Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back from Strawberry

I went to my first Strawberry Music Festival. It was a long drive from Reno, and that took a lot of my steam out for photography as I passed through Yosemite National Park at Toulumne Meadows. I will have to return to camp and photograph some other time. Also, I was very unprepared having decided only the afternoon before I drove down to even attend. The bluegrass jamming was more localized that at bluegrass-specific festivals. It is in a beautiful place not too far from Hetch Hetchy. I took many Instax 210 photographs and about 2/3 a roll in my Leica IIIf. I seriously considered taking out the 200mm Zeiss on the Hasselblad with the prism viewfinder to photograph Sam Bush’s workshop. But I knew it would be terribly distracting for all since that rig looks like a small armored truck.

Unlike bluegrass festivals or the Kerrville Folk Festival, the musician/attendee ratio was lower; maybe one in twenty. There were over four thousand people that came out. I made some great new friends and cemented further some old friends. I missed half of Buddy Miller’s set, which was my only real let down. I could hear him singing Wide River To Cross as I was making the long walk to main stage from my camp, too far away in Coyote Meadow. It was very cold at night. Propane heaters made late night jamming possible. I would certainly bring more thermal clothes next time, and a down jacket. And a warm hat.

Very soon I will be at Grass Valley and this will be the first time in many years that I am not desperately broke and unsure of my next step. Okay, just not desperately broke.

My F5 premium plus Lebeda mandolin garners a lot of praise for it’s ability to cut through loud jams. As much as I think it is a great mandolin, I believe most of it is the length of time I have played that particular instrument. In that kind of setting, with many other mandolins, seek to play something different than them. This means I spend a lot of time on the wound strings, G & D, working through some break with loud double stops and a pick attack way back by the bridge. I call this the ‘Wheel Hoss’ tone, from Bill Monroe’s 1950’s recording of that instrumental. It is a little hard to tame, but I am seeing a distinctive style evolve in my playing over the last few years.

I wish I had some time to get up at least some of the many shots I have. Some of my best Instax portraits to date came forth. As you regular readers know, I am not very in love with the scanning film process.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Road Thoughts

Lockeford Water Tower, CA, Andrew D. Barron©5/18/2013 [Fuji Instax 210: Instax Wide]
Things with that country band ended abruptly at the first of the year. It wasn’t the best parting of ways, but it wasn’t the worst either. They knew that I had regular responsibilities here in Reno. Anyway, I got a call a few weeks ago and reluctantly agreed to play a series of local shows with Leroy. The last one for the time being was Saturday in Lockeford, California, where I photographed the water tower with the Fuji Instax 210 as we arrived in town.

I have recently read a couple of memoirs from former Bluegrass Boys (Robins, Lowinger) and find a lot of similarities to my experiences. For those guys, the food and travel conditions were pretty lousy. But they played in Bill Monroe’s band!

I often found that the best time for photography was just as we were trying to check into the venue for the evening. I knew I wouldn’t be in any of those towns again, and couldn’t seem to shake my irritated feeling. A case can always be made that I wasn’t there to take photographs, but to play music. There is a preciousness to having time be your own. I wonder how Patrick Sansone of Wilco managed his photography endeavors while he was out there. See Patrick’s book 100 Polaroids. Also, one of Gene Lowinger’s reasons for creating his Monroe memoir was to share the photographs he had made as he worked through a new career in photojournalism in the early nineties. There are many interesting photos in the book, most shot with a Leica M6 in 1992 and 1993. It’s cool to me that only a few months after my first trip through New Jersey, I meet a mandolin player recently transplanted from there, who, incidentally, played in bluegrass bands with Gene Lowinger. (Here’s a shot with Mike with Vassar Clements and John Carlini)

Here is Lowinger in 2008. He played fiddle for Bill Monroe for 6 months from June 1965 to February 1966. Later he became a photographer and traveled with Monroe taking photographs in 1992-93.
Gene Lowinger, 2008 by Jerry Shereshewsky
Photograph by Jerry Shereshewsky.

Time and again, I am left with the awareness that even at the highest level of music performance, there is no money, rest, or decent food out there. Bar patrons think that all musicians need is well whiskey. But in the end, we do it for the music. The music must find a way to get out of those of us who have it.

