Archive for the ‘Rochester’ Category

SocialICE 2017

A regular event here in Rochester in February is the Downtown Alliance’s SocialICE event. The Peace Plaza is decorated with several ice bars sponsored by several downtown restaurants each with its own theme.

The bars are carved to match the theme, and there are other carvings here and there. And, of course, each is lit by – now days – colored LED lights. The bars offer various themed drinks – happily many are warm drinks.

Tons of folks turn out despite the cold weather because, well, this is Minnesota! Mother nature hasn’t exactly cooperated the last two years, though. Last year, by the time I made it to see the sculptures, serious melting was happening. The event runs Thursday through Saturday, and Thursday night, when I was there, temps were in the mid-30s. I could see melting, but it certainly wasn’t bad. But Friday and Saturday highs reached the 50s. I’m not sure how the ice fared, but the news reported they were trying to use dry ice and foam to help – I assume during the daytime.

While I take photos of the ice, I find myself drawn to the people, and I seem to take more photos of the bar staff and the attendees.

The fellow above was the event DJ well above the crowd behind a huge wall of ice.

There were at least a few media folks there. I’m not sure who this reporter and camera person represented, but the local KTTC-TV had a reporter on location for the six o’clock news.

There was a Prince-themed bar, complete with Prince’s symbol carved in the base, but many were posing with the life-size cardboard Prince cut-outs.

I had a few people see me with my camera (used the big-boy Canon this night) and give me big pose.

This was the only ice casualty I noticed. Looks like it was standing up and just lost its base support to the warmth. I have no idea what it was supposed to be.

Several places along the plaza, these warmers were running. It’s amazing how cold the mid-thirties can be when you’re just standing around. And, of course, we don’t dress for really cold weather when it’s that warm! On 1st Ave which was closed at the Peace Plaza, there were a handful of portable fireplaces with wood fires. Those were really nice.

I saw the KTTC photographer hauling her big video camera and equally hefty tripod here and there. Then around 6PM, Alanna Martella, one of their reports appeared for, what I’m assuming, was a live report during the news.

I happened to be downtown anyway Thursday evening, so I took the opportunity to throw the camera  in the car and walk over to the plaza. Glad I did since the carvings looked pretty good and there was a nice crowd filling in the space. It’s great that these events have such a good turnout. I think it keeps our town active.

It also gives me something different to shoot. I like looking around and thinking about what I can capture that’s different, at least different from what I’ve shot before. Perhaps that’s the draw of the people. The human face – expression – can be counted on for bringing me something new.

Meanwhile, I won’t begrudge the 50 degree temperatures in February in Minnesota. Oh, no.

Classic Brass Benefit Concert

Spasmodic Dysphonia Benefit

On Sunday, I attended and photographed Classic Brass playing a benefit concert for Spasmodic Dysphonia at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. SD is a voice disorder, and there’s more info here.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Benefit

Classic Brass is a local brass quintet. They play regularly in the area. Warren Bandel, one of the two trumpet players in the group, is a regular member of the pit orchestra for Rochester Civic Theatre’s musicals. He’s been playing during the musicals for many years (since he was in high school, I believe!). He’s usually responsible for those wailing high notes.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Benefit

They played a range of music including a couple numbers accompanied by the church pipe organ played by Harold Vetter just filling the building with amazing sound.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Benefit

I’ve been a fan of horns since I was a kid. I still have a stack of Herb Alpert’s LPs somewhere. During my high school band years, I (along with many of our band members) developed a taste for what was then called Jazz-Rock. Bands in that era were Blood, Sweat and Tears (leaning more toward the jazz side) and Chicago (leaning more to the rock side). A short-lived group was headed by uber-trumpeter Bill Chase, named Chase for him. They had a concert at a local high school following a day of trumpet workshops which I think a couple of our band trumpeters attended. If you haven’t heard Bill Chase play – and you like amazing trumpet work – it’s worth looking him up. He and his group sadly died in a plane crash not long after I saw them.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Benefit

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert Sunday. Most of the photos I took were before intermission. After intermission, I sat down and mostly just listened!

Spasmodic Dysphonia Benefit

We have some truly amazing talent here in our relatively small neck of the woods.

Social Ice 2015


The Social Ice event is becoming a regular happening in Rochester during winter. Apparently, it was moved a bit later in February in the hopes of a bit more moderate cold, but that wind last night – whew!


