by Thomas R. Zecher
Photos by Alexander Kopp
Most cinematographers and still photographers know about Obekochen. It’s a small town, three hours from Frankfurt and two hours from Munich. This is where ZEISS cine and still photography lenses come from.
What many of us did not know is that the 25th Aalener Jazz Festival opened in Oberkochen this November 2016. Aalen is a large town, 6 miles from Oberkochen, and its jazz festival is an important international event. ZEISS is one of the patrons and sponsors of the festival.
In response to the inevitable “why,” Dr. Winfried Scherle, Head the ZEISS Consumer Optics Business Group, said, “Jazz is like Photography and Cinematography. A new language develops from improvisation and creativity. Maybe it’s no accident that Stanley Kubrick considered a career as a jazz drummer and Woody Allen still plays in a New York jazz band. The ZEISS Foundation has always made commitments to support many different fields ranging from science to culture. In light of this, our customers may take pride in knowing that they also have contributed to this support.”
The Aalener Jazzfest enjoys a tremendous reputation, attracting visitors and artists from around the world. Fats Domino, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Jan Garbarek, B.B. King and Marla Glen played here. The festival also provides a stage for leading European big bands and other artists.
The opening event of the 2016 Aalener Jazzfest took place at the ZEISS Forum in Oberkochen. “Rising & Pearls” was the motto of this year’s event which included remarkable performances by soloists and duos. Cuban pianist Marialy Pacheco injected genuine warmth into the chilly November day in Oberkochen. She also presented a surprise guest, Joo Kraus, who treated festival organizer Ingo Hug to a serenade to mark the Aalener Jazzfest’s 25th anniversary. A good few years younger than the festival itself, jazz prodigy Jacob Collier (guitar, piano, keyboard, bass, percussion – yes, he does all that) once again demonstrated his incredible versatility, using multiple video projections to add a spectacular visual element to his performance. Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala and Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius made another successful return to the festival, leaving a delighted audience cheering for more.
Photographer Alexander Kopp took photos of the event, conveniently using ZEISS lenses. All his photos were done without any additional lighting and give new meaning to the term “available light,” perhaps now better described as “making use of available darkness!”
“It’s tough taking photos under these conditions,” Alexander said. “Even the best autofocus system can’t beat manual focusing in these situations.” He made particular use of lenses from the ZEISS Otus family. A high aperture of f/1.4 ensures a bright viewfinder image that’s helpful for focusing, but can pose the challenge of an extremely shallow depth of field. That’s why he chose to take many of his shots stopped down a bit and accepted the slower shutter speeds.
That wasn’t the only challenge he faced. The strong red component of the available light…er…darkness reduced contrast and detail, while great extremes between light and dark areas completely negated the use of automatic exposure.