Raptors - my first foray into avian studio photography

This was the first time I’d ever worked with avian subjects. So, of course I decided to jump into the deep end with tiny, speedy, amazing raptors. Because if you’ve got an idea, you may as well go all out. The images that I captured are some of the strongest I’ve ever created (in my humble opinion).

My goal for 2019 was to learn how to use a flash in my photography. It’s evident to anyone who’s familiar with my body of work that I’m obsessed with crisp photos of animals in action as well, so it was only a matter of (very brief) time before I sought to combine the two.

Nopalito | Aplomado Falcon

Nopalito is a ~2 year old Aplomado Falcon owned by Joanie Lamoureaux, a registered falconer from Quebec. He’s a hunting bird. I was lucky enough to be able to coordinate the photography session to correspond with her trip. He had a great disposition and worked well in a studio environment.

Aspen | Harris Hawk

Aspen is a ~2 year old Harris Hawk owned by Amy Elizabeth of Royal Canadian Falconry. Aspen is a working bird, doing both commercial bird control as well as public education demonstrations. His temperament was rock solid, coping with the studio environment with ease.

If you’re interested in seeing Aspen fly, Royal Canadian Falconry does falconry experiences. I highly recommend that you reach out to them!

How these shots came about:

I put out a random model call on my social media pages asking for avian subjects, and the reaction was pretty overwhelming. I selected two birds and their handlers that seemed as if they would be comfortable in a studio setting. I brought my portable studio to a horse arena, set it up and, well, these are the results.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who helped make this day such a great success.

Behind the scenes

It's coming! Registration for the last group powder event of 2019! Don't miss out!

Registration for the last open group powder session of 2019 is coming. Spaces are extremely limited, so don’t miss out! Contact me via email, social media or comment below if you would like to receive an email notification when pre-registration is available, before the event opens to the public.

The event will be held on a weekend day in October or November, 2019. Jumping, disc and other events will be offered (pre-registration required and contingent on skill level). The event is limited to 10 handlers, and spots will be reserved on a first-come-first-served basis upon receipt of a deposit.

The event will take place within 1-2 hours’ driving distance from Toronto, Ontario, and will be indoors (YAY!).

As an added incentive, I’m holding a contest. One lucky handler will have their registration fee refunded to them prior to the date of the session!

Zest the Border Collie photographed at Jess Bell Photography group holi powder session

The photos are guaranteed to turn heads with their bright colours and unparalleled detail. The event itself is great fun, full of laughs and loads of memorable moments.

For more information, check out my page on Group Powder Sessions.

Behind the scenes with Jess Bell Photography


How do you create these images?

This is captured in-camera and is not a digital effect simply stamped onto a photo after the fact. We apply powder to your dog and let ‘r rip!

What do the dogs need to know?

Your dog(s) should be able identify and take a basic jump in a new environment. These photos work best with dogs that are happy and focused on their handler. Environmentally sensitive dogs might feel uncomfortable being handled by strangers, performing in a new environment or having the powder applied.

What do the handlers need to know?

The coloured powder I use is non-toxic (FD&C/D&C approved ingredients) and safe to use with your dogs. However, like all powder, it’s best to avoid inhaling it. We take every precaution to avoid this (shooting with lots of ventilation, only ever cuing forward momentum, keeping powder behind the head at all times).

You will get dirty, and your dog(s) may be dyed for weeks after the session. Do not plan to compete in conformation/obedience/rally within a few weeks of our session, as your dog may be excused from the ring.

The best way to remove the pigment afterward is a high velocity dryer. Do not bathe your dog until you've removed as much powder as possible from the coat via other means. Water may make the pigment hold more fast.

Just for fun: Musings on lingering pigment on dogs after a photo session

The more I experiment with dogs + powder, the more I learn. There are all sorts of small things that I never thought much about before I began experimenting with this series that I spend odd amounts of time thinking about now. Today I'm thinking about pigment.

Short story: some pigment lingers longer than others

Photo for dramatic illustrative effect.

Photo for dramatic illustrative effect.

Longer story

I've used powder on my dog, Cohen, twice now. The first time, I used magenta for some jumping photos. The second time, I used green for some footage for a video we're developing.

After the first session, Cohen's whites were white again after 3 days. No bathing was required - it simply fell right off her.

It's now been three weeks since the second session and Cohen. Is. Still. Green. ACK! (I don’t even LIKE green!)

Nothing has changed, care-wise, between these two sessions. She had not been recently bathed beforehand (which I felt might strip the coat of protective oils) and hasn't been bathed afterward (which I felt might make the pigment hold more fast). And yet, Cohen's beautiful white collar still has a distinctive green tinge...

It’s time for a bath.

I routinely ask clients to report back to me about how long it takes for the colour to fade from their dogs' coats. Things like coat texture certainly do affect how the colour lingers. But now I can confirm that the pigment behaves differently from one colour to another. And information from clients seems to confirm it.

Reds and pinks seem to fall off pretty quickly. Green seems to stick around. I don't yet have sufficient information to speak about the other colours.

I thought it was interesting! Perhaps you will as well, and it will inform your decision on the colour you wish to use for your own coloured powder action session.

Do you have an experience of your own to share? Please do so!

Interested in a shoot of your very own? Contact me to discuss it further.

On top of everything else, I do cats now too.

I had a furry celebrity come by my studio recently! Tonic, the real star of the new Pet Semetary movie, dropped in to say hello, along with his feline compatriot, Sashimi. They were kind enough to pose for me while I tried my hand at photographing cats. My goal for this session was to emphasize rim lighting to create soft and elegantly lit portraits.

Studio ACTION photography!

Regular readers might recall that I set out into 2019 with the intention of learning more about using artificial lighting in my photography. After experimenting in my in-home studio for a few brief months, I jumped into the deep end with action photography. I wasn’t too sure if I’d be successful in creating images that were up to my standards beforehand, but, well, mission succeeded! I’m thrilled with these shots. What do you think?

We also had a film crew present this day, capturing footage for some very cool upcoming projects. It was quite the event!

Stay tuned for more images posted to my social media channels as I finish them.