About this blog title

I cannot tell you how many times I have shown up at events with a couple of cameras around my neck, a gadget bag full of odds & ends and a lighting kit and have been asked that question. If it happened once every few years, that would be one thing. But it happens a LOT. It's like getting pulled over by the police and he's standing there with uniform, gun, flashing lights and asking him "Are you a cop?" I would love to come back with a witty reply, such as "No, I am Jesus. Don't you recognize my beard?" However, I cannot be that rude.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nature Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)

Tonight, near dusk, as I was preparing to cover our Easy Set pool, I saw an unfamiliar looking frog on it. I grabbed a camera, in this case a Nikon D300 and snapped some shots of it. A Google search revealed it to be a Grey Tree frog which is wide spread through out New York State. In all of my life I had never seen one before. I didn't have a macro lens so these images are cropped from much wider originals. Hence, it is limited upon how large I can make them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

State Trooper at the New York State Fair

This is a photo I snapped a couple of hours ago at the New York State Fair. I was there to shoot a video of night scenes at the fair for the Post-Standard newspaper.I had to do it in a four hour shift and get it uploaded on the web by 11:00, so I didn't have the luxury of wandering about making interesting, artsy still shots.

The Post-Standard Reduces Their Daily Publication

Today the Post-Standard announced they will reduce daily publication to three days a week for home delivery, and a smaller edition on the off days for news stand sales. There will be jobs lost as a result of this. Read more at www.syracuse.com> I have a lot to say about this but don't have the time to devote to it. It's all horse shit. I have worked there for 26 years. I saw the writing on the wall a few years ago. Hence, I remortgaged my house and eventuall nbought three rental properties. Three years and eight months ago my job hours were cut to 20 a week. So I have had all of that time to re-establish myself as a wedding photographer, guitarist, and guitar teacher. I have aggresively been paying down debt. I have been telling my collegues at the Post for some time that they should be laying down similar plans. Well, I don't want to be one of those that loses a job, but it will not as terrible as it could have been. Good luck to all of you out there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Francisco Tarrega's Estudio Brillante Practice

I have been practicing and trying to polish for performance Francisco Tarrega's guitar composition Estudio Brillante, sometimes known as Study in A. It is a
challenging piece of music. Memorizing it was fairly easy. BUT, the rest of it has been tough. I never dreamed it would be as difficult as it is. It is physically demanding. There are hammer ons & pull offs that require solid technique. Slowly the piece improves. The photos here show how I go about keeping a sort of "Practice Diary" I usually practice a chord change or scale passage or what ever in groups of five or ten. Then I write down that number in hash marks somewhere in the margins or cover of the music along with the date. I usually will do the particular task at hand for 100 repetitions. It is like a body builder who does a series of reps. For instance, I do a chord change 5 or 10 times and stop. Rest a few seconds and do 5 or ten more. Eventually I reach my goal of reps for that part of my practice session. Estudio Brillante has been unbelievable. My notes and record of reps has filled up the back cover and a good deal of the inside cover. Much of my notes would not mean anything to others unless I explained them. The bottom line is that the guitar, at least in my hands, requires constant repetition for me to finally master a phrase, lick, scale passage, chord change or what have you. Estudio Brillante is a long term project. For sure the most difficult piece I have attempted. Why do I do it? Because I love it. The first time I heard it I was smitten by it. I have had the music for over 20 years and only began learning it about 4 years ago. I have had it memorized for a long time, it's just getting it to performance level that has taken so long. For a long, long time my left hand & arm would become fatigued trying to play through it just one. Now I am more relaxed and can get through it 5, 6, maybe 7 times or more before I become that fatigued. Those of you out there who have worked on this compostion know what I mean. Christopher Parkening says the piece is "extremely difficult." I know now that he wasn't kidding.

Today's Practice:

The highlighted section in the above photos shows a segment that I practiced this morning for a total of 100 reps. It isn't difficult, but I am trying to reach a point where I make the chord change / position shift flawlessly and evenly every time, with no clicks, rattles, buzzes or string squeaks. This was "focused practice." You should zero in on something specific such as this when you practice. Slowly but surely it get better, your playing becomes stronger. The following photo is of the back cover that is filled up with my "Practice Diary" notations.
The following photo is a detail of the practice notes I have made in my copy of Tarrega's Estudio Brillante.
The music notation I have written is an exercise I created for the left han. The dates tells me how many times I executed that exercise on that given date. You can see that I worked at it on January 4, 2009,l January 5, 2009, February 2nd 2009. Oh, I also see January n16, 2009. The section of the song that I created ti=his exercise for is still giving me troube, and NO WONDER: I have not been practicing the exercise or the musical passage enough! So you can also see that these notes reminde me of that so I practiced it again on August 19, 2012. And so it goes.

Two More Pix of my Estudio Brillante Music "Diary"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stage Fright And I

I got away from playing the guitar for people for well over 15 years. Mostly it was becaus my photography career took over. It was just as well because even though I love the music and the guitar, I was never comfortable with performing. The nervousness was terrible. Playing in a noisy bar or at a private party was one thing, even playing in a wedding ceremony wasn't too bad because the focus was not on me. Every time I got into a situation where I was the focus of attention the stage fright was horrible. I think back about performing in a Christopher Parkening master class in front of all the other student guitarists and I wonder how I ever got through it. This has always bothered me because I want to be in CONTROL of my thoughts and actions. I want to overcome stage fright, or "performance anxiety" which some call it. There are two key things in doing so. You must know your material and you must go out and perform as much as possible. In the past four years I have been re-learning my repertoire and putting myself out there playing in front of people again. Last December I played a gig at a musicians Christmas party. All eyes were on me as I played about a 20 minute set. I fumbled in the usual spots in some of the songs, played most of them OK. The listeners LOVED it. I got some really good feedback. However, I was a nervous wreck. I was sweating so much it flowed off my face and into my eyes with a burning sensation. Profuse sweating. I remember experiencing that years ago. On other occasions my hands would shake. Sometimes both would occur. Three Summers ago I played an outdoor lunchtime concert in down town Watertown. I thought people would be sitting around eating their lunch and chatting. I was not prepared for what I got: Everyone sitting quietly, hanging on every note I played. My mind was racing with ways I could excuse myself and flee. The worst part of it was I had to fill up two whole hours! Yikes. But I got through it. Each time gets a little better.

