I’ve spent the last few months debating whether to start a business focused on offering animal lovers a choice of pastel pet portraits and photographic portraits. The business idea is a possible alternative to full-time work or a side hustle that could supplement part-time employment whilst building up a client base. The latter certainly sounds more sensible.
Either way, one decision I have to make is to decide on a business name. Do I use my full name, a variation of my name, expand on the use of Two Black Dogs or even come up with something completely different? Two Black Dogs is my handle on Twitter and Instagram as well as being the title of this blog so I would need to have separate social media accounts regardless of what I decide. In researching existing businesses that focus on either pet photography or pet portraits there appears to be a mix of businesses using the artist’s name and those with names that reflect the genre of their art.
My reason for considering the expansion of the use of Two Black Dogs is the same reason for starting this blog, my black dogs Maxi and Bundy. Their antics, those big, brown eyes and my obsession with them inspired me to do pastel pet portraits, and being a crazy dog mum who volunteers in a shelter gave me a focus for my photography. Whilst the name is meaningful to me I realise it may not be meaningful to potential clients, which is often the argument for not using an individual’s name. It is all doing my head in and that is without even starting the business…what hope do I have?
For the last three years we’ve gotten up early on Christmas Day to head to the beach for sunrise. It has become a ritual for us, we load the car up with towels for us and the dog, fill our takeaway cups with fresh coffee and I make sure my camera is ready to go. Leading up to Christmas is always a mad rush of last minute shopping, tying up loose ends at work and preparing for visitors. The beach is relatively peaceful and quiet at sunrise, it is a beautiful and calming way to start the day.
Splash! I quickly turn knowing that I have just missed my chance of seeing a water dragon. These little reptiles generally don’t stick around, especially when I have Bundy with me but I got lucky walking around a local wildlife reserve one afternoon. The lake in the reserve has been on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration activity in the past 12-18 months with native trees and grasses being planted all around the foreshore. Piles of branches stacked around tree stumps are yet to be cleared away and these make great little hiding holes for all sorts of creatures. Wary of snakes I steered clear of one pile and kept Bundy close as I inched towards the water’s edge in order to photograph the pelicans on the lake. It wasn’t until I looked away from the pelicans that I noticed a lizard sitting on the pile of wood, an Easter Water Dragon to be precise.
Easter Water Dragons can be found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They can live for up to twenty years and will eat insects, small reptiles and frogs as well as fruit and other vegetation. Some people keep them as pets but I think you need a permit to do so and I would much rather see them in their natural habitat. Occasionally I see them lying on the side of the road, it is nice and warm for them and they will scamper off when they see you coming however they’re not always that lucky at escaping traffic.
The water dragon barely moved, his eyes watching every step Bundy and I took. I was grateful to have my camera and 70-200mm lens with me rather than my phone, allowing me to get close-up photos without disturbing him too much. You might be wondering why I’m referring to the water dragon as a male, if you look closely at the photo you can see that the water dragon has a reddish chest, apparently the chest of a male water dragon goes bright red during mating season so I’m thinking that this boy is on the prowl. After mating the female lays up to 25 eggs in the soft soil or sand and then she does a runner, playing no part in the parenting. Thankfully the kids are independent once they hatch, I just hope they stay off the road.
A while ago I wrote about finding balance. There was too much going on in my head and too many things I wanted to do, something had to give. Your feedback helped, I prioritised the things that were important to me as well as being ones I could realistically accomplish. My health is important, at 45 and with a family history of bowel and breast cancer, I am becoming more aware of what I eat. Although I haven’t gone the whole hog in quitting sugar I have reduced my intake and I’m eating more whole foods rather than reaching for what is convenient. This has been a relatively easy step to take and experimenting with new recipes has been fun, plus it makes me feel better.
I put ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ aside for now, although with a restructure looming at work I may need the finance advice more than anything else on my bookshelf. The weekly online photography course with David duChemin has also taken a bit of a back seat but not because I’m not interested, I’m just a little distracted and finding it hard to focus (pardon the pun). What I am doing is following David’s advice from the first week of the course which was to care deeply about your subject or be deeply curious. It wasn’t difficult to think of something that I care deeply about and as a result, I have been taking my camera to the shelter each weekend and photographing some of the dogs. In doing this, I am becoming more familiar with my camera and thinking about the end goal rather than just taking aim and shooting. Not all dogs make it easy, there are plenty of missed opportunities, blurry faces and lots of close-ups of their nose or chest as they jump up at me while taking the shot.
Art class, like volunteering, is non-negotiable. It is 2-3 hours a week where I can focus on drawing and hang out with like-minded people. Art helps shift my brain from worrying about the pettiness of a toxic workspace to thinking about the shade of blue needed to make those hills recede into the background. My trolley of art materials is fully loaded and I have finished one surprise pet illustration and have two landscapes on the go, and potential commissions waiting in the wings. Hubby and Bundy make the most of the peace and quiet by sharing the floor space in front of the television for a weekly dose of rugby league.
Have I found balance? Yes, to some degree but there is still more I want to achieve and I’m hoping that the cooler weather will help. The hot and humid weather really wore me down, zapping my energy and my motivation. Thanks again for the helpful advice. Have a great week!
