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How To: Chinchilla Photography

As a professional photographer in New York City, I’ve had my share of dramatic clients – fussing over hair and makeup, complaining about angles, and throwing out last-minute conceptual changes. Yeah, sometimes high fashion and editorial work can be extremely particular, but if great minds come together to accomplish the task, beautiful imagery can result.

Chinchillas, on the other hand – well, where to begin? They are inherently adorable (to me, they are the cutest animals on this planet) and can do no wrong visually. However, they won’t come together with you on a photo shoot. They won’t say – oh sure, I’ll swipe my tail 45 degrees to the left and wink at you while holding up an apple stick with my right paw. If only! Chins are hard to get ahold of, and even if you have a non-reactive chinchilla (like my Koko), photographing them can be tough. They’re drama queens in their own right!

Flash photography is the easiest and most practical type of photography to use when snapping an image of a high-speed, high-energy animal. It freezes them in frame instantly, and most of the time won’t have blur. That means you can capture them jumping, twirling, turning, or performing any onslaught of energetic feats – but the image won’t be soft or cuddly, like we know our chinchillas to be. Along with diminishing their furry details and barraging their colors with an unsightly whitewash, flash photography will likely cause you to put in some post-processing time; you should expect to use a photo-editing program to get those tiny red eyes out of your photo.

Chins look best when photographed without flash, as most standard non-diffused flash units will be too harsh on their fluffy details. The problem with studio photography is that it typically requires more setup time, careful planning, and safe treats on hand! As far as camera settings go, you’ll need a slower shutter speed (or a super-bright lighting system). I like to maintain a low ISO on all my photographs to keep images less noisy, meaning my settings will slow down overall processing speeds even more.

As far as personal photographic tastes go, I’m ALL about natural lighting. Give me the morning sun, sulking half-light, or a heavy sunset. I love it all: the emotive depth, the searing contrast, the daring illusory effects. For all my clients, I suggest going natural. It’s more challenging (so to say, more interesting) than a studio shoot and lends a level of professionalism that supersedes the senseless ‘pro ideal’ of a $20,000 camera set and a 3,000 square ft NYC studio (although wouldn’t we all love to bathe in such fanciness ~ as the chins love to bathe in dust). I believe strongly in natural lighting, it shows in my work.

As far as chinchilla photography goes, I’m ALL about just surviving the shoot! Natural light is still the best for beautiful images, but studio photography accomplishes what natural lighting can’t – being able to be done at any time of the day. I’ll still grab my Nikon for the playtime sessions with the kids, but if I’m looking for some high-quality commercial-level imagery, I’ll overwhelmingly choose a studio set.  That means I’m gonna put in 20 minutes to get the lighting right but only end up shooting for a minute or two. Sets should be simple and clean, allowing the focus to be on the chins – adding in a colorful fleece background or sprinkling marigolds can brighten up the scene without detracting from the furry spectacle.

It’s imperative to prepare for the skittishness of the babies. Since chinchillas are nocturnal, their eyes perform better in low light, so I’m sure the brightness of the set becomes irritating very quickly. Chins have such little patience when it comes to waiting for human error to correct itself, so it’s best to be ready with a tripod and set your camera to high-speed continuous shooting mode, and give it your best!

Remember, patience and effort are the main components to great chinchilla photos. It doesn’t hurt to have a photo assistant to collect escaping chins or a chinchilla-safe treat on set to coax them into staying still – if only for a moment! 😀

LY Chinchillas Treat Donation

Buy delicious hay-based treats or apple sticks for the entire LY Chinchillas family!

$5.00

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A Sister’s Love

On this sleepy Sunday, I made plans with my younger sister to meet up in NYC during the week of Thanksgiving. It’s crazy how quickly time flies, especially as a (chinchilla) parent. So much of my once-spare time has now been siphoned appropriately to my chin-kids, and leaving the city can be an uncomfortable, anxious task. It could be my receding youth, partnered with the new discovery of a deep love for my chinchillas, compounded by a sense of impending responsibility. I’m sure it’s an amalgamation of all those factors. Either way, I attempt to prioritize family time, especially during the holiday seasons.

Which, lovingly, brings me to share these adorable videos of mosaic sisters Lulu and Fifi, snuggling up. I hope it warms up your Sunday night. Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel for promised cuteness. Enjoy!

Times Square and Chew Toys

Today was Saturday, and I am prolifically known by my friends and loved ones to be terribly boring and lazy on weekends. However, I had just learned that my photography had been published in a magazine sold only in Midtown Manhattan. Alright, I thought. Time to get out there and see the world! I made a phone call to the cafe, only to find they didn’t have the issue yet. Alright, that’s not gonna stop me – I’m feeling mildly inspired, so let’s bring my Nikon, go to Times Square to shoot around, and stop by the cafe just double check the issue’s release date. I gathered up my belongings, tidied up the place, and ended up spending a few hours laying on the living room floor with my mosaics running around my body like a pile of shredded wheaties.  Eventually though, I made it out the door.

