Thursday, February 24, 2011

Digital Infrared

I sent my only dslr (a Nikon D5000) in for infrared conversion. It is only 6 months old. Inspired by my long lost career in remote sensing and the concept of putting this entry-level camera to a completely different and uncommon use, I leaped. The decision was also influenced by my seriousness about shooting on large format film this year. Furthermore, the presence of Alfred Infrared in the Hipstamatic stirred my curiosity.

I am unable to consider the high priced, top-end digital cameras, so I look to innovative directions with my digital side. The film side will take time to develop. The first shots with the infrared camera are interesting. No time to explore much more than 10 minutes on Monday. I converted the original jpgs to black and white using SilverEFEX, (incidently, eagerly await word for version 2.0 from Eric and Digital Silver Imaging). Straight out of the box with the kit 18-55mm lens, the storied cypress tree was the first subject.
Cypress, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
The much discussed ancient H1 started showing serious problems as the crocus began to open last week. Nevertheless, the flawed capture shows the colors of this saffron-bearing flower:
Crocus, Andrew D. Barron ©2/13/11
Naturally I returned with the infrared sensor.
Crocus, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
Here is holly and cypress, both richly green.
Crocus, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
In these few shots, I found that I have much to learn about metering, exposing, composing, and all the joy of doing something so very different. Here’s some holly with the premium 35mm lens on. The very red berries are hard to spot.
Holly, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
The entirely new view of the world will take some time to figure out. The color versions of the images are confusing, further cementing my trajectory towards black and white.
Holly, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
I was also more than a little surprised at my faded familiarity with the dslr. After being away from it for a month, it hit me fresh that it is not easy to use. Then again, I am thinking all the while about the road ahead shooting, processing, and developing my own film images.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Owle Bubo

Today I write about the Owle Bubo for iphone, a hefty mount that comes with two lens options. a multitude of filter attachment possibilities, four tripod mounts, and a cold shoe mount.

Like yesterday, I will say that it is great to have an old friend back in good shape. Here’s a couple of shots with the tele lens on the H1.
Moon, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
The neighbor’s cat.
Lou, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
The H1’s tele adapter makes a predictably unpleasant bokeh. It has grown on me, I suppose because there is nothing I can do about it.

There was a massive problem with shipping things across the county in the last three weeks. My carefully staged experiments were halted without recourse for a time. I found other things to write about, rather than below-the-line whining about our national shipping services or dangerous pontifications about weather phenomena. The sudden arrival of everything means I will be very busy, and likely lose my blog readers in a heap of product-focused write ups. C’est la vie. Here’s a shot from yesterday that couldn’t find a home in my write up of the Nikon P6000.
Bandon deocorations, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
When it rains it pours. I have carefully been formulating my needs as a photographer, striving for that elusive ‘next level’ of image capture for two years and beyond, but 2010 was an entire year of seeking what I need. Experimentation has been constant even if blogging has not. Right now, I love iphoneography, the new word to describe taking the photographs from your iphone’s camera seriously. The device’s success has created a substantial market for an industry of add-on accessories. The iphone’s ubiquity has put a usable camera into the hands of people at all times. This has been my style with the H1, and is also consistent with the so-called lomo movement.

These days, I find the shooting with the Hipstamatic as satisfying as any other camera. Recently, I sold an expensive video converter to fund these gear acquisitions. In 2007, I had hoped to learn more about documentary filmmaking and also the restoration of old VHS tapes. In the last three years, it seems that my ‘cameraman’ intent has yielded to photographer. And thus the sale of my adored but valuable Canopus ADVC300 as well as my Sony VCL-DH0758 wide angle lens.

