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Summer at the Lake


In blue.

A summer day at the lake. A southern summer day. A New Orleans summer day.

A summer day in New Orleans that folks who aren’t from here probably never think about. They think about the French Quarter. Maybe Magazine Street. About parades. Mardi Gras. And, food. We have our peaceful places too.

This is one of them. Just about anywhere along Lake Ponchartrain. Sure, the lake can get pretty violent during a storm. It was storm surges from it that actually flooded New Orleans 12 years ago.

But, on a nice hot summer day with a little breeze blowing…

This picture is for Sunday. A peaceful Sunday. I thought that after yet another week of turmoil, presidential stupidity, protests and terrorist attacks, we could use something calming. If you open this picture up real big, and play some quiet music, I promise you’ll think you are some place else.

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Summer Water


Sort of Zennish.

Water.

Again. Why not? It’s the lifeblood of nature. Of you. Of me.

I thought this picture was equally balanced. I’m glad that it’s not. Look closely, there is a dark gray border on the bottom with bubbles on it. It keeps the bottom of the picture heavier than the top. It sort of gives it an anchor. Something to hang on to, while the top is all light and airiness.

A quick little discussion and question. Any answer is fine because you know that Storyteller is experimental and I mostly share pictures to test them. Some of them please me. But, sometimes I just want to see what they look like on this space. Of course I care what you think. But, like anybody else, I post some clunkers. It’s that old baseball thing again. The best hitters bat about .300. That means they failed two out of three times.

A friend of mine, with whom I attended high school, looks at my images on Facebook. I’m not sure if he actually reads Storyteller. In one comment, a few months ago, he said something about me growing beyond what people think about my work. That, at my age, that’s where I should be. My response, at the time, was pretty simple. I make my living doing this. If I people don’t like my work, my dogs don’t get high-end kibbles.

A day or so ago when I posted that layered picture of what is essentially just light and color, he said something to the effect of, “I like your work but I don’t understand this one.”

So.

Which is it? Should I just roll with everything? Good and bad. Or, should I take his criticism to heart?

I know what I think. Storyteller is the place where I play. Experiment. Tinker. Go too far.

For most of you that’s perfectly fine. For image buyers, they just drop down to a place where more traditionally produced images live. No problem.

The picture. A dog walking picture along a place that we both like. Morning is the best time there. In fact, with our extreme late summer heat, morning is the best time anywhere. We are having one of those “feels like” 109 degree weeks. How hot is that in real terms? Well, to make this picture I had to walk out above the water. Some of it splashed on me. It was bathtub warm. That’s flowing water in the shade. The actual picture taking was easy. Focus on the leaf and don’t fall in.

How bad would that be? Sheesh. After a long dog walk, I come in soaked anyway. Humidity is a great deep cleaning agent. Heh!

The Bridge


Summer sky.

It was the cloud that I wanted.

The cloud that was reflecting the setting sun. The silhouetted bridge and power pole are just added bonuses. You know. Luck. Photographer’s luck.

Keep moving. Go outside your door. Luck just sort of happens.

Unfortunately, I miss a lot of pictures like this. I’m not often any place with a really great subject when this sort of light happens, as it did last night. Sort of another kind of luck. The luck of the draw.

Maybe.

Eventually, I’ll get back to chasing pictures for their own sake. I am on Monday. Not just for their own sake, but that’s another story. But, guess what? Weather predictions for Monday are for heavy overcast. The “Big American Solar Eclipse” may be blocked from our view. I’m not worried. The weather changes so much around here that five-day forecasts are meaningless.

On the other hand…

You know all those giant supermoons? I haven’t made a picture. We’ve had heavy clouds for every one of them.

The picture. Sort of F8 and be there. Add some glow in post to help you see what I feel. How much F8 and be there? It was like this. I was driving to someplace else. “Oh, gosh. Look at that cloud in the sun. I”d better find a place to take a picture.” I pull over. I look up and thought, “Would you look at that? A bridge,”

That’s how it went.

