Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tex Logan Birthday Bash

When I was 19 years old, I and a few other local bluegrass musicians discovered that fiddle legend Tex Logan lived close by. We decided to pay him a visit and ask him to play in our band - oh yeah, we had chutzpah. Tex, besides being a monster fiddler, received his PhD. from MIT. He worked for Bell Labs many years. When I decided I wanted to learn bluegrass fiddle, Tex was an inspiration to me. 

When Bill Monroe was scheduled to play several college dates in the Northeast over the course of several months, Tex was asked to play fiddle but could play only one of the shows which was at Jordan Hall in Boston, Mass. He suggested to Bill Monroe that I play twin fiddle with him for that show, and then by myself for the other two shows. That gave me the opportunity to 'audition' with Monroe, and resulted in Monroe's invitation for me to come to Nashville to work for him.

Tex's daughter, Jody, threw a party for his 85th birthday and invited musicians from across the country to come and jam. I don't have much of an opportunity to play bluegrass fiddle these days. All the music I play is as a violinist in an orchestra or string quartet. I went to the party not so much to play as to take photos of the event - just personal shots of my friends and colleagues having fun together. 

Tex was a gracious host, and his mind is as sharp as it ever was. It was a joy to spend some time with him. I hope we can do it again for his 90th birthday party.  

Here's a shot of Tex thanking everyone for coming to celebrate with him.

I dug this photo out of my archives of memorabilia. I don't know who took it. It was backstage at Jordan Hall. On the left partially out of the frame is Peter Rowan playing guitar, that's me and Tex playing fiddle (I'm on the left) Bill Monroe is center between us, and Bill Keith is to the right of Tex.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Still Arguing about Film Vs. Digital

I read a blog post by Eric Kim here in which he talks about the experience of using film to shoot street work, and vows to never go  back to digital. Well, we'll see about that. To be sure there are esthetic reasons that film is beautiful to shoot for any type of photography. I will never sell my Leica M6 because I know there will be some time in the future when I just want to throw some Fuji Neopan 400 in there camera and have a fun day. All the advantages that Eric Kim poses for shooting film are true. But ......

1) He mentions that shooting film removes the impulse for immediate gratification he could get by looking at the lcd on the back of the camera, and it increases the joy of anticipation to see what was actually captured. So don't look, or better yet turn off the lcd - it will save battery power. Exercising discipline and restraint are key factors in growing as any kind of artist or creative person.

2) He says it forces him to give more consideration to his shots and work slower. It's not the camera's or medium's fault - again, discipline and restraint.

3) He points out that if someone were to ask you to delete an image, you can't because it's on a roll of film and you can't just delete one frame. But, if the person doing the asking is an angry 6'5", 250 lb. behemoth, I don't think that answer will wash. What's to stop her from grabbing the camera and ripping the whole roll of film out of it!

4) When you put a roll of ISO 400 film in a camera, that's what you have for 36 exposures. If you expect to shoot on the street, but find some dark alley with deep shadows you're out of luck - unless you want to rewind your film and replace it with a roll of ISO 1600 film.

5) If you have a roll of b/w film in the camera and just happen across a scene that screams to be produced in color (admittedly this happens very infrequently, but still .....) again, you're out of luck, see #3.

6) After you have shot your roll of film in lighting conditions that were consistent and you want to develop the film in a tank, whatever development you choose - water temperature, degree of agitation, length of development time - for any particular frame on that roll will be the same for every other frame. There's no way to control the development contrast for any particular image. This particular parameter was at the heart of the zone system which required separate development for each negative plate - sure there were many people who attempted to modify and adjust the zone system for 35mm photography, but none of those really worked out. Digitally, it's a piece of cake.

7) Lastly (for this particular blog post), while analog processing (as in - with chemicals) may have a certain nostalgic appeal for those who didn't come of age during a time in history when there was no other option, I, for one, don't miss the hassle of mixing chemicals, putting up with the smell and mess, or the expense of film and darkroom materials. I would certainly agree that software costs money too. But the flexibility offered by that software and digital processing far outweighs all the romantic nostalgia to which Kim espouses in his blog.

And by the way, have you ever started working on developing a digital image and been interrupted by a phone call, a call of nature, or needed to take a food break? Developing film? Forget about it.

Here's a shot from my most recent photo walk. It's not perfect by any means, the focus is a little soft. But I  just like the shot. The message on the woman's bag seems to me so contrary to the unfriendly look on her face.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Think I Got It !!

Yes indeed, I think I do. I was out yesterday for a walk in Manhattan with the XP1 to experiment with a different way of holding the camera - at chest level in the vertical position - and it worked out really well. I think the camera focuses faster in that position, but I haven't a clue as to why. With the strap that I was using, I had to come up with a way to comfortably hold the camera in front of me but also gave me the freedom to take horizontal shots and also shoot with my arm extended for close in shots. Now that I have it worked out I can stop obsessing about it (and writing blog posts about it too) and really have some fun.

Here's a couple of shots from the walk. I really like taking shots through windows with heavy reflections in them. I was walking past Macy's Department store on 34th Street where I saw this make up artist working on the woman holding a mirror, trying to believe she was the most beautiful .......

I was hanging out on the plaza at the Apple Store on 59th and Fifth Ave. I saw this gentleman sitting on the steps so I stood next to him, dropped my arm down to my side and snapped off some shots. The XP1 is so quiet that from three feet away he had no clue that I was taking his pic. Do I love this camera?