Imagine you have this crazy unique job that lots of people in the world didn’t even know was a thing. Then, imagine finding this awesome community of people, who also have this crazy unique job. Plus, they’re willing to talk shop all day with you and share all their juicy secrets to success. Now imagine taking all that and plopping it into a moody, dramatic, gorgeous and picturesque Scotland. What the heck is this ridiculousness that I’m talking about?!?!
::epic trumpet noise here::
Yep. I want on an Out-Of-This-World (as the marketing geniuses put it – not wrong!) pet photography retreat in Scotland last month. And holy moly banana chocolate martini glitter sandwiches was it AMAZING!
I rolled into Edinburgh a few days early because I got wind that two Barka-alums were going to be there. And they were going to have dogs with them! I’m talking about Bridget Davey of Bridget Davey Photography in London, UK and Karen Black of Indigo Pet Photography in Toronto, Canada.
Bridget and her husband brought Archie and Lucy – pro-trained photog models/beagles. One nice thing about being a pet photographer’s pet is that you’re used it. They hold poses perfectly. But can also be a little immune to all those funny sounds I love to make. Ha! But we did a quick tour around the city to get some scenic shots around the castle.
Then, it was time to get over to the manor (I think I just got some sophistication points by just typing that phrase out loud!). Did I mention we had a personal chef? And every day there was not only dinner dessert, but also lunch dessert? No? Yes. There was!
Shoot #1 – Loch Tay!
Ok ok, back to the photography stuff. On our first shoot, my group (shoutout to Kristy, Christine and Julie! The best group EVAR!) paired with, none other than Kaylee Greer – the OG master of color blasting portraits and wide angles – from Dog Breath Photography.
Loch Tay was brimming with cobblestone walls, twisty-turny-tree root goodness, and duh, the beautiful lake. So really, what’s not to love!? We had a quick location scout before our models showed up and picked out favorite spots.
We started with Luna the blue staffy puppy! She’s the cutest little squirmy love bug and there may or may not be slow-mo footage of me sloppy kissing her mid-shoot. It’s a dirty job….
Then we moved onto Hugo. He’s a big ham of a Victorian Bulldog and he’s got a mad hankering to clamp his floppy face down onto any stick. Luckily, with the help of his mom we used that to our advantage and I got some great shots of him in his happy place: stick pouncing in the water.
Last but oh-so-not least. A stylish dog after my own heart. Who probably also gets haircuts WAY more often than I do, Khan the Bedlington Terrier.
I had to have him up on that stone wall to show off the epic sky and cloud show that was going on behind him. I even pulled out my flash for a few shots. With the help of Sam (the other half of Dog Breath Photography and an amazing people portrait photographer!) to get a shot of Khan and his dad together for some epic, rockstar-style album cover portraits.
Shoot #2 – Glencoe
Already having received a bad reputation from the torrential downpours the week 1 Barka retreat folks had to endure, we headed to Glencoe. It’s a most epic valley of thick, heather-covered hills. Mountains surround it on every side, with a sprinkle of a creek running through it. I forgot to bring a pair of wellies. Much regrets as the rain turned the ground into soft, shoe-eating slop.
Under the guidance of Charlotte Reeves of Charlotte Reeves Pet Photography and Unleashed Education, we started off. Hamish and his sister Isla, two gorgeous Vizslas, were our first models. It was a little tricky getting them to pose on leash because they just wanted to have all the pack together! But between sprinkles of rain and .2 seconds of rainbow, their model poise came out. I even slid down a hill to catch Hamish splashing around in one of the creeks. Worth. It.
Never mind that the notorious fitness subscription, Covid home-gym saviors, rhymes with “Schmellaton,” team was there filming a commercial. Getting annoyed at borks in the distance. (Totally not us, guys! We swear.) Photography aside, I got a lesson on how to share turf and also be polite about it, from Charlotte. #pickyourbattles
Then! Miss Business herself, Pixie, co-founder (along with her human mom, Wendy) of the Scottish Pet Bereavement Counselling Service popped up for her moment in the spotlight. Her pointy ears and fur blowing in the wind fit in so seamlessly with the backdrop!
Mutley’s Snaps Studio!
Then we took a quick break to visit a local! Mutley’s Snaps!
Ewan Cheyne was generous enough to invite us all over to his studio to see the magic behind the curtain. He showed us his set-up and had two pug models to give us a look at his work. The take away was “keep it simple, stupid!” (don’t worry I added that last “stupid” as he would never!) and showed us his simple one-light set up to keep things easy and fun for the dogs!
Shoot #3 – The Kelpies
What happens when you put a work of art in front of two other giant works of art?! You get EPIC ART! The statuesque Luna showed up in her wool sweater and Louis Vuitton collar ready to WERK. And werk she did!
We only had a short time to get some shooting in here and make magic of it. Luckily the little long girl Luna held her own amongst the sculptures and fit right in.
Shoot #4 – Finlarig Castle Baby
You can shoot anywhere or somewhere. And this somewhere was the Castle ruins! Complete with beheading pit!
For this last shoot we worked under the Mother Hen of All-Things-Pet-Photography-Education and that’s Nicole Begley of Nicole Begley Photography and the Hair of the Dog Academy.
I wanted to capture all the uniqueness and really just get these dogs looking cool in this ancient space. We did a little location scouting again. Then it came down to: do I want to capture
- 1. The ruins part of the castle
- 2. Inside the castle
- 3. Cool castle windows
- 4. Multi-level arches
- 5. Crumbling doorways
- 6. Gorgeous fields
- 7. Lush ferns
Easy right?!! No. Not for someone as indecisive as me!!
