Camera gear – Canon EF 100-400mm lens

Yesterday I received the Canon EF 100-400mm lens that I ordered for sports photography, mainly motorcycle races and hopefully also soccer and other sports. I ordered it a bit ahead of my personal planning, but seeing as April will have Easter Races on the TT Circuit and aalso the Superbike (at the end of the month) I thought it to be a shame wait getting the lens.

I’ve got a good week to get a feel for the lens and then I’ll really put it to the test next weekend with the Easter Races. And it surely is a lens that I’ll have to get to terms with. At the shortest distance (the 100mm zoom) the lens isn’t that long, but zoomed out to 400mm the lens is one heck of a long lens.

Bettie Serveert in Vera

Some bands you just can’t see often enough and for me Bettie Serveert fits in that category perfectly. I saw them not so long ago at Noorderslag and the PlatoSonic festival, but both were very crowded and in the middle of the EuroSonic/Noorderslag weekend, meaning I didn’t really have that much time to really listen to the music.

Luckily the Betties were about to tour the Netherlands and that led them to Vera on Thursday March 25th. The venue was nearly sold out in presales. Opening for them was the local band The Monroes, playing a mixture of Garage rock / Surf music and Pop/Rock. A great act, and did a great job warming up the crowd for Bettie Serveert

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After The Monroes set, the monitor speakers were quickly removed or rearranged to make as much room on stage as possible for the Bettie Serveert members to move about. Guitarist Peter already warned me not to place camera’s or lenses on stage during the concert (took that advice to heart ;)). Currently their touring with Voicst drummer Joppe Molenaar and I was in awe seeing him drum. He’s a brute force driving the band on. Carol, Peter and Herman were great as always and Peter was indeed all over the stage. The setlist contained a varies set of old and new material and a Moss cover. I had a great time again and cannot thank the guy who was in charge of stage lights enough, that’s awesome these days

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Camera gear

This weekend I sold my Canon EF 28-135mm lens. It was once bought to use as an every day lens, but as it turned out, I prefer the EF 24-70L for that and most of the time I actually lug around most of my lenses anyway, so the 28-135mm didn’t get much use at all. Also, it makes room (both in space and financial) for my next lens(es). I’m currently looking into a Macro lens and a telephoto lens. For the macro-lens I will most likely go for the Canon EF 100mm 2.8 L IS, a lens that gets great reviews and looks like a superb quality lens. A bit more costly than the old version lacking the IS, but the newer version seems to be a lot better in quality.

For the telephoto lens I’ll most likely end up with the Canon EF 100-400mm lens (not that this is by any means a bad thing!). I’m also looking at the 300mm lens (at f/4.0 a bit faster, but lacking the versatility that the zoom brings to the 100-400mm) but all in all, from all the reviews I’m reading, the 100-400mm is simply a more effective lens when you have different subjects. Mine are going to be sports and landscape/wildlife. A faster lens (300mm 2.8 or 400 2.8) would be better, but seeing as this still is a hobby (of some sorts), the price of the fast primes are simply too high.

Hopefully I’ll have some new lenses in a few months, will keep you updated.

Songs&Whispers in Platformtheater

Songs&Whispers is a German concept promoting singer/songwriter, alt. folk and suchlike musical genres. It started early 2009 and has now also found it’s way to Groningen (and other Dutch cities). Entrance is free so there’s absolutely no reason for music lovers not to attend.

Tonight three concerts were held and as the Salsa dance lesson in the Platform theater hadn’t quite ended yet, attendants were also treated to some Latin music and Salsa dancing (me having two left feet and being rhythmically disabled, I opted not to try a dance myself as that would have gotten really ugly).

So after a small delay local singer/songwriter Tamar Lewis kicked off the evening. And of course I should have known that at some point my luck with the fantastic stagelight I had the last few gigs would end and unfortunately this was that time. I can’t remember the last time I shot a whole gig at 3200ISO, must have been back in the good old days of film :). Anyway, I missed quite a few shots finding some settings that would actually result in an image. Luckily Tamar, aided by Daniël, managed very well without me so although I didn’t get the shots I wanted, I did hear a great set of songs.

After Tamar’s set had ended and a short break English Katey Brooks (from Bristol) took over, mostly on acoustic guitar and sometimes backed by a guy on keyboard whose name I didn’t get. Again a lovely set of songs that ended way to soon.

