Miss Guilty at Black Sparrow

I caught a great show by Miss Guilty at my favorite live music venue, The Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX. They’re a cool band with an all female lineup. I first saw them right across the street in Taylor last year at Texas Beer Company and I was happy to see this Austin band coming back. The ladies put on another rock solid set, sounding even better in this intimate music hall.

This time around, I capture just black and white JPEGs (Across film simulation) with my Fujifilm X100F. I pushed the blacks deep in camera and raised highlights just a touch. A moody noir look seemed to suit the evening.

More photos from the show can be found on my gallery site.

Gearhead Sunday

Last weekend I stopped by Revival Cycle’s shop for another of their Gearhead Sunday open houses. It’s so generous of these guys to open up their shop for bike enthusiasts like me to wander around and see what they are up to. This time the event was soon after the big Handbuilt Motorcycle show that Revival hosts and it was neat to be able to get even closer to some of their featured builds.

Continuing with my informal little project of documenting these events with my iPhone, I happily weaved my way around the nooks and crannies of the shop looking for interesting details. While I could surely get better details with my “real camera”, I’ve become fond of using my iPhone here. It’s challenging in the darkish environment. Maybe that’s why I like it. The photos, which are largely processed in camera, have a certain grittiness that works well.

More photos from the event can be found on my gallery site.


The Lone Star Roundup

The Lone Star Roundup is the largest annual car show in Austin and I always look forward to attending each spring. The show comes around at a great time of year when temperatures are relatively mild and the rainy season usually hasn’t hit yet. Since the show is held on a Friday and Saturday, I opted to take a day off from work and wander around on Friday this year. That paid off since the crowd was a lot thinner than a typical Saturday.

As usual I enjoyed wandering around with my camera and snapping shots of the machines and details that interested me. My eye seems to go more toward details these days as evidenced by the relatively few photos I brought back of cars in their entirety. While I processed a lot of images in color to do justice where it made sense, I tend to favor black and white for a lot of the details.

Here are a few images from the show. Many more can be found on my gallery site.

The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show

By far my favorite motorcycle event of the year, The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show was back in town over the MotoGP weekend in Austin. As usual, I spent hours at the show checking out some amazing bikes. This year was over the top on some of the builds. I took way too many photos!

This year I made a deliberate effort to capture most of the bikes in color, while processing most up close details in black and white. It should be obvious to those who follow my work that I love black and white. However, I feel that color is needed to do justice to a lot of these machines and this approach provided a good balance for me. I just used my Fujifilm X100F, mostly with the wide angle conversion lens.

Here are a few favorites from the show. You can find many more on my gallery site.

Dust on the Needle

A few of my musician friends were sitting in with a group called Dust on the Needle at a Beatles tribute night hosted by the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor. This was a really cool show. I got to see my friends doing something they love and it really shows in the photos. Honestly, there are a couple of photos that I would rank among my top live music images.

I got a lot of compliments on some of the images that night but if there is something I’ve learned in photographing musicians it’s that the quality of the image really falls on the performer. I can be in the best possible spot with the best light you can hope for at a live show and if the performer doesn’t have passion it shows. I can’t create special moments; I can only be there and hope they happen.

As usual I was doing the photo snapping with my minimalist photo rig of the Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses. I’m still loving that setup. It’s nice to be unburdened by a bunch of gear so I can hang out and enjoy myself with friends after grabbing a few shots.

You can find more images from the show on my gallery site.

Mook Noir

One of my favorite Austin bands and pals of mine, The Mooks, played a Sunday afternoon show at One-2-One again last weekend. It’s great to see them on a nice big stage, especially when I don’t have to be out until the wee hours of the morning to catch the show. It was a busy day but I made sure I squeezed in their set.

It’s become habit for me to do black and white images for these guys. They dig it and we jokingly call it Mook Noir. I went even deeper into the inky blacks than usual this time. It’s fun to experiment with different looks, especially when the band is all for it. As usual, these were snapped with my Fujifilm X100F and processed in Lightroom CC. If you like these, you can find more on my gallery page.


Eric Hisaw

My buddy Ron, bassist for The Mooks, has been playing with Eric Hisaw and I got to see his band for the first time last weekend at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor. These guys are a tight rock-n-roll trio and I really enjoyed their sound. The Black Sparrow is such a cool little venue and I’m always thankful that I can catch great music like this so close to home and away from the big city.

