Andrew Parker-Renga live at Nectar’s!

Last week, Andrew Parker-Renga put out the call on Facebook that he would be back in Burlington, Vermont recording a live album at Nectar’s. I was first introduced to his music through my friends in The Grift and now that I live in the neighborhood, what could I do but join him?

Andrew Parker-Renga: Live Music at Nectar's in Burlington, Vermont (1)

Andrew played two sets of music starting off with a more standard singer/songwriter set and finishing by adding some looping and beatboxing. APR’s lyrics and melodies are catchy, but his use of technology really amplifies a one man show into something much larger.

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The lights in Nectar’s can range between awesome and miserable from a photographic perspective.  On this particular evening, they (Sergey?) had the lights on a nice rotating pattern that kept things fresh and provided some texture. I did, however, spice it up with a little Strobist action on some of the shots. The only problem I continually run into is the fact that the front lights are gelled so red that skin tones are next to impossible to achieve.

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I’ll let you in on a little secret — if you see me shooting black & white at a show it’s generally because the lighting was incredibly red and monochromatic.

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(A side note, I love that even through the numerous renovations at Nectar’s, this light has remained a fixture. I’ve heard that the revolving sign outside is in need of some repair — I hope it hangs around for a while, too. )

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Great to hear you play again, Andrew! I’m looking forward to hearing the new album.

HDR in Rhode Island

And now, for something completely different. While I was in Rhode Island, I decided to try some HDR photography. It’s not something I do a lot of, but with this particular vacation I wasn’t willing to take the time to set up a shot when the light was right, so HDR seemed like a good solution. My mom has this theory of gardening – you learn when the best time is to transplant, cut, prune, etc., but you do it when you have the time. If it works out, great. I guess photography is the same way. I knew this was about the worst time of day to shoot and the cloud cover wasn’t going to be ideal. I didn’t have a tripod or neutral density filter on me so I couldn’t do any long exposure experimentation, so I thought I’d see if I could make some HDR “paintings.” The processing on these is a bit over the top and that’s by design. I’d like to print some of these on canvas and give them the feel of a painting.

For those of you who don’t know what HDR is, it stands for High Dynamic Range. The human eye is capable of adjusting very rapidly to a scene that contains very bright and very dark elements but the camera has a fixed range of brightness that it can capture in any single exposure. HDR is a way of tricking your camera into acting more like your eye; you take multiple photos at different exposure levels and merge them together. I don’t normally talk about technique or gear, so if you want to learn more you’re probably best off reading Trey Ratcliff’s HDR Tutorial.

So, one afternoon in Rhode Island we wandered over to Watch Hill to check out the lighthouse on the point and this is what we saw…

HDR photographs don’t have to be over the top. This next photo is much more subtle, but the texture in the wood and the color of the hedges really stands out in this version. It’s not perfect – you can see some halos in the upper left (I think a result of my lack of a tripod, but it could also be how I processed the photos.)

My opinion of HDR is changing over time. In the beginning I was fascinated; then it got really popular and I started to hate it. Now, I see it as a tool to keep available. The nice part about it is that you don’t have to bring any extra gear with you when you’re out shooting. A tripod is really all you need and it’s a good idea to travel with one of those anyway. I’ll continue to experiment with it and refine my technique.

It was certainly fun to shoot some new things while on vacation. So much of my time is spent taking photos of people — either weddings, portraits, parties, events, sports or otherwise — that I forget it can be fun to make images without people as well.

It’s probably opening a can of worms to ask, but what do you think about HDR? Useful? Interesting? Gaudy? Drop me a comment below.

P.S. – if these look familiar to you, it’s probably because we’re connected on Google+. I signed up just before going on vacation and decided to try using it while I was away. If you’re on Google+, too, add me to a circle and we can figure out a new platform together. If you’re not on Google+ but want to be, I’d be happy to send you an invite so you can sign up.