A short break later Pollyanna was on stage, center singer and guitarplayer is French Isabelle Casier and on this occasion the was backed by Léa Le Meur on cello. A wonderful set made all the more special by a song on banjo unplugged style.

After this set Tamar Lewis took to the stage again, but as I had to get back to work the next morning and had to edit the photos for, I wasn’t able to stay any longer. All the sets I’ve seen were a joy to see and hear. It’s a fantastic initiative and it will return next month with three new artists/bands.

The location for the concerts was great too: the stage looked like kind of a small box, just the right size for a singer/songwriter with one extra band-member. If only there was one decent spot light for the musicians (well ok, for me actualy)

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World Championship Ice-Speedway in Assen

Every year in March the World Championship Ice-Speedway is held in De Bonte Wever (formerly known as DeSmelt). As I wanted to take up some other areas of photography besides concert photography and I do like action shots, what better way then to start here?

Ice Speedway is a complete different kind of photography though. First of all it’s cold. And I mean COLD! The races are quick, just three laps around an oval track so one mistake by a racer and he’ll almost certainly have lost. But as a photographer it also means you really have got to pay attention zooming and panning. It took me a couple of heats to find settings I could work with and even then quite a few photos completely failed. The strobe had trouble getting recharged in time due to the cold and finding the shutterspeed to work with wasn’t very easy either. But all in all I’m quite happy with the results and even managed to shoot a crash in a few shots (the rider got away only a bit shaken). Here’s the results

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My dad -a seasoned motor-sports photographer- was also there and will post photos on his site too.

Katzenjammer in Vera

Last night, after finishing work on the Joss Stone photos I headed back to Groningen. This time to Vera where Katzenjammer was to play. I had expected there to be quite an audience, but not that I’d be standing in line for 20 minutes not even sure whether I’d actually get to see the girls at all. Luckily I did get in and once inside immediately made my way to the front of the stage. Not much later three lovely ladies of the Dutch band La Gaîté entered the stage. Their songs and stage presence set a lovely mood for the rest of the evening. They looked like they were having a lot of fun and the audience responded very well to that. Lovely songs in various languages and styles

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The set of La Gaîté ended way to soon, would have loved to see more of them, but the main act was about to start. Katzenjammer (formed by Anne Marit, Marianne, Solveig and Turid) hail from Norway and play a very broad set of styles: pop, folk-rock, bluegrass, gypsy, close harmony, balkan and polka to name a few. They also play a huge amount of instruments and they all switch between them, making for a wonderful ‘dance’ on the stage between the songs switching from one instrument to the other. The Balalaika bass ranking among the most impressive ones.  The enthusiasm of the is impossible to ignore and the whole audience is soon captured by the band. It was an incredible evening and I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun at a concert. The cheerful enthusiasm, the fantastic songs and the beautifully dressed girls have made one heck of an impression

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Joss Stone in De Oosterpoort

I could not believe my luck (or my eyes) last year when I was checking out the upcoming concert in the Oosterpoort venue in Groningen. Did they really mention Joss Stone? They did, even when I checked it again a few days later and again and again. And thanks to the wonderful people of the Oosterpoort I was also allowed to take some photos of Joss. Sometimes life’s just sweet :)

And so, on Tuesday March 9th I was at the Oosterpoort where it was already very busy (mail hall fully sold out) and could again not believe my luck that I made it so easily to the front of the stage. The venue filled out pretty quickly and not much later Dutch singer Jenny Lane, touring with her debut album. A lovely lively girl with great stage presence. Great opening act and I hope to catch her with a gig of her own sometime

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After a short break in which the stage was cleared of the instruments of Jenny’s band, the musicians of Joss Stone’s band entered the stage under great applause, but the full force of the audience was heard when Joss came onto the stage, smiling ear to ear. It took her a few seconds to get into the gig and then the gig truly started. Joss was wonderful, a fantastic voice and a lovely girl at that. After two songs and a sip of coffee she suddenly found the stage to be bombarded with stuffed animals big and small and a huge dog. She collected them all to form a second audience. The light at the concert was awesome, and I greatly enjoyed the gig. Joss Stone was fantastic

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Ham Radio: Various artists in Vera

Ham Radio Communications is an independent platform for (inter)national indie and underground music. Last night they celebrated it’s second anniversary in Vera with six acts. I wasn’t able to see the last two bands as I had other plans for today, but I did see the first four and they were just great. I love indie acts, you just never know what your gonna get.

