When somebody gives you an assignment, you come back with photos. No excuses.
So, yesterday evening, I'm shooting the sound check for the Free Bridge Quintet's concert "A Celebration of Dizzy Gillespie," and my Nikon D7000 decides that it doesn't want to autofocus with the Nikon 35/2 that I was using or with the Nikon 85/1.8 that I had in my bag. Each and every image was off -- some by a lot, some by a little, but all unusable. The only other lens that I brought to the gig was a Nikon 70-200/2.8, a lovely piece of glass, but not exactly the horse for the course. Manual-focusing? In dim light with the D7000's small viewfinder, that was simply not going to work.
But I had my iPhone with me. Thank God.
Robert Jospe. Sound check. University of Virginia, 21 October 2011. [All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2011. Click on any image to see a much larger version.]
So, I had an idea that the iPhone might come to the rescue, but I also knew that it likes good light, the brighter and more even the better. Bright and even doesn't come close to describing the light on the stage of the University of Virginia's Cabell Hall.
Pete Spaar. Sound check. University of Virginia, 21 October 2011.
Where the light on the stage is bright, it shines down from directly overhead, and sharp contrast between light and shadow would challenge any sensor or film.
Guest artist Hod O'Brien. Sound check. University of Virginia, 21 October 2011.
Mostly, however, the stage is darker than you'd want it to be, and faces are often in shadow. None of this boded well for the iPhone, but I had no other choice -- use it or come back with nothing. My other cameras were at home, far enough away that going to get them was out of the question.
John D'earth. Sound check. University of Virginia, 21 October 2011.
Turns out that the iPhone saved my behind. The photos that you're looking at here have been lightly tweaked in Photoshop, but they didn't require more than an couple of minutes each to make them perfectly presentable. I'm not going to print any of these at 20x20, but they'd make nice 5x5s.
Jeff Decker. Sound check. University of Virginia, 21 October 2011.
Yes, I should have had a backup body with me. My D300 wasn't doing me any good lying around my house. The D7000, however, is new and had performed well, up until last evening. The D300, on the other hand, is battered and bruised, having seen a lot of heavy action at race tracks up and down the east coast. It didn't seem possible that that I'd run into trouble during a simple 60-minute shoot.
It occurs to me that most of the shooting that I've done with the D7000 has been with lenses that have built-in autofocus motors. I wonder if D7000s, in general, have trouble focusing with older lenses. I'll be happy to hear from anyone who's had similar (or dissimilar) experiences with D7000s.
* * *
By the way, I stayed for the concert, and it was terrific. Jeff, John, Robert, and Pete, all regular members of the Free Bridge Quintet, played up to their usual high standards. Robert brought out the Latin side of Dizzy, Jeff occasionally went off in some gloriously soulful, gut-bucket directions, John was elegant, and the foundation that Pete laid down was as solid as rock.
Hod, who once spent many hours listening to Dizzy perform in New York clubs and who has played with everyone from John Coltrane to Oscar Pettiford to Stan Getz, offered a series of dazzling, rapid-fire solos. But it was the gentle ballad that he played, accompanied by just bass and drums, that was the thriller of the evening. Damn near brought tears to my eyes.