Thursday, August 30, 2012

6 years ago Tap Dance project: about_tap vol no 2

While going through a bunch of old photos I came across a tap dance production I did in 2006. It was called "about_tap vol no 2" and it premiered very successfully at Kampnagel, Hamburg.
It was basically a staged, live portrait of six tap dancers of different generations and cultural backgrounds. The show mixed photography, spoken interviews, choreography and jazz.

The title was in reference to a film called "About tap" by George T. Nierenberg, which was a documentary on 3 tap dancers (Chuck Green, Jimmy Slyde and Steve Condos). As a youngster I watched that film a million times and it was a huge inspiration for my dancing.
With my show I wanted to create a staged and more abstract version of a tap dance portrait and their dancers. The idea was to photograph and interview each dancer in their hometown and ask them about their opinions and feelings about the dance form but also their career and life. It was a very personal and biographical show and I was lucky to work with some of the best dancers around.

In Paris I interviewed Sarah and Leela Petronio, Brenda Bufalino in New York and New Paltz, NY. Josh Hilberman in Boston, Pia Neises in Cologne and a self portrait of me in Hamburg.

In pre production interviews, footage and music where put together and were a starting point for the choreography. Later we all met in Hamburg for 4 or 5 weeks to put together the show and perform it.
It was a unique experience. Every dancer generously gave me personal footage and background information on their dance lifes that got mixed together into a full evening show.
It was very successful back then and I often feel that it should be revisited sometime. Very good memories.

Here is a video clip of the show and a couple of photos that were taken during that creative process.
Enjoy, Thomas

Brenda Bufalino chair bw sharp
Brenda Bufalino in New Paltz,NY
Sarah Petronio near Paris
Leela Metro60
Leela Petronio, Paris
Josh Hilberman, Boston
Pia Portrait Rheinterrasse17 pp sharp
Pia Neises, Cologne

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Full wedding documentary shot with Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-100

Final thoughts on the Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-100 for wedding documentaries.
Yesterday I photographed a whole wedding documentary only using the two Fuji cameras. I only used the X100 (35mm), the 18mm(27mm) and 35mm(50mm) on the X-Pro1.  For backup, I had a second shooter on my side with Nikon gear, so I knew I would be covered or could easily switch system if things don't work out well.
But it did work out very well, so I wanted to share some of my experiences:
One of the best things about the X-Pro 1 to me is the combined use of OVF, EVF and Liveview which just works seamlessly together. The camera is set with the eye sensor turned on, hanging around my neck. This way, the screen is off when hanging down at my body. As soon as I raise the cam I can either take it to my eye and work with the OVF or EVF or use the back screen. This is super convienient and allows me to use the camera any way I want to instantly.
I love using the back screen for taking quick snapshots from angles were it is inconvinient to look through the finder. It also gives me a more casual street shooter style of working. Almost like using my GRD for street work. The OVF is my favorite because I can compose and frame pictures that way best. The clear view and abstraction from the actual photograph gives me more creative power. The downside of it is, that for example with a fast lens like the 35mm f1,4 stopped down open wide it can be crucial to get accurate focus on something like the eye when doing a portrait. That's when I change to the EVF and I can precisely see how the picture will turn out and if focus is where I want it to be.
So all three modes have advantages and disadvanteges but I really like to make use of all of them. In a way it enhances my creative workflow while shooting.
Battery life. That is a big thing because obviously you don't want to run out of juice during a long shooting day. I came with three full batteries but only used one and a half, which surprised me. i thought they would drain faster. I shot exactly 745 frames on the X-Pro 1 and that is not too bad at all. Of course I wish it would have a battery like the Nikon D3 where you don't really worry about changing batteries too much. On assignment the power off function is turned off so I won't miss any shots by waiting for the camera to wake up. In between use I just switch it off and I make use of the fast power on feature even if it consumes more battery power that way. And yes, start up time is another thing that could be improved.
Image quality. Like I said in earlier posts, I really love the way the X-Pro 1 renders photos. I use it only in Jpeg mode and love the outcome. I have played around with a few of the color settings but for this shoot I went back to the Standard setting. Skin tones look great, color and contrast is perfect for my use. I only use auto white balance and I am very happy with the results. It seems the most accurate camera I have ever used regarding WB. I still process my color photos with Color Efex though to get the specific look that I want for my wedding jobs.
For a few shots yesterday I also used standard black and white mode. The outcome is pretty good for a digital file. Great tonality, rich blacks and well controlled highlights. And after using the BW jpeg with NIK Silver Efex Pro they got the right look, less digital and more film like. I also noticed that Silver Efex Pro works great with monochrom files. Sometimes better than with color files. Yes, you lose the ability to apply color filters in post production but grain, contrast and brightness look perfect. So the combination of the in camera bw jpeg engine and later developement in Silver Efex seems to deliver great results. Maybe Leica had a point when bundling the Monochrom M9 together with Silver Efex.
 So all in all I am more than happy with my X-Pro 1 and X100 setup for professional wedding assignments. Next week I will have another gig and use this combo again. Will I ditch my Nikons? By no means. They are powerful tools I know i can always rely on. But I try to leave them in the bag as much as possible.
Enjoy the pictures and thanks for looking, Thomas



