Dogs and Their People Abroad

Last April, I was with my new found friends from an out-of-this-world Dog Photography Retreat named Barkelona (yes, you read that right!) on our last night in the historic seaside town of Sitges, Spain.  The workshop was taught by three fabulously talented women who are at the top of the pet photography world–Nicole Begley, CharlotteReeves, and Kaylee Greer.  We had just finished the 4-day retreat held at a 16-bedroom villa–Casa Felix– in Olivella, a hillside traditional village about 20 miles southwest of Barcelona in Catalonia,  and were chilling out walking to our last dinner together.  Exhausted from the exhilarating workshop and lagging behind the group, I saw a Boxer with a ball in her mouth come racing towards me across a plaza!  I came alive and started snapping photos.  Ella, the boxer, stopped suddenly right in front of me with her ball hanging precariously out the side of her mouth like Winston Churchill’s cigar.  It seemed like she was posing for me as she checked me out.  Inside my viewfinder, I was so close that I could see her dog tag with the name ELLA in big, bold print.  Her fur mom came running right behind Ella.  Here we were stranger-to-stranger with a dog and ball between us.  Naturally, I took the ball from Ella’s mouth, threw it across the plaza and off she went bounding after the ball.  With my halting Spanish and the mom’s halting English along with smiles and flying hand gestures, we ‘talked’ dogs.   Ella returned again with the ratty, yellow tennis ball and we played the fetch game over (and over) again.

While traveling the world, I’ve always photographed people and their dogs.  At first it was unwittingly and then I had a WOW! moment that asking strangers to photograph an animal they love is a warm introduction.  And it unites two of my passions: photography and dogs.  I began to pursue these passions in Spain at Barkelona and have since opened my own pet photography business: Bright Eyes Photos!  Photographing dogs like Ella that I come across at random on city streets and country roads are what I love best about my newly chosen pet photography profession that I practice on- location in the Washington DC-Virginia-Maryland metro area.



Red-shoed dog owner, Sitges


Small Dogs and Large Dogs
Back to Sitges…I spent that evening roaming from our outdoor cafe in the streets of Sitges to meet people and their dogs.  And there were LOTS of them all out for a stroll before dinner as Spaniards eat late at 10pm.  It helps to have a smile and a ‘Hola’ and ‘Bon dia’ or ‘Bona tarde’ (in Catalonian) at the ready!

I ask in Spanish to take a few photos of the strangers’ dog.  When they agree, I squat down and begin taking a few photos and it quickly becomes evident with small dogs that this approach isn’t working.  I ask the furmom or dad in Spanish to hold the dog baby in their arms or on their laps.  They love this!  Now I’m taking photos of the dog and their pawrents.  Really nice!

For large dogs, if you’d like to get the pawrents in the photo, simply ask them in their native language to squat down to their level to take the photo.  Often the dog will think we are playing and start interacting with their people: jumping up, kissing and licks, adoring looks and squirmy ‘I want to get down. Now.’ reactions.  In the blink of an eye, you’ve built some trust, knocked down some barriers, and remembered a moment.  I will show the people the photos which is the magic of digital photography.  Often we walk away smiling, waving, hugging.


Barkelona group (photo by Charlotte Reeves)


German Shepherd in Sitges


Dogs Bridge a Cultural Divide
Large or small, long haired or short haired, cute or cuter, handsome or beautiful, dogs can build bridges for us humans in a strange land.  Combined with a camera, you can capture genuine moments with people and their dogs.  “Be Fearless in the Pursuit of what Sets your Soul on Fire”–unknown, was an inspirational quote Kaylee Greer shared in her opening session of Barkelona.  What better way to pursue your passions than to have a camera in hand and a dog as an emissary in a foreign land!


Woman and her dog, Sitges


Pepa in bathtub, Casa Felix


Nicole, Kaylee & Charlotte, Sitges waterfront cafe