Camera Bag

Don’t get one that indicates the contents.

Now that you have acquired a nice camera and lens, you want to protect your investment. Shopping for a camera bag is almost as fun as shopping for the equipment it holds thanks to the wide array of options, sizes and styles. There is no right or wrong here. Just find one that suits your needs and most importantly, get one that does not scream camera bag.

Professionals tend to carry something similar to a Tenba Messenger Bag which offers lots of space and utility for multiple bodies, lenses, flashes, tablet/laptop and more. I am not a professional so I chose a Bestek Canvas Shoulder Bag. It provides more than enough room for my T6 with the lens attached. There’s plenty of space left for battery, cable and such. The canvas material makes it water resistant so that’s a big plus.

The design emphasizes security over convenience due to a two layer system but I can still get in it pretty quickly. At $16 it was a great value. The padded compartment is removable as pictured below. The divider detaches via velcro so you can adjust the space to your desire. There’s actually a second divider which I have placed beneath my camera for more padding underneath.

In addition to the outside buckle/snap flap cover, the main compartment can be zippered close for a second layer of security. If I need to get to my camera quickly, I will leave the cover flap unfastened and zipper open so I can just flip away the cover and reach in.

The flap cover fastens with snap buttons or you can leaven them snapped on and use the buckles. There are pockets on both sides, a front zipper compartment and finally a somewhat hidden zipper pouch sewn to the back of the bag. I imagine this is good for valuables and cash if you’re traveling. As you can see, lots of room! Dimensions measure roughly 11 x 15 x 7 inches. The only downside is that it lacks a top handle which makes it slightly awkward to pick up.

Hearing Protection

Each square is 1 inch.

My next show isn’t for another week or two so I figured I talk about something different today. It has nothing to do with photography but it’s a critical consideration for anyone who partakes in concerts. The title says it all. Hearing is something you do not get back once lost. At least probably not in our lifetimes even though there are talks of the possibility. When I first started going years ago, I went without because the joys of youth (silly me). Then one night I saw a doubleheader of Atmosphere then Yelle. Needless to say, it was amazing. But the next morning my ears were still ringing which really scared me. Please learn from my mistake.

I tried various ear plugs including those $3 clay textured round plugs and those popular orange foam cones. The former, while far more comfortable than the latter, not only distorted the sound but muffled them.  I finally settled on Etymotic’s High Fidelity earplugs and have never looked back. They effectively work by turning down the volume. In other words, you do not lose any fidelity in sound. Push them in deeper to lower the sound to your preference. They are very comfortable and come in different sizes to fit your ears as well as colors. I like blue. They also come with a small handy carrying case which I love. When I first got them they were $10. Prices have since increased to $13 but very worth it! They last a year or two which is about 60 to 70 shows for me.

Please Let There Be Light

ƒ/1.8 • 50.0 mm • 1/15 • ISO 3200

So it finally happened. There was not enough light to take a good photo of Tei Shi with my f/1.8 lens. I took over 70 photos but none of them really came out well. Most were too fuzzy. This was one of the better ones and the shutter speed here is 1/15. In fact, one of the worst photos was taken at 1/5! That has to be a record right? It was definitely frustrating and disappointing but such is the hazard of shooting live music. I wonder if it would have turned out better with a larger aperture like a f/1.2 lens.

Skating Polly @ DC9, 5/21/17

“Ooo it’s loud.” Kelli had just switched with Peyton and was tuning the guitar. “That’s good.”

Actually, it’s not good. It’s fantastic. I have a habit of leaving my earplugs slightly loose at the onset of sets to partake more fully in the sonic assault. I would push them in deeper later on to protect my hearing. I waited until the last song to push them in for Skating Polly.

I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t regret going deaf over the Washington trio, but there’s immense solace, even joy, in knowing that that’s the last thing I will ever hear. By “that” I mean a kaleidoscope of all sounds, the holy grail of music I have been seeking my entire existence. As a lover of many genres, I often have to settle for a single flavor with any given band. With Skating Polly, I get to scoop mint choco chips, root beer, and cookie dough all at once!

One hand cradling the mic, Kelli cooed with a tenderness on “Perfume for Now” that beguiled the angsty shouts which followed moments later. Her arms were extended outwards and ended with her palms facing downwards. She looked and sounded ready to rocket into the sky like Supergirl. Peyton, in contrast, was too cool for school. While almost expressionless, her voice carried an authority and strength that could move planets. The amalgam of the two voices swinging wildly from saccharine to sharp left me breathless and virtually on my knees.

And we have yet to add the magic wands both wielded. The guitar twinkled with magnificence and twirled with purpose. The bass thumped at all the right times and throbbed at all the right places, plus some I didn’t even know I had. The drums drove unrelentingly towards the inevitable bliss.

Putting everything together resulted in fireworks. The exhilarating manner in which Kelli high kicked the air in tandem with each crash of the cymbal imbued me with a satisfaction I will likely never experience again. Then there’s that euphoric moment in “Hail Mary” when the beat paused and Peyton slid her pick along the string. Anyone struck by that note is sure to reach nirvana like I did.

Now as I sit here, still feeling residual pain in my ears, all I can think about is when I can do it all over again.

