Sunday, August 5, 2018

And The Countdown Continues...

In less than 48 hours, we'll have already boarded our flight from Jacksonville, Florida to Chicago, Illinois, en route to Dublin, Ireland. Everything has been confirmed; flights, seat selections, hotel reservations, all of it. Now it's just a matter of packing.

First up for me is the camera bag. I won't be using it between now and the time we leave, so I might as well get it as packed up as I can. All I'll need to pack into it Tuesday morning will be my computer.

The weather is supposed to be, well, a bit wet. Unfortunately, there's no way to prepare for the weather when you start planning your trip three months in advance. So, you've just got to roll with the punches and hope for the best.


It did not look this way in the brochure...

Now, as that as that may look, it bears pointing out that only two days ago there was a lot more in the way of sunshine in the forecast. Four days ago it looked like it does now. Consequently, I think the only thing we can really conclude with 100% accuracy is that we don't really know what the weather's going to be like. We're also going to be taking trips outside of Dublin so, with any luck, we'll find some nice weather somewhere along the way. Or maybe it'll find us. Either way I think I'd better bring a jacket.

So, this is it until after we touch down in Dublin. Everything that can be done has been done. All that's left to do now is go on vacation.

Feicfidh mé go luath thú...


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

T-Minus 6...

In a mere six days, we'll be landing in Dublin. We'll be leaving Jacksonville on Tuesday, flying to Chicago. We'll spend a lovely three hours or so in the Windy City (well, in O'Hare Int'l) before boarding our overnight flight to Dublin, Ireland, where we'll arrive at 10:45am local time.

Everything's been confirmed; flight and seat selections, room reservations; everything. All that's left now is, once we're there, to figure out our itinerary while we're there.

As we'll be arriving somewhat early in the day, the plan is to get settled into our hotel and then grab a cab into Dublin (our hotel is by the airport). I'm told the cost will be around  €15-20 ($17-$23 US) so, while not nearly as cheap as a public bus, not prohibitively expensive and it'll get us into town a lot faster. From where I sit, that's the payoff. And, while they don't have Uber in Dublin, they do have something similar known as MyTaxi, so that could be another option.

While we're enjoying our first day in Dublin, we'll scope out the day-trips and the "hop on/hop off" buses which operate in the city. We'll likely do the in-city tour bus thing for the first two days, simply because it would be impossible to see everything we want to in a single day. After two days of exploring downtown Dublin, we'll venture out beyond the city to explore the countryside; the rugged coastlines and the castles and small towns.

For walking around downtown, I've downloaded an app called "maps.me". Basically, it's got frighteningly detailed maps of just about anywhere on the planet. Looking at the map for Dublin, I can't imagine wanting to get somewhere in Dublin and not being able to find it.

I'll be bringing at least one camera, and my brother is bringing two. He plans on shooting black and white film as well as digital. That should produce some interesting results. I have in the neighborhood of 30 film cameras, but I'm leaving them home. I would only want to use a medium format one, anyway, and that can take up some room.

So, the excitement is slowly ramping up. We've never done a trip like this before, so it should be both fun and interesting to see how we fare. I suspect this will end up being a trip to remember for a long, long time...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ireland - Pre-Gaming...

There's a lot to do to get ready for a trip like this. For the last several weeks, I've been researching everything from how to get around Dublin, tours, where to eat, yadayadayada.

Since I have absolutely no intention of not checking mail or posting on social media for the week we're on the Emerald Isle, I'll be bringing my computer. Of course, I intend on shooting a butt-load of photos while we're there, and I'll want to download these onto my laptop so I can run them through Photoshop. I'll be running PSE 18 by then, so I'll be able to open the raw files produced by the 6D MKII. 

All that aside, I had one primary concern: space.

I've only got about 116 GB of space left on my computer's hard drive, so I wanted to clean that up a bit. While I'll try to move photos onto an external hard drive every so often, I haven't done it since the first week of January. Ergo, it's time to move the photos off of the laptop's hard drive.

All 88,304 of them.

I first moved them onto a 2TB Western Digital Passport. This drive will go into my safe deposit box. As I type this, I'm also transferring all 88,304 photos onto a 4TB Seagate Back-Up Plus external hard drive that I picked up yesterday (pro tip: only $94 at Costco). It's astounding to discover how long it takes to move so many files. I haven't been timing it, and I've been doing other things while these transfer, but my best guess is that it takes about four hours.