Mystery


Glowing in the dark.

A little layering. Because.

Just because. I had the images and I pretty much saw the picture in my head while I was actually pushing the button. I had a vision. Then I saw… oh, never mind.

For this image, it’s about layering. Again. I haven’t done this in a while even though I like it. And, you like it. Besides, it’s something the lives in my head. I’ve seen a couple of you try layering with good results. If I had a critique, it would be that you aren’t pushing it far enough.

The steps are simple. Make a couple of pictures. Use some editing tool to stack them. Adjust them for depth and brightness. Fine tune them. You’re done. But, really push them. And, for gosh sakes don’t use the histogram to guide you. Once you start doing this everything looks clipped and too heavy in the shadows. That’s only natural. You are piling up the dark side of the image.

Oh yeah. One more thing. Do you know the Yiddish word, “schnorrer?” Well. MJ make this picture. Hahahahahahaha. Oh, if you don’t want that lightning struck look on your pictures, close the radius and don’t make the pictures so damn contrasty. Actually, that’s a lesson for all photographers. ­čÖé

Yiddish. With a last name like mine, what do you expect? By the way, spell check wants me to change schnorrer to schnauzer.

Hmmmmmmm.

Hobbitville


Lost in the village.

This made me smile.

The bright red mushroom made me think of a hobbit. All bright and colorful. Attractive. Pretty. Seeing them made me smile. And, I’m pretty sure if you ingested it, you wouldn’t like the effects.

It’s called the Fly Agaric. It’s the classic toadstool of children’s books. Often, their caps are more round and have yellow dots on the tops.

There are two toxins in it. Muscimol  and Ibotenic Acid. They act on the central nervous system. They can cause lack of coordination, agitation, drowsiness, nausea and hallucinations. In other words, after about an hour when they kick in, they cause craziness. Imagine being sleepy and agitated at the same time.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

They also kill dogs. Luckily, the dog who finds stuff has no interest in them. But, some dogs do. Be forewarned.

The picture. It’s pretty much as you see it. If anything, I toned it down a little since the sensor wants to see the mushroom as bright red, when to my eye, it is a little golden. It may be dangerous, but I reacted immediately. I also added a little glow to make it more mystical. After all, some ancient cultures eat these in measure quantities for exactly their hallucinogenic effects.

SCBT Company


Twenty two.

Uh, what?

Twenty two. I found this on what I thought was a pole supporting a power line. It’s not. It’s a pole supporting very old school telephone land lines.

I had no idea what SCBT Co is, or was. So I did the Google thing.

Turns out it was the logo for the South Central Bell Telephone Company. It was located in Birmingham, Alabama. It was created in 1968, when Bell telephone operations were split off in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The two companies were reunited in 1984 and as part of the AT&T system in 1992. All of this was a big part of the 1982 Bell breakup as ordered by the Department of Justice which resulted in seven Baby Bells. By the way, AT&T did not survive. It is owned by what was Southwestern Bell or SBC, and operates under the name of AT&T Inc.

I have no idea what the number 22 means in this context. I suppose it means, uh, well, 22.

There’s a bunch of lessons to be learned here. Go outside. Keep your eyes open. Photograph what you see. Do not edit your seeing. Turn your mind off. Just take pictures. Do some post production magic to bring out the colors and texture of the original image.

Then. If you are going to post it, share it or show it.

Do some research. I learned a lot from this simple little picture. And, it’s got a nice glow. Like my magic mushroom does. Heh!

Although some people believe art is art and doesn’t need context, I disagree. I think to understand art, you need to know something about it. This is one of the reasons that so many photographs look the same today. No underlying context. I get a lot of emails about entering this or that photo contest. They always show last year’s pictures as an example of winners. The all look the same. In the nature category, for instance, soft hazy water, night skies pointed towards The Milky Way made with a wide angle lens, mountain ridges with sunsets and clouds…

Which brings me to the Solar Eclipse.

