Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Real Thing

Celebrating the end of Prohibition (90 years ago)

Song and dance were the name of the game at NEAT's Speakeasy 2018
Sometimes the universe allows good things to happen to good people. Tiffany is a good person and last Thursday night she showed it. After a year of dreaming and months of preparation, she got the acts together and got the people motivated to dress up and have fun (What, in Germany? Well, OK, if I must.). Musicians and dancers graced the stage of the Theater am Olgaeck for over two hours of song and dance like I've never heard about - much less experienced - in Stuttgart.

Nelly, the proprietor of the Theater am Olgaeck, joined in the fun.

Friends from the mafia brought in plenty of moonshine

Anika Kopfüber's flappers flapped

Salvatore sang about Carina...and a lot of other girls!
Three ladies - a blonde, a brunette and a red-head! Prego!

The Nonos accompanied Tiffany throughout the evening

The musical star, Kimberly Trees, treated the audience to a couple of hot numbers.

Janine Grellscheid brought Cabaret to the Speakeasy!

Max Oisin added a couple of jazz standards in his inimitable style.

Adrienne Sorg provided us with a Vie en rose

Tiffany and Salvatore performed "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby"

Sylvia Owens sang her heart out with "Oh When the Saints Go Marchin' In"

As the night drew to a close, even the aisles became part of the dance floor

It was a total performance with the audience having as much fun as those on stage.

The after-party chill-down was at Hillson's Bar, where Applaus Gin provided us with a taste of their finest liquor.

I guess you had to be there!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Behind the lines

Experimental music and contemporary dance: Georgia and Germany
1/100 sec, f4.0, ISO 10,000
This past weekend Russudan Meipariani and friends performed an evening of original music compositions and dance to full houses in Scheer, Schorndorf and Stuttgart. In Schorndorf I was positioned right next to the dance floor and fired off 2500 photos.

I was aiming to save only the highlights, so the camera was set to -1.7EV most of the time.

1/500 sec, f4.0, ISO 5,000

After a while, I realized that, thanks to the WISIWYG electronic viewfinder, it was helpful to toggle the AEL and shoot at a certain exposure as long as I was pointing my camera in a certain direction.

1/250 sec, f4.5, ISO 4,000
I was shooting into the lights most of the time. I did some experimenting with shutter speeds varying primarily from 1/30 to 1/500. Did I want to capture motion in the hands and legs or stop them in their tracks with a fast shutter speed? In the best case, I'd get something like this:

1/200 sec, f4.5, ISO 10,000
The colorful dresses and waving hair of the beautiful dancers were so intoxicating that I couldn't stop taking pictures.

1/400 sec, f4.0, ISO 10,000

The f4/24-105 lens was perfect for the dance performance. I took a lot of the photos at 24mm in order to capture the entire scene - musicians and all seven dancers, who were spread out over the 8x8m dance floor in the Versöhnungskirche. I took about a third of the photos in APS-C crop mode so that I was shooting from the center of the sensor. I was thinking the image would be less distorted and of a better quality at a high ISO. It also crops the picture tighter when I want to concentrate on just one or two dancers.

1/250 sec, f4.5, ISO 4,000
After analyzing my statistics for the shoot - something I like to do - I see that most of the best pictures were taken at somewhere between ISO 4,000-10,000 and at either 1/125 or 1/250 sec, with a slight preference for the shorter exposure. That means in order to capture this kind of motion, one needs speed and a sensitive sensor.
I was shooting with a silent shutter because I didn't want to disturb the performance. The only picture which showed signs of rolling shutter distortion was the one below, where the dancer's hand looks strange; however, that could also come from the angle and normal movement. In short: the silent shutter worked like a charm!

1/250 sec, f4.0, ISO 10,000
A tightly cropped photos sends a different message from one with a frame of empty space around it. And when you get the fact, the open eyes and a hand all in one frame, you are pleased as punch!

1/125 sec, f4.5, ISO 5000
Martin Zentner was sitting in another corner taking pictures throughout the performance, too. His photos on Facebook show these dancers from another perspective - and with the light shining on them (as opposed to shooting into the light). His photos turned out incredibly well! Check them out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Have you ever heard of a speakeasy? Back in the 1920s the US federal government outlawed, by enacting the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the production, transport, and sale of intoxicating liquors (though not the consumption or private possession thereof). Did that stop Americans from drinking alcohol? Nope!

That just means there were private parties where liquor "appeared" (for it couldn't be transported) and was consumed, often with jazz musicians and dancers providing entertainment. friend Tiffany is totally into that era now - as a singer, an artist and a spirit - and is throwing such a party in Stuttgart in November. As a warm-up to this mega-event, she got friends together for a photo shoot in an awesome old apartment. We had a great time getting into the spirit!

Tiffany and Andrew get into the spirit(s)
My son Fynn was my second shooter for the first part of the evening and used a manual-focus f1.4/85mm lens with a star filter on it. His pictures captured the perfect soft look and feel we were looking for (see above). 
Mine, on the other hand, were so sharp that they didn't look like they fit the 20s look, but with a bit of post-processing I was able to get relatively close (below).

We also were afforded the luxury of having many models (dancers, actors and other good looking people) to play along, so we set up some scenes to look like a speakeasy might. 

The real party will also be a golden opportunity for photos. I'll keep you posted!

Autumn 2018

Exhibitions x 3

This autumn I'll be showing some of my work in three different exhibitions in and around Stuttgart. 
The first one opened on October 17 at Café Künstlerbund to a full house - even two of my children attended! The collection of art there shows a high regard for aesthetics and technique. The nine American artists displayed some of their best work - including photography, oil painting, encaustic and multi-media drawing. 

The café is open from 10 am until midnight. Give me a call and I'll meet you there for a drink! The show runs through November 10, 2018.

The following evening, October 18, 2018, the German and American Artists Group opened its first fall show at the historic town hall in Bad Cannstatt at 6 pm. Twenty-eight artists are showing their fine art on three floors. The new commander of the US Army in Stuttgart - who has family roots at Lake Constance - gave the opening speech.

As guests enjoyed the buffet, fellow artist Michael Nothdurft exhibited his prowess on the classical guitar.

These art works were on display through October 29.

On October 24, 2018, the same group hung a different set of works at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum for a three-week long show!
Brian Cann showed seven photos from his new series "Nudes in landscapes," and I showed a bit of my "Hot pepper" series, so it was quite a sexy show!

In addition, Aylish Kerrigan sang two dramatic songs and the buffet was a work of art itself. Friends came and were introduced to the other artists. That's how a nice network is created.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ups and downs of the Wasenfest

Living in the proximity of the Cannstatter Wasen since 2002, I've heard and seen a lot of the high-life there, some from my window but most from the pavement on and surrounding the good old festival grounds. I've written about it a number of times, as a search for "Wasen" on this blog will show.

The Wasenfest and Frühlingsfest (Sept.-Oct. and April-May every year) are among the largest folk festivals in the world. Over 4 million guests enjoyed the beer and rides during the three-week fest last fall and, on account of the perfect weather in early 2018, 1.6 million visitors made it out to the spring fest.
My friends' and acquaintances' opinions are split on this issue. Some wouldn't miss it for the world; they seek their fortune there and their children look forward to riding the Ferris wheel and eating cotton candy with friends twice a year.

Others look forward to getting sloshed with their colleagues in the huge beer tents; for 16 year-olds it's a right of passage to fill up with a couple of liters of beer with your classmates and then try to hold it in on the most extreme rides. Judging from the ground in front of the roller coasters, many don't succeed.

Still other friends find it too loud and too full of drunken nuts, especially in the autumn. Tourists arrive in their smelly "Oktoberfest 20XX" T-shirts when that fest is over and keep on drinking in Stuttgart. The subways are full of traditionally garbed twentysomethings and smell of alcohol six weeks a year.

My photographer friends go there, as I do, to shoot the action and, after dark, the lights. Lights, camera, action!
For years now, I've shot the standard motifs and come to know the faces of the people working there. I sometimes talk with the workers when I'm walking around before it gets busy. They are often Romanians, as is the man below, so we talk about the delicious food in his home country.

 But another aspect of the whole business has come to fascinate me. They begin building the "tents" - 5,000-square-meter buildings - several weeks in advance and it takes them just as long to deconstruct. Behind all the shine is a life on the road for the workers and owners of the rides. The buildings, the rails, the haunted house - they all have to fit on trucks and are moved to the next fest until it is time to return to Bad Cannstatt. And every day before the visitors arrive, they wash their stands and make them as attractive as possible.

This year when the festivities were over, I wandered across the grounds and got some shots of the take-down. Behind one of the largest buildings is a room where the waiters can rest.

 Inside one of the beer tents.

They need a lot of equipment to move a roller coaster.

Everything must go.

Water is not the most important liquid at the fairgrounds, but it is important!