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The Celery Bog, Extreme Miscellany, and Exploring Pricing Models

Last Monday I took the day off to take care of a few random tasks…

I got mom’s water shut off since there’s nobody living in the house.  I tried this over the phone but they claimed they needed a POA to do so but when I talked to the staff in person, however, she said that if I had simply neglected to mention that mom was dead they probably would have done it no with questions asked.  Note to self that less is more.

I sought out my quarterly haircut and learned that impatience and frugality make for unpleasant results in this realm.  I’ll be tilting my head to one side by about 7 degrees for the next three months to conceal the fact that they trimmed my mohawk unevenly.

Aside from these and the other random miscellaneous tidbits, I took a trip to the Celery Bog in West Lafayette, Indiana.  This hunk of wetlands is one of the many things I completely missed when I spent 5 years at Purdue as a student.  Previous photo trips there have been rather hit and miss and this was really no exception.

One photographic problem is that it’s REALLY hard to clear the background.  This sculpture graces the front entrance but notice the rather large apartments behind.  Nature abounds but civilization looms.

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The bog is now deeply into autumn as this view from the bridge shows.  The waterfowl scurry away as humans approach.

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A pair of … swans…? graced the bog on this day.  I’m not terribly fond of this shot as the swan lacks definition but the contrast is marked.  The choppy water with all its sharp edges contrasts nicely with the softness of the creamy swan.

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I found myself particularly amused by this bench.  Recent rains have raised the water levels of the bog and left this bench with its feet in the water.  I imagine this on the cover of a magazine devoted to Global Warming.

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The last thing to catch my attention was this family of deer.  Traditionally I have had VERY bad luck catching wildlife.  I suspect that it’s at least in part because I tend not to be willing to sit still and wait (especially when it’s 38 degrees as it was on Monday).  On this day though luck graced me and a group of four stood still for quite a while waiting for me to take their picture.

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More for this day can be found on the website in the Celery Bog Nature Area album.

I’ve also tinkered, yet again, with the pricing model on the website.  On one hand I’m happy to give everything away.  On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to somehow devote myself to wandering around taking pictures of things.  So I’ve established an uneasy medium in which you can download originals as much as you want but you also have the option to leave a little something in the tip jar.  It seems dubious that enough people will avail themselves of that for me to ever quit my day job but one never knows.  You don’t know until you ask.

 

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Eagle Creek Park and Reflections on the Seasons

This Saturday we took a bit of a hike around Eagle Creek in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This spurred some extremely random thoughts…
 
I started out my photography work out in the wild.  The wind, the trees, the birds and the hard, gritty earth were my bread and butter.  If I included a human in my wanderings it was entirely by chance.  In the past year though I’ve worked much more with the species and I find that increasingly it has value.  Unsurprisingly, humans like pictures of other humans.  Now as the seasons wind down I find myself intrigued by marrying up the two and putting humans into nature.  Sadly, I don’t know nearly enough humans who want this sort of photography done.  My next goal is to somehow join these two genres and find new ground.
 
Eagle Creek Park in November - Indianapolis Indiana
I love the shots of my younger daughter. She really is the dreamer of us all. She’s always looking out, looking forward, and I think these capture her yearning spirit.  But there’s also a strange hesitance to these.  She yearns but she also pulls back a bit from the unknown.  Maybe this is just my own fatherly interpretation but I can also see the caution that broils up from her soul.  She is fearless yet fearful.  I hope that she gets to follow her dreams into whatever she see out there on the horizon.
 
I’ve noticed over the years that my artistic streak has a very contrarian spirit. I just spent the spring and summer working inside on the entertainment scene. As soon as the weather changes I’m ready to go outside and shoot nature… just as it folds up shop and lays low for the winter. I feel like a newborn baby who has his days and nights mixed up. Hopefully there won’t also be meconium to follow.
That was the introspective day that was.  Clearly I am back to focusing on the outdoors for the moment.

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The Year in Review – Another Year Older

Well, today marks the day that I am… um, quick math here… 45 years old, apparently.  Of all the years in recent history I think this one marks the greatest personal transition.  I changed jobs under force because the company I worked for went bankrupt (again, sigh).  I’m now officially out of living parents.  Other things that I am forgetting that will make someone out there look at the screen and say, “Really?  Gawd!!”  But, despite that distinct possibility, I soldier on because this has been the year of taking chances and having good things occur as a result.  However, since this is primarily a photography blog I will constrain myself to the track of photographic arts.  Because really, anything worth remembering has a picture attached, especially in this day and age.

