Zombie Walk Is Dead

Peter West Photo-1-31-LSad news today with the announcement that the 2015 Zombie Walk in Toronto has been cancelled.2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)-5

Killed off by rising costs, lack of sponsorship and little support from the dead, the organizers have decided they just can’t keep digging the same old dirt.

_DSC4622bThis was one of the great photography events of the year in Toronto. Coming every October, the Toronto Zombie Walk could see well over 10,000 zombies taking a stroll around city streets.

It’s a great shame to see it fade into ashes but to all things there is a season – dust to dust and ashes to ashes.2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)-3

I’m going to miss it.Peter West Photo-1-181-L

Photos from previous years are available at Peter West Photography and my Flickr site.

All the photos are available for free download for any non-commercial purpose.

May our spirits meet again. RIP Toronto Zombie Walk.

The Olympus OM-D-E-M5-II

Oh wow. The OM-D-E-M5-II by Olympus is an amazing camera :)

It’s a little tiny in my hands so I’ve ordered the accessory battery pac and grip but having said that it’s an amazingly accomplished camera especially with the equally amazing 12-40mm F/2.8 professional-level lens.E-M5MarkII_BLK_right_top_M1240_BLK

If you’re considering buying a the M5-Mark II you might not want to watch some of the online videos from new buyers.

As a long-time Olympus digital camera owner I’m pretty happy with the camera system including the menus. Some other shooters find the menu system a huge frustration. It’s not. It could be improved but once you get used to how Olympus does things this is a pretty nice camera and a pretty nice system.

Now having said that it took me half an hour to get the wireless transfer system working between the camera and my IPhone and I’m not sure yet that I’ve got it working perfectly.

The funny thing is I’ve always bought my cameras by how they felt in my hands. My SONY DSCoriginal first “real” camera was a Pentax Spotmatic with screw-in lenses and the old workhorse was used almost daily and didn’t owe me a dime by the time I sold it. It was a delight to use.

All the Nikons I’ve bought over the years have always felt right and I can’t recommend them enough and, like I said, if I was shooting professionally and needed a couple of robust full-frame cameras I’d buy Nikons in a heartbeat.

But the Nikon days are gone and there’s a new camera in town. I’ll be spending the next few days with the camera in one hand and the manual in the other.

End Of The Nikon Era

I’ve been shooting with Nikons since the mid-70s when I owned a Nilkkormat.

I’ve owned Nikon F2s, FMs, FEs and most recently a D-90 and D-300 but as of last night, I’ve left the Nikon camp maybe forever!

Why you might ask?289068037_0f29592114

I’m not using the Nikons much anymore. For professional work, they are ideal but I don’t shoot much professionally anymore. A lot of what I shoot is either just for myself on vacation or for my various clubs and hobby groups.

So I don’t need the raw fire power of the Nikons anymore and, if there was a need to shoot pro-level work I’d buy a Nikon full-frame and a couple of lenses right away.

Some years ago after humping the Nikons and lenses through Brazil, when we got home I immediately went out an bought an Olympus EPL-2 with the kit lens and I was blown away with the image quality coming out of such a small (light!) camera.olympus-PEN-E-PL5-16

I chanced upon a sale of EPL-1 bodies for around $200 so I grabbed one.

Then I started to load up on lenses with the cheap but excellent 40 to 150 (80mm-300 mm – 35mm equivalent); the more expensive but equally excellent 9 to 18 suppressed zoom (18-36 mm); 17mm 2.8 (34mm); 12mm f/2 (24mm); and 45mm f/1.8 (90mm).

Finally I grabbed an EPL-5 which had as least the same image quality as my Nikon D-300 at a huge reduction in weight.

Images coming out of the Olympus cameras are insanely good in RAW or JPG formats.

So with a very large bundle of cash in hand thanks to the sale of the Nikons, I’m off this morning to look at the new Olympus OM-D 5 Mark II with the battery grip and maybe another lens.

Ontario Landscape Photography

Another great night at the Oakville Camera Club with over 100 people in attendance for Andrew McLachlan’s excellent slide show on shooting Ontario Landscapes.katherine-cove_3257

Andrew is a wonderful landscape photographer (That’s one of his shots on right.) who has travelled across Ontario to capture the wild beauty of this province.

And while a trip into the far north of the province is definitely an adventure, Andrew showed us there’s lots to shoot right here in our own backyard.

Andrew uses lots of filters and special effects and his images really pop.

His blog site has got lots of good information for anyone interested in shooting landscapes and he says he’s organizing some photo workshops so you might want to email him for details.

ontario-landscape-cover1Andrew was also selling an E-book “A Photographer’s Guide To The Ontario Landscape” which I bought a copy and can recommend for anyone wanting information about where and how to shoot landscapes in Ontario.

