I went downtown last Thursday for the start of the F1 Fan Fest, a companion event to the Formula 1 races that take place just east of Austin. The timing couldn’t have been better. The forecasted rain held off that night while the attendees for the successive nights were not as lucky.
This is the 4th year I’ve gone and, by far, it was the smallest. What used to sprawl over several square blocks was confined to a single open lot near Rainey Street. I’m not sure if the downscaling was due to budget cuts or the lack of available open lots. Downtown Austin is in a building boom and space for these kind of things are decreasing rapidly. I suspect, this year’s open lot will be filled with construction cranes, in the not too distant future.
With the change in venue, there was a distinct change in vendors. Gone were all the racing and vehicle oriented mega displays. No giant Mobile 1 tents and Infiniti mock drag races. Gone were the display of F1 race cars and video game like racing simulations. I mostly saw beverage vendors.
Topo Chico was there again this year as was Monster energy drinks. Coca Cola was there to promote Iced Teas next to Illy coffee.
There was only one concert stage this year. Scaled down from the previous years’ multi-stage setup. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue gave a great performance with I captured with some luck.
Even with the reduced size, I still had fun — these events are always good opportunities for street photography. This is my favorite photograph of the night. I like the glow of the light that surrounds the Topo Chico stand with the bustle of activity around the periphery. It’s a photo different from my usual. Instead of stepping in closer for portraits, like I usually do, I stepped backward to show more of the context.
Here is the 2014 Austin F1 Fast Fest, a much larger event, shot last year with the Fujifilm X100S.
Free Fan Fest Concert
Rocking trombone performance
Kept the rain away
The day after I took these Halloween portraits on 6th Street, I went to the F1 Fan Fest. The Fan Fest is a way to bring a little of that Formula 1 racing excitement to downtown Austin. I’ve yet to go to the F1 races themselves but I’ve made it to this downtown event 3 years in a row. It’s a place for street photography and a chance to capture something different in Austin.
Of course, year to year, things don’t change much. After 3 years, everything seems about the same except, perhaps, it was a bit smaller this year. Part of the challenge is, as the downtown continues to grow, the open lots for special events decrease. I think at least two previous parking lots are now active construction sites, soon spawning more high-rise towers, I imagine. I wonder what’ll happen to this event when all downtown lots give way to higher tax generating structures.
I listened to more concerts this year than in the past. The Fan Fest sets up multiple stages with live music throughout the day. I happened upon an interesting and eclectic band from Brooklyn called Red Baraat, and stayed there for the entire show. I even went retro and bought their CDs instead of an electronic download. Of course, what always entices me is the shooting opportunity. Give me some colorful lights at night in an urban atmosphere and I’m game.
I also stayed much later than expected and went to the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts concert, the headliner for that night. I can’t say I’m a Joan Jett fan, per say, but she made her mark in the 80s so I identify with and recognize her music. I noticed a lot of folks that were near my age. I know Ms. Jett is older than me, but from my vantage point, the dark-haired, black leather clad singer looked and sounded the way she always did. Perhaps it was a collective way for all of us middle-aged folk to have high school flashbacks.
I got in late but slowly inched forward as the crowd shifted. I especially like it when I capture the beams of colorful light. I snapped a number of frames perfectly lighting the audience. I only brought one camera, the Fujifilm X100S, with a 35mm equivalent lens. My Olympus with the 50mm f1.4 equivalent or even my DLSR with a slew of lenses would have gotten me closer via a telephoto. Ultimately, though I’m satisfied with what the 35mm point of view gave me.
Missing this year was the big Infiniti car race venue. Maybe it fell victim to the lack of space or maybe the return on investment wasn’t there. Gone also was a large Fiat display that I remember from years past.
The energy drinks where out in force. Both Red Bull and Monster had elaborate setups to entice the crowed. I guess if you can’t drive F1 cars, you can feel the alternate buzz from their sugar and caffeinated concoctions. Of course they had attractive spokespersons and pumped up music. Monster cross promoted with the X Games skateboard demonstration.
