Editor’s Letter

Ready for a Close-Up

Inside our cover shoot, and a few tricks from a photographer with a nose for dogs

Photo: Vincent J. Musi

DiBenedetto, his Boykin spaniel (Pritchard), and his Lab (Story) mug for photographer Vincent J. Musi.

According to Vincent J. Musi, a photographer who specializes in animal portraiture and has shot everything from a honeybee to an elephant for National Geographic, there are secrets to getting every animal to look its best. For a series of in-your-face portraits of big cats, for instance, an assistant held up raw beef on a stick to get just the right look from a lion at the Houston Zoo. But the snow leopard wasn’t such an easy mark. “I discovered I had to sing to it,” Musi says, “a cross between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Costello.” 

When it comes to photographing dogs (Musi’s main focus these days), the bag of tricks is less complicated: squeaky balls, plush animals, and an oversize pack of bacon-flavored treats. His secret weapon, however, is his wife, Callie Shell. An accomplished photographer in her own right (her career has included work for Time and CNN as well as a stint as a White House photographer), she’s known as the dog whisperer around the pair’s Unleashed Studio in Charleston, South Carolina. If there was ever a set of bona fides for a duo to shoot the annual G&G dog cover, this was it.

The cover model herself resulted from a phone call with John Burrell of High Adventure Company, which sends folks on sporting trips around the globe. That’s when I heard about Chesapeake (Chesa for short), a year-old German shorthaired pointer belonging to Brent Altaffer, who helps manage the sporting grounds and guides quail hunters at Barnsley Resort outside of Atlanta. Not only is Chesa a beautiful, athletic GSP, she’s one heck of a bird dog. This winter she’ll be logging up to five days a week in the quail woods. And while Chesa loves being in the field, she’s equally at home in Altaffer’s bed. “She’ll sleep all morning if you let her,” he says.

I thought Chesa would be the perfect dog to lead off our sporting issue. After her session in front of Musi’s lens, we had a little fun with my own pack, Pritchard (an eleven-year-old Boykin spaniel) and Story (a two-year-old Lab). Pritch was a sucker for the snacks, and Story was all tennis ball. But what I most enjoyed was watching Musi and Shell, two masters in action. If you enjoy snapping pics of your own pups, take a shot at doggy photographer fame in our annual Good Dog Photo Contest. Just be sure to bring the bacon treats! 

David DiBenedetto
Senior Vice President & Editor in Chief