Superleague Formula qualifying and knockout finals on TT Circuit Assen

In preparation of the races on the TT Circuit of Assen on Sunday May 16, the Superleague Formula held Qualifying sessions and knockout finals on Saturday May 15. A day earlier there were already some practice sessions and a demonstration in the town center of Assen that was well attended.

Photographing these cars (or any for that matter) is a lot different then photographing motorcycles. Motorcycles are a lot more dynamic in corners as to cars. Also the cars a bigger and getting them interestingly on a photo is not that easy. It might work better if you shoot them from the front, but there were lots of gates preventing decent shots from that point. Luckily we were able to get on the top op the hospitality house so I could shoot some cars a little more from above and vary the shots a bit more. I’d like to try again sometime, but I’d like some different angles to shoot from.

But it was great to see these racemonsters racing over the circuit near my hometown. The noise these car make is insane.

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Superleague Formula additional program on TT Circuit Assen

On Saturday May 15 the Superleague Formula racing championship would be qualifying, but around those qualifying sessions were held additional races.For me it was a great way to practice photographing racing cars. When we arrived the Dutch Mustang Challenge had just begun. Curiously among the mustangs were also some BMW’s racing. I guess they helped fill up the field as there weren’t that many cars. The best looking Ford Mustang didn’t even race by the way, it was displayed on the middle area, looking awesome

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After these races we got on the photo shuttlebus (driven by my dad ;)) and relocated. It beats walking, I can tell you that. At the new location I was better able to track the cars and shoot them while they were  ‘slowly’ going around the corner. The race that started now was a supercart race. They may look small, but these little buggers go up to 240km/h (150m/h)

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The last event I saw was the Dutch Supercar Challenge race. Roaring engines, air-tunnel designed cars and as pit-stops were mandatory, so standing above the pitlane was a fun place to be. Didn’t get many racing images and certainly not many interesting ones, but a view from the pit is -for a change- quite interesting.

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Photographing cameras

Yesterday I decided I’d try my luck with some “studio-work” again. After the model cars I also have some old cameras and I started with a few of these to shoot some images of them. It’s pretty hard to do as long as I don’t have a decent fixed light setup and do everything with remote fired flashes. Also a dedicated background would do wonders and make the makeshift setup I now use obsolete. That’s something I want to do next and I’m working on some ideas for that.

But for now I’ll use what I have. And I shot some images of my old Rolleicord Twin Lens Reflex camera and of my Polaroid SX-70 Landcamera. Both are -in my opinion- truly beautifully crafted cameras, with their own personality.

Shooting some photos of the cameras was a challenge in it’s own right. I wanted to have them shown not to static (no straight up ‘mug-shots’). The Rolleicord being very black, I wanted to have the worn out semi rusted patches shown. The Polaroid is a formidable design and I wanted that to be visible. By placing it flat on the table, it just didn’t work, so I placed some stuff under the camera to have it elevated and placed it at an angle.

Editing afterwards proved difficult also as a lot of dust was visible (white backdrop didn’t help much there and the aperture I shot is shows absolutely every speck of dust on the sensor). So much patching up was needed. Also, the metallic parts of the camera easily blew out when working on a strong white background. And lastly, I was not able to clear out the corners behind the cameras that showed the end of the table and rising of the background. This because the shadows of the cameras (that were higher then the model cars I recently shot) were both on the table as on the background.

However, I am pleased with the results as they are. It’s a learning process and I hope I’ll be able to do better once I figure out how to implement some fixed lights and a better background (or buy a photography table)

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The Hex Dispensers in Vera

It was a busy night on May 6. After seeing a few songs of Angus & Julia Stone in the Oosterpoort venue, I rushed over to the Vera venue for the next gig. Due to this, I missed the Australian opening act The Vegas Kings. I hope the fact that Angus & Julia Stone are also Australian somewhat makes up for this ;) As I entered the venue the Vegas Kings had just finished their set and the stage was prepared for the Texan Garagepunk rockers The Hex Dispensers.

(click image for full set)

Coming from a singer/songwriter set this was a heck of a change, but it didn’t take long to adjust. The energy just burst from the stage and into the audience. A fantastic set of short, punchy songs that had the audience dancing from the get-go. And the light was once again terrific at Vera, I even got some great shots of the drummer, the one band member usually to play in (nearly) complete darkness. Had a blast!!!

