Picture Mom strikes at Sacramento Youth Symphony concert

February 27, 2010

As I mentioned in a previous post, my volunteer job for the Sacramento Youth Symphony is to take pictures. All parents are required to volunteer. I used to volunteer in the lobby last year, but this year I found out they wanted pictures so I was totally delighted to take photos!

Saturday there was a concert featuring the Vivace Strings (a beginner orchestra), a brass group from Folsom, and the Premiere Orchestra (the one my daughter is in).

I went early hoping they would rehearse so I could get some good closeup shots. Alas, this was not the case. The kids all stood around a big room and chatted and warmed up on their instruments.

I love this young man’s expression. Makes me want to play the French Horn just looking at him!

This young lady looks like she is playing with great intensity. I think double basses are way cool. But then, my husband says I seem to have a penchant for large instruments… first piano, then harp, then drums, and then a 5-string electric bass guitar that feels like it’s as big as me…  (okay, I don’t play harp, but I would really love to!) “Why can’t you just play piccolo?” he asks.

They all went to sit on the stage for a few minutes and then retreated back stage. I lingered behind to take s hot of the music stands… I have a thing for orderly-looking pictures.

Here’s another shot further back. I liked the contrast of the warm-colored round tympani drums with cool-colored rectangular music folders.

Out in the lobby, someone brought a really cool centerpiece for the sales table. I’m sucker for decor (probably because that’s what I often end up doing, so I like to snap cool ideas. This one was a really cool wintery-looking centerpiece that was so big it almost looked like it covered the whole table! The lighting in the hallway wasn’t so great though…

Here’s a close-up shot. The SYS is selling raffle tickets for a trip to Paris as a fundraiser. I liked the foreground sharpness and the centerpiece blurry in the background.

When I was out in the lobby, Vicki, the lady who runs a lot of things (including volunteers) saw me and said, “Oh good! Picture Mom is here!” I guess that is my new title. Picture Mom! I’ve never been called that before. 🙂

Then the concert began. The Vivace Strings began, conducted by Greg Brucker. They were such cute little kids! I was quite impressed. When I was their age I could barely play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in tune. In fact, I was lucky if I even had my bow on the right string. No wonder I didn’t last playing violin very long. It not only drove my parents nuts, it drove me nuts!

After that the Folsom Lake Symphony Brass Ensemble played. Brass is really hard to play. They did a great job.

And then it was time for the Premier Orchestra, conducted by Michael Neumann! I like the long flowy skirts and long flowy hair of these young women in this photograph. (The empty chair belonged to the soloist who played later.)

Here’s the percussion people in the back standing, with violinists in the front, in pairs.

Then came a violin concerto, played by a young man named Ray Anthony. He is only 14 years old. Oh my gosh, I was so amazed. The kid was barely taller than the chair it seemed like. But he played like he was a pro who had been playing for decades! I could not believe how quickly his fingers flew over the strings, the awesome bow-work, expressiveness, and precision. It was totally boggling. I really wish I had recorded video of it. You had to see it to believe it.

Here’s a closeup. Gotta love my 200mm zoom lens!

The lens allows me to get very good closeups of the musicians. However, I discovered at 1/60 speed it is way too slow — I had a lot of blurry pictures. 🙁 The sharp pictures at 160 speed were way better. I just punched up the brightness in post-processing. Here’s an example of how clear the shots are:

The soloist received a well-deserved standing ovation!

Then it was time for intermission. I wandered around. There is an orchestra pit in the room. You can see it in the picture below, how the stairs go into a room that is under the stage. It looked a bit claustrophobic down there. I’m not so sure I would like to be in an orchestra playing down there!

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of all the cellos, lined up in a row… really, this things-in-a-row seems to becoming an obsession with me.

It was time to gather together again. They did a drawing for a person who won a delicious jar of honey! (Well, I assume it was delicious. It sure sounded delicious. And when I looked in the lobby, it certainly looked delicious.)

Then onto part two — a Beethoven  Symphony! Now it was time to start experimenting with tilted shots. Sure gives a feeling of a lot more energy!

This one had to be tilted because someone’s head was in the way and it was the only way I could get a full body shot. But I’m not so sure I’m that happy with this picture as it looks like this guy is going to fall into his music:

And the concert was over! It was wonderful. I can’t believe these people are so young and they play so well!!! It was also the only chance I had to photograph the people in the back row, as the facility didn’t have a balcony. This is a bummer as it means only the people in the front get in the pictures. I did stand in the back of where the audience was and take pictures but I hate being a distracting photographer walking around front by the stage during a concert. That would be totally annoying. So I just did what I could from where I was sitting and from the back where I could stand up.

The other side of the orchestra… and proof my daughter is in this concert, as the only time we saw her was when she was walking out. Then she was swallowed by a sea of black and I didn’t see her again til she popped her head up here… the head that looks like it’s sitting on the conductor’s arm.

Michael Neumann received flowers from a cute little girl.

Ray Anthony got up to take a bow. See how his fellow musicians cheer him on! They stomped their feet (how the orchestra “claps their hands.”)

Michael Neumann pointed to the other side…

where Greg Brucker walked out again for another bow.

And afterwards, there was a little reception in the back room. However, there were so many cramped tables in there I was not able to get good shots. And it’s not good to take pictures of people eating anyway if you want to avoid awkward pictures.

So I learned more things about my Nikon camera.

I learned how to use the manual settings better. (All these pictures were taken with manual settings. No auto settings here! Oh, the lens was auto-focus. I guess that’s cheating a little but I confess it works a lot better than my eye.)

I learned what shutter speeds work best in the stage light with the people moving. ( I used anything between 60 and 160  at ISO 1600 and the lower speed pictures were a little fuzzy.)

I learned I need to learn how to use my new fixed AF-S Nikkor 35 mm DX camera lens (a gift from my wonderful husband!) better, as some pictures turned out blurry. That lens focusing mechanism is so quiet I can’t even hear when it goes out of focus again! (As opposed to my AF Nikkor 80-200mm ED lens, which is quite noisy in comparison. But the good thing about that is I can hear when it starts to go slightly out of focus.)

I also was amazed at how if you have an SLR camera with a big lens, you just naturally start connecting with other photographers. The guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder during intermission. He had a Nikon camera too, and was just getting started in photography. It turned out that he was also a mechanical engineer (like my husband) and also worked in Rancho Cordova (like my husband). And he was Asian (like us). So much in common!

So I enjoyed a great concert, had fun photographing, and made a new fellow photographer friend in the process!

A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — angelayeedesign.com) and teaches leadership skills at strategysketchnotes.com.

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  1. CathyT - March 1, 2010

    Hi Angela,
    Beautiful photos. I loved the crispness of the shots…I loved seeing the smiles on the musician’s faces…so often we see them concentrating. I especially love the picture of Ray Anthony with the kids ‘stomping’
    Keep up the great work “Picture Mom”
    Cathy Taylor

  2. Angela Yee - March 1, 2010

    Thanks for your kind comments, Cathy! I love those smiles too! 🙂

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