But, at least I go into this knowing that I'll have more than enough space to dump all of the photos I take on our trip.

And that's a good thing...

Friday, May 25, 2018

Ireland: What To Bring...?

As a photographer,I'm always thinking about what equipment I'll want on hand for whatever shoot is coming up next. You see, a concert shoot requires different lenses than a real estate shoot which, in turn, requires different lenses than a portrait shoot. The trick here is going to be choosing what to bring so I'm prepared for the majority of the photos I'll have the opportunity to take while we're in Ireland.

Camera body? That's a no brainer. I'll be taking the Canon 6D MKII. I could take the 6D, as well, but I'm not convinced I'll need a back-up. The 6D MKII has proven to be a pretty robust unit, so I don't suspect I'll have any problems. Besides, that extra camera body is a lot of extra weight and it takes up room I can use for something else. With this type of traveling, space and weight considerations are important, regardless how insignificant they may seem.

So, the 6D MKII will get the nod for this trip. The nice thing about this over the 6D is the articulating LCD screen. I didn't think I'd fine much use for it, but it actually comes in handy from time to time, especially when shooting in tight quarters.

The Canon 6D MKII in all of its 26.2 megapixel glory...

The Canon 6D MKII with the articulating LCD pulled out...

I've been looking at a lot of photos these past couple weeks, taken all over Ireland, and many of the photos I seem to like the most are night time shots. Of course, the only way to get a night time shot, in Ireland or anywhere else, is to use a tripod. This presents a bit of a problem, considering I don't want to lug my big, honkin' Manfrotto across the pond with me.

Enter the Slik Mini Pro.

The Slik Mini Pro is a very compact tripod which, with legs and center column full extended, measures only about nine inches. Of course, the most common issue with small "travel" tripods is that they're seldom sturdy enough to hold anything but the smallest of point and shoot cameras. Not so with the Mini Pro. It's a strong and sturdy option that comes in under thirty bucks, and it handles the 6D MKII with a lens perfectly:

This is the set-up I'll probably using the most for night time shots in Ireland.This is the 6D MKII with the Canon 17-40mm f/4L attached; 2.61 pounds...

Of course, I can't imagine making a trip like this with only one lens, so I'm not even going to attempt that. The 17-40mm will probably be the workhorse for this trip. But I know there are some places, such as the Cliffs of Moher, where I'll want a longer lens to get a bit more compression. I'm also going to want to have a nice portrait lens. Let's face it, we're probably never coming back here, so why not have nice pictures of us taken of us here?

So, I think I've settled on a four lens line-up which will get me through a week in Ireland. With the exception of the 17-40mm, I'm going to be bringing only prime (non-zoom) lenses. In addition to the 17-40mm f/4L, I'll have the 100mm f/2.8 Macro (for photos where I need a bit more reach), the 85mm f/1.8 (a superior portrait lens in my opinion) and the 50mm f/1.4 (which is a solid, all-around good, low light lens):

The 17-40mm (mounted on the camera), then the 100mm, the 50mm (in the middle) and the 85mm...

What's pictured above will constitute the majority of the photo gear I'll be carrying with me to Ireland. Additionally, I'll have a remote release batteries, chargers, memory cards (216gb worth), etc; basically those necessary little accessories I'll want along the way. I haven't decided if I'm going to bring a flash but, if I do, it'll be the Canon 580 EXII. If I bring that, though, I also have to bring batteries for that, as well as the chargers for those batteries. At present, I'm leaning towards leaving it at home.

All of this will be neatly packed into my Tamrac CyberPro Express, which is what I'll be using as my carry-on. It will also have my laptop, chargers (camera batteries, phone), power cords and whatever else I feel I won't be able to live without or don't want to check. I did a lot of traveling when I worked for Taylor Guitars, and this bag became my go-to carry-on for every single trip I made after getting it:



The Tamrac CyberPro Express...(photo courtesy of Tamrac)


So, the questions of what gear I'm bringing to Ireland have been answered. I think the equipment I'm bringing will allow me to be as prepared as reasonably possible to capture the vast majority of what I want to. The hard reality is that I simply can't bring everything, so I think I've got this rig dialed in nicely...




Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Family Trip: Prologue

So, we're going to take a family trip.

My Mom decided that she wanted to go to Ireland for her birthday. She's talked about it for a couple years now and, initially, I think she had the idea that it would be for a milestone birthday; the 85th or the 90th. But, frankly, I think she's considered the health of some of her friends that are her age (or even younger) and figured that, since she's healthy now and able now, that now was the right time to do it. So, it's Ireland for Mom's 84th birthday.

