Monday, December 14, 2009
REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY BUTCH LEITZ
“I Need Your Love In My Life” — a rocking number with southern party-blues feel to it featured solid lead guitar work from Montoya. A funky drum intro opened “Women Have A Way With The Blues,” waking the audience up to the fact that Randy Hayes on drums is somebody not to be messed with. Heavy-handed with smoldering blues riffs demonstrated Montoya’s background as an Albert Collins protégé. The notes were tight and succinct with little of the tonal clutter characteristic of less-worthy guitar players masking over their deficiencies.
Since every review and biography I’ve ever read makes a big stinking deal about how the left-handed Montoya plays his guitar upside down (literally: a right handed neck strung for a righty turned over on a lefty strat body so the bass strings are at the bottom instead of the top), I’m not going to dwell on it. I think watching a blond woman in the crowd of dancers slow dancing with a post kind of said it all!
A boogie-woogie organ solo from Leeper opened “Tumbleweed,” adding in turn some heavy drums from Hayes, thundering bass from Nate Brown, and Montoya grinding out some heavy swinging blues riffs over it all had everybody eating out their hands. At the next song break, while we had already had a few interruptions from one fan shouting out song titles, now everything stopped while Montoya had a back-and-forth with them about them being annoying. After a few protracted moments, Montoya responded the best way he could by just grinding ferociously through the next couple songs totally blowing away the weird vibe that arose during the pause.
After a set break, Montoya played an amusing song featuring little guitar riffs made to sound like what you’d hear through the walls in a cheap motel while a husband and wife argued. Everybody was still laughing while the band churned into a heavy version of “Just Like Me” and through a couple more numbers. The big finish was Albert Collins “Put The Shoe On The Other Foot” used as the basis for an extended jam featuring a jazzy bass solo by Nate Brown and a thundering drum solo by Randy Hayes adding some more searing blues work by Montoya to close out the night.
All-in-all, a great night for fans lucky enough to get a ticket on the Coco Montoya blues train.
Monday, November 23, 2009
A couple months later I was doing some self training in a couple aspects of photoshop I wanted to spend more time on, and I used this photo as a test for one of the things I wanted to play more with: masking. Not a very exciting photo (I thought). But when I converted it to a low contrast black and white image, it looked better to me. I masked in the coke bottle colors, posted this image on flickr, and immediately got alot of comments about it including some constructive feedback about the areas with color I masked back into the photo. (I also had some fun at a friends expense who didn't realize the model was my daughter!)
I went back and edited it a little more, made some notes about the edits and reposted this at flickr - and got many more comments.
Right now, a couple years later, despite all the other images I have posted on flickr I think are much better, this remains one of my top two most viewed (and commented on and "favorited") images on flickr (the other being a photo of USA Olympic Boxer Deontay Wilder).
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Jimmy Thackery is slowly making his way through the crowded room in the Crystola Bar and Grill toward the stage in relative anonymity. He can easily be mistaken for somebody’s uncle: amiable, chatting with a few friends, in no hurry to get anywhere. As he gets up on stage and pulls out his beat up ‘64 strat and slips into a pair of sunglasses he adopts a serious game face that leads bassist Mark Bumgarner and drummer Russ Wilson through a set of songs including covers and material from across several of Jimmy’s albums.
His eclectic styles verge on the bizarre, but they all seem to work: westernized surf-rock, blues mixed with country, Muddy Waters to Chuck Berry to Jimi Hendrix, Thackery’s all over the board. Dragging shuffles, cowboy honky-tonk, boogie-woogie, Texas swing, upbeat 12-bar blues, it’s was all there and the crowd loved it!
Splitting about half the numbers between instrumentals and songs with vocals featuring Russ Wilson or Thackery himself, the band is totally comfortable working the crowd. Between songs the band good naturedly heckles back and forth with members of the audience, and right in the middle of one song featuring Wilson in a slow heartfelt vocal number, he stops to admonish a group of women who laughed over something at their table leading to a moment of pretend-pouting by Wilson which gets the crowd (totally laughing and encouraging him to get back to the song) totally engaged. In a later segue between numbers, Thackery played a long extend soulful blues solo that ended with some blistering riffs blowing the hair on people in the back of the room when he stopped and pulled a James Brown fainting shtick stumbling back into the drums as laughter and cat-calls mixed with heavy applause.
The snow outside, the warmth and cheer inside, and solid music made this night rowdy, raucous, and fun!
Monday, November 2, 2009
I couldn't get the action to "break" the same way again. I used to have a saying back in my tech days: "software doesn't break". This is generally true, but the data given any piece of software may cause it to have unintended consequences.
As I went back and reedited this photo from scratch, I applied about half of the effect of the action that broke... doing it manually step by step again.
Sometimes working on a photo, you drift into the feeling of the image so much that the edits kind of force themselves into a certain direction. I got to a point with this photo where I just needed to stop. There was alot of direction I could have gone with this image, but just extrapolating from the whole vibe here, her expression, the glare, the reality of the harshness of light and perhaps other subtle things going on under the surface, I decided the image itself dictated it's edit to me, so I felt it showed "unintended consequences".
Monday, October 26, 2009
Owners John and Cindy Hooten have been consistantly updating things a little at a time since taking it over in early 2009. The building's been around since the 60's, originally built as a Lowes Theatre, but in later years becoming a church, the "Colorado Opry", an all-night rave location and a church again (I think that's the order). It's considerably cleaned up.
Stargazers can be set up for dining in the main auditorium just in front of the stage, cocktails, dancing, or just for additional seating. When set for just seating I think they max out at 500 seats. I've been there 3 times in the last month for a blues act (Tommy Castro), a rock/blues act (Jake Loggins) and one jazz act (Dotsero), and I could see incremental improvements every time I've been in there.
Stargazers can be booked for business and civic events, too.
