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. 

Gearhead Sunday

I’m running rather behind on my blog updates these days. Here we are at the end of September and I’m looking through a backlog of images from last month. No complaints, I’m happy to be busy. Sometimes photography fun gets pushed out a bit - such is life. Seeing that there is another Gearhead Sunday at Revival Cycles fast approaching, I was reminded that I neglected to share any images from last month.

This is such a fun event. I had a blast hanging out with my buddy Mark and his kids while we wandered around Revival’s shop. Always such enticing eye candy there. A coffee distributor is sharing some space with them lately and I got to enjoy some of their product. I even scored a breakfast taco from Torchy’s this time by getting my butt out of bed and on the bike early for a change. A most excellent morning!

As has become a trend in my visits to this event, I was only packing my iPhone as an image capturing tool. It does quite well, especially when combined with my favorite camera app, Blackie. If you like the shots below, you’ll find a few more on my gallery site.

Misfits Ol' School for School

I was out for a ride down some back roads on my Road King and decided to stop in downtown Taylor for a drink, as a sweltering heat was settling in following an overcast morning. The Misfits car club was holding a school supply drive at my favorite watering hole, Texas Beer Company. Of course, I braved the sun that was starting to force its way through the cloud cover and wandered around a bit, snapping a few photos with my iPhone. I just can't resist classic cars.


All photos were snapped with the Blackie app on my iPhone 6s Plus. More photos from the event can be found on my gallery site.

Gearhead Sunday

Last month Revival Cycles in Austin hosted another Gearhead Sunday. They generously open up their shop at these regular events and allow fellow motorcycle enthusiasts to freely wander around. Everyone is encouraged to bring their own project bikes or cars to show off. It's a neat gathering that seems to be gaining popularity, as evidenced by a sizable turnout in spite of blistering heat.

I enjoyed poking around looking for interesting details amongst some of the classic machines that Revival had in the shop. Once again, I showed up with only my iPhone as a photographic companion. While it can be a struggle to use in the low light of the shop, it does a decent job at capturing close up details. When sweat is pouring off me this time of year, I'm happy to lug as little gear as possible with me on my Road King. 

All photos were taken with my iPhone 6s Plus using the Blackie app. More images from the event can be found on my gallery site.

Gearhead Sunday at Revival Cycles

A couple weekends ago I got to attend a motorcycle nerd get-together dubbed Gearhead Sunday, hosted by Revival Cycles in Austin. These are the folks who put on my favorite bike show, The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, each year and this was my first time to visit their shop. I saddled up on my Road King and rode down to the shop in east Austin with a buddy of mine, eager to see the home of an awesome bike builder.

I was only expecting a parking lot gathering where fellow motorcycle aficionados and gear heads could show off what they had built or had in progress. It was a pleasant surprise to find that Revival was kind enough to allow us to wander around their shop. Since I wasn't anticipating this kind of access, I was a bit underprepared in the photography department. I had only my iPhone with me, so I fired up my favorite camera app, Blackie, and made do. The gritty hard contrast look that I get from the Tri-X film simulation in the app works quite well for things like this. It was a challenge to take photos in the low light but I managed to get a few cool snaps I think.

Check out more photos from the event on my gallery site.

RockNRides

A few weekends back I stopped by a small car show in Cedar Park. The RockNRides show benefitted a high school band and there was a decent turnout. Most of the cars were a little too late model for my tastes though. I gravitate to the art deco styled classics and the rat rods. While there weren't many of these at this show, I did enjoy walking around and getting in a little car photography. 

I've been experimenting again with the Moondog Labs anamorphic adapter for my iPhone 6. It was a little over a year ago that I picked it up and I realized that I hadn't done much with it lately. While I had my Fuji X100F with me, I ended up snapping images solely with the iPhone. I have to say, I do love the wide aspect ratio for my photos and the anamorphic adapter gets it for me on the iPhone without having to crop anything away. It's a cool trick.

Using a wide point of view like this, it is tempting to go for the big picture - full body shots of cars. I do that a lot and so this time I pushed myself to look closer for interesting details, reflections, and different angles. Luckily it was an overcast day, which made the latter a little easier. My complaint with shooting by LCD in daylight is that it makes composition difficult when bright sunlight drowns out the display. 

Here are a few details that caught my wandering eye. All were taken with the iPhone and the Moondog Labs lens using the Blackie camera app. More shots from the show can be found on my gallery page.

Sister 7 - One 2 One

"Love this!", was the response I got back from Patrice Pike of Sister 7 after sending the band some shots I snapped at last night's show at One 2 One bar in Austin. Normally I'd take my "real" camera, either my Fujifilm X100F or X-T2 to a show if I wanted to take pictures. Since I was meeting an old friend that I don't see very often, I decided to not take one of the Fujis. I can easily get sucked into photography at an event and neglect my company and that's kind of rude. When my friend texted to say she was running late, I still had my iPhone with me so I got to get a little photography in anyway while I was waiting. 