Between the late night / early morning Halloween shooting on 6th Street the night before to another late night at the Fan Fest, I was worn out. At least I got about 5 miles of walking on each night. The photography distracts me from all the walking so I guess it’s a decent way to get some exercise. I considered going to an East side Dia de los Muertos parade the next day but decided to bag that. Even I have limits on the number of photography events per weekend.
It was a film free weekend too. I might be curious about film but I’m still practical. Digital is a lot easier at night and I still find it more desirable for fast-moving or fast changing action. It’s kind of nice to use both and I’m not such a purist that I restrict myself to either side of the divide.
Austin hosted its second annual Formula 1 race this past weekend. I didn’t attend the race itself, but I went downtown to capture scenes from the Austin Fan Festival. Like last year, a section of downtown was blocked off for exhibits, concerts, food and anything else that would vaguely fit into the racing theme. It was a fun time, and for me, another chance to do some street photography which I probably find more interesting than shooting cars going around a track. Plus it was free. Better than spending hundreds of bucks on racing tickets. That’s a good thing since I can save my money and, what else, buy more gear.
Speaking of gear, I mentioned last week that I’m testing two new cameras. I’m still playing with the pre production camera that is on loan to me, but in the mean time, I wanted to talk about the new camera that I just bought, the Fuji XF1. Heck, even its name is perfect for F1 weekend. I went to Fan Fest last year where I shot with my Olympus E-P3. I went even smaller and lighter this year with Fuji’s smallest X branded point and shoot. I’ll do a full review of the XF1 and tell you what makes this guy unique in a future post. For now, lets just say that I’m very happy with the images I got with this point and shoot, even at night. Take a look at the photos and tell me what you think.
I was already downtown on Friday for a party and decided to check out Fan Fest. I snapped an image of a couple of women at the Red Bull – Infiniti display. This simple snapshot actually showcases one of my favorite features of this XF1. It’s something that reviewers rarely talk about. Just as a teaser, I’ll say that it blows away what my other “high end” point and shoot, the Canon G15, can do.
The highlight of the evening was the free concert by Foreigner. The lead singer was still going strong from this 80’s era British-American Rock Band. The photo at the very top was from the concert as well as these two images. The black and white was done in camera and tweaked in post. In fact, I shot all photographs in JPEG and I did minor tweaks with Aperture 3 afterwards.
Fan Fest did an admirable job by including everyone, especially kids. There were simulators and video games and slot car races. This is the closest I got to any kind of race track that weekend.
As expected, there were many fast cars on display.
Talks by actual F1 drivers. Here’s David Coulthard at the AT&T pavilion.
Certainly, there were numerous products being promoted with attractive spokes people.
Infiniti and Ford had displays. I like the style of the current Ford Fusion with its Aston Martin-esque grill. The red model looked nice under the colorful lights.
Austin seems to be in the midst of another building boom. I’m seeing a lot of cranes again.
There were loads of food and alcohol for sale with “slightly” inflated prices. I enjoyed the Chicken on a Stick grilling performance.
This is Austin after all so we had plenty of music. Red Bull had an upbeat club mix going all night, undoubtedly to make our European visitors feel welcome.
We also had street musicians with a more local Tejano feel.
Finally, there were several stages with live concerts. These guys were not as popular as Foreigner but they were great and I could get up close to the stage.
I had a fun night of photography and Fan Fest gave me something different to shoot. The Fujifilm XF1, for the most part, did an admirable job. I’ll talk more about it in upcoming posts.
The ISIS tent gets the award for the prettiest car display at the Austin Fan Fest. This purple Ferrari was bathed in purple LED lights. It created a soft glow that was hard to resist. I shot the details and curves with my shallowest depth of field. I eliminated clutter to focus on the vehicle.
Why purple? ISIS, who makes smart phone based mobile wallets has a purple logo and color scheme. Of course this sports car has nothing to do with electronic wallets but it fits the performance oriented F1 marketing theme. It works for me. It gave me a chance to take some beauty shots.
Please make sure to click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.