Friday, October 18, 2013

Street performer Mike, this one's for you

While I try to stay current with my posts at Photo Potpourri, occasionally I fall behind. Sometimes, very far behind.

Today's post is one of those "very far behind" cases. I won't get into the details of how I suddenly remembered today to compose this post, whose pictures date to Oct. 7, 2011, but I'll quickly add (in a somewhat feeble defense) that I did sort of address this in a post back in June 2012.

That's when, in one of those other "catch up" posts, I presented pictures I'd taken along Mass Ave in downtown Indianapolis eight months previously. In the text of the June 2012 post, I explained how I'd encountered a street musician named Mike during my walk through the First Friday Art Walk that evening. I included one picture of Mike (the first one below). Mike actually had told me his last name when we introduced each other, but I forgot it in the months that passed between the night of the shoot and the June post. As I recall, it was not an uncommon or difficult surname and had two or three syllables.

Mike graciously invited me to take pictures as he performed, and I chatted with him long enough to explain that I would be using some of the pictures I took that night in this blog. Mike told me he was heading to Europe the following day, and I've wondered if he tried to find the blog with the information I gave him. If you did, Mike, and if you see this, I'm sorry it took so long to get the June 2012 post up, and I'm even sorrier it took me this much longer to sprinkle a few more images of my shoot of you here.

Much of Mike's performance was compromised by the din of vehicles driving by and the noise of the First Friday Art Walk atmosphere which, as it turned out, happened to be a key component of the Mass Ave flavor that evening. The noise didn't seem to deter Mike, but a different kind of noise situation proved confounding to me.

I was severely challenged to get quality pictures of Mike because by this time, it was totally dark -- the EXIF data on the picture files put the time at 9:42 p.m. (I had started my walk along Mass Ave about 6:40 p.m., when there was still good ambient light). Even though I had my tripod with me, that tool is of no use when you're hoping to stop action by a performer in such low light and don't want to use flash. (The purpose of the shoot, after all, was to capture the flavor of Mass Ave, and while flash certainly would have illuminated the performer, I'm not sure it would have picked up sufficient background -- the flavor of Mass Ave -- even at 1/60).

I had my former walk-around lens, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, on the Canon 7D, so I kept trying different settings, starting with the most favorable for image quality. I wasn't getting much luck until I had pushed the settings to the dreaded hilt -- f/2.8, 1/60 and ISO 6400. Image quality tends to drop off -- and noise (those flecks of grain on an image) conversely increases -- significantly after ISO 3200 on the 7D. So I knew I'd be pushing the images through noise-reduction software during post-processing. The 1/60 shutter didn't freeze the action as well as I had hoped; there were many shots that I had to toss because there was too much blur across the image. But it did allow me to hand-hold the camera to maintain sharpness in most inert things for the few you see here. With a shutter any slower, I'm certain that camera shake would have made the effort moot.

A full gallery of images from that evening (along with some I took on a second visit the following summer) can be found at my site at SmugMug. It's a little interesting that the gallery includes shots of the facade of two Mass Ave eateries that have since closed -- Aesop's Tables (on page 3 of the gallery) and Agio's (on page 10).

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