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.

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.

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.

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.

Round Rock Rods

It was a balmy summer morning and I was running late to catch Round Rock's regular car enthusiast gathering. By the time I got there, maybe 11ish am, the lot was thinning out into a sparse collection of vehicles. It doesn't take long for the rapidly increasing heat of a summer day to chase away all but the diehard gear heads. I wandered around for a bit and snapped a few photos, spending my brief time looking more at details than the whole of the cars. There are interesting bits of Art Deco on some of these old machines that you just don't see anymore. 

Photos taken with a Fujifilm X100F, Classic Chrome simulation.

Simplicity

I mentioned a few weeks back that I had an epiphany of sorts while doing some live music photography. No, I wasn't trying to be coy in not divulging the details until now. It has simply taken me some time to process the decision I made and put together my thoughts. I'll cut to the chase for those who would rather not read the entirety my ramblings. The photo above represents the sum of my digital photography gear - well, except for my iPhone that I used to take the photos in this post. Everything else is gone. Things are much more simple now.

Really, I had already gotten down to a fairly small amount of gear before I made my decision to minimize my gear down to the Fujifilm X100F and a couple of conversion lenses. I had my Fujifilm X-T2 with the 35mm f/1.4 and 50-140mm f/2.8 lenses. The X-T2 was more of a working camera for me. I used it for sports and some portrait work. Since I decided to not do my sports gig any longer, I had gotten to where I only grabbed my X100F when leaving my house. The X-T2 rig was collecting dust for the better part of a year, since the last time I shot a hockey game. After taking it to a show recently and using it along side my X100F, my mind was made up. The X-T2 and its lenses were sold a couple weeks back. 

I've photographed a lot of different stuff over the years. Sports was never really my thing. Fun to a point, but a lot of work and the pay isn't so great these days. I do kind of like portraiture but it is something my introverted self has never been truly comfortable in doing. When I do choose to make portraits, I prefer more environmental sorts of images so I really don't need a long portrait lens for tight headshots. When I consider the things I really like photographing - live music, cars & bikes, and urban environments - I find that the X100F is really all I need and it's the camera I enjoy using more than any other that I've owned.

Some of you may be be surprised to hear that I would give up the X-T2 in favor of the X100F for live music of all things. Wouldn't the X-T2 be better capable of autofocusing quickly in that environment? Maybe a bit. My experience is that the focus speed is only marginally better and good live music shots IMO are more about anticipation and timing than a reaction that relies on fast autofocus anyway. My overall experience with the X100F supersedes any minimal benefit in autofocus with the X-T2.  Additionally, even though the controls are fairly similar between the two cameras, the X100F just fits me like a glove and I found myself fumbling with the X-T2 when I tried to work with both cameras at once. 

I have discovered that the X100F is sufficient for me. Actually, I'm not sure that's the best word to describe it. "Sufficient" sounds like I'm settling for something. That's not it at all. The X100F exceeds my expectations. It's truly a wonderful tool for photography.

What's so great about the X100F? Here's my list.

  • It's a great size for discreetly carrying anywhere. Smallish yet big enough that it feels comfortable in my hands.
  • The viewfinder. In the left corner it works perfectly for us right eye dominant folks. Center viewfinders involve nose mashing against the back of the camera and they are not easy to use with my progressive eyeglass prescription. In addition to optimal placement, the viewfinder is very versatile. I switch between optical and EVF modes depending on the situation. 
  • Silent. Nobody knows when I snap a shot. 
  • Builtin ND filter. I use that all the time outside during the afternoon. I can get a more shallow DoF on bright days without having to carry a screw-on filter around.
  • Leaf shutter. I don't do a lot of flash photography but when I do, the incredible sync speed of the leaf shutter, in combination with the ND filter, can turn day into night. 
  • Versatile focal length. The 35mm equivalent lens can be used for everything from landscapes to snapshots to portraits. It's truly a Goldilox lens.

I could be content with the X100F as-is and I'm confident I could make the 35mm equivalent lens work for anything. Fujifilm provides a couple of options for the X100 series though and I own both the telephoto and wide angle conversion lenses for my X100F. In truth, I love the 50mm equivalent focal length of the telephoto conversion lens. 50mm is really my favorite focal length, although it isn't as versatile as 35mm. The telephoto conversion lens sees a lot of use at concerts and for portraits. Then there are also times when I need a little wider focal length. This is usually at concerts where my movement is restricted and I'm right at the edge of a low stage. So, I have a few options with this X100F rig. Not too many - just right. Simple.

