Shining in Vera

A couple of years ago, during Eurosonic, I was en route with Storm, the lead man of Running from venue to café to bars. Anywhere they held gigs. One of the gigs Storm wanted to see was by Shining. I hadn’t a clue as to what it was, but tagged along, shooting photos of any band we saw. And so we ended up in the upper floor of Shadrak in Groningen where Shining was playing. I didn’t really have much tome to take in the music. The light was terrible and the only thing I remembered afterward was that is was stupendously loud and fast with the lead man switching between guitar and saxophone almost as much as I switch lenses on my camera during a gig.

But I really wanted to see them at a gig where I really had the time to take in the music and so I was very happy to see the announcement at Vera that the Norwegian (there’s also a Swedish version and that’s quite different) Shining was coming to Groningen. Yesterday I got to see them in action and it was brutal. Loud, powerful metal with fast saxophone played jazz pieces. It took a few songs to get my head around it, but it turned out I really enjoyed myself. Great fun

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Vanessa Peters in De Witte Bal

After the theater gig in Zwolle, Vanessa and band traveled to Assen for their next gig in De Witte Bal. A quick stop at my house and then off to the venue for soundcheck and dinner. The gig started at half past eight. Unfortunately the café wasn’t nearly full and with most people in the rear of the café it almost felt like a private gig for me.

The sound was great and they played another lovely set with a lot of songs of the various CD’s and the odd cover (loved Jolene), but there really ought to have been more people there. The ambiance in a café is a bit different from a theater, but the band does both of them very well. At least it wasn’t very noisy in the café and I had a great evening all in all

(click image for slideshow)

Vanessa Peters in Papenstraattheater

It’s been about three years since I first saw Vanessa Peters. In May 2007 I was asked by Fileunder if I’d like to go and see a singer/songwriter from Texas/America who was on her first Dutch tour. She played in a small pub in Groningen. No stage, only two lightbulbs above her and an audience that barely paid attention. But Vanessa didn’t let that get her down and was back for a tour half a year later, playing small venues and bringing Italian Manuel Schicchi from Icecream on Monday along with her for support on guitar and Dutch Alex Akela on bass, mandolin and violon.

Currently Vanessa is seen as one of the most influential Texan singer/songwriters of the moment and is back for another tour through the Netherlands. Again with Manuel and Alex and on Friday April 16th the band played in the Papenstraatheater in Zwolle. For me a first for the venue and finally back in Zwolle as it’s been a long while I was there.

I was very happy to see the small theater filled up very well. Theaters usually mean a more attentive audience then bars. It also meant that I’d have to be a lot more sensitive with my camera (the Canon tends to sound like a cannon when it’s surroundings are silent). So I took an absolute minimum of images.

The gig itself went fantastic. The sound in the venue was terrific, the audience appreciative and Vanessa and band played fantastically. Some old songs, some from her latest CD and a few well chosen covers. It’d be great to see Vanessa play theaters a lot more. But first I’ll see her i my hometown of Assen tonight, in De Witte Bal

(click image for slideshow)

Calefax Reed Quintet in Vera

The fourth edition of ‘De Derde Helft’ (The Third Half) took place on April 14th. An initiative of Timon Abels and Klaas ten Holt,  it is a series of modern classical concerts, held to introduce modern classical music to a new, younger audience.

Last night the Calefax Rietkwintet (a Reed quintet  and considered to be one of the most successful chamber ensembles from Europe) performed in Vera. They played -fully unplugged- on instruments like saxophones, oboes clarinets and a bassoon (and still managed to reach well into 90dB’s in the back of the hall).

The evening started with a movieclip by Calefax called ‘Studies On Nancarrow’. A bit odd, but a funny way to start the evening. After that the quintet entered the stage and played some pieces, ranging from an adaption of a 14th century classical piece to a modern piece inspired by the 9/11 attack of 2001.

In the second set they premiered a piece by Heleen Verleur and played another composition (sorry, I’m not yet that well known into the world of classical music to remember all of this ;). They also played a composition arranged around the alto saxophone solo from Billie Holliday’s ‘The Man I Love’.