I have begged for someone’s donated iPhone 4. I looked on ebay. There is simply too much demand for the new iPhone for the prices to be reasonable. The same was true when I originally purchased the 3G over two years ago. Since I am unable to find a way to get the better iphone camera in my hands, I did something else. The Owle Bubo (without the 40 thieves) finally arrived. This thing takes iphonoegraphy into the stratosphere of ‘slick.’ Here it is holding my 3G running the Hipstamatic 190.
Owle Bubo, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
To my eyes, this is easily one of the coolest camera accessories I have ever seen. It looks like a tie fighter from Star Wars. It even looks a little like Darth Vader’s firing mechanism in his ship. (That one is for you Dr. Koehler!)
Owle Bubo, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
Through the included wide angle lens in the Hipstamatic:
Umbrella plant, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
My friend Mr. Sweitzer once commented in photographer-speak that I ‘wasn’t shooting through enough glass.’ A silly criticism of my H1, but totally applicable to the teenytiny iphone 3G camera lens. The Bubo mounts serious glass to your iphone. The lens design is ingenious. Threaded together are a single element macro lens that couples to a double element wide-angle lens. The lenses are of good quality, though I sadly scuffed them at first use: they were too tightly screwed together to seperate without tools. The channel locks bit a little too deep. Here’s the 3g camera app showing without and with the Bubo’s lens.
copy;2/22/11©2/22/11

In the photo, the keyboard was bout 7 inches from the camera; you can see the 3g was unable to focus clearly (on left). Here’s couple with the wide angle lens on:
Holly tree, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
There’s never enough of this stuff for my cold bones!
Firewood, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
Here is the macro lens only:
The mighty Sony DSC-H1, Andrew D. Barron ©2/22/11
First impressions are important, and my first impression of the Owle Bubo is childishly enthusiastic. I simply can’t wait to shoot with this thing for the rest of the life of my 3G! I always like to see something built with integrity to satisfy a real need. The build quality is truly astonishing, and functionality is infallible. A great piece of hardware to a great piece of hardware (3G), and using a great piece of software (the Hipstamatic), I find it difficult to tame my enthusiasm.

I’m reminded of an old friend from southern California, Mr. Henderson, who proclaimed the excellence of In-N-Out burger. I'll paraphrase:
“You do one thing. You use quality ingredients, hire quality people that you pay fairly. How could it not be the best?”

The Nikon P6000

In this blog, I intersperse images from a photo walk with the Nikon P6000 and discuss my experience with the camera.

Before I get into the P6000, I wish to say that I am pleased the H1 is back shooting. Thanks to my bro and my mom for getting that replacement to me last fall. The first shots thus far have an apparent richness I cannot explain. Can sensors (in this case CCD) degrade over time? The much less used replacement sensor seems more saturated. However, it could well be the reset of the system put some default setting I no longer recall changing and not a function of the CCD. Either way, here’s the H1 at work on a rugged holly tree.
Holly tree, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I noticed an interesting difference in the two DSC-H1 cameras. There is a plate of metal that backs the sensor behind the lens. The original H1 was a silver metal, more like steel than aluminum. In contrast, the replacement H1 had a copper piece in this same shape and placement. At the time, I was a little stressed about getting things right to care.

