Barb and I have a social group that consists of us and two other couples. We get together every 4 to 6 weeks and rotate whose house we have dinner and play table games at. That is, except during December. Everyone is always so busy during that month that we don’t want to add any extra burden on whose turn it would be. Instead, every year, for the past 6 years, we have met at a local restaurant for a meal and then afterwards we head over to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and enjoy seeing a local Austin band perform in a rather intimate setting.
This year we met our friends at Threadgill’s Restaurant on Riverside Drive for brunch on Sunday morning, December 16, 2012. We were finished eating by 11:00 AM, so we drove the 2 blocks over to the Palmer Events Center, where the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar has been held for the last 3 or 4 years.
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is one of those things that helps “Keep Austin Weird“. It is a place where all sorts of artists come together to sell their wares to those who are shopping for different or unusual Christmas presents.
I have brought a camera to a couple of the shows in the past. I have some pretty good photos of Eliza Gilkyson (2010) and Ray Wylie Hubbard (2011) that I took using my Canon PowerShot G12. In 2009, I used my BlackBerry to get a few shots of Jimmie LaFave, but the image quality was pretty darn bad.
Eliza Gilkyson – December 2010
Ray Wylie Hubbard – December 2011
After buying my Olympus OM-D E-M5 this past May, I have been able to take what I consider a “nice camera” with me into places that I never would have attempted to take my Canon 5D or 5D Mark II into. Maybe you read my earlier posts about the Tour of Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Complex, my adventures at Ruidoso Downs and Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and the Univ. of Texas vs. Wyoming football game. I am rather certain that I would not have been allowed to bring in a large DSLR camera into any of those places, and take the types of photos that I did manage to get with my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.
In previous years, I never tried bringing in either my Canon 5D or Canon 5D Mark II into the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. I just didn’t believe that I would be allowed to bring it in. On the other hand, when I did bring in my Canon PowerShot G12, I made sure I had it hanging from the strap around my neck – and in plain sight. No one said anything at all about it – not as I entered the building, or when I used it during the show.
So it was with all of this in mind that this year I thought I would see if I would be allowed into the event with my Olympus camera hanging around my neck. If not, I would only have to walk a few hundred yards (meters) back to the car to hide the camera and then return to the Bazaar.
Now I knew that the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens wasn’t going to be very useful in this environment. I was going to need some lenses that would allow in much more light than that otherwise very useful zoom lens would. I put the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens onto the camera, and wrapped the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lenses into some Tenba 10 inch square Messenger Wraps, and dropped them into Barb’s suitcase-sized purse.
As we entered the front door, I scanned the lobby for any “No Photography” signs, and didn’t see any. We purchased our two US$8.00 tickets, which I’m pretty sure the only words printed on them were “Admit One”. We walked all of 8 feet (< 3m) from the ticket counter to the person that we handed our ticket to. Everyone was very friendly, and nobody said anything about the camera hanging around my neck.
It was only a few minutes after 11:00 AM, and while the shopping was all open for business, the band wasn’t going to start until 12:00 noon. We headed straight for the area where the stage was. We were in luck, as nobody was sitting in any of the chairs yet. Barb went straight to the front row and claimed 6 chairs just to the right of the center isle!
The photo below was taken right at 11:30 AM, as the Austin Lounge Lizards were performing their sound check. I show you this photo just to get the “big picture” setting for where we were. Notice the person sitting on the left side of this photo with the orange cap? That chair on the front row, in front of his cap, is where I would be sitting for the show. Barb is the blonde in the front row, and those are our friends Diane and Stan sitting next to her. (Holly and Bryan had to head back to Threadgill’s where they had accidently left their credit card…)
The photo above was taken with the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens. I had the ISO cranked up to 1600, and had the aperture almost wide-open at f/1.8. I had the exposure compensation cranked down to – 2/3 stop. Even with all of that, the shutter was open for a relatively long 1/20th of a second. The 5-axis in-body image stabilization of this little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera is incredible!
I went to the restroom, just to make sure I wouldn’t need to go later, during the show. On my way back, I stopped to talk to the person manning the sound controls. After a few moments, she walked off to take care of something. Even though the lighting was very dim, I thought the sound board looked pretty cool, so I snapped this photo.
