A Bluegrass Festival

I am working on an occasional project, to highlight nice aspects of my city with photography. Hopefully this will allow me to exercise my creativity. There is some famous photography quote that I can’t remember, but it says something to the effect that if you can’t make nice photographs where you live, what will you do when you get to some amazing location. So, toward that end, here are some photos from a music festival that we recently had in Leander Texas.

Leander is a suburb city of Austin and most of the hot and exciting things to do are in Austin. But there are occasionally interesting things to do in Leander. There is usually an independence day celebration and fireworks show. And this time of year, the Leander Parks and Recreation Department puts on the annual bluegrass festival. It is free for anyone to attend and they don’t even check your bags for outside food or drink, so you can bring some chairs and an ice chest.

Bluegrass is an American music form from the Appalachian region. It usually consists only of acoustic stringed instruments (banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass violin, and guitar). When I mentioned to a foreign person with whom I work that there was bluegrass festival, he had no idea what I was talking about. There are probably bigger and better bluegrass festivals back east, but this is where I live.

There were a total of 6 bands, but I only really shot photos of a couple of them. On Friday evening there was a band called the Bottom Dollar String Band that I really enjoyed. I used primarily a long lens and high ISO to try to capture the band on stage.

Leander-Bluegrass-Festival-Bottom-Dollar-String-Band-1
The Bottom Dollar String Band at the Leander Bluegrass Festival

As I learned from trying to photograph my daughter’s choir performances, it is difficult to take good photos of someone while they are singing as singing involves making weird faces. I tried to time some close up photos that would be flattering to the musicians.

It was dark, with the musicians lit by the stage lights, which made shooting the photographs challenging. I was using a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, and I had it wide open at f/2.8 and the ISO cranked up to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed as their hands really move.

I then went around closer to the stage to get some close ups of the individual players. I didn’t really get a good photo of the guitar player as he kept facing away from me and hiding behind the microphone. The bass player didn’t really want to come out of the shadows, but I managed to frame him with the banjo player. The banjo was glinting in the stage lights and I really hoped to capture that, but no such luck.

 

I really enjoyed the Bottom Dollar String Band, they seemed like they played well together and I enjoyed their music.

Saturday night I came back for three more bands. It was much more crowded and I had to sit quite a bit farther back on the lawn. But I did sneak up to some of the same spots to shoot some photos.

The band in the photos below is called Indian and the Jones (get it?). This band did not have a fiddle player, which was kind of a let down as I look forward to that. Below is a photo of the band including the stage.

Indian and the Jones at the Leander Bluegrass Festival
Indian and the Jones at the Leander Bluegrass Festival

I tried to get some close-ups but I was unable to get to the same place by the stage, so I just zoomed in to 200mm. Again, it is a bit of work to get the musicians in a good photo while they are singing. I tried to be patient and wait until they weren’t behind the microphone and looking up a bit. In hindsight, I may have had better luck if I had waited until they were between songs and maybe even smiling.

 

Indian and the Jones did not seem to be well practiced together. They seemed like they had a few false starts and weren’t used to playing together. There is no drum to keep time, so they have to all be playing together closely to perform well.

I enjoyed the Bluegrass Festival, though I wish I had thought to walk around the food vendor area and tried to get a few shots of the people. I am not really a people person, so this doesn’t readily occur to me. It was a nice evening, with people kicked back enjoying the music and kids running around eating junk food. I am not sure if Leander is much of a bluegrass music town, but on this evening it was. I will try to find more interesting stuff about Leander to photograph.

13 thoughts on “A Bluegrass Festival

  1. It’s amazing how different the challenges are, from one shooting situation to the next.
    I’m also not a people person. But I’ve found that the occasional shot of a gathered crowd can make a scene appear more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t really think about the crowd shots or the people in the colored lights of the food vendor area until the thing was over. That would have added some interesting supporting material instead of just a band. I guess it takes practice to be a documentary photographer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband loves going to music festivals. Bluegrass isn’t his favorite but I am sure he would have checked it out if he had been in the area. He likes the music, just not as much of the bluegrass style singing. 🙂
    Good pics, I would say you did rhe musicians justice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I am not a regular listener of bluegrass music, but I do enjoy the annual festival. I do enjoy the singing when they harmonize well. It is very nice to see performed live and I enjoy the atmosphere.

      There has also been a much larger music festival in Austin at about the same time called ACL (Austin City Limits). That is not really the atmosphere for me with tens of thousands of people everywhere. That would make me mainly anxious rather than relaxed. The small music festival in Leander was relaxing, with people taking it easy, kids running around playing, some people brought dogs. It was a nice evening. Much more of a community feel than an overwhelming music festival like ACL.

      Like

      1. Oh I would go for the smaller community atmosphere as well over the large city! Am not a city person with tons of people milling about. We went to NYC once and I really don’t care to go back. Soooo many people and the tall buildings all clustered together made me feel claustrophobic. Give me the wide,open spaces.

        We do enjoy watching the weekly show Austin City Limits from the comfort of our living room, no fighting the crowds! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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