With that meandering intro, this is a good place to include some of the photographs from my trip to NYC last October. I didn’t have enough Instax Wide film; it was the star for me, being much less hassle than pack film while traveling. So I was down to a 24 exposure roll of TriX in my only 35mm slr, a Nikomat FT2. It was getting pretty dark in the City.
Flatiron Building, New York City, Andrew D. Barron©10/11/2013 [Nikomat FT2; 50mm ƒ1.4, TriX]
Flatiron Building, New York City, Andrew D. Barron©10/11/2013 [Nikomat FT2; 50mm ƒ1.4, TriX]
New York City buildings, Andrew D. Barron©10/11/2013 [Nikomat FT2; 50mm ƒ1.4, TriX]
New York City buildings, Andrew D. Barron©10/11/2013 [Nikomat FT2; 50mm ƒ1.4, TriX]
A number of days later and I was on an airport shuttle trying to make it to Brooklyn. We had played a show in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. The good folks of the Shore Road Tavern in Philly had driven us from the show in Manhattan, gave us place to stay in Philly, and let us borrow a vehicle. It was a great stay there. Leroy donated his guitar to the apartments used by bands above the bar. It’s still there. Overall, the whole tour was great with really fun and nice folks from Vermont to DC.

I had hoped to be left off in Brooklyn, but traffic delays left us late, and I had to go all the way to the JFK airport. There I got on the subway going the wrong way. I think this happened every time I took the subway in New York. Anyway, these are from the front seat that day.
A bridge en route to NYC, Andrew D. Barron©10/15/2013 [Nikomat FT2; 50mm ƒ1.4, TriX]
This bridge looks great at night. I am surprised I got an exposure at all. A while later in 2013, I realized this bridge was filmed in Saturday Night Fever for a few dramatic scenes, the Verrazano Narrows bridge.
Verrazano Narrows, Andrew D. Barron©10/15/2013 [Nikomat FT2; 50mm ƒ1.4, TriX]
The tour was over for me though, and it was an unpleasant commute to get to Brooklyn from JFK. It made for a short night’s sleep, so I forked over for a cab to make my flight out from LaGuardia.
(This would be a great place to insert my cool Instax photo from inside LAX on my last layover)

After landing back in Reno, I rested for a few days and then we drove east again, making our way all the way to Circleville, OH before returning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Kentucky Derby

At Chapel, Kentucky Derby Day, 5/4/13Near the middle of April I agreed to play a bluegrass show in a downtown bar as a warmup for the Kentucky Derby. The only trouble was I didn’t have a band. A few days later I was rehearsing with bluegrass band we had just formed. I switched to guitar, singing and fronting a talented group of musicians. This is the only photograph I’ve been able to get so far.

Mike on the mandolin, Linda on bass, Joseph off the edge on banjo. John was playing fiddle on the left.

I guess I want to say something about my majorly diminished blogging efforts. I keep thinking I will post some of the many photographs I’ve shot, but in the end, I don’t seem to get around to it. I shoot very little besides the phone camera, but do hope to get back to the Hasselblad and the Leica soon. It seems that I don’t even get to the phone pictures. It has become clear that with my return to GIS work, my tolerance for sitting at the computer has gone down. I have avoided saying it, but I find this area uninspiring for photography. What this place has been great for of course is playing music. I am out doing bluegrass several times a week. Another interesting thing, is that it seems music takes up the space where I felt the impulse to photograph. I’ve had a gusto return to bluegrass since the new year, and have found my photography eyes a bit lackluster. I’m confident that when I’m ready to shoot a bunch more, I will do just that.

Prior to the show last Sunday, I had been staying in Carson City. I was housesitting and taking care of some pets. It was a relaxing vacation. One day a tree by a substation caught my eye. In the clouds above the tree, I timed a jet flying through the frame. It sure is hard to make out on the instax print below.
Substation tree, Carson City, NV, Andrew D. Barron©4/24/13 [Fuji Instax 210]
I even got out the infrared dslr, forgetting how easily it produces lens flares.
Substation tree, Carson City, NV, Andrew D. Barron©4/24/13 [infrared converted d5000]

I have quite a lot of film that is just sitting unscanned, including my trip to Seattle in February.

Back in February, I blasted through a whole roll when the light broke over the freeway, where I spotted some BMX dirt jumping sets. I have been to sick of the computer to do a lot of scanning lately. Here are three from that roll from February 15th. Since the shots are mostly throwaway or of garbage, I did almost no cleanup on dust and specks.
Behind Costco, Reno, NV, Andrew D. Barron©2/15/13 [Hasselblad 500c/m, Portra 400]
Behind Costco, Reno, NV, Andrew D. Barron©2/15/13 [Hasselblad 500c/m, Portra 400]
Behind Costco, Reno, NV, Andrew D. Barron©2/15/13 [Hasselblad 500c/m, Portra 400]

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