Jazz is one of my passions. The joy that can be found in a simple bass line is akin to communion with God for me. At one point in my life, I was certain that when I retired I would be one of those old guys who drag their double bass from club to club to play dinner music for the aficionados. Sadly, a small guy with tiny hands can rack up the strains from playing, and there is no market for old guys playing bass in this city. Still, as a teacher I get a chance to dust off the axe every blue moon to perform for the boys. I get stage fright. I worry about being authentic and playing for their amusement rather than my own ego. Today…I just played, and it felt amazing.
When I was growing up in Charlottetown I was not the cool kid. I had nothing going for me other than being willing to experiment with the artistic opportunities that might come my way. We had no money for real lessons, but a kind teacher at Birchwood Junior High, Perry Williams, took me in and gave me lessons on jazz in grade 9. Yeah, I could not read music charts, nor did I have an ear for music, but I had a way of moving the beat by coming in just behind it – sort of like Me’Shell or Sting does. I played guitar then, but eventually I realized that what I truly loved was bass. The bass is what I was fortunate enough to play with two students today who just killed it in terms of vibe and risk-taking; never underestimate how far those two things will take a 12 year old.
One thing that I abhor is losing a great image due to terrible lighting or pixelation. Everybody has the problem of capturing a glorious moment on their cell phone or point n’ shoot, only to find it being a digital cacophony. While one of the teachers was able to kindly capture the performance on video, the stills in such light were terrible, but I really, really wanted a photograph to remind me of how I felt playing in this moment. The only option is to experiment with Photoshop CS6, my Nik filters and a few other tricks in an attempt to salvage the fuzz and turn it into an asset.
I purchased CS6 and Lightroom 4 last week. So far I am enamoured with the new look and the quality of the algorithms. For the first two photographs featured, I wanted to create two entirely different pieces. The first was inspired by the old cigarette cards that baseball players had in the golden age of baseball. By using a frame from Graphic Authority and a few filters, I was able to rework a shot of me being a monster and laying down the solid line. It is not clear, but it is a solid asset that I could always show a friend while telling the story of Jonah and the Whale [our band name].
The second image used CS6’s Oil Paint filter. The filter is new, and I just wanted to see what it does. What I loved about this filter is that it allowed me to keel the colour of my Kubicki Factor fretless bass but eliminate the noise from the video. The image is abstract, but it offers a coolness and emotion that works on many levels.
Finally, I worked with a 1/2 portrait capture [ I used Snap Pro Z to capture the images from the Quicktime] that I simply turned into a sepia, high contrast, smooth image. Nothing special here, but the image could be printed onto fine art rag paper and be acceptable.
The message spoken is simple: even with the worst captures, salvation can be realized with creativity, patience and experimentation. I had nothing, absolutely nothing in terms of image quality, but I came away with quality images that mean a tonne to me. In the end, that is what photography needs to be about.