I’m famous :)

I fell in love with Erin McCallum at the Beaches Jazz Festival.

She is a spooky good blue singer and guitar player and she’s pretty to boot.

So when Erin picked one of my photos to use on her website it made my day.

Honest. This is humbling and lovely. I’m so happy to share this photo with you.


How to find work

One of the things I do to promote the shooting end of my business is I volunteer a lot. The last two weeks I’ve been shooting almost daily for a non-profit organization here in Oakville that raises funds for local charities.

Now before somebody gets all huffy I guarantee you that these guys can’t afford a commercial photographer. How do I know this is true? I saw the annual report from last year and the photography, for the most part, sucked.

So I’ve been shooting at food banks and daycare centres and shelters and just about anywhere where they’ll let me shoot.

As a gift I often make 4″X6″ prints of the subjects for them to keep. One lady is being housed by a charitable group and she volunteered to pose along with her little boy and I gave her an 8X10 of the two of them. I don’t suppose she’d ever afford or think to get a portrait done.

So what’s the payoff for me?

Aside from the really good feeling I get doing this work my reputation is spreading throughout my town. I’ve been asked to shoot a couple of special events coming up this fall. I’ve got the potential of reaching many more potential clients and, best of all, I’m enjoying every minute of shooting and editing and printing.

Oakville Jazz Festival Photos

The first edit of photos from the Oakville Jazz Festival are now up at Peter West Photo.

The Oakville festival shoot was very different from the Beaches Jazz Festival work. The Oakville festival is much smaller and more intimate. Where the Beaches festival attracts over 100,000 people and gets really crowded on the Friday and Saturday nights (go Thursday night for the best photo opportunity) to the point it’s tough to walk around, the Oakville festival maintains its small town atmosphere.

Nevertheless there are big crowds at the Oakville festival for the big acts.

My guess is the downtown square might hold 2,500 people and they were all there for the amazing piano playing of Oliver Jones. I like jazz and I love good playing in any genre but Jones’s playing was transcendent and was very well received by the older crowd. Jones’s performance was worth every moment and if you ever get a chance to hear him in person you will not regret it.

Another big favourite with the crowd was the ever-youthful Toronto All Star Big Band. These kids were terrific with first class players and three young teenagers whose singing was reminiscent of the girl singers of the 1940s.

A couple of surprises for me came in the guise of Swamperella which despite playing on a small stage in near total darkness rocked the crowd with its Zydeco Cajun music. Tough to shoot though as there was almost zero lighting.

The other big surprise was sweet sweet Meagan de Lima who was backed up by a bunch of kids who nailed their performances as this beautiful singer just stole hearts right off the street.

Dr. Draw finished the show on the Towne Square Stage and won a standing ovation. The crowd wouldn’t let the band go without an encore. Closing off the Centennial Stage, Joanne Shaw Taylor who I’ve never heard of but this 23-year-old Brit has played with the Eurythmics-front man in his supergroup D.U.P. when they toured Europe in 2002. This is one blues player to watch.

Now as for shooting the Oakville Festival. Because it is a smaller festival there’s less happening at anyone time. What this means is during the golden hours to shoot outdoor jazz festivals from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm there are only a couple of acts and then it gets dark.

Shooting available light coming from portable festival lighting is tough and using a flash is just painful for the artists, the audience and the photographer. Fast prime lenses are absolutely necessary as the slower kit lens just can open enough to let in enough light so you can shoot at a high enough shutter speed to stop any movement.

Using a monopod only stabilizes the camera and does nothing to stop any movement by the artist.

More and more professional and semi-professional photographers plus amateur photographers are finding jazz festivals wonderful photo opportunities. Most of us who are shooting professionally dress all in black (despite the heat) as we do tend to blend in better with the stage and aren’s a distraction to the audience. If you want excellent images or videos of the performances you’re going to have to either shoot during the daylight hours. It’s also essential you get out of your lawn chair as even events as intimate as the Oakville Jazz Festival still have lots of people walking back and forth through your frame.

