Tag Archives: Michael Bagley Photography

She Said “Yes”!

I’ve been waiting a month to tell this story.

I’ll start with a confession: I’m a romantic.  It’s not like I am glued to the Hallmark Channel or have “P.S. I Love You” on DVD or anything like that.  But I’ve been known to tear up at a dog-human reunion on YouTube or when I’m speaking about something I am passionate about or, yes, when I hear a love story.  So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Ryan called and told me she was going to propose to her girlfriend Tori.  And you can further imagine how that excitement built when Ryan asked me to play a part in her proposal.  Yes ma’am, let’s do it!

I met Tori in early 2012 when I was looking for a pet sitter for PJ.  I learned about Endless Pawsibilities, the company Tori runs with her co-founder Megan, and was immediately impressed with how they conducted business.  Professional, friendly, organized, detail oriented…everything I could ever hope for in a group that would care for my boy.  They were so good that I knew it would behoove me to connect with them with my photography business somehow.  In the last year we have collaborated on a number of projects and had a great time, and through those collaborations I came to know Ryan.

This was the plan: Ryan would sneak their two dogs out one day and come to my studio for some portraits.  One of the pictures would include the dogs holding a sign that read “Will you marry Mommy?”.  Ryan would wrap the framed collage and give it to Tori as a gift on their 7th anniversary.  Unsuspecting Tori would unwrap the present thinking it was a nice print or something, and *BAM*, a marriage proposal would jump up and bite her!  It was a masterful plan.  But could she pull it off?

Ryan and I got together in early April and we went to work.  She had a few good ideas of how she wanted the shots to look, and I had lots of fun collaborating with her to come up with some fun ideas.  The dogs were great models and made our work easy.  And Ryan did an amazing job managing the dogs and being a terrific model herself.  It was awesome to harness her excitement, and she had a glow about her all morning.  She was amazing.  We sat together while I did the post-production edits and she left ready to make things happen.  (See the gallery below to view the photos Ryan selected.)

She said "Yes"!

She said “Yes”!

And then I had to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  C’mon already!!

Until last night.  April 27th is Ryan and Tori’s anniversary and last night they celebrated.  A little after 9:00 my phone buzzed and there was a text message from Ryan with this photo attached to it.  Underneath the picture it said three words: “She said ‘Yes’!”

I’m so happy for Tori and Ryan and wish them years of joy and wonderful times together.  I hope they will always feel as they do just now: happy to be together and happy to be in love.  I am certain that will be the case.


Why Adopt A Shelter Pet? I’ll Give You Ten Good Reasons!

Adopt a pet

Groucho with Louise and Lou

If you’re reading this is unlikely you need convincing.  You have a dog.  Or a cat.  Or two of each, plus a bird, a ferret, and a goldfish. You feed your birds with a feeder, because you are used to that routine. In case you don’t have feeders in your garden you can go to https://ballachy.com/blogs/reviews/squirrel-proof-bird-feeder and check these out. Indeed, I may be preaching to the choir.  But perhaps you’re on the sidelines.  You’re tempted.  You’re thinking about it.  Or you’ve decided.  Yup, a dog or cat needs to live in your house.  But you’re not totally sure.  It’s a commitment.  It might alter your lifestyle.  You’ve come up with all the excuses and steered clear of your local shelter so you don’t get intoxicated by a pair of sweet eyes and dive in before you’re ready.  “I’ll adopt a shelter pet one day” you tell yourself.

If that sounds familiar, you may just need a little push.  So here’s your push: Adopt a shelter pet!  Why?  It’s good for the animal, for sure.  But it’s also really good for YOU!  And if you don’t want to take my word for it, there’s actual proof and research and stuff that proves it.  Here are ten good reasons to adopt a shelter pet:

  1. You can save a life.  It’s horrifying but true – over 3 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters in the United States each year.  Adopt a shelter pet and it can’t become a victim.
  2. You help reduce the pet population problem.  The reason so many healthy animals are put down every year is because there are more dogs and cats than there are homes for them.  Each animal you bring into your home is one less that is part of that problem.
  3. You won’t support puppy mills.  Hey, I love puppies.  But the way many of those little guys and gals come into the world is via inhumane breeding practices where parent dogs endure disgraceful conditions.  Adopt a shelter pet and you don’t pay an unethical breeder to keep up the abuse.
    Adopt a pet