Again another great evening of photography at the Oakville Camera Club.

Soften Flash Shots

Cover your pop-up flash with a tissue for softer looking portraits.

This was one of the 101 Tips I offered at Toronto’s PodCamp 2015 in my photography workshop.PB180162

If you’re shooting with a point-and-shoot camera or most DSLRs (the big cameras) on automatic, the camera’s flash unit will popup and fire if there’s not enough light to produce a property exposed image.

The problem with this automatic pop-up flash mode is often the camera gets the exposure wrong and the pop-up flash just overexposes the photo (which is often a portrait thus washing out the face producing a pretty ugly image).

One of the easiest ways to modify your pop-up flash is to drape a layer of translucent tissue paper over the flash head. Add extra layers as necessary to reduce the amount of light hitting your subject. (BTW the photo above was taken at Jennifer Rozenbaum’s Boudoir Workshop which is returning to Toronto April 25. Check the Henry’s website for details. Highly recommended.)

If you’re in a room with a ceiling at normal high above you and if the ceiling is painted white or a light cream colour you can hold a blank piece of paper at an angle in front of the flash forcing the light to bounce up to the ceiling where it will bounce back down again gently illuminating your subject.

Experiment with modifying the light from your popup flash for much softer and lovelier images.

Light for Effect

I don’t often shoot with just an IPhone but at PodCamp Toronto 2015 I brought one of my cheap LCD movie lights with me._DSC8940-Edit

I was showing the campers how you could use a movie light or even a decent flashlight to illuminate portrait shots using smartphones or really any other camera.

The shot on the right of the model was taken at Jennifer Rosenbaum’s fabulous boudoir workshop (which BTW is coming back to Toronto in 2015 and if you want to learn how to pose and shoot people especially with a DSLR camera this is a terrific workshop).

The light coming from the left is an LCD Icelight by Westcott. Very expensive but daylight balanced which is what professional photographers will want when shooting.westcott-icelight

But you can do much the same with a super cheap LCD movie light that takes AA batteries and can be handheld.

I think I paid around $50 for mine online and the light is variable in intensity and you can even drop diffusion (makes the light softer) or colour filters in front of the LCDs for special effects. TRIOPO-TTV160-CN-160-LED-Video-Light-Lighting-for

By using a light off camera, you can create very professional looking images without a lot of cost using very simple cameras or cameras in smartphones.

BTW all the reddish lighting that is painting the walls and splashing on the model is created by add-on filters in Lightroom (one of the better photo editing software packages).

The effect may not be to everyone’s taste but I like it and when I am shooting for myself that’s all that counts.

How To Shoot Kids And Animals

I don’t have any baby shots but Sandy Puc sure does.

SamShooting2I’ve been to Sandy’s Babies and Bellies workshop and if you’re at all interested in learning how to shoot babies and soon-to-be-moms I highly recommend Sandy’s workshops which do occasionally come to Canada. (Here’s a link to Sandy’s CreativeLive.com workshop.)

(Here’s a link to her book available from Amazon.)

One of the main things I learned was to shoot kids at their level. All too often we shoot kids from our own level with the camera looking down at the child. This makes the poor kid’s head look enormous (whatever is closest to the camera appears larger) with a small body in the background.734

If you’re shooting babies put them on a bed or a couch  (take care they don’t roll or squirm off) and shoot from their eye level. Your baby photos will be so much better.

That’s one of Sandy’s images in the photo and it’s wonderful isn’t it?

Based on the catch-lights in the baby’s eyes this might have been shot using window light coming from the right of the image. You could shoot just as good a shot as this IF (there’s always an “IF”) you keep the background simple.

If you’re shooting with a DSLR, use a “fast” lens which is one that opens wide creating a shot like this with a small depth of field which emphasizes the child and separates baby from the blurry background). A 50mm f/1.8 for most DSLRs (see photo below) is cheap ($150), fast and works great. It should be your second lens after your kit lens which came with your camera.

Same with kids. Get down on the floor with them and shoot at their eye level. The kids will think it’s a hoot that you’re down there with them and after a few shots will ignore the camera.

Same thing with pets. Go online and look at some pet photographers’s sites and you’ll see they tend to shoot eye-to-eye with the animal.nikon-f-50mm-f1_8d

One thing babies and animals have in common is they have a very limited attention span. Shooting babies just after feeding helps and getting animals after a big workout helps calm them down.

BTW I think animal photography is one of the hardest things to do and babies come a close second.