Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Jazz

The Jazz Jam

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Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G | 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Bridget was recently a featured artist at a weekly Jazz Jam here in San Francisco! It was pretty exciting for her to be able to sing for about half an hour straight with a very talented band.

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G | 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G | 1/640 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G | 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800

Each of us has our own creative passions. For me for course, it’s visual art through photography. Bridget’s creative outlet is music. She studied musicology and jazz vocal performance in college, and now enjoys writing her own music as well as jamming with other jazz artists.

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G | 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600

Jazz is a fascinating art form. There’s a lot of improvisation involved, and yet each band member cooperates to ensure harmony. If you watch carefully, you can see the band members communicate with one another. Sometimes, it’s a simple nod to another player, letting him know he’s up for his solo. Other times, it’s a hand signal or some other cue.

The beauty of a jazz ensemble is that a good band doesn’t necessarily need to rehearse beforehand. In this case, Bridget simply handed the band a set of charts that let them know what chords are involved in the piece. Seconds before they’d start a song, she’d snap her fingers and count her desired tempo, and they’d just go.  No rehearsal, completely impromptu. It was amazing.

It’s always fascinating to see her work with a band. As a jazz vocalist, you don’t simply sing while the band follows your lead. You’re just another instrument in the ensemble. When jamming on the fly, you have to be aware of what’s happening within the band at every moment, and know how to communicate with the members during the song in order to execute certain portions of the piece at the right time. Bridget is completely in her element in this regard…I always find myself thinking “how in the world does she know what to do!!!?”

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G | 1/40 sec, f/1.4, ISO 5000

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G | 1/400 sec, f/2, ISO 800

It was a beautiful performance. Bridget sings a lot at home, but you can really see her passion ignite when she’s on stage with other Jazz musicians. Couldn’t be more proud =)

Written by Jonathan

May 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

Jazz at Douglas Beach House

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This beautiful sunset was the backdrop for a lovely evening with the wife last night.  We headed to Half Moon Bay in the late afternoon, and enjoyed the sunset from an old beach house that happened to be a wonderful venue for live music.

One thing I noticed, sitting up there in the balcony at Douglas Beach House, was all the grey hair! Bridget and I were among the youngest people in the crowd, and by no small margin. It made me think about the state of Jazz music these days. It’s such a beautiful art form, and yet over time, seems to be becoming less and less appreciated, especially by today’s youth. Indeed, Bridget and I often go alone to these shows, as many of our friends just aren’t that interested in Jazz.

That being said, it sure was refreshing to see people my age up there on the stage keeping Jazz alive. These guys were absolutely incredible. We had Josh Nelson (above) on the piano.  Had a quick chat with him after the show. Great guy, extremely talented. He seems to have played with all of today’s Jazz greats, even Natalie Cole, with whom he told us he’s arranging to perform with yet again.

Dayna Stephens on the tenor sax. What a sound… I don’t think I have any more words beyond that. Simply amazing.

Dave Robaire on the bass. If you look at the lower left of this image, you can see the top of a black music stand that, for most of the performance, completely blocked my view of this musician. Fortunately, Dayna lowered the stand towards the end of the show, which helped me get a clear shot.

Dan Schnelle on the drums. The ensemble played a song that he wrote last night. Each of these musicians were just oozing with talent.

When sunlight was no longer pouring in from the west-facing windows, all I had to work with was the stage lighting. The lights were gelled orange and yellow (with the exception of one un-gelled spot on the pianist), which created a color cast that seemed to work with Dayna Steven’s darker skin tone, but made the rest of the band look decidedly yellow-skinned. Hence, the black and white conversion on select images.

When the show was over, we enjoyed some light conversation with the artists, and Bridget rushed to the stage to take a look at the Piano:

What’s so special about this Piano? It’s the same piano Bill Evans himself played at this very venue many years ago.  A Jazz musician who had a huge influence on the genre, the work of Bill Evans is a source of continued inspiration for Bridget’s music.

Don’t let Jazz die, people!


Nikon D700 | 24mm f/1.4G | 50mm f/1.4G (roll over images for exif)

Written by Jonathan

February 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm

A Night at the Jazz Cafe in Berkeley

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[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/2.8 1/25 second ISO800]

This happened a little while ago, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to post about another of my wife’s recent performances. She spent some time this year training at the Jazz School in Berkeley, California. The training included a performance at the school’s Jazz Cafe, where she had the opportunity to put on a show in front of a full house, together with three very talented instrumentalists.

I roamed around with my latte in one hand and camera in the other, snapping away as the performance continued:

[ Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/2.8 1/40 sec ISO1600]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/2.8 1/50 sec ISO1600 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G at f/2 1/160 sec ISO1600 ]

Bridget sang two beautiful jazz pieces!

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/2.8 1/60 sec ISO800]

Some other people sang too, but I didn’t come for them 😉

[ Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/2.8 1/30 sec ISO1600]

The crowd actually goes way farther back than I’ve shown here. It was packed inside! Many in the audience were friends and family that showed up to support Bridget’s portion of the performances.

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/2.8 1/20 sec ISO800]

I’m always all for my wife pursuing her love of music whenever she can. I know that in photography, you gotta keep shooting to keep improving, and  it’s important spend as much time as you can taking the kind of photographs that you enjoy taking in order to keep your passion for the craft alive. Same thing in the art of music it seems. Bridget seems to get better and better with every performance. One thing is for sure: wherever and whenever she performs, I’ll be right there with her, camera in hand.