2017 was going to be the year to spend more time on my art and and photography, attend a few workshops and make the effort to ‘just do it’. I even ditched the Master of Marketing I had enrolled in at the end of 2016 because I knew I could not commit to study, do the things I love, stay married and work full time. In November I signed up to do an online photography course with David duChemin which I am slowly progressing through and I recently bought The Artist’s Way because I thought it might be beneficial to my creativity (or lack thereof) once the other program finishes. I have also been looking into the idea of selling some of my work through online shopfronts like Printful or Fine Art America and perhaps offering pet portraits.
That, said I find myself keen to improve my physical and our financial health. On my desk are books supporting those idea’s: Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor, Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious and David Gillespie’s Eat Real Food although I know I have no hope of getting hubby to ease up on his favourite sugary beverage, Rum and Coke.
With all of these potential ‘balls in the air’ the following questions have crossed my mind:
Am I trying to do too much or is it a case of better managing my time?
Can I squeeze more into my weekends and mornings?
Is this perfectly normal and others manage it fine, even with children?
Am I overthinking it?
The question of moving from full time work to part time isn’t an option at this point hence the interest in online shopfronts and the Barefoot Investor. One day I would love to be able to dedicate more hours to my art and photography than I currently can and possibly make a little money to support my habit. The other things I can’t and won’t give up is Hubby (of course), walks with Bundy and my Sunday mornings at the Animal Welfare League. Spending time at the shelter and giving homeless dogs the love and care that they all deserve feeds my soul and makes me happy.
Unlike my previous posts this post has been more of a brain dump, me trying to get my head together and sharing it with you. No doubt it is going to require more processing, hopefully without experiencing analysis paralysis. Have you experienced something similar? Would love to hear your thoughts and feel free to share your answers to my list of questions.
In a few weeks we’ll be in Paris, struggling with the language and feeling the cold but still I am excited to be heading back to Europe. It has been a few years since our last holiday and I have nick named this trip ‘Scrappy Adventure II’. This trip we’ll be taking more technology, which worries me because I like travelling without a phone and a video camera however Hubby wants to shoot video and as yet I cannot convince him to make use of the video feature on the phone and the Panasonic Lumix. The smart phone will come in handy because we can make use of offline maps, guidebooks and messenger for keeping in touch with people however I’m hoping that once hubby sees all the cables and power packs then he’ll forego the video camera. My DSLR and laptop go everywhere with me, as good as the iPhone and Lumix are for photography, they don’t completely satisfy my photographic urges 🙂
When it comes to sharing photographs of our trip I will be making use of instagram, Facebook (to some extent), this blog and my Smug Mug account. Having an iPhone with us will make some of that quite easy, I am keen to see how much free wifi we can access and whether the iPhone will take the place of the Lumix even though it doesn’t have the benefit of a 30x optical zoom. My sister in-law and her husband will be on our tour of Europe soon and they’re only taking their smart phones to use as cameras, we’ll meet up with them in Paris so I’ll be curious to see how the phone photography went.
The list of gadgets so far includes:
Nikon D750 and 24-70mm lens
11 inch Macbook Air
Panasonic Lumix TZ70
JVC HD video camera
Numerous SD cards ranging from 8GB to 32GB
SD card reader
500GB portable external hard drive
When it comes to photography and gadgets, what do you prefer to travel with and what sort of challenges have you been faced with?
These photos are from our last trip, they were taken with an earlier model of the Panasonic Lumix and it doesn’t matter how old they are, looking at them always makes me smile.
For a while I have wanted to get a new lens, to be more specific I wanted the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens loved by Nikon photographers (amateur and professional) and perfect for low light photography. After many months of saving my dream was obtained and I picked up the lens a couple of days ago. We’ve had some spectacular sunsets here of late, but sadly they’ve been pretty ordinary since getting the lens so I’ve been testing it out in the backyard and at a nearby lake. Technically I cannot tell you much, what I can tell you is that I love that I can take photographs in low light without having to ramp up the ISO to a ridiculous number or drag out the tripod. Wish it had image stabilisation, my hands can be a little shaky at times however that could be minimised by drinking less coffee 🙂
These few shots aren’t fantastic and the one of the pelicans could be sharper, it was taken from across a body of water so I had to crop the image dramatically to see them properly. Getting closer is going to be essential with this lens, especially when comparing it to the 28-300mm lens I’ve been using.
Photoshop came into my life in the early nineties, at the time I was in my last year of a degree in graphic design and had just bought an Apple LCIII with an 80MB hard drive. Since graduating there has been numerous upgrades to the software and my computers and I moved from using Photoshop for processing photographs to Lightroom. Lightroom doesn’t have the millions of features that Photoshop has but it is sufficient for most things I want to do and the interface is easier to use, and it has the added bonus of being alot cheaper.
There are heaps of tips and video tutorials available for users of Lightroom, and a few days ago I came across a short YouTube clip demonstrating how to add a bit of oomph to my images. The technique is quite simple, boost saturation of the Blue Primary in your Camera Calibration menu. Below is the video tutorial by Trevor Dayley:
Although it may not be suitable for all images, you can choose the level of saturation and it does work quite well with my landscape photographs. Below are a couple of before and after pictures so you can see the difference. I’d love to know what you think, does it work for you? Which image do you prefer?