The photo essay is posted at KLM Images.
Hounds at work
The most thrilling shots are those showing the hounds at work, and ideally their prey, too. As the cubbing season draws to a close, that can mean tall autumn grasses and hidden action. But it also means the subtle autumn colors and the last of the flowers.
Basset hounds sometimes seem to understand that they have short legs and seek high ground for advantage.
This particular hound is a photographic favorite of mine. Before I knew her name (Jesse) I was calling her Autofocus because my camera found it so easy to focus on her. Usually a hound is small and lost in a large background scene like this, but her coloring is so vivid as she stands on the Great Meadow course jump that the scene works.
Rabbits can be a real challenge. On this day they were plentiful, but they kept popping up out of unexpected locations. By the time I could spin around and catch a glimpse, they were either beyond my ability to capture them via camera, or captured badly. Finally one rabbit obliged me by dashing, well lit, within my range.
The weather was too dry for good scenting, but the pack gave it its best. It’s hard to make dark hounds stand out on a cloudy day from muted autumn vegetation, especially when the chestnut (tan) of their muzzles and legs match the tall grasses. Best to work for an overall atmospheric mood.
Hounds at rest
Sometimes you can get better shots by concentrating on the mini-dramas that always accompany a pack of hounds, especially when they’re off duty. Basset hounds are particularly good for this — who doesn’t smile when they see one?
First there’s the problem of how to pick one up. These hounds hunt uncollared, so simply finding a way to hold onto them is tricky, and picking them up to put them into the trailer when you’re not that tall yourself doesn’t always work. After all, if it takes two hands to lift that hound, how will you open the trailer door? Good thing the hound is patient.
Then there’s the general incongruity of carrying a basset hound around like a kitten, even when the human’s a bit larger. It only seems plausible because the legs are too short to dangle much.
There are many hounds and lots of staff, so look for those quiet private moments of human-hound interaction.
Sometime no one notices the hounds who use their own initiative to explore the crowd.
Just because the people are talking to other people and ignoring the hounds doesn’t mean the hounds have lost focus on the important things, such as post-hunt treats.
They sit patiently (or not), waiting for their opportunity.