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Paws for the Camera
Windermere Observer Thursday, Sep. 24, 2015 4 years ago

Paws for the Camera

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by: Catherine Kerr

PIX-PAGES-0416_Golden_Pups

DR. PHILLIPS — For Dr. Phillips photographers Nicky Dronoff-Guthrie and Chuck Guthrie, life has literally gone to the dogs.

Dronoff-Guthrie and Guthrie started their professional photography careers decades ago, traveling the globe to take stock images of nature and wildlife. But after years of capturing stunning shots of wild animals, they noticed that they did not have many photos of their 14-year-old Rottweiler, Pumpkin.

“When she started to get really gray … we realized we had a couple snapshots of her, but we didn’t have anything beautiful,” Dronoff-Guthrie said.

After a session with Pumpkin, the couple started offering portrait sessions for other pet owners who wanted to immortalize their pets’ personalities and beauty in photographs.

But Pix ’n Pages’ specialties expanded again after Dronoff-Guthrie and Guthrie attended a competitive dog agility tryout and took some photos just for fun.

“It kind of grew from there, because then people started asking us to come and photograph their events,” Dronoff-Guthrie said.

Since then, Pix ’n Pages has shot cover images of agility and obedience competitions for publications such as Dog Fancy, Dog World and Animal Wellness magazines, and they are the official photographers of the AKC National Obedience Championship. They work about 20 events each year, including a number of competitions on the national level.

“It’s always exciting,” Dronoff-Guthrie said. “I grew up with animals and we just love dogs. In fact, we’ll photograph people only if they’re with their dogs.”

When Dronoff-Guthrie and Guthrie shoot an obedience trial, their goal is to capture the dog performing each command correctly, without interfering with the dog’s focus. It is also important to show the relationship between the dog and its handler.

“There are different parts of the test, so you want to tell the story,” Dronoff-Guthrie said.

Dronoff-Guthrie and Guthrie’s current Rottweiler, Satara, is trained in agility, obedience and carting. At some events, Dronoff-Guthrie balances her time between handling Satara during her trials and working the camera during other dogs’ trials.

“It’s a great opportunity to create an ambassador for the breed — a breed that kind of gets maligned,” Dronoff-Guthrie said. “I want to be able to show a good example of what a Rottweiler can do and be.”

Agility and obedience trials are somewhat controlled, compared with the unpredictable nature of pet portrait sessions. Many photographers choose not to work with animals because of that irregularity, but it has never driven away Dronoff-Guthrie and Guthrie.

Pix ’n Pages was once asked to photograph a litter of 7-week-old golden retriever puppies, with a lake as the backdrop. Getting all nine puppies in the frame at one time was not an easy task.

Guthrie and some assistants were each assigned to a few of the puppies and tried to hold them in place, while Dronoff-Guthrie set up the shot. On the count of three, everyone had to run out of the frame at the same time and hope for the best, as the uncooperative puppies split from the group and followed the action, time after time.

“To this day, I wish we had a video of it, because it was absolutely hysterical,” Dronoff-Guthrie said.

Every day for Dronoff-Guthrie and Guthrie is different, whether spent in their home studio, out in the field or in a competition ring. But the common thread is always a passion for their work.

“We just love what we do,” Dronoff-Guthrie said. “It can be very long days, but we love it.”

Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].

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