OK, now it’s show time! The next photo was taken with the Olympus 12mm lens and the aperture set to f/2.8. 1/50 second and ISO 1600. I was sitting in my chair, and I had the camera to my eye. The electronic viewfinder made it pretty easy to tell that I needed some negative exposure compensation to keep the black curtain background black. The 12mm lens could get all four musicians into the frame of the photo, but I could tell right away that it wasn’t going to get in close enough for some really interesting photos….
The Austin Lounge Lizards are a very talented band! They have been around for quite some time, and have gone through a few personnel changes. The current members, from left to right, are: Conrad Deisler (guitar and mandolin), Bruce Jones (bass guitar), Hank Card (rhythm guitar), and Darcie Deaville (fiddle and mandolin). They play some very lively songs that always contain funny lyrics or satirical views. Every song makes you smile – big – and most of them actually cause you to laugh!
During the “sound check” photo that I showed earlier, they were playing a song that explained what was the cause of the sorry state of the American economy today. That song is entitled “Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs”. Yep, I think that pretty well set the tone for the rest of the show!
After you finish reading the rest of my post, you really should go check out their web site by clicking here, and then clicking on the “Listen” link right above their group photo (but don’t select “Lyrics” under “Listen” – just click on “Listen”). Scroll down to just the 2nd song (highlighted in purple) and you can listen to “Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs”. That’s pretty representative of the type of energy that they produced on stage – just a few feet in front of us!
While you are there, be sure to check out the songs “Old Blevins”, “Stupid Texas Song”, and even “Shallow End of the Gene Pool”. Great music with funny lyrics!
OK, so enough of my ramblings… Let me show you some of the photos that I took. Remember this, though. I never stood up, I remained in my chair, and I didn’t dare use a flash! I put on the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens, set the ISO on the camera to 1600, and took a photo of each member of the band.
I left the White Balance setting on the camera at Auto. They all came out very close to the Tungsten setting in Lightroom, so I took the average of all the temperature and tint values, and set every photo in this series to the same values (temp = 2750, tint = +5).
I set the auto focus point to be the area dead-center in the middle of the frame. I would aim the center of the view finder (the frame) right at the musician’s eye, push the shutter button down halfway (which would lock the focus and set the exposure), then move where the camera was pointed to that would give me a more pleasing composition (i.e. not having their face always being in the center of the photo).
I left the metering mode set to what Olympus calls “Digital ESP metering”, which is the same as what Canon calls “Evaluative” metering, and Nikon calls “Matrix” metering. That got me close to a “correct” exposure when I had pushed the shutter button halfway (to set the focus). From there I used the extremely useful “Highlight & Shadow Display” mode of the electronic view finder (EVF) to tell me how much exposure compensation to use to “fine tune” the exposure.
On all four of the previous photos, I had dialed in -2/3 stop of exposure compensation, to keep the blacks in the background very near black. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I would later add back between +1/3 and +1/2 stop of exposure during post processing in Lightroom 4.3.)
What I did realize though, was that I was getting a faster shutter speed than I was expecting. I could drop my ISO to a lower sensitivity setting, which would result in less noise in the image, but it would also mean that I would be using a slower shutter speed. I have shot enough with this camera to know that the image stabilization would allow me to do that. I would just have to time my shots to the moments when the musicians wouldn’t be moving quickly – or that movement would be blurry in the photo.
OK, so I dropped the ISO sensitivity from 1600 to 1000, and opened the aperture as far as I could, which is f/1.8 for the 45mm lens. After reviewing the photos later on my computer, I was really glad that I had changed the ISO to a lower setting. When viewing the images at 100% magnification on my 24″ monitor, the amount of graininess is much less, especially in the facial skin areas of the musicians. You probably cannot see the difference by viewing the small, highly compressed images here on my blog post, but the difference is certainly noticeable when viewed “large” (on my monitor and on 19″ prints).
Bio from their web site: Hank is one of the founding Lizards. He grew up in Oklahoma City, went to Princeton, where he met Conrad Deisler, and graduated from The University of Texas School of Law. Hank is one of the main songwriters of the Lizards.
Bio from their web site: Starting at 16 as a street performer in Toronto, Darcie Deaville is an accomplished actor, singer, writer, producer, musical director and coach. She’s collaborated with artists including Ani Di Franco, Tom Paxton, Ray Wylie Hubbard, John McEuen, David Lindley, and Eliza Gilkyson. Darcie’s toured from the Yukon to the Yucatan and throughout Europe.
