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. 

Close Assault at Camp Mabry

One of the things I try to make a point to do over the Memorial Day weekend is to pay a visit to Camp Mabry, where a WWII Reenactment always takes place. It's always a sobering experience for me as this small bit of living history brings to mind the tremendous sacrifice made by our military for the sake of the freedoms we get to enjoy. It's not about glorifying war. It's about recognizing the price paid by too many of our soldiers.

While the mock battle between US and German troops is the highlight of the event for many people, I more enjoy wandering around among the troop camps, talking with the reenactors, and getting some candid shots as they prepare for the battlefield. These guys take their roles seriously and if you hang around in the background, you'll catch some war faces.

All images were captured with a Fujifilm X-T2 and 50-140mm lens using the Acros film simulation. More photos from the event can be found on my gallery site.

Tribute at the Tavern

Tribute bands sure are popular around here these days. There was a triple bill last night at the Round Rock Tavern featuring Blue Collar Tweekers (Primus), Knifeprty (Deftones), and Naked and Fearless (Tool). The house was packed and it was a loud, wild party. As one of the guys in the Tweekers said, "It's Round Rock...what else are you gonna do on a Saturday night?"

The accuracy of the music, vocals, and performance of each tribute band was amazing. These guys are all incredible musicians and they take their representation of their respective bands seriously. The groups are more than just cover bands. These guys strive to give you as close of an experience to seeing the real deal as possible.

Blue Collar Tweekers

KnifePrty

Naked and Fearless

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X100F and Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, Acros film simulation.

Treaty Oak Rod Run

Treaty Oak Distillery in Dripping Springs, TX held a cool hot rod event for Memorial Day and I took a trip out there with my wife. I finished off a bottle of Treaty Oak bourbon recently and I was happy to have the opportunity to see where it was made and enjoy a few drinks while checking out some classic cars. In spite of a rainy forecast, the weather was kind enough to cooperate and it ended up being a beautiful day. 

I didn't want to spend the whole afternoon snapping pictures of cars. That would be rather rude on a trip out with my wife! Still, I can't resist old cars and so I tried to get the photos out of my system quickly. I had my trusty Fujifilm X-T2 with me and I darted around to briefly check out a few cars that caught my eye before joining my wife for a few cocktails featuring various Treaty Oak liquors. I had a fantastic Old Fashioned or two. 

Here a few favorite rods and details from the event as captured with good ol' Classic Chrome. If you want to see more, check out my gallery site.

The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show 2017

The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, one of my favorite events of the year, was in town for Moto GP weekend in Austin this past weekend. I always look forward to this great show. As always, there was an incredible collection of handbuilt one-of-a-kind custom motorcycles and restorations. There was so much to see that I had to visit the show a couple days in a row.

This show has become quite popular amongst motorcycle enthusiasts around here. Every year the number of attendees seems to have grown. That's a good thing and a bad thing. This year was the first time that admission was charged and I wondered (hoped) if it might tame the crowd a bit. Amazingly, it appeared to be more crowded than ever. Friday night there was a continuous long line to get in as only so many people could be inside at once due to fire regulations. The crowded show floor made photography a challenge. I'd brought a small tripod in order to reduce my camera's ISO but that would have been futile. Just too many people milling about and I didn't want to induce a trip hazard.

Friday night was the first time I've gone to the show in the evening. There was definitely a larger crowd at night than in the early afternoon on Saturday. I wanted to try photographing the bikes at night because the lighting is warm inside but a lot of daylight pours in through open dock doors during the day, making for a terrible time of color correction (something that is already challenging enough for this color blind photographer.) I got plenty of shots in the evening and returned to wander around a bit more on Saturday. There was also the opportunity to check out the bikes outside that people rode in on and get some shots in the daylight. I shot a roll of film for that and I'll share those later when my film comes back from the lab.

Here are a few of my favorite sightings at the show.

There are so many interesting and creative details on some of these bikes that I feel like I can't do them justice in a single image. Here are a few bikes I'll highlight with some detail shots.

All images taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 and a XF 18mm F/2 or XF 23mm F/1.4 lens, Classic Chrome film simulation. Need even more motorcycle porn? Check out all my photos from the event on my gallery site.

Car Show in Georgetown

I'm a sucker for a good car show and I got to attend an annual show held at the Georgetown Airport a few weekends back. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed wandering around. I can easily lose track of time while checking out classic cars and I came away with my first sunburn of the year on an unseasonably (even for south Texas) warm February day. While I remembered all my camera gear, I forgot to put on some sunscreen. 

