Photography and Art

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Glory of Scotland

I recently had the good fortune to get involved in one of Sean O'Boyle's Scottish extravaganzas as a member of the chorus. Sean is a very gifted Australian as you can tell from this quote from his website:

"His latest recording for the ABC — a concerto for didgeridoo — which he wrote and conducted with the Queensland Orchestra, is his 108th album. Sean O’Boyle is second only to the great Slim Dusty in musical output."

Every few years, Sean puts a tour together and visits cities in North America to show off his arranging prowess with a Scottish show. The music consists of mostly Scottish standards like 100 Pipers and Highland Cathedral, but the arrangements are all Sean and all wonderful.

The show has a cast of thousands (well, not quite, but lots of people) including singers, pipers, dancers, fiddlers, an orchestra and a chorus. I got a chance to photograph the dress rehearsal. Here are some of the highlights:

Here are the magnificent soloists: tenor Lenard Whiting, soprano Suzanne Kompass, tenor Edward Franko and baritone Robert Longo

Suzanne in full stride

Colleen Rintamaki and dance partner. Colleen is a 10 time world highland dancing champion and is a Canadian!

Members of the Scottish Dance Company of Canada

The maestro, Sean O'Boyle, himself

Julie Fitzgerald, Canadian Masters Fiddling Champion and Ontario Stepdance Champion.

Brett Kingsbury, pianist extraordinaire, plays an original Sean O'Boyle concerto.

Charles Waddell, treble soloist

Another action shot of Sean O'Boyle conducting the orchestra and choir

Members of The Ensemble Tryptych Chamber Choir and guests

And last, but not least, the three tenors from the chorus with yours truly on the left and George and Alfred

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Fuji X100 is Here!

As many of you know, the hottest camera on the market is the Fuji X100. After reading umpteen reviews that raved about its features and picture quality (and complained about its firmware foibles) I decided to get one. Mother nature intervened in the form of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan and X100 shipments dried up. I left my name on a list at Henry's camera and, lo and behold, they called me this week to say that my ship had come in!

So far, I love the X100. I won't bore you with the details - the camera seems to have more reviews on the web than any other camera every introduced (here's the authoritative review in dpreview if you're interested). However, here are some features that I really like:

First: silent operation. Here is Annie. This is the first time I've been able to get this close with a camera to our shy cat. Not only did she sit still for the photo, but she didn't flinch when I pressed the shutter. She usually takes off like a shot when I press my DSLR shutter. I think my Canon 20d started scaring her - it had a shutter that sounded exactly like the cluck of a chicken. A loud chicken.

Second: built-in ND filter. I wanted to take a photo of these flower buds ready to pop with a blurred background. The sun was still quite bright and at ISO 100, the shutter just wouldn't go fast enough to expose at F2. No problem with the X100 - just dial in the ND filter and shoot as usual.

Third: low noise, lovely colours. I un-boxed the camera and walked around the neighbourhood last night. It was garbage day today, so there were some unusual things being thrown out. This photo was taken at ISO 1600 virtually in the dark. It exhibits very little noise. The colours in the mattress are lovely and saturated.

I won't be selling this camera on Craigslist any time soon. It feels great in the hand. All the controls are readily accessible and the results and pleasing.

I must also say that some of the negative words that have been said about the camera are not warranted. Here's an example. People complain that the camera's autofocus has difficulties when you are looking through the optical viewfinder at close range to your subject. However, if you flip the viewfinder to electronic mode, the autofocus works just fine. There is a very simple reason for this. When you are looking through the optical viewfinder at a close subject, parallax enters the fray because the optical viewfinder does not look through the lens. You may be thinking that you've pointed the focal point at the subject, but you have probably pointed the focal point at something else (e.g. something behind the subject). When you see the result, you may think that the camera's focus mechanism has totally missed the boat, but this is not the case. It was focusing where you pointed it! If you switch into the electronic viewfinder, you are now looking through the lens, so you'll guarantee that the camera will focus on the right point. When focus is crucial (e.g. a close-up portrait), use the electronic viewfinder to be absolutely sure of getting it right.