It’s Time Again

I’ve got the next three days booked off to watch’s Retouching and Creative Photoshop Techniques online class with Lindsay Adler.

Based on Lindsay’s photos I think I’ll be in good hands.

One of the great things about is first all the webinars are free to watch live! Now this requires a pretty substantial amount of time but if you find the course really really valuable or you can’t take three days off to watch live you can buy an edited download of the session. (This is still hours and hours long of information.)

So far this year, I’ve bought four workshop downloads and based on what I see today I might be up for another purchase. I’ve also got to remember that next month there’s a five day wedding bootcamp and I might want to buy the download for that one too. Decisions. Decisions.


Advertisements Rebroadcast

It’s 7 in the morning and I’ve had my breakfast shake, coffee’s on and the laundry is turning downstairs. Fed the cat and kissed the wife who has left for her work early trying to dodge the Toronto gridlock traffic. This is the life of the retired photographer. 🙂

Having said that I’ve got an email with a mention of future work (woo hoo) and three newspapers ready to be read. Does it get better than this?

Actually yes. I’ve got the MacBook Pro running and I’m doing my morning email and checking Facebook but there’s more.

On my IPad I’ve got’s rebroadcast of yesterday’s excellent fashion photography workshop conducted by Lara Jade (see the three part series below).

That’s Lara in the photo on the set answering audience questions. There are always a few people who take the workshop and three chat lines to take questions and allow comments (often very funny) from the worldwide audience. has a great marketing strategy. Each month they run a series of photography-related multi-day workshops that are free to view while video downloads are for sale at a discount during the workshop or are archived online for future purchase.

For old retired guys like me, this is perfect. I have the time to sit for two or three days and watch all-day live broadcast. Then the next morning I can watch the free rebroadcast. ( has had 40,000 viewers for their online workshops and they come in from all around the world so the rebroadcasts which start as soon as the live show ends and continues until the new live show the next day serve people in different time zones.

If the workshop is particularly detailed (a lot of the software-related workshops have way too much content to remember on one or two viewings) I buy the video download which comes at high resolution plus low resolution of IPad viewing.

So far I’ve bought four workshop downloads. So I’ve spent around $400 on videos! But remember these downloads are lightly edited full workshops that are hours and hours of content. Even better the workshops are conducted by the best photographers, teachers, graphic artists in the business. Some of these top people charge hundreds even thousands of dollars for their workshops so I’m quite happy to spend $75-$99 for these videos.

One of the big problems with is it’s too good! I’m looking at buying at least one more video download (advanced Photoshop CS6) at the end of this month.

I’m going to have to set a budget for videos for 2013.

Highly recommended. This is the best online training I’ve ever seen and the presenters are amazingly talented and inspirational teachers.

Lara Jade – Part III

I think I figured out why Lara Jade is such a good fashion photographer. I’ve just finished spending my second whole day watching her doing an online workshop on fashion photography from New York City. (Thank you for this opportunity.) We’ve got one more day to go and I can’t wait.

She is such a good photographer because she’s more than a little humble. Now being humble doesn’t mean she isn’t self-confident and professionally competent because she is all that and more.

What Lara isn’t and that is arrogant.

IMHO a lot of the best photo instructors I’ve seen or been in workshops with are loud, arrogant and pretty full of themselves.

Most of them were men. (Funny thing about that.)

And oh yes they are amazing photographers.

They are great technicians. They use tons of the best equipment available to anyone any where. They know how to knock out the big images. They’re fantastic and they’ll tell you so.

Lara on the other hand is quiet, self-assured and technically …oh how to put this gently…blissfully ignorant but…and there’s no way to overemphasize this point…she is a great artist of whom we have not heard enough.

She uses a standard DSLR and a couple of ordinary simple lenses and creates great art.

Right now she’s shooting for fashion magazines and editorial work for clients but she is going to make a major impact on the world of art through her simple, direct photography.

One of the reasons I can say this with some authority is I’ve hired or worked with a lot of photographers over the years and very very few have developed a distinctive and professional style. Lara has and thus her work speaks for her and screams talented!

The rest of us photographers could only hope to be half as good. (Personally I’d settle for 1/10th but that’s only because I’m running out of time. Lara has decades awaiting her. I don’t.)

Remember this name – Lara Jade – you haven’t seen nothing yet !!

How To Shoot A Zombie Invasion

To shoot a zombie invasion you’ve got to come with the right equipment.

