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!
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.
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