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Broken Heart Rodeo

Next month I am having my first solo gallery show in town. The photography show’s theme is the musicians of Eugene, Oregon. Fortunately, I have good friends that are musicians. They decided to get together and volunteer to play the opening event for me. I am very excited about this event.

One of the bands is called “Broken Heart Rodeo“, and the members come from four different bands. Le Rev, Pancho + The Factory, Booty White and his Contraband and Holler House. They are getting together to play some honky-tonk songs. I decided I needed to get some promo shots of the band. They let me come to the last hour of practice to shoot some pictures. However I thought this might be more of a dress rehearsal. It was not, but we made it work.

Show details

Eugene Musicians in Pictures: May 5th at Shadowfox, 5:30—8 pm (First Friday Tour Stop at 6:30 pm)

Over the last several years, Tom Chamberlain has photographed more than his fair share of live music. All of the images he will exhibit are of Eugene musicians performing on stage at various local venues. He enjoys photographing musicians because of his love for live music.

The opening reception will feature musical performances by SurfsDrugs and Broken Heart Rodeo, who will both perform again at Luckey’s for the post-reception party.

About a dozen prints of various sizes will be exhibited and for sale at Shadowfox. Every penny that Tom collects for prints will be donated to Eugene MASV (Musicians Against Sexual Violence), a non-profit coalition of musicians, artists, entertainers and activists working to prevent sexual violence in the community’s night scene and to empower victims/survivors who are performers and audience members.

Another Great Pancho Show

There is a huge difference between shooting live music and experiencing a show. I photograph a lot of shows. There are some acts that I put more work into than others. Some bands but more work into their show than others. So how I approach each set is different. To me there’s more to a good show than just good songs. When I go to show, I think I want a little more.

Pancho + The Factory is one of those acts that I love to shoot and love watching. However, photographing a show can really separate you from the experience. When I’m photographing Pancho, I shoot a lot of frames, but I do my best to experience the show as well. This last show happened to be on my birthday. I don’t work on my birthday, but I love these guys so much, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I had great access to the stage and to the photo-pit, so getting some good images was easier. There were a lot of people at this show. Pancho opened for Ty Segal at the Hi-Fi Music Hall. Navigating the crowd wasn’t easy at all. I don’t mind working for it though. I think there is something special gets translated into images when the photographer likes the music.

I will have more images published in Fade In Chorus next week with a show review.

An Evening with the Suburban Dead

Last Wednesday I got the opportunity to photograph Pancho + the Factory. I have been wanting to get a shoot with those guys for weeks now. They have a big show coming up and a bunch of new songs, but Steve giving me that precious practice time with them was fantastic.

There was no time to shoot a group shot, so it was one on one. I had 90 minutes to shoot seven head-shots while they were working on their stage-faces. I had to cycle through the group whilst learning my new 120cm octagon-softbox. I’ve used large softboxes before, but I have never used an octagon this large. It does make beautiful light that wraps around the subject. I think I still have a little ways to go with this thing before I really get the hang of it. I also had a limited amount of space to work in. I had not been to their practice space before, so I didn’t know what to expect. There was a large step-van in front and it blocked the wall I wanted to shoot in front of. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate the way I would have liked either. Fortunately there was a good overhang for the band. I however spent most of the time shooting in a light rain.

The shoot was fun, and I can’t wait to shoot more with this band. There is one necessity that I need when photographing a band with six or more members, a good assistant. I was lucky to have Michelle there to wrangle the gang for me. It’s always nice to have someone carry stuff for you too.

The Vivitar 90-230mm f4.5 Review

The lens that you didn’t know you didn’t need.

This is almost a review of a lens. I don’t do technical reviews, this is just a usability review.

Without going too far into Vivitar’s history, Vivitar is an American photo-equipment company that didn’t actually make their own equipment. In regards to their lenses, they would contract independent lens manufacturers, mostly in Japan to make the lenses that they would re-badge with their name on it. These lenses were generally very high quality. Often the lenses were just as nice as Canon, Pentax and Nikon in the 1970s and 80s.

This particular lens was a popular zoom range for nature photography enthusiasts. This lens was made by Tokina and has a very interesting TX lens mount interface. Tokina had four versions; T1, T2, T4 and TX. This allows the lens to mount to different cameras. This came with the Konica AR adapter. I don’t have any Konica 35mm cameras, but I do already own an M42 TX adapter. So, that made it easy to test.

How I came to own this lens?

I found this lens in a thrift store, it was $9. The lens doesn’t have a scratch on it. The lens doesn’t even look like it’s ever been used. So I bought it.

Let’s talk about how it handles.