I had a couple new-to-me bits of photography gear with me at the show. Recently I acquired a Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 lens for my X-T2 camera. I was curious about this lens as a possible replacement for my rarely used 16mm, which is a big, heavy beast to carry around in my bag. Additionally, I had a Nikon FM film camera with a 50mm f/1.4 lens that I acquired in a trade sometime back and never had a chance to try out. The FM was loaded with some inexpensive Agfa color negative film. The colors from this film are have a nice subdued look and I like how I don't have to do much of anything to the film scans I get back from my lab.  

Nikon FM, 50mm

One of the nice things about shooting the Fujifilm X-T2 is the great dynamic range. Color negative film holds highlights rather well. The X-T2 is arguably stronger in this area with the dynamic range modes in camera. I usually shoot in JPEG mode for events like this and I'll set my ISO to 400, even on a sunny day. This enables me to turn on the X-T2's auto DR mode, which will automatically underexpose a stop as needed for highlight control, then lift the shadows in its JPEG processing engine. It's a neat trick.

Fujifilm X-T2, 18mm

I performed a little experiment by photographing the car below with both cameras, using an 18mm equivalent lens on each. It was a dark car and I shot the shaded side. The shadows are more open in the film version but the digital wins with greater detail. Yes technology is a wonderful thing.

Maybe I'm just being nostalgic about film. The digital images are sharper and cleaner without the film grain. The dynamic range of today's cameras is remarkable. Still, there is just something about film that I like. Maybe it's just that it detaches me from the world of modern technology for a while when I shoot it. I tend to favor manual cameras like the FM. No batteries needed, no meter (the FM has one but I chose to shoot sans battery), no complex menus. It seems appropriate for photographing those beautiful classic cars. It's an overall experience of a simpler time.

You can see more shots from the show on my gallery site here.

Tribute Night at The Tavern

This past Saturday I got to see a couple of fun rock shows at The Tavern in Round Rock. The best part was that I didn't have to venture anywhere near downtown Austin and the mayhem that is SXSW! Telephantasm (Soundgarden tribute) and Naked and Fearless (Tool tribute) shared the stage and belted out worthy performances of the music of their respective bands.

It was my first time to visit The Tavern and I was surprised by the thick crowd on that rainy night. I got to the show a little early with my camera to check out the scene. When I saw how dark the stage was, I almost took my camera bag back to the car. The stage had no dedicated lighting. Clubs around here aren't known for having very good stage lighting but I think this is the first time I've come across a good sized club like this with none. Zip. If not for a bit of light from a projector showing backgrounds for the bands spilling on to the guys, autofocus would have been futile.

I really wanted to get some shots so I dialed my Fuji X-T2 all the way up to ISO 12800 and opened my XF 35mm lens up to f/1.4. Yeah, it was that dark. I knew the images were going to have dense grain and as I prefer to do anyway, I set my camera to shoot in black and white with the Acros simulation. Back at home I processed the images further in Lightroom to get a look similar to pushed Neopan 1600 film. The results aren't bad. If you pixel peep, yeah it looks like a grainy blizzard. If you look at a reasonable distance and can appreciate grainy film they're fine. The lack of light meant a lack of contrast so I also did a bit of dodging and burning in Lightroom to help bring in some contrast and open up details.  Sure it's digital but the look and methods are quite reminiscent of film work.

Telephantasm

More shots from Telephantasm's set are here.

Naked and Fearless

More shots from Naked and Fearless' set are here.

Softness in the City

Last night I joined my friends Tony and Andy for dinner and a short photo walk around downtown Austin. It had been quite some time since I'd walked around downtown. While I love a lot of things about the Austin area, I find myself avoiding the heart of the city lately. The thought of dealing with traffic, crowds, parking, and legions of panhandlers makes it tough for me to choose downtown as a destination for a leisurely dinner and a stroll.

Nevertheless, I was happy to have a chance to meet up with the guys and Sunday isn't so bad for getting into town. As luck would have it, I even found a parking spot on Congress Ave just a block from the restaurant we were meeting at. That never happens! I arrived a bit early and spent a little time walking around while waiting for the others. "Dirty 6th" still lived up to its unfortunate nickname with us locals. The smell of old beer and urine wafted from the alleyways. A panhandler hit me up for "spare" change every 20 feet. I decided to venture back to Congress.