The Nikon P6000
A few blog readers may have gathered and understand my frustration with digital photography. I love photography. I love digital photography. There is a bizarre twist in public discussion and private conversations that cameras must be the latest and greatest to have a shot be worthwhile. Photography, a visual expressive art form, is only for delicate discussion at best. To devolve into arguments of brands, technologies and such, is a popular way to discuss photography. I value discussions of gear, but maintain that a given photograph should be allowed a voice of it’s own.
Dead end, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I may be overstating things at tad, but bear with me. I am an advocate of taking pictures and engaging with your life through your camera. Any camera will do. After a long time, I’ve learned many basics of photography as I attempt to truly understand the physics and the mechanics. Knowing these basics of light, lens and sensor can ease frustration when shooting with a lesser camera, and certainly helps with all cameras. However, no amount of internet-scouring and camera specifications will help discover these fundamentals for a given camera. The experiment is a very good way. One should take care in designing experiments so that appropriate variables can be understood. The problem with digital cameras, particularly my Nikon dSLR, is there are too many moving variables. I still have only the faintest grasp of what/when/why the prominent feature ‘Active D lighting’. Because it is a Nikon-specific feature, I figure it is a Nikon-specific sensor shortcoming; this helps me put it as ‘less fundamental’ than other camera mechanisms.
Shore pine, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
The marketing engine in the industry seems to have generated a self-consciousness for many amateur photographers. I get the feeling people discount their photography on the basis of the quality of their camera. This is the crux of my point: the basics don’t change, and it makes no difference anyway. They are your pictures, it is your life. So what?
Eucalyptus, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I bought a Nikon p6000 used from Amazon for about $400. I have been seeking a small p&s camera that can occasionally fill the gap between my bulky-but-beloved (and increasingly unreliable) Sony DSC-H1, AND the now out of production Nikon D5000 dslr. This search has been driving much of my blogging activity for six months or so. I have not stated it as such, because I prefer the photographs take focus.
Branches, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
Then some things happened. I was contacted by a company that brokers infrared camera conversions. This happened on the heels of some writing I did inspired by the Hipstamatic film Alfred Infrared, and a thrift store book find. I try to let the experiments complete before I write about them. The infrared experiment took a long time to simply set up. In a combination of motives, I bought the P6000 to be converted to infrared imaging. The logic was quite simple: GPS-enabled, good optics, familiar interface, desire for something new different, small p&s camera.
Nesika Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
It was a beautiful morning. I went out with the P6000 to do a thorough photoshoot with it. I was also carrying my repaired H1, but the batteries were almost spent. It is a two mile walk to the post office, perhaps a little more, one way. The highway has very wide pullout along this stretch and is a shorter walk to the PO, incidentally closed on presidents day (duh Andrew!)
Nesika Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I find some flaws of the P6000 endearing. The minimum aperture at the widest (28mm) setting is f/7.2. The barrell disortion at this lens setting is pleasant to my eyes. However, the tiny sensor resolves sharp focus only on limited distance subjects. In the above two photos show the range. The distant trees and powerlines are slightly soft, with the sign in strong focus. The fence and building shot shows a good use of this minumum f-stop pulling enough things in focus for a satisfying depth of field.
Bandon sun, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I unexpectedly traveled to Bandon. One of my favorite test shots is directly into the sun. I have posted several lens flare shots from this camera already, but out the back of the vehicle, I set up this idea: to wait until the powerline pole met the sun at 45mph. These kind of shots require great timing and a responsive camera and the P6000 came through. What next?
Bandon rust, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
Macro! The camera does very well with these close up shots in fully automatic mode.

Here is the barrell distortion at work. Again, I find this lens defect to be very nice. There is a function to correct for it built into the camera, but as an ‘as shot’ purist, I would rather fix it in ps if it matters.
Bandon rust, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
More macro!
Table flowers, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
We stopped to eat lunch at the park. It was near the skate park. Skaters are a misunderstood type; they indeed bristled rudely as I approaced with the P6000 on a monopod. I checked out their rusted up, modest ramps. A bright kid came up and we agreed that the mud puddle in the small half pipe was brutal. He was talented and had built a platform in another section of the park. He was relatively new to skating, so to see the philanthropic endeavor in someone so young was great. I was glad the P6000 took me over there. Only later did it occur to me that some Bondo in the rusted pit at the bottom would offer a good fix for the half pipe. The lens flare from this camera is decidedly beautiful.
Bandon trees and sun, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
So that’s it for now. My primary conclusion is that I am simply too excited about shooting digital infrared photography to have it be handled by a point and shoot camera. I did the unthinkable: I sent in my only dslr, the Nikon D5000 in for 715nm imaging conversion and it arrived at my door this afternoon. My next blog will hopefully be about my initial experiences with the repurposed D5000.

