The Westcott IceLight

Here’s why I want a Westcott IceLight.

Aside from the $499 price tag, there’s no reason not to buy a Westcott IceLight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s a daylight balanced Jedi Light Sword for photographers that puts a perfect light on individual subjects.

We used one at Jennifer Rozenbaum’s fabulous boudoir workshop which was held in the very trendy boutique Gladstone Hotel.

The IceLight is perfect for shooting boudoir in your client’s homes where there’s either not enough room to setup a flash or monolight on a stand or else you just don’t want to carry al that equipment.

A lot of boudoir shooting takes advantage of natural light coming into the bedroom window but for shooting later in the day when the light is fading this is the way to go.

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Jennifer Rozenbaum’s Boudoir Workshop Review

I’ve become addicted to photography workshops.

It’s true. Here’s the shortlist: David Tejada (portraiture), David Ziser (wedding photography), Rick Sammon (HDR), Ethan Meleg (Algonquin Fall Colours), Philip Bloom (videography), Joe Buissink (Wedding Photography), Ben Willmore (PhotoShop) and a ton of live online three-day workshops on Photoshop and Lightroom from Creativelive.com (The joy of being retired.) among many others unnamed to protect the presenters who weren’t wonderful.

Now thanks to Henry’s Cameras here in Canada we can add Jennifer Rozenbaum who taught a boudoir workshop last Saturday at Toronto’s trendy Gladstone Hotel.

So let’s get this out of the way: Jen was amazing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She’s only been shooting a short time (I’m past 40 years shooting as a pro and 50 years as an enthusiast) but she sure can shoot and she sure can teach.

I used to teach for Henry’s School of Imaging back in the day when they had real photographers teaching their courses (which despite who teaches them are universally pretty good for the new and intermediate photographer) and they are now trying something that competitor Vistek has been doing for years and that’s bring in a name-brand celebrity photographer for a day-long advanced course.

To make this work at under $300, there were 30 students which I think is about 10 to 15 too many to really benefit from one-on-one time with the celebrity shooter but two guys from Henry’s did their best to fill in the gaps as after Jen’s teaching session we broke out into two separate rooms with a different model in each and Jen doing her best to cover both spaces. The girls who were modelling weren’t full-time professional models but were more than skilled enough to substitute for the typical client that would show up for a boudoir session.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEsther and Sarah did a super job and after getting over a few moments of doubt when disrobing in front of 15 strangers (about 25% were men) by mid-afternoon we were all buddies and in this together and nobody though anything of pushing out a tushie when asked.

So was the workshop worth the price especially if you add in an additional $100 for Jen’s Posing Vol. 90-minute DVD? (Which I bought.)

The short answer is yes and while the DVD is at the high-end of what I’ll pay for a video here’s the deal: If you buy Jen’s posing video and watch it and study it several times, you’ll know everything you need to know about shooting boudoir images. That’s pretty good for a $400 investment in your business._DSC8828

Of course, not everyone was an intermediate or pro shooter. Typical of a Henry’s course there were a lot of people who were pretty new to photography. One women I ended helping was shooting with a Sony mirrorless and was shooting JPGs when shooting raw would have been preferred.

Speaking of shooting mirrorless I did take my Olympus EPL-7 and it worked like a charm as I had my 12 and 40mm (24 and 80 mm equivalent in 35mm terms) f/1.8 with me. Should have brought my 17mm f/2.8 (35mm in 35mm terms) as it would have fit right in. And with their 16-meg sensors despite smaller than Nikon’s DX sensors were better in low light and produced amazing images. I really can’t tell which camera shot what without checking the metadata.

We were shooting in very small rooms, which Jen says were bigger than her New York studio and all was fine until the sun went down. Now everyone with slow zooms were in trouble but thanks to Henry’s which supplied a bunch of continuous lights it wasn’t bad but those of us with fast lenses kept shooting with abandon.

Speaking of lights, despite the $499 price at Henry’s a Westcott IceLight is an ideal lighting source for location shooting. We used one and they are easy to carry and easy to use.

One of the new things I was trying was back-focus on the Nikon D-300 which worked pretty well. Most of my Nikon images were properly focused with the odd shot a little fuzzy due to the slow shutter speeds (I never exceeded ISO 400.) but the Olympus nailed every focus on every shot. Very impressive.

