Sunday, August 14, 2011

Swashbuckle: High Fives on the High Seas

I've mentioned my friends in the band Swashbuckle on this blog in the past. They are a fun bunch of guys that dress up like pirates and play pirate-themed Thrash Metal. They just left to go overseas to play a bunch of European Metal festivals and before they left they did a hometown warm-up show.

I wanted to go check them out but I knew there wouldn't be a photo pit set up at a bar show and I'd probably risk being knocked around a bit by kids moshing. Considering the circumstances, I knew if I wanted to take any photos I'd have to pack super light gear, so I used the situation to my advantage. I've got a 50mm f/1.8 lens that I rarely use. It was something that I thought would come in handy but I can count the number of times I've had it mounted to my camera on one hand. A wide open aperture like that would be really nice in dimly lit close quarters. I decided to put the lens on and hit the road. No camera bag, no flash, no back-up lenses, nothing, just my camera body and a single lens. It's a prime lens, so there's no zoom, I'd have to zoom with my feet instead.

I got up nice and close, right within a decent range for three quarter portraits of the guitarist and bass player, opened it wide to 1.8, and started shooting. The depth of field at 1.8 is kind of a dangerous thing to play with, so it was definitely a night of experimenting, and I treated it as such. I wasn't expecting to come up with much, but I did have 30-something decent photos when all was said and done.

Enough technical talk, let's get down to the actual shots:

Notice the way the focus falls off rapidly from the headstock of the guitar. That's what happens with a wide aperture. Pretty epic looking, if I do say so myself.

Same here, notice how Eric's head is in sharp focus and little of anything else. Makes for great separation from the background.

Another great thing about a wide aperture is how much light it lets in. I can guarantee you this room was not as well lit as it appears here.

I shot this glass that says "Victory" because one of my favorite Swashbuckle songs is "Where Victory Is Penned." I just included it here because I thought it was kinda quirky. Then again, I'm probably wrong.

So there ya have it. You can click on the photos, or on this link to see the full gallery. They aren't really the same as most of my concert shots, but like like I mentioned, I was just testing this lens to see how useful it is for concerts. I think in a setting with more space and more powerful stage lighting, it could make some great exposures, but I do worry about how much depth of field I lose opening it wide. Plus, in most true concert venues you don't have the leisure of being as close to the band as I was, so having no zoom really limits your composition options. I think it would make a great lens to have on a second body, but I rarely ever shoot a show with 2 cameras.

More soon,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Extra Credit

After the pursuit of fun and art is over, an artist still needs to eat and have shelter, right? This basic concept is at the root of why you have to pay an artist for their work. After all, we're people too, and we expect and need the same things that everyone else does. But what happens when your needs are met, but not your full demands or expectations?

I recently did a shoot for a long-time musician friend. We've been working on our respective current projects for almost the same amount of time, so we have seen each other through the ups and downs, the struggles and the joys, of doing what we do. Many nights were spent at coffee houses commiserating and congratulating each other. When the time came for him to record a new album, he would give me the first shot at hearing the tunes, even before they were completely finished and totally refined. I was there for the rehearsals, the recording process, and eventually got hired for the promo photos that would be used in the album art and to promote the latest release.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drawing the Bottom Line

Running a business isn't easy and it isn't cheap. At the same time, though, having a hobby or interest like photography, or any art form, really, isn't cheap either. Painters need a constant supply of expensive items; sketch artists need to buy the right kinds of pencils with specific kinds of lead, as well as sketch pads and other media; craft artists or people who make hand-made jewelry are constantly buying tiny pieces and tools to improve their crafts; musicians know all-too-well the constant struggle to find the right gear to bring them to the next level. Photography and videography is the same, whether it's your hobby or your business. 

Photography is one of the only arenas that I know of where the accessories almost always cost more than the essentials. You can buy a good camera body for as low as $1,000. You can buy a really good camera body for around $2,000-$3,000. You can buy a GREAT camera body for $4,000 and up. But the lenses for those cameras can easily range anywhere from $75 to as high as $8,000 or more! Tripods, cleaning kits, monitor calibrators, neck and shoulder straps, flash heads, pocket wizards, light stands, light modifiers, camera bags. These are all items that could make you go broke in no time. Even though some of them can be considered essential items for certain people, or certain areas of photography, the fact still remains that you don't absolutely need any of them for photography in general. Some are obviously worthwhile investments if you are a serious photographer, and therefore you can't escape the need to constantly swipe your credit card (or punch the numbers into a website). The way you determine which are necessary investments and which are just helpful accessories is completely up to the person doing the purchasing.

In the end, though, we all go through this endless pursuit of gear for the same reasons: We want to be better photographers. 

Now, there is the age old argument that it's not the camera, it's the photographer. While that may be true, there have been certain advancements in recent years that could cripple that argument in no time. For instance, when I first started shooting concerts, my first DSLR was a Canon Rebel XT. That camera was very hard to use in low light because the max ISO setting was 800 but you wouldn't dare ever put it that high. If you did, it would produce photos so grainy that it looked like you had them sandblasted. Meaning getting sharp, well exposed photos was incredibly difficult. After I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark II, I was able to use much higher ISO settings, which allow more light sensitivity, with much less grain even at very high settings. In this particular case, we are talking about a technology that wasn't available just a few years prior. It's safe to say that the camera made me a better photographer, because it allowed me to capture scenes that were previously impossible to capture. Yes, I'd have to still know all the usual skills like composition, getting the right settings, etc, but the camera certainly did change the game. So in some cases, the gear most definitely does make you better, because it allows you access to possibilities you had not previously been able to venture into. 

All these different tools of the trade, though, can cost you a fortune, like I already mentioned. So here's the thing:

The point I'm trying to make is that If you are working a job that you dislike, and need to put money into it, out of your own pocket, you are going to become disgruntled very quickly. However, if spending countless hours practicing a craft, and honing skills, even at the risk of losing hours and days of your life doesn't bother you. and if spending money you don't have only to try to profit to spend more of it doesn't bother you, then you've found the right path in life. Maybe it's a career path, maybe it's just a time-passing path; that is up to you. How many of us can truly say we have no qualms whatsoever about dumping hours of time and heaps of money into something that we don't even know will give us a successful outcome?

It's a scary idea, and something that people need to ponder over for quite some time before they know what direction to go in. So what category do you fall into? Are you afraid of wasting time and money pursuing something you think you like to do, or are you the type to dive in head-first and worry about the details later? Let me know in the comments!

More soon

Friday, August 5, 2011


Well, I finally did it, I created a Facebook page for DIGImmortal Photo. I'm not a big social media kinda guy. I'm far too private to feel comfortable in a world of "look at what I'm eating" or "I'm here at this place, come find me."

However, regardless of my own personal use, or non-use, of such a site or service, there is no denying the powerhouse of a marketing tool that it is. There is an old adage of: "You have to fish where the fish are" and with millions of users from around the world it's really stupid to not have an online presence within Facebook. I signed up for Twitter long ago, and use it almost daily as a means of keeping in touch with fans and finding new prospects, and just sharing basic happenings about my business. Facebook always seemed too exposed for me. Now that I think about it, though, exposed is exactly what any business needs in this struggling economy. If you aren't exposed, you are ignored, and that's precisely what any small-business owner feels like these days.

I do have the page linked to my twitter, so both will update together, in most cases. I figure this is a good way to share more images with more people. It's never a bad thing to have multiple places for people to discover you, especially as an artist. Here's to hoping it remains a positive experience on there.

You can find me and "Like" me HERE