One thing that stands out in my recollection is that a year ago I repeated a lot of little phrases in my head over and over and most of those were of the form, “Oh yeah, if only I could shoot ‘X’ I would really feel like I was accomplishing something.”  At the time I was doing most of my shoots at local open mics and at Morty’s Comedy Joint (I still don’t know why Morty’s chose to let me in the door when Crackers has been such a tough nut to ‘crack’) but those venues were really a great opportunity to figure out the whole live entertainment process.  It bears striking resemblance to shooting outside in the wild but the lighting is much more dodgy.  Despite the photon deficiency, I met a lot of amazing people and saw some delightful things.

The comedy aspect was important because it gave a dude who lacked confidence (and among all dudes, I am the most profoundly self-doubting and lacking in confidence of them all) an “in” to feel that I not only had something to offer the world but also that the world recognized and wanted it.  So the past year has been the year of Heywood and Chick McGee (and what guy growing up in Indy doesn’t have a secret man-crush on Chick) and Costaki.  That night last December when Chick made fun of me to my face still rings in my memory.

The music side of tings has blossomed amazingly as well.  A year ago I dreamed of getting into the Murat for a show and wondered how I could possibly talk my way in.  Now it’s a thing that has happened and that I can work my way into on a fairly regular basis.  I haven’t quite managed to get to the point where I don’t have to beg to get in but I’m hopeful that there’s some way to worm my way in as a regular.

Earlham college has been an amazing place to visit as well.  We’ve seen two amazing shows and I’ve managed to shoot there both times.  I look forward to many a happy return.

Penultimately, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Indy Magic scene.  And really, when I say Indy Magic Scene it all boils down to the efforts of one man, Taylor Martin.  Taylor is to magic in Indy as I’d like to be to entertainment photography in Indy.  He is “the man” when it comes to illusion and magic around here.

So harkening back to this time last year and all the repeated “if only…” phrases… they’ve kinda come to pass.  If my life happened to be an 80s made-for-TV movie then this would be the part where the music takes a downturn and I find out I’ve got some horrible disease.  So far, however, no horrible diseases.  *knock*

I do wonder what comes next though.  I feel connected; I feel  I can contribute more (though it takes work to worm my way into shows still) and I’m happy to do so and expand my reach but I wonder to myself what’s the “next level.”  What do I do next to take this somewhere so that next year I look back and feel like I’ve made progress (whatever progress really means when you don’t have any real goal.)

Ultimately, it would be nice to be able to somehow make a living from scampering around the city and taking pictures but so far I’m just collecting images and trying to make it clear just how awesome Indy is.  And, frankly, just how awesome the world and the people in it are.  Do I press forward in the entertainment realm?  Do I retract and take the skills acquired in the past 12 months and move back to my old haunts of the forest?  Do I figure out some entirely new realm of photography to explore?  I just don’t know.  And really… that’s half the fun.

I thank you world for an amazing 12 months.  I look forward to documenting you again in all your glory, your joy, your everything for another year.  What will that year bring?  I’ve not a clue.  But that, my wonderful human race, is all the fun.

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VISTA, Brigantine, Emily Morrone and Anna Crume at the Irving Theatre

Firstly, let me admit that it has been a LONG time since last I wrote on this thing.  That is not to say that I’ve been sitting still; I have (as one person put it to me recently) been “really getting around” as of late.  Check out all the doings on Indy Live Photography if you care to.  Since last writing I’ve moved from the rather slow-paced world of comedic photography to the world of live music.  I feel no shame in admitting that things move FAST here.  Or, as it has been more famously said, “people come and go so quickly here.”  Yes, Dorothy, they certainly do…

Last night I was at the Irving Theatre in Indianapolis for a collection of musical amusements.  To give you proper context, the Irving is a wonderful older theatre in the middle of the Irvington neighborhood in eastern Indianapolis.  Its historical roots span from the immortal Elvis to mass murderers who proved that nobody is really immortal. On a pretty regular basis the theatre invites bands to come in and play their guts out for the neighborhood.  These performances are incredibly intimate and informal and frankly, for a photographer, the BEST possible opportunity to practice your craft.  You could very nearly put your zoom lens up the left nostril of the lead singer before someone would step forward to object.  The city of Indy has two musical hearts.  Fountain Square is where you go to practice before you jet out to the rest of the world but Irvington is where you hang out if you just want to be whoever the hell you want to be.  OK, enough of this, on to last night…

The first act up is Anna Crume.  With the ukulele and the curly hair and charming smile she has that disarming innocence.  Her music is soft and unobtrusive and the sort of thing you’d happily drift off to dreamland while you’re listening to it.  Reminds me of a few America’s Got Talent stars.