I mounted to my Fujifilm X-E1. The first thing I noticed, it’s weight. It is a heavy lens and long, just about 7½ inches. It was quite awkward to hold. However, despite it’s weight and size it actually felt better when I mounted it to my Pentax Spotmatic 35mm film camera. My favorite feature though, the length of the lens doesn’t change when zooming or even when focusing. It’s a fun lens to use, 90-230mm seems odd nowadays, but it works well for photographing in the ducks in the park. It has a long focus throw, so it’s very easy to get fine focus.

How is the image quality?

Image quality is fine. It’s not going to get any awards on DxOMark. You don’t buy this lens for image quality, you buy it because it’s a really cheap zoom. Another feature it has that I had not mentioned, the lens also has a “close-focus” mode on the zoom ring, it moves the rear element further away from the image plane. In a similar fashion as the Sears 28-200mm f4-5.6 lens I reviewed in November. When in CLOSE • FOCUS there is a fair bit vignetting and distortion. Personally, I don’t mind that so much. The lens is sharp enough for my taste. Can it go head to head with a modern zoom lens? No, I don’t think so, but again, that is not why I would use this lens.

Final thoughts on this lens.

I like this lens, but it’s not an every situation lens. Personally I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, if I know I’m going down to the river to photograph the waterfowl I think I would still prefer my 200mm f3.5 prime. This would not be great as a portrait lens because of the f4.5 maximum aperture. It would work, but not ideal. A lot of its shortcomings are about its size. If you don’t have shelves full of vintage lenses like I do, then this thing just might be right up your alley.

Shot on Fujicolor Xtra 400 film:

Shot on a Fujifilm mirrorless camera:

Women’s March in Eugene

I walked out my door at 11am to go to the march. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how any people would be there. My plan was not to document, but I always carry a camera. The 15 minute walk to downtown Eugene was pretty quiet, so I just assumed this event would be fairly mellow. I knew I had friends there so I hoped to meet up with them. The crowds poured on the little street in front of the Courthouse from all directions. It was amazing. I don’t think anyone was expecting such a turn out.

I was completely surrounded and somewhat overwhelmed. The idea of trying find my friends seemed too daunting of a task. I wandered a bit through the crowd and settled on a nice spot. The people all around me were in such a great mood, it was a lovely scene I found myself in. Sure, there were a lot of signs that weren’t very flattering to the incoming administration, but it was clear everybody here came from a place of a peace, love and respect.

It’s time to march

The organizers over-estimated the crowds patience to stand around in the pouring rain. Everybody was a bit antsy to get to the marching part of the march. Everybody was great, the traffic was patient and the police did a great job of getting the marchers where they needed to go. When we made it downtown a resident of the Tiffany Building put a speaker on the ledge and played some pop music for the crowd, it went over well.

Don’t call it a protest.

This march was a call for solidarity. Many people are worried and angry that the incoming administration will destroy what we have left of democracy and the planet. I’m certain the pro-DT residents of Lane county are angry about the match, but that anger will eventually lead to hate. That hate eats away at person’s soul and it’s so hard to come back from that. Events like these really just bring people together and let everyone know they’re not alone.

Happy New Year!

Eugene Psychedelic Ball

No New Year’s Eve party is complete with a bunch bands crushing it all night long.

This was a lot of show. I caught a piece of every band that played and I tried to get good shots of each band but you know how it can get crazy at a NYE show.

Year in Portraits – 2016

The “Year in Pictures” thing is a popular theme this time of year. I think a lot of photographers love the retrospective.

This year I put together a group of my favorite portraits. Most of these are not “sit and smile” shots. In fact they are off-the-cuff shots of friends and family. those are often my favorite images. As I was going through my Lightroom catalog, I saw shot almost 30,000 images. I know that I do enjoy revisiting my past images.

I learned going through the last twelve months of images; I haven’t shot enough portraits. I will have to address that shortcoming in 2017.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Photographers

This is a story of one of my recent failures, sort of…

Last Friday there was a show I wanted to shoot. I hit up the organizers and got a media pass and I was ready to shoot. It was a long show, with lots of performers. I try to go into every gig with a game plan. I knew what I was getting into, but I just did not get what I wanted when I left.

What was the plan?

My plan was to shoot as many individual portraits as I could while in the green-room. I would grab them between sets and sit them down. I knew how I wanted the images to look. I knew that there was a lot of stage time as well, so I would just go back and forth from the main stage to the green-room. I felt this would be pretty straight forward and easy to pull off.

What did I do wrong?

I brought light-stands, umbrellas, and strobes. I thought I was prepared and I felt like I was prepared too and just did not get there early enough. I walked through the door and there was musical equipment everywhere. The “get there first” approach has always worked well for me. I should have gotten there an hour earlier than I did and scooped up a good spot to set up my lights and chair. I needed to create a space just for shooting and kept clear of clutter.

