And the et. al means I could not keep up with the names of the 33 musicians who showed up to play at what is becoming "the event" for blues musicians in the Bay Area. Organized by local blues musician Akarsha Kumar, a.k.a. Aki, who plays harp and vocals for Tip of the Top.
Aki is a charismatic organizer who has made the Dell Saloon on Thursday night a special place for musicians. They come, sign in with Aki, and rotate through songs with the beneficiary being the crowd that comes to listen. More and more, big blues names are showing up, just to play and hang out with their peers. Last night was a big night of names, which I unfortunately don't know them all. Terry Hanck was the feature, and he as Aki plans, plays later in the evening. Terry is a distinctive looking and sounding blues musician who sings and plays sax.
And boy does he get it on!
And when he blows the sax, well the place goes wild!
What is interesting, the smiles on the other musician faces sitting and standing in the audience. They clearly enjoy the performances by fellow artists and likewise the performance is serious because you are playing in front of your peers. But it all starts off with Aki, who is the "Master of Ceremonies" for the Thursday night event. Here is one of the early rotations with local musicians and Aki playing and singing. You can see how intimate the setting, which is wonderful for the audience.
As the night plays on, others come to the stage for a few tunes, return to talk with friends and fellow musicians, all the while enjoying the atmosphere and camaraderie of it all.
The morale of the story and my guess, if you like blues, come soon and come early. The reason being, it would not surprise me to see a line out the door in the not to distant future as word of this music hub spreads amongst the blues listening community. Places like this don't exist anymore, harkens back to 60's when this was fairly common. Money, big stages, and ego's changed all that except for this little part of Campbell Ca. at the Grand Dell Saloon.
Julie is very detail oriented so she insists on a smooth complete experience in her workshops. And she has really come up with a terrific one. She has scheduled these pano vistas that are breath taking, including some creative photography experience, beautiful vines, ranch housing and an inside look at a live agriculture farm with history and great things to photograph. She will have examples of all this, and the cool part, beginning photographers will come away with professional images. Can't beat that! And if you folks behave, a little wine tasting my be on the agenda. And maybe, just maybe, you will see some very famous photography from a California legend. This workshop will be transforming for beginners, getting incredible images, learning through experienced shooting.
So today was spent planning, double checking, but I did manage to squeak out a few images which all of you will experience in the workshop. I converted to black and white simple for illustration purposes.
Think about the potential in these locations.
And when you tire of amazing scenics, you can always take self portraits!
I'm in Northern California with Julie Kitzenberger as she prepares for her upcoming workshop.
Julie has all these special locations she scouts and finds for amazing photography. Her images are popular in galleries and for the first time, she is going to share these locations. I'm not a wine country photographer, but I'm stunned at the quality of these spots. To give you some idea of what is here, I took several shots.
And here is another image, both of these in the afternoon. Tomorrow is all day.
Now for the very unusual, but common place for Julie
And these are just the vines, there is so much more!
These are just my snapshots from this afternoon. Julie's knowledge of these locations is special, so take advantage of this before it fills up! And enjoy some nice wine at the tasting rooms after a hard day of shooting. So if you want to have some fun on October 21,21 and an optional 23, check out this workshop.
So I took the Jump Kings and decided to create four different looks for the band. Image number one is the honky tonk look. Guitar player clearly in a bar, old time microphone, could have been 40 years ago except for the sideburns(too short). The second image, a traditional 3 piece band portrait. Everyone is playing, nothing really unusual, pretty straight forward. The third image brings in the audience, makes the place look real, clearly a club of some sort. Also a pretty traditional image with atmosphere created by the people in the audience. The fourth image is my favorite, funky, more creative black and white, looks like I stole the image from the expression of the lead guitar. To be honest, I didn't capture the images with these descriptions in mind, but I shoot from many different angles. I try for different looks and always have black and white in my head, texture is something that attracts me. I like the mirror which I originally hated, but it provides some cool lighting with the flash reflections. I shot the last image trying to frame the harmonica player. I was looking through the viewfinder, trying to get an angle when I saw the lead guitar player look at me, bang I got him. I also like the dirty mirror and reflection of people. It turned out to be a gritty image, something you might see in a New Orleans underground magazine. Bye the way, these guys are terrific musicians. The Dell is a throw back to "joints" in the 50's and early 60's when music was good, raw, and the musicans loved to play for the sake of the music. It is a cross section of society, all smiling for the same reason, the terrific blues music.
