Archive for March, 2009

I’ll be at Artomatic again this year

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Third Floor

To be honest, I have no idea what I’m going to display and I’m not actually that excited about whatever my potential exhibit might be. Mostly I just registered (and paid the registration fee, which at $99 is up 10% from last year) so that I can be a part of the community again. Last year’s event really struck me as a neat communal space that had all sorts of potential and opportunity that I barely took advantage of at all. Perhaps I’ll be a little more invested this year, and hopefully I’ll get more out of it, correspondingly.

(Above: an empty floor in the Artomatic ’08 building, which bizarrely had a conference table and very expensive chairs set up in one corner.)

I’m back from vacation

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Twin Peaks

I took a lot of photos in San Francisco. What a photogenic city, seriously: half the buildings are either covered in murals (as below) or are painted some whimsical color. Golden Gate Park is gorgeous and incredibly green, with all kinds of flowers in bloom, and there are numerous places where sweeping views of the entire city are easy to come by (Twin Peaks [above], the observation tower of the DeYoung Museum, Telegraph Hill, etc). Not to mention the people, who are quirky, friendly, and make interesting (and willing) photographic subjects.

I used to go to San Francisco very regularly, but hadn’t been there since 2003, and not for any real length of time since 2000. It was great to be back.

Mural

More photos after the jump, culled from a set of 36 which is at Flickr.

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I’m on vacation

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Open Close

Hanging out in San Francisco with a very good old friend and seeing a few concerts of John Zorn’s residency at Yoshi’s. Thus the lack of activity in this space, though I’m certainly taking plenty of photos. This is a very, very photogenic city. I’ve been here many times but not in several years and never with my camera.

Above, a little detail I noticed on Valencia Street while wandering around the Mission district. More to come, surely.

Venue: Velvet Lounge

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Evangelista 1

More than any other venue in the DC area, I have a love-hate relationship with the Velvet Lounge. This place, just a block from the U Street metro, books some of the most interesting and off-the-wall stuff of any venue in the city, from avant-rock to free jazz to metal to completely out in left field stuff like the harp/tap-dance duo I saw there last December (below). If a vibrant, underground, forward-looking group is playing DC, chances are good they’re playing at the Velvet Lounge. And cheap! Door prices are often $8 or even less.

Lily Neill 14

So what’s the downside? First and foremost, this is the worst place in DC when it comes to set times. Doors often open at 9, set times are often delayed, and there are often four or more bands on the bill. If I’m interested in a headlining band playing at Velvet Lounge, I never expect to leave before midnight and I’m braced to be there until 2am. I find this unnecessary and annoying and it has numerous times dissuaded me from seeing a show I’d otherwise have been very interested in.

The second problem is a photography-related one: the lighting sucks, horribly. It’s all static cans, which is normal for a tiny club like this, but invariably they are turned down to impossibly dim levels, and worse, the two front lights are mostly blocked by ceiling-mounted speakers. (There’s been talk about fixing this latter issue, but the last time I went nothing had changed.) So: static, incredibly dim, deeply colored backlighting is more or less what you get. Have a chat with the dude in the back and maybe you can get him to keep the lighting at a reasonable level, but it’s still bad quality light. This is the kind of place that you bust out the f/1.4 primes and even then expect to get shutter speeds around 1/50 at ISO 3200. Capturing fast action is basically impossible without flash.

Pacific Before Tiger 3

That said, some positives: being such a small club (the upstairs part where the stage is holds probably 50-60 people at capacity – and that’s after they knocked out a back wall to create more space), the stage is at floor level, no one cares if you take photos regardless of whether or not you have a pass, and usually no one cares if you use flash. At most of the shows I’ve been to, crowds were modest, and even with the tiny size fo the venue there was plenty of room to move around. Of course, being such a small club with a floor level stage has a flip side – it’s easier to be distracting moving around taking photos, especially when using flash.

All things considered, Velvet Lounge is perhaps my least favorite place in DC to take photos, even if they do tend to book the most interesting stuff. Go there for the cutting-edge music, not for any great photo opportunities.