For more info, and to see their upcoming schedule of event see their web site here: http://www.stargazerstheater.com/.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Core band members Stephen Watts and David Watts who play sax and guitar respectively were joined on stage by Tom Capek on keyboards, Marvin Craft on bass, and Jeff Woods on drums.
The band moved into "Jeepers Creepers", a nice number featuring keyboardist Capek providing perfect light hip licks with the band building into a heavy syncopation with proud keyboard strokes offset by heavy drum and bass accompaniment. A few songs later the band played "Late At Night", with a slow dreamy intro that alternated between strong dynamics and classic cool jazz which I refer to as "late night with your honey" jazz - characterized by a good punchy rhythm with a nice solid groove like a soft summer breeze in an open convertible.
The only negative thing I think I heard was that the sax kept trending towards being a little sharp at this point and it took a few songs before I felt like it was consistently back on point.
Nice continued funked-out and soulful jazz numbers followed until one of the Dotsero fans yelled "LODO MOJO!" which the band was happy to oblige with. "Lighthouse in the Rockies", a hip version of "Spooky" and then a funky jam "ditty" closed-out the night to the applause and cheers of the audience.
All in all a nice mellow trip down a contemporary jazz highway brought to Stargazers by Dotsero.
One of the guys who knew I hadn't seen Jake Loggins before sidled up to me at some point half an hour into the show just looked at me with raised eyebrows. Just then there was a song break and I told him my review for the Gazette would probably consist of two words: "Holy" was the first one. Something else I can't get printed was the second one.
Jake Loggins is his own man. He's 25 and has the chops of alot of guys I've seen twice his age. He plays blues laden rock. I'm hesitant to call him a straight blues player, and to say he plays rock and roll is totally wrong. But if you're old enough to remember bands like Montrose or Robin Trower or Pat Travers, you may get an initial impression. Bands from the late 60's/early 70's that were drawing from blues material and making it "heavy" like Cream. And inevitably names like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page come to mind. But I mentioned that he also has some groove to him like maybe a Dave Mason, you might start to get other ideas. If I added "oh, yeah, you can tell he's studied Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan" you might cry "foul". Who's over-hyping now?
I wanna be clear: he has his own tone and style. I think he's a bluesman at heart with party-rock mojo. And in some quieter moments you can tell he's gotten education in alot of techniques. And that's where his father comes in.
Which brings us back to Stargazers. In simple terms, I can sum this up by saying Jake's show in a performance venue is not to be missed. This is a national act masquerading as a regional power band at the moment, their gate pricing is cheap, the performance level is amazing. Last parenthetical observation I'll make here: this is the most democratic audience I have ever seen at a show recently: cholos and truckers, stock brokers and bikers, high heels and cowboy boots, hippies, kids, moms, and grandmas. And babes. Oh. My. God. There was incredible, uh, "ambience" at friday night’s show.
In keeping with the feel of a Loggins family reunion, congratulations to Justin and his baby-momma: Justin proposed marriage to her at the end of his set, and it was a genuinely nice moment to share.
Jake came onstage and before getting into his real set he started with a simple singing of "happy birthday" to Tim McKenna, Justin and Lobo Loggins who all share birthdays within a few days of each other, and he included another family member that just had twins that day.
So just as I was worried that this was going to devolve into a family love fest, the Jake Loggins Band dove into a no-holds barred set of high-energy blues/funk fusion with tight syncopations coupled with great stage presence, Jake leaning over and pouring energy into his Fender strat & pulling back with grimaces over burning solos, standing out in front of the mics at stage center just wailing away.
First serious observation: this band is tight. Drummer Desmond "Motown" Washington's animated and very heavy handed style of play was showy without showboating: I loved watching him beat down his equipment while bassist Noel McFarland matched "Motown" in perfect synch, adding punch and a solid foundation for Jake to stand on. One thing about power-trios: if you look back historically at many bands that had killer sound and huge success, you'll see that fewer musicians almost always means everybody's pulling their load. There’s no place to slack. And these 3 were on overdrive friday night. But here's the fun part. They have a keyboardist, Lawrence "LC" Clark. Now I didn't get a chance to talk to LC, but he's back there providing perfect support, with style. While the band was totally in overdrive, LC's back there at one point laying down perfect jazz-influenced fills that as I'm writing this sound out of place to say, but I swear I heard it and it was very cool. He had his share of organ effects in a couple breaks he took, but he was just over there on the side not making a fuss and adding this totally cool enriching vibe to the whole band as they're totally shredding my ears off.
This is a loud band. But after 4 songs or so, Jake invited his father Lobo Loggins onstage along with special guest Don Rollins. Don's name you may recognize. He's based in Nashville and has many songwriting credits to his name, one of the most notable being "It's Five O’clock Somewhere" you've seen and heard Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet play. Don won a Grammy for that one.
Like a fully loaded freight train cranking up the tracks from Austin Texas, the band ended the set with a classic Texas grinding shuffle version of "The Blues is Alright".
The full band came back on for several more numbers with various solo breaks by different members expressing everything from Dave Mason-type soulful bluesy guitar work with mellow tones to some rowdy soul/funk material leading into "Patience", another Jake Loggins crowd pleaser that went from slow to fiery to self-indulgent leads into just solid purring portions that underscored what a great rhythm section Jake had in Desmond, Noel and LC. The final number with Don and Lobo was the Stevie Wonder song "Superstition" which Stevie Ray Vaughan remade into a funkier strung-out version. The band pulled no punches, making it totally funky and outrageous. Musicians love playing "Superstition" because of the middle part of the song - you can jam, repeat themes, have a lot of fun with solos, but JLB took the opportunity to seamlessly bring in a funky version of Jeff Beck's "Going Down" right in that middle part before bringing it back to a big-finish close-out of "Superstition".
