Archive for the ‘Rochester’ Category

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!

The Marvelous Wonderettes promo shots

The first show of the new season at Rochester Civic Theatre opens this Friday, The Marvelous Wonderettes. Greg had the idea for the promo shots to drive around Rochester and shoot the four actors with various Rochester landmarks. Of course, the first one to come to mind is the corn cob water tower!

For those of you who aren’t or haven’t been in the Rochester area, Rochester, MN is in the upper Midwest of the USA, part of what is often called the bread basket. So, yes, there’s plenty of corn in these parts. And, judging from the smell and the truck we passed filled with cobs, it’s sweet corn harvesting season!

I loved this shot and the energy they showed!

Rochester is also a year-round home to giant Canadian geese. Silver Lake, downtown, is a favorite site for the geese. We all walked out onto the grass – carefully.

The Mayo brothers’ put Rochester on the map. Their statue stands in front of the Mayo Civic Center, and it was another obvious choice. The evening sun provided some nice warm tones for the photo.

There are several large painted geese around downtown. This one sits (or stands?) in front of the offices of the Rochester Honkers baseball team. It’s just across the street from the theatre.

We wanted to use one of the Rochester welcome signs. I know of two – one north of town on US 52 and one south of town on US 63. I scoped out both ahead of the shoot. The north one is actually near a frontage road which could have made it easy to get to – except for the fence in between. US 52 is a freeway there, so stopping along the road isn’t really a good idea and likely illegal.

The sign on 63 isn’t a lot better. The highway speed limit is 65 mph in that section, but there are at-grade intersections, so it’s not a freeway. We parked well off the roadway, and Greg led the young women through the weeds to the grassy area in front of the sign. I stood on the shoulder with my 70-200 lens maxed out to 200 mm. Trucks driving by honked their horns as the ladies climbed up the hill. We had some decent evening light and the great bright colors of the dresses.

We ended back at the theatre for their rehearsal and grabbed a shot in front of the marquee. It’s hard to believe it’s September, today is Labor Day, and Wonderettes opens the new season this Friday. What the heck happened to summer?

While we were out shooting the corn cob water tower, I moved in for a closer shot of the players. Sounds like the show should be fun with lots of old favorite tunes.

We’ll be there Friday. Hope to see you, too!


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