I am going to sell the P6000. It is a good camera. It is slightly larger than competitors, but the size affords space for the viewfinder, a feature I will definitely miss if I choose a p&s without one. I am amazed the camera has a freakin’ LAN port. Plug into your router. Get pictures. Neat (though I didn’t test this yet). The GPS feature is not very good. The function works, but not consistently. One must become aware of the camera’s need for time to acquire signal. This may seriously impact battery life if important to you. Once you are located, nearby follow up shots are fine. If this feature is important, then you will adopt a shooting style that babies this weakness in the P6000. I am willing to do this; there are few cameras of this grade capable of GPS.

The image quality speaks for itself, and if that matters to you like it does to me, you know, ‘you get what you pay for.’ I really like that the camera shoots raw, but in an inexplicable twist, it is a NRW format. Adobe Camera Raw read it fine on the Mac. Also different from the D5000 dslr is that the photograph numbers increase sequentially over the NRW files. Easier to understand than explain: The D5000 will shoot a DSC_0003.jpg and a DSC_0003.NEF. The P6000 shoots DSCN0003.jpg and a DSCN0004.NRW for a given image. This makes review and post-processing a bit of a drag; which one wrote to disk first? If I take several shots will I screw that up later on the computer? Maybe. So, yay support for RAW. . .with said caveats.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Camera surgery

First off, crossing the Rogue River from last Thursday with the Hipstamatic:
Crossing the Rogue, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/16/11
I ran it through Neat Image, sharpened the lightness channel (105/1/0), added a green ’photo filter’ in ps, and downsampled.

I have been shooting with a Sony DSC-H1 since May 2006. This is my most involved camera relationship. The H1 has accompanied me for upwards and beyond 100,000 shots and thousands and thousands of miles of American roads. I dropped it on my way in the gate when I lived in Walnut Creek in October 2009. Though in it’s case, with a sickening thud, I knew it was serious. The LCD was broken. This turned out to be a huge benefit to my photography being forced to adopt the tiny viewfinder and instincts. The battery life was slightly improved too. The memory card began to have trouble seating in June 2010 (old blog). I whined about it. It seemed broken for good. I got some other things together, but even in that period I was shooting to the internal memory and downloading the 10 shots over and over. Then it fixed itself.

My brother understood this problem and surprised me last fall with a duplicate H1 from ebay. I think it was $60. The twin went out on the first day and was either scratched when new, or had mysteriously become badly scratched.
The lens is done for, Andrew D. Barron©2/20/11
3G camera app with 10x geologist’s hand lens.

That was that. I wondered if my sentimental attachment to the old camera had to do with the particular lens. Was it uniquely excellent? With no choice now, I put the twin’s LCD into the old H1. The memory stick problem seemed to correct itself, and the H1 continued to shoot much.
Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©1/02/11
After all the years, I found the H1’s manual modes to be functional, though not at all equivalent to my dslr. I have the tele adapter for the H1, so it does things that I simply could not do with my dslr unless I had bunch of lenses. Even then, ’those’ photographers would be lamely dubious of a half-frame sensor dslr like mine anyway. “Oh, that’s just a DX model. Harumph.” Here’s one I should redo in SilverEFEX (from 1/1/11):
North of Woodroof Creek, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©1/01/11

Last week after I shot the blossoms, the H1 began to malfuntion. There was a break in the rain, and I went out to shoot yellow rose.
Rose of a different color, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/13/11
Something was wrong. It did not go away and was a malfuntion in the blue channel. The H1 appeared done for.
Funky sky, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/15/11
In our disposable culture, my original H1 became ‘spare parts’. I get a lot of nicknames for my way if putting pieces together. I used to maintain a running computer from the peak of it’s OS/Hardware vintage, like a 486DX50 with 64m RAM and Windows 3.11 I got to internet in 2000. That machine became a dsl router for a year or two after that. I’m glad I gave that up for the most part. Last fall, after the minor surgery on the H1, I was ready to deal with it today. I took apart the two cameras and put all the good parts into one, shifting the original unscratched lens into the ebay twin. So now, all orginial parts are back to the ebay twin, excepting the ‘lens of many shots’ Getting the lens out was the most tedious bit of electronics work for me yet. Here’s the scratched lens freed:
The lens is done for, Andrew D. Barron©2/20/11
3G camera app through Dot Line 4x close up filters.

With my concentration on the tiny little screws and delicate ribbon attachments, coupled with the growing dark, I did not photograph the surgery, but the H1 is back. I can only hope this major repair will last longer. After much struggle dealing with my ‘only’ half frame dslr, and it’s ’tiny’ lenses, and this failing old friend, a new point and shoot (p&s) is on it’s way to me and will capture my travels to Washingtonfor a bluegrass festival next week. Turns out, it is probably the last ‘new’ CCD sensor camera I’ll use.

I was a little lazy reassembling the original H1. I save whatever I can, even when I’m moving on with new electronics.
Extra screws, Andrew D. Barron©2/20/11
Last night I watch Kurosawa’s RAN! Rather, I listened to the highly informed commentary by Stephen Prince, who also wrote The Warrior’s Camera. Filmed late in Kurosawa’s career, RAN! appears at #127 on the top 250 movies at imdb. It is a sweeping epic that uses telephoto flattening for most of the film. I watched and studied this film in the spring of 2007 prior to moving to Kentucky. At that time, I went out and shot some footage at full zoom with my H1 and tried to simulate this flattening. It was unconvincing, but I could see it working well with still photography. The influence from this film went so deep that I shot with a characteristic ‘max zoom’ for years. I also shot in filmic apsect ratios (16:9 and 2.35:1) too. For weeks now, I’ve been wanting to put together a ‘photographer’s films’ blog. Eventually.

This morning is clear and the H1 shoots through a very dirty window at max zoom.
Ophir morning, Andrew D. Barron©2/21/11

Friday, February 18, 2011

URGH! A Music War

Perhaps in response to my recent elaborations about bluegrass, this poured forth this morning. Another reason is the very delayed delivery of URGH! A Music War. I’ll add the many links for bands and songs someday. The photographs are from the last two days and are used as paragraph seperators and were not taken to reference the writing.
Ophir trees, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/11
I was so lucky. My parents are both musicians. My older brother was a hip music fan, as was sister. The stew of my musical exposure is rich and varied. Some things were happening in the music in the late 1970’s. There were visual artists frustrated trying to communicate through their medium and turned to new wave music. These were the Talking Heads and DEVO. There were many other bands I was exceedingly lucky to encounter. A few chance friendships, music store finds, and a showtime airing of URGH! A Music War set my course. URGH! was released on April 30, 1982, and found it’s way to Showtime in the summer of 1983. Thanks to the traveling mandated by my brother’s successful BMX career, it was captured to VHS. My brother is still known as ‘The Legend’ on a bike.
Daffodils, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/11
He and I diverged musically right away. Even as very young children, perhaps 5 or 6, I preferred “Hello, Goodbye” to his for “Helter Skelter.” It was music, it was the Beatles, and it was arguably the best part of our lives. I remember visiting dad’s one weekend. Brother had heard a song earlier that week. We waited by the radio all weekend to hear it again and tape it. The song was “My Sharona” from the Knack. It had probably been out for a very short time before the rise to the top of the charts. I was 6.

