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  • Johanna Siegmann

Unlikely Quartet

Once in a while I will donate a peeps-and-pets session to the silent auction of a charity I support. Carolyn Beck and Bill Peterson are the winners of this particular auction, and we quickly set up a concept for all four of them, plus an individual portrait of each of them with each pooch.

In this case, the concept was obvious to me. Both Bill and Carolyn play for orchestras, and they have a music salon every week at their home. So incorporating that into the image was the inspiration. After coming up with some overly-complex concepts at the beginning of my career, I have learned that keeping it simple is always better.

Now, working with one animal is a challenge all unto itself. But when you add a second wiggly critter, it takes a LOT of patience, a VERY fast finger, and ALL the luck gods on your side. And when they're not...

Wire-haired terriers in general are rather high-strung, so Nick and Nora were very skittish at first. I smelled funny, and brought in lots of mysterious packages. But after initial sniffing of all parts and equipment, they began to tolerate me. (Yes, part of my job has been learning to tolerate the sniffing...) Nora was especially motivated by food, so after a few treats provided by Carolyn for me to proffer, Nora was on board. Nick was much more suspicious, and decided early on that whatever funky thing this stranger was up to, he'd have none of it. Except for teasingly running through the set at warp speed.

After assessing all the available places to shoot, I began to set up. I required a backdrop, and we moved a ton of stuff around to make room for me. I'd brought dresses for Carolyn to try on, and Bill went to get into his tux. Then I set up the lights. And that's when things started going squirrely. It is a recurring nightmare for me that my equipment goes haywire. So I routinely take redundant equipment because "you never know". But for some reason, this time I didn't, and for some frustrating reason or other, they were misfiring.

It was freak-out time. But because I am a also consummate professional, I kept my cool, and figured out a way around the cussedness of inanimate objects.

This image was the first setup, in which we had originally envisioned Nick and Nora sitting on the settee with Bill and Carolyn, enjoying the music. But as I said earlier, Nick would have none of it. And Nora was taking her cues from Nick. They would not go near the settee. No matter what. Nick dashed in and out, and Nora - thinking it was a game - did, too. We finally resorted to bribe them with treats, and Nora would happily would run up to the settee to get hers. Nick, however, just leered at me with great suspicion, then do a dash-by grab of his treat.

This was the only time I got both of them together, at the settee, with their adorable butts facing the camera. It's not what we envisioned, but it turned out perfectly.


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