You can have great fun and grab some wonderful pictures at dog agility events. You will get the chance to shoot canine action, portraits, candids and much more. And most events are small enough to let you shoot action with a modest 70-200mm
A standard zoom is good for portraits while something like a telezoom is perfect for candids and action shots. If you do have something longer, then take it because you can use it to get even closer to the action as well as throw potentially messy backgrounds nicely out of focus.
A monopod will take the strain of your telezoom so taking one is recommended and they are not too much effort to tote around all day. Make sure all your batteries are fully charged and take plenty of memory too.
A seat and a kneeling mat or picnic rug are worth having too for a more comfortable time.
If dog agility is new to you, just spend some time soaking in the atmosphere and checking what is going on where. You get different standards and different sizes of dog so there are usually several arenas with courses.
To be honest, watch a few dogs and their owners tackling the course and you will soon work out where to shoot from and what obstacles are the most photogenic. Dogs emerging from tunnels, leaping fences, negotiating the see-saw and weaving down a line of poles are my favourites. Depending on their position in the arena, you might be able to take up a very close spot and shoot with a modest telephoto lens. If you want to include the owner in the composition you might even need something wider.
Prefocusing, shutter speed choice, panning, timing the shot – all the techniques you would use for shooting football, Moto GP or Formula 1 also come into play here. And the action can be just as unpredictable as dogs decide to do something other than what their owners wants. Just be prepared for any eventuality.
In between bouts of shooting action, shoot candids or ask dog owners to shoot a more posed picture. At this time of year, the contrasty light might be a problem but a burst of fill-in flash can help lighten the shadows for you.
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