Archive for November, 2009

Off to Ecuador

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Gear for Ecuador

As mentioned in my last post, I’ll be in Ecuador for the next two weeks. My exact plans are yet to be nailed down, but roughly speaking, for the first week I will be in the rainforest, doing some pro bono photography work with the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía. We may follow that up with a visit to the remote Cuyabeno National Wildlife Reserve, or I also have an opportunity to do more photography work, this time with an indigenous fair-trade tea cooperative that is just starting up. For the second week, I’ll be doing some backpacking around the Cuenca area, perhaps in Cajas National Park, with a group of friends.

I last went to Ecuador for a brief visit in 2006. I didn’t even bring my D70 because I was traveling super light – one small backpack for 10 days – and didn’t want to have to be worried about carrying such an expensive piece of gear around. This time, I’m bringing my D700 with grip, D300, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4, 90/2.8 macro, a borrowed 70-300/4.5-5.6 VR (decided the 80-200/2.8 would be too much to lug around), and an SB-800. It’s all insured so at least I have that peace of mind. I really prefer traveling light, but camera gear pretty much precludes that possibility. The bag pictured above with my gear weighs an appalling 33 pounds, 6 ounces.

Speaking of that bag, I’m violating the cardinal rule of never using unfamiliar equipment for the first time on a trip. That thing is a LowePro CompuPrimus AW backpack (pictured above with my gear stowed away in it). I wanted one pack I could travel to the rainforest with that held all my gear as well as all my laptop, clothes and other necessities. The CompuPrimus is one of the few photo packs I found that is big enough to do that. Unfortunately, it is an extremely idiosyncratic pack and I’m sure I’ll be getting used to it throughout the trip.

Also new to me is the 70-300, but I’m not really worried about that – seems like I can figure it out pretty easily, although it is the first lens I’ve ever used with VR (!).

More on this trip coming later, obviously!

Four years after Katrina

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Lower Ninth Ward

I was in New Orleans earlier this month to celebrate a milestone with my now-fiancée. She has done a great deal of work in the Gulf Coast region helping rebuild from the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. We went to the Lower Ninth Ward so I could see firsthand some of what she has been up against. It was a sobering sight, to say the least. The above photo was taken inside an abandoned home in the Lower Ninth, which apparently had not been touched at all by any of the cleanup or recovery efforts (here is another view). Keep in mind: this happened more than four years ago. It’s pretty unbelievable. I did not touch anything in the above photo; that mug was just sitting there, and I used my pop-up flash to cast a little light on it.

I am currently planning a trip to do some photography of a disaster site of a different nature: the areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon polluted by Texaco oil exploration starting around 1970. I leave Friday. Some of what I get will appear here, no doubt. In the meantime, here are the rest of my shots from New Orleans – most of them of a much happier nature than the above.

Metal at the 9:30 Club: yes please

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Lamb of God 30

I love shooting metal shows at the 9:30 Club. The headlining band usually has a sweet lighting design, there’s always a fat, wide pit (and there are almost no other metal photographers in DC so I always have the pit entirely to myself or close to it), and the fans are a far cry from the stereotypical stiff-necked, lame DC show crowd. Lamb of God last week brought out one of the craziest crowds I’ve ever seen for a DC show; the security contingent had their hands full catching crowdsurfers coming three and four at a time, trying to stop wheelchair-bound fans from mixing it up in the mosh pit (seriously), and more. Good times. (And I don’t even really care about Lamb of God, musically speaking.)

Lamb of God 11

These guys had some monstrously bright lighting schemes, but, per usual for metal bands, it was largely backlight. Still, I got some cool shots, and almost exclusively stuck with the 14-24/2.8, which I’m convinced is a lens that Nikon engineers designed with metal shows in mind.

Lamb of God 25

Tons more photos from this show right here.

Damn you, Murphy’s Law

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Bruce Springsteen 21

I shot Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band last night at the Verizon Center. It was a soundboard shoot, and a 300/2.8 on a crop body did OK, although in retrospect I should have rented a teleconverter or even jumped at the chance to play with a 400/2.8. Regardless, a couple things went wrong. First, I forgot to bring my monopod. Oops. Second, the Boss came down to mingle in the crowd during the third song and then crowdsurf back to the stage. This clearly does not qualify as “something going wrong.” However, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, during the worst possible moment, and thus, for the entire time that Springsteen was out in the crowd, the autofocus on my D300 decided to stop working. Oh good.

Bruce Springsteen 16

I still managed to get some good shots the old-fashioned way (ie focusing by turning that funny ring on the lens rather than pushing a button), but let me tell you: manually focusing at 300mm wide open at f/2.8, on a D300 focusing screen, while handholding ten pounds of camera and lens is not the easiest thing in the world. Luckily, Springsteen wasn’t moving very quickly (although while he was crowdsurfing it was very tough to keep his face in focus), so I was able to get some pretty good shots anyway – the above is probably my favorite. But man, talk about bad timing.

Bruce Springsteen 10

I’ll be using the D300/300mm combination again tonight for Miley Cyrus. Won’t be any photos of that one here as those photos can only be published at the City Paper, but here’s hoping this issue doesn’t crop up at the peak moment of the action again. She’s going to be bouncing around a bit more than Springsteen was, understandable since he’s almost 4 times her age (!!!). I’ll probably be sending my D300 in to Nikon to get checked out soon.

Oh yeah – more Bruce photos here. They’re even all in focus!


Sunday, November 1st, 2009


I spent most of my Halloween night shooting Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High On Fire, but can’t share those photos yet. It was a weird show, photographically: lighting was great for High On Fire, who went on first; good for Converge, who were second, absolutely atrocious for Mastodon, and only marginally better for Dethklok. Probably the first show I’ve ever shot where the headliners got by far the worst lighting treatment.

Anyway, I got home and there was a Halloween party still going. A few costumed folk made their way down to the basement to get the studio treatment, which is what you’re seeing here in this post. These two are shot with a strobe on either side of the camera, both with shoot-thru umbrellas, plus a bare strobe clamped to the ceiling as a hair light providing some separation from the black background.


And yet another awesome kitten photo; same lighting setup but white seamless instead of a black cloth background.


I’m hopefully shooting three shows this coming week, so more concert shots are forthcoming.