It’s F1 weekend in Austin. After 5 years, Grand Prix motor racing has returned to the U.S. and it’s the talk of the town. With the onslaught of visitors, most Austinites I know are just trying to stay clear of the mess. I too was going to stay in the periphery until my friend Alex called. Hey, I have free access to the Flo Rida concert, are you in?
Alex just got the email confirmation and called me 2 hours before it started. Our challenge, how do we get downtown and find parking on F1 weekend? How about the train? The last stop was conveniently at the convention center were we needed to go. Without going into details. This is the second time I took the Capitol Metrorail train and it is the second time I was disappointed. Luckily, we made it downtown on time, at least.
My photographer friend, Alex Suarez just happens to share his name with the bass player for Cobra Starship, the opening act for Flo Rida. He got us VIP passes and even gave Alex a photo pass. Unfortunately, we didn’t know the details before we left and we opted not to bring our big gun cameras. Doh! We debated our equipment options but didn’t want to risk being turned away at the gate for bring in a “Pro” camera. I brought my Panasonic ZR1 point and shoot instead and at least Alex and I both had our iPhones.
The crowds were light and the concert started later than expected. I had plenty of time to shoot the pre-concert scenes. Alex and I were bummed that we missed our photo opportunity but we settled in and had a few drinks. They didn’t do any screening at least at the VIP entrance so I probably could have snuck in my Olympus Pen with a pancake lens… oh well. I challenged myself to do good photography with my humble point and shoot.
The performances were great and the music was loud. My ears rang slightly even with earplugs. As expected, Flo Rida was wilder than Cobra Starship. Towards the end little skirmishes broke out, nothing serious — the men had to calm the testosterone pumped women down. I don’t go to concerts often. And while Flo Rida wouldn’t be my first pick, I had a memorable time with some amazing access. I was 3 rows from the stage.
Photographically, it was a challenge. How do I take good quality photos with my Panasonic ZR1 and iPhone? It would been amazing to have my EP-3 and 25mm f1.4 but, of course, that would be too easy. The photos with the ZR1 were better than expected. During Cobra Starship, I shot at ISO 400 and had less keepers because of motion blur. During Flo Rida, I upped to ISO 800 and occasionally 1600. ISO 800 was decent, better than I expected and the keeper rate went way up. I can view them on a 27″ screen and not cringe at the quality. ISO 1600 is nasty. I won’t use it but perhaps a non-picky non-photographer, may find them acceptable.
I got surprisingly nice photos from the iPhone 4s but many have motion blur because the phone automatically picks the exposure. If any of my readers know of an iPhone App that can control aperture and ISO, please let me know since the default App can’t do this. The iPhone’s main advantage over the Panasonic is the f2.4 lens compared to the ZR1’s disappointing f3.3. But the point and shoot’s strengths includes a bigger sensor, an optical zoom and optical image stabilization. Its biggest advantage however is the manual controls over exposure compensation, aperture and ISO.
I shot primarily video on the iPhone since motion blur is less of a factor. And I’m amazed by what this phone can do. While it may not be the equipment of choice for serious videographers, it does a fine job in capturing the experience. I mentioned that I had an amazing up close experience at the concert. Here is the clip that gives you a feel. It may not be the highest technical quality but it leaves me with a wonderful memory of the event. It looks a bit like a frat party and it took me back to my youth.
At the concert we ran into Jake, another photographer friend and his wife Ashli. Jake kiddingly blames me for his conversion over to his Olympus OM-D. Thank you to him and his wife for driving us back to our cars so that we didn’t have to endure the train ride back north. Also thank you to both Alex Suarezes for enabling my access to a concert that I won’t soon forget.
Please make sure to click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.