I’m going to photograph it. But, we don’t live in the area of totality. So, I probably won’t even try to photograph the event itself. There are far better people — mostly scientists — who are better equipped to do the real job. And, there will be 3,89,514,981 and one images of the eclipse and the “diamond ring.” You really need a telescope to do that right. And, proper filtration. I don’t have either.

I’m going to photograph everything else. Groups of people looking at it. Landmarks with the eclipse behind or around it. Will it be the great eclipse picture of 2017? Oh no. But, it’ll be a little different and it will be done in my style.

Oh. I see that because everything must be branded, an event in nature is now called “The Great American Eclipse.”

I have two words for that. But, this is a family page.

Mushroom in Black & White


Too much moisture.

This is what happens when we get a lot of rain, combined with summer’s heat and normal humidity.

Weird mushrooms.

And, black and white art.

I made this picture in between storms. In some areas of the neighborhood, water was still standing. What am I saying? Was? We haven’t had heavy rainfall in a couple of days and water is still standing. We are saturated. Supersaturated. I suspect if we have another heavy rainfall next week, there will be more flooding. With or without the water pumps.

Sheesh.

We aren’t even half way through hurricane season. Yet.

The picture. I made it in color. It looked fine. I tested it in black and white. It looked much better. Besides, the color of the mushroom is a light pale yellow on dark brown ground. It looked about the same in terms of color and hue. This one just feels more weighty.

Sometimes…


On the mossy side.

Sometimes… you just don’t feel like it.

I was feeling pretty good this morning. So good that even the threat of a nuclear war or Nazis marching through my streets didn’t bother me. So good, that after the dog who sees stuff and I went for a walk, I took a nap.

So good, that I almost forgot to post today. I like posting. Today. Tomorrow. Everyday. But, relaxation set in and I didn’t feel doing anything.

Then, I remember I have you. I don’t feel like I have to please you. I do like to talk to you. So, there.

The picture. A walk through this little forest-like park with the spaniel girl. She wasn’t sure what to make of this. All I know is that we must have been on the north side of the tree. Oh yeah. The same old thing. F8 and be there.

Cotton Candy Clouds


Color in the sky.

Cotton candy. In the sky.

Sometimes this happens in between storms. Around dusk. When the air is heavy and still carries a lot of water droplets to reflect the low sunlight. Sunlight that bounces around like crazy and paints the sky with amazing colors.

Sometimes, I have a great foreground. Usually, I’m completely out-of-place and I have to go to where I know. At least I wasn’t in a Target parking lot like a friend of mine was. But, it wasn’t much different.

It really was just point and shoot. And, hope for the best.

The pictures. Funny. Normally, I tune my pictures up. I want to bring out the color. The contrast. And, the shape.

Not this time.

The natural color was so bright and contrasty that I found myself working backwards. I removed contrast. I took the saturation down because everything looked garish even with just a tiny hint of extra color.

Nature took over. As usual.

Soaring in purple.

As dusk falls.

New Orleans


Sunset after a storm.

The storm blew out. We got this. This sunset.

I went to one of my usual places. Not because I’m lazy, which is the norm around dinnertime, but because I knew I would have something if I just waited a while. And, because I like some kind of subject in the foreground of my sunset pictures. Even if it is just power poles.

Yes.

There is a lot of post production going on. Nothing really great comes straight from the camera. Even pictures of nature. Film or digital capture just can’t “see” the way the human brain sees. But, our human brains can help our images. To be what we see.

But.

That’s not what I want to talk about today. We can bat this ball around forever. Most of you who are not photographers would just get bored.

I want to talk about my city. I want to codify my sometimes rants. My ravings. After learning what we did about the Sewerage and Water Board, I’m livid. Furious. Irate.

Let’s start with this.

