4 Paws and a Pair of Sneakers

The adventures of a dog photographer and her Boxer dog Gromit.

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Gromit Lost His Wiggle

My heart has been broken into a million tiny little pieces.  I don’t feel like I will ever be able to pick those pieces back up again. This has been the most difficult past couple of weeks as we said goodbye to our beautiful Gromit on Saturday, January 16th.    From January 1st to January 6th, Gromit had seen his vet and an Internal Medicine Dr multiple times.  Everyone trying to figure out what what was going on…then on Wednesday, January 6th I received the phone call.  Gromit has lung cancer.  Gromit has lung cancer….how can that be?  Why?  How long? Hundreds of questions flooded my thoughts as tears flooded my eyes.  That same evening I received a call from his vet, Dr. Cucaro.  She was so amazing and was so so sorry to hear the news.  She had just received all of the information from his Internal Medicine Dr.  We were both devastated. Because of Gromit’s heart condition, we could not do any extensive surgery.  Even a short surgery was taking a huge risk.  She talked to me about different things to look for.

I had to fly out that Friday for Atlanta to attend the ImagingUSA 2016 conference and to receive both my Master of Photography Degree and my Gold Medal Award.  I was at  a complete loss.What do I do?  I so badly need to cancel my trip and yet I couldn’t.  I had worked 5 years to receive this degree.  Everything was paid for…what do I do?  Dr. Cucaro told me I had to go.  Tim told me I had to go.  All of my friends told me I had to go, but I did not want to!  I did not want to leave Gromit’s side.  I flew out Friday morning, early.  Tim would be flying out Monday morning and the both of us would be flying back on Wednesday.  Tim was home with Gromit for a couple of days and he was eating great.  Tim took pictures of him every day and sent them to me. Gromit would only be at home with his Gromit sitter for 3 days (2 nights).  We could do this.  It was the longest 6 days of my life.  The awards were overridden by worry and stress.  Gromit wasn’t eating much.  Oh please little buddy!!!!

We made it home Wednesday night and I knew he wasn’t well the minute I walked in the door as he barely got up to greet me.  His wiggle was slight compare to usual, his breathing shallow and short.  My life was turning upside down…my baby.  I slept on the couch for the next 3 nights listening to him, trying to make sure he was ok. Not wanting to believe that he was dying…not wanting to accept that he was sick.

I got him to eat pretty well Thursday and most of Friday but by Saturday morning, he didn’t want anything.  Not his hotdogs with his pills, no raw food, no cottage cheese, no turkey and egg.  Tim swam Saturday morning and by the time he made it home, Gromit had been panting short shallow breaths for the past 3 hours.  I called Dr. Cucaro – they made time for us at 2:30…We said goodbye.  My heart has been shattered into a million tiny pieces. How will I ever, ever be able to pick up all of those pieces?

Gromit passed quickly and peacefully.  I miss him so so much!

Everyday, I hear him and see him but I can’t touch him and that hurts so so very much.

Everyday, I miss him, his look, his face, his nudge, his beautiful goofiness.

Everyday, I know he is running pain free.


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Gromit Found his Wiggle

It has been a trying and grueling past couple of weeks with the absolute worst starting Christmas Eve day.  We have been dealing with Gromit health issues for a while now, but around Halloween he pulled his CCL (torn knee).  It was not bad enough for surgery which was great, but he was in pain and yelpy.  Off to the vet, who then sent us to see a neurologist, who informed us that he also has inflammation on his spine caused by some pretty severe arthritis.  Great…just great.  Short walks, no jumping, no running, no exerting himself and pain meds and  a referral to see an orthopedic.  We meet with his orthopedic who says that is isn’t as bad as it looks on his x-rays, but to keep him on his pain meds and start another pain med.  At one point he was taking 15 pills a day.  Then, Christmas Eve morning we had an appointment with his vet for acupuncture treatment.  He seemed to be doing really well, until that evening when I noticed his breathing was quite labored.  From the pain?  We had been weaning him off of them over the past couple of weeks, and he was down to just one pain med twice a day… Ugh…

