Shooting the Cats

No… This isn’t going to be about murdering my feline co-residents.  It’s going to attempt to answer a question Louis asked (probably jokingly) in the Comments to last week’s Friday Fragments.  It’s also about making the most of opportunity.

Ogapoge Inspects an Invader

Ogapoge Inspects an Invader

But, before I get to those things, I want to thank everyone who dropped by Page One Books to visit during Small Business Saturday last weekend.  I very much enjoyed having a chance to just settle in and chat – something I don’t get to do enough of during typical book events or even at conventions.  I even helped a few people find books they needed – and maybe evolved an idea for a future project.

All in all, a very fine time!

Afterwards, Jim and I went out and visited a couple of other small businesses.  One of the great things about Small Business Saturday is how many of the businesses turn the day into a party.  We were offered cookies and cider at one place, and coffee and chocolate at another.  Oh!  And we bought things, too, including the super cute cat figurine by Dana Pomroy featured in this week’s photo, and some beads I hope to weave into a winter bracelet.

Now to shooting the cats… and the guinea pigs!

Last week Louis said: “…it occurs to me that you could easily devote a Wandering to getting your models to pose for the title photos for these posts. They don’t even nibble on the titles in question!”

Certainly, nibbling on the title in question is an issue, especially when working with Persephone the cat and any of the guinea pigs.  Guinea pigs divide the world into “edible and not-edible.”  Anything is potentially edible until proven otherwise, so we do need to watch carefully.  That’s why, sometimes, there’s a carrot or bit of greenery also featured…  Guinea pigs are firm believers in the saying “Lead me not into temptation.  I’ll definitely follow.”  So we don’t tempt.

Persephone, who is our youngest cat at age three and some, has had a thing for biting paper since she was a kitten.  We’re growing accustomed, if not precisely resigned, to having her bite through the edges of magazines.  Her sharp teeth often “staple” pages together.  Then, when reading an article, I need to pull the pages apart.  Persephone has a particular attraction to shiny paper, so you’ll rarely see her posing with a paperback book or magazine.  That’s simply asking too much…

We hope Persephone will outgrow this trait eventually.  Ogapoge, who is now a dignified twelve going on thirteen, also bit book covers when he was younger.  However, he no longer thinks this is cool.  We’ve tried to get him to explain this to Persephone (who thinks he’s wonderful) but so far she hasn’t gotten the message.

When searching for a model for the Friday Fragment, we first check who hasn’t been featured for a while.  We then patrol to see who looks in the mood to hold still for the camera.  However, we’ve also learned a few tricks to getting a good photo.  This is where I segue into the importance of taking advantage of opportunity… and not just for finding the right model in the right place.

Jim is definitely the photographer in the family.  I don’t think I’ve taken more than one or two pictures in the nearly twenty years we’ve been hanging out together, and those were pictures he set up in advance but needed to be in.  I really appreciate the many photos he takes for me, not only for my various social media sites, but as research references.

One day some years ago, we dropped by a camera store so he could consult about a piece of equipment he was considering buying.   I drifted (as is my wont) over to the books and magazines.  I started browsing through one about getting the best out of animals as models.  From this I picked up a few tips we still use.

 The first tip was that animals react a lot better to having their picture taken if they are used to seeing a camera pointed at them.  Otherwise, the camera (Jim prefers an actual camera, digital these days, although he does like film, not a phone or tablet) can be scary since it masks the photographer’s face.

With this in mind, Jim started going out of his way to take pictures of the animals when they were awake, not just adorably cuddled up in a basket sound asleep.  By combining this with lots of praise, our cats have come to accept that this strange practice of holding up a clicking, flashing monster is just another of the weird things that humans do.  The guinea pigs simply anticipate a treat.  They’re optimists.

Even when an animal is accustomed to being photographed, getting the model to look where you want can be a challenge.  This book recommended that the photographer have an assistant who stands where the animal should be looking and does something to attract the animal’s attention.  That’s my job.  I’m not always needed, but when necessary, I can clown with the best.

Those tips may seem like common sense, but they’d never occurred to either of us.  (That’s the way with so much “common sense,” isn’t it?)  If I’d decided to fidget or not to come along to the camera store, because cameras aren’t “my thing,” then we’d never have learned them.

Opportunity lost, because it wasn’t looked for.  That’s an important lesson, especially for writers, because it’s easy to think of research as something focused on a specific project, not as taking advantage of chance.  My experience has been that some of my best work has come from being open to opportunity.

And certainly, some of our best photos as well!


6 Responses to “Shooting the Cats”

  1. Louis Robinson Says:

    Thank you. Fun, and I wouldn’t have thought of either of those issues either.

    Only now I have to ask if that’s Ogapoge’s normal expression, or if you have taught him to ham for the camera [he does like ham, doesn’t he? most cats will steal all they can reach]? I was also going ask if there was any known link between his name and Ogopogo, from the Okanagan, but it turns out that that name came from a British music-hall song and has nothing to do with native language.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Ogapoge is Tewa for “Down at the Olavella Shell Water.”

      Ogapoge’s name is from a Pueblo pottery type. His full name is Ogapoge Polychrome. We named him for a pottery type to continue a theme we’d started with Kwahe’e.

      Kwahe’e’s is Kwahe’e Black on White, another Pueblo pottery type. Kwahe’e basically mean’s “gourd,” which actually fits him, since he would be extremely chubby if we didn’t moderate his intake. As it is, he’s the one the vet always comments on needing to lose just a little!

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    Well, if you want real camera clowns, get a Weimaraner. William Wegman’s tricks with his dogs relies on the fact that they all seem to be natural hams.

    As for cats, I’ve generally had good luck, but then again, I’m generally snapping a picture in the general context of playing with them, so I haven’t had too many problems.

  3. Paul Dellinger Says:

    Our current dog, a Jack Russell terrier, simply will not put up with being photographed. Try to pose him and he bares his teeth.

  4. Dawn Barela Says:

    I have gotten really good photos of my Dad’s dogs when I am eating something. Because Lucy (dachshund/chihuahua mix) and Charlie (black lab mix) are both moochers!! Lucy has tried to grab food out of my mouth on occasion. But they will get up on the couch or sit at my feet if I am in a chair and stare the whole meal!

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