Life is full of ups and downs, waiting on the band is a metaphor for all of us wanting something badly but aren't quite there yet. Some people handle it well, wait patiently, while others have difficulty coping. So in keeping with this, I photographed these two extremes. Waiting on the Band I, shows the instruments without musicians but in the mirror, people are enjoying themselves in the bar. The impression of coping, waiting patiently.
Not all folks cope well, pain is often an obvious thing, expressed in our physical appearance as well as our posture.
So you don't feel bad, as soon as the band started playing, he was out on the floor looking like a "new" man.
You might respond, I don't know, what does it mean? It is when you begin repeating your own style of photography, getting bored, loosing that special feel of a new image. I have been down this path several times so I know how it feels. I get it most often when shooting in iconic locations, it takes work to find something special. So what do you do?
I was not long ago at a briefing for a field trip being conducted by Brian Tramontana, Photography Chairman of West Valley College in Saratoga California. He talked about this subject. He had an exercise which he uses periodically to invigorate style and creativity, by pushing the photographer into an entirely new space. Basically he provided a list of well known photographers whose work is well documented, studied, and available. Many of these photographers were no longer living, but some were still around and active. Secondly, you pick one and study the style, talk with the group/class about the type of images captured, technique used, and point of view. Thereafter, you go out and shoot like your selected photographer. Brian gives a target number of images, you go out and shoot, returning with your images to discuss with the class/group.
I did not participate but talked with him about the exercise. I think this gives insight into getting out of a photographic rut. To use a computer term, you have to reboot your own creative style, vision, and photographic technique. Doesn't mean you are going to change a great deal, but forcing things to be totally different will help get your juices flowing again. Shoot in a style totally different from your own, with one lens, see if you find some new technique out of this that you can incorporate into your everyday quiver. For example, shoot wide, fixed not zoom, with a low perspective. Put something "big" in the foreground of every image, try making the lens second nature. Or, if you normally shoot wide to normal, take the longest lens you have shoot on the maximum only. If it's a 70-200mm, shoot everything at 200/wide open. See if you can get some great images, add a technique to your arsenal. Most people get pumped up by reading about some technique, but you can discover one for yourself, just work with a new technique of your own making. Not all work, but bet you learn something regardless.
Notice the number of people getting excited about shooting with an Iphone or other phone camera, it's a different technique, has a new set of rules, but most find it fun. The same holds true for pocket cameras, they are always with you and fun to use.
It is breaking with what you are doing, finding new enjoyment and reward that gets you out of the rut. The first step is to to do something totally different where the outcome is unpredictable but fun and exciting. Bet that works, try it.
Here is an image, you likely have seen before that represents my following this advice. I was recently shooting a band, a bit bored because there is only so much you can do. Secondly, the purpose of the photographs is to show off the band, not work on energizing your creative juices. So, you are aware of who is in the image, what they are doing, trying not to capture "ugly" faces if you can avoid it. In other words, get good images of the band. To be honest that does not take long, then you attention span starts to slip. So I decided to shoot low and odd, trying to find something different. It was not working, then Virginia Becker who along with her husband Albert were with me that night, said something about the guitar players fingers. She had seen me shooting at this angle. Well I followed her advice, and captured my favorite image of the evening. Likely not the favorite of the owner or the band since both want band photos but I loved it. I'm going to get more of these type images at the next gig, so it worked for me. Those flat finger tips tell a story I have not heard. At least not yet. See, I'm looking for more images that just cry out story. I'm pumped!
This is the real deal, old original roots blues music. Described as down home, back porch, crossroads, and hellhounds all at once, NYC blues guitarist Bill Sims and VT harmonica player Mark LaVoie rock the crowd at the Dell tonight. Between them, Sims and LaVoie have played with legends such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. They have been touring for 15 years as a duo and their old-school sound harkens back to a time before electricity turned the blues up loud, when feel and soul were everything.
The crowd really appreciated the quality of this music, attentive and responsive to every number. This was a real treat for everyone. Here are some images from tonight's performance.
But their are other ways to view these guys, more unconventional that give some glimpse into the soulful way they perform.
In the next photo, check out the fingers of a guitar blues man, he didn't start this yesterday!
And they could sing and blow!
And finally for the evening, Mark really gets the music.