New song: “How to live”

It has been almost two years since I last posted a full original song on YouTube. While that is kind of sad, it has been an odd time with many changes in my life. Hopefully I will now find the time and interest to concentrate on my music again.

I am really excited about “How to live”. Most of the song came together quite quickly but it took a long time to get it done. I started with a simple riff and built upon that. Before finalizing it, I asked my friend Helene Urva to add her vocals. I am very happy with how it ended up sounding. Hope you will enjoy it too.

The song is also available on soundcloud and bandcamp.

Sirens and early autumn

It’s been a busy September and I haven’t really had much time for photography. It is a shame since there have been many nice days, however I hope I will have a chance to take some lovely photos with autumn foliage before the dark and wet autumn really hits.

The biggest photo-shoot I had in September was the album release concert for the female chamber choir Sireen. They presented their new album “Terra Incognita” in the House of the Blackheads hall in Tallinn and asked me to take pictures of the event.

The concert itself was amazing. The sound was perfect, they had good choreography and an amazing light show. The only problem for me was the lighting. While everything looked impressive, it was relatively dark so I had to bump up the ISO. Using the flash would have ruined the concert for the audience and I also had to be careful with moving around. The concert was acoustic so every sound I made was audible.

In the end I got some really nice pictures, albeit a little noisy. The members of the choir seemed happy though and that’s what really matters.

Choir Sireen performing

Interesting light show during the concert
Members of the choir next to the walls

I have been thinking a lot about how I approach photography and what would make me better at taking photos of people. It is not an obvious thing. It takes a lot of practice and you really need to be able to connect with your subjects.

I tend to overanalyse (as is evident in this post) and worry too much about preparing. When the session starts I find I am too much stuck in my head and this takes it’s toll on my communication with the model. Understanding the problems helps but I’ve fount that talking to other photographers is really good as well.

I had a conversation about photographing people with Liisa from the wonderful Mellow and understood that I need to be more oriented on the person I am photographing and understand what they are feeling in the moment. Work with what the experience brings. Sounds simple enough but it is easy to forget it when you prepare things before the shoot and have too many things in your head.

I think I want to try to connect more with my models before each shoot and try to understand how the clothes they wear make them feel. What are they thinking about themselves in the outfit and how the background will play into it? A conversation that goes deeper than the basic “what will you wear and where will we shoot” may help bring more depth to the images and make things more interesting for me too.

I’ll end this post with a picture I took at an art exhibition called “Luminescent Art and Digital Sounds at Researchers Night” that I visited during the Researchers Night in Tartu. The artist is my friend Macey Muse who make a lot of amazing paintings.  I didn’t get many other images of the event as my sensor got some odd dust on it but this one I like.

Macey Muse talking to a visitor at her art exhibition

Mastering Spotify

Although playlists are undoubtedly a very large part of listening to music today, I’m not a big fan of them. The idea of a bunch of songs arranged together by some specific genre or emotion makes sense but I tend to prefer listening to full albums. Very rarely do I want to listen to just one specific song from an artists.

Playlists are of course useful but every time I have started to make playlists in Spotify they turn out horrid. Sometimes my playlists only have a few songs in them as I forget to add new ones. Then there are some with a bunch of seemingly random songs and a few albums in there for good measure. Plus they are not built up in a way that makes sense – there is no logical transition from one song to the next. There is no thought put into which song should follow the other.

Discover Weekly in Spotify

The problem has started to annoy me more over the past few months. The Discover Weekly function is the crown jewel of Spotify and I have found more and more new music that I like using it. I also listen to the new releases every week just to see if there’s anything I find interesting.

The question then comes up, how do I remember these new finds. Again, I am more interested in the full albums than just the songs. Ideally I would like to have separate lists for albums that I can categorize by genre. It would be a grid of albums much like the new releases section that I could sort by name, date added etc. I actually sent Spotify this as a request but I am not holding my breath that they’ll actually add this any time soon.

A twitter conversation with Spotify
While waiting, I came up with a system that I hope will work for me. The idea is that I have separate album and song playlists in addition to a few temporary playlists. The song ones are standard – just lists of songs for Christmas or that I played at our wedding etc. The temporary ones are for songs that I find on Discover Weekly or elsewhere. Once a week or so, I will go over the temporary lists and see if I just like the song or the whole album. If I just like the song it will go into a random favorites list. If the album is good, I will add it to one of my album lists. This way I start each week with a clean temporary list to hold new music.

I categorize the album lists somewhat by genre or feeling. The important thing is that it makes sense to me. While the albums don’t show up in a nice grid, the list kind of works and at least allows me to find an album that interested me a few weeks ago quite quickly.

My profile on Spotify showing my playlists

All the album playlists I make will be public on my profile so if anyone is interested in my favorites in any given genre, you can follow them. Hopefully Spotify will make the dream of album playlists a reality but until then, I hope this method will help me listen to more varied and interesting new music. Too often I feel like listening to music for a few hours and don’t know what to put on…

Allan Vainola & Unenäopüüdjad

While I expect to have a smaller international interest in my blog now that I live in Estonia and this post will likely be more interesting for Estonians, I will keep writing this blog in English for now. I just like continuity…

There was another wonderful concert in my home town this week and I was very happy to be invited as the photographer for the venue. The band playing was called Allan Vainola & Unenäopüüdjad (Dreamcatchers). They are a mostly acoustic group that makes very interesting music with a specific retro feel.

The event was made more special by the fact, that I have been a long time fan of Allan Vainola’s music and have actually attended this group’s concert before. It was more than 5 years ago in Tartu and I have quite fond memories of getting together with a group of people I had met through the fan forums of Sõpruse Puiestee (another band Vainola is in) and going to a warm acoustic concert in the Tartu University Cafe.  So many memories were brought back…

The lighting was quite dark and intimate as was the overall feeling in the hall. While it looked very nice and proper, it made it quite difficult to get nice shots. I had to be very subtle in my movements as to not disturb the people enjoying the show. I couldn’t get very close as well, so I had to use a longer 100 mm lens, which was hard to keep stable in the dark. At times I had to bump up the ISO to 3200 to manage a shutter speed of 1/100 and even then, the more active moments on stage got blurred out.

Luckily I did manage to get a few nice shots of the performers and the venue so the concert organizer seemed happy.

Loore Martma “Maa aeg”

Last evening I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a concert in my hometown of Keila. Since it is a small town, there are not many such events and it is seldom that I am actually interested in going. The concert I attended was “Maa aeg” (“Earth time”) by Loore Martma.

It was a very enjoyable experience. The concert was acoustic and intimate. Not many people were able to attend but those who did, seemed to really enjoy it. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of people gathering around Loore after the concert, asking for autographs and expressing their happiness.

Loore had been giving concerts for about a month and I hadn’t seen many photos of her concerts. Most were made with a phone, so I jumped at the opportunity to bring my camera. I love photographing musicians.

Since the concert was acoustic and quiet, I decided early on that I would not move around and would take as few photos as possible. Although my camera has no mirror, the shutter still makes a noticeable sound. I remembered a choir concert in University of Tartu where the photographer had a very loud mirror click every time he took a photo. It annoyed me to no end… I didn’t want to be that guy.

Because of these constraints, I could not take photos in too many different angles. I only had 2 prime lenses with me – a 50 mm f1.8 and a 100 mm f2.8, that had manual focus. This limited the variety of shots I could take anyway. I ended up with about 16 shots, with a final selection of 10 (6 of which you see here) and I hope I succeeded in not annoying anyone in the audience. At least Loore seemed to like the photos.