The third set (i.e. The Third Half) was a highly experimental piece of work. Quite interesting, but also a bit hard to follow. Students of the Frank Mohr-institute have created an application that will allow to influence parameters of displayed music. On a big screen at the back of the stage music was displayed and the musicians were asked to interpret this in their own way. Musical notes would be cropped together, stretched, flow from right to left or left to right and would appear in different colours. The four musicians on stage (two of the Calafax ensemble  and two volunteers) sat with their backs to the audience in order to see the screen and play the music. It took a while for the musicians to get in the right flow, but once they did, it turned into an interesting piece of work

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Allan Holdsworth, Tony Levin, Terry Bozzio & Pat Mastelotto in De Oosterpoort

“But, but… they only played two songs?!?”

Well, yes. But in their defense, they were about 40 minutes each. The concert held by Allan Holdsworth, Tony Levin, Terry Bozzio and Pat Mastelotto was unlike anything I’ve seen before. After the first song Terri Bozzio introduced the band and explained the idea behind this gig. They came to the stage completely unprepared and in complete improvisation they let the vibe decide what way the music goes. This way what we heard this night was totally unique. It was different from what they played last night and will be different again the next concert.

The musicians on stage are each legends in their own right. Terry Bozzio is a well known drummer who has played with Frank Zappa and Thin Lizzy, Allan Holdsworth is an icon amongst his fellow guitarists and has played with Soft Machine, UK, Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford. Tony Levin is one of the most influential bass-players in the world, well known for his colaborations with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, but has also played with (amongst others) Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. Also drumming on stage is Pat Mastelotto known for his work in Mr. Mister and King Crimson, although his kit looked a bit poorly when placed next to the awe-inspiring drumkit of Terry Bozzio.

Musically there are a lot of things that can be said about the gig, but ‘accessible’ is not one of them. Organic, fluid, odd and impressive are the first that spring to my mind. It was really great to experience a gig like this, but I’m not sure I’d be able to appreciate this on a daily basis.

The lights were a bit of a struggle too. Apparently Allen had instructed the lights on him to be turned off completely in order for him to be able to read of the values that his instruments and effects gave to him. But where needed I cranked up the ISO and tried to get the best I could. Under the circumstances I’m pretty happy with the results

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Frank Turner in Vera

On Wednesday April 7 Frank Turner & band played at Vera in Groningen. It just so happened that I found some Youtube videos  of Frank a few days earlier and was thinking of checking this gig out myself, when asked if I’d like to go for them. Well hey, why not?

Opening for Frank Turner was an American band called Crazy Arm (they’ve recently recorded a split-record with Frank). They were a great opening act. Enthousiastic, wild, loud and fun (not to forget good) punky rock.

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A little later Frank Turner and band came onto the stage. The audience was extremely enthusiastic, sang along to much of the songs and danced and jumped on queue. The music of Frank is kind of a folky punk (or punky folk). The lyrics are fun, reflective an lend themselves well to sing along with. I’ll bet Frank’s sets go down very well at festivals, but in a well filled Vera it surely didn’t do worse. Great gig and for the final encore Crazy Arm also returned to see to a well filled stage.

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Paasraces at the TT-Circuit in Assen

The opening of the track season at the TT-Circuit of Assen was nearly here and I was a little worried as the past few days as the weather wasn’t very good. To be honest, it’s been pouring. But whatever the weather, on Monday the 5th of April with the Paasraces (Easter Races) the season would be opened. Thanks to the rain I skipped the training session on Saturday, but I really wanted to attend the races on Monday. Luckily the day started bright and sunny. The afternoon brought clouds, a little rain and lots of cold wind, but it was a lot better then in had been the past days.

After a morning training session the races started at quarter to one in the afternoon. They’d start with the sidecars, the the Supermono and after that the classics. These races were fun to watch, but offered little action. The sidecars were way too much spread over the track to offer any suspense. I guess the Classics didn’t want to chance damaging the old bikes. Once the 125cc class entered the track, with a fuller grid, it started to get exciting. The two Dutch Supersport races and the Dutch Superbike also were lots more interesting to watch with a few crashes, some overtaking and more racing in groups.

