As my multimedia ideas and capabilities have evolved, it has been nice to intersect them with the evolution of jazz trumpeter Thomas Marriott, one of my favorite musicians and friend. Marriott on Sunday headlined a concert for the Earshot Jazz Festival, considered by Downbeat to be “Seattle’s most important annual jazz event.” The concert, at Tula’s in Seattle, highlighted Marriott’s own works, which are formidable, and Marriott had a great supporting cast, which included local sax player Mark Taylor and pianist Travis Shook, an electric performer who was in from New York City for the show.
I’m a big fan of jazz and a big fan of trumpet players, dating back to Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Miles Davis and stretching to Wynton Marsalis, whom I started following when he was just a young lion in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Marriott is moving into the realm of the former because he’s more of an artist than musician, with inventive and emotive approaches to his tunes. I never get tired of his music.
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This is my third post about Marriott, and each has discussed a shooting (still and video) environment with its own unique challenges. The first shoot took place at Ama Ama, a restaurant and bar with no stage and little ambient lighting; the second shoot was at The Triple Door, with its big stage and good stage lighting. Tula’s, which has been the local showcase for jazz, is more typical of jazz clubs you’ll find in other parts of the country, with a small stage engulfed by tables and a bar, with stage lighting that is a bit more localized.
As with 98 percent of jazz performances, this one took place at night and in challenging light, destined to put my Nikon D3 and Nikon D700 to the ultimate test. I have very fast glass — a 200mm f2 and 85mm f1.4 — but I also want to change up once in a while. This time I brought along a 12-24mm f2.8, wide-angle lens. While 2.8 is fast, it often doesn’t cut it when it comes to my usual photographic gig, which is shooting girl’s basketball players in dimly lit gymnasiums.
In the following, I was going for a tools-of-the-trade shot and wanted pretty much everything clear, thus the larger f-stop. This is hand-held at 1/8 shutter speed, so bracing and grip, while always important, is even more so. The D3 delivers great quality at an astronomic ISO.
Here, I wanted to show where the notes emerged. I was head on, with the 200 mm on a monopod. It’s the D700 that this time delivers at an even higher ISO.
As we’ve shown time and time again, the latest generation Nikon pro and prosumer bodies deliver admirably in low-light conditions. I almost take it for granted. Several of the stills in the multimedia piece were taken in very little ambient light. The challenges here mostly were trying to get the right vantage while maneuvering in very tight quarters by squeezing between customers or squatting on the floor — all of which is much harder with a video camera.
Speaking of which, my video camera is new. I swapped my larger, somewhat nicer Sony for a JVC GY-HM100U, which doesn’t function as well in low light, but is much smaller and thus more useful for me since I travel so much. That said, the unit is a marvel of ever-shrinking electronics, with three CCD sensors, XLR jacks or built-in stereo mic (I used an external and got a little better sound than I had with the Sony), and lots of features in a camera that basically fits in your palm.
The biggest deal about the JVC is that it records onto little SDHC cards in formats native to Final Cut Pro. That means, yes, no converting files before importing them to Final Cut. The workflow starts by dragging files off the card directly into Final Cut for editing. This is the only way I could have produced this piece (even as uncomplicated as the video is) so quickly. In fact, it took much longer to edit and process the still photos. The end result is that I believe I used stills in a video as effectively as ever.