To Celebrate National Puppy Day – Best Puppy Picture Ever

Four Dachshund Puppies Leaning on Each otherKim Hales Photography Best in Show Puppy ImagesPhotography is one of my passions.  Unfortunately it’s one I don’t have very much time for these days, however, for a few years I actively participated in photography competitions.  This is one of my favorite award winning images and what better day to share it on than National Puppy Day!  Especially since our very own Ruby is in it (second from the right).  

This is the backstory for “Lean On Me”:

From time to time, when you are a photographer, there is a shot that you can’t get out of your head. You know it could be amazing if only you had time to work on it.  Days, weeks, even years may pass and somehow it’s still there in the back of your mind, calling to you, asking you to make it what it needs to be. “Lean On Me” is one of those shots.

Remarkably, this moment wasn’t planned, pre-conceived, or anticipated – it just happened. It was taken on January 15, 2012, the day we went to pick up our new puppy, Ruby. I was in heaven having ten romping subjects to shoot. While on my second memory card, I happened to look up (there were a lot of low angles that day) and I saw four of the pups sitting side by side on top of a large granite boulder at the back of the yard. It was an overcast day but I swear there was a beam of light shining on them.  I couldn’t run fast enough! I desperately signaled my husband (aka Sherpa) and the breeder to run over there and try to hold them in place long enough for me to take a shot. Amazingly, they were able to sneak up from behind and squished (technical term) the unsuspecting puppies together. It quickly turned into a comedy of errors as puppies started to squirm and wiggle their way out of the hold but I just kept shooting – hoping and praying that the “one shot” was in there somewhere; and it was.  The film strip pretty much tells the story.   

While the science of photography has taught me to see the light, the art of photography is my true love. I love the possibilities of “what can be” with a photograph and this was a shot that I couldn’t get out of my head.   I kept imagining what it could look like.  But when you are looking for THE image to enter in a photography competition you’re supposed to remove your emotions from the equation and let objectivity reign.  When I finally revisited this shot for competition consideration (two years after I took it)  I tried very hard to to do that, asking myself, “Why? Why this image? Is it really worthy?” but a little emotional voice inside me kept shouting YES! YES! YES!  I chose to let my passion for art lead the way and I’m glad I did!  “Lean On Me” is a Best in Show winner and the perfect example of how I found “the heart in my art.” And my heart still tells me this is the BEST PUPPY PICTURE EVER!

     For the photography buffs out there, here are the technical detail of the shot and how I created the artwork: 

            Basic editing was done in Lightroom then I moved over to Photoshop. I extracted the subjects from the background and put them in front of something much more appealing. With the darker background, the original foreground was too light and distracting. After trying to make it work with burning and textures, I gave up and replaced it with the brick ledge that complimented the background and the puppy’s color. I then used duplicate layers, texture overlays, layer styles and variable blending modes to create the depth and richness in color and texture. After that I expanded the canvas to create space for the presentation mat/frame. It was amazing to see the vision in my head come to life on the canvas! The image became art. I found the “heart in my art.”

Technical details:      

Created by:       Kim Hales (Kim Hales Photography)

Time:                 2:00 pm

Conditions:       Overcast

Equipment:       Canon 5D Mark II

Flash Fired:       Canon 580EX II Speedlite

Lens:                 70-200mm F2.8L

F-stop:              f/3.2

Shutter:            1/250

ISO:                  400

Focal Length:   95mm

Post Process:   Lightroom, Photoshop, OnOne & Nik Software


What Readers are Saying About “It’s Hard to be Good”

Ellie Floating They Love Me

“… a blast for my little ones.”

 – Art Woods, Librarian


“This book should be in every kindergarten classroom as well as in family libraries…”

5 out of 5 Stars

– Carla Johnson-Hicks, Educator


“This book made me laugh … super cute.”

 – Katarina Ortmann, Reviewer


“What an adorable children’s book … a great addition to any home or school library.”  

5 out of 5 Stars

– Mary Brown, MJB Reviews


“What a sweet story!”

– Paula March, Reviewer


“Very cute story and entertaining character!”

5 out of 5 Stars

– Rebecca Apple, Educator


“… a lesson I want my children to have modeled and learn!”

Richelle Zirkle, Reviewer


“I love the wonderful lessons …”

Kim Teamer, Reviewer






Lessons We Can Learn from Our Pets

Picture of the story behind It's Hard to be Good

Lessons Learned from Ellie the Wienerdog

Kids and canines have a lot in common, especially when it comes to being good. Just ask my little dachshund, Ellie.

One day after running errands I came home and knew something was wrong the minute I walked in the door. It was the smell. Then I noticed that there was no wagging tail to greet me. The house was silent and very, very stinky. I followed my nose into the kitchen and my mouth dropped open. I gasped at both the sight and the stench of what lay before me. The entire contents of our trash compactor were strewn everywhere. Shreds of paper, meat wrappers, potato chip bags, cans, rotting produce and flies, lots of flies. My mind reeled. How on earth could a wienerdog have done all this damage? My temper rose as I snapped a quick picture for proof of the crime and started looking for the guilty party.

I called and called but no there was no response. I searched the house and yard but found nothing. Anger changed to worry. Minutes passed and worry turned to panic. Where could she be? Is she okay? Then something caught my eye in the far corner of the backyard. There, hiding behind a tree, was a very guilty Ellie, shivering and trying to make herself as small as possible. Her sorry brown eyes peaked up at me from under her worried brows. It was a look that said, “I’m so sorry Mommy.” My heart melted and relief flooded over us both. I scooped her up in my arms and she smothered me with kisses that said over and over again, “Mommy, I’m so sorry.”

What were the lessons we each learned that day?


  • No matter how bad you think the mistake your child (or dog) has made, it’s always fixable and forgivable. I forgave Ellie for making such a mess.


  • We should always try to be good but when we do make a mistake we need to say we are sorry. Ellie said she was very sorry.


  • Our choices, both good and bad, affect not only ourselves but all those who love us. Ellie’s bad choice upset me. My choice to forgive her made us both very happy.


  • Every person (and dog) has different trigger points that tempt or upset them. Help others be good and feel good when you can. Smelling all the things in the trash tempted Ellie to make a bad choice. I now try not to tempt her by leaving really good/bad smelling stuff in the trash for any length of time.

Just like kids, Ellie faces choices everyday that can be good or bad. They may not always be good. As parents (or dog owners) we have choices on how we react and deal with those choices and help them make good choices in the future. At the end of each day the most important thing is that all our choices are made with love and respect.

PS: I now have a note on the door to remind myself to lock the trash compactor before I leave the house.

K.J. Hales is the author of the children’s book series, Life’s Little Lessons by Ellie the Wienerdog. The first book in the series, It’s Hard to be Good,” is now available online at

Welcome to My Story

Human Footprint beside paw print in sand

How a little wiener dog named Ellie came into my life, saved me and inspired me to write her silly little stories that will make a difference in this world.

Thank you for visiting my author page.  Sorry it is a little sparse on content right now, I will be getting it up to speed very soon.

I really look forward to sharing all the backstories of how I was inspired by a little wiener dog to become an author, establish a publishing company and introduce Ellie the Wienerdog to the world.

My hope is that all people, young and old, will be entertained and inspired, not only by the amazing books, but also in how they came to be.