Thursday, April 23, 2009

All that jazz

Rob Parton

I've been fortunate enough to have an ongoing assignment for Roosevelt University in Chicago to capture images of the various performing groups at the school's Chicago College of Performing Arts. Earlier this week, I photographed the school's jazz emsembles at the Jazz Showcase, a landmark of the Chicago jazz scene.

The club is currently situated in the Dearborn Station section of Chicago, which looks like it could function as a location for a 1940s vintage movie. Since 1947, jazz luminaries have passed through the club, which has the photos and news clippings on display to prove it.

I arrived at the gig fully expecting to shoot the two school ensembles scheduled that night and not much more. What I forgot was that college-level jazz concerts usually feature professional guest artists who jam with the band.

So, while struggling all night with low lighting and a stage that limited my shooting angles, I got to hear some excellent players who thrilled a nearly full house -- Trumpeter Rob Parton, who also serves as Chairman of the school's Jazz Studies Department and leader of the ensembles, local Alto sax man and RU faculty member Mike Smith and the evening's featured guest, Tenor and soprano sax artist Dick Oatts.

Alto and tenor cats
Mike Smith (left) and Dick Oatts

The night's shooting was a delicate tightrope act -- I pushed the ISO as far as I dared and shot with an 18mm lens (so I could hand-hold the camera at shutter speeds of 1/30 of a second or so) and a 135mm 2.8 prime with a monopod for closeups. The slow shutter speeds increased the odds of motion blur (those cats moved while they played - you can see Mr. Oatts in action here), so I just kept shooting shot after shot, trying to time the shots to their movements and the music. Out of nearly 400 shots, I was able to keep about 150 or so. By the way, these shots are as original as the conditions allowed -- no cropping, just some slight levels adjustments and a trip through Neat Image noise reduction software.

Lots of processing and noise reduction ahead of me. For a change of pace, I'll be listening to classical music while shooting the college's Wind Ensemble tonight.


Laurie said...

Excellent series. Really well done.

Wanda said...

You get all the good jobs...

Great pictures...

mike said...

i can relate to your post. iso maxed out and hailmary shutter speeds. but when it works its beautiful
really enjoy your blog