The room doesn’t have very good ambient light and my auto focus isn’t so great in low light, an extra lamp would have been helpful. I snapped so many pictures and when I got them into Lightroom, they were out focus. I could plainly see that my auto-focus just did not get the right point. I didn’t know most of the players, I never knew who to photograph or when to photograph. People were running around all over the place. Some people got there late and I found it difficult to go back and forth from the stage to get shots in both places. I was really upset with myself. I could have planned things better than I did. I never do well when I’m rushed.

Events like the one I just attended are very fluid and I need to be just as fluid. I should have brought somebody to help me round people up and I should have been more clear on what else I wanted to. I feel I could have done it right, and I can’t whine about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I managed to edit down 90 images that I really liked. Only six of those were from sittings in the green-room though.

What did I learn?

I learned not to take a situation for granted. I know to get the location early. I understand that no situation is as perfect as it seems. I think this is why I am so frustrated with myself, because I know where I went wrong before it actually went wrong.

I had a photography teacher that made one statement very clear; you either got the shot, or you didn’t.

So now I just have to get back out there and have a clear plan of what I want and learn to adapt to situations more fluidly. These kinds of gigs come up from time to time. At the very least, the organizers were very happy with the 90 images I supplied to them. At least I have that going for me.

Forty Five Minute Close-up

My love for funky lenses of a certain vintage is no secret.

Today, weather played a factor in the amount of time I had with a Sears 28-200mm f4-5.6 macro lens. I only had a small window of time to walk around the neighborhood with this lens.

2016-11-22-70

Macro vs. Close-up

There is a difference between macro photography and close-up photography. Often times lens manufacturer’s marketing departments will brand lenses as macro, but in reality the lenses are only capable of 1:4 to 1:8 magnification. Macro photography is the practice of photographing small subjects to appear large. Usually with a magnification of 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. Typically this means a proper macro lens has a very close focusing distance.

Using this argument; the lens I tested today is a close focusing zoom lens. Depending on the zoom, the ratio this lens rates at a 1:4 magnification ratio at 28mm and a 1:7 ratio at 200mm. In macro mode at 28mm I can bring the front lens element just shy of 4in (10cm) and 200mm the closest I get is roughly 48in (1.2M). This is pretty darn close. In normal mode, 28mm close focus is 8ft (2.5M), and at 200mm the close focus is 6ft (1.2M). The way the lens achieves the close focus is by a twist ring that pulls the rear element further away from the sensor. This lets you focus closer but it prevents you from focusing to infinity. This is great because it bypasses the need for extension tubes. This is a novel idea.

Ok, so how does this thing handle?

It doesn’t handle very well. This lens is heavy. The front filter ring is a 72mm, there is a lot of glass in this monster. I don’t have a scale, but it weighs noticeably more than my Canon EF70-200 f4L. With the adapter for the Fujifilm-X series, the lens is just about 7in (18cm) long and add another inch (2.54cm) at 200mm. This is not a photowalking lens. It’s awkward, bulky and is difficult to focus. I don’t much care for push/pull zoom lenses either. This lens is just not very well suited for the way I like to work.

I did notice that this lens has a real t-stop issue compared to prime lenses. T-stop is the measurement of the actual amount of light that the lens allows to pass through. This is not to be confused with f-stop, which is calculated by the diameter of the iris as it relates to the focal length.

I did a quick comparison with two prime lenses. I metered through a 28mm and a 200mm prime lens set at f5.6. Both prime lenses let in slightly more than 1 stop of light compared to equivalent focal length in the Sears 28-200 zoom lens. This is very common with older zoom lenses, and a big reason I don’t usually use vintage zoom lenses. Prime lenses do have several advantages but convenience is probably not one of them.

Because of the t-stop shortcomings, using this lens on a cloudy day means boosting the ISO higher than I really like. This lens is difficult to hand hold at 200mm in many conditions.

Image quality is the most important feature to me.

I was a little surprised, this lens fared a bit better than I thought it would. This lens does not come close to the resolving power of modern glass, but the images I got from it were pretty good for my taste. There is some chromatic aberration that is easily managed. Shooting close-up, the lens is pretty sharp, as long as you could hold the camera still that is. The vignetting is not too bad either, especially for a zoom lens of this vintage. Despite its weight, it doesn’t feel particularly well built. It’s a little wonky.

Final thoughts.

It’s a cool lens, albeit with limited practicality. I enjoyed using it, but it is not a lens I can recommend for a casual photographer, whether shooting film or digital. It’s not a true macro, but it can be handy for a few situations if you don’t own extension tubes. Extension tubes will give a better quality on a prime lens than with this zoom. However, if close-up image making is not your usual thing and someone gives you this lens, then by all means take it and get an adapter.

I’ll certainly use it again, but it’ll be under very limited circumstances.