Photographing Jackie Venson during Black Fret’s Listening Session at Austin’s Spider House Ballroom

Last Saturday night at Austin’s Spider House Ballroom, we rocked out to David Ramirez and Jackie Venson at a Black Fret Listening Session. Black Fret is an exclusive and limited network of art patrons dedicated to supporting Austin's internationally recognized local musicians.

When Jackie Venson took the stage, I knew she was going to be a blast to photograph.

Jackie’s style is intense and joyful. Complimenting her impressive vocal range is her own tight and accomplished lead guitar sound. It is hard to believe that Jackie taught herself guitar only 5 years ago.

Her comments between songs created a fun and intimate environment. One time, referring to her skills at lead guitar, she simply stated “there is one way to get good: play a LOT!” I thought that was a good lesson to all of us in the arts. 

When we arrived at the Spider House Ballroom and took our seats on the second row, I was concerned that I had brought the wrong lens. I have caught beautiful shots with my Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens, but I sat a mere 8 feet from the lead mic and worried that 85mm might be a bit tight. Soon my concerns were put to rest, realizing that this focal length was perfect, enabling me to capture Jackie’s many expressions.

Focusing was a bit of a challenge. I shot at f/1.4 because the lights were low and because I wanted a wide-open, shallow depth-of-field look. While the G Master glass captures gorgeous images, it isn’t known for being a speed demon at auto-focusing. Some of the time I tried manual focusing, only to return to auto-focus due to Jackie’s energetic movements. Much of the time I had my Sony A7R II set to “Continuous” AF as I held the shutter down and blasted tons of continuous shots. Admittedly, my “hail Mary” approach to getting "the shot" resulted in hundreds of images to sort through in Lightroom.

No biggie. That's half the fun of it. Hope you enjoy the results. 


Joe Van Wyk
Portrait and Event Photographer



It isn't easy to shoot a friend.

Don’t worry. My friend Reed is resting fine after his shooting.

All kidding aside, I admittedly was a bit nervous before doing Reed’s portrait. You see, we have known each other for a long time. Since college to be exact. And, let’s just say that in those days phones had cords that plugged into the wall.

So, having a good friend as a client should be easy, right? Not exactly. I mean, what if he didn’t take me seriously? And, even worse, what if he didn’t like his photographs? Fortunately, Reed and his wife Laura know the real me. They know I’m no big shot. I’m in the building stage of a photography career.

So as it turned out, when Reed showed up for his appointment, he assumed his role as subject and I assumed mine as photographer. Frankly, the whole experience was more awesome than awkward. We had a great time and I am so blown away by these shots.

When I pulled Reed’s photos up in Lightroom, I saw more than just a literal physical representation of him. I saw something deeper. Something different.

Photography is magic. 

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'.

When Sandra said "I have a surprise for you" a few weeks ago, I perked up. Then, after getting over my initial disappointment that we weren't going to Disney World, I found out that she had scored tickets to last night's Steve Miller Band show at Austin's Skyline Theater at the Long Center.

"Steve Miller?", I asked. "You mean, as in the 'Jungle Love' and 'Fly Like an Eagle' Steve Miller?" Little by little, I was getting over the Disney World let-down and getting pumped for the artist I will forever associate with me flying around the skating rink back in the late 70s. 

The Long Center has a series of concerts and events throughout the summer on its lawn overlooking Town Lake and Austin's stunning downtown cityscape. We strapped a big blanket on the back of the Vespa, and buzzed downtown for the event.

I brought my Sony a7RII camera and the new Sony 85mm F1.4 GM lens, knowing I would be shooting a few portraits as well as candids. You can imagine how my heart sank as we walked though security and a deep voice asked "You don't have a detachable lens camera in there, do ya?"  Ugh. Well, I fumbled with my backpack and, right as I was about to unwrap my "illegal" camera, an old college friend ran up out of the blue and caused all kinds of commotion. In the middle of the hugs and howdys, the security guy just waved us through. Go figure. 

The concert was fantastic. Steve Miller's voice is exactly like it was back in the day. He played all of the fans' favorites. The weather was great due to an afternoon shower that cooled things off. I got to watch the show with the love of my life. We even danced a jitterbug on the grass towards the end.

I wonder if Steve Miller, who was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had any idea he would be singing "Fly Like an Eagle'" nearly 4 decades later in front of generations of fans who love his music so much? It made me think of how he just keeps doing what he loves and what he does the best. The Universe takes care of the rest.