The iPhone is less than ideal for challenging low light conditions of a concert stage. It takes some straight-up luck to get decent shots with energetic performers. You have to be willing to settle for something less than perfection and that's something I've always struggled with in my photography. It wasn't until I got one of Danny Clinch's monographs that I was able to overcome the ridiculous notion that a photo of a person needs to be tack sharp. There are indeed far more important things to consider. If you manage to capture a little of the emotion and passion of a performance, sharpness or any other bit of technical perfection hardly matters.

With that in mind, I attached my Moondog Labs anamorphic adapter on my phone and shot away for a little while. I tend to carry the small adapter in my pocket because I'm not fond of the iPhone's native 4:3 aspect ratio. I find it too boxy for my tastes. The anamorphic adapter lets me use the full resolution of the sensor to produce a more attractive 16:9ish ration. I love  this thing! The adapter looks kind of funny on my phone and a few people in the crowd asked about it. Patrice even noticed my odd contraption when I was down in front of her and she surprised me with an extreme close-up. No, the shutter speed wasn't quite enough to completely freeze her but it's a wonderful shot.

All photos were captured with Blackie, my camera app of choice. I added contrast and grain for a film-like look in Lightroom. As I looked at these images it really made me think how far technology has brought us in image making. It doesn't take a lot of expensive gear to have some fun and capture some memorable moments. Yeah, having more specialized gear is a good thing and arguably necessary if that's how you earn your living. If you just want to make images for fun, the most modest of gear these days will suit you just fine.

Check out more shots from the show on my gallery page.

Hot Rods and Hatters

I spent yesterday afternoon checking out some great cars at the annual Hot Rods and Hatters car show in Lockhart, TX with my good friend Mark and his kids. We had an awesome time seeing the cars and stuffing our selves with BBQ. Readers of my blog know I love cars, particularly the classics and rat rods. There were plenty of both in Lockhart this weekend. 

Gear-wise, I was toting around my X100F and my iPhone 6S with a Moondog Labs anamorphic adapter. I love the anamorphic combination even if the camera is "just" an iPhone. After taking a few shots with the iPhone, I'd almost decided to use that exclusively since it was a casual sort of thing and I was hanging out with folks while walking around. Unfortunately my iPhone battery life has been quite unpredictable lately. Some days it's fine and lasts all day, while others it goes berserk and seems to discharge in the blink of an eye. After using the camera for about 15 minutes the battery percentage starting going down rapidly, dropping from 60% to 10% in just a few minutes. I shut the phone off for a while and when I turned it back on it jumped to 50%. I got about another 15 or so minutes before it plummeted again down to 1%. I could literally watch the percentage tick down. Son of a... Yeah, I was rather pissed at Apple yesterday. I'm in line for a new battery and should have it replaced in a couple of weeks. Hopefully that fixes it.

I shot a good bit with my X100F too, although I have to say I really like having the anamorphic option for car shows and this is one of few times I'd have been content to just stick with the damned phone. It was a cold-ish overcast day and I'd normally have stayed all black and white. The dreary flat light makes some portrait photographers giddy but it does nothing for me. I'd prefer hard light that makes colors pop. I stuck with my favorite Classic Chrome simulation and bumped up the saturation a bit while increasing the contrast in post. I think it works and provides some variety with the all black and white iPhone snaps that I took with the Blackie app.

Here a few favorites from the show. You can check out more if you like on my gallery site.

iPhone

X100F

East Side Transformation

I was down in East Austin last month checking out a Punk Rock Flea Market and I decided to take a little stroll. This part of Austin has slowly been transforming over the years from a grungy high crime area to a renovated urban landscape of condos and art studios. There is a certain tension between the old and the new, apparent in art and architecture. Graffiti vs murals, derelict remnants vs sleek modern structures.

This wasn't a photo centric trip so I was toting only my iPhone. That and the Blackie app are all I need to take in the city. I wish now I'd done more photography down here before so many condos started popping up. I wonder how long it will be until condos with trendy businesses on the first floor that dominate the entire east side of Austin. That seems to be where things are headed. Hip and expensive living is the trend in Austin.

iPhone Urban Exploration

My buddy Mark got a new DSLR recently and we met up to wander around downtown Austin for a bit so he could get some shots to test it out. I was minimally equipped for photography that day, having only my iPhone with me. Paired with my favorite camera app, Blackie, I was able to grab a few snaps of some decrepit old buildings down by the railroad tracks. As fast as condos are going up in Austin, I doubt these places will exist much longer.

