Maree Bendeich can still remember the moment she captured the award-winning photograph of four-year-old Australian Bulldog ‘Nala’.
Despite being almost 18 months ago, she still recalls the connection the pair had that day.
“She was full of attitude, she had so much spunk,” Maree says.
“We had such a lovely time working together.
“It’s probably one of my favourite photographs I’ve ever taken.”
Ms Bendeich is a Newcastle-based pet photographer who owns Camera Plus Dog.
The mother-of-two met Nala in May 2019, when the gentle, stocky pup modelled dog collars for a product range she represented.
In October 2019 Maree invited her back to her Shortland studio for some portraits Maree was taking for her own collection.
Seated comfortably on her perch above Maree, Nala looked straight down the lens at her with an expression that Maree describes as timeless.
“When you work with bulldogs everything is in slow motion,” she says.
“They don’t do anything quickly.
“She was probably one of the first dogs I’d ever met that made my heart hurt.
“It only happens once or twice a year but she was one of them.”
Nala passed away earlier this year from a mysterious, sudden heart problem.
The photo won bronze at The Rise International Photography Awards last week.
It was one of five photographs Maree submitted for judging at the competition that featured 7,000 entries from 79 countries.
The competition, which began in 2018, includes images in 12 categories, including maternity, portrait, landscape, wedding and children.
Maree won five bronze awards for all five of her entries this year.
Judges described her work as having “great impact that grabs your attention”, “well-handled lighting”, and “great storytelling techniques”.
It is a talent Maree says takes patience and practice.
“And sometimes food or squeaky toys, or owners pulling funny faces behind me,” she says.
“I don’t interact with the dog during the shoot.
“I don’t touch them, I just photograph what I see.”
Despite enjoying the recognition, Maree says photographing pets allowed her to combine her two greatest loves and often benefited the wider community.
“When I photograph a dog for Dog Rescue, adoption goes up by about 80 per cent,” she says.
“A professional photo can mean a dog is adopted within two weeks and that’s a really rewarding feeling.”