My attitude toward downtown Austin was not improving. It was time to try something fun and maybe give myself a fresh outlook on the city. Before leaving the house I dropped a few soft filters in my bag. I don't think many photographers use them anymore. They were once a common method of softening a subject's skin for a portrait - you know, before we had Photoshop actions for that sort of thing. I thought it would be interesting to try them out on the urban landscape. After playing with different combinations, I settled on a couple of them stacked on my lens. The effect was a dreamy blur with glowing highlights and blooming lights at night. 

Autofocus was sketchy so I switched to manual focus. Even that was a bit tricky but I quickly adapted. I was loving the look I was getting. The way the filters scattered the light made it difficult to get the deep contrast that I prefer so I did touch these up a bit in Lightroom. The look is 90% there from camera. In these days of filters and presets it is easy to forget that there are ways to achieve interesting results optically.  

Daylight Wandering

Night Life

All images were captured with a Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 or XF 18mm f/2 lenses using optical soft filters and Acros film simulation in camera.

Yes Men at Hanovers 2.0

The Yes Men had a weeknight gig at Hanovers 2.0 in Round Rock last Thursday. The club is near my office and it was an early show, which made it really easy for me to stop by and enjoy some good music. It is usually tough to catch bands I want to see during the week because they are typically playing somewhere around downtown Austin at a time that means I won't be getting much sleep before work the next morning if I go. It's nice to see more shows like this happening nearer to home and work at earlier times!

Compared to most other music venues around here, Hanovers 2.0 has a huge stage that is reasonable well lit. There were some motorized spotlights behind the band that moved somewhat randomly. It was a little annoying at first but I managed to get a few interesting backlit shots. I'm glad I'm shooting my Fujifilm X-T2 with the EVF. The LED bulbs in concert lighting is blinding these days when it gets aimed right at you. The EVF helps ease the pain. I wouldn't have been able to get some of the shots I did with a standard DSLR while looking through an optic viewfinder.

I thought maybe I'd get a few color images since the light levels were decent. The predominant blue lighting wasn't to my tastes though so I stayed with my standard black and white capture using the Acros film simulation built into my X-T2. I captured only black and white jpeg files and processed them a bit in Lightroom. I love the look of Acros but sometimes find it to be a little too clean and flat for a rock n roll show. To get a deeper and more contrasty look I used a Lightroom VSCO preset that mimics Fujifilm Neopan 1600 - a film I'd be happy to shoot with today if it were still made. I modified the VSCO preset to remove the sharpening and grain that it adds, as well as lifting the shadows a bit since I already deepened them in camera.

A film simulation on top of a film simulation? Sure, why not? The end result is what matters. Why not shoot in color and then convert in post? Because overall I like the tonality, contrast curve and simulated grain structure that I get with the Acros film simulation in camera. It's a good starting point that gets me most of the way where I want the final images to be, leaving very minimal work in post production. I sacrifice some control in post by not having any color information to work with but keeping things purely in monochrome actually helps me visualize the final result without the distraction of color.

Pink in the Rink

It was Pink in the Rink weekend at the HEB Center this past Friday and Saturday. The Texas Stars wore special jerseys that featured a good dash of pink as they faced the Chicago Wolves both nights. The jerseys were auctioned off to raise money that gets donated to the American Cancer Society. I was asked to help out with photo coverage and I enjoyed the frenzied set of games. The Stars won Friday's matchup and the Wolves came away with the win on Saturday. 

Here are some highlights from the two games. All images were taken with my Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF 50-150mm lens or X-T1 with the XF 18mm lens. 

Taking the Fuji 18mm for a Ride

It was a warm day for February, even by south Texas standards. While I should have been cleaning out my garage, it was just too nice not to be out riding my motorcycle down some backroads. So, I threw my Fuji X-T2 with my newly acquired 18mm lens in my saddlebag and took to the road, leaving my adult responsibilities behind for another day. 

After a quick breakfast at a favorite cafe, I wound down several curvy roads. While I do love photography, nothing clears my head and chases stress away like a nice ride down quiet backroads. I rode for a couple of hours before deciding to make my way back home. It was then that I'd realized I hadn't stopped to take any photos with the new-to-me lens. It happens - it's easy to get caught up in the ride. Not to fail my secondary mission, I took a detour on the way home and made a couple of quick stops in nearby Granger and Taylor - two great small towns that are wonderful to wander in with a camera. If you read my blog with any regularity, you know that Taylor in particular is a favorite testing ground for camera gear with me. 