At the 2012 Toronto Zombie Walk photographers almost outnumbered zombies for the first hour or so. I’d guess about a dozen or so of the shooters were pros based on their equipment and more importantly how they handled themselves. There were about 20 or more non-pro photographers and they were easy to spot. They came with the wrong equipment and didn’t know how to shoot a zombie (or anyone else for that matter).

So what did the amateurs do wrong?

In general, they showed up with lenses that were way too long. I guess if you own a $2500 70-210mm f/2.8 lens you’d want to use it but a zombie walk isn’t the place. There are just too many people getting between you and your subject. Also once the walk begins, the zombies are going to be way too close to you.

The pros used flash. A lot. It was a dark day with rain threatening all the time. A flash outdoors under these circumstances is essential. Even the popup flash on your camera will do (Just make certain your lens hood isn’t casting a shadow.)  because all your adding is a little light into the face.

The non-pros tended to carry way too much equipment. A camera bag in a big crowd becomes a liability really quickly and by the end of the day it weighs a ton.

So what did I shoot with?

I shot with Nikon D-300 with a 12-24mm f/4 super-wide zoom and the D-90 with an ancient 24-50mm f/3.3-4.5 zoom with an SB-900 and an external battery.

The D-90 setup allowed me to get small groups into the frame or do closeups of single subjects with the flash being used on every shot. The Chinese built $54 external battery pack holds eight more AA rechargeable cells and while powering the SB-900 (which is known to overheat and shutdown at the worst possible moments under heavy shooting situations – like weddings!) ran flawlessly all day under heavy shooting conditions.The Nikon battery pack is $300 here in Canada! Major ripoff by Nikon IMHO.

So let’s get back to the walk. People who go to the trouble of dressing up as zombies should be shot as well as you can possibly shoot them.

That means you should get in close, make eye contact, smile and ask them verbally or by gesture that it’s okay to shoot them. I don’t do this if they’re more than a couple of feet away but if I’m putting my lens into their face I ask permission. If you’re shooting children alway make certain the parent can see you and is approving. I offer a business card to everyone I shoot (if there’s time) and invite them to download the image for free.

Thank your subject even if it’s just a quick “thank you” shouted out.

Don’t worry about other photographers. There are too many to watch out for. Don’t get in anybody’s way but don’t hesitate to elbow your way into a group scrum as well. Don’t knock anybody over but don’t let the amateur point-and-shoot photographers waste too much of your time as they can take forever to push the shutter.

For zombie walks or any street photography where you’re shooting hundreds even thousands of images (I shot 2500 shots at the zombie walk.) consider shooting JPGs instead of raw. Your camera will run faster shooting JPGs. Now if you’re shooting JPGs just make certain your white balance is set correctly. I shot using auto white balance and I could have used shade to warm up the images. If I’d thought of it, I could have done a couple of test shots with the flash on cameras. Having said that, I knew I was going to over process the images in Lightroom so white balance for zombies isn’t as important as compared to shooting a wedding (which I’d only shoot in raw.)

Best camera for big event street photography is a higher-end DSLR with an accessory battery pac. The camera is going to be running hard and you don’t want the buffer filling up and holding up the shooting while it clears. I was shooting fine JPGs. I could have just as easily shot normal JPGs as 99.99% of these images are going to be used online. Lightroom can handle JPGs or raw. You can apply all the controls and presets to JPGs but you can’t push the pixels the same way you can with raw images. But if you’re shooting 2,500 images you’re not going to work on every image the same way you’d work on a portrait or wedding shoot.

BTW best lens for shooting zombies is your kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR DX Nikkor) which is wide enough for groups, long enough for portraits and fast enough for most outdoor daylight shooting. If you’re shooting later in the day and the light is dimming the 35mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 or an 85mm f/1.8 lenses are great. If I could only afford one I’d get the 50mm as it’s less than $150. Sure it’s a plastic lens but it’s a very good plastic lens.

Here’s a couple of other tips:

Wear excellent foot ware. This means sturdy boots or great shoes. You’re going to be standing for hours and good foot ware will pay off big time.

BTW I shot in ….wait for it …P for program mode!

I didn’t have time to figure out manual and the conditions were predictable enough I didn’t need to use manual mode which I do when things start falling apart.

I also had no use for aperture or shutter priority either. I wanted closeup images with no issues. That’s what program mode can deliver with or without flash. All of my images are cropped tight and backgrounds are irrelevant.

