Wide and fast

Since I have begun to dangle off the deep in when it comes to photography, I have found myself frequenting the camera stores more and more.

Always on the prowl for the right accessory and taking every opportunity to pic the brains of other photographers so I can better educate myself and improve my technique.

It’s very reminiscent of when I first took a sincere interest in computers. Who knows, maybe I will have the same success if I am lucky. I have already started to ponder working in a segment on digital photography into the radio show. The idea is quite nascent but I am pondering it sincerely.

As I was poking around the Camera Exchange and talking with Charlie the subject of used lenses came up. One of the things that did not occur to me when determining which camera to buy was the second hand market. It’s obvious now that I think of it. The two most popular brands of digital SLR cameras are Nikon and Canon. Regardless of whether they are superior or inferior to any other brand is not the point. The point is that since there are so many on the market there tends to be more used lenses for these cameras than any of the others.

What this means to me is that there are practically NO used Sony lenses and relatively few used Minolta or Minolta mount third party lenses available. This is something I would encourage anyone looking to purchase a camera to consider. Being able to buy a used lens can save you a bit of money when you want something maybe a bit more specialized and you don’t want to plunk down the full price for it.

Of course I can buy anything I need brand new and heaven knows there are some damn fine lenses available for this platform. I hungrily lust for the just released Sony Carl Zeiss® Sonnar® T* 135mm f/1.8 Telephoto Lens and when and if I can ever justify the $1500 price tag I’ll just run down to the camera store and pick one up. Then I’ll show you all! Muahahahahaha!

Ahem, but I digress.

As I was saying, second hand lenses. Not many interesting lenses to be had on the second hand market (yet). None at the Camera Co-Op and a very limited number at The Houston Camera Exchange, and the ones they had were not terribly exciting with the exception of one that caught my eye. It was the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX ASP DG RF prime lens. What I found interesting was the high speed and the wide angle.

The Sony 50mm 1.4 has been my go-to lens and my favorite by far of any of my lenses. That being said, the limitations of the 50mm lens really reveal themselves in a small space or when trying to get a good group shot of a band or similar.

The idea of having a fast wide angle lens was very appealing and the price of this one used was way more affordable than buying it new in the box so after contemplating it for a week I went back and purchased it.

I’ve not taken the definitive photo yet. Most of the pics from the last few blog entries are using that lens and I did take it to the Big Top for the Light Rock Express show and the debut of Disco Expressions. If you’ve ever been to the Big Top you’ll know what a photographer is up against in this space. Very dim lighting and what lighting there is tends to be red. Thank heaven for good custom white balance settings.

Light Rock Express

Just add horns and voila! Disco!

I like it. I can get up close and personal and still capture a lot of what is going on. And not having to use a flash makes me far less irritating to the performers.

Of course now it’s going to be a more difficult decision when I trying to determine which lenses I will travel with to any given destination.

Deconstructing a Cynthia prank

gg3Over a year ago Technology Bytes celebrated our 10th anniversary with a party downtown. For reasons now quite forgotten, Cynthia decided to make aprons for herself and for our friend Katie. They wore them while serving birthday cake to our guests that evening. The one that Katie wore was done in a dog theme because of her pet Beagle, Lucy. Cynthia thought the apron would be a nice gift.

Cynthia has also been known to make the occasional apron as a birthday or Christmas gift for a friend or family member. She also has an extensive collection of hand-made aprons she has sewn for herself and hang in in the kitchen next to the refrigerator.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I am having a drink at the Continental Club and conversating with Alison Fisher, a local musician and long time friend. During the course of of our discussion she discloses that she has no apron. An odd thing to bring up but she was at the anniversary party I mentioned previously and I figured maybe she was fishing for a hand-made apron from Cynthia or something. I asked her what her favorite thing was and she said she loved dogs.

I made a mental note and when I went home I mentioned this to Cynthia.

Keep in mind that Cynthia does not know Allison. She met her at the anniversary party over a year ago but has no lasting memory of the interaction.

Cynthia volunteers to make Allison an apron. We go to the fabric store and pick out an appropriate dog print and Cynthia puts it together and we present it to her while she’s playing a show at the Big Top. Allison is very surprised and appreciative.

One might think that would be the end of that, but no. Cynthia gets it in her head that Allison, a woman she has spoken to for a grand total of maybe 10 minutes over the last year and half, should not have just one dog apron. Oh no, Cynthia decides that Allison should have a collection of dog aprons.

Dog aprons galore!We set out to purchase all the dog print fabric we can find and over a several weeks we come up with quite a few. Cynthia takes a few days and sews together 7 aprons.

Allison’s band plays at the Big Top two Saturdays a month and we settle on a date to ambush her during a show with the aprons. Last night was the night and we showed up with 7 separate gift bags, each containing one apron. As Allison is playing a song Cynthia goes up to the stage and places a bag at her feet. We expected that she would open the bag at the end of the song and be surprised to receive an apron and then continue presenting a new bag during each subsequent song.