Monday, August 13, 2012

The Shim Sham Shimmy

A student of mine asked me about the roots of the Shim Sham the other day and she had a bit of confusing knowledge about it. So here is what I know about the Shim Sham Shimmy...
The Shim Sham is a tap dance routine that was created in the late 1920s by Willie Bryant and Leonard Reed, who first named it Goofus. The dance steps became quite popular and eventually made it to a show in the New York night club "Shim Sham Club" where the Shim Sham routine further developed. 
Just like most standard swing tunes in the aaba structure The Shim Sham has four parts each 8 bars long (6 bars followed by a 2 bar break). So the whole dance reflects a 32 bar tune in the same structure. 
The 4 parts are : 1. Shim Sham, 2. The cross over , 3. Tack Annie, 4. Half break. 
Since the dance has always been very popular among tap and also swing dancers, there are many many different variations of this dance. It is considered the "national anthem" of tap dance.

Here is a youtube clip of my students perforiming the Shim Sham.....


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Street photography

Today my girlfriend and I went to the fair in Hamburg and I used my iphone to take a few street snaps. I actually really like to take pictures with it and I should do so more often. Enjoy...

IMG 0623IMG 0624IMG 0635IMG 0637IMG 0640IMG 0641IMG 0645IMG 0651

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer in the City


Forget 5,6,7 and 8 : How to count properly and communicate basic musicality.

I posted this blog entry a while ago on my old tap dance blog. I now decided to merge all my artistic work into one blog, so there will be a couple of reposts …. 

In today´s dancing world there are still many (tap) dancers counting 5,6,7,8 when refering to a 4/4 measure. This is quite confusing to almost everybody who is understanding the concept of a 4/4 feel, which only consists of four beats : 1, 2 ,3 & 4. So were do the 5,6,7 & 8 come from? It´s a way to count a 2 bar phrase as one logical unit : 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. So the 5,6,7,8 simply refer to the second bar of that phrase. But this is very unlogical because the measure only consists of 4 beats : 1,2,3 and 4. 

This is why I think you should drop counting 5,6,7 and 8 in a 4/4 measure: 

1. There simply isn´t 5,6,7,8 in a 4/4 feel. A 4/4 measure only consists of 4 beats. Namely: one, two, three and four.  

2. It is totally f***ing 80s and sounds a little stupid anyways. Who started it? Fame? :)

3.Counting to 8 ignores a main fact of swing music, which is a strong feel for the 4 beats. Ask Basie he knows : "Four beats and no messin´", Count Basie. 

4. Since by pure logic 1 is not 5 and 2 is not 6 and 3 is not 7 and 4 is not 8, this whole concept is pretty confusing. 

5. Transfering this way of "wrong" counting to other measures like 3/4 would mean trouble, because then you would end up counting a 6/4 or 6/8 which is clearly different than a 3/4 feel.

6. You probably count a 3/4 or 5/4 measure correct but not a simple 4/4? WTF??? 

7. Once you get used to correct counting you always know were you are in the music and you are able to communicate it with other musicians who also "speak the language". This is a universal musical language, that makes sense. Why do you want as dancer stand out, and simply do it wrong? 

8.You will never ever have to translate your steps and choreography when trying to work with musicians.... (How many eights again????) Stop being confused when trying to arrange your dancing to music. 

9. It´s a first step towards thinking in musical terms as a dancer and understanding the music. And since most (tap) dancers claim to be musicians that should be a given. 

