Some photo concepts take months of brainstorming to produce. Others hit you like a bolt of lightning. Put Anabel DFlux’s striking shot of a colorfully powered dog leaping through the air in the “bolt of lightning” category.
The powder, as we later learned, is similar to Gulal, a non-toxic substance used during the Hindu festival known as Holi. And the dog, which some might mistake for a German Shepherd, is actually a Belgian Malinois.
But how did these seemingly disparate elements come together to create the exhilarating image at the top of this story? We needed to learn more so DFlux, an experienced dog sport photographer, filled us in how she made this powdery pooch portrait.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in our new “How I Made It” series where we interview photographers on the story behind one of their images. You can see our previous How I Made It features here, here, and here.
Q: Can you give us some background on you as a photographer?
Anabel DFlux: Where do I begin? Haha! I began my artistic journey at the age of ten, upon being gifted my first camera. This newfound passion quickly turned into a skilled endeavor, and by the age of fifteen, I had opened my own photography service, Deliquesce-Flux Photography.
Deliquesce-Flux Photography began as a canine portrait service, servicing pet owners in the Los Angeles area at local dog parks and community events. I then swiftly moved into the marvelous world of dog sport photography, going on to receive multiple official photography positions at a variety of canine athletic sporting events. I have had the honor of photographing both national and international canine champions, as well as their litters. This directly ties to the powder shoot, as I have a sincere passion for capturing animals in movement.
I don’t like to feel limited by a niche, so alongside pet photography, I also photograph a slew of other subjects that I am inspired by. I am known for my music photography, fantasy work, and photo shoots with exotic animals such as foxes and wolves.
Today, I am a Sigma Ambassador and stock my kit up with their delightful lenses. I am privileged to be able to offer education and teaching opportunities through my involvement with Sigma, sharing my knowledge with photographers around the world.
Q: What’s the story behind the image?
Anabel DFlux: I wish I could say there was some grand endeavor to create this image, but there really wasn’t. My good friend Bri Jansen has always wanted to have photographs of her dogs in movement with Holi powder, and after racking our brains a bit on how to do this, we figured out a good way. Thus, the photo shoot was born!
This particular shot featured her very athletic and beautifully trained Belgian Malinois, a breed often confused for a German Shepherd. This dog breed was originally bred to be a herding dog. Today, Malinois also work as police and military dogs, protection dogs, and are loving family members.
Q: Can you share some logistical and technical detail about how this image was captured including gear used, settings etc. Were there any Photoshop or other post-processing enhancements involved?
Anabel DFlux: This image is a clever mix of action photography and some editing magic!
To begin, the gear of choice for this image was the Sigma 35mm F/1.2 DG DN Art lens. Although many use telephoto lenses for pet photography (I definitely favor the Sigma 70-200mm Sport) we were shooting in Bri’s backyard, which was a bit of a tighter squeeze.
It is heavily un-advised to use the powder in any park or public location, due to both the local laws governing the use of such products in public as well as the potential environmental havoc it can wreck with local wildlife if you don’t contain the spread. It is much easier to ensure the powder doesn’t spread when you have a small, fenced off location. To be safe, we did this session at the comforts of home in the backyard, with a very tall fence. The fence helped ensure that the powder stayed solely on our property and blocked out some of the wind that could cause it to spread. We had a clean-up plan in place to swiftly sweep and wash the leftover powder away.
My camera choice was the Sony A7R IV, a favorite for mirrorless options.
The Holi powder itself was hand-made by Bri to ensure its non-toxic properties. Animal safety is our first and foremost priority, and this session was no exception to the rule.
To really get that height, we set up a jump for Bri’s dog to leap over. We did a few test runs and her Malinois learned the game! He was put at a sit / stay, the powder was applied to his shoulders and back only (we wouldn’t dare risk the powder anywhere near the eyes, nose, ears, or mouth!). Bri got into the prime “dog catching position” on the opposite side of the yard, and the Malinois was commanded to run and jump. We did this a few times before we figured out the right amount of powder. The dog was promptly brought back into the house to wash off afterwards.
We were limited on resources for this shot as, due to shipping delays with COVID-19, so I wasn’t able to have my large black backdrop on stock. So, believe it or not, the black in the image is all artificial. The powder was masked using Topaz Labs Mask AI and then significantly cleaned and enhanced in Adobe Photoshop. The tall fence in the yard created a neutral background which made masking easier than you would expect. The powder was a bit thin in some spots, so some more was artificially rendered for drama.
Q: What was the dog’s reaction to being covered in powder and taking part in this unusual shoot?
Anabel DFlux: The dog was not fussed one bit about the powder! Truth be told, because the powder sits lightly on top of the fur, I don’t believe he even noticed anything amiss. He received lots of pets and praise for standing still during the powder application and was then promptly released to run.
Q: What was the biggest challenge with this shot?
Anabel DFlux: Getting the powder to fly! It took several tries to find the right amount of powder to actually be able to capture the flow in-camera.
Q: What’s next for you?
Anabel DFlux: I don’t believe I ever plan what’s “next” in my photography career—I take each day for the beauty that it is and continue to create tomorrow!