Apr 182008

It’s Friday. As I write this, I’m on the train to Carinthia, and as on so many Fridays, I have no substantial image. On the other hand, I have just worked on the cover images for a CD. Remember “462 – Congeniality“? At that concert I had shot more than 300 images, using Wolfgang’s Nikon 80-200/2.8, and now that a CD is coming out, I was asked to supply the cover images. On the back cover will be the empty room after the concert, and on the front a detail of a saxophone. We don’t show musicians, because the CD will cover the best of four concerts of different bands. The actual image on the cover will be a square crop of the lower part, here I show the original composition.

I’m pretty satisfied how well the sax comes out. The image was shot in extremely low light at 200mm, f3.2, 1/100s and ISO 5600. For that it’s rather smooth 🙂

Regarding the Song of the Day, my choice of music here on the train is restricted to what’s on my IAUDIO X5 60GB music player, and unfortunately I have not much Jazz on it. Still, “Straight Up And Down” from Eric Dolphy’s 1964 album “Out To Lunch” will do, will it? No video, sorry, but Amazon’s sound sample is actually quite good.

Jan 192008

Thursday evening my friends Andreas Frei (who happens to be a silent visitor of this blog, hi Andreas!) and Wolfgang Platzer came to the opening of the show in Villach. Wolfgang asked us if we had time next evening to see a Jazz concert by a newly formed quartet, the Alpen Adria Jazz Ensemble, in Klagenfurt’s premier Jazz club Kamot. Wolfgang was the organizer, Andreas would mix and record the show, I would have plenty of opportunity to take images and Wolfgang would lend me his Nikon 80-200/2.8. Of course I agreed 🙂

The Alpen Adria Jazz Ensemble is named after an initiative to bring the peoples of the southern alps closer together. It’s members are Michael Erian, Austria, on saxophone, Jure Puckl, Slovenia, also on sax, András Mohay, Hungary on drums and Renato Chicco on organs. The concert was fantastic. They played own compositions and variations on pieces of Thelonious Monk.

The image to the right is a variation on the same theme, shot some seconds before the Image of the Day. In fact, I’m not sure which one I like more. This one is right out of the camera, the other one enjoyed some minor cloning.

Photographing with an 80-200/2.8 was terrific. Most of the time I had the camera mounted on the tripod, but with loosened ball head. This study of Michael Erian holding his sax may demonstrate the extremely shallow DOF and the nice bokeh of this lens at 200mm and f2.8.

I shot the whole concert on Auto ISO with a maximum ISO of 6400 and a minimum shutter speed dependent on the lens. With the 80-200 I used everything from 1/50s to 1/200s, depending on the degree of action.

For some motion studies like this one I set the camera to manual mode, dialed in 1/5s and then tried to capture motion blurred action. This worked out well for the saxes, was not very effective for the organist, and is definitely the way to go with drummers.

Other than the 80-200, I used my 50/1.8, the 30/1.4 and the Lensbaby, all of them wide open. The D300 did a marvelous job. I had the camera set on custom white balance taken from a sheet of paper on the table. That’s the advantage of having artificial light that does not change. Using Auto-ISO, I was able to relax and keep experimenting.

At the end of the day I went out with 362 images, and that brings us to a peculiarity of the D300, and I guess all the new Nikons:

The way I shoot, JPEG Large Fine and 14-bit RAW with lossless compression, the camera has no way to accurately predict the number of images that will fit on my 8GB CF card. It simply assumes the worst case, and that’s a meager number of 218 images. The problem is the compression. How well an image compresses is very dependent on the actual image data. I ended up with 362 images on the card, and the camera still predicted 18 more images. Thus, although I use 14-bit NEF instead of 12-bit on the D200, and although I have 12 megapixels instead of 10, I now get more images on the card.

The other thing is battery life. I had started with a fully loaded EN-EL3e, and after the concert I was not even down to half the capacity. That’s a big plus over the D200.

The Song of the Day is “Congeniality” from the classic 1959 Ornette Coleman album “The Shape of Jazz to Come“.