(click image for full set)

Angus & Julia Stone in De Oosterpoort

Yesterday Australian singer/songwriter duo Angus & Julia Stone (brother and sister) came to the Oosterpoort venue. They performed in the small hall which had completely sold out. Opening for them was singer/songwriter Ben Howard from England. He played solo and only uses an acoustic guitar. His style reminded me a lot of Xavier Rudd, with whom -I just read- he has just toured, so that might not be so coincidental. An opening act with only an acoustic guitar is a dangerous thing, as it can just as easily drown in a totally not interested audience discussing the days topics, but I was happy to see the whole venue paying attention to Ben. An impressive gig

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As Ben only used a seat and the guitar, it took a pretty long time for Angus and Julia to make it to the stage, but when they did, all was right. What a tremendous duo. Their voices are so incredible, even more so when they sing together. The light was a bit of a bother and with the venue sold out, moving around was not much of an option, but I did relocate a bit to try and get some better shots. After the first three songs Ben Howard made a guest appearance to a very appreciative crowd

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I wish I could have stayed after that, but there was another gig I had to go to, so after four songs I packed up my gear and headed to that other great venue of Groningen for the Hex Dispensers.

Jelle Paulusma at Bevrijdingsfestival in Assen

On May 5 we (the Dutch) celebrate our liberation here in the Netherlands. On this day 65 years ago WWII ended for us, though nowadays we celebrate liberation in a broader concept. Part of this celebration is music festivals all over the country with some interesting and well attended versions in Groningen and Zwolle. However as I had other work to do today, I chose to visit the one in my town: Assen. This version is somewhat smaller then it’s neighbours, but three names on the bill were very interesting: Krause, Jelle Paulusma and Sandy Dane. Unfortunately Krause had been cancelled. Apparently the organization had mistaken her  for a DJ instead of the electro/discobeats band that she is. So the cancelled her and the chance to finally see her perform live was shortlived. The other two names however were still on the bill.

Jelle Paulusma, formerly of Daryl-Ann, was a bit of an odd name for the festival, seeing as what kind of bands will draw an audience in Assen what bands won’t. And Paulusma is not one of those names (Assen isn’t well for indie acts that work well for towns like Groningen that have an active students-society). That’s nothing to say about the gig that Jelle Paulusma & Friends gave, because that was fantastic. A nearly completely acoustic concert (with only an electric slide guitar on a few songs), great songs and a great voice made it -at least for me- an absolutely terrific performance, but then I always enjoy the Paulusma gigs. The square was dreadfully void of a crowd and it was so cold…. I was shaking so much I doubt the Image Stabilizer of my lens would be able to correct all of my spasms and by the end of the gig my skin had turned about as blue as my denim jacket

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Sandy Dane was originally scheduled right after Paulusma, but as she wasn’t there yet, they switched her gig with that of the band that would originally perform after her. But I was, together with Krause and Paulusma, only interested in Sandy, who’s getting airplay on national radio and seemed interesting to check out. However being as cold as I was, I didn’t look forward to have to wait over an hour and chose to skip it. I’m very sorry Sandy and I promise to come to a gig next time you’re around, but as cold as I was, I just really wanted to go home :)

Midlake in Vera

On Wednesday April 28 I got to see Midlake, a band from Texas/USA that came greatly recommended and had a (nearly?) full house at Vera in Groningen. Originally Nicole Atkins was to open for the band, but she couldn’t make it to Europe due to the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano eruption. Instead Groningen based The Black Atlantic now opened for Midlake during the Dutch gigs (of which this would be the last). However, since the instrumentation of Midlake took so much space on the Vera stage, only half of The Black Atlantic was able to fit on the stage this time. Geert van der Velde and Kim Janssen played a great set that demanded even more attention from the audience due to the quiet sound than they usually do. The lo-fi sound was great, but with a bit to much noise out of the audience the magic was easy to break (didn’t happen too often, luckily)

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After a few small changes on stage, all was set for the 7 (!) members of Midlake. It took a bit for the memebers to find their place on stage and around each other, but once they did, the gig went like clockwork. Great songs, fantastic connection with the audience. as it was their last gig in Europe, they give it all they got and that worked wonderfully well and as the evening went along, the gig got better and better. It was a shame I wasn’ able to sta till the very end, but I had to work on the photos and had a daytime job to return to as well. But I’ll definitely go see them again next time they’re around

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Camera gear – Macro lens and flash

You’d think I’ve got money to spare. And you’d be right :)

Only a month after I bought the tele-zoom 100-400mm Canon lens, I now went the other way: Macro. It’s another field of photography I really want to explore and so I got myself a decent macro lens. Spent some time figuring out what the best lens would be to start with. The 50mm macro didn’t seem like a very good idea. Although very affordable, you need to be very close to the subject. The 180mm macro by Canon was so expensive that I didn’t even consider it. The 100mm was the best choice, but… Canon had updated that lens with a newer version, a 100mm L lens with IS (Image Stabilizer). Bit more expensive than the one without IS, but newer and shinier -I am a lens geek after all- and so more interesting.