One thing I did comment on was Jen’s use of a single harsh (not bad but harsh) light on some of her subjects. If you go to her website you’ll see what I mean.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The images look fine but there’s a certain amount of grit that comes from single-light shooting. I like it but I had thought boudoir shots would all be low key and sort of soft. Boy was I wrong.

I tell you folks, mirrorless is the way to go. Olympus is promising a new pro body in the spring and I am going to be looking very very seriously at it for all my work.

How To Shoot A Zombie

First of all show up this Saturday for the Toronto Zombie Walk taking starting at Nathan Philips Square. If estimates are correct, we might see 10,000 zombies on this year’s walk. That’s a lot of shooting.

Peter West Photo-1-21-XLSo how do you shoot a zombie? Peter West Photo-1-181-L

First dress right. Here I mean wear really sturdy shoes. Hiking boots won’t be out of place as you’re going to walk…a lot even if you don’t move from Nathan Philips Square. Second don’t over dress as you’re going to get warm carrying your gear and moving from shot to shot. If it rains (and it looks like it won’t so far), wear hight rain gear. If it’s cold put a pair of really light gloves in your packet. (You’ll thank me for this one!)

As for equipment, you do what you think best, but I don’t bring my camera bag. It’s just too much weight on the shoulder especially after five or six hours and since it’s bulky you’ll keep banging it into the zombie hordes. You don’t want to do this to your equipment or to the zombies.

If you’ve got a choice bring your most robust cameras. For example I’ve got a complete Olympus pen setup with three bodies and six lenses and an external flash and I love the images I get with this really light and street-worthy setup but for shooting zombies it can’t compare to my Nikon setup with a D-300 and D-90 bodies with an 18-270 on one and a 12-24 on the other with one external flash with an external battery pac on my belt if it’s an overcast day (the flash bangs up the light in the faces).

2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)Why the Nikons and not the Olympus? While the Olympus Pens can produce an image as good, if not better than the Nikons (sacrilege I know but they do), the Nikons can shoot all day long with their external battery pacs and the Olympus Pens cannot. Also use at least 16 gig cards that are as fast as you can afford. I prefer 32 gig cards as I can shoot most of the day without having to change.

It’s that simple. When it comes to shooting rapidly over a long period of time the heavier and more robust Nikons are the way to go.

Now if you’re just shooting casually then anything will do as you’re in a very target rich environment.2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)-4

So again how do you shoot a zombie?

First get in their face where they can see you. 99% of all zombies will perform for you if they see you’re a serious photographer.  Bared teeth (where there are teeth) and bloody hands reaching out make for some great images.

Don’t waste time. Shoot on “P” (program mode) as depth of field isn’t as important here (and if it was you’d be shooting in aperture mode) as getting the shot right the first time. Crop in camera exceptionally close and run your autofocus on single point or all points and continuous focus depending on what works best for you and your camera system.

I tend to shoot on single point as I am filling the frame with the person’s face and I want my focus to lock in right away.

Now as to whether to shoot JPGs or RAW?

This is a serious consideration when shooting a couple of thousand zombies in one day. RAW is great as you can do so much with it when it comes to exposure and special effects.

But some cameras (most) will shoot faster using JPG mode as compared to RAW. But you don’t want to be shooting in high speed mode either as you’re just going to fill up your hard drive with tons of duplicate images which you’re going to have to edit in post. Ugh! So if you’re camera can handle the size, shoot RAW so you’ve got tons of data to edit.

Peter West Photo-1-578-X3Here’s my post setup.

I’ve got a MacBook pro with 8 gigs of RAW and a solid state and regular spinning hard drives plus I’ve got two external drives. I will manually download images off the memory card and put them on one of my external hard drives and the internal spinning drive in the computer.

So now I’ve got my images (RAW or JPG) in two separate places plus the memory card. Then I’ll remove the card(s) and put them in a safe place as I fire up Lightroom 5 and I don’t import the images but just add the image information to the LR catalogue without moving the actual images themselves.

From then on I only use Lightroom to do anything with the images as LR is a database and it goes nuts if any other program moves the files.Peter West Photo-1-31-L

So once LR is ready to go I go to the Library module and I rate my keeper images. With any luck I can get 1500 – 2000 images down to 700-1000 in the first pass.

