Photos from SXSW 2011

Next Week Out Skinny

I’ve been going to SXSW—a music, film, and interactive conference—for a long time. But I look forward to it every year and this coming year (2012) with be the 10th Southby for me.

It’s not lost on me that I’m posting my shots from SXSW 2011 when we’re only about three weeks out from SXSW 2012. I don’t have much of an excuse other than to say that I guess I had a lot going on last year. But they’re posted. Of the 303 shots I took over those six days in March, I’ve posted 19 of them.

Photos from SXSW 2010

Andrew Huff Enjoying a Shiner

SXSW Interactive apparently had over 12,000 attendees this year, more than this year’s SXSW Music. And I still had just as much fun this year as I’ve had any year. It was great.

Once again, Grant Hutchinson helped organize a “Found Type Photowalk” around Austin. Ostensibly, it’s about typography—and there is quite a bit of typography talk—but it’s also a fantastic mid-conference respite where photographers of all types can enjoy a leisurely walk around Austin while taking shots along the way.

I brought along my trusty Canon 40D and it held up pretty well. If anything, the one thing I noticed is that even an image-stabilized lens (like the 17–55mm f/2.8 IS that I was mostly using) can’t save every shot—several of my shots during panels ended up around 1/13sec (at ISO 400) and shots that slow just don’t have a great chance of coming out sharp. (I could have theoretically bumped up the ISO to 800 or 1600, but my 2007-era doesn’t do that well at high ISOs.) Maybe I’ll consider Canon’s rumored 60D if that comes out in time for next year?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be even more attendees next year. And that’s okay. I’ve made so many great friends at SXSW over the years and I wouldn’t miss the chance to hang out with them again.

Photos from SXSW 2009

Kevin Lawver and Alex Bischoff

I look forward to SXSW every year—it’s heaps of fun. Sure, there’s the web-stuff learning (which is good), but it’s also nice to be able to see friends again that I’ve made over the years. (For instance, that shot above is with Kevin and I—I can’t even remember how many years ago he and I had met, but it’s always good to chat with him again.)

In all, I think I took around three hundred fifty photos and I believe I’ve posted around twenty five. Last year, I had rented Canon’ 17–55 f/2.8 lens and I was really pleased with how it worked out. I just happen to have bought one a couple months ago, though, so I didn't need to rent one this time around.

My new photography gadget, though, was a Lumiquest Softbox. Unlike a traditional softbox that one might have off-camera on a light stand or the like, Lumiquest’s Softbox is designed to attach right to one’s flash. Granted, there’re about a bajillion flash diffusers/bouncers on the market (and many an online discussion thread on which one is “best”), but the reason I went with this particular product is that I was pretty sure I wouldn't have much in the way of ceilings of which to bounce off.

I’m still getting a feel for flash photography and the nuances of manual exposure toward balancing one’s ambient light with the light from one’s strobe, but I think I’m getting closer. On the other hand, I’m sometimes unsure about metering modes (evaluative/matrix, center-weighted, spot, and so on) and which ones may be most suited for flash photography.

Part of me wants to lean toward spot-metering, but on my Canon 40D, the spot metering is always done off the center focal-point (as opposed to the active focal point). I’m sure that’s messed up my exposure more than once, but I haven't quite decided if maybe I just need to learn how to use spot-metering better or if another metering mode would be more worthwhile.

In all, though, SXSW was awesome. Part of me was a little worried that it could have been even more crowded than last year, but whether through room rejiggeration or maybe scheduling tweaks, the organizers seemed to have largely taken care of some of the crowding issues that had crept in last year. Plus, this year, my brother and I had a chance to get dinner together on the Tuesday night as I was heading out (from Interactive) and he was heading in (for Music). What a great way to round things out.

Photos from SXSW 2008

Alex Russell Enjoying a Beer

As I do every March, headed down to Austin earlier this month for SXSW. I also brought my new camera along, a Canon 40D which I’ve had since around February. To go along with that, I rented Canon’s 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens from (an awesome online lens rental shop, if you ever need that kind of thing).

I had always heard generally good things about image-stabilization including some reports of being able to hand-hold shots down to 1/8 sec or even 1/4 sec. Given that I seem to encounter a fairly average amount of camera shake (as opposed to an extraordinarily low amount of it), I was cautiously optimistic about how much the image stabilization system might be able to help me.

In short, I couldn’t be more pleased. If the phrasing wasn’t so religiously-exclusive, I might even be tempted to call this the Jesuslens (see also: Jesusnoun.) Or, put another way, if this lens wasn’t around $1,000, I probably would have bought it by now. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I knew that I’d be hand-holding shots at SXSW and I was hoping that this lens would come through for me — it sure did. I managed several keepers at 1/8 sec. and even down to 1/6 sec.

With the aid of the back of a chair in my hotel room for additional sturdiness, I was also able to work through a set of four 1/2-second exposures of the Austin skyline which I then was able to stitch together to form a panoramic. (Incidentally, Photoshop CS3 is more intuitive than I thought it’d be for making panoramas. They’ve really improved that functionality over CS2.) I may have to try that panorama-thing more often — that was kinda fun. is a Pretty Nice SXSW Calendar — Pretty Nice SXSW Calendar

I’m going to SXSW this year (in fact, this weekend) and I was looking around for an online calendar that might help me plan which panels I was going to. (South by Southwest, in case you might not be familiar with it, is a music, film, and interactive festival/conference in Austin, Texas.) The website usually has a semi-usable calendar, but I just couldn’t get it to work this year.

Some friends of mine mentioned a third-party calendaring option,, and I thought I’d give that a shot. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it’s great — it’s easy to use, intuitive, and uses just enough Ajax to be helpful without getting in the way. Anyhow, I’ve worked out my calendar and I think I’ve figured out most of the panels that I’d like to go to. As you might guess, if you see two panels listed for the same time slot, it means that I like both of them and just haven’t yet figured out which to go to. For instance, like these:

Of course, I’m open to ideas if you have any suggestions on resolving those stalemates. One way or another, I’ll figure things out :).