concert: Sad Lovers & Giants

sometimes crazy things are done, and one of them is to coordinate European trips to attend concerts. I had never been to Berlin, and the chance came up to visit the city with a friend (from another city) and see Sad Lovers & Giants for the first time. I brought the massive gear, after all, some clubs are (practically) candle lit.

a big surprise was how much I came to like Berlin (over just four days), and that the concert photographic experience was to be so defining.

by then, I had a few ways to approach concert photography:

  1.  don't take too many photos.
  2.  need to photograph over the entire concert.
  3.  stand in one place, and stay put: concert attendance first, photography second.
  4.  look for the performer's "decompression moment" [ link ]
  5.  in low light, just fixed-focus on the microphone and let all else be as it will be.
  6.  think that a portrait is much better than kerrang! moments.

the downside for this concert was to have close-enough and unobstructed view only for Garçe and Tony, so they dominated the photos. luckily, the photos gathered the attention of Garçe, and I was able to secure a better vantage point later in the year when they played London. (did I mention how sometimes crazy things are done?)


selected photos posted to the Concert Portfolio [ link ]


for all that San Francisco has to offer, it has always been a challenge to photograph. there is much unique to San Francisco that is not offered in other prominent cities, but to "see" has been a little harder. I have been familiar with San Francisco for many years, and lived in it only for a few. I always viewed it as very photogenic, yet, in how I see photography functioning at this point, I am at a loss on how to photograph San Francisco.


most unexpectedly, viewing the city through a sliver in the prism of New Topographics, which is neither about how photogenic the city is, nor is it about how I see and experience the city, seems to offer some hope. 

the issue with this approach concerns its lack of intuition. meaning, it is an approach that I can "toy with", but it is not intuitive present on how to photograph it. this is very obvious when I look at the photographs, and then I am stumped on how to process them to represent the mood — which is what the intuition should be feeding at the moment of taking the photo.

it is also the case that it is too much of examples from Lewis Baltz and Paul Strand, in the way that I see them. Mr. Baltz is the sliver to New Topographics, but not in his vision of it, and the Mr. Strand is in bringing a visceral/intuitive and mono no aware** aspect to the photographs. yet, because they remain separate, it fails at its purpose: a cohesive view of San Francisco.


the Presidio and other corners

the Presidio grounds, while they are going corporate-gentrification, and other improvements, remains a photographic haven. it may be tempting to put the Golden Gate Bridge in some small detail, but like with the speech at the beginning of a flight: "the nearest exit may be behind you." that is, the appeal of the Presidio lies within itself, behind one's view of the bridge, and not as a foreground to the it.

these are all part of the mobile photography approach, with photos processed in Snapseed and CameraBag2.


** I am wondering: what would be the term for this in photography?

Loop live: the Soundheads

one of the curses of following a certain type of British, and European, bands is that they never make it to the USA for tours. and, some of them just come over sporadically — looking at you Tindersticks.

I am still holding out hope for the reunited Slowdive to make it to the USA, but I never thought that the reunited Loop would come to San Francisco. despite a bout with the cold/flu/crap-feel, it was a concert to attend. that it was three bands (+ Carlton Melton and White Fence), and it would start at 9pm was the worst to expect when sick, but hey...

Rob Hampson (Loop) at the Great American Music Hall (San Francisco)

Rob Hampson (Loop) at the Great American Music Hall (San Francisco)

an unusual situation was that there were no other people with cameras up front. there were more headbanging people, and that was great. so I was the only one with a non-phone camera up front, and another person with access taking some photos here and there from the side of the stage.

the concert was grand, and lived to all the desired experiences of seeing live music that was some 23 years since it was first heard, when I stumbled upon the release of Fade Out. then came Arc-Lite, which is actually the album I play the most, and the band disbanded soon after.

photographically, this was the first time that I would have brought out the Canon with all the fast lenses for the proper capturing of a favorite band live. however, I opted to use the since-the-last-time expanded suite of lenses that go with the Fuji X-Pro. also, while I have a 24mm lens with the Canon, for the Fuji I have a 12mm (18mm equivalent) Zeiss lens — I am not too wild about wide-angle lenses. the drawback, compared to the Canon system, is a ƒ2.8 vs ƒ1.4, but the ISO performance of the Fuji could make up for it, and I hoped that Loop was not a we-run-on-stage band. so the Fuji arsenal is a nice range: (Zeiss) 12mm ƒ2.8, 23mm ƒ1.4, 35mm ƒ1.4, 53mm ƒ1.2, and (Zeiss M-mount) 85mm ƒ4. this was the first time trying out the 53mm (x1.5 crop factor), and it is excellent.

I was also glad that I am dwindling down on the number of photos I take. certainly just getting a couple of shots that, because of the fast lenses being at full aperture, it is to get the microphone in focus and see what happens. this is a peculiar way to approach the composition and focus, which was forced as a solution to very poorly lit concerts, but now I do it regardless of the lighting condition.

this was the second time I caught Carlton Melton, and I have to see them more often, and get some of their music. rare is the opening act that makes me take notice — and I wish it was quite different to that common outcome.  they had opened for Wood Shijps in late January, and I forgot the name or to do something about it. this time, it will be more proactive... and a great opening band for Loop.

• liminal eye on concerts and my photography [ link ]
• Loop [ link ]
• Carlton Melton [ link ]
• post on facebook (open to comments) [ link ]

the 37 minute homework

it is great to bring gear on a trip, and then to gather it, get all enthusiastic about the photowalks and what can be found. that is not what happened here. yes, yes, I packed 3 cameras, a suite of lenses, a tripod and they were not used. 

well, except for the compact and the phone.

not surprisingly, Los Angeles traffic ate up most of my time, and it was after a quick lunch, and before heading to the airport, that the industrial neighborhood (where the lunch Café is located) offered some 37 minutes to walk about and take some photos. the Walt Disney Concert Hall photo was taken while attending a concert, and was the only photo taken prior to the photowalk.

here are the fruits of it. the photos were taken with the iPhone 5S or the Fuji X20, and then "developed" with Snapseed's (Tune and Crop modules) on the phone or iPad, then applied the Film NC-1G* preset from the CameraBag2 app and adjustments made with the controls offered.

as usual, the photos are framed square (with the phone) and 16x9 with the Fuji. with these photos, and the 16x9 it is about simple subjects with a 1/3 layered framing — either vertically or horizontally. thus, industrial and people-less scenes are perfect for it.

the photowalk is not about taking amazing photos, but to think differently, execute and provide a challenge to the confined photograph that present the area, but also abstract it into something that belies its industrial nature.

* the Film NC-1B for black and white conversion

[ ps ] the post on facebook open for comments [ link ]

who invented Wedding Photography?

if I knew what hatred felt like, then perhaps I can say: I hate wedding photography. then, a few seconds later I would say that I love it because of the people involved.

I am not sure that I experience anything as draining as photographing a wedding. of course, the weddings that I have photographed are very low-key. the groom** makes it very clear that they are not interested in many photos — which may be, or not, what they mean, but it is good to hear. so, I think to myself: "great, this is going to be easy."

perhaps what is fatiguing is trying to achieve the "zen" of observing, imagining and composing, while at the same time anticipating what comes next. perhaps this is something that comes with a bit of practice, and even then, it must require a type of uncommon talent. 

in no instance have I been asked for "classic" photos: the poses de rigueur that constitute the foundation of a dream wedding as indoctrinated by countless wedding albums. for one, I rarely like to tell people what to do: I just observe, imagine and compose. because of this, I must say upfront to any request for wedding photography that I will not be doing those kind of photographs, though I certainly can give it a try and hope that the orchestration — the weak point in execution — somehow comes together. 

the biggest stress about wedding photography is to have the critical photos turn up in the way imagined. there is no correction in post-processing that can help the critical photos gone wrong. ok, there are some ways to recover something if one is adept to altering what was imagined, though this is not something to anticipate.

in the digital age, the results can be anticipated to be available faster than quick. something I tried in this instance was to create a small set of draft-work photos that sampled the entire span of photos taken, and to apply commercial presets, instead of processing them in my custom way (as shown in the slideshow below, and the book at Blurb). so the, I applied presets from VSCO Film 03/04 and uploaded the drafts to Dunked [ link ]. it is interesting the difference, and how after a week of "sitting on the photos", the presentation was varied, with some photos changed to colour from black & white.

the stress always turn to elation while looking at the results. that is because, even when people are recent acquaintances, by the time the wedding is done, a level of empathy has been developed and the photos are a way to re-live the wedding with that empathy in place. it makes the presentation of the photos so much easier to perform.

a selection: the wedding took place on 10 March 2014 and San Francisco's City Hall. in keeping with modern aesthetics, the first photo is from a phone, and the album is online. no trees have been harmed in the distribution of these photos. yet.

** this is for the weddings for which I have been hired as a first photographer.

[ ps ] on a personal note, this wedding was significant in that I had not voted since the disappointment with Clinton in 1992. however, because of the close polling for Proposition 8, and wanting to enjoy a vote for Obama, I registered and voted in the 2008 election. it did not have the immediate result I hoped, because of what turned out to be out-of-state meddling, but I like to think that this wedding was a reward for that vote... and all the Jury Duty calls I have received since.


all photos are up for view at the Blurb store [ link ]:

impermanence in the art of street photography

from nothing to nothing, the journey is celebrated for its imperfections, and in some way, the transitory markings we make, or impact upon, other people and things. within this impact, one can realise the concept of Mono No Aware, or the pathos of things [ link ].

« The phrase is derived from the Japanese word mono (物), which means "thing", and aware (哀れ), which was a Heian period expression of measured surprise (similar to "ah" or "oh"), translating roughly as "pathos", "poignancy", "deep feeling", or "sensitivity", or "awareness".  »

Japan is not the only place to observe the impermanence of things, though it offers a contrast to Western art and design, where minimalism and perfection are intertwined. 

these days, it is not a foreign concept that any given culture is going to discover everything it needs, nor is it going to have all encompassing definitions. rather, we are born into our personalities, and in some cases, elements of ourselves must find a definition outside our native culture and/or language. intuitively, we can understand a persence, or a way we do things, which have yet to be described properly. we can successfully go through life without finding out these succinct terms, or definitions, and appreciate when we do find them in greater measure with age. in language, we readily adopt foreign words to describe succinctly a modern emotion, action, or term. 

in visiting Japan, and coincidentally beginning to watch movies by Yasujiro Ozu, the terms of wabi-sabi and mono no aware were as innate as the concepts of breathing and drinking water: they just needed to be alerted, recognized, and then conveniently found in the same physical location. once recognized, it provided a means to offer an imperfect description of such an implicit understanding present throughout life. thus, Japan is a protagonist in this book project in how it offers impermanence and imperfection in everyday objects. 

more importantly, it becomes a form of "street photography" in which the presence of people are photographed for their indelible mark and implicit presence; all the while the emotion of that transitory — even fleeting — presence is sought to be represented in a photo.

what is harmonious in Japan, as attempted in these photos, can be seen as highly contrasting elements in outside cultures. this contrast is then an underlying concept in the sequencing of photos, which is best approached in book form. as many other cameras were used during the trip, it is the case that more photos need to be integrated and/or replaced in the project as it stands right now. thus, the gallery samples photos in this project are curated from a mobile photography perspective, and all selected photos available site [ link ].

iPhoneography R.I.P. (2007-2013)

the not-so-greatly-named iPhoneography was great while it lasted. the problem? stagnation. but what about the Megapixels? inorite?

long live mobile photography!

mobile photography did bring about a new way of carrying about with some aspect of photography: mobility, self-contained and social interactions. in effect, a compact Polaroid system with replication for sharing among people. beyond Polaroid, it offered many ways to present/process a photo to make it "warm" by applying processing that made it be more like film. one fallacy of new technology, for a while, is to think it terms of replacement: dSLR replaces SLR, and digital sensor is a replacement for film... and it takes a while to think of the new technology as something new with different limitations that are inherited in our minds by the imitated medium. 

the issue with iPhoneography is that the platform moved into other brands, so one could argue for Phoneography instead, but even that is not that appealing. yes, one can pursue a photography that is enabled by one tool: a film camera with a single lens (e.g., Leica with a 35mm, or a Hassy with an 80mm, or a Rolleiflex with 75mm), and we have the work of Daido Moriyama with a compact camera. but for most, photography is about flexibility and being able to take the best photo at any given moment.

the appeal is greatly based on the speed of photography offered by something like a phone's camera. snap the photo, and process it within in the camera. for the most part, compact camera makers have forgone this revelation as to what is popular with people. instead, the compact camera remains a photo, upload, process and share. these days, the ability to upload from a compact to a mobile platform, as in a phone or tablet, is becoming much more easier. for some people, for varying reasons, the speed has to be nearly immediate — snap, app to process and upload. 

I personally do not have such speed requirement, though I do like the disposability of mobile photography to approach photography in new ways. such is the case with photography styles and subject matter that I would not otherwise consider when focused on a project with "the better cameras." I also like the processing limitations of a phone/tablet to get me past any push to make the most of the photo via post-processing.

however, iPhoneography stagnated. just like compact cameras failed to move into the closed system of a phone for snap/processing/sharing, the phone cameras have remained stagnant in low-light performance, and more importantly, fixed lens**. (there are kludges to change field of view.) with mobile phones migrating into data devices, and less about talking, then solutions (if physically possible!) that offer some variations on the lenses would increase the versatility of phones in photography.

Sony has offered their QX-10/100 devices to keep the phone connected/interactive with an improved lens/sensor, and this may be the first step into improvement of the usefulness of a phone.

by considering mobile photography, and not thinking just of a phone, one can use the convenience of a phone and the greater flexibility (and performance) of a compact camera. the idea remains that "mobile photography" is about the speed of snap/process/share, and the compact camera retains that ability. 

in that sense, the phone camera is now for me about "social" sharing, rather than considering photography, and I have embraced the compact camera as my mobile way of recording photographs, and using the phone/tablet for the mobile photography constraint.

with that in mind, I have done the un-mobile thing, and uploaded the iPhone photos to Lightroom, made corrections to distortions, and processed all photos using VSCOfilm. in a way, it is a means to give these photos a final respect and to think of the phone's camera as being on par with any other camera, rather than a disposable/ephemeral usage. the slide show contains highlights of these photos.

while iPhoneography now settles into its limitations — which can still serve a purpose, and its nearly-fixed perimeter remains a means to enjoy photography + social interactions — mobile photography is really the next step into widening a photography that is convenient and offering much more overlap with what was previously considered "serious photography."

iPhoneography 2007 - 2013 (selection)

iPhone photos 2007-2013 by Kodiak Xyza

the use of Lightroom was limited to the Basic Module sliders and applying automatic perspective corrections, which are not (readily?) available within mobile platforms. this way, one of the major drawbacks of the iPhone lens made some photos — especially architectural ones — become sensible in terms of quality. noise reduction was also key, due to the poor noise vs. ISO performance of the phone. nothing could save the pixelation of night shots, so those are best left as ephemeral social-sharing photos. VSCOfilm helped to keep the processing to nearly as fast as can be done in a mobile platform.

[ link ] iPhoneography 2007-2013 at Dunked using LightroomVSCOfilm
(sectioned by USA/California/Europe/Japan/Abstract/NewTopgraphics)

link ] iPhoneography 2007-2013 at VSCO Grid using VSCOcam phone app (ongoing)

** there are physical limitations, with current technology and perceived form-factors, that would limit these features from being implemented in phones.

concert photography & the "decompressing" moment

there are many changes that digital photography is bringing to photography genres, and a very noticeable one is concert photography. the high ISO performance of modern sensor, the compactness of cameras, and the aspiration of many to get "the shot" at a concert has drastically changed the experience to those attending concerts — with, or without, cameras.

I never took concert photos with film, so I am in that group of people polluting the concert venues, and definitely started looking for "the shot" — whatever that means. the first self-inflicted disturbance of my concert-going experience was the idea of audio recording. after a while, getting annoyed at the "talkers" really impacted my enjoyment of the concert experience. however, taking photos seem to be much less intrusive.

Judge Smith, London, 2005 by Kodiak Xyza

in having an allergy towards big venues, then it also became a challenge of how to take photos (starting in about 2005, at a Judge Smith concert in London) in such dimly lit clubs. this technical challenge, plus the increase in "concert photographers" disturbing others, began to inform my approach. at the time, I was not taking portraits of any note — still avoiding people in my photos, actually. 

Bill Callahan, San Francisco, Oct 2007 by Kodiak Xyza

Matt Berninger (The National) at The Troubadour, Los Angeles, 2006 Oct by Kodiak Xyza

by 2007, things started to come together. a set of aesthetics, and "principles" began to develop, and the first pleasing result came at a Bill Callahan (Smog) concert. in October of that year, he played The Independent in San Francisco, and there was a clear "callahan" moment. although taken before the Bill Callahan photo, at a concert at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, there were similar moments by Matt Berninger of The National that I could not recognize at the time, but did in revisiting the photos years after. in both instances, there was something about a pause between songs, and at times, a pause within the song. in some ways, these moments were more like a portrait, rather than what I call a Kerrrang! moment.

there were "problems" if I wanted to promote the concert photos: I took my time to process the photos — namely a delay before I looked at them — and the photos that I liked were not like what I saw elsewhere in style. the style being developed by the use of digital cameras was that of overly bright, overly saturated, long depth of field, and overly sharpened wide-angle crotch/face shots. 

perhaps the missing link between what I saw in online concert photos, and what was happening with my camera, is the photo by Pennie Smith of Paul Simonon that made the cover of the The Clash's seminal London Calling. a definite Kerrrang! moment, coupled to all the effects transmitted by a performer which belies an impression of the music being played. it is with some humour that, like much of the commentary in today's comments about photos, she considered the photo not to be good enough for the album cover because it was out of focus.

Paul Simonon  by  Pennie Smith  at the New York Palladium in 1979

Paul Simonon by Pennie Smith at the New York Palladium in 1979

Winfred E. Eye at El Rio, San Francisco 2009 by Kodiak Xyza

in the ensuing years, I was able to attend a few concerts by Oakland's Winfred E. Eye. they played at small venues in San Francisco, and the lighting situation was rather poor. the lens had to be used wide open (ƒ1.4, or ƒ1.2), the shutter speed struggled to be above 1/30s, and I had to be close to the stage due wider-than-usual lenses to be used. the aesthetics got further changed because I began to notice that I could not track the focus with the performer. the solution? focus on the microphone that was stationary, since the bands' singers also played the guitar.

in 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend a rare reunion concert by Sad Lovers and Giants. during some correspondence with singer Garçe Allard about the photos I took, there was a question about what I sought with my concert photos. for me, even to this day, the best concert photo I have taken was of Garçe, at some swanky small Berlin venue. I finally managed to express what was it that I sought in a concert photograph in a mail to him:

« this photograph is what I strive for in concert photography, and I am so glad to have caught it. while I enjoy the "energetic" concert photo as anyone else, I like that "decompression" moment of a performer, which happens ever so rarely, and few performers can express it as well as the moment of energy. wonderful that you wear your emotions while performing in such a full range.  »

Garçe Allard (Sad Lovers and Giants), Berlin, 2011 by Kodiak Xyza

while it is hardly rot work, concert photography is the search for the Decompression Moment, and to keep the camera focused on the microphone. the good thing is that, when it actually happens, it is typically in-between songs, and that is when it least disturbs the audience to wield out the camera. 

another element in my concert photography is to pick a spot and stay put. beyond the use of flash, and all the arms raised throughout a concert, the worst thing is to keep moving through the concert, and on the front row, to make way for "the concert photographer". 

• [ linkSad Lovers and Giants: they are featured in a retrospective on The Big Takeover issues #73 and #74. the photo above may be included.

on the way to a pinhole

I think photography should be unrestricted in ideas — and categorization being a red herring — with cameras not really creating any limitation to capturing what we want.

ok, so in the real world, we have to contend with myriad of limitations due to the physics of the camera/lens. coincidentally, the limitations in cameras, and/or film, is what also generated what I see as the "Language of Photography", where we attach emotions to imperfections, such as (excessive) grain, B&W, sepia, and vignetting.

vignetting is a funky imperfection: we intuit the appeal, but more often than not it can be overbearing. Holga cameras seem to inflict an alluring type of vignetting, and so can pinhole. 

with the release of Pinwide, by Wanderlust Cameras [ link ], profiting from the advantages of digital photography, I was able to plunge into trying this “restrictive” form of photography. I was getting used to putting some boundaries into mobile photography already, such as keeping all the processing within the phone’s apps, and so it was good to see what would happen with pinhole.

in particular, Pinwide brings about three key restrictions: a wide angle view (22mm equivalent); vignetting; and uniform softness. the latter is a feature in pinhole, in that the depth-of-field is infinite. however, because of the sensor size of Micro 4/3rds cameras, and the super high f-stop (> f-192), diffractions will soften the photo. [ link ]

while mobile photography has some restrictions, pinhole offers some that I rarely visit in my photography. namely, I am not a fan of wide angle lenses as they can easily lead to clichéd-wow photographs — at least when I use them. I am used to applying a depth-of-field to my advantage; and vignetting rarely has an application to enhance the presentation because I am not trying to call attention to the center of the frame.

it was clear from sampling photos on flickr, for example, that pinhole was not an “every moment” photographic recording. yes, photography is fun, but also interesting to apply the perceived format, presentation and characteristics to a given topic/subject as we see artistically fit.

what was most unexpected was the ease of knowing how to apply pinhole to certain styles of photography I was pursuing, as well as taking me to some that I had not had any interest.

it is not difficult to realize that I would bring over from pinhole to mobile photography some of these characteristics. for example, the tall “hedges” at Versailles were photographed with three cameras, and here is the pinhole result:

pinhole photograph at  Versailles , France (by  Kodiak Xyza )

pinhole photograph at Versailles, France (by Kodiak Xyza)

the distance from the main subject is “far” because I did not want to create a distortion with the wide angle view on the main subject**. the camera needs to be set at true level, and preferably, if there is a strong horizon, set to the middle. (in post processing, the horizon bend can be undone with “pincushion” correction.) with any other camera, I can approach the subject closer, and work with another composition, for an alternate effect. for example, in this mobile photo:

mobile photograph processed with VSCOcam (by  Kodiak Xyza )

mobile photograph processed with VSCOcam (by Kodiak Xyza)

yet, a softness and vignetting was applied to this photo, as recalled from the impression of a pinhole photo. the two photos were taken moments apart.

the three “classifications” of pinhole photographs linked below is the result of the application of the three main restrictions to a way of seeing. landscape is an area of photography that I do not pursue, but pinhole seems to bring an interest towards it, namely, because I do not see much of it. 

there are many more ways to approach pinhole photography, like the inclusion of long-exposure required at low ISO settings. additionally, using medium format film, and all the care it demands, can also create a wonderful pinhole photographs outside of what I have been able to explore so far. one such excellent approach is what Jacqueline Walters has done with her Traces series [ link ].

** this is not a “rule”, but sometimes it applies. at other times, I want to use the wide-angle distortion to create a surrealism akin to German Expressionism [ link ]. for example:

applying the wide angle distortions in  Pinwide  to create a distorted scale akin to  German Expressionism  [  Dom  &  Hauptbahnhof , Köln, Germany ] (by  Kodiak Xyza )

applying the wide angle distortions in Pinwide to create a distorted scale akin to German Expressionism [ Dom & Hauptbahnhof, Köln, Germany ] (by Kodiak Xyza)

 photo resources

•• Pinwide photos in land/sea-scapes [ link ]
•• Pinwide photos in city & architecture [ link ]
•• Pinwide photo in abstractions [ link ]
•• Jacqueline Walters’ Traces series [ link ]