It's now 11:25pm and Don and Lobo leave the stage and Jake announces they're gonna stick around and jam for a while "if that's alright!" After a funky heavy rock laden blues number Jake rips out the classic intro to Jimi's "Voodoo Child" which - after a few solo breaks by everybody including Jake playing his guitar up over behind his head without even making it look like he's doing anything special turns into the big finish of the night at around 11:45 with the exhausted and deafened crowd on their feet ready to go for another couple hours.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I've been shooting sports part time and after my photography day-job for about 3 years. This hardly makes me an expert among many sports photographers I know that have shot sports for a decade or more. That being said, I've shot hundreds of games and well over 100,000 photos in that amount of time. (Thank God for my 15% shot selection rule of thumb, huh??!?)(In other words, only 15% of what I shoot makes the light of day (and odds are thats 10% too many!).
I've shot everything from extreme mountain biking, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, & water skiing to all the basics: football, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, baseball, and soccer. With alot of other sports in between (like rugby, swimming, golf, gymnastics, wrestling, cheerleading, and more).
I've shot on spec, sold sports images, had sports images published, and have had my images used in posters and marketing for national teams, and have shot high-school, NCAA, minor-league, and national team level sports.
My presentation was on "issues and tips" with shooting sports, starting with overall tips, then hitting specifics about camera and lens specs, issues with certain types of sports, and ending with my list of killer "jedi" sports photography tips.
It took about 2 hours which was about 30 minutes longer than I thought it would take, but some of the kinder participants (and, well, everybody attending of the 30-40 people there were kind) said the length was perfect.
I showed a little short video of some of my favorite sports photos set to some heavy rock music... pumping through my external speakers and subwoofer I set up: it was funnn!
Anyway, it was a good time and I appreciate their letting me come in and share some ideas.
Monday, October 5, 2009
As I approached the Pikes Peak center on Cascade Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs Sunday evening, I thought I was plenty early to find parking on the street and get in and get a drink since it was only 5 after 6:00. But I started to get confused. I started seeing more and more people still 2 blocks away walking in the direction of Pikes Peak Center. Traffic was slowing down. The closer I got, the more bewildering it was: Kenny G was playing tonight, and it was a mob scene!
I admit I didn't know what to expect. Kenny G is practically a house-hold name and like many successful commercial and pop artists is the butt of his share of jokes. But like him or not, his music helped solidify and define the "smooth jazz" genre. He has sold millions of albums and has millions of fans worldwide, but this was Colorado Springs: was there something else going on I didn't know about? Some folksy music festival, maybe, outside Pikes Peak Center earlier? No, it's simply this: He's. Packing. Them. In.
Let’s assume for a minute the name doesn't ring a bell. You've probably heard his high soaring soprano saxophone on smooth-jazz radio stations, during Christmas specials on TV, and (perhaps) in an elevator or two. And his first Christmas album "Miracles: The Holiday Album" (Arista/January 1994) with just over 7 million sales in 15 years is the second all-time greatest selling Christmas album after "Elvis' Christmas Album" (RCA Victor/October 1957) with 9 million sales in 50 years.
But it was very clear that Kenny G has a very faithful following in Colorado Springs where he and his band performed at the Pikes Peak Center to a very full house. My guesstimate is around 1700 people were in attendance, most high-toned and well-heeled. This was a good looking crowd largely made up of people in the 30-60 year old range, many couples but as many single men as single women were in attendance. Speaking with a few people in the lobby illustrated just how faithful this crowd was: nearly everybody I talked to claimed to have all his albums (and I count 20 altogether when you include the 3 Christmas albums and 4 "Best Of" type albums), claimed to have bought their tickets the minute they went on sale, and appeared very excited to get to see him live.
The general excitement level rose as Kenny came through the crowd about 20 minutes before the show to a merchandise sales area to sign autographs on the CDs and other items for sale, his trademark long curly hair staying remarkably well-behaved as he laughed and joked with people coming through the line.
And here's where another thing that becomes abundantly clear: Kenny G is actually a pretty genuine guy! He's accessible to his fans, good natured, and as became clear later on during the show when he was bragging about being up to 135 pounds - he doesn't take himself too seriously. He plays golf, has a pilots, license... but I digress.
In general, however, his music It's well arranged, and feels lush and embracing, romantic and rhythmic, invoking soaring birds and rippling streams. With musician-friends that have been with him for years, Kenny G experienced live is an emotionally satisfying experience. Some would argue it's like sneaking into the kitchen for a late night snack of chocolate cake: it may be "wrong" but it feels so "right"!
The opening started with the band doing a nice rendition of "Going Home" with Kenny G joining in from the back of the auditorium walking down the aisles, standing on the side of the stage level tower box seats, then showing off his note-sustaining breathing technique by holding one note for several minutes while he made his final way to the stage detouring across rows through the crowd while pointing and waving with a free hand. Moving through "Silhouette" with a tight polish from playing hundreds of gigs together, the band dove into the very popular song "Havana" during which percussionist Ron Johnson broke into an extended solo percussion jam that was a master class of Latin percussive techniques.
Moving through other material like "G-Bot" and "Forever In Love" got the crowd back into easy-going jazziness and romance people like about Kenny G. Taking a break from playing for a minute, Kenny riffed with the crowd a little commenting on everything from hand warmers in his pockets, golfing (he has a plus- handicap) to his hair ("maybe I should cut it? but my career would go down the toilet like Michael Bolton’s!") (And who said he doesn't have a sense of humor?!?). They played a final collection of material before the set break and intermission with extracts from his last CD "Rhythm and Romance" with a slightly up-tempo version of the title track, then "Tango", "Besame Mucho" - with a beautiful interlude by keyboardist and long-time friend Robert Damper - and "Sax-O-Loco", voted best smooth-jazz song of 2008.
After a couple songs into their second set, they announced the winner of one of the "Kenny G" line of saxophones they gave away from a drawing of audience members who had earlier purchased CDs and merchandise. While waiting for the couple seated high in the balcony to get down to the stage for the presentation, the band played "White Christmas" from the Miracles Christmas album. With the winning couple Dee and Saul Macias onstage, Kenny serenaded them using the same soprano sax they had won before presenting it to the grateful couple. Speaking with the couple afterwards Saul confided he was "still shaking" he was so excited and Dee - it was clear - who had been moved to tears onstage was still glowing.
