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House Jacks concert and photo shoot - the funcrunch files

Mar. 29th, 2008 09:32 am House Jacks concert and photo shoot

Last night boyziggy and I went to Freight & Salvage in Berkeley to see The House Jacks. I had first seen that band in November, at the same venue, when tenacious_snail invited a bunch of us there for her birthday celebration. I fell in love with their a capella harmonies immediately, and was especially blown away by the amazing mouth-drumming talents of Wes Carroll. So when I got a note from the band's Facebook group earlier this week that they would be at the Freight again this Friday and that it would be Wes's last show with the group, I knew I had to go.

I had the day off work (Cesar Chavez day, our one-day staff "spring break"), so we got to Berkeley in plenty of time for a leisurely dinner and stroll down Addison Street, stopping in the little arts district to view the future new home of the Freight, which breaks ground April 1, and walking past the first apartment we lived in together. We arrived about half an hour early, which was a good thing as there was already quite a long line; the show was sold out. The super-nice staff actually came into the line to check off and give tickets to will-call waitees like myself. And shortly after we arrived, dr_memory showed up, followed soon by missionista, so we had a nice chat. (We were all figuring we'd run into at least someone we knew at this occasion. I'd invited a couple of people, who couldn't/didn't make it, but I didn't want to deal with organizing a large group.)

We found seats separately about halfway back. I secured an aisle seat so that I could take photos without being too disruptive. I'd contacted the bass of the group, Antonio, on Facebook earlier to make sure photography was OK. I had recently finished reading the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, which lrc gave me for my birthday. I thus stayed in manual and tried at first to pay more attention to the light meter, but Peterson's advice was really not very useful in a low-light indoor situation with a lot of subject movement. With a sigh I went back to mostly ignoring the meter, choosing large apertures, and selecting shutter speeds that minimized blur, realizing that most shots would be underexposed and fixed later in post. I did try using ISO 800 with my 85/1.8 and 50/1.4 lenses, but reverted to my usual ISO 1600 when using my 17-55/2.8. The 85mm (136mm with crop factor) ended up being the most useful of the three from my position in the audience (I didn't want to stand up and move closer to the stage for this particular show, since it wasn't an official shoot and no one else was doing it). I took nearly 350 shots, and ended up posting 40 to an album on SmugMug. I also posted a few photos of Ziggy, Nathan, Miranda, and myself to Flickr. Here's my favorite of Wes:

I'm happy to say that for once I didn't let the photography get in the way of my enjoyment of the show itself, which was awesome. Their voices blended perfectly, and Wes sounded just like a real drumset, as before. The band members joked a lot and invited audience participation, in the second set having people call out songs that they had never actually rehearsed, and then attempting some semblance of the requests on stage. I was amused that two of the choices were songs I'd performed at Blue Bear, "Synchronicity II" and "Lady Marmalade", and another was a rejected (by me) suggestion for one of my workshops, "Self Esteem". The band also led a nice singalong of "Daydream Believer" in memory of the recently departed John Stewart from the Kingston Trio, who composed that song and was originally scheduled to perform at the Freight that night.

I chatted with Antonio briefly at intermission to introduce myself as the person who'd e-mailed him on Facebook (he did recognize me, which was nice), but didn't get a chance to talk to the other band members (though I probably could have if I'd hung around longer afterward). Wes got a long standing ovation in the second set, even before his solo drum piece, and thoroughly deserved it. They were all great.

I was up past 3 a.m. processing photos. Please let me know what you think if you have a chance to check them out; I just calibrated my monitor for the first time yesterday (with SpyderVision 2 Expess), and blacks seem to be a lot darker now, perhaps too much. I've calibrated three times already as the instructions on how much light should be falling on the monitor during the process were confusingly contradictory...

Current Mood: sleepysleepy

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Date:March 29th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
I don't think their "Lady Marmalade" would have compared to yours. ;-)
Date:March 29th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)

Learn the principles, don't get stuck in the specifics

I don't remember if there is much in that book about the sort of shooting you did at the show. It is also very film centric, rather than digital.

The principle to understand is the tradeoffs between ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Generally in situations like that, I'll find an exposure that pretty much works, just being aware of things that can affect it, like major highlights, or whether I want to concentrate on what is in the light, or what is in the shadow.

With Digital, you can either expose optimally at 12 bits, or go two stops under at the equivalent of 10 bits, exchanging speed, for dynamic range. The sort of post processing that you can do with digital is different than what you can do with film, it also has different "failure modes", How they react to overexposure etc.

The important thing is to try different things, consciously making choices and learning what happens as a result of those choices. At first you may blow shots that letting the camera run on auto would have gotten,but once you've got a feel for it, a lot more of your shots will turn out a lot better.

Also, shooting digital, I'm more inclined to use the meter to get a test exposure, then fine tune the exposure using the histogram.
Date:March 29th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
My monitor at work is rather dark, so overall I can't say much.

It does look, however, that you might be blowing out some of the highlights, don't know if that's in the raw photo or in the jpegs, or just my crappy monitor at work.
Date:March 30th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
It was great to see you guys. Thanks for taking such awesome pictures!
Date:March 30th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
Nicely done! Looks like a great concert. I like it when the audience is included in concert photos myself.
Date:May 24th, 2008 08:31 am (UTC)
Did I already tell you my House Jacks connection? Deke and I went to high school together. To say we were friends might be overstating it a bit, but we were friendly, and had good friends in common. Here's a yearbook photo from back then that I had on Flickr already: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juverna/151522099/
Date:May 24th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
That's awesome. You know they're playing at the Freight again on June 13 - wanna go?? I haven't bought tix yet as I wasn't sure who I could drag along with me...