I ended up far from my brother when I was 9. I moved to a tiny place. To my California eyes, it was decidedly behind the times. My brother and I thought we were hip; we raced BMX bikes; we absorbed stuff from southern Califorina through the music (Black Flag) and the magazines (BMX Action). With our Vans shoes and our understanding that Vuarnet sunglasses would make our life better somehow, what did we know about anything? I settled into rural living.
Ophir coastline, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/11
Bands like Gang Of Four and Dead Kennedys had entirely different ways of dealing with the way the world is or was becoming. Jello Biafra was a sharp-tongued critic of many global problems. I was 7 years old inspecting the trippy inner workings of an angry young man as displayed on a poster included with Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. Two years later, I watched in stunned awe at the performance of Bleed For Me on URGH. New wave and punk bands were angry and they were talented.
Umbrella plant sun, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/11
I got into the ‘dorky’ bands. I liked XTC, Devo, the Talking Heads. He liked Black Flag, The Plasmatics, Dead Kennedys. Some albums we agreed completely, such as Fresh Fruit and the uncategorizable Duty Now For The Future. After he and I were far from each other, I found new musical mentors, particularly my neighbor Ms. Stone. She was like a bolt of lightning. A native New Yorker, her music collection was amazing and though she wasn’t into Devo as much, we agreed that the Talking Heads were great. She had returned from fishing in Alaska with the hot off the presses Speaking In Tongues. This album blew my mind. It took many years for the Remain in Light to sink in as the masterpiece it is, but that happened eventually. The next year, she returned with the cassette to Stop Making Sense from a movie. It was a lot to process these odd live performances.
Mud puddle of hopeful color, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/11
I knew they were from a film. There were hints of films in the DEVO records, too. Because we were poor, sending off for VHS tapes was unthinkable. Eventually, the experimental films by DEVO made their way into my life, at first from VHS dubs from out of print laserdiscs. The Talking Heads cinema time was very sophisticated. Stop Making Sense is an incredible tour de force of musical performance, audio engineering, choreography and film making. The later True Stories is totally different and also very good.

My other musical and artistic mentor, Ms. O’Connor had two very far traveled albums: Gang of Four’s Solid Gold and the Au Pairs Playing With a Different Sex. These cassette dups from vinyl were shared from some worldly friend elsewhere. I really liked Gang of Four and rmeain blown away by the drummer Hugo Burnham, the boldness of the lyrical messages, and the innovative guitar work of Andy Gill.
Sunrise friday, Ophir, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/18/11
URGH! A Music War, and the message of these powerful bands are cultural statements. They knew and saw what was coming while the people react to what is now in the world. It’s important to pay attention to what the artists have to say. It may become more important than all else. Then again, maybe not.

“You like music? I know. Everyone says they do." ’
David Byrne, True Stories

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Clouds clouds couds / Roots of Bluegrass