A recent change in lighting at the Black Sparrow has encouraged me to do more color work in my photography there. The new LED lights are a bit brighter and more of the stage is lit, albeit still with a strong central bias. Being color blind, I’m always second guessing whether my color shots of live music are “correct” in color. The more I experiment, the more I think it probably doesn’t matter. Did I catch a good moment or not? That’s the more important question.

I’ve been snapping the shutter less at concerts and keeping ever fewer of the frames I grab through ruthless culling. Quality over quantity - that’s been the goal lately. It helps me to think in terms of shooting about a roll of film even though this is all digital. At first, it was a 36 frame roll. Lately I’ve been thinking more in terms of a 24 frame roll. Actually, 12 is starting to sound good. After all, this is just for fun and I’m not looking to hoard my own photography. Just a few good shots is all I’m after. Catch and preserve a little of the passion and emotion of the performance.

Here are a few that I liked. You can find a few more over on my gallery page. These were all taken with my trusty Fujifilm X100F.

Rhythm Congress

You just don’t see many bands these days with horn sections and that’s a shame. They add a such a huge dynamic to the sound, particularly with a rhythm and blues band. We’re lucky to have a really good group in these parts. Rhythm Congress brings a healthy dose of horns to their shows and they always manage to get the crowd on their feet.

I got to catch their recent show at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX - a wonderfully intimate little music venue well away from the Austin metro. Live music is a passion of mine and I love that the Black Sparrow brings in an eclectic mix to small town Taylor. You can hear everything from Big Band to Death Metal at this place.

My lovely and talented friend Samantha sings lead for Rhythm Congress and I always enjoy her energetic performances. I met Samantha back in my days of photographing the Texas Stars, where she frequently kicks off the games by singing the national anthem. Her band is is rock solid and a joy to see and hear.

The Flametrick Subs

Last weekend I finally got to see the Flametrick Subs perform at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX. This band has been around quite a while and I somehow have never caught them on stage. It was a great night of music with attitude!

The Black Sparrow has only 3 cans of red gelled lights that unevenly illuminate their small stage. That usually makes a photographer’s job difficult enough but the Flametrick Subs took it up a notch by turning off the house lights and performing with just a few red colored LED panels firing up from the floor. Dim red spooky lighting — oh boy! If that’s the look they wanted…what the hell, I’d give it a go and see what I could do with my trusty Fujifilm X100F.

When I went to post my process my shots, I was at first tempted to go all black and white. The intense red lighting was garrish but I’m sure that is the intent. I didn’t want to take away from the band’s desired stage look so I processed a mixture of color and monochrome images. I took the blacks deep in both versions and ended up with some interesting shots. So it goes with live music photography on the small stage. Take what the club and performers give you and make them look like rock stars.

All images were captured with my Fujifilm X100F and processed from raw files in Lightroom CC. If you want to see more shots from the show, check out my gallery site.

Hutto Car Show

It’s already a couple of weeks into the new year and I’m still getting caught up from last year’s photo backlog. My schedule is full with classes going on again, in addition to a busy job. Photography sadly isn’t the top priority for a while - it can’t be. Still, I’ll do what I can to enjoy something I love as time allows. Today, I’m going back to a little car show in Hutto from November of last year.

It was a smallish show and I didn’t have a lot of time to spend there as I recall. I wandered about and challenged myself to try and see things a little different. More detail, focusing on the smaller parts rather than the whole. Maybe getting a little creative with the compositions. It was a brief, fun exercise. Black and white felt right, along with a bit of a cinematic feel through the 16:9 crop. These were all taken with my X100F. One camera, one focal length. Simple and elegant. If you like these, check out some more images from the show on my gallery site.

The New Year Post

This post feels kind of obligatory in a way. The weather is a bit cold and dreary so I’ve spent most of the day at my computer going through unprocessed images. Since it is the start of a new year and I was rather negligent with my blog in 2018, I thought I’d kick things off with a post on this first day of 2019. So much has been going through my mind lately, but since this is a photography blog I’ll keep my thoughts focused there.

Due to my busy job and my school work, photography just hasn’t been a huge priority the past year. It’s not where I’d like it to be in my life anyway. I have worked on simplifying things, which has helped. My gear is minimal these days and my photography niches are mainly live music, cars/bikes, and some urban landscapes. I’ve been doing mostly black and white work and I even considered ditching color photography altogether. In fact, I toyed with the idea of a New Year’s resolution to that effect - a year of black and white? As intriguing and tempting as that idea sounds, I’m not committing to that this time around.