    Mud and Susan

  4. You teach your children the importance of compassion.  When you adopt a shelter pet you help your children learn about second chances, about caring for those who needsecond chances, and so many other important life lessons.
  5. A pre-owned pet often already has manners.  Most of the dogs and cats in shelters have already lived in a home, and they know the basic etiquette required of them.  A little training or re-training will get them up to speed in no time.
  6. When you adopt a shelter pet you have a friend for life.  I don’t know if it will ever be proven, but I am certain that rescued animals KNOW that they were saved and show their appreciation to their humans in exceptional ways.
  7. You can find your perfect match.  Almost all shelter dogs are at least a few months old, and most are fully-grown, so it’s easy to find a dog that is just the one you have been looking for.  Big, medium or small.  Black, white or brown.  Happy to run or thrilled to sit on the couch.  You decide who is best by your side.  And many shelter staffs will be very helpful with acquainting you with a pet that fits your personality and lifestyle.
  8. A shelter pet is a drug-free treatment for depression.  According to the CDC, people who live with animals are less likely to experience depression than those without one.
  9. It’s good for your heart.  And I don’t mean that in a Hallmark card kind of way.  It has been shown that people who have pets tend to have lower rates of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and live longer.  That makes an adoption fee look like a deal, doesn’t it?
  10. “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  ~Mother Teresa  It’s unlikely you can fix all of the world’s problems, but when you adopt a shelter pet you make your world a better place and you make a difference for a dog or cat.
Adopt a pet


By the way, I write from experience.  In 2009 I adopted PJ, an American Brown Dog saved from a shelter in Virginia.  I have had a bunch of dogs in my life, and they’ve all been great companions.  But there’s something about PJ, his survival story, and the “coincidences” that brought us together that makes my relationship with him extra special.  When he sleeps next to me on the couch I often marvel that his life could have been taken from him for no reason other than a “No Vacancy” sign at the shelter.  Instead he has brought me years of entertainment, laughter, fun and companionship.  I like to think I’ve done the same for him.  Although sometimes I think I bore him.

So if you’re considering adding a pet to your family I hope you’ll adopt a shelter pet.  You’ll be glad you did!

To search for your shelter pet visit www.petfinder.com.  You can enter your criteria (e.g. species, breed, size, age, etc.) and/or search by geography to see what animals are available near you.

Dog Photos on the Beach – Schedule Yours Before It’s Too Late!

Dog photos on the beach are awesome!  Just about every dog I know is happy on the beach.  Big dogs, little dogs, water dogs, undertooth dogs…they all seem to love it.  And when dogs are happy they make terrific photo subjects.  Those of us fortunate enough to live near the beach can avail ourselves of that environment for pictures, but only for a limited time each year.  And that time is running out!  When the calendar turns to May all of LBI and most other towns prohibit dogs on their beaches, and they are not welcomed back until October.

So…if you’ve always wanted a beautiful portrait or exciting action shot of your dog by the dunes, let’s make it happen this month!  Check out the Hire Me page for session details, and then email or call me at 732-889-6769 to set up your appointment.  If you book a beach session in April I will give you a FREE 11×14 print!

Caregiver Canines Variety Show

On Sunday I spent the afternoon photographing the Caregiver Canines 2nd Annual Variety Show in Toms River.

Caregiver Canines is an amazing program that provides in-home visits from therapy dogs (and their humans, of course!)to  senior citizens who can no longer have their own pets.  Imagine being an animal lover but living in a situation where you can’t make a pet a part of your life.  It’ hard to even think about that, isn’t it?  And yet, there may be a time when I can’t manage to care for a dog, or where I live in a setting that won’t allow me to keep a canine companion.  Now imagine the feeling when a sweet, happy, well-trained therapy dog walks in the door and rests his/her head on your lap.  I suspect that such a visit is the highlight of the week for many seniors.  It would be for me.  I really do appreciate the work these folks do.

The 2nd Annual Variety Show was a fund raiser to support Canine Caregivers and enable them to fulfill their mission.  Held at Toms River Intermediate East, the event was hosted by WOBM’s Marianne Levy and her able sidekick Tira Mizu.  Acts in the show featured an on-stage demonstration by officers from the Toms River Police Department and a performance by the Prancing Paws Freestyle Club of New Jersey.  The highlight of the show, though, was the Fashion Show put on by the Caregiver Canine therapy dogs and their human partners.  I was impressed by the terrific costumes and props that the teams displayed.  Cat Larson of Larson Ford did a masterful job as emcee – it was like being at Fashion Week in New York!  Hundreds of people were in attendance and I am sure no one left disappointed!  There were also a large number of vendors sharing their products for dogs and humans alike.

It was a pleasure to be part of such an amazing event.  If you would like to learn more about Caregiver Canines click here to see a video that really tells the story of the value of their work.  For information about how you can get involved or how to make a donation to support this great organization, click here to see their webpage.

