to be the strong silent type. Typical behavior for a male surrounded by ladies. But don’t let that fool you…this guy is all about giving big, giant, slobbery kisses.
The next spot we ventured to during our San Diego pet family portrait session at UCSD was a 2 story wall that was completely covered from top to bottom with luscious green ivy. I truly get amazed when I see nature interact with buildings in a way like this. Simply gorgeous!
To wrap up the session, we decided to take a short stroll through the Eucalyptus woods. I was in love with the way the sun peered through the trees, while the dogs were in love with all the various smells. They were getting tired by this point, so we stopped to rest for a bit. I watched and photographed as this surreal family moment unfolded in front of me. Seeing those dogs show their appreciation for each other and for their mom was absolutely heart-warming. It’s these moments that make me love my job and the clients I get to work with.
I had such a great time with these three! When Hudson & Nickel saw me again at their Show-n-Shop appointment, they were all about giving me kisses. They made me feel so special, like I truly bonded with them. Dorte loved all the photos and ended up getting a framed 3-image series for herself, along with some framed gift prints for her mom and sisters. What a great gift for the holidays!
(product photo here)
The minute I met Coconut, I was in LOVE! She is the sweetest, softest little ball of fluff. When I came over to her house for the Consultation, she instantly greeted me with joy. Maybe she smelt the treats in my bag, maybe she’s just that sweet to everyone (probably both). Either way, she makes you want to curl up a cuddle with her 🙂
For the photo shoot, we headed to the beautiful, fun nook in San Diego known as Seaport Village. This quaint little dog-friendly part of town is big on the tourist attraction list, and offers all kinds of cute little spots to take pictures, as well as a few restaurants with pet-friendly patios, such as Edgewater Grille. Not to mention, that view with all that water (yes, please!).
We started the session by climbing the rocks near the water. I always like to start sessions with the more active shots so that the pups are more rested towards the end of the shoot when we do the more relaxed posed shots. Coconut had no fear, climbing all over the rocks and nearly jumped in the water. Luckily, she didn’t because her white-as-snow coat would have been a
hot wet mess had that happened.
Our next stop was the duck pond. I was so excited to take Coconut to see the duckies because she’d never seen any before and I knew she would love it. As expected, she was in awe of her newfound furry friends. After a few minutes, she muscled up the courage to cross the fence line to get a closer look. Naturally, I embraced breaking the rules in order to get a good shoot. My favorite image from this part of the shoot is the one where she’s on the bridge looking into the water where 7 ducks were swimming for her amusement.
After visiting the ducks, we took a little “picnic” break in the grass. Coconut wasn’t quite ready to settle down yet, but we lucked out because she found a random old bully stick that another dog had left behind, and she was instantly fixated on it. Hello new bribe tool! As long as I had that bully stick in my hand, she would stare at me and do whatever we wanted. It was pretty awesome…and hilarious! Of course, in appreciation of all her hard modeling, we let her enjoy her super stale treat for a few minutes here and there.
It’s pretty difficult for me to pick a favorite photo from this session, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be this one where Coconut’s parents are kissing her and she is clearly loving it! I mean, it’s just pure joy for all three of them. Simply precious!
With stale treat in hand, we continued through Seaport Village to our next picturesque spot. There’s this little bench that’s surrounded by ivy, and when I was location scouting here (go behind-the-scenes in the location-scouting video), I knew I had to shoot at this spot. The way the ivy hangs is so enchanting, making for some really magical moments. By now, Coconut was getting the hang of this modeling thing, and was really working the camera for these shots.
For the last stop on our adventure, I figured “what better way to wrap up the session than with a sweet, cold treat from our friends over at Ben & Jerry’s?” Coconut had never had ice-cream before, but that didn’t stop her from inhaling the double scoop we got. I’m not even sure her parents got much for themselves, but we were all having a blast trying to keep the ice-cream from melting all over everyone. Coconut had no problem appointing herself the task of drip control – haha!
This pet family photography session was so much fun, and we got so many great images from it. During their Show-n-Shop appointment, Coconut’s parents had a somewhat difficult time choosing which images to use for a wall gallery because they loved them all. Not a bad conflict to be in if you ask me 😉 With the help of my handy dandy wall gallery design software, we were able to create a beautiful display for their bedroom featuring all their favorite images. They also purchased a custom album because they really did want all the images and albums are the best way to get them all.