The evening started with Dutch Kim Janssen and his Major Cities Band, or at least part of that (the full band consists of about twenty friends providing orchestral and vocal backup, he had a few less with him now). Great Singer/Songwriter gig

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A short stage set-up later Karl Blau from the USA took to the stage. A genuine one-man-band with a mix of folk, hip-hop, R&B, grunge and anything else this he could fit in. This was one odd concert, but greatly enjoyable

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Cedarwell was up next, another American band and this time a duo (although it was a trio last night). A great pop-rock folky gig with an incredible vocal solo by the drummer. So good, he had to do it again. Really great fun this band

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The last band in the main hall was Dutch band We vs. Death. Last time I saw these guys (also in Vera) they were an instrumental indie rock band. However last year they released a new record and introduced vocals to the We vs. Death sound. The overall sound however is till very much like a soundtrack for travel. Terrific!

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After these gigs, the party continued in the below area with The Secret Love Parade and I Am oak, two Dutch bands, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to see those as well.

The Ettes in Vera

Checking out the gigs in the Vera venue in Groningen a while ago, I noticed the name The Ettes and reading the announcement I got very intregued: Great Garage-rock band with punky edges and vocals reminiscent of 60’s country. The Ettes had already toured with names like The New York Dolls, Gossip,  Kings Of Leon and (my favorite) The Black Keys and their latest album got great reviews. All in all more than enough encouragement to go and see this band.

They played in Groningen last night and were even better then I had imagined. Coco the singer/guitarist has a great voice but drummer Poni just blew me away. Style, rhythm and looks, that has to be a female drummer :) And she was phenomenal, ferociously driving the band on and creating a fantastic rhythm together with male bassist Jem. From what I’ve read this trio makes up The Ettes, but they had an extra guitarist with them on stage.

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Apparently they’re about to tour with Jack White’s Dead Weather shortly, so go see them in the small venues while you still can. They’ll be in the big venues on their own shortly.

El Pino & The Volunteers in Vera

On Thursday February 18 El Pino & The Volunteers played at the Vera venue in Groningen. Opening for them was The Information, a fairly new band from Meppel (nl).

The Information played a great set. The voice was incredibly familiar, but I couldn’t really recall what it reminded me of. I’ve been thinking about that a lot and I think it’s the Norwegian band Helldorado. But it’s been a while since I saw and heard Helldorado, so I’m not 100% sure. The Information played a great set, but it was weird seeing the audience so far in the back.

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After a quick stage rebuild and a large audience increase El Pino & The Volunteers, led by frontman David Pino, took to the stage. The bandmembers have quite a history. Nearly all of them have a history in various punkbands. Longing for other, ‘simpler’ music, El Pino & The Volunteers was born and had -initially- a rootsy Americana-sound. However after the first album and an extensive and successful tour one of the bandmembers (and with that the banjo player) quit. If I remember correct I saw one of their very last concerts in Hoogeveen back then. After two years the band is back with a new album and sounds a lot punchier and pop/rock.

The concert in Vera was terrific. The band played with lots of enthusiasm, the venue was well filled and the concert just flowed and had a lovely raw edge. Lots of new songs, some oldies and before we knew it 18 songs were played and the gig was over.

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I would like to express my thanks to the stagelight operator. Can’t remember the time I had such an amount of light, it was AWESOME!

Panorama photos of Assen

I recently posted a blog on my new Nodal Ninja 3 panorama head for my camera gear. However, I hadn’t really found the time to test the device. For those that thought (like me a while ago) that it was mearly a matter of installing the head, hooking up the camera and shoot… well it’s not really like that. Not at all. You need to do some work first to get the right shots.

In the past week I read reviews and tutorials, learned about the Nodal point (you set up the panorama head so the lens is rotating around it’s nodal point, this assures seamless stitching of photos) and fount the nodal point for a few of my lenses. I first tried a set of my livingroom and then went in search for the right software. This wasn’t that either. TheCanon Photostich program turned out not to work in Apple Snow Leopard, the freeware software Hugin made photos that looked like they were thought up by Esher of H.R. Giger and not like a panorama at all. Also the Photomerge option of Photoshop didn’t work at all, it could not make any decent panorama of the supplied photos. Eventually I found PTGui and that’s just incredible.

So now that I had a working setup and the means to produce a panorama, it was time to take the kit outside. I first did a simple walk just outside of Assen and tried a few with my 15mm fisheye and also one with my 50mm lens (different Nodal point, but I remembered what it was). However, I also wanted to try a few with buildings, so I headed to the center of Assen and shot some over there.

