Sunday, July 31, 2011

Epic Fail energizes the Emerson

I've been remiss. And busy. And most of it has to do with photography, but when more important things -- family and friends, specifically, but also work (as in paid employment) -- enter the mix, the photography has to play second fiddle to all of the above. Which is OK; it's never a bad thing to get a perspective/priority check.

I'm going to try and play catch up with this post, and hope that later in the week, I can creep back into the pattern of staying current. Shoots I've done in recent weeks include off-camera flash lighting classes; a cycling competition in Downtown Indianapolis; a photo documentation of the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis; an Indiana Tornados semipro football game that was delayed for three hours -- and that I ended up leaving an hour before start time (but I did shoot some pregame stuff); and, in the most current of all these, an appearance by the Indy rock band Epic Fail at the Emerson Theater on the Eastside of Indy.

To begin my crawl back to keeping up, I'll begin with the most current shoot -- Friday's Epic Fail show. Actually, the band was one of several on a bill of an ongoing series the Emerson hosts to give local bands a chance to get stage time and visibility. Among others performing were Push, Jump Eli Black and Everyday Losers. Epic Fail took the stage last not just because band members and fans sold the most tickets to the event, but also because, as it turned out, the band put on a wonderful show and was deserving of the "save the best for last" position.

I'd photographed the band almost two years ago to the day -- Aug. 1, 2009 -- in Garfield Park, Indianapolis, when it gave a free show for a community Back to School Day event. The lineup of vocalist Nick Smith (far right in photo above); guitarists Andrew Day (far left in photo above) and Aaron Hernandez; bassist Mike Hererra; and drummer Wolfgang Amadeus McMurray welcomed guest vocalist Julie Young -- an Indianapolis freelance writer -- to sing lead on three tunes that day. Bassist Hererra has since joined the Marines, replaced by Gabe Elam (middle in photo above).

The 2009 show was good; Friday's show, I felt, was very good -- italics for emphasis -- indicating how much the band has improved, grown and benefited from the experience of practicing, performing and composing together. It also had the biggest fan base Friday, making the atmosphere for its show the most electric all evening. "Epic Fail" might have been a clever name idea for a band in its fledgling stages, but there may be a time not too far down the road that it will be a misnomer -- assuming the guys stick with this for a while.

The big difference for me between Friday's show and the one in 2009 was lighting, although both shows presented photographic challenges. Photographing the Garfield Park gig was hampered by sunlight blasting through a white tent backgrounding the stage, forcing some experimentation with proper exposure -- and blowing out that background. Friday, the battle was low light. My plans to use my fastest zooms -- a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS were quickly doomed when I pushed the ISO to 6400 and still was not getting the exposure I wanted. I turned to a lens I hadn't used in some time, the Canon 50mm f/1.8, and the "nifty-fifty" delivered like a pro. I found myself moving around a lot more, as I fully expected I would, and the fans were kind enough to give me space in the front when I went after my closeups. I also resorted to a lot of low-to-the-ground vantage points, angles that positioned me below the stage, and therefore, allowing me to dodge backlight from the colored spotlights (unless I wanted it) and most lens flare. The only disappointment was that 50mm wasn't enough reach to get me very close to McMurray, the drummer.

I used shutter priority with first 6400 ISO then 5000 ISO; I started at 1/60 but quickly boosted that to 1/100 when I wasn't getting many freeze shots. The aperture was almost always wide open -- f/1.8. I would say that 99% of the shots I took were at that aperture. Nifty-fifty, you are still a sweet option.

To view a complete gallery of images from my shoot of Epic Fail at the Emerson, follow this link.

Above: Taking advantage of backlight to frame Andrew Day, caught in a calm moment checking his guitar moments before the show. 

Above and next two below: Lead vocalist Nick Smith bounced around the stage and used lots of arm movement to create a more riveting stage presence than I recall from the 2009 show in Garfield Park. 

Above: Wolfgang Amadeus McMurray, gets gritty during a rhythmic segment. Above him, fans bring out their cellphones and light up the darkness during a number. Above that, bassist Gabe Elam, who replaced Mike Hererra when the latter joined the Marines, hasn't shortchanged the band on energy.

Above and next four below: One can't say Aaron Hernandez's guitar-playing lacks spirit or emotion. He adds teeth-strumming and instrument gyration stunts to the show late in the set for good measure.

Hernandez isn't in sole possession of Epic Fail's emotive flair. Above, Smith uses fist power to accentuate a lyric, while Day (below) allows himself to visit another dimension while unleashing a series of guitar licks.