Louis Armstrong's classic "What A Wonderful World" came next with video work juxtaposing Kenny on stage blended with Louis Armstrong on screen in a nice rendition of what has become a favorite of Kenny G fans everywhere. It has to be said that this piece has garnered Kenny G the most derision from the serious jazz musician community, but I thought it was tasteful and respectful.
Not to let everybody get too mushy, the band slammed into a punchy raucous version of Average White Band's "Pick Up The Pieces" with an outrageous lightshow bathing the audience in blazing lights timed with the music.
Kenny G reappeared up in the balcony winding his way through the audience with various band breaks while Kenny made his way down a level into the main auditorium for more personal one-on-one serenading of audience members, leading into the big finale onstage with a standing ovation. Coming back onstage for "Cadenza" and one of his first major commercial hits "Songbird", Kenny and band closed out the night leaving everyone on their feet from this totally satisfying and entertaining show.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I had been thinking alot recently about one aspect of my business which I have used to be out in the community to, yes, get some visibility, but it goes farther than that, and I'm refering to high school sports photography. I do this mostly "on spec" meaning I go and shoot games I think will be fun to watch with alot of action, and perhaps I get to sell prints of photos from the games I shoot. I don't charge much money for my sports prints, but it covers gas and is fun to do when I'm caught up on other business. Perhaps I get some visibility from it for my seniors or portrait business, but I'm not sure I can quantify that with any hard numbers.
Now, I don't shoot with this in mind, but given the numbers of games and schools I shoot at any given season that it happens about 4 or 5 times a season where I'll get an email or a call from a parent who will say something like one who called a couple weeks ago: "thanks so much for getting those photos of our son... he was seriously injured in the next game he played. he'll be ok in about 4-6 months after the cast comes off and physical therapy, but he's out for the season - and your photos are the only things we have to show what a great season he was having."
When it's a high school senior and their high school career is effectively over, I feel sorry for the kid, but glad that I was able to be there and get photos for the family which were probably much better than a parent would get from the sidelines or stands. If I learn that a kid was injured (either during a game or in a following game) I simply give a web link to any photos I have to the family (or athletic director at the school to forward to the family). Sometimes I hear about it later after the family has bought photos. Maybe not too smart from a business standpoint, but it just seems like it's the right thing to do, and I'm more than happy to do it.
But it's still a bitter sweet situation. For example, there was one girl I always looked for whenever I was at a game her soccer team was at because she was a great player, very fast, agile, and almost always had a smile on her face, she loved playing so much. She was animated and agressive in her play, so I always got some killer photos from games when she played. During the last chance I got to see her play, she sustained a fairly serious injury which took her out for the remainder of season and I was able to get photos to the family who were beyond appreciative. I was happy I had some awesome shots of her, but sorry for her situation and personally sorry I probably wouldn't ever see her play again.
I was saddened to just learn of the passing over the weekend of one local high school soccer competitor who was "one of those players" my camera swung to repeatedly when he was playing. An awesome athlete, I had photographed him in a game just a few days before.
While he had made "meaning" to the teams he played with, it gave me pause to appreciate the profession of photography where it may be just a moment in time that we make an image of, but that moment can be shared and valued forever regardless of later circumstances.
Whether it's from a sports photograph of an outstanding play, a journalism or other editorial photograph, a portrait, or a candid from an event like a wedding, a graduation, or a funeral, like the philosopher Cesare Pavese said, "We do not remember days, we remember moments." Video may give context, but a good photograph has the ability to transcend time like nothing else except perhaps, prayer and meditation.
The profession of photography needs to always maintain it's focus on "making meaning" and being relevent, otherwise, there's no point.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Kris Kentera : Pine Creek High School : Colorado Springs
Originally uploaded by butch leitz
Both teams were in the top-10 statistical leaders of all Colorado football teams, and both are in the Metro League in the Colorado Springs area.
Photos from the game are posted at my High School Sport Photos site, www.HighSchoolSportPhotos.net.
It's around 10:30 at night and Tommy Castro and his band have just finished the second of two blistering sets of knock-down hard-drivin' superheated blues and R&B. Men are palpitating and women are having uncontrollable physiological reactions all over the place. And everybody's either grinning, sweating from dancing out of their seats from up in the rafters down to stage center, giving high-fives, or gasping for breath.
Then Tommy Castro does something I've seen very few other bands do and do well: he invokes the immortal spirit of the Godfather of Soul, the previously hardest workin' man in show business, soul brother number one, of course I'm talkin' about Mr. James Brown. I'm not sure I'm hearing my ears right. Is this cat going into the classic opening rap that JB went into prior to slamming into one of the all-time great funk shakers of all time "Get Up (I Feel Like Being) A Sex Machine"? Yeah, and more: Not only starting out faithful to the original - enough so that closing your eyes you can almost hear a near perfect channeling the slightly gravelly voice of James Brown - but with an extended jam allowing all the band members to solo and stretch out.
Sax player Keith Crossan, who - with his own year-old solo CD out called "Beatnik Jungle" - has the style and chops and pedigree you only get from putting in almost 40 years - 20 of those with Tommy Castro - playing and sitting in with everybody from John Lee Hooker to Huey Lewis and dozens of top names in between.
Horn player Tom Poole, who, like Crossan, has a varied background playing and recording with BB King, Etta James, and Boz Scaggs among many others can blow with the best of them (and has). Poole and Crossan together make brilliant counterpoints and accentuations to the Tommy Castro band. Tommy had told me earlier during a chance to talk after the sound check that early in his career, touring with a 4 piece band with Keith Crossan was the best he could do, but now with Tommy Poole and a keyboard player - currently Tony Stead - Tommy says "this is the band I always wanted".
