What’s Black and White and …

One of the “problems” with being a photographer, which I (finally) own up to being, is that one sees pictures everywhere.

And wants to make them.

Doing so, of course, requires having a camera. Being without one is like being a writer without a pen. So I have a Leica D-Lux 4, which is as small as any point-and-shoot, writes Raw files, has manual controls and takes gorgeous pictures. I don’t want to lug around my Nikon bodies and lenses, but I have no excuse not to have at least the Leica.

Such was the case during the first weekend of the Portland Jazz Festival. I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time making the earth-shattering observation that one requires a camera to make pictures; the real point of this post is dealing with limitations.


Though a great camera, the D-Lux 4 has a fast, but very wide lens from the get-closer-stupid school of photography, which usually is great news. Unless, of course, you are trying to take photos of jazz artists up on stage in near darkness. Yeah, for my next trick …

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 100, 1/30th f4.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 100, 1/30th f4.

This is just to show a little of which the Leica is capable. This is my beautiful wife, Florangela, during dinner at the Ten 01 in the Pearl District. I used a portable, Olympus FL-36R flash (did I mention that the D-Lux 4 has a hot shoe?), bouncing it off the ceiling to create the kind of noir, glowing eyes effect.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 200, 1/160th f5.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 200, 1/160th f5.

Here’s another “easy” one – using that nice, wide lens to show the marquee, plus the cool, blue sky on a lovely day in PDX.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 1600, 1/25th f2.1.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 1600, 1/25th f2.1.

Ratcheting up the degree of difficulty, I took several of the artists in performance. The combination of being too far away and not having enough light did me in every time. I couldn’t get a sharp enough photo with good enough composition. At one point, during the sax player Joe Lovano’s set, I noticed the blue and red stage lights were creating these cool blue and red shadows. I took some of the shadows only, but they ended up looking like … shadows on a carpet. This one at least gives some perspective.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 800, 1/80th f2.8.

Leica D-Lux 4, ISO 800, 1/80th f2.8.

Black and white is more forgiving, so it was my Plan B. I tried, without success, to get something worthwhile of the great pianist, McCoy Tyner, who along with Blue Note records is celebrating the 70th anniversary of his existence. We were seated far stage right, which gave us a great view of Tyner’s technique, but nothing I could compose with his face decently composed. So I waited and waited. The adoring crowd gave Tyner a standing ovation, allowing to hold my camera higher and closer and, when he gave a little wave my way … snap! I like this shot. As Florangela would say, Tyner looks “cute.”

The frustrating thing is that I saw a lot more photos that I was unable to capture because of the limitations of my camera, my vantage point, the low lighting conditions and the understandable ban on flash photography. Not to mention the limitations of the photographer himself, of course. But the experience did teach me a couple things: 1.) action (performers) photography is near impossible in extremely low lighting while “zoomed” in completely (albeit functionally at a focal length of 60 mm), and 2.) it’s good to think a little out of the box from time to time.

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