I recently attended a free workshop featuring Jackson Galaxy, Seth Casteel and Jorge Bendersky at North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, New York. The event was part of the One Photo Saves A Life project by Seth Casteel, Jorge Bendersky, The Animal Rescue Site, GreaterGood.org, Wahl Home Products and the Cats R Cool tour featuring Jackson Galaxy.
Jackson Galaxy is a cat behavior specialist, star of “My Cat From Hell” on Animal Planet and author of the book “Cat Daddy.” Seth Casteel is a pet photographer whose work is featured in the book “Underwater Dogs.” He volunteers at animal shelters throughout the country, taking photos of shelter pets to help find them homes, and showing others how to take better pet photos. Jorge Bendersky is a pet groomer in New York and star of Animal Planet’s “Groomer Has It.” He has done pet makeovers for shelters to help give the animals a better chance at finding homes. His book is “DIY Dog Grooming, From Puppy Cuts to Best in Show.” He also serves as a grooming expert on Animal Planet’s “Dogs 101.”
The first half of the day featured all three of these famous animal advocates, each speaking about their particular area of expertise. All attendees were in one large tent, and I believe every seat was filled. The second half of the day included a choice of two more-focused workshops for shelter workers and volunteers — Jackson Galaxy did a presentation on cat behavior, and Seth Casteel and Jorge Bendarsky showed how to make shelter pets look their best through grooming and photography. It was a tough choice, but since I coexist with many cats, I figured I should attend the cat behavior portion.
In between the full session in the morning and the breakout sessions in the afternoon, the three signed copies of their books and posed for photos with fans. The line went through the entire tent and at one point I think the end of the line was somewhere outside the tent’s doorway. Jackson Galaxy was about 20 to 30 minutes late getting started for his afternoon session because he stayed to sign books and pose for photos until the last person in line was through. The other guys did also, but their lines didn’t appear to be quite as long.
In addition to knowing a lot about how cats think and react, Galaxy was very down-to-earth and funny, and if I get another chance to see him at an event I’m definitely going to be there. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend it.
There were tons of giveaways at the event, including eight or nine Tru-Catch humane traps for cats (I lost count); two large, screened outdoor cat enclosures; and one microchip scanner. The microchip scanner alone has a retail value of $1,000. Also, several shelters received digital SLR camera packages and grooming products to enable them to take better photos of the pets in their care, which in turn helps them to find homes.To get there, I drove 3 hours to Bridgewater, New Jersey, took a train to Newark, New Jersey, then another train to Penn Station, New York, and the light rail to Port Washington, New York, then walked four blocks to North Shore Animal League. Unfortunately, my first train was six minutes late, which meant I missed the train I had planned to take in Newark and had to wait for the next one. That meant I got to the event at 9:45 a.m., which wasn’t late (it didn’t start until 10 a.m) but meant I had to sit in the back of the audience where it was harder to hear, and impossible to take photos or video, for the first half of the day. After the lunch break, I got to move up to the second row, so I did get a few photos and a short video of Jackson Galaxy, but unfortunately not of the other two because they were doing a separate breakout session for the afternoon.
In the video below, Galaxy discusses “The Challenge Line.” I apologize for the small size of the video — for some reason, it totally slipped my mind that I need to hold the iPhone horizontally when taking video. (I blame lack of sleep.)
To find out more about Jackson’s theory on “The Challenge Line,” visit jacksongalaxy.com/2014/05/28/cat-mojo-the-challenge-line.
Seth Casteel offered tips on taking better pet photos, especially of animals in shelters who might be frightened in those surroundings.
He recommends using a digital SLR camera with a 50mm lens to capture the best photos (he uses a Canon digital SLR camera), but also provided tips to improve photos taken with point-and-shoot cameras.
- Don’t use flash. It draws out strange colors in the animal’s eyes.
- Set it on sports mode or action mode. It allows for the fastest shutter speed, to avoid blur.
- Use burst mode if it’s available on your camera. It allows you to take several photos in a short time, which ups the chances of getting the best photo.
Digital SLR tips:
- With 50 mm lens, you can blur out the background, making the pet the focus of the photo.
- Set it on AV mode
- Turn aperture, or “F stop,” down to lowest number. The lower the number, the faster the shutter speed, which means sharp pictures and blurrier background.
- In Autofocus mode, set focus on AI Servo. That way, if the cat moves, it will still be in focus.
- Make sure the lens is in automatic focus mode.
- Set focus point; select center point only. Position focus box in viewfinder on cat’s face
- Snap the photo.
For more detailed instruction, check out Casteel’s training videos on how to take better photos at onepicturesaves.com/learning-videos.
Find out more about Jorge Bendersky at www.planetjorge.com.
To register for an upcoming workshop, visit onepicturesaves.com.