The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 May 2004

Photogenetic engineering

Labrador Retrievers come in three flavors: black, chocolate and yellow. Labs tend toward a gruff sort of handsomeness, and they are the single most popular breed right now, as measured by American Kennel Club registration data, so there are going to be a lot of people taking pictures of Labs.

There is a downside to this, though, and Fred First has been there:

What's a photographer to do? After being the owner-companion and image-maker for two black labrador retrievers, I was well aware of the photographic impossibilities of getting a proper exposure in a scene containing green leaves, blue sky, gray-brown tree trunks AND a pitch-black dog. Most of my pictures of Zachary, our first black buddy, or Buster — our pal who died not quite a year ago — show a dense blue-black dog-shadow devoid of details or color, save the brown eyes, white teeth and pink tongue. I reached the conclusion that it just was not possible to get an acceptable photograph of our dogs except perhaps on very overcast days when the exposure latitude between the darkest object (always the dog) and brightest object were somewhat less severe.

When Buster died, we couldn't bear another black lab. There were too many memories, we'd call the new one either Zach or Buster, no matter what we named him. So we decided on a "yellow" lab — which truly is a misnomer. Tsuga is somewhat tawny, barley-colored in tail and feet, but for the most part, he is a white dog. And here we go again. How does the photographer avoid producing a dog-shaped white blob with features only, perhaps, in the darker aspects of the face and paws?

But Fred doesn't whine about problems; he scratches around for solutions. And sure enough, he has one:

This challenge, then, lies before our clever canine breeders: The quest, of course, is to find a new coat-color gene and breed it into the race. The final product: Joining the ranks of the yellow, the chocolate and the black: The Neutral-Gray Lab! At 18% reflectivity, the dog could be both a gauge of mid-range reflectance and an ideal subject for pet photography. Future generations of image-making dog-owners will create a demand for this new breed, and labradors around the world will finally have their kind look good in pictures.

This seems to be encroaching on Weimaraner territory, but I like the idea. The national breed club for the Lab, however, probably won't; they consider any departure from the canonical colors to be a disqualification, as does the AKC in competitive events. Still, normal people, as a rule, don't schlep their dogs to the show circuit, so I suspect that should there be a demand for neutral-colored Labs, eventually there will be a supply.

Posted at 9:33 AM to Dyssynergy


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Well, as possibly one or two of you know, Saturday's are a really slow bloggin' day. As such, it was particularly hard to locate a really choice Stupidest Human of the Day™ for today. Instead, I have three only partially......[read more]

Yeah, that snooty Kennell Club thing might be a problem. I may have to take this one off-shore. Knowwhaddeyemean?

Posted by: fredf at 12:37 PM on 22 May 2004

Did you just call Greg Hlatky and his wife "abnormal"?

Posted by: Dr. Weevil at 6:15 PM on 22 May 2004

All rules have their exceptions; Dr Hlatky and his lovely bride are certainly worthy folk, but I worry that they may be too sane for the show scene.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:44 PM on 22 May 2004

Hmmm. Greg's just posted something to illustrate my point. He's got a photo of a late-Forties German Shepherd Dog from AKC and a shot of the current top-winning GSD, and while the breed standards look similar, the dogs don't; present-day GSDs always seem to look like they're dragging their keisters. God forbid you should say that to someone who shows one, though.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:16 PM on 22 May 2004

Yes, an 18% gray dog would be the reference dog for dog pictures. Another possibility is to Photoshop the dog, photographing him in an ideal studio and pasting him into the colored scene. On the other hand, maybe not...

Thanks for the laugh this morning.

Posted by: Larry at 5:56 AM on 23 May 2004

When I see a German Shepherd dog in low-rider mode, I always think rickettsia.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:05 AM on 23 May 2004

Er, dysplasia, not rickettsia. Beg pardon.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:59 AM on 24 May 2004