50mm Pros and Cons

ƒ/2.0 • 50.0 mm • 1/60 • ISO 1000

I have shot with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens for several shows now which gives me a good idea of its pros and cons. The biggest pro is certainly the value. At about $110, it delivers far, far more than the price tag suggests. It shoots amazing portraits with beautiful bokeh. And it does so with little effort. Just pay attention to where the focus point is. Photos are sharp and vivid even in suboptimal light conditions. It’s also very light making it easy to hold which in turn makes it easy to point and shoot.

However, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. It excels at shooting portraits but not much else. And often you want a photograph that captures the entire band so I definitely need to procure a wide angle lens at some point.

It also does not do well with movement. This is a problem because musicians rarely stay still when performing. The photos I took involving action beyond simply strumming or drumming have almost always turned out too blurry. Sometimes I can’t even shoot because it can’t focus. That said, I like how this photo turned out even though Kelli is clearly in motion. It helps that I am roughly an arm’s length away.

Tei Shi @ Songbyrd Music House, 5/12/17

Venturing into DC on a Friday night is always a tedious proposition. It becomes exponentially more so when it rains. However, the gloomy traffic certainly did not stop the massive crowd that greeted me behind the curtain at Songbyrd. The show sold out so I expected some early attendance. The place was half packed and dancing to Salt Cathedral. I welcomed the loud distraction from the arduous trek I just suffered through.

Before I continue I’d like to mention some changes Songbyrd made since my last visit. Line dividers now run down both sides of the room, creating a path for traffic on the left and space for a merch table on the right. This effectively fences the crowd within, making the already narrow space narrower. The wall of vinyl that served as the backdrop for part of the stage has been replaced by a sizable logo of the venue. There appears to be more staff/security as well. In short, the Adams Morgan venue is polishing its image.

By the time Valerie, performing as Tei Shi, took the stage, the crowd had spilled over the divider which no doubt frustrated the poor staffer trying to maintain order. It was pointless halfway into the first song. Valerie’s voice sent the packed room into a frenzy. It was one hundred percent participation from the entire basement. Those not dancing with a partner were doing so alone, and those not dancing were singing along. Even those doing neither were swaying in one way
or another. Of course there were those doing all of the above.

The Brooklyn resident sang with two mics which was a nice touch. Layering her already honey-soaked vocals on top of loops evoked a heavenly sensation. Accompanied by a full band, she leveraged the shimmering sounds to craft a sexy atmosphere that bonded everyone across a wide array of demographics. Indeed, she remarked on the great diversity of the crowd and thanked us for selling out the show.

Bokeh For The Win

ƒ/1.8 • 50.0 mm • 1/25 • ISO 3200

I was doing a half sit up on the floor here. That was a really bad idea because it introduced more movement than it would have otherwise which the slow shutter speed confirms but I really wanted to play with the angle and depth. I like how it turned out. The bokeh here in particular gives a stunning sharpness to Kelly’s eyes. It actually speaks great volume about the f/1.8 lens as a portrait lens given how incredibly slow 1/25 is.

Focus On Focusing

ƒ/2.0 • 50.0 mm • 1/60 • ISO 400

I took this from the pit so I was pretty close. You can see the focus is a bit off which is my fault. I am surprised how much difference such a tiny distance makes. Her face is obviously mere inches from her hand and yet the contrast in focus is a world apart. This tells me that the Rebel T6 is really powerful. Had I pointed it just a tad to the right, this could easily have been an amazing photo where Simi’s singing is the center of attention while her hand is slightly out of focus. Similar to what I did here with the guitar and Molly. That said, it’s really cool to see the light reflect off Simi’s ring and the bokeh is breathtaking as usual.

50mm Is For Portraits

ƒ/1.8 • 50.0 mm • 1/40 • ISO 3200

This was the furthest away I have ever taken a photo thus far with my 50mm f/1.8. I would guess roughly fifteen feet away and it really highlights the fact that I need a fisheye or wide angle lens in order to capture the entire band in the photograph. To put it another way, it demonstrates that the 50mm on a cropped sensor like the T6 is really only good for portrait shots.

Beauty Pill @ Black Cat, 4/29/17

“Trust me, in twenty minutes you will be happy.”

That was Chad’s response to the unison of disappointed groans after he announced the band’s last song. The soft-spoken frontman of Beauty Pill left an impression on me even if I am still unclear of its shape or depth. As a longtime resident of the DC suburbs, I felt remiss at having never seen the local outfit live before, or even really listening to their music. I finally corrected my oversight on the last Saturday of April. I should have done it sooner.

Chad and the other seasoned members constructed a wholly unique sound that reminded me of my first exposure to Sigur Ros. It took me years to appreciate the Icelandic post-rock band because I severely lacked true concepts of music at the time. Or art for that matter. I think of it like dressage, where the subtle finess and talent exhibited so beautifully is lost on those unfamiliar with the techniques of the sport. Fortunately, I know much more about music than dressage, and by now know enough to understand that the world is richer with Chad’s experimental creations in it.

This is most evident when Chad shared the background on a particular song. He spent years writing the ending, wanting it to be tragic and dark because it’s a Beauty Pill song, but he finally realized that it wanted a happy ending. His expression conveyed the delight of someone making an unexpected discovery. “There’s a ray of hope,” he added after a pause.

Indeed, I hope to discover more bands like Beauty Pill. Expanding my musical horizons is important to me, and ought to be important to us all.