Oakville Jazz Festival 2011

Hi everyone…hope you had as good a time at the Oakville Jazz Festival as I did.

I’m working on the image and they should be posted at Peter West Photo (my online gallery) by Sunday or Monday.

You may help yourself to the images however if you use it for any commercial marketing for yourself I want a photo credit.

All personal use including posting on your own website or blog is fine (and again I’d appreciate the photo credit as I am a special-event photographer who is available for hire 🙂

Prints up to 16″ X 20″ are available from me at a reasonable cost.

Out-of-focus, B&W, Grainy and Magnificent

Tewfic El-Sawy is a NYC-based photographer and teacher and the author of The Travel Photographer blog.

Tewfic is an interesting photographer who shoots interesting photos of interesting subjects in interesting places and is very successful as a result.

One such interesting place was Buenos Aires where Tewfic spent a week teaching with the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop. When he wasn’t teaching Tewfic hung out at various tango halls and milongas where he shot the photos for this slide show.

See if you can watch these images and listen to the music without something stirring deep within you. This is the essence and proof that this is great photography.

The image posted here is from Tewfic’s slide show. Enjoy.

NOTE: I’m adding this comment to this post…

I’m watching Milongas: The Seduction of Tango over and over again and every time I see something new.

It was during a seminar given by New York street photographer and photography legend Jay Maisel when I first heard the term gesture applied to photography. And that’s what is happening in Tewfic’s slideshow. Every image is about gesture. Sometimes the gesture is the turn of an ankle or a closed eye or a look but each image contains within it a gesture.

Here’s a video (forgive the commercial) about Jay talking about gesture.

I’m off to shoot a job today. Must remember: gesture.

Coffee Tea and Photography

Walter Sawka is one of Oakville’s better photographers. Heck he’s so good I bet he’s one of Canada’s better landscape photographers.

His landscape images are outstanding and on top of that Walter is a good guy as well.

How good?

Well he gave me his old Epson 3800 printer! Okay it was broken and unrepairable but it was filled with ink jets that fitted my Epson 3800 which wasn’t broken but which needed new inks. Inks for an Epson 3800 are around $60 a cartridge so Walter’s gift was a real treat for me.

So imagine my surprise when I chanced upon Walter and the Oakville Camera Club’s Kieley Hickey (Kieley is a top wedding photographer who specializes in exotic location wedding photography) putting up a selection of Walter’s images at CJ’s Cafe in Bronte.

CJ’s is one of the nicest independent coffee shops in Oakville located at 2416 Lakeshore Road West in beautiful and historic Bronte.

What’s the point?

I see hundreds perhaps thousands of images every week.

I use Google Reader to scan for changes in hundreds of photographic web and blog sites daily. Then I scan the headlines and look at only those sites that interest me.

So I focus on photographer’s sites, new product sites and reviews of stuff I own or would like to own.

This is how I stay informed and it’s also an education.

For example, I just spent a couple of hours looking at Flickr pool sites (like Photography Bay) and pro and advanced amateur sites and here’s my overall impressions:

  1. Turn down (or off) the special effects in software;
  2. Reduce sharpening …a lot;
  3. Don’t shoot cliche shots (How many blood red sunsets can we stand?);
  4. Learn how to make your subject the subject of the image (a lot of subjects get lost in over sharpening);
  5. What’s the point?
So let’s concentrate on “what’s the point?”
Too many shots are meaningless…pretty…but vacant. There is no point of purpose or interest. There is no story being told. Now there is an argument to be made that not every photo needs to have a story or point and I’m not against pretty pictures of painted doors etc., but when you see a shot with a point and compare it to just another pretty picture I think you’ll see the difference.
Two guys who have a point of view in just about every image is Jay Maisel (in colour) who shoots the streets of New York City and Joe Buissink (in black and white shot) who is a celebrity wedding photographer in LA.
Study the images these two guys shoot. There’s something being said in just about every image. It’s wonderful photography IMHO.