Beside Jimi Hendrix’s quote (which is the title of this piece), I always thought Bob Marley sang it best when he stated “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
That’s why we do crazy things like drive 1 1/2 hours through a torrential rain storm just to spend a few hours soaking up tunes and witnessing the creation of magic. That’s exactly what we did on Saturday, after working a morning overtime shift, Kim and I hopped in the car and headed west to lovely Blairstown NJ to catch the second night of the East Coast debut of The Contribution.
Yes, I was excited about going to Blairstown because it’s the location of the “town” scenes in the original Friday the 13th … and yes, I got my photo taken by the arches that Robbi Morgan walks through, but I was even more excited to see The Contribution. Tim Carbone, Phil Ferlino, Matt Butler, Keith Mobsey and Jeff Miller together on stage in an amazing ensemble of master musicians.
But sadly… I left my gear at home. Never being to the theater, I wasn’t sure of their policy, and in hindsight I was glad I did. Not just because of the awkward layout of the place (remember this is a real theater, but also because the one photog that was there was bordering on embarrassing. After seeing her lie down on stage, I was ready for her to stand up on the bar to get shots. She must have been with the band, or they didn’t mind, but it’s that kind of total unprofessional attitude that gives us concert photographers a bad name. I will note though that there were at least two other guys with SLRs who managed to stay out of the way and hidden.
Anyway… as the band played, my mind drifted back a few months and only a few miles away to The Sherman. Ahh, the Sherman theater. As readers of my blog will know, the Thanksgiving Railroad Earth shows are pretty much the most important part of my musical year. This year the boys raged in style, taking over the whole town and providing before and after entertainment in the local bars. It was like a good appetizer and desert, but as always, it’s the main course that counts. Once again, Railroad Earth brought their best game, and burned the place down. Knowing the Sherman was very camera friendly, and also knowing I wasn’t going to lie on stage or stand on the bar, I came back with some quality stuff.
I also managed to get autographs from the whole band on photos I had taken of them, to add to my collection.
So we drove back from an incredible night with The Contribution, with an awesome autographed CD, under thankfully clear skies. You know what I think is the one good thing about music? Just when you think you’ve heard it all… it’s time for another show.
Here’s some of the shots of Railroad Earth November 2012, the rest can be seen here
Below is an interview I took part in with Colin Butterworth of the “Just Takin’ Pictures” group on Facebook…” Usually I’m the one doing the interviews, but this month the tables were turned and it was my turn in the hot seat…
A conversation with Brian Walter
By Colin Butterworth in Just Takin’ Pictures
We have a treat this month. Instead of Brian interviewing one of us, I have interviewed Brian. I couldn’t pass up the chance to return to New York to do the interview.
I had the great pleasure to meet Brian in 2010 when my wife and I visited New York. Brian was so gracious to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel in Manhattan. Not only that, he gave us some amazing insights into New York. I think this shows what a great person Brian is and I am thrilled to call him a friend.
Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man, the legend, Brian Walter.
1. Standard question, what is in your camera bag? What equipment and programs do you use? Also, if you could add one thing to your camera bag, what would it be?
I’m very happy to say the bag is getting pretty full. I’ve got two bodies, the Nikon D90 and the Nikon D7000. My glass collection is growing, with a Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.5, a Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR DX, a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AF-S and the newest, a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM. I’ve got two SB900s and wireless transmitters, no name, I’m still saving up for Pocket Wizards. Ive got an awesome set of macro filters which I got for $20.00 off EBAY. Oh, and safety pins, a flashlight, tie wraps and tons of other little nic-naks.
Being a nerd, I custom built my PC to suit my photography. Its powered by a 2.9ghz quad core and 4 gig of RAM. I have a dedicated 2.0 Tb drive for my photography work, which is backed up on a 2.0 TB external. I’ve also got a 120BG hard drive that is a dedicated scratch disc for Photoshop and my RAW file cache. I’d be a mess without Adobe LightRoom, it’s the center of my photo-editing world. That’s augmented with Adobe Photoshop, but every since the release of LightRoom 3.x, I find myself using PS less and less.
If I could add one thing????? OMG, how could I choose??? Well, I guess what I find myself dreaming mostly about these days is the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G AF-S ED.
2. Most people have different stories behind why they take photos, what is your story? What lead you to photography?
I guess you can say it runs in the family. My grandfather was a photographer, and my mother was too. I grew up with her always taking photos of us.
The biggest factor in myself turning to photography was when I discovred that through it. I finally had something to share. I could never play an instrument, or sing, which really was fine with me since never liked the spotlight much anyway, but I discovered that by staying in the shadows, camera in hand, I could capture what was going on Afterwards, when the music had faded and the equipment was packed up, it was my images that brought people back to that moment. Recently when I was working with a bride getting ready I heard her squeal with delight and say to her bridemaids “He’s photographing my shoes!!!” and she was so happy I was paying attention to the little things.
3. You brought this group together when you created “Just Takin’ Pictures”. What motivated you to create the group?
I am a knowledge junkie. I love picking people’s brains and learning all I can. I feel that everyone has something to contribute, from the beginner to the most seasoned pro. I also learn a lot from looking at other people’s work. Whether it’s the use of light, or the way subjects are posed in a frame, I study other people’s work, and find ways to apply it to my own. I feel it’s the best way to grow. Even if I don’t comment, I look at every image that gets posted not only in the group, but on everyone’s pages. I’ve spent twenty minutes sometimes pouring over every detail. In your case for example, I doubt I’m ever going to be in the locations you’ve been, and see the sights you see, but I am always studying your expertise in composition and it flashes through my head when I look through my own lens.
4. Each month you have presented these wonderful interviews, of our fellow group members, with insightful and thoughtful questions. Is this your natural talent shining through as a journalist, or have you had some training?
Oh no way, I’m no Edward Morrow, I just like to talk. (Before I go on, I want to point out that this idea was borrowed from a photo forum I was on. I loved the idea, but felt it was never used to it’s full potential.) As I said I’m a knowledge junkie and I’ve discovered over the years – mostly in talking to musicians – that artists usually don’t know how to put an answer into words. However if you approach it from a round about way, you’ll get a lot more insight into it. Instead of finding out why someone did one thing, find out what makes them tick and you’ll get a much clearer picture. There is so much talent in our group, and everyone deserves to be in the spotlight, it’s just my pleasure to help with that.
5. What is your favourite and least favourite thing to photography? Also, if you could photography anything in the world, what would you take a photo of?
My favorite thing to photography? Life. I did the flowers and trees and gravestones thing for a very long time and I’ve grown bored with it. These days I love seeing the joy and excitement of life reflected in some one’s eye. The passion a musician gives his art, the smile of a happy couple, the laughter of a child. Of course, it goes without saying that above all else, seeing my kids and my family happy and laughing as I take the shot is the best thing in the world. My least favorite thing? I don’t know if I could point a specific thing, but more like specific situations. It’s that client who won’t co-operate. It’s when my kids are in that mood and won’t smile, or at least feign interest. And worst of all, it’s when the god damn stage lights aren’t where I need them to be, there’s too much smoke and the freaking mic stands are in the way!
If I could give up all responsibilities? Photograph whatever I wanted??? Well, See you guys later, I’m going on tour. Don’t even care with who, I’m just hitting the big stage, sneaking in the shadows at the Hollywood Bowl or the Royal Albert Hall waiting for “that moment”
6. You have a wonderful family who obviously mean a lot to you. How has/does your family affect your photography?
Wonderful doesn’t cut it, I’ve got the best family in the world and I can see it reflected in every photo I take. The love and inspiration they give me what keeps me going. My two sons, and Kim’s son as well, are my source of joy and relaxation when I’m not working. They keep me young at heart and remind that the simplest things in life can make you the happiest.
On top of that I’ve got the love of a fantastic woman who is just what I need in life. She laughs at my crazy, creative ideas, and then immediately starts working with me trying to them into reality. She’s also my business partner, and she handles the stuff I can’t even begin to deal with. Between sessions she’s handling prices, advertising, and booking the next session. Once we get to the session she handles everything from setting up the next shot (which is mandatory for large weddings) to fusing with dresses, fixing ties, and giving out corsages. I’m serious when I say I have no idea how I could try to do anything without her. Without her, Grasp The Moment Photography would still be an idea in my head.
7. I personally think you live in the greatest city I have ever visited! I found there were endless photo opportunities there during my brief visit. Do you ever find yourself struggling for subject matter of lacking inspiration to take photos in New York?
Yes, NYC, being the capital of the planet, is always full of things to see and do. I don’t live in the middle of the hustle and bustle, though. My neighborhood is a quiet one, with lots of trees and no skyscrapers. With that being said, being a photographer in NYC sometimes presents more problems than it solves. For starters, the competition is fierce. There are over 8 million people in the five boros, and almost as many digital cameras. Everything is big in NYC and weddings are no exception. Seeing that I’m still just starting out, I’m nowhere near ready to break into the market in my own hometown. Space is also an issue, living in a second floor apartment mean there’s hardly any room for us, forget considering a home studio.
8. Inspiration can come in many guises, artists, works of art, people, family etc. and not only one thing can inspire us to take photos. From where or what do you draw your inspiration from?
I find the best inspiration comes from being confident in yourself, your abilities and being lost in te moment. Worrying about details, and anything else except for what you’re doing, turns photography an arduous chore. That’s why I think learning about your gear, and how it works, is such a vital part of the process. I find most photographers want to hurry up and get over with the basics, but when your equipment can become an extension of yourself, and you can command it and make it do what you want, when you want, you will find yourself in a zone where the images just begin to flow.
9. You have been active in taking concert photos in recent times and you are also branching out to weddings and other photography sessions. You are also a certified professional. Where would you like your photography to take you in the future? Do you think it could be a viable career?
I don’t know about a full time career, at least for now. I’ve got too many financial responsibilities and obligations to jump in feet first and quit my day job. I wouldn’t mind picking up some more weddings – we already have some book for the summer of 2012 – and some more session work. But I’ll always be true to my love of concert photography, and I’m sure you’ll still see me on the side of a stage, camera in hand.
10. We have unfortunately come to my final question. As we touched on in my interview I had the privilege to travel around the world on my honeymoon which was a trip of a lifetime. If you had the chance to travel around the world what locations would you like to visit and capture through your lens?
Well it’s no secret that I left my heart in San Francisco. I was there last summer and fell in love with the town a million times over. I could very easily see myself living on the west coast, driving through the amazing beaches, mountains and deserts of California, taking it all in, and seeing what other moments I could grasp.
Now Brian, please select three of your images you’d like to share with us…
Only three photos to share???
Ok … first is this one
This one from my latest wedding. It was done after
the ceremony as we were doing family shots. The sun was setting, and I was worrying about loosing the natural light for all the family shots I did. As Kim ran around getting “who is in this photo” and “who is in the next one.” I kept one eye on that sun. Thankfully it worked and I got everything I needed to get in. As we were wrapping up, I looked at the sun again and suddenly saw it differently. I quickly grabbed the bride and groom and positioned them with the golden rays of the sun behind them. I don’t even think I told them to kiss, they were just that much in love. Why this photo represents to me, is an accomplishment on my part, because it was more than a “happy accident” I knew what I wanted it to look like and I what I needed to do to get that result.
Next I had to go back to my love of music…
One of those moments when the lights hit just right, the mic stand wasn’t in the way, everything lined up. Everyone else on stage seemed to move just out of the shot, and I took it. It just so happened to be Johnny Grubb’s last east coast show, which makes the shot even that much more special.