In 2009, my friend John left a message after a fun festival, reminding that “with your head in the clouds, remember to keep your feet on the ground.” The rain and hail have been impressive. The clouds broke before sunset and I went to town for some errands. As usual, I stayed too long with the nice librarians. It pained me to return Examples and George E. Todd’s book.
Clouds above Ophir holly, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/16/11
I shot the Rogue River Reef in an earlier experiment to generate 3D-like mosaics. The images had their problems. Installation of Silverlight to look at pictures is a lot to ask. I like photosynths, but didn't like the black box image compositing it does, nor the requirement to submit images for said black boxing. That experiment was tons more work than the 30 seconds it took to pull over where highway 101 arcs to the east to cross the Rogue river and snap this. Here’s a white box looking west towards Submarine Rock.
Clouds above the studio, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/16/11
I am impressed at the quality of certain types of b+w images with the Hipsta. Yeah, whoop-de-doo, more clouds. This is above the high school with the last rays of the breaking storm, shot on BlacKeys Supergrain.
Clouds above Gold Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/16/11
I retrieved a p&s camera I have not written about yet, though did shoot with it once before. From the grocery store parking lot:
Clouds above Gold Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/16/11
En route to the library:
Clouds above Gold Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/16/11
Tonight was a celebration of sorts in that I sent 30 photographs in for enlargements. The adventure of moving to Kentucky was bound to have surprises. It has taken these two years to break on through to the other side to where the journey has begun to seem worthwhile. I was immersed in music from the fall of '07 to the winter of my discontent in late 2008. I’ve always been immersed in music, but '05-'07 with Hellbound Glory were intense. I learned much about artistic virtue from the unlikliest of mentors. Leroy Virgil, Chico Kortan, Adam Jaffe and Johnny Fingers were the best band mates a science geek could ask to have.
Hellbound Glory above Tahoe, Andrew D. Barron©6/30/07
They allowed for my gear experimentations and nerdy explorations into the creation of live music with kindness and friendship. We played shows with other great bands, and had the pleasure of opening shows for many different national acts. I particularly enjoyed Robbie Fulks because Hellbound Glory played as an acoustic ensemble with the mandolin in my hands. After 2 years on the road playing electric bass, it was a real thrill to attempt to inject the fire that Johnny on telecaster or Adam on pedal steel had done so many nights before. I had a good time hanging out with the talented Robbie Jersoe. He encouraged Austin, but also thought Nashville would be a good place for me, too.
Robbie Jersoe and Robbie Fulks, Andrew D. Barron©7/25/07
That show in California came several weeks after a house concert from the great (and I really mean it) Eric Taylor in April as well as my trip to Texas for a songwriting workshop at the Kerrville Folk Festival. These experiences were coalescing into a clear internal directive to do something! I selected my purest passion: bluegrass mandolin, and combined with a lifelong drive to write songs, moved to Kentucky to write an album. It has turned into more of a book and the songs are still being written.
Mike Compton, Owensboro, KY, Andrew D. Barron©9/0/07
I steeped in the past of bluegrass music as well as my own musical and photographic family history in eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. My great grandfather Claude was a photographer and musician, primarily a violinist. His violin is with me here in the beautiful quiet calm of southern Oregon.
Rosine, Kentucky
In the most unpredictable way, I ventured back towards my start as a blues guitar player. It may have begun with my intense study of the great blues mandolin players Charlie McCoy and Yank Rachell. I investigated the roots of the great Robert Johnson and sank into the greatness of Skip James, Kokomo Arnold, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Patton and Son House. My left hand throbbed with an arthritic pain in Kentucky, most pronounced on the mandolin and my D-28. Peeling back the layers of the great Merle Travis for my own song about my great uncle Arthur, I discovered the fork in the tree. Arnold Shultz. The same man who Mr. Monroe cites as a major influence as a fiddler and musician, is widely regarded as the person who brought a thumbstyle guitar to western Kentucky. My investigations concluded that Robert Johnson and Arnold Shultz carried the same delta blues tradition on guitar. Furthermore, Arnold suffered from the same difficulty I was finding in my hands in the cold Kentucky winter. Arnold spent half of his time (the cold months) along the Mississippi and Louisiana. He was anoymously murdered by poisoned alcohol in 1931, the same fate suffered by Robert Johnson only seven years later in 1937. I’ll reiterate that Mr. Monroe and Mr. Johnson share the same birth year of 1911, 100 years ago.
Arnold Shultz, Morgantown, Kentucky, Andrew D. Barron©4/08/08
“Bury me in the Morgantown mud,” was song written by my talented girlfriend of that time after our April trip to Morgantown, Kentucky. With the pain in my hands (waaah), I started to play blues harmonica. The proper term is blues harp, but this unfortunately conjures up absurdly misaligned imagery for most people. It reminds me of how some folks would rather say fancy words than a simple word, but then mispronounce it. My college english professor was great. He encouraged us to write simply. He also encouraged attention to syllables; ‘utilize’ at three when ‘use’ will work. Mr. Metzger is a good teacher. Ooops, I drifted there. I got deep into the harp and blues while in Kentucky. Three profoundly important artists made their way into my life while visiting Charles Richter’s hometown (earthquake scale guy, Hamilton, OH) early in my southern travels. (You can go back in time and read that original blog). The artists were all blue harp masters, introduced to me tangentially by Bart Davenport. Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Williamson (II), and Little Walter. Hoodoo Man Blues is a masterpiece of early electric blues, featuring Buddy Guy on guitar and the fantastic bass playing of Jack Myer. Good Morning Schoolgirl has a great groove and ensemble playing. Harp allievated the hand problems but sent me into a strange place musically. Wasn’t I living in Kentucky to study bluegrass mandolin and write songs? Life is funny that way.

Celebrating today. This first push gets a number of things stepping towards to the next level. As I returned home, the ground was white with a thick layer of hail. An unusual sight at the sea.
Ophir hail, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/11
Sound as ever,
Andrew

Search This Blog

Blog Archive