Tony Stead - who, (folks, I can't make this stuff up) has been the keyboardist for Sly and The Family Stone and has played and recorded with a veritable whos-who of r&b, blues, and soul acts like Johnny Adams, Ike Turner, Little Anthony, The Pointer Sisters, and on and on and on. I wish I had hours to talk to each of these guys. Amazing talent.
Drummer Ronnie Smith whose career diversity with acts like Gospel Hummingbirds, Jon Hammond Group, Ron Thompson & the Resistors is reflected in his style of play which brings not only solid funk rhythms and grooves to the band, but also island and world influences in his dynamics and fills.
Scot Sutherland - whose bass playing ranks with the some of the best I've ever heard - has soul and a big R&B punch to drive the band with Ronnie Smith. He also makes for one of the more animated and enjoyable solos given that during chorus and refrain sections of many of the songs, he's helping drive the boat with a near stoic understated stage presence and foundation work that - like a Chevy 454 engine - you always feel underneath you purring along, but it explodes in personality and style right when you put the pedal down.
But it's Tommy Castro who prowls onstage with the mischievous confidence of someone totally in control of their instrument and ready to have some fun that draws us all into the act. His kind of performance is a little bit like someone who's letting you in on a secret that you can appreciate but can't fully grasp the ramifications of until later: he and his '66 strat and Fender Super Twin turned up to 10 aren't backing down until you're lifted up out of your seats.
Tommy Castro goes way back, has a bazillion awards and accolades - like being winner of the 2008 Blues Music Award for Entertainer Of The Year, was the house band on NBC’s Comedy Showcase for 3 years in the early 90’s, has played with virtually everybody who's anybody from Albert King to Carlos Santana, and has alot of smarmy reviews flowing with the milk and honey of sweet adverbs and adjectives written over the years pleading with you to understand how great he is.
But I say this: this guy can kick ass. Period.
If you're already a fan, you know this. If you're unfamiliar with his work but like blues music in general, start by looking up some outtakes on YouTube. Some of them are pretty badly done with cell phone video cameras with really bad sound quality. But some of them - do a search in YouTube for "Tommy Castro Nasty Habits" (try here) which rips off a clip from his "Live at the Fillmore" DVD - will show you this guy really is "all that". Then, buy a copy of his new CD.
His latest CD (out of an incredible building catalog of releases from several labels) is "Hard Believer" (Alligator/August 2009) already beat out sales of recent releases by Delbert McClinton, Robert Cray and Robben Ford - and also debuted at #2 on the Billboard Blues Chart! To say the CD is loaded with solid material is an understatement, but to see him perform about half the tracks at the show last night at Stargazers Theater and Event Center - you know, that round-topped place where the Colorado Springs townies first saw Star Wars a million years ago (more about Stargazers in a minute) - was nothing short of phenomenal. This band can play!
Tommy had told me one of favorite songs to play (and also on the new CD) is Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" because it just "feels so good" playing it. And if you know the original, you know its got a mild kind of funky soulful beat to it. But when Castro plays it he adds his own ferocity to the driving mean funk that the band kicks out, and in the case last night, he came off stage and walked all through the audience playin' it with a grit and determination that made believers out of everybody.
Also off the new CD, the fast paced "Make It Back To Memphis" (which he claims was motivated from a "true" story about hauling back to Memphis after the Blues Music Awards in Tunica Mississippi last year in a friends Cadillac, out on the open road, running out of gas) is also one of his current favorites to play.
Besides breathing new life into Bob Dylan and James Brown covers, we also heard ballsy renditions of material from Muddy Waters and Wilson Picket mixed in with other new and classic Tommy Castro band crowd pleasers like "Nasty Habits".
Warming up the Stargazers stage last night were BJ Estares and Randy Hawke from the Colorado Springs based band Route 61 performing somewhat unplugged acoustic funked out blues run-downs that got everybody in a great mood.
If you haven't been to the venue that is the structure of the original United Artist Theater off Pikes Peak Avenue that took turns being "the Old Colorado Opry", churches, and the site of all-night raves before being brought back into control and cleaned up by new owners John and Cindy Hooton, you're in for a treat. Yes, they do mild- mannered business events there too by day, but by night - and especially with their increasing niche of showcasing some of the best touring and regional blues talent - they've become one of the best go-to venues I've seen locally in a while. (And have a cole-slaw salad they offer as a side dish to sandwiches that could be it’s own food group, it’s that good). (And yes, I admit I’ve been suspicious of places that try to be a regional music venue that serve food and alcohol also, but here: it totally works.)
I talked with a long-time Tommy Castro fan from Beulah, Colorado who had made the trek to Stargazers to see the band and he said there's nothing like this venue anywhere, especially in the southern half of the state - and they wouldn't have missed the show for anything.
I also talked with Tommy Castro fans who were vacationing in Colorado Springs from Kansas. They're new fans of Castro and missed him when the band toured through Topeka recently and just knew they had to come to the gig to enjoy the show.
I asked Tommy backstage if he knew he was drawing people from not only Boulder (where they had just played a few night ago) and Denver but also from Kansas! His eyebrows went up and he was, like, "realllly?" and I'm, like, yeahhh, man, you don't even know. I told him the best fan story I heard last night prior to the show: a woman had flown to Colorado from San Jose, California to meet her husband who was working long-term in Denver for the Tommy Castro show in Colorado Springs! It was their 4th wedding anniversary and they wanted to spend it "with" Tommy Castro!
So if you missed this performance, keep your ears open for the band's next pass through town: they've been here four times now thanks to local promoters Amy and George Whitesell of "A Music Company, Inc" and Castro's following - as evident from the 300 plus people attending last night (from all over the country) is just growing and growing. Gear up, go online, buy the latest CD from the Tommy Castro Band, and get in the groove.
More photos from the Tommy Castro Band's gig reviewed above can be found at my Flickr photo gallery here.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
If you threw Fats Domino, Albert King and Junior Wells into a bag and seasoned it with everything in the cabinet like The Diamond’s version of the 50’s classic ”The Stroll” fame and Jerry Lee Lewis you might come up with something like The Insomniacs.