The highlight is always the remarkable ice sculptures which decorate the Peace Plaza. Various restaurants each have a bar with a theme. Some of them include backdrops like a huge poster showing a pyramid to match an Egyptian theme.



I was wandering around with a pair of gloves which could allow me to control the camera but which were woefully inadequate for keeping my fingers warm. My fingers seem to be overly sensitive to the cold and have been for many years. Not sure if maybe I got them a little too cold at some point.


But I’m fascinated not only by all the many people who come out and brave the cold – and the place was jammed! – but also by those who spend the evening there behind the bars working.


Some of them are dressed in costumes of one sort or another – matching the theme, of course.


But all of them are spending a lot of time in the cold. I suppose if it weren’t for my very cold fingers, it would have not been too bad. I do, after all, have winter clothing to handle even colder temps. You have to do so in Minnesota!


And there were heaters everywhere, and everywhere there were heaters, there were people! I drove down just after sunset. I wanted to photograph the artwork with the lighting provided, but I also thought going early would mean a somewhat smaller crowd.


Well, not so much. While there were spaces here and there with fewer than 10 people per square yard, the bars were nearly all crowded as were the heaters, as I mentioned.


Many of the bars were serving warm beverages, but I think I saw as many folks walking by with a can of something cold, too.


It’s a Minnesota thing, I suppose. Braving the winter weather is just something the folks here do.


A couple years ago, my daughter treated me to a beer tasting event around the time of my birthday up in St. Paul. It was, of course, all outside. In January.

Social Ice ran from Thursday to Saturday – last night. And, for certain, there was no real concern about the ice artwork melting. Judging by the Saturday night crowd, I’d say this will continue as long as the organizers want to do it. There are many activities to draw folks downtown in the summer, so it’s great to see these winter events, too.

Black and White Ilford HP5+

Silver Lake Bridge

I shot another couple rolls of black and white film recently with my old Canon F1. I’ve been trying a variety of different film types – fast, slow, Kodak, and Ilford. I shot the faster films first. These were shot on Ilford HP5 Plus, a 400 ISO film. It can be pushed to higher speeds, but I used it and processed it for its standard 400.

Peace Plaza

One interesting aspect of shooting various black and white films is studying the grain. Anyone who shot film seriously back in the day knows that as we push to higher speeds, the grain becomes more prominent. It’s loosely akin to the digital noise we see today, but the reason and mechanism is quite different.

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

Once I moved into SLR cameras, I actually shot very little black and white. I loved color and settled into shooting slides – some Ektachrome and a lot of Kodachrome. The grain behavior of those films seemed to be quite different from what I’m seeing in these black and white films. I don’t know how much effect the scanning process has, but I remember BW prints looking pretty much like what I’m seeing now, so I think the scanner is doing reasonably well.

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

Kodachrome was wonderful film, but it was relatively slow including the beautiful Kodachrome 25. I never shot a lot of that – it was just too slow for most of my needs. But grain was just not very apparent. On BW film, it tends to be front and center. Now that I’m into faster, 400 speed film, it’s rather hard to miss.

Downtown Rochester

It’s also something of the allure of these films. It produces an image that has character. We now use various postprocessing filters to add in some grain to help de-industrialize our digital images. Add in this character. Done well, it works. Part of my reason for shooting these rolls of film is to study the characteristics to help me use such filters with a better eye.


For a few of the shots here, I’ve toned them either cool or warm. In the past, toning would be done to the prints. Now we can do it on the computer. I generally like the effect, and it’s good to match the temperature of the toning to the subject of the photo. While I tend to lean toward warm colors, some of the metal objects I photographed tell me they need a cool treatment. It works.


When you shoot black and white, whether using black and white film or using a DSLR with the intent of creating a black and white image, it’s best if you can wrap your mind around that and try to see in black and white. That means looking for textures, contrast, lines, patterns. Bright colors become irrelevant, and you must see past them. As humans, color can overwhelm us.


While I sometimes look at an image and think, this would look good as black and white, those that are planned as BW from the start as I held the viewfinder to my eye usually have an edge. I really do love color, but there are moments that just need the simplicity of black and white. If the color doesn’t help to tell the story – even more importantly, if the color distracts from the story – a monochromatic image may be just what is needed.



It’s WinterFest time in Rochester. For the past several years, that means the Peace Plaza downtown is decorated for SocialICE.


The all-pedestrian First Street is decorated with all sorts of ice sculptures, most with some added lighting.


