For my first shoot of 2012, I found it perfectly correct to shoot the band that I re-launched my website with: David Chen And The Muddy Basin Ramblers. To welcome in the new year, the Ramblers were playing a gig at the Village Cafe inside the Taipei Artist Village. Unfortunately, I had a prior engagement for New Year’s (hey, I have a life too!) and then was set to shoot the fireworks at Taipei 101. Because of this, I missed their opening sets before midnight, but got there just in time to enjoy a cold one and catch their last set. Sadly, Tim wasn’t feeling well, so him and his washboard were absent for the final set.
The Ramblers are a bunch of really talented musicians, and pretty decent dudes all around too. I met a few of them late last year through my friend CA, so I always take the opportunity to capture a few frames of the band when it arises. While their style of music isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite, especially not in Taiwan, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who says their music isn’t at the very least pleasant. The energy in the room when they play is almost tangible, and it’s always an impressive sight to see musicians display their talents on such a wide range of instruments.
On top of all the great music emanating from the stage, part of what’s so great about Ramblers’ shows are the group of swing dancers that always seem to turn up. They’re kind of a visceral embodiment of all the energy the band puts out. I always try to get some shots of them — a great recommendation by my friend CA — and this time I was lucky enough to get in a couple of frames where the light wasn’t absolutely terrible. It’s always great seeing people that can actually dance in this town, especially since it’s not hip hop, so it’s worth the price of entry.
Anywho, here’s wishing everyone a happy 2012. I hope we’ve really all just misread the Mayan calendar and that everyone has a prosperous year. I got my year kicked off shooting a great band, and that’s about all I could have asked for. Fingers crossed that’s how the rest of the year will go, and I hope to see some of y’all out there.
Apparently, the Village Cafe at the Taipei Artist Village is under new management; thank God! Whoever the new manager is, she’s the recipient of many of my well wishes. Aside from sprucing up the place a tad, she also took the time to add curtains behind the stage and, most importantly, more or less corrected the horrid lighting situation. Both of these factors translate into much more pleasant backgrounds for shots and seriously improved image quality and focus accuracy. Honestly, there’s only two little dark spots left on stage, and they’re only really a problem with larger bands like The Muddy Basin Ramblers.
Not having known all this, I showed up at the event with my camera, my fast 50mm and my SB-700. I only planned on using my flash if things got desperate; it was really there for the focus assist. While the stage had a serious improvement in lighting, the rest of the bar is completely dark, which is fine and dandy by me most of the time. Unfortunately I screwed up again and gave some dancers a face full of strobe on one frame (sorry!). Yeah, I’m looking into alternatives now; it’s hard to shoot while holding down the damned “no flash” button. If I had a little more prep time, I would have set up my flash off camera near ground level for this shot I’ve had in my head of dancers’ feet. They always show up at Muddy Basin Rambler gigs, so I guess I’ll have to give that a go next time.
Unfortunately, the lack of gear meant that I didn’t have my usual amount of flexibility with focal length, hence the lack of any real “group” shots. Also, since the dancers were taking up pretty much all the space in front of the band, I couldn’t really get up in there and get decent close-ups of some of the members. Had I had my 80-200mm, at the very least I could have gotten the close-ups; albeit from a different perspective than normal. Other than that, though, it was a pretty nice night for shooting. I kept ISO down for the most part, only going up to or past ISO3200 on a few occasions in dark corners or on the dancers.
On a non-technical side note, I love trombones in music photography. Why? Because from a profile perspective, they build their own strong compositional lines to the real focus of any frame: the performer. Essentially, as long as you have a decent amount of the slide in the frame, it creates a strong line that draws the viewer’s eyes to the musician. I guess any long tubed horn has this effect, but recently I’ve only been catching trombones. Fine by me!
Nikon D7000 (Amazon)
Nikon AF 50mm f/1.4D (Amazon)
Nikon SB-700 (Amazon)