The Insomniacs – a nationally recognized up-and-coming blues band touring the country in support of their newest CD “At Least I’m Not With You” (April/2009, Delta Groove Productions) – brought their tight blues melange to Colorado Springs Friday night at McCabe’s Tavern on Tejon Street.
While there was a pretty low turn-out for what should have been a packed house, that didn’t stop the quartet of Vyasa Dodson on guitar, Dean Mueller on bass, Alex Shakeri on keys and Dave Melyan on drums from layin’ it down.
Opening with “Lonesome” off the new CD was a great way to loosen up both the band and the audience. This 12 bar blues shuffle with a great tempo got head and feet moving everywhere and gave the band a chance to open up and settle in.
Churning into “20/20” – a slower punchier blues number that would be totally at home in the Austin blues circuit with Shakeri’s groove slingin’ leslie organ underpinnings supporting Dodsons Albert King style riffing over top.
More songs of the new CD followed including “Description Blues”, “Maybe Sometime Later” and near the end of the first of their two sets, the title track from the new CD “At Least I’m Not With You”. “At Least I’m Not With You” is a great song when you hear the clips from the CD online at the Delta Groove web site, but it’s a totally awesome number live.
The band mixed it up with songs from their first CD “Left Coast Blues” (August/2007, Delta Groove Productions) and threw in some covers and a ballsy version of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’” - which is one of those crowd pleasers that people love when they hear it, but The Insomniacs spin totally brought it forward a few decades.
The big surprise to me was Alex Shakeri on Keyboards and Harmonica. While Dodson is the songwriting powerhouse of the group based on everything you read (and certainly has his share of sweet riffs), Shakeri stole the show more than once with powerful blues harps riffs, pounding honky-tonk piano, and sweeping swinging organ accompaniment that left little doubt about his chops.
The Memphis based Blues Music Association gave The Insomniacs a nomination for Best New Artist Debut last year, and with songs showing up on Billboard and Living Blues Radio charts, this is an up and coming blues band with a lot of rubber left on the tires.
For more information on The Insomniacs, see here.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Weather stayed pretty good for this shoot, it was partly cloudy/partly sunny when we started (and this in the afternoon after we had had something like a hurricane the previous couple days finally slowing down that morning).
It did start clouding up, and I had my daughter Erica with me assisting, so I told her to keep an eye on the sky and at the first drops of rain we had to bundle up the lighting equipment we were setting up at a couple places we were shooting. I didn't use lights everywhere we shot outside, but when I did (like this one here in this blog entry) I used a medium softbox with a grid on an Alien Bees B800 light I carry - which was connected to a portable battery pack.
We got in some great shots, spent about 2 hours shooting at - I want to say 3 locations around downtown, the last in front of the old City Hall on Nevada. We had been shooting there about 20 minutes when big fat drops of rain started to come down, so while Erica was packing up stuff I shot Brianna for a few final frames without any artificial lighting (and we got some nice final photos to review out of that set also).
All told: an awesome shoot with an awesome girl!
Friday, September 11, 2009
I took this photo a couple weeks ago during a photo session with a high school senior who had run back to the car to grab a different shirt. While waiting I noticed this woman climbing... couldn't resist preserving the moment and captioning it "perserverance"...
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
All these cards feature photos from seniors I've shot from several different high schools including air academy, liberty, sand creek, falcon, doherty, cheyenne, and sierra. I have shot kids from other high schools also including Rampart and Coronado, but I ran out of room with my layout to include everybody!
I enjoy shooting weddings, models, families... heck, I enjoy photography, period. But some of my favorite subjects to shoot are high school seniors. Sure, we get the cocky ones, the ones that know everything, and they're fun to shoot because of their confidence.
But we also get kids that the shy brainy type or the jocks that just may not feel that comfortable in front of a camera. I love working with these types of kids because they sometimes just don't know that they -can- look good in a photo: they've had too many bad experiences with lousy photos shot by family or friends, photos that never should have been seen, even!
But it's all good - we ask that seniors come in with a parent to have an initial meet and greet meeting from which we schedule the session when we're going to shoot photos.This gets us over the hump of meeting for the first time when we're ready to take photos, and we talk about wardrobe, props, locations, and some of the print products we have.
Then when it's time to go out and shoot, we can just rock and roll. So far this year I've shot on railroad tracks, in the rocks (on the rocks) (around the rocks) (we have alot of rocks in Colorado!), in the woods, in the grass, by brick walls, downtown, on the bluffs and mesas, and it seems a dozen places in between.
Most yearbook deadlines are coming up in the next 3 or 4 weeks, some schools earlier, some schools much later, and we'll take a few simple head shots to pick from for the yearbooks and get them to the schools in plenty of time, but it's the rest of the photos that let us get fun stuff in for use as family gifts, wallets to give to friends, and images to hang onto and enjoy when you're older that may have more meaning.
So I love this time of year when I'm shooting some weddings and families and executive headshot photos, but aloooot of seniors.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
We had done some shots on one side of the street and I suggested we move over to the other side (dodging cars and catcalls as we went) and we started to shoot there. Something out of the corner of my mind nagged at me for a second or two before it came into focus: those clanking clinking sounds I was hearing was hail starting to come down! We were under a few trees and didn't get hit (right away) which gave me time to yell at Krystal "jeez, what is that?" "Hail or something!" "quick, run for cover!" & we pulled under a store front that had a generous overhang.
One of these shots (here on the left with her hand up on her head) was taken just at the edge of this overhang with available light while it was raining (in fact in other shots I have taken around this same time you can see streaks of rain falling behind her... but they're a little distracting). You'll see some hot spots as far as lighting on her right, but some cool side and backlighting. The side and backlighting was actually by design. In the limited room we had to move, I couldn't use the flash because it would have been too overwhelming... so I kept moving her right and left and I kept rising and squatting until the angles were all right with all the different street lighting around. The light on the right was from some blinking little christmas light LEDs in the window that would fire off at random times... so in this image they came out a little hotter than I would have liked, but still an interesting lighting situation overall. Note to photographers, this was at iso 4000 with a slow shutter, hand held, but check out the exif on the white balance: I dialed it down manually to 2650K to neutralize all the amber and tungsten tones from all the street and store front lights! Thats why the light from those LEDs looks so... so... white!