I picked up a book of Saul Leiter’s photographs recently and I have to say it has really changed my attitude toward color photography. The muted tones and deep contrast in his photos are quite appealing. Looking through his work was the kick in the pants I needed to look harder at my color photography and try a few things. While I’ve been looking for ways to minimize my gear and workflow, I’m not sure I want to be so specialized as to not work in color at all - at least for now.

My openness to color work and different ways of processing my images resulted in my creating my first photographs of the new year in color. Yesterday I took a drive through some back roads and visited a few small towns. In all honesty, my intention was to photograph in black and white. Actually, I went as far as setting my Fujifilm X100F set to the Acros film simulation, along with raw files being saved. The sky was mostly cloudy and the light was downright uninteresting to me. I’d rather have contrasty light with deep shadows for the kind of imagery I like to create. Despite tweaking the contrast of the black and white JPEG files in camera, the results were downright “meh”.

I could have pushed the files toward what I wanted in Lightroom but it was feeling too forced. Instead, I created a new set of images from the raw files in camera, using Classic Chrome instead of Acros. A bit of punch and tone was added to these in Lightroom, resulting in some contrasty color images with a bit of warm tone that defied the climate of the day. While my heart was initially set on black and white, I liked what I came up with in the end.

I’ve got a lot of plans for the new year and I hope I can work in more photography. One thing that I do want to mention is that I’m giving Medium a try as a blogging platform. There are ultimately more things that I’d like to talk about on my blog besides photography. I don’t know if Medium will replace or just supplement this blog. For now, I’m just kicking the tires. I’ll be reposting some of my posts there to kick off some content and will add some writings that will include things including, but not limited to photography. Come visit me on Medium here.

Round Rock Car Show

There is a monthly gathering of car enthusiasts in Round Rock and I stopped by one beautiful afternoon back in late October to meander around the parking lot. A hectic schedule late in the year created a backlog on my photo culling and processing. I’m trying to get caught up while I have a bit of vacation time over the holidays. As you can see, I’m doing a lot of black and white work in my automotive photography. This is typically an area where I can see an advantage to color images in a lot of cases. However, I find that monochrome images are my true preference. When I look at other photographers’ work, it is almost always the black and whites that I find myself lingering on.

My eye was again turned to details more so than the vehicles as a whole. Most of my time at the show was spent looking over the cars for interesting shapes, logos, lines, shadows, and shiny things. I attend gatherings like these regularly and I’m always searching for new ways to capture the experience. Here are a few of my favorites and if you like these, you can find more images on my gallery site. All photos were captured with my Fujifilm X100F.

Taylor Main Street Car Show

Here it is mid-December, with Christmas closing in quickly, and I am just now getting around to looking through images I took back in October. A hectic work schedule and getting a class completed took a huge toll on my free time. Photography took a back seat for a while. So, it’s catch up time and I’m starting off by sharing a few snaps I took at the Taylor Main Street Car Show. This annual show is always around my birthday and I enjoyed the mild weather that weekend while wandering around some classic rides.

There has been a shift in my vision when it comes to automobile photography over time. While I used to obsess over getting clean shots of whole vehicles, lately I tend to move in close. I find myself looking for little details, textures, light, shadows, maybe even color. I favor black and white imagery but I have to admit that I still struggle sometimes with seeing subjects with that end in mind. While I do have a form of color blindness, there are certain colors that attract my attention, particularly when I’m looking at colorful cars. That becomes a bit of a distraction when composing images and it made my processing of my photos from the show a bit challenging. Images where colors were the lure to get me to snap a photo didn’t necessarily translate well in monochrome.

I could have gone with a mixture of color and monochrome, but I decided to keep it simple and stick with black and white imagery. As a result, I ended up trashing a lot of shots where I failed to pre-visualize and capture a photograph that translated well without color. My visit to the car show ended up being a valuable lesson in composing and framing with intention, looking for light, shadow, and texture that worked toward a preconceived final result. Even though I threw away a lot of images, I don’t feel that I lost anything. I’ve been working on bringing back fewer photos from my outings - less quantity, more quality - a higher signal to noise ratio.

Here are a few favorites. You can find more on my gallery site.

King’s X - In The Moment

My favorite band, King’s X, stopped in Austin for a show last Sunday night. Even though I love these guys, I debated whether to go. Knowing I’d have an early morning meeting the next day made the thought of being out late a less than appealing idea. Still, it’s King’s X! I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t make the show. I opted to kick myself in the morning when the alarm would go off.