I’ve been “home” for six years. I came back at a time when I thought things were improving. I kept coming back during the years in between. I kept working at hurricane recovery from a distance. This place was home. Sure, things were still coming back from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the consequent flooding, which is now generally called “The Federal Flood.” But, it appeared the city was getting better. Healing. Recovering,

Nope.

Things are getting worse.

Crime is way up. The murder rate is skyrocketing. The shooting rate is higher. People are getting violently mugged in locations and at times when that rarely happened pre-storm. There aren’t enough cops to patrol the city even with huge amounts of overtime. State Troopers permanently patrol the French Quarter because tourism is our sole major industry. Private guards patrol neighborhoods that can afford it. My neighborhood pays for it. The jeep guards are great, but they can’t arrest anybody. They hold them until the NOPD arrives. Which is sometimes never.

Crime ties in nicely with gentrification. Most of the people who make the city what it is can no longer afford to live here. Many of the Mardi Gras Indians and the Benevolent Societies who I photograph during second lines and Indian events no longer live in Orleans Parish. The only people left behind seem to be the bad guys. And… the people who can afford to live in gentrified neighborhoods. Despite moving here for what they perceived to be our culture, music, food and old buildings, they want things to be like the places that they came from. Oh, and they don’t want to pay for services.

Which brings me to infrastructure. The streets. I live in a good neighborhood. I live on a corner. One street looks like Berlin in 1946 with potholes, patches and craters. The other street is half cobblestone and half pavement. It expands and contracts depending on the weather. We are lucky. There are streets in some neighborhoods, like Lakeview, that are not drivable. Of course, there is the electric power. Lines are patched, re-patched and left hanging to the point that two squirrels on the line at the same time means a power failure. In this day and age of all things digital, that’s disaster. It also means we buy a lot of storm lanterns to use without the arrival of bad weather.

All of this brings me to our latest flooding. Our latest rounds of lies from the people who are supposed to keep us safe from the weather. From flooding.

Let’s see.

On Saturday when the storm dumped all that water on the city, it was a “100 Year Storm.” That would be fine, if we didn’t already have another “100 Year Storm” two weeks prior. And, if last summer’s flooding of about 70% of the river parishes in the state wasn’t also a “100 Year Storm.” Then, we had a few pumping stations out. First, it was four, then eight and finally sixteen. Then, on Thursday all of our phones went off at about 3 am to tell us there was a fire in the turbine station which provides electric power to the pumping stations. Only a few of the pumping stations from the 9th Ward to Jefferson Parish were working. The mayor kept us updated throughout the day; mostly by making excuses that amounted to the catchall phrase, “who knew?” He’s supposed to know. One of his titles is President of the Water and Sewerage Board.

It turns out that of the 8 or so turbine stations located throughout the city, most of them have been offline for years. Waiting to be repaired. Or rebuilt. When this latest one caught fire there was no backup. Supposedly, as I write, the turbine has been repaired and two backup generators are on their way from Florida. During the highest point of hurricane season.

Huh?

We have FEMA money to repair the street. To repair our hurricane damaged pumping stations. To repair our turbines. Even to clean the entire system which means pipes and gutter drains. We are talking billions of dollars.

Yet, nothing really gets done.

Well, that’s not true. Some things get done. The man who ran the Sewerage and Water Board decided to retire on Sunday, after word of his lies first surfaced. He leaves at the end of the month with a $176,000 a year pension. Seems that he is a 28 year civil servant.

And, I wonder about the state of my city.

Think about it. People retire after 20 or 30 years of city employment. After 20 or 30 years of not doing a good job. And, they get rewarded for it when they retire. They leave the city worse than they found it.

Now, the mayor is bringing in an outside firm to stabilize the water board since so many top officers were forced out in a matter of days. No bid. No city council approval. Follow the money. My money. My neighbor’s money.

And, I wonder about the state of my city.

At the end of the day, everything has gotten worse in the six years since I’ve been back. Much worse.

Oh yeah.

The mayor thinks he would be a good presidential candidate in 2020.

Good Lord.