While I'm still not sold on the 4:3 native format of the iPhone, I am quite pleased with the results I get when paired with Blackie. There's a raw noir look to the images that I love - deep crushed blacks with decent preservation of highlights. Amazing stuff for a camera phone. The dynamic range exceeds my early DSLRs and the apps these days let me get a look I want with little to no post production back on my desktop computer. And to think I used to despise Smart Phone cameras. 

Tanks

The Harvest Classic vintage motorcycle rally was last Saturday. It was a lovely day for a ride and I took the Road King out to dusty Luckenbach, TX for an afternoon of strolling amongst beautiful bikes and hanging out with old friends. It was a quick trip and I spent more time socializing than snapping shots of the machines. Had to get a few in, of course. I shot one roll of film and a few iPhone snaps. Here are a few instant gratification shots. The film will have to wait until I can make it by a lab.

Images taken with iPhone 6S Plus, Blackie app.

Window Shopping in Taylor

I stopped at a favorite watering hole in Taylor for a beer or two after work this evening. It was quiet for a Friday and I sat in a chair off in the back. My mind was in a bit of a funk and I could have easily stayed there way too long. I paid my tab after a sandwich and a couple of pints, then headed out for a walk around town as dusk settled in. Tailor is such a nice place to gather one's thoughts.

It came to mind that the month is almost over. Geez, it has been such a blur. I'm working extra hours and taking a class right now. There isn't much time for anything else. It seems like I've hardly touched my camera lately and I didn't have it with me this evening. I did have my iPhone though. I guess I do consider it a camera these days - grudgingly. It will do in a pinch and I'm usually perfectly happy with the results.

Wandering around town, I found myself looking at windows. Sometimes I look through them. With a camera in my hand I tend to look more at what they reflect. It was an appropriate activity tonight. I struggle with anxiety and depression and photography is a kind of therapy for me. When my mind is clouded with darkness, it can bring clarity. As much as I love photography and the benefits it brings, I can make every excuse not to do it. I can be too depressed to grab a camera, while at the same time feeling depressed about not doing a bit of photography. It's a vicious mental cycle. Having a quality camera in my pocket at all times does take away the "Well, don't have my camera." excuse.

My "window shopping" did lift my spirits a bit. Looking at the town as reflected in the glass reminded me that there is more than one way to look at things. Sometimes we need a different perspective. There is darkness and there is light. There is what we see on the surface and there is what exists inside. Sometimes none of it makes sense. Sometimes there is something wonderful that we never realized was there.

All images taken with an iPhone 6s Plus and the Blackie app.

Evening Walk in Taylor

The small town of Taylor has become a favorite place to hang out for my wife and I, along with our little poodle, Lucy. In the early evening the sidewalks are adequately shaded from the last of a scorching sun by the wonderful old buildings. We love having a fairly cool and quiet place to walk on these summer nights.

Lucy trots along, happily pausing to meet passersby, while letting out an annoyed snort if I break the pace for a quick photo snap. I enjoy taking in the sights, doing a little window shopping, and capturing interesting details with my iPhone. We usually end up having a cold drink in town at a favorite bar. Ah...Taylor.

All photos were taken with an iPhone 6S Plus using the Blackie app.

Top Notch Hot Rod Night

Top Notch, a local burger drive-in, hosts hot rod nights periodically. I stopped by one of the events back in April around the time that the Lone Star Roundup was going on. Due to the collection of photos from the Roundup that I had to sift through, along with other things going on, I'd forgotten about some photos that I snapped at Top Notch.

The cars pack in to the small parking lot at Top Notch, making it difficult to get shots of the full cars. That's OK though and after being there a few times now I've come to appreciate the challenge of finding interesting ways to capture images of the wonderful classic cars that people bring out. This time I chose to travel particularly light and photographed only with my iPhone.

I've really warmed up to iPhone photography for casual outings like this. As usual I was using my favorite camera app, Blackie. I get images that are really close to what I want, which makes post processing a breeze. The biggest challenge is working with the iPhone screen when there is still bright daylight. Getting the angle I want often times means I can't see very well while composing. Given enough light though, the iPhone 6S Plus I have really does a great job. I'm willing to put up with the challenges it presents in some situations, in exchange for not having to lug around a camera bag.

Art After Dark in Taylor

There were a couple of art shows going on in Taylor, TX last week. I stopped by with my wife to browse around and grab a beer at our favorite brew pub. After folks left for the evening, I wandered briefly through the vacant space. There was a peacefulness about it that I enjoyed. It's a hard thing to come by in the Austin area these days. 

