Snow in April - Dog Parks and Swamp Coolers | Active Light Photography | Photo Tours to Hidden Destinations, Anasazi Ruins
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Warm Weather is Bad for Berners
It had been warm here in Albuquerque – highs in the low 70s. But Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally bred for Bern, Switzerland, and Bern’s summer temperatures rarely range above 75 degrees. I didn’t want our Berner Taylor to cook if it got any warmer. So I called Academy Plumbing and Heating to get our swamp cooler ready for summer. When he was done, my service guy Phillip said, “OK Mr. Bohrer, your swamp cooler’s ready to go. Just keep in mind this is Albuquerque, and we still could have freezing weather.”

That was around April 1 – no fooling.

Snow in April...

Snow in April

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Change in the Weather
So here we are in mid-April. Forecast is for storms moving through for a couple days, with overnight lows in the 20s. Time to get Phillip out again to drain the swamp cooler’s supply pipe so it doesn’t freeze.

It was also time to get Taylor out for his daily romp in the dog park. He turns into Mr. Bratty if he doesn’t get it, so off we went.

Gray day at the dog park

Gray day at the dog park

Dog Park with Taylor
When there’s no one else there, it’s up to us to entertain him. Tay will chase a tennis ball – he just won’t bring it back, thinking that’s what we’re there for. After awhile, he’ll plunk down and push on it. He thinks everything should squeak when he squishes it, just like his favorite toys.

Gotta be careful...

Gotta be careful…

...Sometimes it gets away from you!

…Sometimes it gets away from you!

We watched him chew on it for awhile. The ball exploded out of his paws once, and he jumped up to chase it down.

Plopping down

Plopping down

When he plops down to chew like that, he’s probably ready to head back home. His timing was good, because by the time we got there, it was snowing pretty steadily. This was unusual, so I slapped on a flash for fill and went for it. I stopped down at a low ISO 100 to get a slow enough shutter for snow trails, but the flash froze individual flakes a little.

Phillip gave me a call when he’d finished disconnecting and blowing out the pipe, keeping good social distancing. So we wouldn’t have a problem with freezing and bursting swamp cooler pipes. Now all we had to do was keep warm inside, and get it reconnected when things warmed up. Guess I won’t have it done before May next year.

Flurries in our back yard

Shot Notes
My normal setup for dog photography includes a flash with a diffuser, usually on the camera. Yes, that’s usually a no-no. But when there’s enough ambient light, I can get away with it. I’ll add a small diffuser to increase the size of the light. A speedlite squirts light from a 3″ by 1 1/2″ area or less, and the Lumiquest Mini Softbox increases that to about 4″ by 3″. If I really need a larger source, I’ll use a Lumiquest Softbox 3 to get it to 8″ by 7 1/2″. Both Lumiquest softboxes fold flat. The Mini is small enough to fit in a flash case, so I’ll always have it with me. Softboxes cost you some light power, but you probably won’t be trying to overpower the sun with a small speedlite.

For a stationary dog portrait with calm adult dogs or dogs with their owners, I’ll take the flash off-camera and put it on a short lightstand. Manfrotto’s 156BLB stand, which goes as low as 16″, is perfect for small dogs. I may also put the camera on a Really Right Stuff Pocket ‘Pod for a low-angle shot. Then I can extend the LCD out and around on an EOS R camera and comfortably shoot at a low angle. I’ll trigger off-camera flash with a Yongnuo YN-RT-E3 I or II.

I don’t like low-cost Chinese-made flashes. Heat dissipation and reliability aren’t as good as with Canon’s own flashes. If a Chinese-made flash breaks, I’m not going to send it to China for repair, so I’d be left with a bricked flash and money down the drain. But Chinese-made triggers are another story. Without a heat-producing flashtube, they’re much more reliable. And they’re inexpensive enough that if one does break prematurely, I haven’t wasted too much cash. With light use over the last couple years, I haven’t had any problems with the Yongnuo triggers.

Why use a softbox? A large light used close softens shadows. Yes, the sun is huge, but it’s also 93 million miles away. Without clouds, it’s a very bright, small point source that produces really hard shadows. An overcast day acts like a big softbox, spreading the sun’s light over the whole sky to soften it.

More Information
Bring Fido (nd), Canine Skyline Dog Park. Retrieved from

Lumiquest (nd), Softboxes. Retrieved from