play-bowing, loud- howling,
Siberian Husky 100%
Having confused the sat. nav. completely, Sylvie and I finally arrived in the depths of Thetford Forest very early one Friday morning. As we arrived we were met with a cacophony of barking and howling. It was our first visit to a husky race run by the British Siberian Husky Association and we were a little concerned that photographers would not be welcome. It soon became clear however, that our presence was much appreciated. The owners were keen to talk about their dogs and even keener for us to photograph them. We wandered down the track to find a suitable place to perch with our cameras. We didn’t want to distract the huskies as we were told several of them enjoyed having their pictures taken, so much so, they were inclined to stop dead in their tracks to pose! I have to admit I was slightly sceptical, but as we approached the dogs with our cameras most sat still and looked straight into the lens with absolutely no prompts at all. They have such photogenic faces and their blue eyes pierce the lens.
The race meets begin in November and they travel to different places weekly. Each set of dogs is timed as they race around a track pulling their owner on a wheeled contraption. Sylvie and I found a place where we could tuck ourselves in the foliage and we waited for the groups of eight to shoot past us. The light was very poor and we struggled to get the right shutter speed and low ISO combination. I gave up with the low ISO very quickly remembering what a wildlife photographer had once said to me when I questioned his advice to up the ISO, “Do you want to get a bloody picture or not?”
It is very difficult to get a sharp shot of all the dogs especially when there are eight of them, but we persevered. The grey light got darker as the sixes, the fours and the twos shot past us. We hadn’t realised the dogs also compete on their own and it seemed rather strange to see a single husky pulling their owner on a bicycle.
Having had a great morning I decided to return on the Sunday. Clive joined me and we set off to find a better spot to capture the action. We settled in the undergrowth on a corner of the track. I managed to leave my groundsheet in the car so was forced to lie in the muddy grass without its protection. Clive as usual was well prepared! The pro photographer had claimed the best spot and was shooting remotely, but when he moved on, Clive and I settled in his place and waited. Having been told by a fellow photographer we needed a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second to get a sharp shot I hiked up the ISO once again, knowing I would have to deal with the noise later! Once again it was a very grey day and getting sharp shots was very hard indeed. It was still exciting to watch the dogs race past us a few feet from our lenses. Most didn’t spot us but one or two did, although they didn’t stop. As we ventured back up the track we watched some of the single dogs at the start and it was clear every one of them couldn’t wait to run. We were told that huskies will actually keep running until they draw their last breath. They are amazingly charismatic animals with the most wonderfully expressive faces. I hope the sun is shining next time we venture into this racing world.