In order to do this, of course, we'd need a plan. We would need a plan and someone to coordinate it. We would need a plan and someone to coordinate it who had extensive knowledge of booking flights and hotels and various yadayadayada for more than one person. It appears as though that person would be me.

I did some extensive searches once the decision was made. I looked at hotels all over Dublin and the outskirts (what's the Gaelic word for "suburbs"?) and became mind-numb at the number of choices we were being offered. Out of sheer necessity I became a ninja at the ways of Travelocity. Somehow, I managed to plan a trip for three to Ireland.

Ireland is actually pretty small. We'll be staying in Dublin, but Belfast (which, as it's in Northern Ireland, is actually part of the UK) is only two hours away. Ideally, we were hoping to stay at one of those quaint little castle-type inns you see on the Travel Channel, but that didn't pan out. First, those quaint little castle-type inns you see on the Travel Channel can be really expensive. In some cases, a week's stay in one could easily cost three or four times as much as a larger chain. Also, we'll be getting two rooms, and all of the quaint little castle-type inns you see on the Travel Channel offered rooms with only one bed. Mom is going to have her own room and Greg and I will be sharing another. I love my brother, and I look forward to embarking on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with him, but I sure as Hell don't want to sleep in the same bed with him. So, given all of that, we selected the Crowne Plaza. In another life I traveled pretty extensively for business, and I found that Crowne Plaza properties were remarkably consistent.

We've ditched the idea of getting a rental car. First, they're all right-hand drive over there. Now, I drove a right-side drive car when I was in Australia in 1984. It really doesn't take too long before you're used to it. The wild card, though, would be that all of the renal cars are manual transmission. That's just a recipe for failure that could only end in tears.

Suffice it to say, there are more than enough things to do while we're in Ireland. Of course, we'll take in the Cliffs of Moher and many of the castles which have stood since the Middle Ages. But we're also going to spend a couple of days just cruising around Dublin. There's no shortage of churches and cathedrals there and, of course, those are great photo subjects. Christ Church Cathedral, which was founded around the year 1030 is absolutely magnificent, inside and out. Needless to say, my photography jones is starting to go into overdrive.


Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. Its more formal name is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity(or Trinidad Cathedral) was founded in Ireland in the year 1028...
 
                                                                                                                                                      
Inside Christ Church Cathedral...


So, now that I've successfully worn the Travel Agent hat, it's time to put on my Tour Guide hat. Over the next several weeks, I'll be researching what there is to see and do not only in Dublin, but also in Belfast, Howth, Moher and a hundred points in between. And, surely we can't ignore the fact that both the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery are located here.

I welcome any input anyone has on where to go, what to do, where to eat, etc. Just send me an e-mail at steve@steveparrphotography.com or make a comment here...





 






(Exterior photo of Christ Church Cathedral courtesy of projectirelandhipatia.blogspot.com)
(Interior photo of Christ Church Cathedral courtesy of thousandwonders.net)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Banner Thomas...

I've been blessed quite a bit.

As a photographer, I've had the opportunity to meet and become friends with a wide array of people. And, given the time I spent at Taylor Guitars, it probably would surprise no one that there are a lot of musicians on that list.

I've had the opportunity to meet and hang out with people like Ted Nugent, Otis Williams of The Temptations, the guys in Styx, Eric Johnson; I could go on. Hell, Barenaked Ladies even makes sure I have a shady spot backstage during their outdoor summer shows. These people were all riding high when I met them; legends, some. And all of them wonderful people.

But perhaps the one who impacted me the most, probably because I got to know him better than many of the others, is someone I met long after his "rock star" life was done. His heyday, spanning from the early 1970's to the early 1980's, marked a period in my life where I was diggin' the kind of music his band was playing. As a kid growing up on Long Island, we waited with great anticipation for the southern rock tours to come to either the Nassau Coliseum or the Long Island Arena in Commack. The Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws; man, they all came through and kicked our collective ass with their guitar-searing, don't-give-a-shit-and-get-the-Hell-outta'-my-way attitude.

Molly Hatchet did that, too.

