Like filmmaker Philip Bloom, I am not ashamed to say I love cats… and they make excellent models for photo and video, as I discovered with my seven year cat companion Yellow, now departed.
This may not seem as the place to write about a cat, but Yellow was no ordinary cat: it was my model for multiple articles, for photos and videos, and my inspiration in many moments, as I sat to write stories at my desk and she would lay on the desk or on her sleeping perch beside it, watching the surroundings and meowing when she felt she had something to say… or meow about.
Yellow came into my life in 2015, one of three stray cats brought home by my son Miguel, who wanted to save them from a life on the streets. As I photographed the trio, amazed by the little kittens, one of them caught my eye, Little One, which seemed to love posing for photographs. It was love at first sight and although I didn’t want to have cats at home – we were to be a shelter family until a home was found -, it was easy to imagine life with such a cute feline.
Unfortunately, Little One (the photo above), as we named her, was terribly ill and died in November 2015, two months after we took her to live with us. Meanwhile Black had been given to a family who needed company for their other cat, and we kept Yellow, because I had grown attached to her and she seemed to love following me everywhere. That passion grew with time, and she would sleep close to my working desk in my home office, or simply stand there watching every movement I made, sometimes walking over to my lap for some cuddling.
One Man Five Cats, Philip Bloom’s felines
Cats make good models for photography and also for video, as British filmmaker Philip Bloom demonstrates in both his “One Man Five Cats“ YouTube channel and his tests of gear, that sometimes show his cats as models. Bloom’s passion for cats is well known and his work with the cats from the Greek island of Skiathos and the shelter that tries to protect them is a video series to watch.
From the beginning, Yellow – and her brother and sister – were used as models for my work. A short video test of the Fujifilm XT-10 for one article on the camera published here at ProVideo Coalition shows the three cats seven years ago. I repost the video here with the original note: “The video was created with a Fujifilm X-T 10 camera I had the chance to use for some days, to try the Classic Chrome mode for photo and video. The sequences were not edited in terms of colour, but simply cut to create a cohesive flow, as much as possible, to the video. This video is associated with one article at the website ProVideo Coalition about the use of the camera and the Film Simulation mode.”
While testing the Canon EOS 70D, in 2016, I also used Yellow’s passion for being in front of a camera for a short video trying the Video Snapshot function, which gave me material for yet another article published at ProVideo Coalition. Then on 2018, as support for one article about the software ProShow Producer 9, which I used extensively to create slideshows, I made a long slideshow that promotes a Medium blog I created for our cats, Cat Respect, introduced as “just another space about cats, for cat lovers. Created with Respect. Nothing more, nothing less.” Yellow and Luna, the cat from my son João, appear extensively in the slideshow.
Yellow, a model that sleeps on set
Besides photos used for illustration in separate occasions, Yellow was also the model for specific articles written for Manfrotto: “The (photographic) adventure starts home”, from March 2017, or “A photographer’s kit for Cinemagraphs”, from June 2017, article from where I took the cinemagraph published just after these lines. She was a willing model, most of the time, and because she was so curious about everything, she usually visited my tabletop studio when I photographed flowers or different objects. Sometimes she would even sleep on set, as one image here reveals.
Also in 2017 I published “Cake, coffee and cat”, about the importance of building narratives with photographs. Because of Yellow’s passion for being on stage while I was shooting other subjects, I ended having her in the background while setting set up the scene for one article about the use of a Manfrotto LED panel to create cinemagraphs. I had one cup of coffee and the cake on top of a table, with a dark background, and was capturing video to use as the starting point for my article.
Suddenly, I had one intruder on set: Yellow jumped on the table and started to explore. The cake attracted her, but more out of curiosity than anything else. Cats love to smell things, to better understand them. So, she did smell the cake, but showed no further interest. My mind, though, was racing. I had already taken photographs of her approaching and smelling the cake and the story was building in my head. I knew my final image would be of the dish with crumbs with the cup of coffee beside it.
Polycystic kidney disease: the silent killer
I needed a “hero shot”, though, and Yellow gave it to me. She decided to rest for a while on the back of the set, giving me the essential image to “glue” the whole story. I could not do better if I tried to pose her for me. It’s as if she knew the best angles to be a model. I only had to readjust the light and framing a bit and I got a few shots of her looking at the camera. Puuurrfect!
If this example ignited your curiosity, you can read the entire article following the link to “Cake, coffee and cat”. There you’ll find more notes about working with cats on set, and the importance of respecting them and having the patience to wait for things to happen. I believe that contributed to make Yellow always happy to participate, making her one of my best cat models.
Last August, after an urgent visit to the hospital because she was limping (probably due to falling on the stairs here at home), we decided to take a battery of tests, and received the sad news: Yellow had polycystic kidney disease or PKD, a silent killer for cats, which usually reveals itself at seven years of age. Exactly hers…
A last memory in ClipChamp
Five months of hope and despair followed, with prognostics suggesting “two weeks” until she is gone kept afar due to the willingness of veterinarians to help keep her alive and with – some- quality of life. A veterinarian nurse coming home to give her sub-Q and injections helped to keep Yellow alive and reasonably well, so she could spend Christmas with us. But the 24th and 25th gave us a clear indication that the end was near, and on the 26th we helped her cross the Rainbow Bridge. The trip to the hospital made her excited with her huge, sweet eyes wide open to the world around, looking at everything with a natural cat’s curiosity, making it even more difficult to say goodbye. But we knew it was time for my model to go. She fell asleep in my arms at 13.26 PM that day…
Now, browsing through my memories of Yellow, I found some files inside a memory card in my Canon C100, part of a project I had started, showing movement on paws and tail on a sleeping cat. I’ve used the files to create a short clip on Clipchamp, the new video editor from Microsoft, to try the software, a first contact from which a final review article will come in 2023. This last video and those before, some of which were edited with Cyberlink’s PowerDirector, show how NLEs have evolved in the last decade, to a point where editing video is almost a drag and drop operation.
This short video is also a last tribute to Yellow, who I hoped would live a longer life, as some cats do, being my model for photo and video for at least double the time we spent together. My working desk and office feel empty now…