Tag Archives: entertainment

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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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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Trip Day 8 – Mt. St. Helens, Astoria

After amusing ourselves in downtown Portland, we then make our way north to the mountain that so grabbed the nation’s attention in 1980 when it erupted and caused the biggest landslides of the year (if you don’t count Reagan v. Carter a few months later).

As usual we just meandered north. There was some amount of doubt about where we should go and upon asking the local ranger he sent us hours out of the way so we quietly nodded our assent to his wise plan and instead just continued on our “chosen” path. Unsurprisingly, we managed to see the mountain far in advance of any solid plan to get up close and personal with it.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

The area of the country in general is not to be missed. If mountains don’t appeal then the water surely will.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

As the birds will no doubt attest.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

Driving up the mountain can be insidiously dangerous. I’m not talking about the winding narrow roads really but the views, appearing suddenly unbidden from nowhere, are enough to drive one distractedly off the edge of a cliff. Luckily, the respective departments of public works in the Northwest are aware of this and tend to provide fairly regular turn-offs for those seeking eye-candy. It does strike a stake through my heart though to see a strip of trees cleared for power lines.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

My favorite view of the trip really, is (I think) from somewhere along 503. The turnoff is not noted as scenic; it’s just a place you pull off to the side of the road to put chains on your tires in winter. Just a hum-drum run of the mill spot on the mountains. What makes me smile here are the colors and the layering: water, stone and life co-existing so solidly built upon each other.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

Along the way we wandered into an area in which ancient lava had buried a doomed forest tens of thousands of years ago. The tree trunks left these holes and caverns through the hardening rock. Indeed the lava won in the long run but at least the trees left their mark on history.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a big believer in travel serendipity. They also know that I’m a big fan of bugs so when this unusual critter was spotted on Eric’s tie-die shirt it was giddy, happy joy.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

After what seemed like hours, our first view of the mountain itself.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

The periodic run-ins with hot lava combine with the local waterways to create some pretty interesting geography.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

Landscape so thrilling (and filled with signs protesting: “Extreme danger! Do not leave trails!”) that even the young among us dance a merry jig on along the way.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

Having finished our romance with the mountain, we leave her behind.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

And make our way to the sea once again to watch the sun set on Day 8 in Astoria.

From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria
From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria
From 7-6-2012 Day 8 – Mt St Helens – Astoria

Day 9 will find us awake bright and early in Astoria before we wander south to Cannon Beach.

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Since Last Writing…

I realize rather suddenly that it’s been a month since I last posted. It should be noted that the Facebook page for this little endeavor gets rather regular attention but the blog… not so much. Perhaps it’s the necessity of actually putting down words that causes the neglect. Whatever the case, tonight you find me verbose and therefore tonight… you find me at all.

At last posting there was actually a glimmer of a possibility of photographing real people. In retrospect, this was a boon of enormous importance but sadly, like most good things, it came swiftly to an end due to circumstances quite outside my control. Hopefully the time will come when I will again have actual willing humans towards which to point my interest. Until such time as new victims appear, we always have the standard fare.

I have found over the past month that I’m increasingly fascinated by the medium of time-lapse. What would make a fairly dull picture can, with the aid of large amounts of patience, make a reasonably interesting video.

Building on the lessons learned in the time-lapse I did for our company meeting… Oh, did I mention? My video for my company actually won a grant competition for Kids Against Hunger and netted the organization a $10,000 donation. You can look at the news release on their website here. Despite being a surprisingly anonymous contributor to this effort, I’m still giddy beyond all reason about it. Anyway, moving on… I spent several hours in downtown Indy working on this same sort of “limited attention span” effect. Time-lapse is great and all but after 10-20 seconds, the average person is ready for a new point of view. So I’ve taken to composing short vignettes and moving the viewer rapidly between them. Add some up-beat music and you’ve got a reasonable result, I think.

And, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include at least one celestial event.

For the race fans out there, we took ourselves to Carb Day at the Indy 500. At almost 7 minutes this is by far the longest video I’ve ever bothered to cobble together. I’d say it sums up the event pretty well though. The last half of the video is the pit-stop competition. Given that the actual pit-stops take all of 12 seconds to finish it felt a bit ironic to be compressing time but it does give one a sense for just how long it takes to set up for those 12 seconds.

Penultimately, my youngest expressed her desire to “do a movie” of her own. Find below her chosen content as well as the music she chose, by specific request by name, “I want the popcorn song”.  Who says the hits of yesteryear are lost on the young?

And finally, you may have noticed that a few nights ago we had a celestial event that only occurs once in a couple lifetimes as the planet Venus passed across the disc of the sun. Of course we were all at the top of a parking garage to see it and time-lapse it. To actually see the tiny dot that is Venus, you’ll have to go with the HD version of this one.

And so we close. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll summarize some of the still shots that transpired over the past week. Perhaps even better I’ll bother to post on a regular basis.

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Filed under Indianapolis, Lafayette, nature Photography, night photography