While I got a photo pass the last couple of times they came to town, I decided I was just going to enjoy the show this time. My Fujifilm rig stayed at home. As luck would have it, I ran into a friend at the show and we got to hang out. We even weaseled our way to the front of the stage. It was a blast. Of course, my iPhone made an appearance from my pocket to snap a couple of shots. Mainly I just wanted to grab a photo to add to a checkin on Facebook. I promptly put the phone away after getting a decent photo. 

At the end of the show, the guys did Goldilox. That’s a wonderful ballad from the first album and a huge fan favorite. The deal with Goldilox live is that the audience does the singing while guitarist Ty quietly strums. It’s always a beautiful thing. Damn it if I didn’t feel like I needed to take another photo when Dug sat down right in front of me. I grabbed a quick couple of snaps and then caught his eyes in my phone screen. “What the hell am I doing?”, I asked myself. This is a real moment, here and now. Put the damned camera away and connect with a human being in something special. The memory will be so much more powerful than a photo. I stashed the phone for the night and sang Goldilox with a bunch of other people. It was awesome.

Anamorphic Mook Noir

My pals in The Mooks played another Sunday afternoon show at the One 2 One bar in Austin last weekend. Kudos to One 2 One for these early shows! It’s so nice to be able to catch a band without being out until the wee hours of the following day. I’ll admit it - I’m getting too old for that sort of thing.

Since my wife accompanied me to the show, I left my camera bag at home. I didn’t want to be tempted to geek out with my camera rig and neglect her. Of course, that didn’t stop me from pulling out my iPhone for a couple of songs. I attached my Moondog Labs anamorphic lens (Yeah, yeah, there was a bit of premeditated photo gear smuggling - no camera bag though!) and grabbed a few snaps.

It wasn’t all too long ago that I thought smart phone photography was ridiculous for anything beyond a casual snapshot in good light. Forcing myself to shoot with my iPhone 6s has changed my perception completely. I actually like most of the images I get from it, even in challenging light. Still, it’s far from ideal as a concert camera. Or is it? I’ve used it a few times now and find that I’m getting better with it in a difficult environment even for my “real camera.”

Since I don’t care for the native 4x3 aspect ratio, I often opt to use my anamorphic lens rather than cropping to 3x2 or 16x9. There is a bit of distortion and some interesting effects with light sources in frame. I love the cinematic vibe in spite of any technical imperfections. I’ve also reached a point in my photography where I’m not so concerned about sharpness and noise in my images. After all, it’s dark and performers are moving. No, the iPhone can’t shoot at ludicrous ISO. So, I adapt and I still get images that I really like. Images that are emotive and less technically perfect.

The entire workflow from image capture to processing to making this blog post was done with my iPhone and iPad. I used Blackie for the camera app and Snapseed and Lightroom for processing. Rather than trying to correct the imperfections, I accentuated them. A bit more blur and grain was added to enhance the dreamy cinematic look that was already there. I like what I ended up with a lot. I may be leaving my Fuji rig home more often. 

This Little Piggy

There are some things you can’t explain. Sometimes you just snap a photo and move on. I’m not sure what this little piggy was doing this dreary morning in New Braunfels. Was he on his way to market? He certainly seemed out of place. Or maybe it was I who was out of place. Queue the Twilight Zone theme music. We passed in the cross walk. Things seemed normal thereafter. Maybe it was just a glitch in the Matrix.

Spooky Music

I caught a really interesting pair of bands at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX recently. It was a spooky themed showcase night on the heels of Halloween. The Black Sparrow has been carving out a niche of eclectic music in this small town and this night brought out some amazing and unusual acts. I had the privilege of seeing sets by Eerie Family and Nøkken + The Grim.

Nøkken + The Grim was quite impressive. The masked trio was a complementary blend of strings and electronic keyboard. The characters are portrayals of mythical figures of Magyar and Norse folklore. Musically, they seem to embody a harmonization of the spirit of nature with modern technology. Their lead violinist is an absolute virtuoso and the fact that he pulls it all off while wearing a large horse mask is remarkable. I loved this band this is one of the few times in recent history that I felt compelled to buy a new band’s CD.

Eerie Family is drum/electronic keyboard duo with an almost hypnotic sound. Great vocal work with simple rhythms. They were very creative in producing a wide range of sonic textures with minimal instrumentation. It’s kind of refreshing to see groups like this - something different from the typical guitar/bass/drums band.

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X100F and processed in Lightroom CC.

The Phantom Shakers at Oskar Blues

Last weekend I got to catch one of my favorite local acts, The Phantom Shakers, at Oskar Blues brewery in Austin. It was my first time to Oskar Blues and I was impressed with their live music setup. They have a sizable stage and booming sound system. It’s obvious that they take their live music as seriously as their craft beer.