Deep Thoughts Help Inspire Animal Adoptions

In June 2012 there was a dog at the local shelter who had been a resident far too long.  Duke was a handsome, sweet, fun, healthy boy, and at only 9 months old should have been scooped up by a family quickly.   But for some reason he wasn’t getting the attention he needed to help him find a home.  I brought Duke to my home and made some studio shots of him to try and help promote him via social media, Petfinder, etc.  Around that time I had an idea: What if Duke was a deep thinker and could reference a philosopher or a poet or a great leader to make his own appeal for a new family.  And thus the Deep Thought Banners were born.  Happily, Duke was adopted shortly after his banner debuted on Facebook.  And there are many more success stories that were helped along by the banners.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them all in one place.   And since they’re working…stay tuned for many more to help inspire more animal adoptions!

Remembering Angelo – Twice a Victim of Animal Abuse

Remembering Angelo - Twice a Victim of Animal Abuse


This is not a happy blog post.  Last week a friend posted on Facebook a tribute to Angelo, a dog I once met who suffered a horrible injustice.  He was twice a victim of animal abuse – once by his owners and then again by a callous judicial process.  My friend’s reflections stirred up my own memories.

For the last couple of years I have volunteered in local animal shelters to produce high quality pictures that will catch the attention of potential adopters and, ideally, lure them to come and visit the shelter.  There are a lot of happy endings (beginnings, actually) at my local shelters.  Sadly, though, there are also plenty of heart wrenching stories.  Angelo’s is probably the most heart wrenching of them all.

In October 2011 I was asked by Dottie Reynolds, president of the Friends of Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter (FOSOCAS), to photograph Angelo.  Dottie wanted to use the photographs to bring attention to the tragedy that Angelo was enduring.  The two hours I sat with this beautiful dog is something I will never, ever forget.

Here’s the short version.  Angelo and several siblings were seized by the SPCA when their owners were charged with animal cruelty.  The allegations were that the dogs had been neglected and abused, and there may have been fighting involved.  Classic animal abuse.  Per a court order the dogs were quarantined at the local animal shelter.  They were not allowed to have contact with each other, with other dogs, or with humans other than shelter staff.  Their incarceration lasted for months.  Eventually permission was granted to allow the dogs to spend less than an hour a day in outside runs.  They still couldn’t interact with people or each other.  They could feel the sunlight and smell the air.  For an hour.  And then were returned to their 6×10 cages for the remaining 23 hours each day.

When Angelo entered the shelter he was scared and timid.  He showed some aggression.  Given his experience of abuse that was not a surprise.  Over time he began to show positive signs.  He became less fearful.  He was curious, even excited, to see humans.  He became particularly attached to a volunteer named Lisa who brought him treats and toys.  There was hope that Angelo might have a good outcome.

But the court case dragged on.  And on.  And on.  Days turned to weeks which turned to months.  In October, a full three months since he was taken into custody, Angelo began to show signs that the stress of his environment was taking its toll.  His behavior changed dramatically and worsened everyday.  His interest in toys disappeared.  He began biting the fencing of his cage.  Looking into his eyes it was clear he was losing his mind.  And yet the court case dragged on.  Angelo was slipping away, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

When Dottie called she asked me to photograph Angelo in a way that would illustrate his suffering.  Before I sat with him I had ideas about how to do that.  Images that show the sterile conditions of a shelter.  Gray, cold light that conveys isolation and loneliness.  And so on.  As soon as I sat on the floor outside Angelo’s cage I knew I didn’t have to do anything to highlight his condition.  I just had to show Angelo.  The look in his eyes was one of horror.  His soul was in a constant state of torture.  He was trapped in his cage and trapped in his mind.  He would chew on the fencing until his mouth bled.  He would paw at the door as a sad plea to be released.  Then he would turn away, deliberately facing in the other direction and stare into space.  His behavior was not aggressive.  It was desperate.  I had seen plenty of dogs who were stressed by being in the shelter, but I had never seen anything like Angelo.  His confinement had made him insane.  He was a tortured soul.

Less than two weeks after these photos were taken Angelo was euthanized.  A part of me felt relief for him, and imagined his soul taking a deep sigh as he passed.  He was finally free of the torture.  And a big part of me felt rage.  Rage toward the humans who put Angelo in this situation.  Rage toward the system that callously ignored the fact that a life was suffering in a cage because “the wheels of justice” only go so fast.  And another part of me felt a deep sadness.  I still feel it.  I have tears in my eyes as I type.  This tragedy didn’t have to happen.  Angelo didn’t have to suffer.  It wasn’t his fault.