Christmas Day evening we had our family dinner at Tim’s mom’s house.  That is where it was really noticeable.  He had a really tough night and could not get a good solid breathe in, everything was forced.  He was up and down, could not get comfortable and because he was up and down, so was I. Early the next morning I made an appointment to see his vet – we were in at 10am and didn’t leave until around 1pm.  She checked his temp – normal.  She drew blood (which came back normal) she took x-rays – which did not come back normal.  There was this spider-webby look all around his lungs which should not be there – possible lung cancer?  She did an ultrasound to see if she could see anything else….inconclusive.  I was in tears as I was driving home.  It didn’t look right, but it didn’t look good either.  Dr. C prescribed Antibiotics.  She called that evening to see how he was doing and suggested we get in to see an Internal Medicine Dr. She said it didn’t make sense to go in on Sunday as it would be an on call general vet, but to call and see if we could get in to see one of the two Dr.s she had recommended.  We had an appointment set for 10:30am Monday, December 28th.

Meanwhile, the thought of him being in pain, of dying was more than i could stand!  I don’t think I slept 6 hours in that three day period of time! The hard part too is although Gromit is a LARGE Boxer dog, he is a lap dog and love to cuddle and sleep on the bed and he was not like that at all.  There was no sparkle in his eye, he was coughing up blood from time to time and his breathing was painful to watch. I could not grasp the possibility of lung cancer and of losing him.  It just wasn’t an option!  I cried and cried and cried trying to help him feel more comfortable hoping that he would just pop back to his normal self.  I felt absolutely helpless and hopeless.

Monday morning could not come soon enough!  After a thorough examination, more x-rays and a needle biopsy of his lungs, he had to stay there for a few hours to make sure everything went well – meanwhile I waited out in my car where I kinda’ dosed off. I was only 20 feet from the entrance in case I received a call. It was time for me to head back in (plus, the sun went away so it was getting cold in may car.) We met with Dr. Roberts who went over everything.   That we would know more when the test results come back the next day.  We had to wait another day!  I asked her if she thought he was in pain and she said no.  He is extremely uncomfortable, but he was not in pain and that he was such a good boy the whole time they observed him.  I also asked if there was the remote possibility that he could or would just stop breathing and again she said no.  Such a huge relief!  But, we had to wait for his test results…UGH! We had to wait another day…I just don’t know how much more of this I can take.

That next day, I tried to keep myself busy, haphazardly cleaning, moving stuff, rearranging.  I slept better that night than I had in 3 or 4 days, and so did Gromit. Noon rolled around, still no word from Dr. Roberts…then 2pm, nothing…finally at 3pm I called and left a message and around 4pm she called back.  The test results came in and were not showing signs of cancer – although it is still a possibility, she went on to say that it looked more like a major allergic reaction to something. She wanted us to stop all antibiotics and pain meds and to start him on steroids right away.  It just so happened that we still had a prescription from something else pertaining to him.  We started him on the prednisone that evening and by the next day he seemed to be feeling and breathing a bit better.  Wednesday night he had a pretty tough night, a lot of panting and not being able to breathe comfortably.  Then last night, he sleep pretty darn good.  He has been wanting to sleep on the bed again, he is eating better and this morning Tim let me sleep in a little bit.  He woke up with Gromit, let him out to do his business and when he came back in, he went straight for the bedroom, got up on the bed and stared down at me all wiggly with the goofy squishy boxer face that I love.  We are not out of the woods yet, but it is such a huge relief to see him eating again and bouncing around.  I love this dog to the moon and back and although I know at some point his time will come, this was not it!  Not Yet!

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Grommie sleeping…comfortably?