The way it works is really simple. Setup the tripod, make sure it’s level and shoot the photos all the way round. I shot 18 (at 20 degrees intervals) per photo. Back home I fed the photos into PTGui and that turned them into lovely panoramas. Here are a few that I uploaded to Flickr (check them there for large views):

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There are a few afterthoughts… I really need another tripod. My Manfrotto 055 is a great tripod, but way to heavy and large to easily carry around. Also a remote trigger would be better to make sure I don’t shake the camera when taking the photos. oh… and I had just thought that a macro lens in combination with a panorama head when I found the settings for the 100mm Canon macro lens with the Nodal Ninja set. So don’t be surprised if that lens is added to my collection at some point this year ;) All in all I’m very happy that the Nodal Ninja 3 works so well and I can’t wait for the summer to come and to find some wonderful locations to make more panoramas.

Noorderslag – De Staat

The last band I saw at Noorderslag before my feet, legs, back and shoulder finally gave in was another favorite and a great live band: De Staat, an Alt.Rock band that, like Kyteman, was a sensation on the previous Noorderslag edition and has since played loads of stages and festivals. They’ve absolutely lived up to the hype and this gig was no different

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And that’s it for this edition of the Eurosonic/Noorderslag festival. But we’ll be back next year, I can hardly wait to delve myself into the chaos once again.

Noorderslag – Popprijs Kyteman

The big event at Noorderslag is the ‘Popprijs’, a prize awarded to a Dutch band or artist that made the most significant contribution to Dutch pop music in the past year, chosen by a jury. Just about every year the winner is a bit of a surprise as it’s always another band/artist that the audience things ought to get it. This year the winner managed to turn quite a lot of heads as this time jury and audience were in total and almost unanimous agreement. The Popprijs (and 10.000 Euros) went to Kyteman’s Hiphop Orchestra. The huge band (20 members) played it’s first gig precisely one year ago, at Noorderslag 2009. In one year it managed to become Netherlands most popular band, playing at just about any festival and every venue, ending the successful year in a completely sold out Heineken Music Hall. All this without any huge commercial budget, it was all done via word-of-mouth and Internet-options. The tradition of winning the Popprijs is that the winner gets soaked in beers, thrown from the audience (with us poor photographers bang in the middle ;)). The Popprijs ceremony was opened by radio 3FM DJ Giel Beelen, who got soaked in beer crowdsurfing to the stage

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After the beer-ceremony Kyteman’s Hiphop Orchestra played one last gig (it was started as a project with the intention to disband after one year) to a ecstatic audience

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Noorderslag – C-Mon & Kypsky and the Metropole Orchestra

For Noorderslag electro-pop-rock-jazz-balkanbeats band C-Mon & Kypsky had a very special show in mind. Not only were they backed by the internationally acclaimed Metropole Orchestra (conducted by Jules Buckley), but they also hauled in lot of special guests. The show defies genres as rock, rap, jazz, soul and every other thinkable genre had it’s moment in the spotlight. A terrific show. I was not able to get all the guests and it pains me to say that I was also not able to get to a location where I was able to shoot the whole stage (it was way to crowded). Special guests that I did manage to shoot were: Jiggy Djé, Giovanca, Janne Schra (singer of Room Eleven), Anneke van Giersbergen (singer of Agua de Annique) and Benjaming Herman of New Cool Collective together with the ‘night-mayor of Rotterdam’ Jules Deelder. A fantastic gig with lots of greats musicians

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Noorderslag – Moke and DeWolff

Moke, the Britrock band from Amsterdam led by the Irish Felix Maginn, has been around for a few years now and has built quite a reputation. Musically they’re very close to Paul Weller (with whom they’ve also toured)

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A lot younger is the band DeWolff, not to mention it’s members. Three teenagers armed with a drumkit, a Hammond and a guitar, they rock the stage with a sound that draws it’s energy from the early years of psychedelic rock. Old bands like The Doors, Deep Purple, Taste. A fantastic sound and room to spare for long jams and all that brought with youthful enthusiasm. The only problem I had was the same I had with the afternoon session at Platosonic: a huge drumsolo at the start of the set. I’m not that big a fan of most drum-solos anyway, but to put them at the beginning of the set just kills the flow of the gig. Apart from that point of criticism a great gig

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