No doubt that many people will view my choice as too limiting. I find it liberating. I've relieved my self of most of the burden of choice and the "analysis paralysis" that my obsessive analytical mind sometimes gets trapped in. Now I have one very small camera bag that I can grab and head out the door knowing that I've got a bit of kit that I know well, love to use, and will prove to be perfectly fine for the type of photography that I enjoy. The X100F isn't for everyone. For me, it's just right.

 

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. 

Round Rock Car Show

I caught the monthly Round Rock car show a couple of weeks back. Car shows are a tough draw during the dog days of Summer and attendance by enthusiasts can dwindle. Luckily, it wasn't too terribly hot in the mid morning when I stopped by and I was pleased to see some lovely classics. My photographic companion was my trusty Fujifilm X100F. I had a fun time milling about in search of interesting cars and details.

It took me longer than usual to get around to posting some shots from the show. There was the fact that I was busy finishing up a summer class, along with keeping up with my regular job. I also spent a lot of time processing my files. While anyone who frequents my blog knows I love black and white, I do a good bit of color work on cars and bikes. I had a hard time choosing between the two this time around. First, I processed in all black and white. Then it was all color after playing around with some different looks in Lightroom CC. I finally settled on a mixture, giving each image what I thought it needed. Sometimes the choice can be quite maddening.

I'll talk more about my evolving new workflow in Lightroom CC in another post. I've got some thoughts about that which are best left to a dedicated discussion. Suffice to say for now that working in Lightroom CC has me reevaluating how I capture and process my image files. All images from the car show were captured with the X100F's Classic Chrome simulation and processed for color or black and white in Lightroom CC. If you like these, you can find more from the show on my gallery site.

Swamp Bats at Austin Eastciders

I've had the opportunity to see my friends in the Swamp Bats play at Austin Eastciders a couple of times in the last few weeks. It's a nice venue and even though I'm not into cider I was able to get tasty pints of beer at the brewery next door. The Swamp Bats were real crowd pleasers at both shows. It's such a treat to see such a talented bunch of folks having a blast doing what they love.

I kept things simple as usual at both shows by snapping photos with my trusty little Fujifilm X100F rig. Between the camera and the two conversion lenses I find that I have everything I need to shoot a live music performance without weighing myself down with gear. I mixed things up a bit by setting the camera for Classic Chrome at the first show and Acros the next time around. While I'm absolutely a lover of black and white, sometimes I really like what Classic Chrome does. 

All images are JPEGs from the X100F with minor adjustments in Lightroom CC. More shots from the show can be found on my gallery site.

A Couple of Punks at Black Sparrow

A couple of my buddies form the duo that is Americunts, a punk band out of Taylor, TX. These two guys make some noise together and belt out an in-your-face set of old school punk. They put on a short set at at Black Sparrow's recent Rock Fest and I had some fun enjoying the music and grabbing a few shots of the guys. Reminder to self - bring ear plugs when working around a stage with large floor speakers. 

With a name like Americunts, the band is as irreverent as you'd expect from a proper punk band. Sorry kids, this ain't a family show. Still, the guys showed that they have a soft side and had a guest pianist come up for a ballad. As you can tell from my photos, no shirt is the way to go on stage with the Americunts. This is punk after all. 

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses. Processing in Lightroom CC iPad app. If you like these, check out more shots from the show on my gallery site.

Punk Rock Night at Black Sparrow

Last weekend the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX featured an evening of punk rock bands. Several bands performed that night, although I was only able to stick around for a couple of acts. There seems to be a punk scene evolving in the area, which I think it is pretty cool. It's a nostalgic experience for me to hear some of these bands playing punk classics and creating new sounds that pay homage to old school punk.

One of the bands, Brontosaurus, was more of a metal band. They were loud and fast, but very tight. With dual guitars and no bass player, it was a sonic assault. The other band I caught was The Awful Lot and those guys were definitely punk. I really enjoyed their set. Here are a few snaps I took at the show with my trusty Fujifilm X100F.

Brontosaurus

The Awful Lot