If I’m in a real hurry I can batch process all these images and if they were not shot as JPGs, make them into JPGS of suitable size (100 kb for online display to full resolution for downloadable prints on my SmugMug gallery at Peter West Photography and I’m done as I offer all my Toronto Zombie Walk images to the zombies for free.

If I’ve shot in RAW and there are a bunch of really good images (say about 200) I’ll take the time to edit them in LR using NIK’s excellent external editors or my newly purchased Alien Skin Exposure 6 editor or Seim Filter’s really great presets (I own them all!)

Since you’re working with lots of colours it’s really nice if you’ve got a Passport Checker to shoot the colour squares and create your own camera profile for running in Lightroom. Plus calibrate your monitor.

You can see by my images that I like special effects and using external editors. When it comes to zombies, I mean why not.

But here’s a comparison of two separate images of two zombie girls.  On the left I processed it with a warming effect and on the right it’s the same two girls processed using a gritty filter setting. Quite a difference in tone and mood?

The most important thing? Get out there and have fun with your camera.

Peter West Photo-1-222-XL

How To Shoot The World Pride Parade in Toronto

ad_panel_btm-slider-1-altSunday, June 29 will see Toronto host the World Pride Parade and you can bet Marion and I are going to shoot it.Peter West Photo-1-XL The Gay Pride Day Parade has always been one of my favourite events and I’ve shot it on several occasions but this parade is like no other.

First it’s estimated that the crowd could approach two million spectators. That’s 2,000,000 hot sweaty people lining a relatively short parade route (roughly west bound on Bloor from Church, south on Yonge to Dundas. Here’s a link to the Gay Pride site.

This means that you have to arrive early to stake out your shooting location. All of the parade is enclosed by police barriers so there’s no way to shoot from the street itself. This is a huge disadvantage for photographers but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent sightline. i-vtjx3Tw-L

If it’s a hot day (and it often is) you must wear as little as possible (see photo to right), tons of sunscreen and a hat. Also you should carry as little equipment as possible. Wear good shoes or at the least comfortable Tevas or the equivalent. Bring water.

Because of the size of the crowds arrive really early. This year’s parade starts at 1 pm (usually it’s 2 pm) and I’d suggest an 11 am arrival time. If you’re going with a friend one of you can hold your spot while your partner finds some street food. It’s a great idea if you can locate near a place that will allow you to use their washroom 🙂 Don’t depend on the parade starting on time.

This is a fun day and time isn’t necessarily one of the things at top of mind.

For equipment I’d suggest a camera or two capable of robust shooting. This means my Olympus cameras (which I love) aren’t quite up to the job when compared to my Nikons when it comes to fast and furious shooting. I will likely carry two camera bodies one with Nikon’s 14-24mm wide zoom and the other with my new (I bought for this parade.) Tamron 18-270mm zoom. (On special for $365 at Henry’s. It’s light and optically just fine and cheap! Great reach with the ability to capture groups of folks close in.)i-rB6DTvk-L

I’m not going to bring a camera bag as it’s just something else I have to carry and in a crowd of this size it’s not something I want to put down on the ground. (Toronto and especially Gay Pride events are very safe but that doesn’t mean I’ll drop my guard when it comes to where I put my equipment.)

I would definitely expect to shoot a few thousand frames and I will be shooting in RAW format as the lighting on the street can vary from very intense to very dull depending on the weather and I will want to compensate in post. Also the colours at this parade will easily exceed the dynamic range of my equipment and shooting in RAW helps to create the best liking images. (I tend to like vibrant coloured prints so my images online can look pretty phosphorescent.)

Once the parade ends everybody (all two million of your newest friends) will troop into what’s colloquially known as the Gay Village. Your ability to shoot photos will be severely limited solely by the crush of the crowd. Having said that there will be tons of photo opportunities to shoot very interesting and photographic images.

As in any street photography situation it’s important to be respectful but generally you can expect that anyone who dresses up (or undresses for that matter) at a public function is going to be okay with having their photo taken. Due to lingering discrimination here and life-threathening issues back home in some countries not everyone may want their photo taken or displayed online. Generally this isn’t an issue but if somebody asks do the right thing by them.

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Gay or straight we can all take pride in the advances this city and its people have made to create a tolerant and safe community for everyone.

Come to the World Gay Pride Parade and prepare to have a great day 🙂

Here’s a link to my Gay Pride Parade 2011 shots.