As it turned out, Allison eyed the bag and made a comment about her curiosity but did not open it. As she started up the next song Cynthia placed another gift bag at Allison’s feet. When the song ended one of her band mates asked what was in the bags and Allison said she did not know. Still she did not open the bag and started the next song and, as before, Cynthia place the third bag at Allison’s feet.

This went on for 7 songs with the conversation turning to the bags with more and more frequency. Eventually Allison did open the bags and was quite flabbergasted but seemingly delighted at having an instant dog apron collection.

In fact, she even played the rest of the show wearing an apron. We got her and her husband/drummer Clint to pose for a picture and a good time was had by all.

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Clint and Allison

God knows what the patrons of the club who witnessed this must have been thinking. Not that we really care. I’d like to think it adds to the mystique of the Big Top and to the Allison Fisher musical experience.

The most important thing is that Cynthia enjoyed playing this out and I think Allison was not only a good sport, but enjoyed this rather surreal evening as well.

Dog on a motorcycle

People often ask me why I always carry a camera with me all the time.

This is why:

Dog on a motorcycle
Click to enlarge

I was sitting at the bar of The Big Top Lounge on Main St. having a drink with some friends. We were just killing some time before the Astros game last night.

I just happened to look out the window and saw this guy waiting at the light at Alabama. I was able to run out the door, camera in hand and snap two quick shots before the light changed and the dynamic duo sped off, presumably to fight crime.

Technically, not a great picture, but in terms of subject matter you just can’t plan for something like this.

Musical time warp…

On almost any given Friday you can catch Molly and the Ringwalds serving up a heaping helping of 80’s standards on the main stage of the Houston Continental Club.

In the early days of my digital photography they were one of my most photographed bands. They’re fun to watch and good sports about getting their pictures taken, especially Dekan Ringwald (the lead guitar player) who is actually a bit of a cam-whore and can sense something as small as a camera phone from over 50 yards away in a dark room and strike the right pose.

The new camera yielded some excellent results last night:

From there it was off to the Big Top to catch the Light Rock Express and their stylized brand of 70’s light rock hits.

The two best pictures from that show:

This is Mitch Pauls (aka Paul Bebee)

Looks like he’s added another “L” to the light rock lexicon…lip hair.

This is Thomas Escalante, proprietor of Sig’s Lagoon and lead singer for Clouseaux.

He came in toward the end of the evening and sang a few songs, one of which was “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer. Thomas just doesn’t look like someone who should be able to hit those high notes, yet he did so flawlessly.

Light Rock Express

Snapping a few random pictures at the Light Rock Express show at The Big Top produced this rather interesting shot.

It looks as though someone let the Löwenbräu genie out of the bottle…
Either that or Gene, the drummer for Molly and the Ringwalds and William S. Graham, Manager of the Light Rock Express, are smoking from a Löwenbräu hookah of some sort.

And what’s that glowing orb above Bill’s head?
Could it be the ghost of Shoeshine Charlie himself?

Give me an A! Give me an L! Give me another L! Give me an E! Give me an N!

When the stars align and the moon is just right, spending an evening at Shoeshine Charlie’s Big Top Lounge (that little place 3 doors down from the Continental Club) enjoying the musical stylings of Allen Hill, self proclaimed “King of the Oldies” and his band or renown, The Allen Oldies Band can be a singular magical experience. Last night was one of those nights.

Allen Hill - King of the Oldies

The Big Top is one of the harder venues to photograph. The lighting, while pleasing in some regards to the naked eye, is not camera friendly in the least. I am continuing to experiment with the manual setting of my camera and I am pleased with the results. Even so, it is becoming more apparent that I will need to upgrade at some point if I want to get better results. I have definitely run up against the limitations of this hardware.

More images of “The King”

Merry Ho Ho Ho!

You gotta give Dune TX credit, they made the Big Top very festive during their 6th Annual dunetXMAS Freakout show on Saturday night.

At the homestead Cynthia is baking cookies and the house is smelling like the holidays.
We had Jim over for dinner and dominoes on Sunday and gave him an early xmas gift.

It’s a Tracker IV metal detector. Jim has been enjoying finding coins lately.
Just pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters here and there. Figured he could use the assistance.
I got one for me, too.
Now we’re going to be those old guys you see walking down the beach our out at the park in the cold, scanning for treasure.

We’re gonna be rich I tells ya! Rich beyond our wildest dreams!

Musical time travel

Seeing Beetle at the Big Top last night had the look and feel of what it might have been like to see The Beatles at the Cavern in Liverpool back in the day.

The Knitters put on a fine show at The Continental Club which also hearkened to a bygone musical era.

Gosh, I recall listening to X way back in the early 80’s as I was sowing the seeds of my musical dissidence.