Here are a few snaps with the 18mm. The 28mm-ish 35mm equivalent focal length is not a bad choice for documenting interesting details in the small towns I like to stop in while enjoying a ride on my Harley. I'll need some more time to get comfortable with this little lens since I've shot primarily with my 35mm Fuji lens for the longest time. It does look promising so far. Not as sharp across the entire image as my 16mm but it is much smaller, lighter, and considerably less expensive. 

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 18mm lens, Acros film simulation.

Quiet Night at the Bar With The Fujifilm 18mm f/2

It was a quiet Thursday night at Hanovers last night. After the crowd last weekend for the tribute band night, the place seemed eerily deserted. I was there to meet up with a fellow photographer who was selling a Fujifilm lens I was interested in - the XF 18mm f/2. The price was right and I impulsively jumped on the deal. Sudden case of G.A.S. (i.e. gear acquisition syndrome)? No, not really.

It's a weird time for me to be buying gear as I've been in the process of carefully scrutinizing the things in my life and I've been offloading a lot of stuff of lately. It's a process of simplifying things - efforts toward a more minimalist lifestyle. If the new lens works out, it may replace one or two others. It fits between my 16mm and 23mm lens and I'm wondering if it is capable of doing the jobs of the others well enough. Time will tell.

I grabbed a few test shots before buying the new-to-me lens. It was a good test environment. This is my usual territory. Little light, pulling something out of virtual nothingness. Lens wide open, ISO up, shutter speed down. Not too bad. I'll look forward to putting this little lens through the paces.

Tribute Night at Hanovers

A buddy of mine plays drums for Telephantasm, a Sound Garden tribute band, and I got to check out a performance at Hanovers in Pflugerville last night. It was an all tribute night with Wicked Garden (Stone Temple Pilots tribute) and Guerrilla Radio (Rage Against the Machine) sharing the bill. 

I was really impressed with each performance. These guys are all great musicians and they did an amazing job recreating the sound and look of each band. I'm more of a fan of Sound Garden than the other original bands but I enjoyed the other acts and especially liked the energetic performance of Guerrilla Radio. Here are some favorite moments from the show.

Telephantasm

Full gallery of Telephantasm photos can be viewed here.

Guerilla Radio

Full gallery of Guerrilla Radio photos can be viewed here.

Wicked Garden

Full gallery of Wicked Garden photos can be viewed here.

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35 f/1.4 or XF 23 f/1.4 lens using Acros film simulation.

A Breeze, Some Trees, and a Window

I was at Shiner's Saloon in downtown Austin the other night and while I was waiting on the band to get setup I snapped this shot. It is late January and we have had some warm days. A weak front was starting to blow in and there was a steady breeze blowing in through the open window at the end of the bar I was sitting at. Congress Ave looked oddly peaceful after I'd made my way into downtown through the heavy car and pedestrian traffic on a Saturday night. The bare trees, glittering with lights, had a calming effect as they swayed in the wind. A few couples walked by on the streets and sidewalks below. I felt a little more at peace in the moment so I took a photo to save it. Nothing special about the photo...and yet there is, to me anyway.

Horseshoes and Handgrenades at Shiner's Saloon

It has been a full weekend of concerts for me. After catching up with the Yes Men on Friday, I got to check out my friends in Horseshoes and Handgrenades last night at Shiner's Saloon. This talented duo always puts on a fun show. As an extra treat, the guys did a second set as the Honeysuckle Roses with a couple of other guys, including my good friend Mark on bass. Mark and I have been known to jam together and even play a gig together once in a blue moon. I'm just as happy, if not more so, to just be there behind the camera and capturing a few great moments of great friends doing what they love. Here are some of my favorite snaps.

All photos were taken with the Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens using Acros film simulation. 

Yes Men at Carousel Lounge

Last night I caught a show by the Yes Men, an Austin based Yes tribute band, at the Carousel Lounge. I have to admit I've never been a big Yes fan. I am a huge fan of my good friend Mickey who plays drums for the Yes Men. The music of Yes is some complicated stuff to play. While not my style, I can greatly respect the musical talent required to pull off their songs. Mickey and the rest of the guys performed a great set that was a fitting tribute. They threw in a bit of Pink Floyd for good measure. I was thrilled to see my old friend banging the skins again. It had been way too long.