I'd met Banner Thomas briefly in 2014, but got to know him better as I was preparing to interview him for a magazine article I was writing about him. What I found was not what I expected. I sat down with a genuinely quiet, thoughtful guy. His speech was deliberate, and almost Jimmy Stewart-like in its delivery. Banner thought about what he was going to say and then he said it. Period. And, if there were ever wild days of rock n' roll stardom to be lived, he'd certainly done that and left those days in his past.


A full page manufacturer's ad in Guitar Player Magazine? Yeah, Banner was the real deal...

At first, it seemed a little surreal befriending a guy like this. Here was this bona fide rock star, with three platinum albums under his belt, sitting in Tradewinds Tropical Lounge in St. Augustine where he would play bass with this band or that band, depending on what night of the week it was. Between sets he would always walk the room, talking to folks and thanking them for coming out. Some, of course, knew who he was. Most, I think, probably didn't realize it unless someone on stage mentioned it during a set.

This was taken first time I met Banner. "Don't be too impressed" he said. "I just might an asshole"...

This is the photo I took of Banner Thomas to accompany the piece I wrote about him for St. Augustine Social. The article can be found here: The Musical Chair - Banner Thomas

Here I am on stage at Tradewinds, presenting the photograph from the magazine to Walt Kulwicki (left) and Chris McVey (right) of Those Guys. They accepted the photo on behalf of Tradewinds owner Janet Leonard. The photo now hangs in Tradewinds, right next to the stage where Banner's amp used to sit. I still don't know how I got through that presentation without breaking down a little... (photo courtesy of RMP Photography)
 
I remember Banner being almost overly appreciative of the article I wrote about him. His appreciation was sincere and heartfelt, and he always let me know how much he enjoyed being featured in the magazine. We had done a short interview and photo shoot, and I remember not wanting to screw it up. "Get this one right, Parr" was the only thing running through my head. We talked about a myriad of things, from him being a founding member of Molly Hatchet to touring Europe with The Who and, finally, living a somewhat quiet life in northeastern Florida. He seemed comfortable with where life had led him.

He was always humbled whenever I would mention how much I liked Molly Hatchet as a kid. He particularly liked the story of how, while in Navy boot camp in Orlando, I would run the song "Flirtin' With Disaster" through my head while waiting outside to march to the mess hall at five in the morning. "Well, glad I could be there for you" was a comment he made once about that story, and that's always made me laugh. Never once back in those boot camp days did I ever envision that, 35 years later, I'd sitting in a St. Augustine bar with the guy who wrote it.

Over the next 18 months or so following my interview with him, Banner and I became pretty good friends. I enjoyed hanging out with him. We would talk about anything and everything and sometimes nothing. I think he enjoyed the fact that I was able to get beyond the "Holy shit, it's a rock star" phase that, undoubtedly, was probably awkwardly evident when I'd first met him, and I consider myself fortunate that the friendship he and I had was genuine. Banner had many friends, many much closer than I, but I was proud to be counted among them nonetheless.

Banner, Molly Hatchet founder and guitarist Dave Hlubek, Dewey Via and me at Tradewinds in St. Augustine...

I had the opportunity to sit in with him on stage on occasion. The first time was when he was playing with The Dewey Via Band. We were going to perform "Dreams I'll Never See". It was written by Gregg Allman, but Molly Hatchet had made it their own. But not only was I going to be playing this song with one of the guys who made the song popular, I was going to be playing the song with one of the guys who made the song popular in front of a room that was packed with friends who came out to see how bad the carnage would be, so I was nervous as Hell. Thankfully, it went well. But it was an amazing experience to play that song with one of the guys responsible for putting it into the southern rock mainstream. When we got done, I remember how he just turned around and smiled. He didn't say a word. He approved. I'd passed the test.

Not a very good photo, but one I'll always cherish. Sitting in that night was a true, and humbling, honor...

Banner gave my Strat a quick test drive before our set...
About a year and a half ago, Banner asked me if I'd like to have some lighting equipment that he had bought on a whim at a pawn shop. When I met him to pick it up, I saw that it was some relatively cheap stuff; light stands in a ripped carrying bag. In all honesty, it was stuff I would never use and I told him thanks, but no thanks. He then asked if I knew anyone who could use it. He'd rather I give it to someone else than throw it away. I told him I might know of someone and I put the bag in my car The truth was I knew of no one, but I could tell it was important to him that the stuff find a good home. I guess I was kind of surprised when, on occasion, he would ask me if I was able to find someone to give it to.

"Still looking, Banner, but I'll find the right person."