Now you can clearly see the motion blur in the photo above, and it gives you a real sense of just how smoking hot of a fiddle player that Darcie is!
OK, that gets us to intermission, where I put the 12mm f/2.0 lens back on.12mm, f/3.2, 1/15, ISO 1000
I agreed with my previous assessment that even though I was very close to the stage, it was just too wide angle of a lens for this situation. I later learned something very valuable about this lens when I had this photo up on my computer monitor. Nothing in that photo is very sharp. It is supposed to be a very sharp lens. The depth of field on a wide angle lens usually extends from just a few feet away, all the way out to infinity. The aperture was set to f/3.2, which should give the equivalent depth of field that a 24mm lens set to f/6.4 on a full frame sensor camera would.
It should, but it wasn’t. What I later learned, by reading a review of this lens by Ming Thein, was that this particular model of lens has a ring around the barrel that you move back and forth to change from auto focus to manual focus mode. As you are putting this lens onto the camera, it is very easy to move that ring back towards the camera, which puts it into manual focus mode. That’s what happened, and I didn’t realize it until after I was at home.
Still during intermission, I changed back to the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens.
I then wandered to the back row of the seating, and waited patiently in the small line to purchase CD and other souvenirs of the band. While I was standing there, I took this photo, looking back into the shopping Bazaar. You can see just how big of a place that we were in.
I bought two of the Austin Lounge Lizards’ CDs: Small Minds (1995) and Employee of the Month (1998). I’ve listened to them both several times now, as still enjoy them very much. I played them in the car when we went to Barb’s sister’s house the weekend after Christmas, and Barb quickly recognized the songs that we had heard them play live, just two weeks before hand. The lyrics just make you laugh out loud at times!
OK, intermission is now over, and the band is back on stage! With the 25mm lens, the field of view was now wide enough to get two musicians into the frame, so I took a few photos of the musicians in pairs.
First to my right….
And then to my left.
I was pretty sure that I had at least a few good “keepers” by now, but just for good measure I put the 45mm lens back on and occasionally took a shot when things seemed to get “interesting”.
Bio from their web site: Another founding Lizard, Deisler has been monkeying around with music and electronics since the first grade. One of his earliest memories involves singing along with his mother’s Electrolux vacuum cleaner. His first paying gig came in eighth grade. In 1974, he woke up at the Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention in North Carolina. Since then, he has been devoted to bluegrass and (real) country music. Influences include George Jones and Spike Jones, Frank Zappa and John Hartford, and Bela Bartok and Emmylou Harris.
The Austin Lounge Lizards really have some unique entertaining talents!
Bio from their web site: The newest Lizard is Bruce Jones, a Texas Songwriter who spent 16 years playing bass with Omar and the Howlers. This involved a lot of bad behavior, close calls and lucky breaks, including an album on CBS records and tours around North America and Europe with artists including Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Johnny Winter. In 2004, he released his first album of original songs, including “Fight Like a Girl,” which won Second Place in the Austin Songwriter’s Group Songwriting Contest in the “Rock” category. In 2008 he released another album of original songs called “Rough Tough Game”.
Lastly, this next photo with Bruce Jones really “getting down”, is one of my favorites of the whole bunch. I suppose that I could have cropped out Conrad and Hank, but in the end I chose not to do that.
Man, Bruce has played with some GREAT Austin bands. Omar and the Howlers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Wow! I have at least 2 CDs from each of these three artists.
This post has taken me quite a while to put together. I went to the Austin Lounge Lizards web site and obtained their email addresses to contact them. On January 3rd, I sent a message requesting their permission to post these photos on my blog. After I didn’t get any response from them, I sent a follow-up message on January 7th. I never got a response to that request either. After another week, I had changed my thinking to “well, they didn’t say yes, but they certainly didn’t say no, either”. If I am ever contacted by the Austin Lounge Lizards asking me to remove their photos, I will do so without any hesitation. If you have read this far and you do not see the photos that I referred to in my blog post, now you know why you don’t see them!
I certainly hope that the photos stay. We really enjoyed the show, I continue to enjoy the CDs that I bought, and I hope that others that see this blog will someday go to an Austin Lounge Lizards concert. I am sure that you will enjoy the show as much as we did!
Thank you for visiting my blog.