10. Become a happy (tap) dancer.  


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tap Dance: Making Of "DRAMA - Love Songs And Other Jazz

Here is a nice "Making of:  DRAMA - love songs and other jazz", my last dance production that premiered in March 2012 in Hamburg. Laura Mogalle, one of the dancers in the show edited this nice clip. This is  not really related to photography but a very important and large part of my artistic work, so I posted it here.….Enjoy!

Making Of DRAMA - Love Songs & Other Jazz from Laura Mogalle on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More thoughts on the Fuji X-Pro 1: Roadtrip to the Herräng Dance Camp, Sweden

Last week my girlfriend and I  took a road trip to the Herräng Dance Camp, Sweden where I am teaching the tap dance classes this year. For the trip I brought the Fuji X100 and my new X-Pro 1 along with the 35mm f1,4 and the 18mm f2,0.
Here are a few pictures taken while being on the road. I must say I really like the 18mm f2,0 as well. I have always liked the field of view from a 28mm lens. The autofocus seems a bit faster than on the longer lenses which does not surprise me. But like I said before I think the speed of the autofocus is not a big concern for me and once you understand how it works, you get very accurate results.
I also played around with the jpeg settings a bit and so far NEG Std is probably my favorite. The colors are subtle and skin tones very good. I also really like how the camera handles highlights. The dynamic range is fantastic. Being a wedding photographer this is very important to me because it can sometimes be tough to not wash out the highlights on a wedding dress.
So far I don't miss RAW support for Aperture which I use for editing my photos. And even if they come out with it I will probably stick with the jpegs. They are still robust enough to post edit them a bit. Auto white balance is working great and I almost never have to adjust it manually. I can't say that for the Nikon D3 or D700. On those cams it is almost a must to shoot raw to get most out of them.
Right now I can only think of two features I miss on the X-Pro 1:
The first one is weather sealing. I wish the body and lenses would be a bit better protected. On my last wedding gig it started to rain heavily right before we entered the church and I had to switch to the D3. I use my cameras under a lot of different weather conditions and rather not worry too much about my equipment getting ruined by rain etc.
Secondly I really wish for a second SD Card slot. I am always very paranoid about losing pictures due to a faulty card. It has never happened to me before but I would still prefer a backup solution while documenting important shoots like weddings. This is not a deal breaker for me and i will use the camera on professional gigs but the possibility of loosing data because of a damaged card is always in the back of my mind.
So here are a few pictures from the trip….. More to come soon, Thomas

UPDATE! I just published a new blog post regarding shooting a wedding with the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1


Monday, July 16, 2012

A Fuji X-Pro 1 review from a documentary wedding photographer | Part 1

Last weekend I had the pleasure to shoot the wedding of Svenja and Tommy in Hamburg. It was a great day and for the first time I was able to use my new Fuji X1 Pro in a real world shooting experience. I was already quite familiar with how it works because I used a X100 for the last couple of month.
What I like most about the new Fuji cams is the fact that they are small, silent and yet offer amazing image quality. What makes the XPro 1 so interesting for me is the fact that you can now change lenses.
For this shooting I only used the 35mm 1,4 though. So here are my thoughts:

- The jpeg files ooc are just superb. Nice colors and even more important pretty accurate white balance. In fact the X1Pro and X100 are the only cameras I only shot in jpeg mode. Just because they are so good.

- AF performance is good if you are able to anticipate the shot and don't chase the subjects. But coming from old school manual focusing in the film days I don't worry too much about that. I feel that the AF is still fast enough for almost anything I shoot.
The AF is also very accurate BUT you need to know about parallax correction with the optical viewfinder otherwise you might end up with the AF on the wrong spot. This is especially important when shooting the 35mm wide open at f1,4 where depths of field is very little.
- One thing I really love with the optical viewfinder is the ability to see outside the frame. This really helps me composing better pictures and I don't have to wave the camera around to see what is outside the "tunnel".

- I love the handling of this camera. Everything you need is at the right place: aperture ring, exposure comp., shutter speed. Just perfect. I love this "old school" layout better than the new cameras.

- The 35mm lens is simply amazing! It is super sharp and great colors. I love how it renders the picture.

- High iso is great. I feel I can use this camera under any lighting conditions.

Well, so far I am super happy with the camera. This week I will travel to Sweden to teach tap dance at the famous Herräng Dance Camp. There I will get a chance to test the camera a bit more. I will update this review as I gain more experience with it.

 So here are a few shots take with the XPro 1. Enjoy....

UPDATE! I just published a new blog post regarding shooting a wedding with the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1