All photos were taken with the Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, Acros film simulation. More images from the show are on my gallery site.

Fujifilm X-T2 Hockey Update

I've got a few more games under my belt since I last wrote about my experience using a Fujifilm X-T2 as a dedicated sports camera for covering pro level hockey games. It has taken me a while to get things dialed in and I'm happy with the results I have been getting. As I've said before, the X-T2 is not a purpose-built sports camera. However, for my use in covering games for the AHL Texas Stars hockey team, it is working well enough that I no longer own a DSLR. 

My hockey gear kit now consists of the X-T2 with the XF 50-140mm lens mounted. I also carry my old X-T1 for use with either the XF 16mm or the 35mm. lenses. That's it. This all fits in a small Billingham bag. I'm digging that. Shooting with the X-T2 exclusively for game play has required some adjustments to my technique and it has taken some time to get the autofocus system dialed in. I've said before that the continuous AF system looks a lot like Canon's AF configuration menu and I wonder if some technology was licensed here. Truthfully, if that is the case, I'd rather Fujifilm have used Nikon as a model. Having shot both Canon and Nikon at the rink, I found the Nikon system much more accurate. While it's not a perfectly tuned AF system for fast action sports, I've managed to make the X-T2 work for me.

There are a number of settings that can be configured in the X-T2's AF menu. None of the canned AF scenarios really worked extremely well and I was frustrated at first. Having spent some time tweaking things, here is what I find works best for me.

  • AF Mode: Zone (3x3)

  • AF-C Custom Settings

    • Tracking sensitivity: 2

    • Speed tracking sensitivity: 1

    • Zone area switching: front

  • Pre-AF: OFF

  • Performance: Boost

  • Focus priority AF

  • EVF view only

The zone area switching set to front seemed to help my keepers go up. I'd tried auto but the AF system would hunt too much trying to decide what to lock onto in situations with players packed tightly together. I found this also helped AF be a little snappier in locking onto close moving subjects. The real key to success with the X-T2's focus tracking is to get on the subject as soon as possible and follow for a moment before blasting away with the shutter. The DSLRs I have used in the past were more snappy in acquiring subjects quickly and I could bounce from player to player without much lag. The X-T2 demands a more calculated approach. There is more effort on my part to anticipate player movement and strategy. That's probably not a bad thing. 

I'm not sure why but I seem to have better results using the shutter button for AF in addition to firing the shutter. I've always used back button focus with DSLRs and configured the shutter button for its sole purpose. For whatever reason I get more keepers with the shutter button handling AF on my X-T2. I'm wondering if AF on the back button cuts out when the shutter is firing. 

At the end of the day, no matter what gear you use all that matters is that you are getting the shots you need. I can honestly say that I don't feel like I'm missing anything having switched exclusively to the Fujifilm cameras. The real measure of a camera system is in the images it produces so here are some favorite shots from the last couple of games. 

First, here are a few 3 shot action sequences to give an idea of how the X-T2 tracks in game play. The frame rate of the X-T2 lets me easily fire 5-6 shot bursts with no lag. In the last 3 images of this group you can see how the AF holds on a fast moving subject up close. That's the lens cutout in the glass you can see as I'm continuing to shoot while backing up to avoid getting my lens broken!

Below are some single frames of key action moments. Some of these are from a burst sequence but several are more reactionary captures of something quickly happening. The X-T2 isn't as adept as a high end DSLR for those "in the blink of an eye" grabs but as you can see it can deliver. I included some scenes with potential distractions like other players at different distances in the focus zone. Those zebra stripes of on-ice officials can really be an attention grabber for AF systems. I'm impressed with the way the X-T2 usually ignores them to stay on target. Changing zone area switching from auto to front seemed to help with that.

All shots in this post were taken with the Fujifilm X-T2 and the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens with the latest firmwares at the time. The standard (Provia) film simulation was used and all images are camera JPEGs with light post processing in Adobe Lightroom for cropping and slight exposure adjustment as needed.  Images are property of the Texas Stars.

King's X at Parish

"You're all beautiful people. Be kind to each other." Maybe it's not the message you expect at a metal show but it is the sort of thing you'll hear preached at the First Church of Rock and Roll - aka a King's X concert. The band has been a favorite of mine for more years than I care to admit. They supply a hard edged sound driven by passion, love, and friendship. On the last few tours I've had to drive down to San Antonio from Austin to see them on a stage. I'd give them shit after the shows about always skipping Austin. I was so happy to see that after an absence of too many years they finally came back to Austin for a weeknight show at Parish.

