Category Archives: Austin

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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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

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.

Spinning the State Flag of Texas

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On Saturday, November 2, 2012, Barb and I attended the (American) college football game between the University of Kansas and the University of Texas. It was a home game for the Texas Longhorns, and was the first daytime game of the season, so I thought it would be fun to take my camera with us.

The University of Texas athletic department has a policy of “no professional cameras with interchangeable lenses”, but I didn’t have any trouble getting into the stadium with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. I had the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit” lens on the camera, which was hanging around my neck. In Barb’s bag, I had stashed my Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

I took about 140 photos that afternoon before, during, and after the game. When I was culling through them to see which ones that I wanted to include in my next blog post, I still had way too many photos to show. I couldn’t help but to notice this little “story within a story”.

Before the game actually begins, and right before the national anthem is played, they bring out this huge flag for the State of Texas onto the football field.

That is one very impressive (in size) flag. But wait, there’s more!

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The students holding that flag begin to bunch it up from two opposite ends.

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Eventually, when the two groups meet in the middle, the flag naturally takes on a circular shape.

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They then begin to rotate, or spin, the flag on the field. Notice where the blue section is now, and follow it as it changes position!

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It doesn’t take them very long to get it around.

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I would guess maybe 30 seconds to do the full revolution.

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And once it’s made the full revolution, there isn’t much else left to do, but to turn it back into a rectangle.

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All of these photos were taken with the 12-50mm kit lens zoomed to 45mm (which is 90mm equivalent on a full frame camera).

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

Photos of Two Concerts from 32 Years Ago

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Since the Austin Shutterbug Club’s still-life photography workshop, it’s just been blazing hot here in Austin, and I so I have not been out taking any photos since then.

Recently, I told the story about finding my long-lost shoe box containing a dozen smaller boxes of photographic slides. Since it’s been so hot outside, I spent some time during a couple of evenings scanning a few more of these slides into my computer. What I have here to show you in this post are photos that I took during two rock concerts, which occurred in 1981. That’s 32 years ago!

On Thursday, September 24, 1981 my first wife and I went to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Frank Erwin Center here in Austin.

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In 1981 my 35mm camera was a Canon AE-1, and I had three prime lenses: a Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon FD 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, and a Canon FD 200mm f/2.8 lens. The slide film that I was using was Kodak Ektachrome, and I believe that it was ASA (ISO) 64.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

I am not sure which lens that I used for the photos that I am showing to you here, but I’m pretty sure that I only brought one lens with me to each of these two concerts. I doubt that it was the 50mm lens.

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Back in 1981, nobody seemed concerned at all when I would show up at the entrance door, with ticket in hand, and my camera and lens hanging from my neck strap. I did not have any special “photographer’s pass” for these shows. I was located at the seat indicated on the ticket shown above. In the previous photo, you can tell that the heads of the people in front of me blacked out the lower right corner of the photo, which would be due to my reluctance to just stand up and take a photo while everyone behind me was sitting down.

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Since I was 16 rows from the stage, I can only assume today that I was using my 200mm f/2.8 lens to get the musicians to appear this large within my photo.

Tom Petty has always been one of my favorite musicians over the years, so I was very glad to find these slides of this concert!

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The first photo that I took at the concert was frame number 29 on the roll, and I managed to get 37 photos from that roll of Ektachrome. I just showed you the best 4 of the 9 photos that I took at the Tom Petty concert. I can only imagine how many photos that I would have taken today with a digital camera. I’m sure that it would be at least 100 photos during a 90 minute concert. Oh yea, I forgot… today you can’t get into a concert with a camera, …. unless of course it is built into your cell phone.

It’s also worth noting that the camera equipment that I was using didn’t have any autofocus. There wasn’t any image stabilization. I didn’t have an LCD on the back of the camera to tell me if I needed to add or subtract any exposure compensation (there wasn’t any histogram or any “blinkies”). No, I simply had 8 or 9 frames left on the roll of slide film, and I really didn’t have any idea of how well the photos were exposed until I received them back, after sending them in the mail to Kodak for processing.

Next up are some photos that I took at a Christopher Cross concert, which was also on a Thursday. This was earlier that same year, on March 26, 1981 and it was also at the Frank Erwin Center here in Austin.

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Christopher Cross, who lived in Austin at the time (and still does?), had his self-titled first album come out in 1979 and won 5 Grammy awards (including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist)! This concert in the spring of 1981 was during his meteoric rise to the top of the music world.

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Kodak Ektachome slide film was intended to be used in daylight, and not with ever-changing colors of theatrical stage lights, like those used at rock concerts. Even so, it did a good job of capturing, and preserving, the colors in the scene. This next photo clearly had the musicians illuminated by different colors of lights.

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What I thought was interesting as I first viewed these slides in my little Pana-Vue 1 slide viewer, was the varied backdrops that were used behind the band during this concert.

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Here’s a photo of Christopher playing a “double-necked” guitar.

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This next photo is my favorite of this entire post, and that is also why I used it as the opening photo in this post.

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While the smoke still filled the stage, I managed to get another shot of the band.

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This next photo must have been taken during their encore. I believe that is the case because Christopher has changed his shirt to be the Houston Oilers jersey of Earl Campbell. Earl won the Heisman Trophy playing football at The University of Texas here in Austin, 3 and 1/2 years earlier in 1977. Earl was a local favorite, and Christopher was showing his support of another “local legend”.

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In the opening paragraph I stated that I haven’t been out taking any photographs lately. Well, maybe, maybe not… I am writing this blog post on Saturday morning. It will go live early Wednesday morning. On Sunday morning, Barb and I will have driven down to Galveston, gotten on a cruise ship, spent Monday at sea, and Tuesday in Key West, Florida. When this blog post goes live, we will be nearing The Bahamas. I will not be anywhere near a computer, or the internet. If you leave a comment, I will not be responding simply because I am ignoring you. Instead, I’ll be out taking tons of vacation photos, and drinking margaritas!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.