Concert iPhoneography

By Jeff Insel

I am a very lucky guy, in my semi-retirement I found a job at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) as a driver for the Theater department (and now also a p/t Artist Coordinator). I am a very lucky guy because I’ve always loved live music – of all kinds. I get to meet and talk with the Artists and get to know them a bit. And, having an interest in photography, I sometimes get to take some photographs of the artists performing with my iPhone.

The biggest challenge is the lack of good light on stage, the second challenge is that the artists are almost always in motion. Most of the artists allow patrons to take photos during the first few songs and always without flash. I usually take photos from the wings at the side of the stage and sometimes from behind the stage if the stage door is open – usually because they’re using a sound monitor there and I have access backstage. It’s almost impossible to get good photos from the very back – 70 feet away – do to the concert lighting, though I often try.

The most rewarding part is often times, after the show, artists will be out front signing CD’s and posing for photos – which anyone can participate in so I often do as it makes for a fun collection, such as with Laurence Juber and Keiko Matsui below.

It’s fun to post the photos on Instagram and sometimes email them to friends and family who are usually envious of my opportunity. Sometimes I make collages and try different filters as with the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Del McCoury Band. Mostly it’s just fun to do and once in a while I get an interesting photo out of it.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Should You Purchase a Lens Right Away

By John Frelich

Think of the times you look at a lens and think of a trip you’re ready to take. If only you had a 100-400mm lens to get some good zoom images.  Then you go to the various Photographic stores and see the price somewhere around $2200 for a camera manufacturer’s product. The prices can range higher or you consider a secondary manufacturer but still look at prices around $1500. Then you explore the grey market but fear something going wrong with the lens and no one will repair it. Finally, you look at refurbished or used lenses but are still apprehensive.

Well why not consider renting a lens for a weekend or longer trip? I just did a weekend workshop and rented a lens from Tempe Camera. Picking it up on a Thursday afternoon and bringing it back on a Monday afternoon cost me $93. The  price for a similar used lens is around $1700 so was it worth it? I tested it out on around 2,000 images and found that the quality of the images was “Good to Very Good.”

Notice I didn’t say “Great.”

When I evaluated the number of times I could rent the lens before I would equal the current value it was greater than 15 times. How many times will I be shooting images requiring this lens? If I hit 15 it will take several years. By that time will Nikon make a 100-400mm lens that will give me what I want? This zoom lens has been made for several years now so the technology that was used is waning.

Also secondary manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma are advancing their products at a fast pace. So if you’re not using a good lens on a regular basis, rental is a great way to get limited uses at a comfortable price. BUT, not all rentals are the same. A good camera store keeps their products in excellent condition. When online you must also consider the shipping and insurance costs both ways. That can be greater than the rental cost of the lens.

The key to success is if you live in a metro area like Phoenix and can find a local store that in essence let’s you try a product (rental) it gives you the best way to limit expenditures.

P.S. I have the first model of this lens and it serves as a paperweight because of its slow focusing and “soft” results. If you’re rich please ignore this advice. You won’t need it.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops