Halie Loren “Butterfly Blue” CD Release Show

Jazz artist Halie Loren returned to the Wildish Theater to celebrate her latest CD release, “Butterfly Blue.” We weren’t sitting in the front row like last time, so I had to rely on a longer fixed telephoto to make up the difference.

Being about 10 rows up and slightly left of center afforded a fairly clear view of all the performers, but unfortunately pianist Matt Treder was consistently blocked by the other musicians or equipment. My seat afforded a very clear view of Halie, my only nitpick being the background with the edge of a hanging projection screen crossing behind her head (though one could argue this makes things a little more interesting than just a pure black background). Normally I also like to keep “dutch” angles to a minimum, but I tilted things with Halie’s more emotive or energetic moments to mirror the mood and to try to make the background contribute a little something to the images.

Cameron in retrograde

I’ve never considered myself a luddite, but in the past couple years I’ve re-evaluated my use of personal electronic devices and have made choices based around the notion of “satisficing.” For some, the devices I use might seem downright regressive, but they satisfy my level of need / want without feeling like I’m either depriving or indulging myself.

The Phone

Kyocera Verve

My "AI" (average intelligence) phone, the Kyocera Verve.

The most significant switch I made in this age of the smartphone was going to a feature phone, or as I like to call it “a phone of average intelligence.” When I bought a tablet a few years ago (the now discontinued Google Nexus 7), I was using my smartphone less frequently. When I did use it to go on the Internet, I found it increasingly frustrating compared to the speed and size of the tablet. So rather than try to find a faster and bigger phone, I opted for a device that can just make calls and send text messages, things I do infrequently, but have a need for like anyone else. I also switched my carrier to Ting, a non-contract carrier that charges you based on what you use. I’m a pretty low volume caller and texter, so my phone bill has worked out to around $16 a month for the last year (I’d be paying at least double this to keep a smartphone).

The only time I’ve found a need for mobile data is when we travel. My wife has a smartphone, so that usually covers the bases. If I were to spring for mobile data, I’d probably get a mobile hotspot over a phone, which would allow me to use my tablet on-the-go. I haven’t reached a tipping point for that yet, since I don’t travel by myself very often, but I’d probably get something like the Karma, another pay-for-what-you-use mobile service provider.

The Watch

Timex Ironman

Great for timing contractions and seeing what time baby woke up for a feeding.

About a year ago I also started wearing a wrist watch again. The main reason I dug out my Timex Ironman was because we were getting ready to have a baby and I wanted something easy to look at to time contractions. Having a watch also turned out handy for life with a newborn and the habit just (re)stuck after that. However, this doesn’t mean I see any use for a smartwatch, especially since I don’t have a companion phone for one. I do think it’s interesting that at one point cell phones effectively did away with wearing something on your wrist, and now it’s come back, after a fashion.

The Internet

The final piece of personal satisficing I want to share concerns my home Internet service, which I get through Comcast. At one point I had a phone and Internet bundle, but did away with the phone part and kept the Internet (which I now understand is very hard to do unless you get really aggressive with the Comcast customer service rep). Not only that, I downgraded the Internet speed to the “Performance Starter” 6 mbps download / 1 mbps upload speed.

For the most part this is more than enough for our uses – the only time the speed is noticeably slow is when I’m uploading photos to Flickr, but I can easily walk away and come back to it when it’s finished. Streaming content from YouTube and the like is also plenty functional. I know I’m not getting the best deal for the performance, but the alternative is having a decent – but short-term price – and then having to get on the phone and renegotiate my rates after that term has ended. Suffice it to say, I HATE doing that sort of thing and not having to deal with customer (lack of) service on a regular basis is worth much more to me in terms of quality of life and sanity.

Not satisficed?

If you want to learn more about satisficing, a good place to start is Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice.” The book is on my list of favorites (though admittedly the first chapter is kind of tedious as he lists all the choices we have about jeans, laundry detergent, etc.).

Also, check out this TED Talk:

Ballet Fantastique’s An American Christmas Carol with Halie Loren

I’ve always got my eye out for a compact camera that does well with the challenges of concert photography. The Olympus Stylus 1 was the latest to get my attention with its constant f/2.8 aperture and 300mm equivalent maximum zoom. Rather than plunk down the money for an outright purchase, I decided to opt for a rental through LensRentals.com. Overall it was a good experience with both the device and the rental shop, though ultimately it didn’t compel me to purchase the camera (I’m kind of holding out for the next model to have a larger sensor).

What about it?

After reading photographer Neil Van Niekerk’s article about “displaying instead of saying,” I re-evaluated the content of my “About Me” page and ultimately decided to remove the page entirely. My website has always been just a fancy journal about myself and my interests, rather than a means to support and build a business, but Neil’s point is still relevant in terms of keeping things simple. If a person wants to know about me, the blog and various links I’ve included are the best way to do that, not some semi-effusive musing about where I’ve been and where I’m going. However if the goal of the site changes, I’ll likely reinstate the “About Me” page with content more aligned to what Neil advises.

Halie Loren “Simply Love” CD release show

The first time I heard jazz singer Halie Loren, I couldn’t believe this caliber of artist was 1) living in Eugene and 2) not more well known. I still can’t explain the latter, since the quality of her vocals puts her up there with the likes of Diana Krall; plus, her interpretations of standards like “For Sentimental Reasons” and “Moon River” (two of the tracks off her latest album, “Simply Love”) are, well, not very standard at all.

As to why she lives in a town better known as the “Home of the Ducks,” it’s because she doesn’t have to live in a Los Angeles or New York City to know success. While her following in her home state is, ironically, kind of modest, she has a devoted fan base in Japan and has toured there a number of times, to sold out crowds. Her choice to live where she does is consequently a perk for the fans who share the same area code, as they get to hear her on a regular basis and experience CD release shows like the one at the Wildish Theater on September 21st.

Having been to Springfield’s downtown performing arts theater once before, I knew the setup would be a little unconventional with its stage at the ground level and rows of stadium seating extending up from there. Not wanting an elevated perspective to the photos meant having to choose seats toward the front, and since I didn’t know if I’d get a clear shot over viewers’ heads, this meant having to shoot from the front row. In hindsight, the perspective would have been fine in the second or third row, but since this wasn’t a rock show, I was also sensitive to disturbing anyone sitting in front of me with the noise from my camera.

When we took our seats, I found myself closer to the center than I prefer (I don’t like to have the microphone blocking the performer’s mouth in most cases), and wound up switching seats with my wife after the intermission. But ironically, the shot featured above, my favorite of the evening, was taken from my original position.

The other band members were not lit as brightly or evenly as Loren, metering at least a stop difference in most cases. The shadows were also pretty harsh, as seen on the bassist, Mark Schneider. There was a similar harshness of shadows on the accordion player, Sergei Teleshev, but I found when he turned towards the light there was some improvement.

Lighting on the pianist, Matt Treder, and drummer, Brian West, was more even, and while I had a nice clear shot of West, Treder’s back was almost turned away from me. While I probably could have gotten out of my seat to get other angles, that would have most certainly disturbed the other audience members in my row, who were seated no more than 12 feet away from Loren and her band. Going up the aisle to get a wide shot of the stage and its full complement of musicians likely wouldn’t have caused a problem, but most of the time I was just content to soak up the great music.