Above and next two below: Finding an angle to capture McMurray was one of the bigger challenges Friday. The shot above was a rare, front-and-center square shot opportunity. The next two below -- showing that McMurray, too, has theater in his blood -- were from stage left. By these points in the show, McMurray had long dispensed with the shirt in a venue cooled by ceiling and stages fans.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Not the primary face
of Indy's Old Northside

A project that has kept me busy -- and busy enough to derail regular posts here or at my Facebook page in recent weeks -- has been the task to photograph the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis. The project actually is being undertaken by several interested members of the Indy Meetup Photo Club (IMUPC), the same club that covered the inaugural Park2Park Relay Race in Hendricks County on June 25.

The Old Northside project has been going on since May, and it's been in full steam since June. Club members have been out photographing various scenes in the neighborhood -- either as a group or individually -- since then. I've done both group and individual shoots in the neighborhood, and as you might have guessed from my existing neighborhoods galleries folder at my online site at, this is something I really enjoy doing, and the Old Northside project is no exception.

I'll be posting some shots from my efforts in the project later this month; the Propylaeum, the club's partner in the project, will display our work at an open house fundraiser on Aug. 21. Admission is $10; there will be food and refreshments (including a cash bar) as well as an opportunity to tour the historic Propylaeum structure.

This neighborhood definitely is worth a photographic profile; there are remarkable, beautiful structures there to behold. However, while on an individual shoot in the neighborhood last weekend, I came across an off-the-beaten path alley scene that was unlike anything I've seen anywhere else in the neighborhood. In a way, an antithesis to all the striking features I'd found, but nevertheless intriguing ... and even interesting. It was some brick wall art and graffiti in the shell of a structure roofless except for a section with overhead crisscrossing, intersecting thin steel beams -- a sort of work of art themselves. It reminded me -- but on a much larger scale -- of a surprise I came across earlier this month when I took a shortcut en route to my car after a photo gallery opening in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis and came across an alleyway of murals and artwork that I'm sure wasn't commissioned.

I took quite a few photographs of this Old Northside discovery, none of which I intend to submit for the Old Northside project, so I feel I can post them here now.

Above and below: I might not have even thought to explore the alley had I not been intrigued by the bright green doors on the facade and the lack of roof I could detect from the open area above the green door on the left. The doorway (below) gives a hint of what's to come once one makes the precarious step inside.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An alley of art in Fountain Square

The Indiana Photographic Society had its opening reception Friday night for a second showing of its "Heart and Soul" photography exhibit. 
 The photo club had a first run, in April through May, of "Through the Lens: Heart and Soul" at the Garfield Park Arts Center in Indianapolis. In the weeks leading up to that show, the Fountain Square Branch of Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library invited club members to bring a portion of the images from the GPAC show to display at the library branch for two months, this month and August, during normal library hours. 
Friday's reception coincided with the monthly First Friday art walk in the Fountain Square cultural district, so I found it fitting that on my departure from the photo club's reception about 8:45 p.m., and during a walk through an alley behind the library en route to my car, I came across several striking paintings on the backsides of buildings fronting the alley. There were several "art works" in this short one-block alley, although I'm not sure the alley was officially designated for such work ... or that any of the works was commissioned.
The images you see here are those art works I came across.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Heart and Soul, Part II

Members of the Indiana Photographic Society, another photo club I belong to, have a second chance to get exposure for their "Heart and Soul" images. On a First Friday art walk night this past Friday in Fountain Square, the club opened a two-month-long exhibit in which the photos are perched atop the book stacks lining the main room of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library branch right at Fountain Square.

We don't have nearly as many spaces in the library as we did for our "Through the Lens: Heart and Soul" exhibit that ran from April 9 to the end of May at the Garfield Park Arts Center, but we each got to display four images (I'd had eight on display at GPAC). We used images from the GPAC display for the Fountain Square exhibit.

Friday was opening night of the display, which runs through the end of August. The photos in this post are from Friday's opening reception at the library. A nice twist to the reception for this show was the ambiance music, provided by club member Dave Wensits, who played acoustic guitar and sang various folk songs. That's Dave performing in the top picture and the one immediately below. The top photo is a perspective shot that also shows some of the visitors (including club member Albert at far left) enjoying the entertainment, and, in the background, a visitor checking out some of our images atop the book stacks.

Above: Liz and Dave confer about the refreshment-munchies setup strategy.
Above: Club member Bob adds his contribution to the snacks display.

Above: Albert and Sheri chat near the coffee pot.

Above: Erik preparing a beverage.

Above: The spread included cheese cubes, chips and guacamole, veggies and dip.

Above: Dave, Phyllis, Jim and Albert near the snacks.

Above: A view of the lion's share of the images on display.

Above: Dave's images, which were to the right of the ones above.

Above: Images offered by yours truly. From left: "In Thought," "The Tree," "Window to the Arts" and "MacAllister Center." All are high-dynamic range captures taken in February 2011 at Garfield Park in Indianapolis.

Above: Albert (standing behind me in the upper right corner) suggested I might get an interesting shot shooting a picture of this fish-eye mirror, and he was right. At left, shooting a photo of three seated visitors and using her flash and flash diffuser setup, is Albert's wife, Sylvia.

