Winsome, wacky, and wonderful: the ACE Brass Trio

The ACE Brass Trio is capable of playing demurely at a wedding reception, yet I have seen the members wearing horned helmets and playing tunes on a 30 foot garden hose. Who are these people, what are they smoking, and what did they do in front of my camera?

Who are these people?

Huw Dann, Emma Richards, and John Gluyas primarily play the trumpet, French horn, and trombone, respectively.

What are they smoking?

Nothing, probably, because when you play wind instruments you need all the puff you can get :-).

What did they do in front of my camera?

The usual image of musicians playing classical music is a bunch of old fogeys getting up on stage and playing wordlessly. Huw, Emma, and John can impersonate such people, but they are clearly happier giving a mixture of performance and education that has a dash of theatre. They not only played for the audience, they also told us about the themes in the music, what makes brass instruments work, and some of the instruments’ history. The talk was directed at the numerous children present, but was interesting for adults and very funny. What makes it work so well is their personalities and their ability to engage the audience. When did you last go to a brass performance that had audience participation? This participation was a great photo opportunity, and I’d like to the thank the trio for allowing me to make photos.

Click on any photo to enlarge it, then click again.

What better way to illustrate the hunting theme of Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto?

She doesn’t bite 🙂

ACE Brass

First we learnt about the three essential ingredients of a brass instrument, then Emma showed that combining those ingredients also allows her to play a tune on a garden hose (i.e. brass isn’t essential in a wind instrument, but control of air flow is). The kids were having a ball, and I was too.

ACE Brass

ACE Brass Trio

Note the girl holding the hose to her ear.

ACE Brass Trio

Finally, the trio assembled a “marching band” who played the air brass (modelled on the air guitar). The adults lined the “street” and prepared to clap the beat in lieu of a bass drum.

ACE Brass Trio

The bandmaster is horned.

ACE Brass Trio

The adults clapped the beat. Sadly this was the end of the children’s careers and the end of the ACE Brass Trio’s very memorable educational performance.


Using corners in sports photography

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Recently I made some photos of kids who were practising for the Weet-Bix Tryathlon, which is a light-hearted triathlon for kids. The kids were using the actual course, and before they got started I went to look for shooting positions. Today we’ll look at what I chose for the cycling and running.

It pays to be realistic and there was virtually no hope of creating “arty” photos in the conditions that I found, although I’m always on the lookout for such opportunities. My primary goals were (1) to get some nice snaps for the kids and their families and (2) to show movement in those photos.  Thankfully it was heavily overcast, which is much better than full sun.

Cycling

Basically I wanted a corner with a plain background. When something in a photo has the potential to fall it adds life to a photo, and having the kids leaning into a corner would provide this even if they were too slow for motion blur.

Let’s start with a “bad” example. This girl’s family will probably like this photo, but it’s very static and it looks as if the bike is bolted to the ground:

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Let’s look at a three good examples. The driveway in the background gives a sense of depth, as does the layering caused by the shrub on the right. These shots deliver a sense of movement:

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This is a race of sorts, but the photos above don’t tell us this because they only show a single cyclist, and for all we the viewers know he could be out for a solo jaunt. See how having more than one cyclist in the frame makes the photo to tell a story that is closer to the reality of the situation:

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Running

The kids had to run a loop around a sports field, then go over a low footbridge before turning hard left to the finish. They had to turn as soon as they came off the bridge and I figured that this turn would produce some interesting body positions. Also, the bridge was a choke point so I knew that every kid would pass in front of my shooting position. The background wasn’t ideal, but was okay when blurred.

I sat on the grass between the bridge and the finish. Sitting was a lot more comfortable for a long spell, and an unusual viewpoint adds interest to a photo (adults aren’t used to looking up at kids so when the camera is below a child’s eye line you have an unusual viewpoint). This position also meant that the kids would be looking towards the camera when cornering. When heavy rain showers came through I impersonated a mushroom by putting an umbrella up for the duration.

First, the “bad” example:

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Those two are running in a straight line and, although their families will probably like the shot, it’s nothing special. I do like the rain, which is hard to see at this size.

The contortions of cornering have a lot more visual interest:

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A final tip

Don’t switch off your brain and your camera when the sports is over. The athletes gathered at the gear dump point after they’d done all the hard work and I saw an opportunity for rounding out the story with candid shots of relaxed kids. In anticipation (a very important skill in photojournalism) I swapped the telephoto I had been using for a standard lens and this was the result:

Click to enlarge, then click again

Click to enlarge, then click again


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