October 28, 2012     Great Balls of Fire

George Tomsco, The FireballsStan Lark, The Fireballs

Last night's show by The Fireballs at Raton's Shuler Theater was the first opportunity to give my new rig a "test drive." I was pleased with the performance of the Nikon D4, but its impressive speed was not enough to overcome the camera movement caused by hand-holding the big 8"-long, 3.5-pound 70-200 f/2.8 lens, despite that lens's vibration reduction (VR) feature.

Chris Segura, The Fireballs, Raton

The lens is so long and heavy that the tripod mount is fit to the lens rather than the camera, to center the overall weight. I'll use the tripod when I can, but shooting performance is a kinetic enterprise, always in motion: I'm going to have to make a greater effort to steady the 7-pound camera-and-lens combination by hand. Whenever possible, I'll use something to steady it -- a chair back, a rail, a wall -- whatever's available. Between that and the VR, I'm going to have to learn to make do. Which is a little ironic, since I bought this rig largely for this purpose, shooting motion in dark theaters, only to find the shear weight and length of the big lens brings its own issues that offset the gains I've purchased.

George Tomsco & Stan Lark, The Fireballs

This camera-lens combo is most often used by professional sports photographers, the guys along the sidelines of fast-moving pro sports games capturing fast action in the artificial light of night games. I'll do some web searches to see whether I can learn some tricks from them. Meantime, it was fun trying all this on the Fireballs at our hometown Shuler Theater, which hosted its first Fireballs show on February 24, 1958, almost 55 years ago! My earlier Fireballs photos will be published in the January issues of two magazines, for The Fretboard Journal's interview with leader-guitarist George Tomsco and New Mexico Magazine's feature honoring the 55th anniversary of first gig of The Fireballs.




October 27, 2012     Weightlifting for Photographers

Nikon Zoom Lenses

The lenses here look unimpressive until I tell you that the one at the far left is my tried and true Nikon 18-200mm DX superzoom, which I've used for about 80% of the shots I've taken with my Nikon D300 over the past five years. (My other three DX lenses have been the Nikon 50mm f/1.4mm and 85mm f/1.8, plus the Sigma 10-20mm.) It's been my biggest lens, but it's dwarfed here by the pair of FX lenses that together take its place on my new full-frame Nikon D4. In the center is the 24-70mm f/2.8; on the right is the 70-200mm f/f.8. The FX lens at 24mm is equivalent to the DX lens at 18mm, so they're alike at the wide end, but the telephoto long end of the 70-200 is equivalent to only 135mm on the DX lens. At the root of the math is the sensor sizes: the D300's smaller digital (DX) sensor is only 2/3 as big as the D4's big full-frame (FX) sensor, which is the size of a 35mm frame of film. To create an image on the bigger sensor, a lens has to be geometrically larger. Because the two here are top pro lenses, they're state-of-the-art, big and heavy.

Nikon D4

Here's my D4 with the 70-200 attached. The camera itself is essentially the same size as the D300, but the lens is twice as big and heavy as the 18-200 DX, with only 2/3 the reach (or magnification). It allows me to zoom out while remaining fixed at f/2.8, bringing in far more light and thus allowing shallower depth of field (to blur backgrounds) and faster shutter speeds (to stop motion such as a musician or actor in a darkened theater). The trade off, besides exorbitant cost? This set up weighs 7 pounds! That's a lot to carry around my neck! And it's obtrusive as hell: I might as well wear a big sign that signs "Look at this Photographer." I prefer to blend in. But the abilities I gain with the new equipment make the trade-off worthwhile. As I give the new rig its first test drive tonight, I'll hope to grow accustomed to the new size and weight.




October 21, 2012     The Country Showdown Lowdown

Richie Law sings, Shuler Theater, Raton NM

For the second consecutive year, the Southwest Regional finals of the Texaco Country Showdown rolled into the Shuler Theater in Raton, New Mexico, last night for a rollicking show of mostly high-quality music. Local favorite Colfax Reunion opened and closed the night while also being on hand to accompany some of the singers. The musicians and their visiting fans stayed in Raton hotels and ate in Raton restaurants: this is an event that Raton needs to keep! For Raton's own residents, it was a great show, and it was free!

Kassie and Ben

My vote for the winner went to Colorado's Richie Law, above; my only argument with the judges' choice of Alabama act Kassie and Ben, right, was that they weren't a country act. Their first original song was folk, their second a fabulous rhythm & blues number called "Unglued." No complaining about the quality, though: they were certainly as good as anyone there and better than most.

Each of the eight acts had won their state competition to make it to the Shuler stage. They represented New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, South Texas, North Texas, Colorado, and ... Alabama? (Someone needs to get the organizers a map of the U.S.) Winners Kassie and Ben will now be one of five acts competing in January on national TV from Nashville's Ryman Auditorium for the $100,000 grand prize.

Country Poseur

Some of the acts didn't come close to anything that I consider country music. I recently heard a country DJ say in a panel discussion that "country music is anything country music listeners want to listen to." Maybe, but it sure bears little resemblance to its roots, which go back to Jimmy Rodgers and The Carter Family, two acts that launched country music when they made their first recordings in the same studio on the same day, and to Hank Williams, who was busy recording "Cold, Cold Heart" while my mom was busy giving birth to me.

This gal on the left sang an original song called "Country Poseurs," a song, she said, "about people who put on their cowboy boots only when the fair comes to town." She sang it in her authentic rhinestone-spackled cowgirl boots worn (necessarily) outside jeans that she must have needed at least two crew members to get out of after the show. Don't try to imagine Patsy Cline in this costume. (Nor in this one.)

At least Colfax Reunion, who favor The Eagles, included Merle Haggard songs in their sets. And hey, call the night what you want, it was a good show.




October 14, 2012     The Heart of Raton

The Heart of Raton, November 2012

When the November issue of New Mexico Magazine arrives this week, Raton will get its place in the sun through my six-page feature "The Heart of Raton." Because the magazine used only ten photos, I've just posted an all-new Raton Gallery consisting of the 40 images I submitted for the piece. When you get to the end of the gallery, there are links to two more Raton galleries, the Shuler Theater Gallery that I've had up all along, and a new Raton Restaurants Gallery, shot for the magazine. I hope you'll enjoy these photo galleries along with the magazine feature.




October 12, 2012     The Royals

Tyler Vertovec & Miranda Luksich, 2012 Raton Homecoming King & Queen

Congratulations to Tyler Vertovec and Miranda Luksich, Raton's 2012 homecoming king and queen. Both are in my honors senior English class, and Miranda is my teacher's aide, so I was proud as could be to see them in the annual parade on First Street downtown.

I took most of my shots from the front of the parade, but for this one I wanted to show Tyler and Miranda against the backdrop of the mountains, so I stood behind the car. They didn't see me there so I called their names, then I grabbed the shot. It worked out well!




October 6, 2012     Over the Volcano

John Wilp - Capulin Volcano Run 2012

My photo series of the 2012 Capulin Volcano Run half-marathon has turned out to be my favorite. As the official photographer, I have full course access, leapfrogging past the pack repeatedly to keep photographing the leaders along the course. I've gotten some great shots from each of the five annual races, but last weekend's race produced more -- a full set of strong images that captures the drama and beauty of the race.

Capulin Volcano Run 2012

The set of 44 images is posted at the Capulin Volcano Run website as well as its Facebook page. I was once a long-distance runner myself and I've seen some beautiful courses. What the Capulin runners say seems just right to me, that there is no more gorgeous race site than this one. They come from five states; even amidst the pain of running several miles uphill they can't help busting into smiles. Many of them keep coming back year after year, just as I plan to do myself.




September 23, 2012     Grin and Bear It

Brown bear cub in a tree

Only rarely have I gone as long as two weeks between blogs. Today it's been four. But we've moved 40 miles from Des Moines to Raton and I've finally gotten my office set up and Internet to my workstation. Seven days ago, four stout members of the Raton High School varsity football team carried a 7' hardwood cabinet and a 7'x4' oak desk up two flights of stairs and into my office. Now I'm getting caught up...today with a short blog to create the new page for September-October, and so I won't have to say next week that I went five weeks between blogs.

Our fruit trees are full -- we haven't had time to harvest all the fruit -- so our yard is busy with bears every night and early morning. This cub was outside yesterday morning. He didn't like the attention. As soon as we backed off, he climbed down and ambled away.

It's good to be back in action, myself. Christina and I are poised to buy our first smartphones, the new iPhone 5, and I'm a week or two away from having the presence of mind to order my new Nikon D4 and accompanying FX lenses. By the time it all arrives, I'll have time to get out and use it. It's an exciting time.




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