And here’s a link to my Gay Pride Parade 2012 shots.

Missed last year but will be there for World Gay Pride!

Photo News

Did your copy of Photo News magazine show up in your morning newspaper delivery?

Mine did and Vol. 23, No. 2 of this free magazine is a winner.

Now a many of you know I was a national magazine editor and group editor and I’m pretty picky about what I like or don’t like when it comes to magazines and I like Photo News.

Why? First almost all of the images are first-class knockouts. Now this is personal preference only as all of the images were shot by very competent pros at the top of their games and I’m not doing a critique here but let’s put it this way: I like sharp well focused images. I like to see contrasty as opposed to bland images. That’s called snap. I like images that aren’t overly posed or overly processed. My background is news photography so I like reality and grit. Oh yeah, I like colour and black and white when handled correctly and I like images that are interesting to me the viewer and not just interesting to the photographer.

Photo News comes through pretty much on all counts.summer2014

And I especially liked the outdoor nature photography. Michelle Valberg’s cover shot (see photo) is sensational IMHO. The landscape and bird shots are amazing. You have no idea how hard it is to shoot a bird that’s no bigger than an expresso cup even if you set up a blind or a background behind your own bird feeder. BTW do you know how pros get those amazing shots of owls flying face-on towards the camera at full speed? Hate to tell you but there’s often a mouse involved who would rather not be there.

So why read photo magazines at all?

It’s to get ideas in your head for shooting when you’re in the field. At my first newspaper we got People magazine every week just to see how the big boys shot people on the run. The online site for the magazine has a shot of kids drinking from a water hose which is classic and likely setup by the photographer. You can get this priceless shot yourself using just about any camera.

BTW check the lenses that most of these photographers are using. A lot of the really good shots were made with lenses that don’t cost a lot or are available less expensively by secondary manufacturers such as Tamron. Photo News has a review of the Tamron (I’m guessing Tamron is a sponsor of the magazine but that’s okay. After my initial experience with my own Tamron 18-270mm super zoom I’m a new fan.) 90mm F/2.8 macro lens which at $500 or so is half the price of my Nikon 105 F/2.5 macro. Sure there’s a difference in the lenses but if you’re not shooting for National Geographic or doing massive blowup printing you’re not likely to see a difference from one image to the other.

The review was by Gordon Brown and here’s a link to his Flickr site. This guy is very very good 🙂 and so is the magazine.

 

 

Shooter

One of the biggest surprises at Creativelive.com’s Photo Week was today’s workshop (actually it was more of a talk) by American news photographer Robin Layton. Robin is one heck of a shooter (She was named one of the best photographers working in America when she was only 26.) and a lovely storyteller and what a story she had to tell. fbc4d5345d2dc212dfa817524c291531

For me, there was a lot of remember when in her stories of shooting for various newspapers. For example, I can remember situations as a young news photographer where I changed film (We only shot bulk-loaded TRI-X and Illford.) even though I hadn’t shot the whole roll thinking that if something happened I’d need as many of the 36 exposures as possible to get “the” shot. Robin did the same thing and got the sports shot of the decade for her troubles.

Because Robin was often the only girl (at 26 she was a girl in the newspaper world back then) in a pack of men (all older and grumpier) and would be relegated to the second or third best shooting position. (Men are like that.) I can remember when I was shooting I’d see all the big name guys clumping together and I’d purposely move away to some other vantage point often ending up with a better or at least different shot than everyone else.

But perhaps the biggest lesson was embedded in Robin’s last project: shooting basketball hoops and her Washington moment.

Now I don’t know about you but I can’t imagine a subject with less appeal but Robin is publishing a book of hoop shots and it’s terrific. So was her story about talking herself into the White House to get a shot of President Obama’s hoop. Talk about mission impossible but she did it.

It comes down to this:

Shoot with all your heart and never take NO! for an answer and keep shooting. (You miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take. – Wayne Gretzky)

“I Am A Fantasy Photographer”

This is a quote from Kirk Voclain, a US photographer who specializes in portraits of seniors.

He says he shoots photos of people as they see themselves and not as they actually are.

Some folks find his work overly processed but overly processed photos don’t seem to bother his customers.

Voclain is on day three of a Creativelive.com online live workshop where he’s teaching pros how to shoot and market senior (graduating high school students. This is huge in the US and non-existent in Canada.)