The hail turned to rain & wind and it seemed ugly for a few minutes, but then lightened up, eventually slowing to a drizzle, then it stopped. So we ran back out into the street to get a few more shots using the reflecting lights off the wet pavement as part of the shot.
I think we got some killer shots, although as you can see I was partial to the shots we got after the pavement had been wettened down (wettend? is that a word? looks funny!).
The only shot before the rain that I think we may use now is one where I was trying an experiment and leaving the shutter opened for like 25 seconds, then popping Krystal with a flash right before the shutter closed (yes, I used the stop-watch function on my watch!) Anybody know why I did this?!? It gave me an awesome background shot but apparently I wasn't pitching just enough light on Krystal - I think the flash unit was timing out because I had to hit the test fire button on the remote a couple times in a row to get the flash to shoot (thus also throwing off my timing).
But this is an effect I'm going to try and try again until it's perfect... check out the light trails of moving vehicles! Thats what I was after! This late at night on a weeknight I think the traffic was lighter, so a busy night or at a better location is going to be an awesome approach to a very unique photo.
I know there are alot of different styles of photography out there and just as many people who have their own ideas of what makes a photo good. I know what -I- like, and thats all I can go with. I can shoot traditional formal photos (and have done so) but feel that some of the more personal images say more about the spirit of the moment than traditionals do.
I like a photo to look unposed, but many times some guidance (if not actual "posing") has to happen to get people to interact personally. (In fact I'm always dumbfounded at weddings where during the reception the groom is way way over there, and the bride is way way over on the other side!) It's hard if there are alot of people standing around watching, so especially for bride and groom interaction shots, it's best to get them off by themselves without the wedding party around.
I have to say though, that the portrait photographer side of me really likes some of these (very) posed shots of the bride alone. You can get this awesome emotional feel if the pose is done right coupled a little "letting go" by the bride. I think these are very personal photos, very dramatic, not things you normally see (which to me makes them even cooler).
It's funny, but absolute strangers aren't nearly as threatening or interfering as are our own friends... we're more aware of friends and self-conscious about what they may be thinking than we are (or care) about stangers. Kind of a human psychology factor we have to take into account. (This photo - like the others ones here taken in NYC - had hundreds of people walking by watching.)
The other interesting observation I'll make as I think about the photos here from this wedding is that it's not "location" that makes a photo, although there are elements of a location we can use to enhance the feel or emotion of the image; but the emotion of the bride and groom themselves set the stage for how the photos will come out.
As a photographer, I like interacting with people and getting them to feel totally at ease with each other and themselves rather than having them be conscious of "hey: we're getting out picture taken!" which totally messes up the flow! But this interaction has to be non-invasive from the standpoint of the bride and groom... after all, this is all about them!
Getting some dramatic poses from the bride is just cool... I mean, really: she's got on this awesome dress, has spent, like, all morning working on hair and makeup... why not take advantage of it and treat her like a fashion model? She will love it! (But she's got to relax enough to be into it which open up all kinds of photo ideas).
So - a little tweaking in the posing by the photographer (I think) is useful to get those "rock-star" photos that will be so cool to look at 20 years from now, but it can't be forced: and that's the beauty of it: we all get to let our little light shine through.
Just, sometimes, we need a little help doing it.
And that's what a wedding is all about after all, isn't it?
(for a couple anecdotes and additional photos, read "i love new york" earlier (farther down) in my blog).
Sunday, August 16, 2009
From a photography standpoint, there were plenty of plusses, and only a few minuses. On the minus side: it's a very dark interior from the back up to the transept and alter. And, there are many columns supporting the infrastructure which you have to work around. Both of these minuses are far outweighed by the positive aspects of shooting there (and easily worked around).
I have to admit I'm a total sucker for "heavy" church when it comes to the structure of a church building. One of my favorite things to do when traveling (especially in Europe) (and I have hundreds of photos to prove this) is to visit cathedrals and basilicas, getting as many photos as I can from different angles, of different features. I think I shot in 6 different churches my last visit to Paris alone. I love the sense of awe you can get out of stained glass, flying butresses, dark corners that rise up into sunlit rafters, whatever: I'm a fan.
So Shove Chapel at Colorado College in Colorado Springs is a very nice (and an ok size for an American church, seating just under 1000). With two lofts at each end of the transept, there's some vantage points to shoot down from. There's also a loft in the back of the church over the entrance... requiring a zoom to shoot from (which I used here in this photo).
But they've added some stage lighting from the two side lofts which help illuminate the stage or alter area, itself containing a beautiful pipe organ in the back of it, and with a grand piano.
Shove has nice side aisles under cascading arches, a smaller side chapel dedicated to the Shove family with an interesting plaque giving a brief history of the family from the early 1600's, and many features to shoot with on the outside.
This wedding in particular had 4 bridesmaids in red gowns, groomsen in supporting colors under black tuxedos, the bride in a beautiful white gown, everything was perfect for the location.
They left in a '68 mustang convertible... you don't get much more classy/hip than that!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Outside of the craziness, one of the cool things I did then was to position myself a little farther back shooting up towards Erica with the train rushing by in the background. I slowed the shutter down and pantomimed some poses to her (cause it was wicked loud, especially with the amplified echo of the train coming out of that overpass), so we got these incredible shots of her hitting cool looks with the train a nice blur behind her as it rumbled along. This was so awesome I can't tell you. Not sure why I hadn't done that before.
