KISS Alive 35

There is no band I know of more iconic in terms of sound AND appearance than KISS. Love ’em or hate ’em, you know ’em when you see ’em and you won’t confuse KISS with any other band in existence. In the mid 70’s I went to every single show they toured, starting in 1975 and ending in the 1983 when they showed up with Wendy O Williams and the Plasmatics as an opener.

When I heard they were coming to Houston for their 35th anniversary show I really, REALLY wanted to photograph the event. It took some wrangling, but I eventually scored press credentials to provide photos for Craig Hlavaty’s review in The Houston Press.

I’ve shot a lot of small and mid-sized concerts, but this was my first big rock show. I was really appreciative of Technology Bytes co-host Groovehouse’s presence at the show. He had an extra photo release form which I needed to fill out plus an extra set of ear plugs which really made the difference.

The opening act was a band called Buckcherry and we got to shoot their first three songs. I wasn’t all that interested in their performance, but it was an opportunity to get a feel for the layout and I treated it as a warm up. We were only allowed to shoot the first three songs by KISS and I was sweating it a little. The typical scenario is three songs and even it’s not a lot of time to settle in and get your shots.

For this show I carried both my new Sony A850 and my Sony A700. The former mounted with my Zeiss 24-70 and the latter with my Tamron 70-200. Both lenses served their purpose and I was glad to have them. Overall, though, the A850 with the Zeiss wide angle was the most useful rig for this show.

I gotta hand it to KISS, they really put on a show. For the first two songs they played it up for the photographers and gave us plenty of opportunities to get some fantastic photos. I’ve never had a band do that before and it was a real treat. Be sure and read Craig’s review of the whole show at The Houston Press for the set-list and other observations.

Here are a few of my favorites from the evening. Click any image to see a larger version.

KISS
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KISS

KISS

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KISS

KISS

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KISS

KISS

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KISS

KISS

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KISS

KISS

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KISS

Additional photos in my Flickr gallery.

Squabble Of Wrens

Cynthia and I were in the TV room when we heard a commotion outside the front window. We looked out and spotted an adult Carolina Wren herding 3-4 fledglings through the front garden. After a bit they moved past the window and out of sight. I grabbed my camera and threw on the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

When I opened the front door I was surprised to see the mamma wren on the Bottlebrush tree right next to the porch.

Mamma Wren

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Mamma Wren

Right after I snapped her picture she chittered loudly and flew off only to be replaced by one of the fledglings

Baby Wren

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Baby Wren

Who soon departed only to be replaced by another

Baby Wren

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Baby Wren

And this went on as the family continued moving from one side of the front garden to the other. It was a sight to see and noisy! The adult Wrens were fussing at the babies and at us as we watched and the babies were making the usual “feed me” noises…

Fleetwood Mac @ The Toyota Center

After the Geek Gathering I wandered over to the Continental Club where I ran into Chris Gray, the music dude for The Houston Press. He asked if I was free on Saturday as he needed someone to shoot the Fleetwood Mac concert @ The Toyota Center. I told him I was available and he asked if I had a “long lens” because the photographers were going to have to shoot from the soundboard which is a pretty good distance from the stage.

My longest concert lens is my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 which works out to be about 300mm on my crop sensor Sony Alpha 700. I told him I would give it a try.

When I arrived @ The Toyota Center there were two other photographers, one with a Canon and a 400mm f/2.8 and another with a Nikon connected to a 300mm f/2.8 and each was armed with a monopod, something I have not yet invested in.

We were escorted to the soundboard before the show started and I was a little disheartened at the distance from the stage which was about 3/4 of the way to the back of the floor seats.

This shot was taken @ 70mm and gives you an idea of the distance

Fleetwood Mac

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Fleetwood Mac

Yea, it was back a ways. I shot the show fully extended at 200mm without the benefit of a monopod. Thank you built in image stabilization from Sony!

Stevie Nicks

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Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks

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Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks

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Stevie Nicks

Lindsey Buckingham

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Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham

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Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham

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Lindsey Buckingham

Not bad, but I would have liked to have been closer, or had a lens with more reach and a monopod. Just not sure

Perigee Moon

Tonight was a full moon. Not only that, but the moon was at perigee. What that means is that the moon was full at the point it was closest to the Earth in it’s elliptical orbit.

From The Royal Observatory Greenwich

“On average, the Moon is 378,000 km away, and at furthest, it is 399,300 km away from the Earth’s surface. So the full Moon is 6% closer than average, and so 11% brighter than average! (Or, to put it another way, it is 11% bigger & 20% brighter than when the Moon is at its furthest point away from us).”

NASA estimated that the moon could appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons this year.

