Tuesday, April 28, 2009

(Not Just) Another Concert - BC Scene

If you find yourself heading to see a show with Vancouver-based Black Mountain, my advice is this: Be prepared. They're going to knock your socks off.

I didn't know what to expect when I got invited by CBC Radio 3 to photograph a BC Scene show here in Ottawa on Friday night which featured three bands: The Pack A.D., Ladyhawk and Black Mountain. I had heard Ladyhawk before, but only had time to check the Myspace pages for the other two bands briefly before heading to the gig. I wasn't prepared. They were fantastic.

They were, however, tough to shoot. As anyone who photographs concerts knows, you've got a few things working against you. You're in the midst of a crowd(hopefully, for the band's sake), you're shooting band members who are moving all over the place (at rock shows anyway) and most importantly... IT'S DARK. It's a bad combo for good pics, and that means you need a little luck and you need to shoot a lot. I like to go into a concert with my metering set to "spot" and exposure compensation set around -2/3 to -1. That does a good job most times, and with auto-ISO keeping a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th or so, I get a decent number of sharp pictures. Of course faster shutter speeds are better, but if the venue is dark that might not be possible. This show was dark, and I also had to make adjustments because of the following: These bands are hairy. There are a lot of beards and a lot of long hair. With only small areas of skin showing, my spot meter method wouldn't cut it. Centre-weighted metering, and -2/3 to -1 2/3 stops compensation works a lot better in this situation. You still have to take a lot of pictures, but it ups the odds substantially.

You can see more pics and listen to the concert online at the Radio3 website.

The full gallery is on Flickr.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My New Full Frame Camera

Sort of. The camera's not new, but it is full-frame. Following up on an earlier post, I got the film back that I shot with my old SLR. From the photos and the fact that some have snow in them and some don't, you'll see that one of the problems I always had with film still persists: It takes me forever to shoot a roll and get it into the lab. Well this article is supposed to be about how fun it was to shoot the film(and it was), so I'll talk about that for now and get back to complaining a little later. :-)

First, here's a bit more background. In 1982 I got my second 35mm SLR for Christmas: a Yashica FX-D Quartz. (My first SLR was a Miranda Sensorex, which was made in roughly the same year I was, I'll write about that some other time.) I loved that Yashica, but as time went on it spent more and more time in a bag and less and less time around my neck. When I started buying digital cameras it looked like all hope was lost for the Yashica, but not so.

Click images for larger size.

One of the problems with digital cameras is that once you start buying them, you don't stop. They're like every other electronic gizmo out there in that they get twice as good for half as much money every few months. (Really the price seems to stay about the same, so let's say they get four times as good and the price is a constant.) In any case it's a treadmill. In 2009 the thing most of us who aren't made of money are dreaming of is a full-frame digital camera. Be it a D700, a 5D Mark II, a D3 or whatever your preference, this is what a lot of people are longing for. If you pay the rent with photography you probably already have one. If you pay the rent with something else, you probably don't have one. Exceptions apply, of course. You know who you are.

There are a number of reasons why a person would want a full-frame camera. A beautiful big viewfinder, decreased depth of field with similar lenses, the ability to shoot wide angles without spending the rent(again) on a lens. Well if you have a bag of film gear in your closet, guess what? You already have those things. What don't you have? You likely don't have complex 3D metering or a remote control. There might not be autofocus or a built in flash. ISO 25600? ADR? RAW? Nope. But here are some other things you don't have: chargers, USB Cables, installation disks and 300 page manuals. If you already have film gear, some of the features you're looking for won't cost you a cent. If you don't have the gear, you can pick it up for cheap. You will have to buy and process film though, and that's one obvious difference between shooting film and digital - the cost per frame. Nobody thinks twice anymore about shooting digital frames - they're free! Not that film frames are expensive, especially if you are starting out and paying bargain basement prices for a used 35mm SLR. The price comparison between that 35mm and a full-frame digital SLR is in the ballpark of a factor of 10 at least. Cameras that I drooled over in the 80s and 90s are now available for dirt, and film is next to free. The only problem is the wait - and versus digital that wait is the difference between eternity and instant gratification. So it seems today anyway.

In the spirit of waiting, and of not fiddling with buttons and menus, and of thinking more about what I was doing than what I was using, I took a 27 year old film camera for a walk. It made me think about taking my time and making shots count. It was therapy, and it was fun. I think I'll do it again.

Who needs a D700?

These are small scans, reduced even more for web, but I have to say I think the grain is super cool. All shots made with a Yashica FX-D Quartz, 25mm Carl Zeiss f2.8 or 50mm f1.4, PC(Fuji) 100 film. Slight curves adjustment in Photoshop.