I've never found anyone to give it to, and doubt I ever will. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've stopped looking. I just can't bring myself to throw that bag away. It's still sitting in my garage.

It got to the point where Tuesday night at Tradewinds was a weekly thing. You just didn't miss Those Guys. I'd usually get there before the first set. It was always a pleasure to sit down with Banner before the gig, and just talk about what had been going on during the previous week. He'd usually be at one of the front table with his laptop open, looking at whatever had piqued his latest interest. He was quick to engage and always had something to say, and I remember that I was always eager to listen.


Hangin' out on "the bench" at Tradewinds...

I had returned from a short cruise to the Bahamas on Palm Sunday (April 9) in 2017. Tradewinds was doing their annual Palm Sunday music extravaganza and I was hoping to get back to St. Augustine from Port Canaveral in time to catch Those Guys performing their set. We made it back to town but, for whatever reason, didn't make it to Tradewinds in time. The band had just finished their set when we were pulling up. I saw Banner loading his gear into his van and slowed the car to say hi. He said he wasn't feeling well and was going home. "Take care of yourself, pal. See you Tuesday". "Stay out of trouble" he replied.

That was the last time I ever spoke to him.

The next day I was walking into a Publix grocery store when I received a text from my friend Rachael asking if I knew what had happened to Banner. Instead of responding back via text, I called her. The news was stunning. I felt tears well up in my eyes. Suddenly I couldn't hear anything; everything was silent, save for the cacophony of every conversation he and I had ever had running through my head all at the same time. Everything stopped.

He wasn't my best friend. But he was a great friend.

And my friend Banner Thomas died on April 10, 2017.

He's missed...

Banner Thomas: 1954-2017

Friday, March 30, 2018

Things That Go "VROOM"...

I've always been proud of the fact that I can (and have) shot pretty much everything. At this point in my photographic life I've decided that, as long as it doesn't have the word "wedding" attached to it, I'm in. Sure, weddings pay, but the stress can be ridiculous.

I've shot concerts with regularity for the last 12 years, and I love doing it. Unfortunately, the concerts which lure me are becoming fewer and fewer. Let's face it, I grew up in the 70's and love that music, but the "wrinkle rock" set isn't getting any younger.

My attention, whether by happenstance or subconscious design, has turned to automobiles. Not just automobiles, but motorcycles, as well. As we come into the spring and summer months here in northeast Florida, there will be no shortage of car shows to choose from, and they'll be held, somewhere, almost every weekend.

Hooray me.

Since the beginning of the year, I've photographed two large scale events which center around cars. The first was the Mecum Auctions, which was held in January down in Kissimmee. I'd never attended an event like that, and it was pretty overwhelming. It didn't look quite as huge in person as it does on television. There was a ton of money flying around that place, and the cars were exquisite.






The second "car event" of the year was the Amelia Island Festivals of Speed. Like with Mecum, I had a media credential to attend this. I was hoping to also get in on the Amelia Concours d'Elegance, which was being held the same weekend, but I didn't submit my credential request in time.

The Festivals of Speed was a little different than Mecum. They had an auction on the Friday night,and again on Saturday, where they were auctioning off some rather spectacular automobiles.






In addition to the automobile auction, they also had a car show on Saturday and Sunday, as well. Cars of all make and manner were situated on the 17th fairway of the Omni Plantation Resort. It was a gorgeous setting which really lent itself to photography.

 




I was getting really into motorsports (automobile and motorcycle),  and found myself at Daytona International Speedway back in January for the "Roar Before The 24", which takes place a couple of weeks before the Rolex 24 Hour Race.







Ordinarily, I would've gone back to Daytona Int'l in March, during Bike Week, for the Daytona 200 motorcycle race. My calendar didn't permit it, though, so I guess I'll wait for Biketoberfest.

And, now, I'm looking forward to the next event, which is the granddaddy of all auto auctions: Barrett-Jackson. This is their 46th year and, to be honest, this one has always been a mind-blower. I've been perusing the cars which are going to be auctioned on the Barrett-Jackson website, but there's really nothing as good as seeing them in person. I've lost count of the number of times I've watched a Barrett-Jackson auction on television, and I couldn't be more stoked about landing a media credential for this one.

Add to all of this a "biker portrait" idea I've got running around in my head, and this year could definitely be a little heavier on the horsepower...


And The Countdown Continues...

In less than 48 hours, we'll have already boarded our flight from Jacksonville, Florida to Chicago, Illinois, en route to Dublin, Irela...