ISO was between 400 and 800 depending on the lighting. I carried the two cameras and aside from a more memory cards in my pocket that was it. I was wearing a rain jacket and not a “photographer’s” vest. I wore black as it disappears into the background and I don’t wear glasses when I shoot. I don’t have time to be moving the glasses up and down.

So get out there and start shooting with whatever you got.

This is how you get better fast 🙂

Lara Jade Part II

Go to my original post (below) about the amazing Lara Jade who is shooting a fashion workshop for

You can watch the next two days of this workshop live at or buy the video download of the session.

So what’s so great about Lara Jade?

Like I said below here’s a girl who barely knows the technical stuff of photography. She shows up with one DSLR camera and a 50mm lens. Her lighting setup is primitive even basic.

And then she goes and shoots the heck out of the setup.

I’m listening to rebroadcast of the event and there’s tons of learning here. Lara works with teams of professionals in London and New York. She’s an in demand editorial photographer. You can hear she understands the needs of the fashion magazine editors and she shoots what they want. Today I think we’re going to see Lara do her post-production work and I’m taking the day off to watch.

Like I said below: Lara Jade is my new hero and I’ll get over my crush later 🙂

Lara Jade Live From NYC is one of the greatest resources available to photographers of all levels who are interested in learning more about their craft and their art.

Case in point is 30-something Lara Jade who in my view (remember I’m in my mid 60s and I’ve been shoot pro for over 40 of those years) looks like a little kid with her dad’s camera

Worse is compared to some of BIG personality celebrity photographer/teachers who have appeared on Creativelive, Lara doesn’t fare well on first impression.

First she shows up with one camera and shoots with a 50mm lens. Her studio lighting consists of one soft box and she has a couple of black panels to kill an shadows or ambient light. She admits to being self-taught as a photographer and it shows (I was self-taught as well.) in her misunderstanding of some of the technical things she is doing.

Her online descriptions of what she is doing are sparse even non-existent and the show hosts are forever interjecting comments and questions in an effort to solicit more information from her. The online audience at Creativelive numbers in the hundreds and hundreds and there is a never-ending series of questions of what F-stop? What shutter-speed? What lights? Is that a PocketWizard?

Lara, IMHO, barely knows the answers to any of these questions. She shoots one way outside (high ISO – high shutter speed – wide open aperture – likes grain)  and another way in the studio (low ISO, low shutter speed to sync with camera – medium aperture – and likes grain) and that’s it kids.

So what’s the bottom line here?


Lara Jade is an artist. She happens to use a camera to record her art. She has learned enough technical stuff to get by and then she goes out and shoots the pants of me. (Here’s a link to a video she produced that will show you her at work.)

Lara Jade is my new hero. She is who I wanted to be when I was young. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I wasn’t young, slender, blond, breathy and very very pretty.  Plus I wasn’t enormously talented.

I was young, slender (oh how I wish for those days) not blond or breathy and I was pretty enough but I wasn’t enormously talented. I was just talented enough.

Watch Day two of the Lara Jade workshop Live From New York City starts today at 10am and you can watch for free or purchase the download for $99.

I’ve bought four Creativelive downloads so far this year and I am likely to buy a couple more (There’s one on Photoshop I’ve booked off time to watch). When you add up the cost, it’s cheaper than going to photographer school and the online teachers are the best working photographers in the business right now. has a neat marketing concept. Anyone can watch the two or three day live webcasts for free and if they wish they can purchase a professionally edited DVD of the session for a discount. If you’re retired like I am, time is not much of an issue but when I see a workshop which I want for my educational library the old credit card comes out.

Some of the presenters are great technical shooters. Some are great photographers. And a very few are great artists (Zack Aris comes to mind.). Lara Jade is a great artist and this is a great workshop.

As for me? Now I go back to editing photos from the 2012 Toronto Zombie Walk. Lara will shooting models in New York City. Life isn’t fair. In fact, it’s downright cruel.

800 Zombies or Photos To Die For

Yup I’ve finished uploading 800 photos from this year’s 2012 Toronto Zombie Walk to my photo gallery at Peter West Photography.

Zombies and friends are invited to help themselves to the full-size non-watermarked FREE images that are downloadable right off the site.

I had a great time at this the 10th anniversary of the largest zombie event in the world and congratulations go to the organizers and volunteers who made it so much fun.