Photography Sausage, a Side of Wampler, and a large Mountain Dew Please

There’s a big hollow tree down the road here from me
Where you lay down a dollar or two
You stroll ’round the bend and you come back again
There’s a jug full of good old mountain dew

   They call it that mountain dew
   And them that refuse it are few
   I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug
   With that good old mountain dew

My uncle Mort, he’s sawed off and short
He measures about four foot two
But he thinks he’s a giant when you give him a pint
Of that good old mountain dew

Well, my old aunt June bought some brand new perfume
If had such a sweet smelling pew
But to her surprise when she had it analyzed
It was nothing but good old mountain dew

Well, my brother Bill’s got a still on the hill
Where he runs off a gallon or two
The buzzards in the sky get so drunk they can’t fly
From smelling that good old mountain dew

Next time you have no excuse to not sing along.

‘Are you getting any good photos today?’

I get that question a lot and love hearing it because it is the opportunity for another conversation, the potential to make a new friend, to learn a new story. But ask me that question and my answer is always the same:

‘I hope so.’

Let’s explore that a bit further as we look into the process of photography (ie, how the sausage is made). Music photography is no stranger, it fully embraces at least two personal passions while never ever being dull or repetitive, even with a band that I’ve shot dozens of times over the years, such as The Wampler Brothers Band. In fact, they are the subject of the images of this post, the result of a fantastic evening at Froggie’s in Virginia Beach. When I head out the door for an evening of shooting I sometimes have a vague idea of what I’m looking to create but just as often if not more so the vibe and flow of the evening dictate the course. And tonight was exactly that second case, let’s bring a camera and a couple of lenses and see what comes out.

For the gear aficionados amongst us I exclusively shoot Fujifilm X Series cameras these days, tonight’s arsenal consisted of an X-T3 with two lenses, the 16-55 f/2.8 and the 50-140 f/2.8, two of Fuji’s ‘Red Badge’ zoom lenses. The 50-140 was an odd choice for a venue like Froggie’s I don’t recall ever shooting it there before which was 90% of the reason it got packed for the trip. Turns out it never made it off the end of my camera, every image here was from that lens. Because it was a new lens for the venue I took more shots than usual, the total was around 360 images. To put into perspective, a usual night at Froggie’s generally ends with between 100 to 200 shots, the majority of which are shot with one of two prime (non-zoom) lenses.

Sensing that I was going to have lots of images to work with, somewhere around the second verse of the first song I came up with the idea of how to present the output from the evening. I’ll create a video that shows the unedited ingredients, the .jpeg ‘straight out of camera’ images in the exact order they were taken (with a couple of exceptions as it turned out). Fujifim cameras are notorious for their .jpeg image quality so I dialed in a setting that roughly emulated an older slide film from Kodak and started seeing life through the viewfinder.

But I needed a soundtrack. Usually I grab a song from a stock photo/video/audio company with which I have a subscription, but this is the Wampler Brothers, I can do a bit better than that. Reaching into my bag of tricks (aka, photography bag) I came up with a Shure MV88+ microphone with lightning cable, a perfect match for my iPhone 11 Pro. Hitting record at just the right time netted me the bluegrass classic ‘Good Old Mountain Dew,’ the perfect accompaniment for the images.

When I got back home I grabbed the SD card and dumped the .jpeg images onto my iPad Pro, fired up my editing program LumaFusion and did some math. Wait, what? Yep, in order to get 360 images into a video you need to figure out how long each will be displayed. To keep things easy I took the total number of seconds of audio I was going to use and divided by the number of images I was going to use (360). And then set up LumaFusion to do exactly that. And then I ignored the results and kind of did my own thing anyway. But you get the point.

And here is what came out of the other end of the grinder.

But as the guy on TV used to say, ‘Wait! There’s More!’

My camera is 100% of the time set up to record .jpeg and RAW images. Translation: I had the same images in a format that is fully editable. The plan was hatched: Remake the exact same video but this time use edited images and edited audio. And that was way too ambitious. So instead I did what I would usually do with 360 images: Cull them down to what I really thought captured the experience I had and edit those to reflect what I was seeing in my head. Because that is really the essence of the art: Be present, be engaged, capture what you see in your mind and in your heart. And on a good day that entire chain of creativity is firing on all cylinders, the technique and equipment get out of the way of the art so that you are speaking in your language.

After a truly enjoyable session in Adobe Lightroom CC I came up with 19 images that reflected what was seen by the eye in my heart. It is presented below.

For the above I loaded up everything in Final Cut Pro X and set out to keep the edit out of the way of the images. Give everything enough room to bloom and grow, then move on to the next. Do I have a favorite image of the batch? Yep. Will I tell you what it is? Doubtful unless we can do that conversation in person over a beverage of choice (I’m heavy on the Diet Coke these days) because the goal of my art is to connect. Don’t ask me to define that more fully (unless of course you are coming at me with the chairs and Diet Coke thing. Then I’ll talk about it for hours.)

Usually I’d spend a few paragraphs talking about the entertainment for the evening, but this is The Wampler Brothers Band. If you haven’t seen them then fix your life. I mean it, right now. I’ll wait right here. If you are one of the legions of devotees then you already know The Deal. The entertainment was first rate, Froggie’s was doing its thing with the food and the drinks and the service and the smiles, after awhile you take these things for granted and you really really shouldn’t. Seriously, tip your servers and bartenders they earn every cent of what you leave for them and probably more!

But what really made this night?

It was all of you that were there, all of you that were fans, all of you that gave your time to be part of an evening, all of you that were willing to be present and be engaged. To push that needle ever so gently towards territory familiar and comfortable.

And last and by no means least, it was seeing Julie and Ed again. Because the world always needs more dancing, especially now. Thank-you for bringing the grace and joy back to the dance floor, that act alone made Moderna number 1 and number 2 totally worth the residual sick.

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