One Camera, One Lens, Many Punks

It was another Punk Night at Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX. Of course I’m gonna be there with camera in hand. Those nasty boys in Worm Suicide were the feature act, with several new-to-me bands sharing the bill. There was oddly a bit of acoustic stuff that was really great. I had a blast enjoying the music and snapping a few photos, even while getting knocked around a bit in a mosh pit.

I’ve been photographing at the Sparrow for quite a while now. I even published a magazine of my work there - hopefully the first of many. This time I decided to do something a little different photographically. I was recently talking with my friend Andy about concert photography since he was making a trip to the Sparrow to photograph some friends in a band. He asked about focal length and after thinking about it, I reckoned I mostly use a 50mm equivalent lens along with a bit of 28mm equivalent. Keep in mind that my camera is a Fujifilm X100F with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens. I’m getting the other focal lengths with adapter lenses screwed onto the filter threads.

It seems odd, even to me, that I rarely use the native focal length of my fixed lens camera for live music. I explained to Andy that a 35mm focal length isn’t tight enough to get close, intimate shots and not really wide enough to grab much of the environment or add interesting distortion. That said, it is kind of a Goldilox focal length - that’s why Fujifilm went with it. With a little work compositionally, it is very versatile. If I could have only one lens for the rest of my life that might well be what I’d choose. Yet, here I am using adapters to get other focal lengths. While 35mm may be “just right”, it often seems so boring.

So, this time out at the Sparrow I challenged myself. There would be no adapting. One camera, one lens - the native non-removable lens on my X100F. I had to see if I could capture some magic with only that. Did it work? Hell yeah it did. I had to change the way I composed shots and where I put myself. My feet were the zoom function. By adjusting my position and distance, I could make that highly versatile focal length look wide or tight. I found a sense of freedom from fretting over whether I should have had the 50mm or 28mm equivalent mounted for that last shot. With gear choices removed, there was only my creativity to guide my compositions. Liberating. Absolutely liberating. The X100F is also so small without the adapter lenses that it practically disappears. Bonus - there is really no need for a camera bag.

I’ve already downsized to my diminutive X100F and conversion lenses from the embarrassing amount of gear I used to own. Will I take it down even further and ditch the conversion lenses? I don’t know - maybe. I know that while choices encourage creativity in some people, it can have the opposite effect on me. Less is more. For now, I think I’ll leave the conversion lenses at home and see how things go. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of being a one camera, one lens kind of guy. The question is whether the X100F really sports the Goldilox lens for me for the long haul.

Some favorites from the night are below. Click ‘em for large views (why wouldn’t you?). Want to see more? Go to my gallery site here.

Tribute Night

I have several buddies that play in tribute bands around Austin. A couple weeks ago I got to see them playing across three different tributes at Come and Take It Live. Telephantasm (Sound Garden), Feed My Eyes (Alice in Chains), and Naked and Fearless (Tool) all played great sets. I’m always impressed with the talent these guys all have. While they do it for fun, they take the reproduction of the music very seriously. It’s not an easy undertaking to play this sort of music well - especially Tool.

It was my pleasure to be able to document some of the show with my camera. Yes, I’m still shooting live music my trusty Fujifilm X100F. It wasn’t easy at times. Not because of the camera - a mosh pit was going on behind me during Naked and Fearless! Those crazy kids… A few favorites from the show are below. If you want to see more, check out my gallery site at the links.

Naked and Fearless

Feed My Eyes


Punk Night at Black Sparrow

Last weekend the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX had a punk night and I got to stop by for a while and check out a couple of the bands. I got to see a scaled down version of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead with the band’s singer and guitarist. They were a great duo with an Irish infused punk sound. Then there was Worm Suicide - some good old fashioned rebellious American punk - loud and nasty as it should be.

Of course, I’m down front snapping a few photos with the trusty ol’ Fujifilm X100F. I had a blast as usual. We’re so lucky to have a great venue like the Sparrow outside of the congested mayhem that Austin has become.

Worm Suicide

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

Nokken + The Grim at Black Sparrow

I was so happy that Nokken and The Grim returned to the Black Sparrow in Taylor. Virtuoso musicians with a unique and moody sound, combined with a bit of mythology and theatrics - what’s not to like? The band blends electronica with the classic sound of strings in a mesmerizing wave of positive energy. Black Sparrow, known for its hosting of eclectic genres of music, is a perfect venue to enjoy this amazing Austin-based act.