Next we have Emily Morrone; she is what I would call much more tech and edgy.  Ironically, I’m a bit of a musical moron despite getting out so much but she does a lot of sampling and playback that really makes her defy easy description.  Using just a laptop and a bit of recording equipment during a live performance she can sing a duet with herself and provide recorded background acoustics in a way that artists 30 years ago would have drooled over.  The amazing thing is that she does this all on-site and on the spur of the moment.  The mind boggles.

Next up we have Vista.  Despite being the headliner they went on next to last.  I presume that it might have been related to the fact that the lead singer was a bit under the weather.  Despite the presence of several billion uninvited life forms, Vista crushed it and brought an amazing energy to the Irving.  As a photographer I was challenged to capture them at their best and I hardly did them justice but they certainly provided a lot of WOW.

Admittedly, when I started processing these pics my first reaction was that everything I took was… pretty terrible.  The lighting here was a lot to get used to and it took me a long time to figure out how to shoot this.  The first 100 frames were almost entirely garbage and had to be pitched but after several minutes the “how” seemed to slowly leak into my brain.  By the end, the Garbage had turned to Gold and I felt really good about them.  Situations like this, as challenging as they are, epitomize the real magic of photography.  Looking back I still didn’t do “great” but I feel like the moment was pretty well captured.  And next time I’ll know a little better (I hope)

Lastly, we have Brigantine.  They closed out the show last night and from the perspective of emotion and energy they hit it out of the park.

I love the passion on their faces and the subtle interplay between everyone.

Closing comments… the more I shoot the more I realize that I don’t quite “get” music photography yet.  Having started out in more controlled circumstances, my mind automatically goes to precision and resolution and making sure you have the ABSOLUTE SHARPEST PICTURE ON THE PLANET for every single moment in a concert.  ISO 100, F22, 1/2000 is the only metric of perfection, right….?  Nope.  Just not possible.  You have to capture something fleeting, ephemeral, and you just can’t DO that with absolute perfection.  Sometimes you have to settle for a little-bit blurry picture of someone with a guitar kissing the lens of the photographer just down from you in the pit.  It’s not perfect.  It’s a snapshot of something just out of reach; you feel it in your soul even though you can’t see it with your eyes.

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Out and About – June 2017

I’ve not posted in what seems to me like years but perhaps to you seems a delightful age of peace and quiet.  Well, rejoice no longer!

Music at the Indy Canal

Lately I’ve tried to avail myself more frequently of the downtown Indianapolis Canal.  It’s a couple mile jaunt and boasts some of the most varied selections of people to observe that you can hope for in the city and even some live entertainment from time to time.

2017 Delphi Indiana

Last weekend I found myself in Delphi Indiana.  Of all the small towns in the area this one seems to have tried hardest to set itself apart from its peers.  It boasts a Wabash and Erie Canal interactive museum and a great system of parks.  This suspension bridge struck me as keenly allegorical.  It’s very small so even one person walking with regular footsteps can set up what seems like a pretty dangerous level of motion.  I shiver to think what a few people in-step could do to it.  It just goes to show how the force of things is multiplied with consistent and repeated action in anything we undertake in life.

2017 Delphi Indiana

And remember, jumping from the bridge is strictly prohibited.

2017 Delphi Indiana

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Chinese restaurant in town.  The sign reads:  “Dear customers, We’ll be closed for vacation for two month and we’ll be reopen on Aug 1st.”  This brings to mind a few thoughts.  Firstly, I assume this family is Chinese and has returned to their homeland for the summer.  I love the trust this speaks of for the community that they can just take off for months and that the town will welcome them back.  Also there’s a quaint sort of homespun quality to the homemade sign and simple message.  I really want to eat here on August 1st and see what the place is like.

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Photography Philosophy

It’s been my observation that photographers are an extremely varied bunch and that it’s difficult for any potential customer to know exactly what they’re getting when they look at partnering up with an artist.  Most people who go in search of photography services seem to think of the standard school pictures photographer who tells you to tilt your head in such and such a way and smile just -so- and only takes a picture once you’re positioned just how they want you.  I am not that sort of photographer.  In fact I might be more properly called a hunter than a photographer if that’s your standard of service.