What that meant to me was I could try shooting it with my 200mm lens rather than my 300mm lens, which is a little soft fully extended.

The above shot is a 100% crop of the photo I took. Not something that could be printed, but pretty nice for the Web.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Migratory Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I originally thought they were Orange-crowned Warblers, but further research and a reader tip indicates I may have mis-identified them.

You can compare here:
Orange-crowned Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The wing-bars seem to be the tell….

They visit our yard each winter and are extremely elusive in terms of getting a photo. Today there were two of them in the front yard and they seemed oblivious to my presence. So oblivious, one nearly landed on my arm while I was shooting the pictures. Even so, they dart around so quickly and erratically they are not easy to photograph.

Shiny Euros

Shiny Euros

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Shiny Euros

We have received our travelin’ Euros for the upcoming trip. I love the colour of European money. The holograms are so pretty. It’s like play money in that it doesn’t look real, but it also evokes the passion I associate with travel. Having Euros in hand makes the whole thing more “real”, if that makes any sense.

Of course, being the shutterbug I am, I wanted to photograph the bills as a matter of course so I played with different configurations and ended up with the above shot.

When I had finished procressing the RAW file and went to open it in Photoshop CS3, the strangest thing happened. This message popped up saying “”This Application Does Not Support the Printing of Banknote Images”:

In doing some research, this seems to be the same for the new American bills that were recently issued.

What stikes me is that this is not a scan of the Euro notes. It’s a photograph and it doesn’t even include a complete, unobscured bill in the photo. Yet Photoshop recognized the content of the image and produced that warning and, presumably, will not print it in the unaltered form.

It only let me save the oringinal file as PNG and I have not tried to print it.

Technology is cool!

Telephoto

I’ve been wanting a fast lens with a bit of telephoto reach. The Minolta “Beercan” 70-210 I picked up recently is a great lens, but with a max aperture of f/4 it simply was not capable of giving me what I needed in low light situations.

Sony offers the Sony AF 70-200 F2.8 G SSM SAL-70200G. It’s one of their top of the line, highly coveted “G” series lenses. Basically a re-branding of the Minolta AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Apo G (D) SSM with a few updates and modifications.

You can pick up the Sony for just under $2,000 and find the Minolta on the second hand market for few hundred dollars less. There’s also a Minolta 80-200mm f/2.8 which you can readily find on EBay for around $1,300.

I had a chance to play with the Sony version and it’s an EXTREMELY nice lens. The HSM (high speed motor) makes it lightning fast to focus and it produces fantastic images. And I am sure the older Minolta lenses do as well. But crimminy! It’s a lot of money for a lens.

That’s not to say I wasn’t ready to spend it, because I REALLY wanted something in this focal range for concert work.

As I was researching I became aware of two lenses that were announced for the Sony mount. The Sigma 70-200mm HSM and the Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro. Both lenses were out for Canon and Nikon, but not available yet for Sony but would be by the Sept/October time frame.

What was particularly interesting about these lenses was that they retailed for much less than the Sony/Minolta branded lenses. The Sigma runs around $800 and the Tamron for $700.

Reading the reviews and looking at test shots, the Tamron was producing some great imges on the Canons and Nikonas and looked like it could offer some real competition for the Sony 70-200mm.

Sharp wide open and even sharper stopped down a bit. Good colors and contrast. It lacked the HSM of the Sony so focusing would be a bit slower and not as quiet but hey, I’m not shooting sports or in silence so it looked to suit my needs just fine. And for $1300 less.

All I had to do was wait for the lens to be released in the Sony mount and see what the critics had to say. In the mean time, I decided to sell off some of my unused lenses as well as some old GI JOE action figures on EBay to fund the pending purchase if the pundits pontificated positively about the lens.

Sure enough, once the lens was released Sony owners who purchased them started to post samples on various discussion forums. Reports were glowing of how well this lens performed and the sample images bore this out. The drawbacks were as I expected in terms of focusing speed and noise.

The Sigma received favorable reviews and while it featured the fast focusing HSM, reports were that the image quality was not as good as the Tamron. Close, but not as good.

I chose the Tamron for image qulaity over the Sigma’s fast focusing.

I waited to see if one would show up on Ebay for a reasonable price and as soon as one did I used the proceeds from my EBay sales to snap it up. I also used the Live Search Cashback feature I used previously for an additional 30% off and picked the lens up for a song.

My initial impressions are very good. The lens focuses well, even at f/2.8 and works well in macro mode.

Here are a few samples:

Bee

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Bee

Leaf

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Leaf

Oh yea, the in-body image stabilization of the Sony takes this lens even further. A Nikon lens in this focal range that’s this fast with image stabilization is around $1700 as is the Canon.

Go Sony!