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Lights, Camera….Testing, Lights, Camera….More Testing

This past week I have been on a mission!  I wanted more than anything, to remove the background stand with the wild blue polka-dot backdrop from in front of my window.  The stands hung out to far into my working floor space and were always getting in my way.  So, what could I do to cover the window and still look absolutely amazing.  Barn doors!  Yes, Barn doors.  So, about $300 later about a week and some awesome handy work by my hubby, they are up and they look absolutely awesome!.  I will be able to use them as a background for some things, but because of the distance from one wall to the other, they are there to take up less space and look really really good – plus when the time comes for me to move on, I will be able to take them with me – YAY!!!!  What do you think?


I also wanted to re-arrange my studio, hang a few new prints, take down a few old ones, move the furniture and overall make it work and look better.  A studio space, like my business is an ever changing ever growing thing.  Plus it needed a good dusting and vacuuming!

It had actually been a while since i had photographed in my own studio.  I know that sounds strange, but I have been on location a lot lately.  It feels so good to be in an environment that is so comfortable.  I needed to get ready for a client session tomorrow and I knew I was going to be photographing on white, I decided to get everything dialed in today.  I just love how things work out.  I have two peeps and their 3 pups and I can’t wait! Before I set up my white background and lighting, I wanted to see how the barn doors would look, so I brought along Gromit Boxer’s look alike (because he cannot load or unload from the car right now).

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Not bad for a first go.

Then I set my white background and white boards, lights…all four of them and then took a few minutes to meter everything and get the balance just right.  One of the things that I am finding is that when I want to test lighting and set-ups, sometimes I do not have a subject to practice on…a medium to large stuffed animal works great, especially in this case where there are whites and blacks.  It helps to be able to see where the white background and the chest separate from each other.  The faux fur is similar to real fur in how it reflects light – most of the time.  The following images are only slightly edited in Lightroom and by slightly, I mean a little contrast and a smidge up on the whites.  That’s it!   I use white vinyl vs. paper and that is mainly because I can clean it right away instead of throwing it away.  My last roll of white vinyl lasted one and a half years, hundreds of dogs, people and products.  My background lights are set up about 5-6 feet off of the background, one on each side an both facing close center.  My main light is camera left at about 45 degrees and in this case low and feathered forward.  I meter my main light at ISO 100, F8, 1/125th on the face of the subject and I then meter the exact same on the back of the subject.  This reading is reading the bounce of the background lights off the background.  I do not want them to overpower or wash out my subject and as you can see, they do not.  The exact readings are not what matters because each lighting system is going to be different…the meter readings, that is what matters and what make a difference. Not bad for a stuffed toy.

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The Rat Pack

I was thrilled when Rhonda contacted me regarding portraits of her beautiful girl Amber.  Amber was 14 and her health was failing. Rhonda wanted to bring her in with a few of the family members for their portraits.  We had a great time and Rhonda had also invited her mom and stepdad who had one of Amber’s sons, they also brought along their two poodles.  Oh my gosh, 5 adults, and 8 dogs in the studio…it could have been total and complete chaos – but it wasn’t.  I spent time with each pup individually and as a whole group.  There were even a couple of subsets and some rather interesting photo-bombing outtakes that make the cut.

I received a call from Rhonda two days later that Amber had taken a turn for the worse,  they were going to say goodbye to Amber later that day and how thankful they were that I was able to get them in on such short notice.

She was a beautiful little lady whose browns had gone gray.  A very happy girl and was in the best of spirits in the studio with all of the chaos and commotion. We had a fun afternoon with all of the pups and the different setups.

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Rest in Peace little one.




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Press Release

Half Moon Bay Photographer Named Gold Medalist at International Photographic Competition
Diane Costello of Fog Dog Studios is honored by peers and jurors for high-quality photography

Half Moon Bay, California Diane Costello of Fog Dog Studios in Half Moon Bay, California was named a Gold Medalist during Professional Photographers of America’s 2015 International Photographic Competition. Costello’s work will be on display at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 10-12, 2016. This International Photographic Exhibit is held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention and expo for professional photographers and several photographic associations

A panel of 43 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from nearly 5,200 total submitted entries at Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. Judged against a standard of excellence, just over 2,100 images were selected for the General Collection and 1,085 (roughly 21 percent) were selected for the esteemed Loan Collection—the best of the best. The Loan Collection images will all be published in the much-anticipated “Loan Collection” book and over 200 selected General Collection images will be published in the “Showcase” book by Marathon Press.