Stoop Kids at Square Cat Records

As example I give you the shot to the right.  This photo of Stoop Kids in their Square Cat Vinyl show last November represents my hunter philosophy when it comes to shooting.  The entire show and their interaction with each other is summed up very neatly in this one photograph.  They are one of the most dynamic bands I’ve seen on stage and I was giddy to capture their souls.  Lead singer and bass player practically nose to nose while the saxophonist peaks out under the mic stand.

Philosophically, I truly believe that posed photography represents more of the photographer than of the subject.  When I shoot I want to capture the reality of what’s going on in a spontaneous and creative way.  Not cast my own thoughts and opinions on what should be onto the situation.  Your photos should be about you and who you are, not some aesthetic that some photographer prearranges for you.

Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band-Album Release Show at the HiFi 3-17-2Next we have Breezy Peyton of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band from the HiFi in March of this year.  For this show we were packed in like sardines and couldn’t move without getting in the way of a lot of other people so we dutifully stood our ground just to the left of center stage for the whole show.  When I’m shooting, my absolute #1 priority is to make sure I’m not disturbing anyone else at the show or distracting from the entertainment.  If you’re lucky enough to get into a show then you’re a guest and you should act like one.  I refuse to use flash or supplemental lighting of any kind because frankly, flashes are annoying as hell.  If I can’t get a shot without getting in someone’s way then I don’t get the shot.  Simple as that.

I’m also not a fan of fancy post-processing.  There are some amazing tools out there that will let you make your photos look like just about anything.  But that is, frankly, a fraud.  The world is more than nice enough just as it is without a lot of augmentation.  Get the shot that’s there and if the light’s blue then bloody well make the picture blue.  It’s the photographer’s job to capture the moment, not create it out of whole cloth.

2016 Indiana State Fair Parkour DemoThe last point I’ll make is about capturing pivotal moments.  As example I give you this shot from last year’s Parkour demonstrations at the State Fair.  I love the expression of the guy who’s not literally walking up a wall.  This whole show was filled with amazing moments and you almost couldn’t click your shutter fast enough.  For me, this is the essence of “hunter photography”. Grabbing that perfect moment out of the air at exactly the right time and bottling it up for all to see is, in my mind, the whole point.

So that hopefully gives you a bit of a sense of my own personal philosophy on photography.  If you’d like to see more of my work please visit my site at RobSlaven.com or on Facebook (IndyLivePhotography | Rob Slaven Photography).

Contact me for photo ops in the Indianapolis and surrounding areas at IndyLivePhoto@gmail.com or in the comments section.

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Tap the Mic at Towyard Brewing

The Tow Yard represents to me the point at which… well, the cascade of knowing people began.  I was introduced to this event because of a connection that I will refer to as “Jon”.  I know Jon because I met him on my very first foray into the Indianapolis music scene.  He and his fiancee Hollie were at the first open mic that I went to in Irvington and, because Jon is one of those people who just automatically endears himself to people, connected with me.  He is, as I’ve said, the nexus of Indianapolis music.  At any rate, to summarize, Jon introduced me to Steve…

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Steve does a very impassioned open mic at Tow Yard brewing each Thursday. He inherited it from someone else and frankly… well, frankly I’m disappointed in the city at how poorly it is supported. Why in the heck aren’t we supporting local artists just getting out and doing their thing? It’s an abomination. There’s so much of it on Thursday alone that I can’t possibly cover it all and yet we’re all sitting at home watching TV. Grrrr. I mean come ON! How much more sincerity do you want?

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He’s laughing outside… but inside… he’s crying because you don’t support the local arts. Just saying.

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So believe it or not, it’s not just a bunch of white dudes. We have some level of diversity. This particular not-white-dude was hilarious. Why didn’t you come out to see him?

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As a photographer, I … well, honestly… I don’t hear much. You could be screeching at the top of your lungs about … well, anything, and I would’t give two shits. But visually…. well, this duo rocked it.

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2016 Tap the Mic at Tow Yard Brewing-125

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OK, so moving on from that particular amazingness… there is more amazingness.

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Remind me again why you aren’t going out and hitting the Indy scene and supporting all the awesome this that’s going on….?

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So seriously…. why are you sitting at home watching NetFlix? I’ll admit that I spent a LOT of time not understanding what Indy has to offer but now… now you can’t possibly be in any doubt about what an amazingly rich and diverse universe awaits you. I expect to see YOU out and about the next time I hit the streets. And just to be clear, the next time I hit the streets will be tomorrow. So get out there or be forever branded lame and unhip. Indy is where it’s at… but where are you?

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