As I write I’m realizing that I’m doing so to deal with the rage and sadness.  It hasn’t gone away.  I haven’t been able to compartmentalize it like I often can.  Angelo lives somewhere in my spirit.  His horror and unnecessary death stand as a reminder that we have so much work to do to make the world a better place for our animals.  If Angelo’s story and images speak to you I hope you’ll allow him to live in your spirit as well.  And that you’ll honor that place he holds by joining the forces of good for animals.  Take action against animal cruelty.  Encourage your government leaders to strengthen laws against abuse.  Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue.  Donate money or resources to organizations working in support of saving animals.  Do something.  Do anything.  It won’t bring Angelo and the millions like him back, but it will help move us closer to a day when there are no more Angelos who have to endure animal abuse.  That will make the world a better place.


GoGo’s Glam Shots

I love dogs.  Each one is unique, if not in appearance then certainly in personality.  My session with GoGo reminded me just how unique some dogs are in appearance!

GoGo is a Chinese Crested mix.  And though I had seen the breed on TV and in dog shows, I had never met one in person.  GoGo is a sweet soul, rescued from Tennessee by her humans Marie and Jimmy.  She visited on a snowy day and was – necessarily – wrapped up in her winter coat.  When she came inside and was able to to take off her jacket it was interesting to feel her lack of coat.  I am so used to petting a dogs fur that at first it felt odd to pet skin.  But GoGo liked it just the same!  She was gentle and sweet and a great model.  Part of her natural style includes a Mohawk hairstyle which we used to our advantage in a few shots.  GoGo brought her own wardrobe, too.  I especially liked the pillbox hat!  Marie was kind enough to sit in front of the camera as well, and they looked terrific together.  Here are a few shots from our session.

To book your session visit my Hire Me page!

Herding Cats: Fred, Ginger and Sidney

Last month I met Fred, Ginger and Sidney.  Their humans, Dan and Jenna, really love them and hired me to make classic portraits they could frame and hang prominently on their wall.  Fred was exceptionally excited about the idea.  Ginger and Sidney had other ideas.  But we worked it out, thanks to the infinite patience of Jenna and Dan as they wrangled the girls.  A little creative thinking didn’t hurt either: rather than bring the cats to the light, we brought the light up to the cats.  Hence, the “Top o’ the Staircase” shot.  Many thanks to Dan and Jenna for their hard work and patience!

Gibson, Nova and Snowy

Three Dogs and Four Ferrets

I had the pleasure of working with Jenn and Keith to photograph their menagerie – three dogs and four ferrets.  Yes, ferrets.

I had never worked with ferrets before, and when Jenn set up the session she asked if I was willing to give it a try.  Always up for a challenge I told her to bring them along.  The dogs, Gibson, Snowy and Nova, were all great models, and we captured some nice shots of each.  Gibson was jumping for joy and it was fun to capture him in mid air.  Snowy has mastered his begging skills.  And Nova offered gremlin noises as feedback on the situation.

Then it was ferret time.  Keith placed Smokey on the table and I wondered what would happen.  Smokey wandered about and explored the four corners of the table, seemingly looking for an escape route over the side.  Keith thwarted the escape and held Smokey by the scruff of the neck which, apparently, settles a ferret down.  It seemed to work as Smokey let out a huge yawn within seconds.  And he posed like a pro.  We repeated the process with his three ferret brothers, and it was interesting to see how each one had his own personality and interests.  One was very interested in a squeak toy, another in the sound of rustling plastic.  Keith did a great job of wrangling, and in no time we had a card full of nice portraits.

In my website bio I joke about photographing lemurs.  After this I think I am slightly more qualified to do that.  Thanks to Jenn and Keith for a great session!

Favorite Holiday Pet Photos 2012

This year I shot far more holiday pet photos than ever before.  Between early December and Christmas I shot almost 70 different animals of different shapes, sizes and even species (there was one cat!).   I was fortunate to partner with Lucky’s Bed & Biscuit who generated a ton of interest and filled three days of shoots.  I returned to Camp Bow Wow for the fifth year to offer a day of portraits there.  And I enjoyed the opportunity to work with several private clients, visiting their homes and welcoming them to my basement studio.  It was fun to meet the different models and work with them to draw out their personalities – or, in some cases, tone down their enthusiasm! – to make a great holiday portrait.  Below are some of my favorite shots from the season.  Many thanks to everyone who brought their pets in front of my lens.  I appreciate your business and hope to work with you again in the future.