Mission Valley Cocker Spaniel Club
On Saturday, February 14th, Mrs. Zim and I drove to San Jose, California, where the Mission Valley Cocker Spaniel Club was putting on a Valentine's Day specialty show.
The main reason we wanted to attend was to test out our new Panasonic DMC-FZ10 digital camera. We had attended a Cocker Spaniel specialty show in Riverside last year, and noticed that our previous digital camera wasn't quite up to the unique challenges presented by an indoor dog show. The lack of light, long distances to the subject, and fast moving dogs all proved to be a photographer's nightmare. We wanted to test the new camera in a similar situation to see if it fared any better. It definitely did!
Here are three parti colored Cockers in the show ring, about to be looked over by the judge. I was way across the room, but was able to get this shot without any problem thanks to the big zoom lens on the Panasonic camera. In fact, I wasn't even close to being zoomed in all the way. Compare the shot above to a similar picture I took in Riverside last year, and notice how much further zoomed in the Panasonic was able to get.
Here's a shot that better demonstrates what you can do with the Panasonic camera's 12x zoom lens...
Again, I was way across the room... but able to get a very close shot of a dog in the show ring. There was no way I could do this in Riverside with my previous camera, and that's why you don't see a lot of pictures of dogs in the ring on my Riverside page. The dogs were just too far away for my other camera, but it was no problem with the Panasonic's big built-in zoom lens.
Here's another shot where the big zoom came in handy...
The judge (on the right) is looking over the dog while the handler keeps the dog stacked on a table. Once again, I was completely on the other side of the room, outside of the show ring, but able to get right in on the action with the zoom lens. Your average digital camera is not going to be able to even come close to getting this shot.
Notice, however, that the camera did have a little bit of trouble with the low amount of lighting in the room. You can see some noise in the picture, especially in the judge's sweater. Because the room was only lit by a few overhead fluorescent lights and a little outside light coming in through the doors, it would be a tricky shot for any camera. I set the ASA to 400 to make the most out of the bad lighting... and I'd say that the camera did a pretty good job all things considered. Any SLR film camera would have had just as much trouble with this little natural light. Using a flash wasn't really an option here, as I didn't want to be a distraction to any of the dogs in the show ring.
Here's another shot that I tried in Riverside but just could not get...
Trying to shoot dogs in motion indoors with only natural light was completely impossible with my previous digital camera. All you got was one big blur. Even the Panasonic camera was severely challenged by this situation, but it definitely did a lot better. You can actually make out that it's a dog in the picture!
Half the fun of going to a Cocker Spaniel show for me is watching the dogs get groomed in preparation for their turn in the show ring. There's a room away from the ring where the handlers set up all their grooming equipment and get the dogs all spiffed up. You can just wander through the room and check out all the beautiful dogs and chat with the handlers. It's fun. Here's one of the most beautiful dogs we saw... a real beauty with a full show coat.
One thing to notice from a photography point of view is how well the camera did once again in natural light... especially in the area of color balance. Notice the white wall in the background really looks white. Proper white balancing is VERY tricky for most digital cameras. The Panasonic camera has a really handy feature that I have learned to take advantage of... in addition to the standard white balance settings that many cameras have, the Panasonic has a full manual setting. You point the camera at something white, push a button, and the camera sets itself perfectly for whatever room lighting you happen to be in. I wore a white sweatshirt to the show... and just turned the camera at my chest to set the white balance quickly and easily. You could also easily accomplish the same thing by just carrying a small white sheet of paper with you, or by pointing the camera at a white wall.
Learn more about the camera, and see other photos I've taken with it, by clicking here.
Enough about the camera... now more about the dogs! Check out this fellow's coat. You don't see this color very often in Cockers.
This is what's known as a blue roan. In this lighting, you don't quite get the blue effect... but in certain light, all those black streaks in the coat take on a blue hue. This beautiful dog belongs to Michaela Garloff of Bodega Cockers in Sebastopol, California. I had never met Michaela in person before, but she came up and introduced herself after seeing our kennel name on the sweatshirt I was wearing.
By the way, Mrs. Zim and I were so impressed with Michaela! She is such a nice lady, with a warm and friendly personality that immediately won us over. Later, when we saw her in the show ring handling another one of her dogs, we were equally impressed. She and that dog did a great job! I wish I had gotten a picture of it, but I was just enjoying the moment too much to pick the camera up.
One final picture from the show...
While we're on the subject of classy handlers, I've got to mention Bryon Santos who you see here helping to make this buff Cocker look his best. I've watched Bryon and his wife at several different shows now, and chatted with him a little on a couple of occasions, and I just have to say that these folks are impressive. If I ever decide to send one of my Cockers out on the show circuit, these are probably the first handlers I would call. They're very good at presenting the dogs, and you can tell that they really enjoy their work. Real pros!
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