Kip has a perfect border collie life.  It didn’t start out that way:  he is completely deaf, and was in rescue searching for his forever home.  Luckily, Erik Grendahl, an excellent dog trainer colleague of mine with a big heart, adopted Kip and brought him home.  Erik runs the dog rescue portion of Hartsong Ranch, along with his own dog training business, and he taught Kip a wide repertoire of hand signals.  Now Kip spends his days running around the ranch, swimming, chasing sticks, playing with dogs, checking out the farm animals, and living an idyllic life.  I had the pleasure of photographing this beautiful dog in his element recently, and here are the results…


Kip adores fetching sticks in the water and on land.

Kip is watching his owner Erik closely

Kip swims daily, so he has turned shaking off water into an art form.

Kip gets ready to bite into a stick.

Kip fetches another stick

Kip strikes a pose.

Kip chills out after hours of play

Kip looks beautiful in the sunset light

  • Erik Grendahl - Wow. You did such a great job of capturing both Kip and the scenery. These are amazing photos. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Denise Spielman - I love the ones of Kip shaking the water off, seriously nice work!ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - Thanks, Denise — I love watching the “shimmy” travel down a dogs body, and how they can isolate different parts. Kip swims a LOT, so he does the shimmy a lot, too. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - I’m glad you like them, Erik; I had a lot of fun spending the afternoon at Hartsong with Kip.ReplyCancel

  • Liz Kleine - These are great, Eden! Your photos are getting better and better. I am having trouble getting the right focusing, especially with action and/or with wide aperatures. Would love any tips.ReplyCancel

  • Holly Morrison - Eden, these photos of Kip are excellent! Great eye.ReplyCancel

  • Julie Weisberg - Beautiful captures & a touching story. I also was moved by the story of #37. I’d love to visit Hartsong Ranch!ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - Yes, Julie, the story of #37 (on the Hartsong Ranch blog here for those who haven’t seen it) is very moving!ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - Thanks for the compliment, Liz! Your photography is beautiful — what I’ve seen of it. The only tip I can really offer is to practice the things you find most difficult. The only thing making me better is getting out there and learning my camera and lenses, learning the light, learning what works for me, etc. I try new things, and when I do, they may be terrible at first, but then I figure out why and try again. I’d love to chat with you about what you’re working on these days, and we can brainstorm some ideas. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • lisa norman - thank you, Lisa Norman RVTReplyCancel

  • Chich - I just love the photos of Kip .. .. . . what a special dog and you did a great job on the photos. .. . thanks eden!ReplyCancel

  • Nadine R - Beautiful shots!!! Heartwarming story!!!ReplyCancel

It doesn’t snow often in Placerville, but when it does, no one enjoys it more than my two siberian huskies, Luna and Vesta.  They are truly in their element in the snow, and it shows.  It snowed unexpectedly yesterday, and I rushed to take a few photos before it melted today.  This is the first time my new camera really got a workout; the lighting conditions were very challenging since we shot while it was snowing heavily.  I protected the camera with a ziploc bag, bundled up in warm clothes, and photographed the dogs until my fingers were too cold to shoot any more.  

Vesta the husky looks so pretty with the snowflakes falling all around.

Vesta looks like a wild creature in the snow

Luna and Vesta played all afternoon in the snow — happy huskies!

Luna can look so regal. Typical husky — she lies in the snow like it’s a throne!

Luna becomes as playful as a puppy in the snow.

Snow is guaranteed to put a smile on Luna’s face!

  • cindy smith - Wonderful pictures. You got the lighting just right. The expressions are priceless.ReplyCancel

  • Traci Matkoski - Eden, I think these are my favorite pictures of Vesta & Luna ever. I am so excited for you as a pet mommy that you have this magical moment captured. The girls are so beautiful in the snow and they are so happy!ReplyCancel

  • Julie Weisberg - Best yet! Love them!ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - Thank you, Ladies! I’m always happy to take photos of my dogs that capture their personalities and expressions and moments. I think everyone should have photos of their pets that do this. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Nadine Rozowsky - Fabulous shots!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - Wonderful pictures! I too have a husky mix. She’s 14 now and hangin’ in there and still LOVES a good romp in the snow. I always try to get all the pictures I can of her!ReplyCancel

  • Holly Morrison - Two of my favorite canines. Love these shots of the Girls in the snow. You captured their wonderment of the environment.ReplyCancel

  • John - Love these shots, particularly the first one of Vesta in profile. I just dig how you captured the snow and her wonderful coloring.ReplyCancel

Between her stunning eyes and her winsome smile, Abbie the australian shepherd puppy could charm anyone!  She is just three and a half months old, and is staying at Sierra Dogs here in Placerville for a Puppy Board & Train.  In between our fun, short, puppy training sessions, and all of her playtime with other puppies and her socialization outings, we managed to fit in a photo session.  She was not only photogenic, but fun to work with, and had me chuckling more than once at her cute expressions and engaging personality.

