Dashwood focuses her attention on pet portrait photography, particularly working with canine subjects, but also lightly venturing into equine photography. Based in Lymington, Catherine is in the center of the New Forest in Hampshire, and she states on her website that “we are so lucky to live in a beautiful part of the country enabling us to have some spectacular backdrops”, which she is always keen to take advantage of.
The shallow depth of field within the majority of these portraits suggests that a zoom lens is being used to achieve a softened surrounding for the sharp, well focused animal subject. To further this cause, the saturation in much of Dashwood’s work appears to have been reduced slightly post-production, and a slight vignette applied to tone down the edge of the images, drawing the audience to the light that is inevitably focused upon the dogs. Catherine made reference to Photoshop during my discussion with her, and although alternative programmes may also have been used, I expect this is her primary editing software.
After speaking with Catherine, I learned that her technique for capturing dogs in motion was to throw a ball. However, since capturing the animal without the ball in their mouth had an increased aesthetic advantage, she would frequently have someone throw the ball towards her from outside the frame, causing the dog to chase it and therefore approach her, running for the toy.
I like the aesthetic that Catherine achieves within her work, perhaps because it is closely related to that of my own photography style. Furthermore, whilst I have typically ventured into pet portraits within the studio, and often liked the effect achieved by myself and those that I have researched within the studio setting, I feel that Catherine’s work is exuberant and filled with personality. This is important when photographing beloved pets, since their owners cherish the work in which you offer them, often longer than they are allowed to cherish their pet.
Catherine Dashwood Influenced Experiment
I decided to extrapolate the technique of desaturation, by removing all colour besides that of the halter worn by the donkey. This was to draw attention to the colour, and therefore my subject, whilst removing the distraction of the greenery, building and donkey within the background.
I feel that this experiment was a success, as the dark former donkey appears enhanced now that the richly saturated, colourful background is removed. However, the red of the halter I feel adds character to the portrait and draws attention, whereas the completely greyscale image appears dull and uninteresting.