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Here In Oakland

Art & Life

Today at the pump


Under here.

August 21, 2010

Much Later
Saturday. To sleep around eleven I seem to recall, up with the alarm at six, to breakfast and back, the sky overcast, the temperature cool. A standard start to a new day and a new weekend, the lungs, I note, seem to be improving. With the new medications? We'll see, we'll see. Breathe in this, exhale that, wash your mouth out and gargle when you're finished. Complicated stuff. I understand how people make mistakes.

Art & Soul starting at noon, I'm up for it. It's a big blocked off street festival with multiple stages, each featuring various musical genres: R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz and, I assume, Pop. What's meant by “Pop” I'm not sure anymore beyond Lady Gaga and say, Arcade Fire. I actually bought their Neon Bible album. Neither of whom, I'm assuming, will be appearing this weekend.

I've started subscribing to Rolling Stone for their political coverage, but don't read the music sections much. I'm not turning up my nose in this, I just don't follow the music anymore. I recognize M.C. Hammer, Pete Escovedo and Sheila E, all Oaklanders, all on the list, but so does everyone else. Bands playing today such as Cake and En Vogue I don't know anything about, maybe if I hear them they'll turn my head around. Old Fartsville Old Fartitude. But what the hell, the camera batteries are charged, the lenses and filters clean, what more could one ask on a weekend?

So you like this Art & Soul Festival.

No more than other festivals, I suspect, but it's close by, offers a senior discount ticket to get in and, for me, offers a challenge finding, seeing and getting good photographs. I say one good shot justifies a day's shooting, but quite honestly, I'd like two. It was once a three day festival that ran over the Labor Day weekend. A little looser and less managed at the beginning. Those days of better budgets and experimentation, at least in these years of penury and high security, are gone. Oakland has cancelled more than one weekend festival for rowdiness (generally occurring late in the day off at the farther edges of the event initiated by youngsters after most of the people had left) and clamped down hard on others. Just sayin’, not complainin’ (no more than a little, I still blame them for banning Carijama).

Later. Maybe my hup! hup! flavored buildup for Art & Soul was in some sense just that, an attempt to charge my batteries, build my confidence in heading out to shoot something I've shot many times in the past with verging on miserable results. Subconsciously priming the pump. Then again, all this is probably good training for the less than serious photographer. “Hard to find” doesn't necessarily translate to bad. Get out there and shoot. My bucko. And, um, shut up.

I arrived just after twelve, thinking this was probably too early, as I'm always too early, but there were still a large number of people inside and lines were formed up at the ticket booths. I wondered for the first couple of hours though if they weren't getting the turnout they needed, but people kept arriving and, by the time I left at the halfway mark, it looked like they'd hit their stride. Some more people, whom I assume arrived soon after I left, and their first day would be a success. I'd guess.

One less stage than they had last year, unless I've gotten them mixed up, the physical layout a little different; the blues stage, for example, now the gospel stage. A really nice choir kicked it off on the once blues, now gospel stage next to my old office building, the quality of the voices, the sound, the harmonies really very nice, although the volume was way too loud. Not just me, others snapped hands and fingers to their ears when they cranked it up. I was surprised so many there seemed able to tolerate it as I moved along. Pictures to take, ears to protect.

I found I was repeating earlier shots, shooting pictures in places I've shot at past events. You move from one clichéd shot to another if you've gone dry. If you're tired. If the day is off. Was I dry? Tired? The boy-girl getting their faces painted, this one saved by the painter's expression as she turned around and looked at me; the young woman acrobat performing on the cloth rope (the same youngster as last year?); the fellow holding the exotic animal, all of which I'd photographed in the past? But OK, we're learning. We are. We're just bitching as we do.

I think I'm not going to bring two cameras to these things in the future, though. Just bring one: light, easy to maneuver, makes you adjust your eyes to fit the lens you're using. I shot, as I almost always shoot, almost nothing today with the second camera with the 24 - 70mm lens, everything was done with the 70 - 200. I'm carping about the weight more than anything else. They don't really get in the way of one another, although it takes some time and effort to switch between them, but I tend to use but the one. Maybe I've been trying to look like the newspaper photographers with their two camera kits. Silly ego stuff. I'm too old for ego to be trumping comfort. We'll see.

I have (whenever B&H gets it in stock) a 24 - 120mm f 4.0 lens coming. That might make a decent compromise, although I do find I shoot many a shot at the full 200mm on the 70 - 200 zoom. “Get closer” is the advice to getting a better picture, whether shooting a war or a wedding. Two hundred millimeters gets you closer. So does 300. We'll stew on this for a while. Not such a terrible life when that's all you have to worry about.

Later still. An hour's nap. I was indeed pooped. I took an hour's nap late this morning as well. I realize I was a bit wired last night, found myself futzing with this and that, overly preparing the cameras for today, more through nervous energy than anything else and, as said, I got to bed at eleven. Still, I'd thought that was enough. Two hours shooting pictures this afternoon, maybe that really is tiring (for an old man). Maybe best I thought twice last night when I considered a sake run, talking myself out of it when I remembered what happened the last time I'd had a glass or two on a Friday night before a next day event.

Maybe that's just the fact: you're older, you have to watch it. No big deal: take a pill, chill.

One rationalization I use in spending more than I should on camera stuff. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to use any of it. Might as well have it now and use it; I won't be able to use it later. Much later, one hopes.

The photograph was taken Friday of the Art & Soul Festival preparations on 12th Street with a Nikon D3s mounted with a 135mm f 2.0 Nikkor DC AF lens.