A big reason for going to a King's X show, apart from a love for their music, is the positive vibe you get there. They are a true brotherhood. They love playing together and they love their fans. I've never been to a show where bassist and lead vocalist Dug failed to offer some encouraging words. They make a it a point to hang out after their shows and will patiently meet with every fan that wants to meet them. The guys are downright kind and beautiful people. 

In spite of living in Austin for a couple of decades now, this show was my first visit to the Parish. It is an upstairs club on "Dirty 6th" in downtown. The house was packed. I got permission from the tour manager to snap some photos and was able to talk my way up to the front at stage center. My thanks to the folks there who let me sneak in front of them for a little while! I knew I only had 3 songs to take photos up front so I went in light with only my Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens.

The images are all the in-camera Acros black and white film simulation. I initially intended to produce color images and had a change of heart. Those who know me know that I prefer black and white most of the time anyway. I only half jokingly tell people that I shoot in black and white for myself and color for other people. That said, I had another reason for choosing to go with monochrome. The clubs around here have been going to LED lighting that is really intense. The red and blue colors tend to easily blow out their respective channels on the camera sensor and skin gets blown very easily with the red in particular. The concentrated light of the individual LEDs in the light clusters are painful to my eyes when I catch a glimpse when they are directed toward the audience. Shooting with the EVF of the X-T2 makes it easier on me. Oh how I miss the old fashioned gelled cans! 

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

Waxahachie WWII Weekend

A favorite annual event of mine is the Waxahachie WWII Weekend held on the Veteran's Day weekend. This exceptional WWII reenactment event takes over the small town and you'll find Allied and Axis forces roaming about downtown. The main event is a battle reenactment around an old train depot and the crowds assemble to observe the skirmish. The battle is fun to see of course but I'm always more excited about milling around the streets and camps beforehand while I photograph the troops in a photojournalist style.

I'm much more interested in genuine moments than staging my photographs. While I normally shoot with a wide or normal focal length prime lens, I used a 70-200mm equivalent lens for this event. I try to mingle about on the periphery and not attract attention from the reenactors, who are all too willing to strike a pose for the camera. My desire is to catch them in character and isolate them as much as possible from the modern environment. I'm looking for those war faces.

This year I didn't taken many photos during the battle. The dense crowd made it difficult to find a decent vantage point considering movement of the troops and the direction of the afternoon sun. That was OK by me as I had plenty of time to get the kind of photos I prefer before and after the battle demonstration. Here are some of my favorites (click for larger views).

More photos from the event can be found on my gallery page here. All images were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 and 50-140mm XF lens, Acros film simulation.

Dia De Los Muertos in Round Rock

Halloween was yesterday and while that is a fun holiday, I tend to get more excited about Dia De Los Muertos. The "Day of the Dead" is a Mexican holiday that actually spans a couple of days - the first and second of November. It's a time to remember loved ones who have passed on and to invite their spirits to come back for a day and enjoy fellowship with the living. November 1 is centered around children and the 2nd is for adults. There are always celebrations in these parts of Texas that usually include parades and parties in the street. I got to attend Round Rock's event and join in on the fun.

I'm from San Antonio originally and while I was familiar with the holiday, I didn't know much about it. When my mother passed away a few years back, the priest who presided over her funeral services asked me for a photo of her for an altar at the church. That church kept an altar that they assembled for Dia De Los Muertos up for the whole month of November. As I learned more about it, I found great comfort in the customs of this holiday. The Mexican people have a beautiful way of looking at death. It is an inevitable part of life and Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration of the lives of our loved ones who have passed on. They are invited to return and enjoy life amongst their families and friends for a day. There is no grieving. One of the most beautiful things I've heard said about Dia De Los Muertos is that there can be no tears because we don't want to make the path back to the living world a slippery one. So instead we dance, we laugh, we remember, we eat and drink, we celebrate life. 

Dia De Los Muertos celebrations are a mix of customs and influences from Catholicism and Aztec rituals. It is popular for people to paint their faces to resemble whimsical skulls and wear colorful clothing. Some celebrations, such as the one in Round Rock, emphasize Aztec ritual garments and dancing. They are lively events with lots of happy faces. Here some of my favorite images of the beautiful living souls who attended.

All images were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF 50mm-140mm lens and Classic Chrome film simulation.