I can’t believe how striking Abbie’s eyes are as she peeks out from the underbrush like a wild creature in the woods.

Abbie strikes a pose, showing off her beautiful coloring

Abbie takes a moment to give a more serious look. I think she’s deciding whether the rocks are too tall for her to climb over.

Even when busy chewing on a stick, Abbie knows how to charm the camera. And look at that adorable fuzzy puppy fur!

Don’t you love how she uses her paws to hold the stick?

Abbie knows how to work that smile. I love her baby puppy teeth!


  • Liz - Awesome shots, Eden. The first is my favorite but all really capture her specialness!ReplyCancel

    • sierraluna - Thanks for the kind words, Liz! I think that first one might be my favorite, too, as a photograph, but then again, I just love the ones of her with her little smile.ReplyCancel

  • Erica - What a ham – an adorable, irresistible one! Great pics! Good to see that camera getting some use:-)ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Absolutely stunning Eden!! Gorgeous use of colour.ReplyCancel

  • Maribeth Dunn - She gets her smile from her Mama!!!!! I own her parents!ReplyCancel

  • Lee & Anneke Fisher - That’s our girl! Can’t wait to get her back home!ReplyCancel

  • Traci Matkoski - Eden, you really capture her! These photos are so beautiful! I love her blue eyes.ReplyCancel

I’m going to take a rare break for a moment from posting about dogs, so that I can share something personal.  This post is for all of those people who, like myself, hate having their photo taken because they don’t feel thin/pretty/young/whatever enough…

As someone who has struggled with my weight and my self-image, it suits me just fine to be the one *behind* the camera rather than in front of it.  Yet I don’t hesitate to encourage others, quite sincerely, to take the plunge and have photos taken of them.  I assure them, again quite sincerely, that they are beautiful, interesting subjects, fine *just the way they are*.  Yet I can’t seem to apply the same feeling to myself.  Meanwhile, my dogs are getting older.  My father is getting older.  My niece and nephew are getting older.  And I don’t have many, or in some cases *any* photos of us together from the last few years.  I’ve been waiting until I lost another 30 pounds (even though I already lost more than 50).  Or until <fill in the blank>.

Well, I decided that I have to stop waiting.  Stop waiting to live my life, to be happy, to enjoy my experiences and relationships and moments.

So on a recent outing to the river with my dogs on a gorgeous, mild, winter day, I handed the camera to a friend and said four very scary words: “Please take my picture.”  Because even though I was covered in dirt and dog hair, even though I had been wearing a hat all day (bad hair day!), and even though I didn’t feel even remotely thin, I felt HAPPY.  I had been spending a wonderful afternoon with my dogs and my friend, romping, laughing, soaking up the sunshine, sitting under a tree, etc.  It seemed wrong to let that day go without a photo by which to remember it.

When I got home and looked at the photos from the day, I realized that the ones of me weren’t so bad.  That although I’m not thin, and I have wrinkles and age spots, and my face is asymmetrical, and so on — my eyes were shining, my smile was real, and the photos helped me remember what a great day — what a great LIFE — I had, and how lucky I am to have my dogs and to be able to spend my time with them.  I also saw another photographer’s blog post (see here) on the very same topic, and it gave me the final push of courage I needed to post my own experience.  I hope that my post gives someone else that little bit of motivation they need to stop being so self-critical and to let go and enjoy having their photo taken.

me and my dogs

Me and my dogs feeling happy  (Photo taken by Traci Matkoski — thank you, Traci!)

  • John - That’s a great shot! You look happy to have the photo taken, and just radiant in general. I’m rather self conscious myself, but stil enjoy the photographs documenting my life. Fortunately I’m learning to tense up less often and smile more. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Denise Spielman - You look marvelous, a happy person always looks good. Glad you took the plunge!ReplyCancel

  • cindy smith - That is a beautiful picture of you. I have always been the same there do not exist many pictures of me which is sad because I have two beautiful children and have many pictures of them. I have always been the one taking the pictures. I have gained and lost many pounds over my life, and even in the fit times I have
    never been happy with the way I look. Thanks for a great thought provoking post. I hope I can take the plunge as you did. You look great and very happy.ReplyCancel

    • sierraluna - Thank you, Cindy. I hope you do take the plunge! It will be important to your kids to have pictures with you. Our friends and family see us through the lens of the feelings they have for us, so we are always beautiful to them, no matter how we self-criticize. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Firstly, you look awesome in that photo! But more importantly I’m so happy you now have a wonderful shot of the three of you and that you were brave enough to write about it. Sending hugs from the other side of the world.ReplyCancel