We were surprised to see this little minigolf setup this year. I’ve been downtown for SocialICE a couple times, but Lynne hadn’t seen it before. I think this is the first time I took a DSLR to grab some shots.


The highlight of the event is the bars made of ice. These have varied over the years from one huge bar with ice mugs to the several separate bars they had this year. Each has a different theme.


The fireplace sculpture wasn’t a bar, but it was pretty fun.


The themes and looks were all quite different.


The ice-encapsulated fruit was pretty cool. All the workmanship was amazing throughout the plaza.


And the lighting was as varied with reds, greens, whites, blues.


Some of my favorite shots were of the people behind the bars. Where else but Minnesota would folks do this in temps hovering around zero Fahrenheit?


The Paris themed bar was probably the most elaborate. The Eiffel tower was probably close to five feet tall. I didn’t notice the Louvre’s pyramid right away.


It seems appropriate that there was an Olympics theme. When we first saw this bar, there was maybe one person in front of it. By the time we noticed it and pulled up our cameras, a rush of maybe eight or ten people pushed by us up to the bar. It wasn’t going to be clear anytime soon, so we walked on. When we came back, it cleared to only a couple people. I waited and hoped and finally was able to grab a shot before more people walked in.


That seemed to happen a lot – there would be no one until we started to take photos. Then, boom, a big rush. It became sort of the inside joke of the evening. Still, I had fun shooting the artwork and some of the faces. And it was nice to have the good camera this time. I took my little S90 to SocialICE a couple or three years ago. It did a decent job, but sometimes the gear does make a difference. Low light is one of those times.

Fright Farm 2013


First of all, if you are squeamish and don’t like gory images, just skip this post. The Fright Farm folks do a rather good job of making things look real, and I’ve done my best to capture that. So, that’s my little warning!

Ted Galaty and company have been doing up Halloween for many years. The last several, they’ve adorned the barn and associated buildings at the History Center with props and actors putting on a rather supersized haunted house experience. I’ve shot some of their work in the past and Ted asked if I’d be willing to take some photos for them this year. At the time, I had kind of a lot on my plate, so I couldn’t promise anything. But I was able to go out there Saturday night for their final night of the season.


The experience is in the form of a tour of the grounds moving from scene to scene with your guide explaining the story for each stop. Previously, I’ve just tagged along with one of the groups shooting as I go. It’s somewhat limiting in what I can do. And when I’m in a group situation like that (even for something like a wedding), I try to be mindful of the folks around me and not get in their way.

The other day, I woke up thinking about how I might light some of the scenes, so I offered to come out Saturday night after the paying folks were done if that would work. The actors would have been there all evening, and the Minnesota cold is beginning to show itself. But Ted thought it would work. We showed up a little early and did have one group pass us, so I don’t think we spoiled anything for them.


My son, Chris, came along to help with lighting. Shooting something like this is all about lighting and angles. The available light is pretty dim, of course, to help with the spookiness and to help with the illusions. In the past, I’ve used a speedlite gel’d with a blue gel. I used that again, although I used just a light blue gel. That speedlite was on a monopod, so would could put it where needed – up, down, behind. I had a second flash gel’d red.


I used the second flash when I wanted that red accent and tried to play off the lighting they had already set up. So, I was shooting pretty high ISO with low shutter speeds to bring in a lot of the existing light, letting my lights just add some punch or bring some light to faces that were too dark.

I also brought along this big Ryobi flashlight I have. We have a bunch of Ryobi tools that all use the same set of batteries. It’s a pretty sweet concept and they work great. The flashlight is big and bright, and I just plug in one of the big batteries and we’re good to go.

I used that light in only a few shots like the one by the bus tire. The idea was to give us a look like you might have driven up on this scene or walked up to it with only a flashlight or a headlight. I like the look it provides.


The flashlight served another role, too. Some of the areas were incredibly dark where I wanted to focus. As good as the camera is at seeing in the dark, it has limits. I just had someone blast my subject with the Ryobi, I set the focus, we turned it off, and I shot. Worked really well.


I was pleased with the results. It’s nice when you picture some shots in your mind, then can walk into the situation and basically achieve those shots. It’s fun to see how the Fright Farm has evolved over the years, getting a bit more interesting and sophisticated each year. It’s a fun photo shoot. I love shooting with gels, I love theatre, and shooting subjects that are different is challenging and just a hoot. I’m so glad I had some time to do the photos and that Ted and crew were willing to stick around and cope with the whacky photographer!

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