My crazy guys. There are no fake smiles in this shot, no forced expression, just pure goofiness, which is where my boys are the happiest. Being crazy, loving life, and enjoying our time together. Its photos like this that just keep me looking for the next shot.
With a mighty “Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa” the silence is broken. Finally… after what seems like a year of waiting (ok, it’s only be 8 months) Railroad Earth has announced the 2011 Thanksgiving shows.
My regular blog readers know how important these shows are in my life. (Here) It’s pretty much the high point of my year. Driving away from the Sherman on Sunday morning, Kim will begin the countdown until the next year.
Well this year Railroad Earth is doing it in style. With hotel room deals, pre and post show parties, they’re turning the quiet hamlet of Stroudsburg PA into Railroad Earth central. It’s being called The Horn O’Plenty Getaway. It’s going to be an awesome time, Kim and I can’t wait. Railroad Earth is an amazing band, the music will be amazing, our best friends will be there … and as always Bob will guide us from above, and dance next to us in the shadows of the Sherman. Join us this year…
Here are a few from last year’s shows… even more can be found one my site… here
Lots more Railroad Earth images from the past few years are on my site here
As the miles rolled under the tires and we got closer and closer, the grip around my throat got tighter. What was looming ahead of us was as big as the great outdoors and despite the fact I was driving like a low flying rocket, part of me wasn’t looking forward to reaching my destination. I tried to vocize it, and all I could manage to get out was “it sucks he won’t be there”.
Thanksgiving weekend in Stroudsburg PA could only mean one thing – Railroad Earth. The band grew out of this area and every year they come off whatever tour they’re doing, they come home. I’ve been seeing them since 2005 in the Sherman Theater, a beautiful old theater and pretty much the only venue in this isolated place in the northeast.
Every show at the Sherman has been with Bob, and in fact he looked forward to this yearly celebration in his own backyard. He’d start bugging me about it by August.
Last year Bob slipped after 9 years of sobriety and the methadone he shot stopped his heart and dropped him dead on the floor of his house, walking distance from the Sherman. It was the biggest heart I’ve ever known and his end was tragic and stupid.
His death haunted me the whole year. Its been an eventful year, to say the least, and not having Bob there for counsel has been rough. Around the summer I announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to the RRE Thanksgiving shows even if I had to walk there. Now I was going, and with every exit sign I passed I contemplated turning around.
Then Kim mentioned the sky.
Being an afternoon in late fall the sun had begun setting. It found holes in the clouds and it’s rays shot out and filled the sky with really trippy patterns. Soon the clouds on the horizon parted and the half the sky became as bright as day as the rest turned dark as night. As we drove along the clouds in the sky thinned out and long purple streaks filled the sky. I laughed because I knew it was Bob. I pictured him playing with the big dials that controlled the sun and clouds with that big goofy grin he always had when he was up to no good. As we crossed the Delaware river the sun slipped below the horizon.
Yes, Railroad Earth blew the roof off the place. Friday night they burned the place down and then on Saturday they rebuilt it only to burn it down again. Bob would have loved the shows. I had my camera, found a nice spot at the foot of the stage and shot away. Friends surrounded me, and it was so good to see them again. Over dinner before handed we toasted Bob and then danced our asses off, even Kim, who was right in the thick of it for both nights.
I have a lot of “internet friends” who I’ve met over the years, most Bob met as well, but he always had one up on me. Well she was there Saturday night, to my surprise. Haha Bob. She gave me such a great hug too.
I came away feeling, for lack of a better word, healed. The music washed over me, and when they played “Seven Story Mountain” the words really dug into me.
“Its a seven story mountain
Its a long long life ahead
Got to find a light to fill my heart again.”
That’s when I felt Bob slap me across the back of the head again.
Yes he’s gone and I’m gonna miss him until the day we meet again, but that’s not gonna be for awhile. In the meantime he’s gonna be pulling some strings to get me amazing skies and mind blowing shows. Its not about what I’ve lost, but about what I have and about all I have yet to receive.
Like next Thanksgivings RRE shows at The Sherman…