After checking the cafe, I took a long walk around Midtown. The air stung, but the mood was vibrant.

NYC Times Square Logo

I walked by Bryant Park, with its bustling Christmas shops already in full swing, stopped by Rockefeller Center to take a look at the MASSIVE undecorated Norway Spruce Christmas tree, and toured around Times Square for a quick (and always annoying) galavant. The cold is seeping into the New York City streets, but it’s festive and foreboding of a much more frigid freeze to come. I was bundled, and grabbed some hot chocolate to warm my nose.

Minnie Maus NYC Logo

I saw a few middle-aged women in Times Square donning the garb of Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse. I scoffed, thinking, you want to pass yourself off as a Maus? You’re no Mitty! It was around 8, and I was hungry. I thought about the chinchillas; I missed them so dearly. I always miss them, no matter how close I am to them. In the next room, sometimes. I definitely feel like all my motherly instincts were wrapped into one furry heart and delivered five separate ways. So, I headed home.

Then, came the more exciting part of my night – boiling apple wood branches to make chew toys for the babes! I had gone “apple-picking” a month or so ago and collected short branches from an adorable orchard in northern Connecticut. I boiled the pieces for 20 minutes and then rinsed and cleaned the logs under cool water with a bristly brush, to rid the debris. I placed them on a cookie sheet, baking at 300 degrees at 15 minute intervals until they were ready to chomp. I know chin owners have different methods for baking wood, but that was mine – and the chins loved them!

As soon as I got back, we let Muffton and Mitty out in rotations, as they are no longer compatible friends. When I first got them, they were bonded pretty well, and the fact that Muff was a little less intelligent than Mittenmaus didn’t divide them completely. Over time, they became more evidently unable to see eye to eye, despite being similar heights. Unfortunately, by the time the girls came along, they were finished with each other and squeaking to the ladies about how uneventful the other was and why they shouldn’t even sniff his way. Oh, well! C’est la vie. Sometimes bonded chins simply unbond – perhaps because of puberty, another sex entering the equation, or almost no reason at all.

In other exciting news, we’ve started a brand NEW YouTube channel, NYChinchillas! Be sure to Subscribe and stay tuned for the impeccable cuteness to follow! We’ll start uploading our arsenal of adorable videos starting today.

After an exhausting day out, I’m ready for my chin-feeding daily ritual and human bedtime! I hope you had a great Saturday and did something nice for your babies as well! 😀

Chintroductions

Bonjour, chin-loving friends! Welcome to my chinchilla blog, where I’ll be sharing a mighty important sliver of my busy NYC life with you – the love I have for my five amazing chinchillas!

Let me tell you a story about the last potential roommate I met, to preface my NYC chinchilla story. When I was deliberating whether or not to move out of a friend’s apartment and into my own place, I interviewed a lovely young girl who was fresh out of college and had just started working in administration at Columbia University. By all accounts, she seemed responsible and busy, which is an ideal roommate in this city (harder to find than you would dare to imagine!). After a brief meeting, we were all standing in the apartment and she goes, “you want to know something funny?” and we eagerly respond, “Yes!”, in the mood for an awesome joke or hilarious anecdote. Instead, she starts giggling manically and yells out, “I MOVED TO NEW YORK CITY TO FIND LOVE!” and the way she said it (arms flailing and burping out the giggles), coupled with the idiotic sentiment, rendered the apartment completely silent. I thanked her for the time and cemented the move on my own.

As awkward as that experience was, it goes to show that love can move mountains. Or at least, move an impressionable young person to a metropolitan area. Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is that maybe she was right. Even though I certainly did not move to NYC to find love, I did. I met my five babies. And I couldn’t be happier with them, and their myriad of personalities and particularities, and with the stress and worry they bring, as I’m sure all children do. I love my chins, and I’m so happy to share that with the world. It’s a long foreseeable future with them, and a continual learning curve – even in the simple maintenance of these lovable creatures.

The kids, in the order they were acquired, are:

Mittenmaus, pure standard male

Mitt Sill

Mufftoneous, black velvet male

Muffles Sill

Lulu and Fifi, mosaic sisters

Lulu

Fifi Sill

Koko, extra dark ebony female

Koko Window

All chins were purchased around 3-4 months old, and are now ranging from in years. They are still in their childhood, and are growing alongside my young adulthood. I’ve been a very responsible pet owner, cramming as much knowledge as possible from reliable vet and breeder resources, along with reading up on books, blogs, and forums. There’s a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge out there, and always more to learn, which is why I’m excited to be bringing some of my most helpful learning points to you, over time.

Stay tuned, follow, and keep checking back!

LY Chinchillas Treat Donation

Buy delicious hay-based treats or apple sticks for the entire LY Chinchillas family!

$5.00