I enjoyed a couple of pints while listening to the Rockabilly sounds of the band. It was unfortunately a thin crowd on this Saturday night but the band didn’t hold anything back in their performance. Of course, I grabbed a few shots with my trusty X100F. I’m still digging the cinematic 16x9 aspect ratio as you can tell. As I often do with live music, I kept things in monochrome. The sound wasn’t bad in the venue but the light wasn’t great - ample lighting for photography at least, yet flat and kind of boring. A black and white process brings out a little drama.

If you dig these shots, you can find a few more on my gallery site.

Leather by Revival

Those who frequent my blog will be familiar with Revival Cycles in Austin, TX. In addition to their annual Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, they host other cool events regularly, like their monthly Gearhead Sundays. These guys are passionate about all things motorcycle related and besides their custom bike builds, they hand craft a lot of other great stuff. I’d been eyeing some of their leather accessories for a while and at a recent Gearhead Sunday event I made a couple of purchases.

Revival gives back a lot to the motorcycle enthusiast community. I decided to purchase a new camera hand strap and wallet to give back a little to them. The goods that Revival makes in-house are top notch. I got to hang out in the leather workshop where they design and make their goods. Patrick, one of their leather craftsmen, showed me around and we talked about what I wanted. I actually ended up ordering a couple of custom items, as Patrick was happy to make a few simple tweaks to get me exactly what I had in mind.

I had been wanting a nice leather camera wrist strap for my Fujifilm X100F for quite some time. The cheap one I had on there for the past year was getting frayed. I was happy to discover that Revival actually makes a couple of camera straps. To be honest, the price was a bit higher than I had in mind. Not outrageous mind you, just more than the typical stuff you’ll find on eBay or Amazon. But hey, you just don’t get quality leather goods like what Revival makes on the cheap from anywhere. Buying the strap from a local company that custom makes them by hand was absolutely worth the price - especially when Patrick would make some simple changes at no extra cost. I chose a soft mahogany vegetable tanned leather - butter soft to the touch. My strap was made without a stiff insert for greater flexibility and I had him put smooth leather on the inside of the strap instead of the usual rough out.


While looking over the rest of Revival’s leather goods, I found a wallet that caught my eye. My wallet was starting to fall apart and the guys had a prototype for a passport wallet out on their display table. I loved the soft feel of the leather they used, although the prototype had a snap clasp that I didn’t care for. I prefer my wallet to be as minimal and thin as possible. Patrick offered to make one the way I wanted it.

Both of the items I ordered were delivered to my home less than a week after ordering. They were packed in neat little cloth bags and I’m using one of those to hold cables and things in my messenger bag. Bonus! The wallet is as awesome as the camera strap - soft luxurious leather that feels like a quality piece of craftsmanship. My wallet fits like a glove into one of the side cargo pockets of the 5.11 pants I always wear. Now I have a wallet that holds my stuff in a thin profile that slips into a side pocket. I no longer sit on my wallet!

Check out Revival’s camera straps and wallets with the links below. I’m just a happy customer and I don’t get commissions from Revival. Note that my wallet is a new design they are working on and may not be on the site. I’m sure they would be happy to help if you give them a call.

Camera Straps

Wallets

The Homewreckers

I stopped by the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX a couple of weeks back for a bit of a live music fix. Life is busy at the moment so I didn’t have the time to check out the full lineup of bands that night. I did catch a set by Austin’s The Homewreckers. These guys are a rock n roll band with a distinct Rockabilly influence. It was the first time I’ve seen this group and I enjoyed their stuff.

As usual, I snapped a few shots with my trusty Fujifilm X100F. I’ve been working on a more minimalist approach to my photography and life in general. I travel with my minimal camera rig of the X100F and its conversion lenses. I’m taking photographs more deliberately and coming back with fewer images that I used to - hopefully better quality in a lesser quantity. That’s a good thing because it means less time in front of a computer back at home. It also means more time enjoying events without the distraction of the camera. Traditionally, you get 3 songs to shoot music acts at paid gigs. I’ve been trying to keep that same limitation even on my own time. Grab a few snaps, then put the camera in my bag and enjoy the rest of the show.

I’m back playing around with a cinematic crop on my black and white images. The crop is something I really like but I’m not sure it always works. I plan to devote more time to exploring it. While I’ve been doing more color work with live music, it’s still the black and white images that I love the most. I’m going with all monochrome here. Maybe I’ll just stick with that too in the long run. My blog, my rules, right? If you like the images below, check out a few more from the show on my gallery site.