f-Stop Me Before I Snap

Being visually challenged is not the same as being visually impaired. For better or worse, I am both. My visual impairment is only slight: I am near-sighted which requires me to wear glasses. This actually works in my favor because I have for some time now preferred the big chunky Henry Kissinger-style glasses that seem to be all the rage these days. I see impossibly hip scenesters with 20/20 eyesight or better sporting these frames with fake lenses in them, and I think to myself  “Ha! I was wearing those well before it was cool, and not as a fashion statement. My lenses are medically necessary!” It does my heart good to smugly think this to myself while ignoring the fact that I’m actually being kind of a dick. Though, I must admit I feel a slight dread to know that one day soon these thick black frames will once again fall out of favor with the Cool Kids, and despite the fact that my face-windshields will have jumped the shark, I will still prefer them. For the moment though, I’m golden.

Face windshields

Being visually challenged, however, has been a far taller tree to climb. I don’t mean that I’m homely, though it’s arguable. I mean that despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to produce a good band photo for Dutch Holly. This is largely owing to the fact that I’m not nor have I ever claimed to be a photographer. Also contributing to this, I suspect, is the fact that I don’t own a decent camera, much less any of the fancy lenses or attendant accoutrements. Lastly, if I had any of these things, I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to use them. In short, I don’t know an f-stop from a fluffernutter, and I’m not going to learn now.

And so, for years, Dutch Holly’s visual presence has limped along on the internet and in press kits with whatever I have managed to schlock together with a crappy digital camera, Photoshop, and an unhealthy attitude toward putting out sub-par visuals. Poor creature, Jen is used to me being able to do whatever is required: Record and produce an album? No problem. Make a video? Sure. What’s that you say? Construct a virtual band out of puppets, record backing tracks for them, video them against a green screen, and synchronize them to a projected live show? You betcha. But take some decent photos? Bzzzt! Nope. That is where my ability to do whatever is required ends, apparently.

Southwest indie pop duo Dutch Holly
The best photo I ever took.

Photography, to me, is a mysterious art. Likelier than not, if I snap a picture, I will capture Jen in mid-blink from an unflattering angle and in terrible lighting. Do it a dozen times, and I will have a dozen shots like that. It’s like flipping a coin and having it always come up tails. And the worst part is, Jen’s a beautiful girl just looking to get a decent picture of herself out there. I’m sure my bedside manner isn’t any help either: I glare severely into the viewfinder, silently white-knuckling the shot into focus, not offering any direction or reassurance at all. To Jen, having her picture taken by me is like facing a drunken Romanian firing squad, only slightly less pleasant, and she won’t be granted the mercy of eternal rest once the trigger is pulled. This unfortunate confluence of my incompetence, general lack of equipment and/or the knowledge to operate it, and the achingly terrible photos it has produced, has had a deleterious effect on Jen’s psyche. Apart from walking around the world thinking that she is some kind of hideous Medusa-crone, she has developed a crippling inability to face a camera without making the “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-face” expression. This only perpetuates the vicious cycle. It took professional intervention to interrupt the pattern.

Fortunately, our dear friend – and a consummate professional – Chad Castigliano of  Chronicker Photography has leapt heroically to our aid. When Chad showed up to our house on a recent unseasonably chilly Saturday afternoon, he brought with him a Lowell lighting kit, several lenses, and a competence that – I am not ashamed to say – I will envy forevermore. Immediately, he started getting great shots: The kind of shots that Jen, bless her, has wanted me to be able to produce for years. Where my efforts behind the camera produced one passable shot in 2 years, Chad got at least 10 in a matter of minutes.

Jen Closeup
Photo by Chad Castigliano, Chronicker Photography

Band photos are a tricky business. You don’t want to wind up glaring malevolently into the camera from a back-alley fire escape only to find your promo shot on the top 10 list of world’s douchiest band photos. And yet, you can’t stiffly strike a familial pose against some mottled pastel Olan Mills backdrop and slap it on your website. These two extremes represent the zenith and nadir of my visual sensibility when it comes to band photos. Come to think of it, that may have something to do with my failure to ever produce a good one. Not having taken ANY photos with a professional photographer, Jen and I had absolutely no idea what the hell to do. Fortunately, Chad just suggested we go outside and play with the light. Just relax, look at the camera or occasionally away, and we’ll see what we get. Beats the hell out of the Romanian Firing Squad treatment, and despite our own lack of vision, we got some good shots! 147The post production process was just as painless despite Jen and me being nitghmarishly persnickety about our images.  Chad just soldiered on in his good-natured and patient manner until we had a plethora of shots to choose from. And thus, a long and dark chapter of being a visually challenged band has finally come to a close. I’ve learned my lesson. From now on, I’m not taking any more photos of us. Finally, we have seen the light: Pro photos from here on in for Dutch Holly.

Bulgy Eyes, Barney Fife, and a Bootlicker
Past Shows - 2014