Hug Your Farmer: A Night of Music to Benefit Pete’s Greens

On January 12th, Pete’s Greens of Craftsbury, Vermont suffered a devastating fire. They lost their barn, equipment, crops & more. The community has rallied by collecting donations and holding auctions. On Thursday, Love Tomorrow Today and Select Design put on a benefit concert at Higher Ground in South Burlington, Vermont to help Pete’s Greens rebuild. The show featured Page McConnell and Jon Fishman of Phish, Clint Bierman and Peter Day of the Grift, Dave Grippo, Russ Lawton, Ray Paczkowski, Rich Price, Jer Coons, Will Evans, Matt Hagen, Mike Clifford, Joshua Panda, Brian McCarthy and more. The concert raised $26,000, all of which will go directly to Pete’s Greens.

The all-star cast of musicians played for about two hours, interrupted briefly by Peter Shumlin, the Governor of Vermont, who spoke about local food & renewable energy. I was impressed that he hung around for the rest of the show. As I was working through the crowd, I nearly bumped into him dancing up a storm in the middle of the room!

And for a quick reminder about why we were all there.  (Yes, that’s a carrot in his hand.)

While the fire is a real tragedy, I’m impressed at how it has galvanized our community and sparked a lot of great conversations about CSA’s, local & organic food, and what it means to live in Vermont. I can’t imagine living anyplace else.

Music Photography

Just before Thanksgiving, I was contacted by the Vermont band Shakedown to take some new photos for their website.  They had just experienced a shakeup and had some new members.  Normally, I connect up with bands in the spring, summer, and early fall and take outdoor photos around Burlington. This time, we met in a dance studio to set up the white background, a few lights, and take some indoor photos.

One of the benefits to traveling light is that setup and teardown is quick.  In about an hour and a half, we had set up everything, taken all the shots, and packed everything back into my car. (It helped that all of the band members showed up on time.) In that time, we took three or four group shots and a combination of full length, 3/4, and head shot photos of each band member.

I haven’t heard them play live yet, but I’m looking forward to it.  If you’re looking for a wedding band, I’d feel comfortable recommending them based on what I’ve seen so far. They’re prompt and professional when needed, but also fun people that can let loose and have a good time.

Jer Coons, Back at Higher Ground

Last Friday, in the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge, Jer Coons returned home to play for his friends & family. Opening for him were Seth Glier

and Jesse Ruben.

We didn’t hear about the show until the middle of the week, so I suspect that’s why the room wasn’t sold out. (Jer has a history of selling out the Showcase Lounge.)

After Jesse Ruben finished his set, the lights went down, the stage was prepped, and quietly, the band took their places. Sans Jer, they started into a driving rendition of the 2001 theme music and  Jer took the stage wearing a space suit.

And cowboy boots.

As he jumped into “Speak”

the crowd stared on in awe.

Clint Bierman hung out in the shadows, par for the course.

Peter Day brought out the upright bass.

Jamie Bright killed it on the keys.

and Jeff Vallone largely avoided my lens for the night. (Sorry Jeff!)

These are but a selection from the full gallery of photos from the evening.

Nice to see you back in town, Jer!  Looking forward to the next show. Give us a few more days notice next time, we’ll spread the word!

Portraits for a San Francisco based, but Vermont bred, musician

Early last month — you remember, then the temperatures were in the mid 90’s and the humidity matched — I connected up with Miranda Ferriss Jones to take some photos for her upcoming album. She was back in town visiting her family and had a vision for some photos contrasting the vintage dresses she performs in with the rustic farmhouse, barn, and tractor she grew up with. So, Tawny & I hopped in the car and drove down to Monkton from Burlington. It was a welcome road trip because it meant we had a brief reprieve from the heat in the car’s AC! We spent a couple of hours walking around using a few locations, one of which included the upper floor of the old barn which had to be well over 100° and filled with bat guano. Despite the heat, we had a lot of fun and came up with a variety of looks.

If you haven’t heard of Miranda before, I recommend visiting her site. She described herself as a singer-songwriter when she contacted me, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. While she writes and performs her own material, she’s got a heavy Jazz influence which is quite refreshing in today’s world of mediocre pop. Give her a listen!

It was nice to meet & work with you, Miranda.  Best of luck with the new album; I’m looking forward to hearing it!