Above: Club members (from left) Sylvia, Marikay and Jim.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A team race for the long haul

It's been a couple weeks since I've had a chance to post here, and there are several reasons for that, some of which I don't care to delve into. One of them, however, is the basis of today's post: The inaugural running of the Park2Park Relay in Hendricks County, a race I alluded to in recent previous posts when I did a sort of "recon" of the 64+ mile course, taking photographs along the way.

The June 25 race, whose photography coverage I coordinated on behalf of the Indy Meetup Photo Club, is now history. Race organizers were blessed with a beautiful day; it was sunny start to finish, and temperatures never inched past 80 degrees. We had 15 IMUPC photographers spread across the expansive course, over which teams of six runners each took turns running 3- to 5-mile segments of the course's 18 legs so that, by race's end, each runner had covered an average of about 10 miles. Each team was allowed to have one team vehicle on the course to pick up the runner finishing an exchange, drop off the next runner and transport the non-running members to the next exchange point.

The race started at 6:30 a.m. in McCloud Nature Park in northwest Hendricks County, just southwest of North Salem. It was not a smooth start (top picture); one runner tripped over the rubber matting at the start line, causing runners around him to dodge around him as he hit the ground. The course finished at the county system's newest jewell, Sodalis Nature Park, in the southeast part of the county, not far from Indianapolis International Airport. Two teams of cross-country and track athletes from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., finished first and second overall, less than 4 minutes apart. The first-place North Salem Bank team covered the course in 6 hours, 9 minutes and 57.4 seconds, the Wabash Redpack in 6:13:49.6. The last team crossed the line at around 5:40 p.m. with a time of 11:10:08.8.

Thirty-seven teams finished the course. I was among a handful of those 15 photographers who followed the race from start to finish, taking the pictures along the way. My shot total numbered in excess of 1,000 images. What you see here are a few selected highlights of my shoot.

Above: This shot is of three women -- each on different teams -- on Hendricks County Road 625 North about midway through the fourth leg of the relay. The two women closest to the camera had been walking when I approached them on the highway from behind, but they started running when they saw my camera when I emerged from my car after pulling off to the side of the road to shoot them from the front side, which I did. I sensed they'd resume walking after passing me, and indeed, they had when I turned around to grab this silhouette, looking into the eastern sky, where the sun was still rising. They were tired already at this stage -- and it was only their first of three legs of the day. 

Above and next two below: The shot above is aimed primarily to capture the isolation and separation that evolved among runners not long into the race. The two runners in the back were an interesting story. Only the woman with the BIB (015) in red shorts (also in closeups below) was an entered participant; the other must have been an acquaintance who joined her friend from start to finish for the duration of the legs that her friend would run this day. I decided to approach this apparent kinship in a silhouette monochrome as well.

Above: The race organizers decided to toss a "surprise" obstacle into the course with this steep gradient climb in the heart of Blanton Woods Park in Danville. This is one runner as he begins the ascent.

Above: This shot attempts to illustrate how exchanges were made during the event -- when one runner ended his/her leg and the next took over. Runners on the course were required to carry a baton, and much like a track relay race, they had to exchange the baton with their teammate within a certain exchange zone at the exchange point. This team above also exchanged high fives at the transition along Hendricks County Road 250 North that ended Leg 8 of the race.

Above: The original course had runners going through two large and new subdivisions between Danville and Brownsburg. By race day, for safety reasons, the course was rerouted to remove one of those housing additions, the one in Danville. These women are going through the remaining new subdivision on the race-day course, Midnight Pass, just outside of Brownsburg, on Leg 10. 

Above: In Avon Town Hall Park, an event sign helped direct this runner to a proper turn to stay on the course.

Above: One of my fellow IMUPC members remarked that everywhere she encountered Donovan White, the above Wabash College athlete and race participant, she would see him stretching, and she captured several pictures of him as proof. We had that conversation after I had gotten this picture of him -- also stretching -- at the exchange station at Splash Island Aquatics Park in Plainfield, where his team was waiting for its runner to arrive.

Above: At the exchange point in Hummel Park in Guildford Township (near Plainfield), I pulled away during a lull waiting for runners to capture this high-dynamic range (HDR) shot of the artsy ceiling of a very long pavilion on the west side of the park.

Above: At the finish line in Sodalis Nature Park, race organizers encouraged all team members to join the sixth, and final, runner on their team as he/she approached the finish chute so they could all cross the terminus together. That's what this picture is about. The fellow on the left (BIB 316) was the final leg runner, and he hoists the baton as teammates join him crossing the finish line.

Above: The race organizers decided to invite winners of each of the five divisions -- men's, women's, mixed, open and corporate -- to help plant a tree along the large fishing pond at Sodalis. That's what is going on here: Members of the open category winner, Team Tenacious, are planting their tree, and those are three IMUPC photographers on the left, capturing the moment.