Coconut didn’t seem too impressed with my wall gallery design, as she was more interested in finding the treats that she knew were in my purse. And because we took a few hours to design the perfect product order, she literally fell asleep with her paw in my purse (my Instagram fans were amused). Oh Coconut, you are too much, sweetie pie!!
Guajome Park is one of my favorite places to shoot a pet portrait session, especially with the whole family. Last weekend, I joined Kristi and Clay, along with their fur babies, Louie and Penny (Maltese mixes), for a beautiful afternoon in the park. Kristi had expressed her desire to get a group shot of all four of them together, so that was our main goal for the session.
As a regular visitor to Guajome Park (I often take my dogs walking there because I live about a mile away), I already had a few spots in mind for where to shoot. And I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome. We started off walking along some of the trails. Walking shots can be tricky because dogs usually just want to sniff around, paying no attention to their parents or the camera. So, we did a sort of walk-and-stop approach, resulting in some great shots of the four of them.
There’s several trails throughout Guajome Park, but one of my favorites is what I refer to as “the secret garden.” It’s a narrow trail that winds through lush greenery that makes you feel like you’re in an enchanted forrest of some sort. If Louie and Penny had been large dogs, it may not have worked out as well as it did, so I was LOVING the fact that they were small, because the four of them fit so perfectly under the beautiful natural archway that curves over the path. I wasn’t loving the poison oak that I managed to stomp on, but I’ll gladly risk a bit of itchiness to get a good shot.
I had to take advantage of the beautiful late afternoon backlight (one of my favorite types of lighting), so we took a rest at a nice little bench. Kristi and Penny were having a girls-only moment while Clay took Louie to do his business, and I couldn’t resist how cute the two girls looked together. So sweet!
There’s also this sweet little spot right by the water that I just had to shoot at. The trees provided such a cool background, and the large trunk that lay across the ground made for the perfect place for the four of them to sit. Such a romantic little hideaway tucked right off the side of one of the main trails.
We wrapped up the shoot with a picnic-style gathering. I love to do these shots at the end of the session because it gives everyone a chance to just sit down, relax and enjoy some group hugs. Watching these four love on each other just warmed my heart. And feeling the countless foxtails poke through my pants reinforced the fact that I have no problem sacrificing my own comfort for the sake of capturing that precious moment.
How adorable would these images look as a wall gallery in their home? Every shot of them turned out so great, I’d have to recommend getting a series of at least 6!
Next time you’re visiting Balboa Park in San Diego, you may recognize the baby bear I had the pleasure of photographing this past weekend. His name is Georgie, and he is one very popular Bernese Mountain Dog. Not only has he got nearly 2,500 fans on Instagram (view his profile here), but he’s also the spokespet for Big Dog Plaid (a company founded by his mom, offering collars and bandanas for big dogs). During our photo shoot, he probably made another 20 fans. I don’t know if people thought he was a professional model because we were doing a shoot, or if they just thought he was the most handsome “little” pup they’d ever seen! Either way, he’s a charmer that’s hard to resist.
His parents love walking him through beautiful Balboa Park, one of San Diego’s most popular destinations. So, of course I was super excited to hear that’s where they wanted to do the shoot. Working with 3 fun, cooperative, beautiful models in a picturesque park…it’s a photographer’s dream!
And although Georgie’s parents did an excellent job, he undoubtedly stole the show. It’s no wonder this big show-off has 2,500 fans! It was hilarious watching him get all excited about being out and about with other people and dogs, then he’d suddenly stop, look, and smile for the camera right on cue. It made for some really fun moments!
Then, he got all ham on us. Haha!! These are the kind of photos I strive for during a shoot. Those spur-of-the-moment, pose-gone-wrong, silly, even-a-little-awkward times that has everyone laughing.
It was a good thing he kept us laughing, but it actually started raining right in the middle of our shoot. But, that didn’t stop us. We dealt with the challenge and found a covered area. As luck would have it, once we were done shooting in that spot, the rain stopped, and we were able to get a few more shots out by the duck pond.
These images make such a great sequence together. How beautiful would these images look as a wall gallery in their living room?
Do you think Georgie has what it takes to be a professional model? Check out his Instagram to view more cute and adorable photos of this rising star. Maybe YOUR pet has what it takes? Call or email to book a session and let’s find out!