As always, more photos from the show are available on my gallery site. Some are even in color. All photos taken with a Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Mook Noir

I was stoked to see my buddies in The Mooks at the One-2-One Bar in Austin this past weekend. It was even an early show (for some reason the bands I want to see usually have a stage time of around midnight) and I was able to get home at a decent hour for work the next day - woo hoo! The Mooks are a great bunch of guys and just a darn good rock-n-roll band. I always look forward to giving them a hand with promo photos when I can.

The guys seem to like my black and white work so I snapped some photos with that in mind. It’s my preference anyway and it’s nice to know that others appreciate it. I’ve felt in a bit of a rut with my live music shots and I tried to experiment with different angles. Lots of low angled stuff here. When I went to process my shots, I found a cinematic feel in some of the images and I decided to go with the 16x9 crop. Normally, this is a decision I make ahead of time and I shoot accordingly using frame guidelines in my camera viewfinder. Making this choice after the fact was a bit of a challenge.

While I could have created a set of images with mixed aspect ratios, I chose to keep things consistent. As a result, I ended up with some tight crops in places. I liked the results. Sometimes I can be too conservative in trying to keep tops of heads or hands/feet in the frame. This is a creative endeavor so why force myself to adhere to my inner composition rules? Instead, I pushed the boundaries of the narrow box on some of these. Next time maybe I’ll try those compositions in camera.

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

Miss Guilty

Who doesn’t love a kick-ass girl band? I caught a set by Miss Guilty at Texas Beer Company in Taylor, TX recently and enjoyed their soulful sound. I’d seen guitarist Beth Lee play with her band before and I was looking forward to hearing her with this project. It’s not all just good looks with Miss Guilty - these ladies have plenty of musical chops. I expect we’ll see more of them in Taylor.

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100F. More shots from the show can be found on my gallery site.

Miss Lavelle's Dance Party

Last Sunday I was invited by my friend Mike Myles to see him and his wife, Tammy Lynn, perform a few numbers with Lavelle White's band at her Dance Party and Pot Luck. I jumped at the chance and this was actually my first time seeing Lavelle perform live. She put on a soulful performance - what a powerful voice from this lovely lady.

Mike and Tammy likewise delivered some excellent performances as Lavelle's guests. They were stoked to be on stage at the iconic Antones and I was happy to be there to capture a few moments. It doesn't get any more Austin than blues at Antones on a Sunday afternoon. 

More photos of Lavelle White's show can be viewed on my gallery site here.

More photos from Mike and Tammy's performance can be viewed on my gallery site here.

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses. Processing was done in Lightroom CC.

Big Balls at Hanovers

Oi, mates! Big Balls, an incredible Bon Scott era AC/DC tribute band, took the stage at Hanovers in Pflugerville, TX last Saturday night. It was a thunderous show that really took me back to those good old days of rock and roll. Spot-on vocals, solid rhythm section, and a stompin' Angus made for a well executed tribute to the best of AC/DC.

I was front and center with my trusty Fujifilm X100F to capture a few moments from the show. Earplugs were in order for the loud set. The high energy performance was certainly a challenge in the low light glow of stage lighting. I came away with some images I liked and I managed to not get trampled by a frenzied guitarist.

Check out more images from the show on my gallery site.

Rockabilly Night at Black Sparrow

Last weekend the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX hosted a Rockabilly night. It was an awesome evening with several bands performing. While I couldn't stay for the entire event, I got to catch one of my local favorites, The Phantom Shakers, and a new group to me, Drew and the Internationals. Both female fronted bands put on scorching Rockabilly sets.

A rare thing for me these days, I carried a couple of cameras to the show. I had my trusty Fujifilm X100F as always, along with my Fujifilm X-T2 sporting the 35mm f/1.4 lens. My work with the two cameras led me to an epiphany of sorts. That's a story for another day though. Suffice to say for now that I got some nice shots with both cameras and the X100F saw more use. I processed a good number of images in color - something I used to shy away from with images taken at Black Sparrow. The lighting is pretty bad but I've found I can make it work.

The Phantom Shakers

More photos of The Phantom Shakers can be viewed on my gallery site here.

Drew and the Internationals

More photos of Drew and the Internationals can be viewed on my gallery site here.

All images were converted from raw files in Lightroom CC.