For a while I seriously considered the 65mm macro lens that not only offers 1:1 macro, but can go as far as 5:1 (get real portrait shots of those little itsy bitsy spiders), but is a full manual lens and from the reviews I read, not really a lens to start one’s macro-hobby with. So the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro L IS version it would be.

For a macro flash I opted for a brand-less LED flash. Way more affordable, saving me some cash that could be invested in… the Canon Speedlight 580EX II, finally getting myself a basic flash that can be controlled.

The next few day’s I’ll start working on getting to know the macro lens and thinking of what to long for next. The rate I’m going at now, I’m quickly running out of a wishlist :)

Superbike World Championship racing day

After two days of free practice and qualifying Sunday April 25 was racing day, time to see if qualifying to pole would actually get a win. Photography proved to be a lot more difficult too. There suddenly was a large crowd enjoying a fantastically sunny day and the races on the track and a lot of people wanted to be in the same spot as me. However, I soon realized that taking the same positions as I had during practice and qualifying also meant that I’d end up with the same kind of photos. And I wanted more racing photos during the races. Unfortunately there weren’t many ‘dogfights’ going on. At least not where I was during race one. I managed some decent photos, but decided I’d scout the track for different positions during the next two races that were scheduled between the first and the second Superbike race

(click image to view the set)

After some shots during the Supersport and the Parkingo Series I eventually settled on the hill in the ‘Strubben’ corner. It’s an interesting corner not to far from the start/finish line. You see the racers in a fairly slow set of corners, enabling the daring racers to make a move. It already delivered me shots of a crash during the first lap when all racers were still huddled together, fighting for some room on the track (and preferably before the others, thank you very much).  This race was a lot more exciting to watch than the first as there were more groups of racers instead of racers racing separately. All in all I was able to get some more interesting photos and I enjoyed the race a lot. Unfortunately my beloved Ducati’s were mainly guarding the rear this time, Jonathan Rea of the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team (bike number 65) dominated both races.

Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra in Vera

With all this Superbike stuff going on this weekend one would nearly forget that there are concerts to go to as well. And what a concert. Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra (also known as A Silver Mt Zion of Thee Silver Mt Zion, and sometimes with the Tralala Band, but not on this occasion) was a band I really wanted to see for some time now. Their albums are anything but easy listening music. It’s stuff you have to pay attention to. The gig was no different. With two violin players (violins connected to a vast amount of effects), a guitar player, double bass player and drummer and all of them taking vocal duties, they presented us with quite a sound.

It was mesmerizing and absolutely one to remember. The only thing that didn’t really work too well was the attempt to get into some kind of discussion with the audience. Created some funny moments, but I doubt that this was the idea behind it. Anyway, still got to hear some of the songs I have on vinyl live and that was well worth it

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Superbike World Championship Practice & Qualifying

The main reason for buying the Canon EF 100-400mm lens was to do sports and I wanted to focus on motor-sports first, seeing as the TT Circuit is just a few kilometers away. The Easter races were a great first test, but this weekend was the moment of truth with the Superbike World Championship coming to the circuit. I took Friday of to be able to shoot some photos from various locations. The weather was great so I had all freedom to shot great images. Besides the Superbike free practice and qualifying there were also other racing classes such as the Supersport, Superstock and Parkingo Series, but I wanted to keep the images into the main class. the Friday qualifying of the Superbike ended a bit odd, as there was an accident that stopped the session at 3 minutes 49. The teams were allowed to complete the session and for the few remaining minutes all motors hit the track again. IN the very last corner of the last round, a diver unfortunately crashed his bike in the GT corner. I’ve added that one as a strip

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On Saturday I was fortunate enough to have been allowed the use of a press-pass, allowing me to get a little bit closer to the action. Photographing in these locations was a whole new experience. Being closer to the bikes also means they’re passing a lot quicker. But if you’re able to get them good, you really get them good. Tried a few locations where I’d normally not even be able to come even close to and I was able to try my luck on the press-side of the GT corner. That wasn’t half as easy as I once thought it was. Didn’t really get the results I wanted over there, but a few new experiences have been gained. The ‘Strubben’  area was a great place to work as well, although most photo’s I took there were of the other disciplines. I did get some great close-ups of the Ducati’s though and am mightly pleased with that :)

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While in the GT corner, I also shoot a free-hand panorama of the GT Tribune and the main tribune. Some errors in the tires in front but a nice shot just the same, I think.

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)