As is often the case, I didn't bring my "real camera" with me since this was a fun social outing with my wife. I do try to not be the annoying photographer guy that abandons family and friends on outings where photography isn't an intended priority. Times like these it's handy to have that iPhone and my favorite app, Blackie. I made a few quick snaps of the quiet moments to fulfill the ever present drive to preserve what moves and inspires me.

A Ride to Remember

Central Texas Harley-Davidson did a group ride yesterday morning to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in nearby Killeen, TX. I went along on the ride as it was a good opportunity to take part in an activity that honors what Memorial Day is all about - remembering those who served our country in military service and have passed on, particularly those who sacrificed their own lives while defending the rights and freedoms of others.

The group met at the dealership and after a safety meeting we hit the road for Killeen. The overcast skies kept the sun from beating down. The humidity made for a muggy tropical climate that had me sweating profusely under my mesh riding jacket. I wasn't complaining. Once at the cemetery, our ride leaders said a few words of remembrance. A chaplain with the Christian Motorcycle Associate said a prayer. The group sang our national anthem. We walked some of the countless rows of headstones and placed flags as a small token of thanks. A few tears ran down the cheeks of some of the bikers who are veterans themselves, as they remembered their buddies who didn't make it back. 

As I walked amongst the headstones, I notice the inscription on the grave of Private Clarence Lee Carr. I don't know anything about this soldier but he was someone's Paw Paw. My Paw Paw passed away many years ago. He made it through WWII and the Korean war. I won't be able to visit the grave where he and my grandmother (also a veteran of WWII) were laid to rest. I chose to place my flag at Private Carr's grave. Thank you for your service, Paw Paw. 

Sidewalk Virtuoso

The sidewalk in front of a Half Price Books store in Austin was filled with some beautiful music today. I've seen Shawn Lesure playing his violin here before. Today I had some time to spare and I stopped to listen for a while. His music really touches me emotionally. He plays his violin as if he was on a stage in front of thousands of people, in spite of the fact that he had audience of one on this balmy afternoon. His eyes closed, sweat streaming from his forehead, Shawn played with a passion that comes from a true love of music. I'm honored and grateful that he shared his music with me.

Like a Stone

My friends in Telephantasm, an Austin-based Soundgarden tribute band, gave a moving performance in honor of Chris Cornell last night. The world lost an amazing musician and vocalist when Chris committed suicide just a few days ago. Anxiety and depression are such terrible monsters to face. As someone who knows what the battle feels like, it's a hard blow to hear about someone losing the fight.

The guys pulled together an acoustic version of the Audioslave song "Like a Stone", a song they'd never done before last night. A video of images from Cornell's life played behind on the screen behind the band. It was touching. I might have had a little something in my eyes while I watched the heartfelt tribute. Chris is gone. The music lives on.

I didn't have my "real camera" with me but I had to capture a few images with my iPhone. Thankfully there was a video recorded and you can check that out here.

Granger Car Show

The nearby small town of Granger, TX is a favorite place of mine to wander around on quiet strolls and casually snap a few photos. If you visit my blog with any regularity, chances are you've seen a few shots from Granger. The normally calm streets were bustling with activity due to a car show and arts & crafts festival going on this weekend. I couldn't resist stopping by to see what classic beauties and ratted out hot rods might be lining the streets.

I travelled light on this outing. This was one of several stops I'd be making with my wife and our little dog Lucy yesterday afternoon. As such, I didn't bother bringing any "real cameras." I didn't want to get too immersed in photography and neglect my family. It was just my iPhone and my favorite app, Blackie. That was plenty enough, as I've been impressed with the quality of images I get with that combination. My only complaint is the same I have with any camera lacking a viewfinder - the screen is very difficult to see in bright sunlight and I was virtually guessing at the composition of a lot of shots. I tried to shoot a little loose and crop later. 

The little details I see in some of the cars at shows like this are as much fun to capture as the vehicles themselves. Maybe more so. It's like an Easter egg hunt searching for little personal touches, exceptional fine details, or interesting reflections. Close-up photography is one area of photography in which the iPhone excels.

Swap Meet at Flash Motorbikes

I stopped by Flash Motorbikes, a neat little independent motorcycle shop in Austin, for a swap meet they were having today. This event is something I've been to before and I was looking forward to seeing what folks rode in on and what goodies might be up for sale.

A threat of severe weather in the early morning hours and residual high winds through late morning seemed to keep the majority of motorcyclists away unfortunately. The turnout was disappointing. I did see a few neat bikes though, including a really sweet Vincent. I came away with a nice print by a guy who does some very detailed motorcycle drawings. It was a good time hanging with some friends and talking bikes. Of course, I snapped a few photos of bikes or parts of them that caught my interest. I even snuck in a self portrait of sorts.

Images were captured with an iPhone 6S Plus using the Blackie app.