Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Incomparable Bobby Hicks

When I was at the Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival this past Sunday I shot a few hundred pictures of the Masters of Bluegrass Band, a disproportionate number of them were of fiddler Bobby Hicks. When I was a young cub learning how to play bluegrass fiddle, especially from recordings of Bill Monroe, Bobby was probably the single most influential fiddler to me. He made a series of recordings for Rounder Records with a group that billed itself as the Bluegrass Album Band - and those recordings are classics in the vernacular. I've met and spoken with him quite a number of times over the years when he was playing with Ricky Skaggs, but this past Sunday the meeting was special. I can't explain why, but it just felt different.

I really liked his expression in this shot, but passed it by because of all the extra stage paraphernalia - mikes, mike stands, and cables - that are anathema to concert photographers. But ..... then I upgraded to Lightroom 5 and SHAZAM, with the new healing tools the problem was solved. I could have done the photo surgery in Photoshop, but over the past year I've grown increasingly less inclined to use it for manipulating my images. Here's the original RAW image:

And here's the finished image after processing in Lightroom 5 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

Pretty damned impressive!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fuji 55-200 Sharp as a Razor

I waded through all the shots I took yesterday of the Masters of Bluegrass Band at the Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival. Since I'm at the beginning of the learning curve of using this lens there were some laughable goofs .... no, you're not going to see them. However, I'm blown away by the image quality when I shot at the long end of the zoom - full frame equivalent of 300mm.

I processed these images in Lightroom 5 and the Nik plugins for noise reduction and contrast management. I wanted to post the color versions before I convert them to b/w. Indeed, this lens is as sharp as a razor.

Bobby Hicks - fiddler exraordinaire. I cut my teeth on the fiddle listening to his amazing work with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys.

Del McCoury - the carrier of the 'bluegrass flame' after Monroe's passing. I first saw Del perform as a banjo player at my first live concert of Bill Monroe. It was at that performance that I fell in love with Bill's music.

Bobby Osborne - half of the brother duet, the Osborne Brothers. When I was learning my music I used to try to tune in radio station WWVA from Wheeling, West Virginia to listen to the Saturday Night broadcasts of the Jamboree.

Jerry McCoury - Del's younger brother. When I was in college I would often drive down to Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania to see the big name bluegrass bands. I first met Jerry there in the pasture behind the performance stage where we would go to jam between shows. I hadn't seen Jerry for forty years until yesterday.

J.D. Crowe - I first heard J.D.'s banjo virtuosity on recordings of Jimmy Martin. He filled in on banjo for a show Monroe played outside Lexington, Kentucky during the first month I was working as a Blue Grass Boy.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Old European Face in New York

I walked the High Line on Saturday and as per my post yesterday, gave my new Fuji 55-200 zoom lens a workout. Today I continued the workout at a bluegrass festival, and although I still have a long way to go until I'm comfortable shooting with this lens, I was really impressed with it's ease of handling.

I'll be reworking several of the color shots that I posted yesterday - those were color jpg conversions of the raw data, with no further adjustments. When I dig into the image I can really get to appreciate just how crisp and clean is this lens. On some of the test images I deliberately chose very high contrast edges so as to examine for chromatic aberration, and there was a tiny bit. But as you can see in this photo, the image quality and clean definition make this shot pop.