Category Archives: photography

A tip of the hat to Olivier Longuet

I have been taking photographs about as long as I have been playing music, which is a long time… about back to age 8 or 9.  My father and grandfather were amateur photographers with a darkroom in the basement for black and white processing and printing.  For my grandfather it goes back to the early days of photography, and the economic realities of the day.  The day was, more specifically, the Great Depression. Photography was not inexpensive, but if you developed your own film and printed your own photos, you could do it on a budget.  Later on, in the days after WWII, my father had more of a tolerance for the cost of commercial processing, but was still a rabid economizer.  I learned film processing, use of a changing bag for loading tanks without a darkroom, and basic processing.  That is not unrelated to my interest in both chemistry and cooking!  It is all a matter of recipes and knowing what is actually going on in the process.

Music was a little different, but my dad had a few el-cheapo stringed instruments like a ukelele and a tenor guitar (Zim-Gar!!!).  The tenor was my favorite.  I was not tuning it in fifths (it was meant to be tuned like a tenor-banjo), but EADG, like a bass.  When I got my first guitar, a nylon string folk guitar, I played that the same way… picking out bass lines on the low strings, chunking through some basic open chords, and baffled by the asymmetrical B string!  One day a friend of my dad’s saw me playing and basically told him: “Paul, I hate to tell you this, but your son is a bass player.”  That was that.  By the time I was 13 I had a really awful Fender P copy (a Memphis… ugh), with a bad neck and worse electronics.   I ripped the frets out of within a year and that was all she wrote.  I have been playing bass since… over 34 years now, which is mind boggling.

Which is a long way of saying that music and photography are two constants in the way I approach the world.

As a result I always bring a camera to gigs, and if I am lucky I find a balance in time to perform music and time to capture images.  At an event like the NHIC Verge-Fest back in April of 2011 I was in charge of running sound, and had plenty of time to concentrate on photography.  At an event like Rochefort en Accords I had no balance.  It was 95% music music music… and then the time for an occasional snapshot opportunity.  The goal was purely that of capturing a few snaps as “souvenir”, in the true French meaning of “memory” or “memento”.  I am glad I did, because I would not have the great image of Charly Doll stoking the charcoal grill with a hairdryer!  …or the murky images from Charly’s bonfire, or the beer-tent party after the Friday rain-out at Rochefort, or the iPhone panorama of the school kids, or Nini Dogskin practicing the Saxhorn… and so many more.  See the Flickr set HERE.

A Rochefort I was surrounded by a bevy of fantastic musicians, and it was all I could do to keep up.  World class singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, and solo performers, all opening themselves up to what other musicians had to share.  I also met a few people who were putting all their energies into making images.  Christian Duchesnay and Olivier Longuet were the two I saw the most often.  Chris was the official photographer of the festival, and Olivier was working for himself.  Photography is different from music in many ways, but one difference that is central to this observation is that you have no idea what the photographer’s images will look like until you see them.  I can tell a few things about musicians by their gear, their mode of dress, and maybe their “entourage”, before hearing them play.  With a photographer you only see the person with a camera and think “nice camera” or “nice lenses” or something like that.

After I returned from Rochefort I saw some of the work of these photographers.  I believe that I have yet to see ChrisD’s complete work from the festival, but I have seen a good selection of what Olivier was up to.  Wow… the guy is very very good.  He has a few images featuring yours-truly, but to be honest they are not the best of his images.  I am flattered and also honored to be in the frame.  The extra added bonus from Rochefort, as if I needed one, is that in addition to the influence of the great musicians I worked with, I have this influence on the photographic side.  I will keep adding links as I find more stuff on the interwebs.  Right now there are a lot of small collections on Facebook, but I am not linking to those here.

LINKS:

Solong’s Photographies

Chris-D Website

Chris-D outtakes at Poudriere Blog

The Poudriere is a facility across the road from the Clos in Rochefort, and is the site of a really great selection of music events.

SEBAC Power!

20110628-110154.jpg

The throngs of SEBAC 2011 “NO” Voters amassing on the lawn of the CT State Capitol! Rawr!

But seriously, if SEBAC pulls some kind of hokey bylaw change they will have lost my support entirely. I know “dirty pool” when I see it. The “outdated bylaws” whining was disgraceful when it was trotted out at Chapter 24 of CSEA P4, and again when the same union busting thugs ran that sorry game on P4, but to hear that crap from “the good guys” is beyond belief.

Dear SEBAC: Move on, cool off, and get your ass in gear for SEBAC 2012. Bargaining under one set of bylaws and voting under another sounds like fertile ground for a successful legal challenge, probably of the class-action variety. Don’t make a bad situation worse.

Good v. Gooder

I have been using both my big brick of a Nikon D300 for a few years now, and I love it.  Fantastic image quality, great handling, and great glass (even my old beater of a 18-70DX). The problem is, as I said, the brick-like nature of most DSLR’s.  The price for semi-pro performance.  I refuse to hang the thing off my neck, so it lives in a ThnkTank Speed Freak bag, and is great if you don’t mind the weight toll.

But due to my low-budget upbringing I grew up using rangefinders, usually cheap rangefinders, and developed an appreciation for the smaller, lighter, faster handling gear.  After waiting for point and shoot cameras to adopt a decent sensor, I picked up a Canon G10.  I love that camera, but truth be told, the images just aren’t up to the D300.  What they are is very good by most standards.  If you shoot in RAW mode, they are really quite good, and almost DSLR quality.  The 12MP sensor was a bit too far, which Canon corrected with the G11.  That is where the G10 falls down.  The crap low light performance rears its ugly head in all kinds of situations like shadow detail, overall dynamic range, and a kind of fresnel distortion.

So while it sounds like I’m bitching about the G10, I am not.  It is a great little camera, travels easy, has a great control layout, good+ optics, and gets the job done.  Having the time to use it alongside and alternating with a big, nasty, Nikon has been very educational.

Misquamicut Beach

 

Misquamicut HDR, originally uploaded by petebrunelli.

A High Dynamic Range (HDR) image taken at Misquamicut Beach this winter. HDR is a process where a range of exposures are combined to create an image with broader dynamic range than any one of the source images. Using Aperture Priority and exposure bracketing (changing apertures to alter the exposure will create perspective changes, so you fix the aperture and use varying shutter speeds). Many cameras have a bracketing feature. I’ve used the Canon G10 and Nikon D300 with success. Faster shot-to-shot speeds can make for better HDR because there will be less movement between shots, like the waves in this image. I might have avoided blowing out the sun area if I had gone with a 5-shot bracket, which might be -2, -1, 0 +1 and +2 stops. This was a 3-shot, -1, 0 and +1, and i often use exposure compensation to keep the 0 frame where I want it (no blowouts on either end of the histogram). This was handheld, and the HDR software (Photomatix) handled the alignment.

Return of the G10

My Canon G10 came back from warranty repair and everything looks and feels great. It took me a bit to get it out in the field but it went out on a hike today and was back to taking great pics right off the bat… or when I remembered that Canon sent it back to me in Auto mode and I had to fix a few settings.

Revenge of the Blagh!

Hey Blagharinos… Expect a “12 months of Ragged Mountain” Flickr set. It ain’t gonna happen on blogspot as it now exists. Just too much hassle with formatting.

Dust Bunny Update

That dust bunny leaving the smudge on those panoramas… most likely dust on the sensor. Color me pissed the $%^* off that I have to send it back to Canon for service. It is under warranty and all, but still, it is a bummer. The upside for my images is that I will man up and just start carrying my D300 rig on hikes for a while. The G10 is the most capable digital compact I have used to date, but the helplessness of not being able to clean my own sensor is a bad feeling.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Two very similar photos taken from the top of the Main Cliff at Ragged Mountain:

December 29, 2009

3-shot pano 12-29-09

January 9, 2010

3-shot pano 1-9-10

CLICK TO SEE THEM IN FLICKR, and you can see larger sizes there by using the ALL SIZES option above the photo

Taken from almost the same spot, and they even have the same blur from a piece of lint I didn’t remember to deal with in the intervening two weeks! I sprained the heck out of my ankle on the 31st (new years eve day) and didn’t make it back out onto the trail until today. These photos are taken looking northeast from the top of the Main Cliff, and show how a little snow cover changes the look. The 29th was bitter cold and windy, with temps of about 14F and gusts to 35 knots. January 9th was cold and not as windy, 29F and light winds.

Ragged Mountain Project

Happy New Year and I wish y’all a great 2010.

For the new year I’m starting a new blog project…

It has been about five years since I started making an effort to photograph the Ragged Mountain area as part of my usual hiking activity. Ragged has been one of my favorite places to hike and climb and decompress and whatnot for a long time. I started coming to Ragged as a kid, when my hiking and bicycling adventures led me beyond the Meriden Mountain ridge behind my house. That was over 30 years ago. I was about 13 when I rode my bike to the south levee at Wasel Reservoir, and I started hiking into the woods and up to the top of the Main Cliff at that time. By the time I was in high school I had been watching some technical climbing, and even got a chance to toprope a climb with a borrowed harness, with a climbing party that invited me to take a shot at something easy at the Small Cliff. While still in High School I met my good friend Harry White, who was a very active climber. With partners/belayers in short supply I was able to get in a lot of traprock routes, mostly at Ragged and the surrounding crags.

I picked up a lot of experience in rope handling, rigging belays, rapelling, self-belay techniques, and actual climbing… but for some reason I have very few photos from that period. At the time that I was climbing I was also taking a load of black and white photos, doing my own darkroom work, and basically nagging everyone for tips on darkroom and composition techniques. I had a small set of climbing photos in my collection of negatives, but I had a binder full of negs either stolen or discarded while I was at CCSU in the 80’s, and they were in there. I am still finding old sets of photos, and still hope that some kind of classic image from that period shows up. What I have now is about five years worth of digital images and I hope you find some of them interesting.

Over the course of 2010 I hope to post images from the month/season. I will also be making posts regarding the history of climbing at Ragged, my personal recollections and reflections on my experience there, and maybe the occasional “guest post”.