Aimee Mann & Rhiannon Giddens at Woodland Park Zoo

For her latest album, “Mental Illness”, Aimee Mann stripped her music down to the bare essentials and created a collection of music that hides seriously mournful themes behind agrarian harmonies. It’s a beautiful combination and, once you scratch below the surface, you realize that Aimee is struggling with her own demons. During the introduction to her new, gorgeous song “Rollercoasters” at Woodland Park Zoo, she said the song is “if John Denver is too edgy for you.”

While her newest recording is stripped down to her songwriting core, she’s beefed up her live show with a solid, mostly acoustic quartet. Paul Bryan played bass while beautifully harmonizing with Aimee throughout. Jaimie Edwards brought strings to the table with his keyboards adding a subtle depth to the sound.

Her one-hour set was evenly divided between new and old. Moth & Flame to Labrador to Drive Forever. Aimee introduced some levity when describing “Goose Snowcone” as being a song inspired by a photo of a cat she knew with a white face a cone around its head.

One of her most uplifting tunes, “Save Me” came towards the end before she brought out Ted Leo, her bandmate in The Both. Ted turned the volume up with his electric guitar finishing out the set with “Goodbye Caroline” and “Long Shot”. The audience was quiet and contemplative throughout the show giving her lyrical nuances the respect they deserve.

Opening the evening was the enigmatic Rhiannon Giddens, pouring her heart into an hour set of Americana ranging from old-time music to Cajun to Jig. Her set was the story of the American South and, having grown up in Georgia, I felt like I was home again.

She killed the crowd with an amazing rendition of Odetta’s “Jack of Diamonds” before bringing her sister out for an acapella gospel straight from the church stage. She ended her set with Staple Singers “Freedom Highway”. Her voice is a wonderful thing and she used it to great effect throughout. She’s not bad on the fiddle, either. Overall, this was a totally enjoyable evening of music.








Nikon Releases D850 Teaser

Well, Nikon has finally announced the coming of the replacement for the D810 as the new D850, touting great things. You can see the short video below. Am I excited, not really and I’m going to tell you why. Will I be buying one, yes, but more on that in a moment.

There are several reasons why I’m not jumping out of my skin for the new D850. First, and foremost, is that, over the years, I’ve realized that the camera and all the gear in the world really doesn’t matter. I’m what matters. Every camera we have today is better than anything they’ve had available in the past. You can make amazing photos with your phone! So, it’s not the camera, it’s what you do with it and how you, the person behind the camera, sees and composes the image. A new camera is not going to make you a better photographer. It took me many years and quite a bit of money to come to terms with that. We all like shiny new objects.

Reason Two: Nikon has had a less than stellar track record of late. The D750 is now on its third, yes third, recall. Unacceptable, especially when you make your living with these tools. I’m hoping this won’t be the case with the D850, but who knows.

Reason Three: It’s a tool. That’s it. I don’t get excited when I buy a screwdriver to complete some project around the house. A camera is no different. It gets a job done.

Reason Four: Over the past year, I’ve been moving more and more to my Fuji gear. As my friend David Duchemin says, it is a camera that gets out of the way. I love that I don’t need to get into some inexplicably complex menu system to make a minor adjustment. It’s all right there on the manual dials on top or the aperture ring on the lenses. The gear weighs 2/3 less than my Nikon gear so, again, it gets out of the way. I can carry it around all day without even noticing its there. And, it gets the job done. The images are rendered beautifully… remember, it’s a tool that renders images, you are the one that makes the images.

So, you may be asking, why are you going to be getting one? You already have a D810. Well, here’s the deal. I’ve been using my D810 for 3 years now. I mostly use it for work, which is to say architecture and some product photography. I also use it for fashion work as it works well with my lighting setups. I’ve identified the camera’s shortcomings that I am expecting the D850 to address. Namely, faster auto focus, better low light ability and 4K video. These are all things that I’ve been wishing the D810 was better at. Will the D850 have more megapixels, probably and, frankly, I wish it wouldn’t. 36 is more than enough for MY NEEDS.

Why stick with Nikon at all if I love Fuji so much? Well, that’s a good question. For one, I’ve got some great Nikon glass. For two, in my architecture and real estate work, I use my 19mm and 45mm Tilt Shift Lenses daily and Fuji doesn’t have any. There’s another NEED that I’ve identified that justifies sticking with Nikon (for now). I sold my beloved D4s because I realized that, while that camera is freaking amazing, I don’t need the features that it is famous for, mainly speed. Yes, it’s great in low light, but so are my Fuji’s. Are the Fuji cameras as good in low light, well no, but I don’t NEED to shoot in the dark day in and day out like many sports or wedding photographers do. Is it better for concert photography? Well, maybe, but I shoot those for fun, not for money and the Fuji cameras perform well for my purposes.

I’ll wait until the official announcement to decide if I’m going to upgrade to the D850 to make sure that this new camera will fill the needs I’ve been wanting out of the D810. If not, well, I’ll have $4000 in the bank that I can use to travel someplace where I can use the cameras I already have to make some new images. Just some thoughts.