The Making of Pukka: The Pup After Merle

Digital photography has revolutionized how we see the world, no more so than in chronicling the lives of our dogs. In the thirteen years I lived with Merle, I took some 3,000 photographs of him, most of them on film. In the first six months of Pukka's life, I took 14,000 digital images of him, and three other photographers took another 3,000 of Pukka and me together. From these 17,000 images, I chose some 200 to put in Pukka's book.

Making of Pukka 1Quite a few of these images would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to have made with a film camera. For example, there were times that I was shooting Pukka outside in bright sunlight at ISO 200 when he decided to run into the house and do something charming or interesting. A simple flicking through the camera's ISO menu allowed me to shoot him at ISO 3200, an undreamed of film speed during the time Merle was alive in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In addition, there were morning walks with Pukka on which I shot four- to five-hundred images in an hour. That's the equivalent of fourteen rolls of 36-exposure-roll film. Think of the expense. Think of the time involved to change rolls while your puppy is doing something cute! Also consider that modern SLR cameras have very sophisticated automatic focusing and exposure controls. Images like the one above would have been very difficult to make on a film camera, unless one was lucky. This particular image of Pukka leaping over the sage brush while looking for ground squirrels took over a thousand tries to make, during a period of three months. And in this regard, one thing hasn't changed from the time of film cameras: patience and being in love with your subject.