Volunteering

April 24, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

Homes for Endangered and Lost Pets [H.E.L.P]
http://www.helpinganimals.org/

H.E.L.P. ia a rescue/foster group that places dogs and cats in “forever” homes.   They adopt out through adopt-a-thons, at PetSmart and direct calls.  This is the group that we adopted Nemo from a couple of years ago. I’ve been wanting to find a way to volunteer for this group for some time now.  2 years ago I tried to volunteer for one of the PetSmart positions.   Unfortunately my travel schedule didn’t allow me to give them a regular time slot so it didn’t work out.  

I always thought that using my camera would be good way to volunteer.  Jill, the teacher of the photography class that I just completed, does portraits for the local animal groups in Phoenix.  When I asked what she thought she encouraged me to pursue this idea.   It’s a win-win for all; HELP gets photos they can use on their adoption materials, websites, etc and I get a kind of photography bootcamp for doing pet portraits.  I also get to play with the animals.   What can be better.

So I contacted the folks at help and volunteered to go to the foster homes, PetSmart, where-ever and photograph the animals.   My contact recommended starting with the cat adopt-a-thon on 10 April.  The adopt-a-thon was to be held a local bank in St Charles from 10:00 – 12:00.

We were set – I had my first real, official photo shoot.   I was so excited I hardly slept the night before.   Not sure what to expect I packed up everything – backgrounds, lights, cameras, a zillion batteries, cat toys, feathers…..  I read more on lighting set ups and checked out pet portrait samples from other photographers.  I even bought a package of animal training clickers – you know those little plastic things that make a clicking sound when you presss the button.  I was hoping that would help me get the cats to look at me.

DAY OF THE SHOOT
When I arrive at the bank I carried in my “portfolio” and the email I received from the coordinator.  I checked in the Marilyn, the woman organizing all the activities, told her who I was, why I was there and gave her my book to let her get a feel for the type photos I hoped to get for them.  Then I carried everything in and set up.   They had a large open room in the basement of the bank.   At one end they had 4 rows of tables set up with 25 or so cats in cages.  I set up at the opposite end of the room – away from all the activity and people.   Initially I put a white background with 2 speedlights on stands; one with an umbrella and the other a 15″ softbox.   Got out the toys and a clicker and was ready to rock and roll.

Now the fun begins..
The foster moms brought the cats over one at a time.

This is Storm – He’s one of the first cats to come visit me.  He was pretty good.  When the foster mom set him down he didn’t immediately bolt although he was VERY interested in what was behind the curtain.   Must have thought the wizard was hanging out back there because every chance he got he tried to head back there.   We finally got his attention on something behind me and I got a couple good shots.
 
Bradley was also pretty cooperative which is good because I had to keep adjusting the lighting as to not completely loose him in the white background.  In the end I got about 3 descent photos before he had enough and bolted.  
 
China was probably the most relaxed of all the cats I did that day.  She seemed pretty easy-going.   She even layed down on the background and looked straight into the camera.
 
These 2 little guys, Brody and Luke, are brothers – probably about 4 months old or so.  Every time the foster mom tried to set one of them down he took off running, I mean like lightening fast running.  Catching them was a challenge – took 2 of us to herd Brody toward the foster mom to catch him.  I ended up shooting both of them while the foster mom was holding them.   Shortly after I took these photo both boys were adopted together.  I sent the photos to the their new family.
 
In the end I photographed 12 cats in about 2.5 hours.  If you want to see a photo of all the cats I did that day I’ve posted them on my PawPrints Photography website: http://www.pawprintspix.com/   I couldn’t get one of the cats, Mama Cass, to relax at all.  She was angry and her photo shows it.
 
The H.E.L.P. folks were happy with the results.   I think they adopted out 7 or 8 cats that day.  The next adopt-a-thon isn’t until June – I can’t wait to do more.

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