Marcia Ball at The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

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Well, it has been quite a while since I put up my last post here – over 6 weeks, actually. A lot has happened, but I am not interested in writing a 2000 word blog post filling in that 6 week gap….  However, something happened in the last day that has brought me back to my keyboard, where I finally feel that I have something meaningful to say, and to show you. (But you have to read to the end to know what that is.)

Since this web site is dedicated to “Gregg’s Adventures in Learning Photography”, I must mention that after weeks of debating in my own head, I took the plunge and on December 14th, Barb and I headed on down to Precision Camera here in Austin, and bought the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera along with two new Olympus lenses: the 12-40mm f/2.8 and the 75mm f/1.8.

After a full week of evenings sitting around reading the manual and trying out all of the settings and (way too many) menu options, it was time to take this new camera out and start shooting with it! Every December, for the past 7 years, we have met some of our good friends 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/lunch on Sunday morning, December 22, 2013. We then drove drove the 2 blocks over to the Palmer Events Center, where the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar has been held for the last 4 or 5 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.

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As a means to help draw in more shoppers, they have local musicians perform 2 or 3 times a day. The talent that they bring in is great! In the photo above, you can see the colored backdrop of the small stage where the musicians play. (That photo was handheld with a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second!)

We came specifically to see Marcia Ball play.

When we arrived, the band named Sons of Fathers was still performing their set, so I wandered over toward the stage just to have a look.

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I had set the ISO to 800 and the aperture to f/2.8, and since I was shooting in aperture priority mode, the camera would choose the shutter speed, while I just had to change the exposure compensation setting – which is very easy to do with the EVF (electronic view finder) and Olympus’s Highlight and Shadow information display.

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The camera was choosing a shutter speed of 1/30th or 1/40th of a second, and I knew that the 5-axis image stabilization would allow me to shoot even slower, so I never saw the need to increase the ISO above 800.

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I enjoyed the Sons of Fathers enough that I bought their most recent CD, “Burning Days”!  After Sons of Fathers left the stage, there was nearly an hour before Marcia Ball’s show was to begin. Even so, the best that we could do to get 5 seats together was on the 4th row. Thankfully, I got a seat on the center aisle.

David Carroll, the bass player, was the first musician to get setup and work with the sound board guy.

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Marcia Ball is an outstanding piano and keyboard player. I have seen her several times over the past 25 years or so, and she always delivers a lively, energetic performance.

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For the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar performances though, she does not bring her regular band for the show, but always invites other musicians to perform with her. (I distinctly remember a “Pianorama” show a few years back.) This year she had invited not only David Carroll, but Chris Gage and Christine Albert (aka Albert and Gage), and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. We did now know this before we saw them come out onto the stage, but we were thrilled! We have been to 4 or 5 Albert and Gage shows over the years, and have ALWAYS enjoyed them immensely.

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That’s Chris Gage with the electric guitar, and his wife (I’m pretty sure…) Christine Albert on the acoustic guitar.

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I only brought the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, but I was wishing I had also brought my new 75mm f/1.8 lens. The photo above was made by a very tight crop of a much larger field of view photo.

Here’s the entire band, including Sarah Elizabeth Campbell (in the center).

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I understand that Christine Albert, David Carroll, and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell had a regular gig playing together at El Mercado restaurant on Monday evenings.

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My last sentence was correct in using the past tense. I took these photos on Sunday, December 22nd. Christine, David, Elizabeth, with guests Slaid Cleaves, and Butch Hancock (who was in my 32 year old slide at the Armadillo World Headquarters blog post) played at El Mercado on Monday evening. Sadly, yesterday morning, the day after Christmas, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell passed away after a battle with liver cancer (obituary is here).

This summer, while on our cruise to The Bahamas, I read Zack Arias’s excellent book “Photography Q&A”. On page 62 Zach writes “This may sound weird – every time I photograph someone I think about their funeral. It is my goal to get a great photo of whoever is in front of my camera, one that is worthy of being enlarged and placed next to their casket. Everyone needs a great portrait. Everyone is going to leave it behind. The portrait that gets left behind needs to be the best that it can be. I’m serious; I think about this on every shoot.”

I think about those words often. I thought about them as I took our usual family photos during Christmas. I didn’t think about such wise words as I played with my new camera at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. I had no idea that I was photographing someone who would no longer be with us less than 90 hours later. That is a haunting thought.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth. Rest in peace.

Thank you for visiting my (infrequent) blog.

4 thoughts on “Marcia Ball at The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar”

  1. Gregg,
    The pictures are of course- beaustiful and the narrative informative. You comments about Sarah were particularly sensitive and very thoughtful. Well done.

  2. Goodness, Gregg, what a story. One just never knows. Wonder if her bandmates knew?

    That’s a nice set of shots! I’ve got one of the EM-1’s as well but not that lovely 12-40 yet. Looks like a great pairing.

    1. Mike, I think that they knew about her condition, and that is why she was invited to play with them at this event. Being in the audience and watching her perform, I never picked up any visual clues that she was in pain or suffering.

      I’m surprised that you also picked up an E-M1. All of the reviews that I read always seemed to point out that the 12-40 mm lens was “just made to go together”, so I never considered not getting it. I used the 12-50 mm on my E-M5 most of the time, and the only thing I wanted it to do better was to not stop down to f/6.3 at the long end. This 12-40 mm isn’t as long, but the constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 is really nice. I bought the 75 mm f/1.8 based entirely upon the images that you shared with my several months ago that you had taken with your 75mm on your E-M5. Thanks!

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