I tried out various places to shoot photos to avoid getting lots and lots of the same shots and test-shoot some ideas. It was a great practice and I hope I’ll be able to do some more at the end of the month with the Superbike races on their way.

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Oh, and since I ‘happened’ to have the panorama kit with me, I also took a panorama photo at the start/finish line. It was a bit of a quicky as the riders were awaiting to be let loose on the track, so I didn’t have much time to set it up. Because of that it’s a bit sloppy, there are a few errors (can you spot them? ;)). Currently it’s also available in a Quicktime-version over here.

Panoramic testing in Fochteloo

Yesterday in the sun I decided to try some new panoramic shots. I know how the system works now and how to create a movie file that you can scroll around in, but I’m still working on getting the right kind of top and bottom shots. By tilting the camera upwards the sky/top is easily fixed, but the bottomshots remain a bit of a problem though (that is: if you don’t want the tripod included).

For the new panoramas I went to a nature park near Fochteloo. Unfortunately I spent most of the time being completely and utterly lost, so didn’t take too many pictures, but will try again when the weathers nice again.

As for the panorama shots, there are two of them, both with tops in order. One of a lookout and one taken in the woods. You’ll need Quicktime to view these images. The one in the woods was a bit of a struggle what with the sun appearing and disappearing constantly and my having forgotten the remote. Also you’ll probably notice a small glitch in one of the trees. I wasn’t able (yet) to repair that.

As said, the bottomshots are still a bit of an issue, but I’ll work on those as well and hope to have a full panoramic photo soon. As for the other photos that I took; those weren’t too interesting to actually post, but they did give me an opportunity to try working in Lightroom and that worked pretty well. Don’t see much use for it in concert photography, but for sports and nature with practice it could be a great tool, making the post editing a whole lot quicker.

Tom McRea in De Oosterpoort

Would I mind taking some photos of Tom McRea’s gig in De Oosterpoort to go with an interview for FileUnder? I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of the man so far, but a quick check on told me that there was a good chance I’d like it. The gig was held at the small stage of the venue and wasn’t nearly sold out, but the attending audience was enthusiastic and that usually makes up for a lot.

Opening the gig was Brian Wright, a member of Tom’s band, but also a singer/songwriter in his own right. Has a great voice. At the end of his gig, he was aided by Sally Jaye on vocals

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A few minutes later Tom and band came onto the stage. The sound was bigger, heavier. More bombastic. Aided by Brian on guitars, a keyboadplayer, drummer, bass and cellist Tom McRea had the stage well filled. The audience was very responsive so Tom already had the venue singing along with them at the fourth song and took a girl out of the audience onto the stage to sing along. I wasn’t able to see the rest of the gig, but I believe it went down very well. Looked and sounded great to me

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Grasstrackracing in Vries

On the 27th and 28th of March the open Dutch Championship Grasstrackracing was held in Vries. In two days various sets of dirt-bike races were competing for the championship. I went on Sunday as on this day besides the ‘normal’ two wheeled bikes they’d also race with sidecar bikes, always making for some interesting shots. The only thing I found a bit curious is that this is called ‘Grasstrackracing’, but there wasn’t a piece of grass to be found on the track. There was dirt, lots and lots of it and most of it ended on the audience during the races.

There were lots of heats and every so often they’d flatten the track again, keeping it fair for the next races. During the day we’ve had just about every type of weather: sunny, cloudy, rain and even hail. None of it mattered to the riders, they plowed through the field no matter what. For the audience though it certainly did matter, with the wind it could get quite cold at times.

For myself it was also a great opportunity to field-test my new Canon EF 100-400mm lens. Would it deliver sharp images, would it be able to keep up with the speedy bikes? I tried lots of ISO settings and for today let the camera decide on the shutter-speed, that way I’d end up with some varied results enabling me to see what would deliver the best kind of photos for future reference. All in all I’m quite happy with the results. A few days rest now and then with Easter off to the TT Circuit for the opening of the bike race season there. For now, here are the results of the grasstrackraces

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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.