  • amy backas - Gorgeous photo of you Eden! And Thank you for being brave enough to tackle this project and issue. I feel THE EXACT SAME WAY about my self image, getting my photo taken etc, etc and you’re an inspiration. For real.
    I’m so exhausted of feeling like I have to look like the young thin perfect beautiful woman that this culture demands of us. And well, I guess it’s up to us to change that. No more shame!
    Would love to see MORE pics of you on your website and facebook in the future!
    xoxo ~AmyReplyCancel

    • sierraluna - Amy, I’m surprised to hear you say that. I think of you as being such a strong, self-confident — and GORGEOUS — woman, and I never would have guessed you felt the same way. I guess none of us are alone in our doubts and fears; we just feel as if we are. That’s why I wanted to share my experience, to put it out there in the world, in the hopes that other people might think to do the same.ReplyCancel

  • Gina von Damm Bogart - I look forward to seeing more wonderful photos of you and your dogs. You are a beautiful person inside and out and it shines through your words and your photos (both the ones you take and the ones you are in). I was like you about having my photo taken for a long time. In my case it was more about shyness than body image, but I got to a point in my life where I just said to myself, “why, what’s the point of hiding?”ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - I never expected the kind of affirmation and touching messages I’ve been getting, both privately and publicly. Thank you everyone for being so supportive!

    I just heard from someone who was inspired to take photos with her terminally ill pet; it brought tears to my eyes.

    And remember, one of the nice things about having photos done is that a good photographer will help bring out the very BEST parts of you: the emotions and relationships and quirks and lovable “flaws” that make you interesting and unique. And through gentle editing, they can highlight physical features that will help tell that story. A good photo can even help us see ourselves a tiny bit closer to how others see us. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Devan Baty - Your face is positively glowing in this picture–and what a beautiful smile you have! I hope that you will share more pictures of yourself being yourself and doing what you do. A picture of a genuinely happy person being in the moment is a lovely thing.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - Eden, I love that photo of you. I am Samson’s mom. I do not care for having my photo taken. Age, weight, whatever. There is certainly a vanity about me that I am not proud of. I photograph my son constantly. And the truth is that later on his life he will be looking for photos of me with him. Thank you for starting this internal conversation for me. Maybe you can take photos of the three of us?

    I always thought you lovely inside and out.


  • Holly Morrison - Three beautiful females…remember the Velveteen Rabbit. And what a wonderful photograph,Eden. So happy to hear you took the leap. What a great payoff for being brave!ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - Susan, you are such a striking, attractive person, and a dedicated mom; I hope we can get some family photos done because I think both you and your son will be able to look back on them fondly.

    Holly, thank you for your supportive words — and I love the Velveteen Rabbit story! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Erica - Came for the puppy pics, then saw this post. I’ve always hated having my photo taken, and I also hate taking photos of people – because no one ever really wants it done. Don’t know why we’re so hard on ourselves about self-image, but it’s a sad statement of society. You and I are both old enough to know better, Eden, yet seems we both still fall into that trap. Your photo is beautiful! Heck, even your dogs are both smiling – how great is that?! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kristen Schalkoord - This actually brought tears to my eyes. I too struggle with self confidence. I am 23 years old and I am seeing someone twice a week to try to help me feel good about myself. Logically you can tell yourself that you are smart and beautiful but it doesn’t make the feeling go away. I’ve struggled in school, taking bad grades because I was too afraid to get in front of the class and I’ve struggled with making friends but dogs have always been the one thing that makes me feel strong.

    The more I continue to read and find out, the more I see what an awesome person you are and that I would be lucky to meet you and learn from you!

    Thank you for putting yourself out there and allowing me to put myself out there!ReplyCancel

  • sierraluna - Kristen, thank you for writing and sharing your experience. You are not alone! Keep reaching out and trying and doing what you need to in order to build your confidence.

    I recently saw a wonderful video of a TED talk that I found very inspiring and HELPFUL in a very specific way for folks like us. Here’s the link: Watch it all the way through to the end; it will make you get teary-eyed, but it will also help you.ReplyCancel

For Lilly, pure happiness equals playing fetch with a tennis ball.  She gets such a look of focus and joy when chasing and retrieving a ball, so that’s what we decided to have her do for her photo shoot during her stay at Sierra Dogs.  You can see her smile, whether she’s waiting for me to throw it, running with the ball, or proudly bringing it back to drop in my hand.  Pure happiness.

Lilly waits for me to throw the ball

Lilly runs with the ball

Lilly brings me the ball



  • sierraluna - Thanks, Julie! Lilly made a beautiful subject — she has a great smile and such gorgeous coloring. Plus a cute spotted tongue! 🙂ReplyCancel