Sor Study #2 Played by Me at Depauville Library August 15, 2012

Anyhow, last Wednesday I played a recital type situation at the library in Depauville, NY. There were about 25 people there. One of the things I did was introduce myself to folks as they arrived and mingled a bit before the show. That was a big help. Then when it was time for the show I stood before the audience and formally inroduced myself and talked a few minutes. I was 100% relaxed, feeling GOOD, comfortable with the situation. They settled down, I sat down with the guitar and formed an A major chord to start a fairly easy etude by Matteo Carcassi. At that moment my mouth went dry. My mind went off somewhere and I couldn't remember what I was about to play. So I said something to the audience, my hands began to tremble, and I proceeded to play an alternate piece (also by Carcassi). Mentally I more or less tried to downplay the anxiety. The shaking hands were not anyway near as bad as when that would happen in the past, and, I managed to not break out into a sweat. Overall the show went well but I simply abandoned some of the pieces I was going to play, I had a few memory lapses, and I fumbled in, once again, some of the same spots in the same pieces that I frequently fumble. That means I must still work on those segments. Some selections I played well and was pleased with how I performed the. Romance was one of them. Lagrima by Francisco tarrega and three other Tarrega etudes came off especially well. I fumbled a spot in Carcassi study #19 that I thought I had down so well i would never fumble it again. That's what is confounding. Playing something well dozens or hundreds of times and then suddenly fumble it or simply have an unexplainable memory lapse. It's akin to singers forgetting song lyrics. Anyhow, I plan to keep at it and learn how to master the stage, stage fright, and gain command of the audience. The Better Half doesn't understand why I want to do that. But it's simple: I want to be in control of myself, not let my emotions and situations control me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

SU Football Team at Fort Drum

What did I do today?
Well, I had a couple of hours of good guitar practice. I caught up my check book and took care of some other paper work. Then, this afternoon I photographed the Syracuse University football team as they practiced at Fort Drum, NY. Major General Mark Milley and SU football coach Doug Marrone were there and appear in one of these photos.

These photos were made for the Post-Standard newspaper. You can see more at www.syracuse.com

Good night all.

Photoshop Disappearing Act At Boldt Castle

I have been having a busy Summer which includes photographing numerous weddings. The following photo came from a wedding two weeks ago at Boldt Castle on Heart Island in the St. Lawrence River at Alexandria Bay, NY. The castle is an interesting place to have a wedding, however, it is still open to the public while one's wedding is in progress. So passersby can appear in the background of your photos. In the old days of film it was a lot of trouble trying to get unwanted folks removed from your photos. Today it is no surprise that we can do it with the magic of Photoshop. It's still preferable to make a photo the way you want it as opposed to tinkering with it afterward in Photoshop. In this photo I simply used the clone tool to copy stones and flowers over the offending pedestrians.

On Wednesday I'll be doing a guitar recital at the Depauville library. The following is a promo piece I created for the event.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gary Walts Performs at Depauville Library

Classical guitarist Gary Walts to perform at the library Classical guitarist, Gary Walts will be playing at Depauville Free Library on Wednesday, August 15, beginning at noon. The lunchtime performance will be reminiscent of afternoons at Teaism, the Clayton vegetarian, outdoor cafĂ©, where Gary played weekly. Musical selections will include guitar etudes by Fernando Sor (1778-1839), Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853), Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909), and some modern classics by the Beatles. To evoke the ambiance of Teaism beyond the soothing sound of Gary Walts’ guitar, creamy cilantro soup and Moroccan mint iced tea will be served. Please call the Depauville Library at 686-3299 for reservations or further information.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Photographing People, or, People Watching

I have a love of watching people. It was probably fostered from my childhood looking at Life and Look magazines that were always in our house. I was exposed to great photo essays by great photographers such as Gene Smith, Grey Villet, Gordon Parks (whom I met when I received a third place in the Eisie Awards) David Douglas Duncan and Larry Burrows. I was so fascinated and enthralled by the work of these photographers. When I am on assignment at events, or at family events I am always watching people. The photos presented here are from my niece L's wedding that took place in Orlando, Florida earlier this month.
Prior to this wedding I had never met any of these folks so I assume they are friends & family of the groom, or aquaintances of my niece. Anyhow, family or not, these photos I made with a selective "Eye". I am interested in the relationship of forground to background subjects. The man & woman for example. She is obviously talking to someone off camera. She is unaware of the man in the background. I snap a few different images switching the focus between him and her. My goal is to take photos of people that ALL PEOPLE can relate to, or some how become interested in regardless if they actually know that person.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Bat In The House

I am at the music store teaching guitar. My phone rings. It is the Better Half. She sounds distraught. She was cleaning the living room when she discovered a dead bat lying in the bottom of a vase. How did the creature get in our house? Why did it die in the vase? When I got home I took a couple snaps of the vase & bat. I hope there are no more. About three years ago there was a bat in our bathroom. We thought that one came to our house from a potted plant that we bought at Lowe's thatn was in our bathroom. That bat showed up the next day after the plant purchase.