The level of the award is determined by how many of those four images receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Loan Collection, which is displayed at photographic exhibitions, conventions and other photography events. Costello was named a Gold Medalist, meaning that two of her four merited images entered the PPA Loan Collection. In 2015, she was one of only 101 Gold Medalists.

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international nonprofit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA’s roots date back to 1869. It assists more than 28,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers Be More at PPA.com.

Contact: Diane Costello



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Internationa Photographic Competition

Last week was AMAZING!  Filled with highs and lows, breathe holding and screams, clenched fists and sighs of relief.  Yes, it was the week of Professional Photographers of America’s (PPA) 2015 International Photographic Competition (IPC).  What does that mean? It really depends on who you talk to.  For me, it is the Best of the Best, the Super Bowl or World Series of Photographic Print Competitions.  In other words, IT IS HUGE (to me)!

I started my print competition 5 years ago, entering only one print.  Because I didn’t know how it all worked, I didn’t know that the entry fee was for a case of 4 images and not just one. At the time, I couldn’t afford 4 x the entry fee.  Silly me!  Just the same, that one image earned a merit.  The following year, being a little bit older and a little bit wiser, I entered four images.  Three of those four earned a General Collection merit.  The next year, the same thing, bringing be to 7 print merits.  Last year I only had two images make the General Collection.  This year all four made General Collection, each earning a merit.  The merit images are held for yet another judging and that is to see if they go Loan.  Loan is the best of the best of the best!  Of those four images, two earned the next highest award, earning the distinction of Loan, additional merits and will be printed in the 2015 Loan Collection Book.  The Loan images are then held for another judging and that is for the Grand Imaging Award which is the Exceptional Best. In order to earn a merit, the image must score in the Excellent category (80 or above).  The point system is how things were judged in the past, and I think in general are how things are still judged but without actual points.

Exceptional 100-95
Superior 94-85
Excellent 84-80
Above Average 79-76
Average 75-74
Acceptable 73-70
Unacceptable 69-0

Through PPA, I have earned my CPP which is Certified Professional Photographer and have now earned enough merit to receive my Master Photog. degree.  What I just realized is that every single image that has earned a merit or that was in my CPP portfolio for certification was of a dog.  Every single one.  There may have been parts of people, but not enough to take away from the dog.  Here are the General Collection Merit images.



The Loan images will have to wait untilafter the GIA (Grand Imaging Award) judging which should be completed within the next week or so.


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Photographing the moving target…

Yikes, what did I get myself into?  Well, first of all, I had never been to one of these events, I had never seen one, not even on TV.  So I had no idea what to expect!  Secondly, I had rented the new Canon 5ds to see what it was all about and the new 100-400 IS lens.  Not knowing what I was in for, I had done a little bit of testing with the body and lens  prior to photographing at the event.  What I wasn’t expecting was the heat and wind and distance at which the people and their dogs would be – but then again, I didn’t really know what to expect.  Welcome to Hastings Island Pheasant Club for the Northern California Brittany Club Fun Days.

I so enjoyed watching and attemping to photograph the Chukkar Hunt event.  Three birds are planted, you get 15 minutes, 6 shells and the three birds.  The dog is to point, the hunter is to flush, shoot and then the dog retrieves.  The dogs are amazing to watch.  It was hot out there, there was a breeze (thank goodness), but you could see the heat across the field if you looked for it.

Here are a few attempts at capturing the Chukkar Hunt, a few different dogs and their peeps.

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This German Shorthaired Pointer had a beautiful point!  It was really fun to watch them work!



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A four month old Brittany pup perfecting her retrieve.

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Maddie, a Red and White Setter pointing her target in a hunt trial.



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I had a great time satching, learning, meeting new people and enjoying the georgeous weather!