Adding a little light here and there

I'm strongly considering the idea of adding my career title to Lighting Consultant to go along with being a Music Photographer. I don't know the budget of a restaurant/bar that offers live entertainment. But having proper or decent lighting is an investment needs to be looked into further for the performing artists that play there at least. I'll give two examples.

Example one: this past Tuesday I photographed the band Chase The Jaguar at Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company in South Beach. The establishment is very cozy, has tremendous ambiance and does have live entertainment. The only issue is that when a musical act performs there, hardly any light is on the talent except for the ambient light. In my camera bag I use three lenses and two of them (50mm & 85mm, both F1.8 by the way) are fast lenses which can be used in low-light situations.

I would only use my flash for extenuating circumstances like Sweet Liberty when the ambient light is VERY low. The band did have a couple of strip lights but those were positioned on either side of the drummer pointing upward. But still there wasn't sufficient light to properly light the entire group. So I had to use my flash. I was at Sweet Liberty a couple of months ago to photograph singer Angela Laino. There was a little more light on her and the band but I did not use flash on that occasion.

Example two: for Cinco de Mayo this year I went to Cafeina Wynwood Lounge in the Wynwood District of Miami to photograph two bands: Uma Galera and Elastic Bond. The open air lounge has a great atmosphere and plenty of room to enjoy and see live in entertainment. My first experience at Cafeina was November 2015 when singer/songwriter Raquel Sofia played there a week before the Latin Grammys (Yes, whenever I mention her name her song "Yo Te Amo Idiota" immediately comes to mind.). Anyway, back to the Cinco de Mayo experience. When I arrived I was expecting there to be stage lights to some degree. Boy was I wrong.

When Uma Galera got on stage there was only one light and that was on the drummer. The rest of the group was in the dark, literally in the dark. I even posted an image of it on Instagram. I asked Cafeina management if anymore light can be used and directed towards the band. He brought out a small round light fixture, plugged it in and directed it towards the microphone from the ground up. That effect causes a horror movie lighting reaction, which is not the best lighting especially when you have to photograph a woman in a band. So in that circumstance I had no choice but to use flash.

From those two examples, I've never forgottenwhat Milton Ponce, percussionist for Uma Galera, told me two weeks after that performance. He said to me that bands (playing in Miami) have the option of bringing in their own sound engineer and/or lighting engineer. The facility will not provide either unless it's locations like Ball & Chain in Little Havana where they provide both. I understand that you want to keep the mood/ambiance of your facility, but it's also nice to see who is performing in front of you.

I repeat, I don't know what a restaurant's budget is for live entertainment much less having the lights for the talent. But it does make for good exposure (pun intended) when decent lighting is placed on the talent. It also makes my job as a photographer, along with other photographers and videographers, better and effective when there's proper lighting on the talent to get the best image of the performing artist. Better lighting = better images/videos = better performances and performance memories.

Each establishment is different and their respective budgets are equally as unique. I'm not saying that those businesses need to shell out thousands of dollars in lighting like a concert hall. But just a little bit of light to showcase the talent so the audience can see them better will go a long way.

My Camera's On A Budget

I’m happy to say that this is my FIRST blog post for Welcome and I thank you for reading this.

My photo bag currently consists of three lenses: a.) Tamron 18-250mm 3.5-6.3, b.) Canon 50mm 1.8 and c.) Canon 85mm 1.8; my primary camera is the Canon Rebel XSi and my speedlite is the Canon 430EX III-RT. As far as a physical studio is concerned, I do have several color backgrounds (black, white and sky blue) at my disposal, of varying sizes of course. Lights? I mainly use one light and that’s all I use to make the magic happen. One side note, I work for Lifetime Church Directories as a portrait photographer and the gear I use is the Nikon D3300. I have a few more camera accessories but overall, I’m not a gear head but that’s all I use. In a nutshell, my operation is strictly on a tight budget.

The budgetary side of my business became very obvious this year while photographing a singer in Miami. I was in the art district section of Miami called Wynwood at a place called The Wynwood Yard. On that night, Raquel Sofia, an amazing singer/songwriter from Puerto Rico, was scheduled to perform and her opening act was another singer/songwriter named Javier Garcia (from Spain). I had started taking images of Mr. Garcia, mainly test photos to see what would be the settings that I’d be using when Raquel took the stage.

I took a photo of him and I noticed that the upper left corner of the image was black. I initially thought that I took the image with the amplifier purposely in the way. But when I took another, I pressed the shutter button and the shutter release did not fire. I did see an “Error 99” message with the instructions to toggle the power switch and to re-insert the battery. I did that several times but to no avail. I had about an hour before Raquel took the stage and I quickly took to Google and YouTube to see what troubleshooting ideas I can use at that moment. I changed lenses on my camera to see if that would help, no. I removed the lens, the SD card and battery from the XSi body in order to “reboot” the camera for 30 minutes…and the dreaded “Error 99” message kept appearing. From that moment on, I knew my night was done and I had to go home.

Do you want to know something interestingly funny? There at the performance was another photographer and he had two different cameras strapped to his body photographing the performers, people and everything else. It was then that the stark reality of having a second camera on hand is absolutely necessary. I should indicate that I had the two Nikon cameras in my car, but my lenses and speedlite are set for a Canon camera. But as I mentioned before, my night was done and it was time to go home.

Thankfully, Joe Cardenas, a fellow Lifetouch photographer and friend of mine, asked to take a look at the camera to see what he can find out. He worked his magic and figured out that my camera had a problem with its shutter curtain. I was relieved to find out that the shutter curtain was the cause of the issue. But I still need to acquire a new camera relatively soon so I can keep the XSi as a backup. So fast forward to today and I was finally able to take my camera in to be serviced. That part of the story is the good news, but the drawback is the fact that it could take up to two weeks to fix my camera. Allow me to repeat myself when I say I still need to acquire a new camera relatively soon.

Which one should I get is the main question right now? Despite the fact that I don’t have all the riches in the world but I do need to start somewhere…so to speak. I know for sure that I’m going to stay in the Canon family and my dream camera would be to get the Canon 5D Mark II or III or the Canon 7D Mark II. Both of those gems are a wee bit out of my price range but I am determined to buy one of those camera bodies before the end of 2016. Researching my available options (and budget) I came to the conclusion of getting the Canon T5.

My decision to get this particular camera is because it is affordable and I need something now to be used as my primary camera and relegate my XSi as my secondary. Later on after saving more and more pennies, then I can bump up the camera body to either the 5D or 7D. You know, it doesn’t matter if I use a piece of string and a tin can to photograph any person, place or thing. It’s about capturing the best moment and turning that photograph into a beautiful and meaningful piece of art.