Once again, our group got graced with the good luck of the puppy gods and we were paired with 10-wk old fluff-ball, Buddy. For being so young, he fell right into his modeling role and delivered us puppy pose after pose.
Then, we got to spend time with Charlie the Spaniel who simply could not get enough of all the attention. As this boy’s tail went into hyper-speed overdrive, so did our shutters! He was happy to stand over here, pose over there, chase this and dive mouth first into that stick over there! Win.
Amongst all the excitement, I grabbed every opportunity by the haunches to sneak in shots with other groups’ models. There was just too much cuteness to resist.
Finally, Sam and Kaylee set up a shot with a flash, backlighting the border collie, Cooper’s silky fur. For one, final, epic, Scottish portrait.
But that’s not all!
Yes. There was lots and lots of photography fun to be had. But they also, so kindly, scheduled in some fun time. I got to go on an ::word of the day bell here!!:: EPIC ATV ride through fields of sheep. Then they even let us play with the orphaned triplet lambs that were being raised by hand. Talk about adding value to the experience!
There were even lots of house shenanigans to be had. Between Sam being able to play any song ever on the piano for our live karaoke sessions, Craig Turner-Bullock (of Furtography AND Unleashed Education fame) and Charlotte inviting me to take a freeeezing, morning plunge in Loch Tay and me eating the pavement outside of the Dewar’s distillery (I didn’t even do a tasting! I promise!), it was an incredible trip I’ll never forget.
Happily Editing After
Then it was back home to edit 10 billion jillion photos. I was happy to relive every cool moment from the trip, in my hot Porta Vittoria apartment. I can only hope to cross paths with this special group of my “heart people” again. Sooner rather than later!
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This post is part of a blog circle of some of the most uber-talented pet photographers all over the world. Keep reading to hear all about adventures these photographers take with their clients.
Up next: Endless Mountains PA photographer, Elaine Tweedy, of I Got the Shot Photography, talks about hunting adventures with bird dogs, and what owners want to see in their photographs.
Follow the circle until you land back on this page. Enjoy!
Barklander had to be awesome!!! I loved reading all about it.
It really was amazing. It’s going to be hard to resist future retreats now…
Oh my gosh! What an experience! Looks like you got gorgeous scenery & epic dogs. What was your biggest takeaway from Barklander?
Good question! Mainly – stop, breathe, and make sure there is no trash, dumpsters, ugly grates, grossness next to, under or even near the subject. Whew, that was a lot of photoshop work!! But overall, it was just nice to be doing what I love with “my people!”
O M G !!!!
Wow, wow, wow! So much awesomeness. What an experience! Love your images – especially the little Doxy! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much! It really was such an amazing experience. I wish I could be in that mode everyday…but then again, I require much more sleep!
Truly EPIC! Loved every minute of this blog. I love living vicariously through people I know. 🙂
Thank you! I’m really proud of the images that came out of it. What more can a gal ask for, right?!
Amazing!! Thanks for sharing the stories from the retreat and giving me major FOMO. lol! Oh, and “schmelleton” and had me laughing so hard I nearly spit out my coffee! I hope to attend a Barka in the future, especially if you are going. lol.
I really want to do all of them now. It may be a problem! But yes…hahah it would be so fun to experience this together!! We can spray coffee everywhere!!! 😉
Oh my goodness, Carol! You crafted such an amazing wrap-up to our trip. I love your storytelling and your pictures are beautiful! I am soooo glad we got to finally meet in person, beyond Zoom and with proper pants on, LOL! And I’m thrilled we got to be together in the same group. What a fun time we had and I hope we can get together for another epic dog photography adventure soon, minus the “schmelleton” meanies.
I’m so glad we got to team up for this one. You make a great shooting buddy, especially with proper pants on!! Haha. I hope we get to do another one of these together again soon. I’ve fully drank all the kool-aid!
I would DIE right after I got a chance to shoot dogs at an old Scottish castle. Because then my life would be complete. I just know it. Well … maybe not if it happened before I could talk shop with another dog photographer IN ITALY, one of my bucket list destinations. Because wouldn’t that be fun too? Never mind. I need to live forever. And win the lottery.
You know there’s talk of a Barktaly (Barkgiorno?!! Barkaggiano Reggiano?!) coming up, right…so yes live forever and win all the lotteries. No pressure.
Wow, that looks epic for sure! Sounds like you had a great time and you certainly have the stunning images to prove it!
Oh it was so fun!!! So sad that it’s over, but at least I can flip through all my bazillion photos (pro and not!) to go back there whenever I feel the need!
AMAZING!!! Epic locations AND images! This looks like soo much fun! I am in love with the Vizslas 🙂 Cooper in the arch is stunning! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience, Carol!
We really got lucky with some good lookin’ dog models. And the locations! I mean how could I not walk away with epic photos. Now I just need to figure out how to create some of that magic closer to home! Thanks for reading and the compliments, Darlene! 😀
Ahhh!!! What an EPIC wrap-up of your amazing trip!!! I feel like I was right there with you!!! Your post is so entertaining to read and your images are fun, gorgeous, and EPIC!!! 😘
Thanks, Andrea! It was an amazing trip and I hope to have more in the future with all these great pet photog people!!