Jazz at Epicenter Cafe

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If you live in San Francisco and love Jazz, great coffee, good food, and a nice selection of beer and wine, you must check out Epicenter Cafe. It’s a great place to kick back with your laptop and browse the web, get some studying done, or just hang out with friends.

The interior has a very “South of Market” industrial look to it, with modern furniture and art, waxed concrete flooring as well as exposed concrete pillars, electrical conduits, plumbing and air ducts.  During the day, tons of light floods in through large, floor-to-ceiling windows.

The live music, however, is the most important element! Every Sunday evening, the cafe hosts a “Jazz Jam,” which is basically the Jazz version of an open mic.  If you can play/sing Jazz and read a lead sheet, you’re free to perform. There was a great group there yesterday evening:

Chris (on trumpet you see below) is a friend of mine. We met with a bunch of other friends to see him jam with the other instrumentalists.

My wife also brought a few charts along and performed two pieces. I decided to video record the performances instead of taking stills. Used my D300s fitted with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC for the two clips. I must say, Vibration Control makes a huge difference in steadiness when recording video while hand-holding a DSLR. Check out the clips below!

The first clip is her second performance, where she sang “On Green Dolphin Street.” Video was recorded in 720p resolution. The second clip is the song “September in the Rain,” accidentally recorded in a lower resolution. Oh well!

Jazz jam sessions are rare in San Francisco, so my wife and I were really excited about this opportunity. The band was thrilled with her performance (as was I), and invited her back with specific requests as well. Good job, honey. Truly beautiful!

Jazz at Les Joulins

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Tonight, we met with friends at Les Joulins Jazz Bistro in downtown San Francisco. We enjoyed some live Jazz to go along with our late-night dinner and drinks, and during their first break, had a chat with the band.

Bridget offered to sing a tune, and the band agreed!

She sang “Bye Bye Blackbird,” and sounded great! They told us we could come back anytime and perform. Very cool.

This particular venue had terrible lighting for photography. Most of the light was actually behind the band, which made things pretty tricky. Pushed my gear hard to get this shots, as you can see below:

Camera Specs:

Nikon D300s + Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G:

Top Image: f/1.8 ISO3200 1/40 second
Second Image:  f/1.8 ISO3200 1/30 second
Third Image:  f/1.8 ISO2800 1/60 second

Written by Jonathan

April 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Cocktail Party + Lightroom 3 Beta Noise Reduction

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Nikon D300s + SB-900 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/4 ISO1600 1/15 Second

This past Saturday evening, we were invited to a friend’s house in North Beach for some cocktails. We met lots of new people and had a great time. The hosts asked Bridget to sing a couple jazz tunes with Chris on the trumpet, and set up a spot on the roof for the performance. Ambient light was provided by…nothing…except for some hanging, incandescent, decorative lighting. Photographic yikes!!! I had one SB-900 to work with, so I set up my camera in manual, cranked up the ISO, set the flash to fire at rear curtain, and draaaaagged the shutter to get as much ambiance as possible, trying to make sure the little event looked like it happened on some sort of rooftop and not in outer space. As I uploaded these images to Lightroom 3 Beta, I was amazed at how well the new noise reduction tool worked on these photos. More on that in a bit.

Bridget and Chris

Nikon D300s + SB-900 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 26mm f/3.5 ISO1600 1/15 Second


Nikon D300s + SB-900 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 28mm f/2.8 ISO1600 1/15 Second

Bridget and Chris (above) entertaining the many guests (below) crowding the small San Francisco apartment. Those small hanging lamps you see on the wall there were the only lights helping me expose the scene. Gaaah…

And then….there was Alex:


Nikon D300s + SB-900 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/4 ISO1600 1/15 Second

Alex Sings

Nikon D300s + SB-900 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 38mm f/3.5 ISO1600 1/15 Second

Alex sang something interesting. Yes, very interesting. And Chris did his best to keep up with him on the trumpet. Here was their audience:

The Crowd

Nikon D300s + SB-900 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.5 ISO1600 1/15 Second

We headed back downstairs after the performance and enjoyed some drinks. Bridget and I brought a bottle of Absinthe, a spirit that was banned in the US for nearly 100 years. It’s some potent stuff for sure, and cannot be enjoyed without a good amount of dilution in water. Bridget made me a great mix by pouring ice water through sugar cubes on top of a specially made spoon into an ounce of Absinthe. The green alcohol turns a milky white as you pour the water in, which I believe is the result of releasing the herbs that the spirit is distilled in.


Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 31mm f/4 ISO1100 1/15 Second


Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta: Noise Reduction

For a few days now, I’ve been using Lightroom 3 Beta to handle my processing needs, and so far I’m really impressed by the new features they’ve added. One of the highlight features for me is the new and improved noise reduction tool in the develope module. The noise reduction tools available in Lightroom 2 are just sorta-kinda ok. It looks like Adobe really worked at improving noise reduction this time around. As of now, luminance reduction is not available in Lightroom 3 Beta, so I’ve only had a chance to work with the improved color noise reduction slider. But boy does it work! Check out a couple of 1:2 crops from the first image I posted above that demonstrate the new color noise reduction’s effectiveness in Lightroom 3 Beta:

Comparison Noise Reduction

Left: LR3 Beta Noise Reduction Applied / Right: No Noise Reduction Applied

You can see a drastic difference in color noise between the two crops above (cropped from the upper left part of the frame from the top image in this post). The color noise reduction algorithm employed by Lighroom 3 Beta is extremely effective. In the image on the left, color noise was virtually gone at a mere 19% reduction setting.

That’s all for now!

For the Crowd

Ah, good times…..

Written by Jonathan

November 16, 2009 at 7:10 am