Some days it pays to be crazy.(most days.) (well, ok, within limits! I may be ugly but I'm not -that- stupid). We moved down into the overpass area you see in the shot here
on the left and got some killer shots against the painted rough cement wall down there. Another train came along: but this time we were both "dialed in", heard it and moved long before we even saw it coming around a bend.
I'm not kidding: it was a great shoot with awesome pics & a great story! Besides the two trains, there was a nice perfect breeze blowing out Erica's hair a little & with the light & dark areas you can use for shooting there, what more could you ask for?!?
(Dont tell: I'm totally stoked for shooting there again!)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We had one fun incident where we were shooting in Times Square - the bride was laying down on the pavement and about 500 onlookers gathered around and the cops came... we shot for another couple minutes and moved to the other end of times square... here she is twirling (much to the amusement of the crowd!)
I'm tired because because I slept 2 hours one night and 4 hours the next night... then flew home today and had all these great ideas for short tutorials on photography, so I didn't sleep on the plane. But it's catching up with me.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
In many situtations whether you're just starting out as a model or have an established portfolio (or "book"), it may make sense to ask for TFP/TFCD. Photographers who are starting out need to build their book also, so this is a mutually beneficial activity. However, established photographers may or may not offer TFP or TFCD except in exceptional circumstances defined by the photographer (which may be as simple as, they have time on their hands next week due to a cancellation and your look may benefit their portfolio). Conversely you may want to work with a photographer who has a certain style lacking in your book, so offering TFP/TFCD when you would otherwise charge for modeling isn't unusual or "backtracking".
Note that there's no expectation of quality work with TFP/TFCD, although when you pay a photographer, you should have certain quality guarantees (if at a minimum, a guaranteed reshoot if something doesn't come out right). (And you have to be reasonable about this: if the photos are technically fine, but you didn't like your hair color or shoes that day, these are -not- reasons for a reshoot). I will say this: I know many photographers who are up and coming that are incredible photographers, so going TFP/TFCD is not to say you won't get quality shots. The photographer wants to show off good work too, so it's in their best interest to do well. However, when you pay, you may have more of a guarantee about getting quality work.
There are other expectations you have and benefits you get by paying a photographer. When you pay for photography, you are (or should be) guaranteed by the photographer to get "n" number of prints or "n" number of images on a CD with a license to print, and your expectation should be a pretty quick turn-around.
With TFCD, a photographer is not required to give you a set amount of images, although the expectation is that's what you're trading for. With TFP, you should agree up front how many prints you'll get (whether many, or one you can duplicate from). When you pay for photography you're under no obligation to sign a model release and the photographer will have limited rights as to what they can do with your photos. With TFP/TFCD, the photographer may insist on a release since the benefit to the photographer is being able to use photos from your session. This is not always a deal breaker, but just be aware of this before hand.
With TFCD, make sure you are promised images on a CD are high-resolution, usually 300dpi. For images that are going onto a web site, you need low-resolution images, usually 72 dpi. Good photographers will provide you with a set of each on CD. Expect the low-resolution images to have some branding or watermarking by the photographer which may be as simple as a small copyright on the lower side, or may be a more complex logo of the photographer or studio. Prints may or may not have a copyright or logo watermarking on the front, but will almost always have a stamp on the back.
Either way, when you get images on CD, make sure you get a license or release to make prints from the photographer. If you need to make extra prints from your portfolio shoot, most print shops or copy shops will not duplicate an image with a copyright notice on it, or even one that looks like it's professionally made without having a signed print release from the photographer.
Great resources for models looking for local photographers willing to offer TFP/TFCD are www.modelmayhem.com and www.bemodel.com.
There are more issues here to discuss for another entry, specific tips and secrets about model releases. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
My temporary High School Seniors / Senior Portrait specialty site is up at http://www.IceCoolSeniors.com, the sports and event place holder page is up at http://sports.butchleitzphotography.com (or http://www.mountainsportphotos.net ), the links to the High School Sports galleries at http://www.HighSchoolSportPhotos.net is back working, and lastly... the main studio web site at http://www.butchleitzphotography.com (also know as http://studio.butchleitzphotography.com ) is back up - that was the one I was having the problem with. The code (which was working before the move) did a thing with frames and targets that apparently isn't working on the new server so I had to re-code how the site entry stuff works... which, like I said, is now back up.
A couple senior portraits to do, an executive session, a couple weddings coming up, finish senior mailers, finish some sports highlight galleries, hit the gym, now I can get back to normal! The vacation coming up which will throw the schedule a little (but since it was planned, not a big deal).
Kind of crazy when you like what you do so much you don't want to go on vacation... and when you do, you use it as an excuse to do job related stuff: like: build some more travel and art catalog.
So - I'm "back to normal". (Was I ever "normal"?!?)
Monday, July 6, 2009
AT THE SAME TIME: working on High School Senior mailers getting ready to go out. I'm going to offer a special discount through mid August (before schools start back up in session in the Springs). Stay tuned.
Still looking for model-reps at a couple schools like Coronado and Cheyenne, send me an email if you're a senior or somebody you know is who might be interested in a free on-location and studio shoot in exchange for making money by repping for us at their school. It's win-win for you and me and there's no lose-lose for either of us!
Had some real bizarreness yesterday (Sunday): first, saw two little wanna-be tornadoes forming along the highway near Castle Rock as my wife and I were driving back from some business up in Keystone Sunday morning. It was raining, hailing, and everybody was slowing down to watch them I think. Very surreal. THENNN when we got home, my wife Linda found our one of our cats had dragged a full-size rabbit into the house - not a little bunny (like a few others times). But not just into our house... into the master bedroom. Max (this particular cat) had it's front feet pinning down the rabbit while it was growling at Linda as if to say, no you don't, it's MINE!!! So we got Max off the rabbit which immediately took off towards the master bathroom! Finally I caught it by covering it with big storage bucket. We slid in a (get this) old Obama / Biden lawn sign under the bucket, lifted the thing over & got the rabbit outta there.
Ok, back to the salt-mines...