It was pretty hard to avoid being barked at in Helsinki last weekend. It’s not too surprising, I suppose, considering over 21,000 dogs had descended on the Finnish capital for the three-day World Dog Show — an annual event, held in a different city each year, that sees pooches fiercely compete for the title of Best in Show.
I was there to write a story for TIME, and just two hours in to my first day of reporting I had been snapped at by a preened American Cocker Spaniel, licked a few too many times by a warm-faced Wirehaired Daschund and had narrowly avoided walking straight into the path of a pooping Shar Pei. It’s all part of the danger of working with animals, I told myself.
Luckily for me, though, I was in veteran company. Editors had sent me on assignment with Landon Nordeman, a photographer known for his artful take on shows like this.
Put a dog in front of him and he’ll make a shot that is somehow comical and sincere. And sure enough, when I saw some of his early edits I hoped we could both go to shows every week.
There were shots of dogs like the regal Weimaraner Bekki, the Scottish Deerhound Minka, and five Shetland Sheepdogs from Sweden. All of them were weird, beautiful animals in real life, but his lens had somehow added an extra dimension, snapping them, it seemed, at just the right time, too.
“Experience has taught me to anticipate when moments are going to happen,” Nordeman tells TIME . “It’s great — because when you take their picture, dogs do not talk back!”
Landon Nordeman is a commercial and editorial photographer whose work has been featured in The Atlantic Monthly, TIME, Bloomberg Businessweek and ESPN The Magazine, among others. His images of the World Dog Show will appear in TIME on September 1, 2014.
Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox