The Wynwood Yard

A Look Back on 2016: February

February is the shortest month of the year but it was also one of the busiest for me. The month itself was very rewarding because I had photographed numerous artists and musicians for the first time. I was beyond ecstatic at the good fortune of photographing Palo for the first time at Ball and Chain. In addition to that, photographing solo artist Angela Laino and rock group Rock Candy for the first time was equally as memorable. There were also moments when I took images of numerous artists at couple of festivals in Miami Beach and Hollywood, FL. Overall, I was pleased with month of February.

Featured Artists: Angela Laino, Grassroots Preview, Mardi Gras, Palo, Party On The J Festival, Rock Candy

Angela Laino

Laino performed a two-set show in Miami Beach at Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Company and her band for the evening was impressive. Backing her up were a core of musicians within the Miami music scene. Instrumentalists from the Spam All Stars, Electric Kif and Suenalo provided the musical foundation for the Miami-raised singer currently residing in New York City. She has such a superb voice with an abundance of power and control. Absolutely amazing! Laino regularly performs around NYC, do see her in concert, but on February 29, she came back home to Miami and was loved for it.

Palo

When I began photographing the Miami and South Florida music circuit in May 2015, it was recommended to me (forgive me I don’t remember who exactly) that I photograph the group Palo. The moment presented itself on February 19 at Ball and Chain. Simply expressing myself to say that I was blown away at the five-member ensemble is an extreme understatement. I was flabbergasted beyond my imagination over the high level of musicianship of Steve Roitstein (producer and pianist), Leslie Cartaya (vocalist and the voice of an angel in my opinion), Dr. Ed Calle (saxophone), Philbert Armenteros (congas) and Raymer Olalde (timbales).

The group began in 2003 and over the years they have performed in front of audiences all over the globe. I’d give anything to follow them on tour in 2017 by the way. The number one thing that resonated with me when their set began was the groove that was established. For some of you who may or may not know, I too am a musician (saxophone specifically) and have been for most of my life. When I heard Dr. Calle improvise on saxophone, I had no words to describe what I was hearing. I STILL don’t have words to describe his saxophone virtuosity. If I may express that he is “The Man” and “The Game” to define Dr. Calle’s saxophone acumen by using a couple of pro wrestling catch phrases.

Following their Ball and Chain show, I introduced myself to Dr. Calle and told him that he is Yoda on saxophone. He laughed, smiled and shook my hand. The Grammy award-winning artist recently performed at Pinecrest Gardens with his own solo project.

Ten days later, Palo performed at the Hialeah Park Racing and Casino for a one-set performance. The open-air show drew a good and receptive audience. What made the presentation extra special was the intimate ambiance the venue had set up. Everyone was at ground-level and was close to the stage. So the fans in attendance could literally reach out and touch the band. I would later photograph them a couple of more times and it has always been a memorable experience.

A Day at the Beach: Grassroots Preview

The North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach held a preview of the Grassroots Arts and Music Festival by showcasing a variety of artists on Valentine’s Day. The preview was an all-day affair but I was able to catch the final three acts before the day was out. I ended up capturing on camera Jean P. Jams, Big Brooklyn Red and Big Mean Sound Machine.

I attended the event with my business partner, Joe F. Cardenas, who was there to capture video of the artists. There were three things that made an impression on me from the event: 1.) I loved how so many people of all ages were dancing and having a great time. 2.) Big Brooklyn Red had the best performance of the night and sang an incredibly soulful cover of the Paul Weller classic, “You Do Something to Me”. 3.) Watching and capturing Big Mean Sound Machine (from New York) had the most entertaining set.

Out of the three artists, I had photographed Red a couple of times before in 2015 and he still blows me away because of his talent. He lets his voice do the work on stage and stays in place without having to work the stage from side to side. His voice commands attention and the crowd gives him that right back plus an extra helping of appreciation. He’s the most soulful singer I’ve ever heard and you can hear his heartfelt passion in his voice throughout the entire set. He is working on an album but there’s no timetable as to when it will be completed and released.

Party On the J Festival

On February 21st in Hollywood, FL, I attended the Party On The J Festival. The street festival featured local vendors, artists and five different musical acts. The bands that performed at the festival were Above The Skyline, Fresh Air, Trip Machine, Ovrhol and Yardij. The only group I was familiar with was Ovrhol, an awesome Miami-based rock band led by Richard Rey (vocalist and guitarist). It was a long and rewarding day for me because I was able to photograph and network with the performing artists themselves.

All five musical groups were incredibly talented and completely respect them for following their passion. But I must say that two of the five acts intrigued me: Trip Machine and Fresh Air. Trip Machine’s story was a heartwarming one for me because the six-member squad are childhood friends from Caracas, Venezuela. The group performs all over Florida and they have such a clean and polished sound to them. I’ll be sure to photograph them again in 2017.

I respect anyone who follows their passion and makes it happen for themselves. Even Steve Jobs said that you’ve got to “do what you love” and Ric Zweig, front man for the South Florida-based rock band Fresh Air, is doing that. He was a very nice and cordial man when I spoke to him after his band’s performance. The most fascinating thing about Zweig was his admission to me that he was a former criminal court judge. Zweig said he got tired of dealing with lawyers and turned to his love of music into a full-time devotion.

Rock Candy

The Rock Candy rock band had started following me on Instagram in earlier in the year. But I was happy to finally photograph one of their shows at the Tilted Kilt in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale. The five-member, female-fronted rock band, regularly plays around South Florida at various locations. The band itself puts on a quality performance and the crowd beautifully responds to them. They play cover songs of current Rock tunes as well as Classic Rock. There are two things that I believe are cool about the band: 1.) They have the coolest band logo I’ve seen (check it out on their website, www.rockcandyrockband.com) and 2.) they’re all working professionals during the day. If you go to the bio page of their website, you’ll see a few of the images I took of them. I’ll be photographing them again for sure in 2017.

Mardi Gras Celebration

A little bit of New Orleans came to Miami’s Wynwood Yard on February 9 when Roosevelt Collier and Bad Apples Brass Band performed to celebrate Mardi Gras. The musicians that performed that night were made the evening extra special. The other thing about that night was just how chilly it got and you had to wear either a sweater, windbreaker or jacket to keep you warm. Imagine that, Miami gets cold! Regardless, the Bad Apples Brass Band is a Dixieland ensemble which opened for Collier. When it was time for Collier to perform, he had an all-star band backing him up and it soon became a jam session. The entire experience was indeed unforgettable and special.

Indeed, February was a busy month as far as photographing content goes but I couldn't be happier with the results. Tomorrow, I'll be featuring my favorite images from the month of March 2016.

A Look Back on 2016: January

Over the next 12 days I’ll be showcasing some of my favorite images of 2016. Each day, I’ll be featuring a specific month with a few of my personal favorite photographs. I’m excited about these next series of blogposts as my plan to execute more postings on my website for the coming year. I have a schedule in mind for the blog and what postings will be going on what day. So now, here are some of my personal favorite images from the month of January.

 

Featured Artists: The Baboons, Electric Kif and Suenalo

The Baboons

2016 began for me photographing The Baboons in Hollywood, FL at ArtsPark. The venue was spacious and the stage was equally as vast with top-notch lighting. The Baboons performed there shortly after the New Year and it was nice reuniting with the band since I last saw them in October 2015. I remember the group being excited about the show and even more ecstatic at the fact their third album, Spanglish, was set to be released in April. They had a special concert at the North Beach Bandshell to celebrate the release of the new album.

The Baboons have been around for 23 years and have been a mainstay in the Miami Music Scene for many years. The band nowadays do not perform quite as often but when they do, it is a special event I admit. I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store for The Baboons.

Electric Kif

Later in the month I jumped at the opportunity of photographing Electric Kif at Jada Coles in Coral Gables, FL. The foursome of world class musicians had made a huge impression on me when I last photographed them during Labor Day Weekend in September 2015 as part of the inaugural Ball and Chain Music Festival. This specific performance was extra special because only three of the members did the gig. Jason Matthews, keyboardist, was not in attendance (I believe he was out of town doing another show) but Digo, bassist, Eric Escanes, guitarist, and Armando Lopez, drummer, carried on with the show.

The group got by with a little help from their friends as the show was transformed into a good ol’ jam session. Such notable musicians that jammed with Electric Kif were Alejandro Elizondo (guitars and keyboards), Brian Lange (drums and percussion), Marcel Salas (bassist and guitars), Sonny East (guitars) and Adrian Gonzalez (guitars). It was a great night of music held in a very intimate atmosphere. I have thoroughly enjoyed not only photographing the band but also listening to them. The Miami Music Circuit (and the South Florida Music scene for that matter) has an ungodly number of phenomenal, mind-blowing musicians and the men that comprise Electric Kif are at the top. A NEW album is due out soon and I can’t wait to photograph them again.

Suenalo

The day before I photographed The Baboons in Hollywood, I began 2016 photographing Suenalo, an ensemble I hold dear to my heart. The group played at the world-famous Ball and Chain on January 1st and the show was high energy all the way. Suenalo, in its illustrious career, has been named Miami’s Best Band three times by the Miami New Times and for good reason: It’s all about that “Afro-latin, hip-hop, R&B, baby-making funk” which personifies Miami. 

I’m going off script for a moment, my favorite Suenalo song is “Keep It Groovin’”, the title track of their fourth album. It is such awesome composition and is a certified crowd favorite when they do perform it live. By the way, my second favorite song is “Kuchi”, the seventh song off their third album, “Live at Transit”. However, out of the four albums, Live at Transit, is my personal favorite.

I can proudly say that I’ve been photographing the ensemble for over a year (I’ve been living in Miami for two years btw) and ALL of them are quality people. I did photograph them five more times during 2016. Half way through the year a big change happened to the band when their front man Amin De Jesus moved out west to my home state of California. However, “The Prodigal Son” will be returning to Miami and join his bandmates on December 30th live at The Wynwood Yard. That’s going to be a very special concert and I can’t wait.

So January 2016 started off well thank God. But that would only be the beginning my friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be displaying my favorite images from the month of February. My year in review will culminate on January 1st just as the new year begins.

My Camera's On A Budget

I’m happy to say that this is my FIRST blog post for OutsideThePhotoPit.com. 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.