Nick Cave at The Ottawa Writers Festival

I was going to write about the juried exhibit I got accepted to, but that will have to wait, I couldn’t pass on doing a quick write up on seeing Nick Cave at the Ottawa Writers Festival.

When I first heard he was going to be in town, I assumed it was going to be with The Bad Seeds, but it turned out he’s on a book signing tour for his new novel The Death of Bunny Munro. Nick Cave is still Nick Cave so of course we went, and I’m glad we did.

Nick’s hilarious, and the excerpts he read from his book has convinced me to go pick it up. His talk wandered from his history with The Bad Seeds to his new band Grinderman, his previous book, And the Ass Saw the Angel, and even his failed attempt at pitching a script for Gladiator II (long story short, Russell Crowe beats up purgatory, then the Christians, then goes on to fight every war in history… alone).

I was in a pretty good position this time, last time at this venue I was mostly behind a three foot thick cement column. The light was pretty low and really pushed what Image Stabilization and the excellent hi iso capabilities of my 50D, it’s still comes as a shock that I can go all the way up to iso 3200 and still get usable files.

Definitely check out The Death of Bunny Munro if you get the chance, or pick up the audio book read, scored and with sound effects all by Mr. Cave himself. You can see a few more shots of Nick Cave on my Flickr.

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More from the Street

Mackenzie King Bridge

I’ve been digging through the archives lately and have found a ton of shots I had completely forgotten about. This shot in particular I remember being really fond of but somehow it got buried. This was from the first roll of a camera I’ve long since traded away, a Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder.

I always regretted getting rid of the camera, but it was part of a gear swap I couldn’t turn down. I’ve recently managed to acquire another one and it’s in the mail as we speak, almost two years exactly since I parted with my last one. As much as I love my Canon gear, it can be hard to get discrete shots on the street with a giant DSLR around your neck. It’ll be nice to have something nice and small I can carry around easily again.

In other news, a few of my pictures got accepted to a juried exhibit coming up in October, stay tuned for more information. It should be a great show with about forty other artists in all different mediums.

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i(heart)music festival @ Cafe Dekcuf

Modernboys Moderngirls by J B Hildebrand

Matthew Pollesel founded i(heart)music in 2005 and has been doing an amazing job bringing lesser known Canadian acts to the masses since then. This weekend was the massive i(heart)music festival at Cafe Dekcuf. Spanning three nights and bringing together twelve great Canadian acts the festival was a blast. I missed a couple of the bands but the acts I did catch were amazing. You can find a full list of who was on stage at i(heart)music.net.

I won’t bother with a review of the show or my favorites as all the bands were top notch. They all put on a great show with a unique stage presence. I’ve wrote before about looking and playing the part being majorly important for emerging bands, this goes double when you’re playing in a twelve band, three day festival. Usually I have to make notes on each band so I can sort out my shots later, but everyone I shot stuck out in my mind visually and this wasn’t a problem.

I see so many bands that sound great, but look like mannequins on stage. If you’re playing a festival like this, you’ve probably got a decent fan base, but most people at the show were there to see one, maybe two bands, each night and hadn’t heard of the rest. This is a prime time to spread the word and you MUST leave people with an impression that’s going to stick, or they’re probably not going to remember you the next day. This is one of the biggest problems I’ve found shooting big festivals. If bands don’t have a unique look or stage presence… I end up with 500 shots of what may as well all have been of just one band. Luckily this wasn’t the case, every band I shot gave me a great set of pics to post.

Like bees to honey, shows like this always attract photographers and there was a really good turn out all three nights. I’ve got a slightly different style than most photogs I meet at shows around Ottawa but it seems to work for me.

First off… I rarely use flash. For one it bugs some performers, especially in a really dark club. Most bands are used to people in the crowd popping away with point and shoots, but the flashes on something that small aren’t really that annoying. Put two or three photographers blasting away at point blank range with pro flashes at center stage though and it’s enough to throw anyone off their game.

Giant Hand by J B Hildebrand

Secondly and more importantly for me… I hate the look a flash gives at concert. There’s a reason most bars turn the lights down really low… they look like crap in the light. If you take a look at most stages with the house lights on they’re hardly more than a raised wooden box with wires running along the walls, up the walls and on the ceilings. Half the time the walls and ceiling aren’t even finished, they’re just drywall or plywood painted black. Some bars don’t even have a permanent stage, it’s just a corner of the bar re-purposed for that night. Take this craptastic wooden platform, turn the lights off and throw on some spots… and suddenly magic! Same with the band… with the house lights on they’re a bunch of guys in plaid shirts and jeans, put a spot on them and suddenly they’re rock stars. Given this… why would I want to blast the band with half a million lumens of daylight balanced flash power and kill the mood completely. If I wanted my pics to look like that I may as well have brought my point and shoot like everyone else and left all my expensive gear at home because the pictures will look about the same.

Lastly, I tend to stay in one spot for most of the show. I come early, figure out where the best place to shoot from is going to be and camp out. I have all my exposure levels figured out before hand for all the main stage areas and I know what each of my lenses are going to see from my spot. I might move around a bit during the show, but not much. For one, this lets me be more consistent with my exposures as I’m not having to adjust for every new position. Also, it means I’m not bumping into people annoying them… and more importantly, my gear isn’t being bumped into by a hoard of energized… and inebriated… concert goers holding drinks, dancing around and definitely not thinking about the guy weaving between them with a big camera and unwieldy camera bag. I may miss some shots by not crowd surfing, but the last thing I need is to have a rye and coke dumped on two grand worth of camera equipment.

It’s always nice to find a new band to listen to, this weekend will probably keep my playlist fresh for months.† There wasn’t a band a wouldn’t recommend so if you get a chance to see any of them live… do it.† You can see more shots from the i(heart)music festival on my Flickr.

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Loudlove in the Studio

Loudlove in the Studio by J B Hildebrand

Last week I was on assignment for the Kitchissippi Times out to shoot Loudlove, who are in the middle of recording a new album here in Ottawa at the Liverpool Court Studios. I managed to slip in for a quick shoot while the band was taking a break from recording. I went in to this job blind and on short notice… which is never ideal… but luckily the guys were very accommodating. I was expecting to grab some shots of the band while they where laying down a track, but by the time I got there they where already done playing and about to work on the mixing.

I ended up lining them up behind the mixing board, which had a nice wall behind it and some cool stuff piled on the sides to create a nice frame for the image. It’s always nice to shoot a band that isn’t camera shy. They basically just goofed off for ten minutes while I snapped away, which from the short time I spent with them seemed to be their base state of being.

I’ve been asked by a few other photographers why I usually carry about three times more gear than I will ever need for a shoot… this is why. I often have no idea what I’ll need till I get there and I’ll take a sore back if it means I have what I need to get the shot. Also, people seem to take you more seriously the more gear you lug around even if you never touch most of it during a shoot… it’s one of those psychological things I don’t quite understand but am happy to take advantage of.

I ended up getting what I needed and the article will be out in the Kitchissippi Times today. If you can’t wait for the album they’re laying down now you can see Loudlove at the Ottawa Reggae Festival this Sunday at 8:00pm. You can check out my Flickr for some more shots from the shoot with Loudlove.

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No Particular Place To Go…

I find I take some of my best shots when I have nothing particular in mind to shoot. When I spent the whole day wandering downtown a couple weeks ago, my goal was actually just to blow through the roll of film quickly just to test it out. I got a 100′ bulk roll of badly expired film off a photographer on one of my forums for a song, so I rolled up a few rolls and set off not really expecting anything interesting.

The film turned out much better than I expected and so did the subject matter. This shot in particular really caught my eye. I’ve become a bit obsessed with the telephone poles full of ancient staples around the city ever since my post a while ago about a shot I took of one with my Yashica-Mat. I plan on entering this shot in an upcoming art show, we’ll see if the jury likes it as much as I do.

I think I need to start scheduling time to just wander around, my keeper rate seems to be much higher than when I’m out actively in search of a particular shot.† My favorite wandering lens has always been my macro lens.† Whenever I get bored of what’s available to shoot, or I feel like I’m in a photographic slump, there’s nothing better to force myself into a completely different perspective.

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Snowblink, Bear Claps and Bruce Peninsula at Cafe Dekcuf

About a week ago I went to a three band show at Cafe Dekcuf. I originally went just to see Snowblink, you might remember them from a post I made a while ago about Luxury Pond. It’s the same pair with their roles reversed. I liked Luxury Pond and Snowblink didn’t disappoint either. I ended up sticking around for the other two bands as well. Bear Claps was enjoyable and Bruce Peninsula was amazing, although with nine band members crammed onto a tiny stage they were a bit difficult to shoot.

I like shooting Cafe Dekcuf, they do a pretty decent job of lighting the stage, although the spots aren’t always aimed appropriately and I’m left waiting for the singer to move into the light. Lighting really makes or breaks the photos… and there’s not a whole lot I can do if the light is bad. Good lighting can make anyone look like a rock star… bad lighting will make Jim Morrison look like a high school drop out playing in his parents garage.

Besides the fact that I like their music, I’ll definitely come out to shoot Snowblink/Luxury Pond next time they’re in town because they do one thing right that any band can and should do. They dress the part. I’ve said this before, but it can’t be said enough… you don’t need to go all Ziggy Stardust or show up in tuxes… but look like you put even 5 minutes of thought into what you wear on stage. And make sure all the band members look at least semi coordinated. Again… it doesn’t matter what you wear… just wear it with purpose. If your band suits ripped jeans and worn t-shirts, no problem, just make sure everyone is in on the plan.

I went to a show once, definitely a ripped jeans affair, the drummer got the note but the rest of the band missed the memo. The lead singer was in gym shorts and a baggy t-shirt, The bassist had on those adidas tearaway type workout pants and a tank top and the guy on keyboards had on slacks and a v-neck sweater. This does not project committed musicians… this projects “I just woke up… Bob just got off shift at Walmart and Joe swung by after hitting the gym”. At this point the audience is already thinking “why the hell did I pay $10 to see these guys” and you have to work doubly hard to impress them, and it does nothing to help them remember you for next time.

It’s even worse when I get asked to shoot a band and that’s what they look like when I show up… I just have to hope to god the lighting is good or I’m going to have to get REALLY creative to make them look good. Fortunately this night I was treated to three good looking bands. You can see the rest of the night on my Flickr.

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Yes, I Still Shoot Film

As long as itís available I canít see myself every giving up shooting film. Digital photography has been a godsend when it comes to events where a quick turn around and hundreds of shots are required, but film has qualities you just canít duplicate digitally. With digital I have be very carefull with exposure, and I donít have nearly as much play with it in post processing. For the most part, in decent even light, film is like horseshoes and hand grenadesÖ close is good enough. Highlights donít blow out as easy and shadow grain looks so much nicer than digital noise. It really lets me concentrate on the image instead of all the technical stuff.

AnywaysÖ this isnít a digital versus film rantÖ that horse has been flogged sufficiently. Both sides of the argument seem to have called an armistice and have grudgingly agreed that both photographic mediums have their own time and place. Film has seen a huge resurgence among younger photographers and a lot of the old guard have gone fully or partially digital.

This shot was of a telephone pole in downtown Ottawa. Thereís many that have so many staples, that over the years theyíve developed up to an inch of rusted staple and poster paper armor. This one had a nice balance of wood and metal textures. I was also surprised at how well the Rolleinar close up filters for my Yashica Mat-124G worked. Originally made for Rolleiflex cameras, theyíll fit on most TLRís with the same filter size. I was worried that another layer of glass might introduce some softness or distortion like most of the modern accessory lenses, but I canít see any degradation at all, gotta love 70 year old German glass.

One unexpected bonus I’ve found to shooting film is how I’m perceived. When I walk down the street taking pictures of random stuff with a big lens on a DSLR, some people have come up with some very imaginative and devious uses I must be using those pictures for. Walking around with an archaic box with two lenses and all kinds of knobs and fiddly bits seems to scream “artist” and people generally leave me alone or take a positive interest in what I’m doing. For more of my film captures you can check out the film section of my Flickr.

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Street Photography in the Byward Market

Busker in the Byward Market

I love working in the Byward Market. Everyday I walk around at lunch and there’s never a shortage of things to shoot. Summer is busker season and the market attracts professional street performers from all over the world. The man in the photo was from Australia, he comes to Canada most summers and busks his way across the country.

The nice thing about the Byward Market is that it’s full of tourists with cameras so no one thinks twice about someone taking their picture. Unfortunately there seems to be a stigma attached to street photography in some peoples eyes. They’ll go to galleries and admire the work of Bresson or Capa, but give a dirty look when someone takes their picture on the street. Street photographers record the mood and culture of the times in a raw and unscripted fashion… giving a true face to period of history. Reading the history books is great but it can be hard to sort out fact from propaganda and pop culture.

Luckily, living in Canada I haven’t encountered the type of harassment photographers in the UK and the US have to deal with; being accosted by security guards or police for taking pictures in subways or bus stations. It’s gotten so bad in the UK that photographers have banded together to try and bring attention to the almost police state mentality that’s sprung up concerning photography. Visit Not A Crime to see what I’m talking about. It’s getting pretty scary to be a photographer in some countries and unfortunately its historic record that will suffer the most in the end.

You can see more of my street photography on Flickr.

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Lomo Pop 9 does Downtown Ottawa

Lomo Pop 9 by Jesse Hildebrand

I picked up a Lomo Pop 9 last week and ran a roll of dollar store film through it. Like most toy cameras you can’t change the shutter speed or aperture so using different film speeds is the only way to control exposure. Lomo makes a lot of unique and quirky cameras, this one has nine lenses arranged in a square that all trip at the same time, producing a kind of Warhol-esque mosaic. Itís kind of liberating not having to worry about all the technical stuff and be able to literally just point and shoot. Itís going to take a while getting used to composing for nine tiny lenses though.

Since the Lomo/Holga movement has taken off these little cameras, that are not much more than a nickels worth of plastic, have been commanding top dollar. The Pop 9 goes for around $80 new so I jumped at grabbing this one on the cheap of Craigslist. There arenít many places that sell them off the shelf, you usually have to go the internet or ebay route to get one, but if youíre in Ottawa youíre in luck. Canteen on Dalhousie has a selection of them, theyíre not cheap, but after you add shipping, duty and customs on an ebay order you end up saving about $5-$10 and you donít have to wait two weeks. Itís a lot of fun so far, I canít wait to try running some slide film through it. You can seem more shots from the Pop 9 on my Flickr.

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Cross Processing Randomness

film, cross processed, xpro, street photography

I still shoot quite a bit of film, especially when I’m out shooting for fun instead of on the job. Cross processed slide film is one reason I don’t think I’ll ever give up film. Digital has made my job a lot easier when I need guaranteed consistent results but film still does things my DSLR will never be able to do.

Film always manages to surprise me. I used to keep detailed notes when I did my own developing or stick with the same lab when for my color film to keep my results consistent, but nowadays I’m pretty loose with my routine. Mostly because it’s so liberating. I can go out and only pay cursory attention to exposure and all the technical stuff and concentrate on composition. I have to be very careful with exposure with my digital gear; too much light and my highlights are blown, too little and you get horrible noise in the shadows. Film is so forgiving I just need to be roughly in the ballpark and I’ll get a scannable negative.

Cross processing throws another wrench in any plans for consistent results as I usually have NO idea how it’s going to turn out. Each brand of film turns out differently when processed in C41 chemicals… anything from a major shift to red or purple to bright greens and blues. I usually shoot old expired film when I cross process as well which alters the end result as well, plus you can usually pick it up on the cheap. You can usually expect reds to be boosted and everything else shifted towards green like the shot shown here… but it’s still a shot in the dark.

It’s just too much fun to go an pick up a developed roll and see what you end up with. The only down side is that because cross processing has developed a devoted cult following due to the holga/lomo movement expired film is actually going for more than the fresh stuff some places. You can see some more examples of my cross processed shots on my Flickr.

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