The worst possible thing happened last night. A woman was crossing the street in between floats. Or, so she thought. She actually was trying to cross between two connected floats. She tripped or fell. The second float hit her and killed her.
The Krewe of Nix came to a halt. The walking members of the parade — the bands and such — were rerouted down a side street, but it was too narrow for the floats to proceed. The last twenty floats were stopped and the back end of the parade was cancelled.
The mood of the parade changed for celebratory to sober within about 15 minutes.
I am so sorry for the woman who died. I am sorry for the Krewe of Nix members who travelled from far and wide. I am sorry for all of us. I am sorry for our city.
I don’t know what this means for me. I have to let it roll around in my brain. It certainly took all the wind out of my sails. I didn’t even process my images. Normally, I do that when I get home so that I have something to show you the next day.
I really haven’t been feeling this years Mardi Gras. If I decided not to keep working on it, is it an excuse or a reason?
I’m sort of at a loss what to call this mini portfolio.
It’s mostly about how people — both krewes and spectators — prepare to roll or catch beads. I call this collection, “Standing Aside,” but that’s not exactly right. I suppose it doesn’t matter. The pictures are of things that I saw during the first couple of days of the Uptown parades.
This is about it for now.
Luckily, there are two big parades tonight night. The Krewes of Druids and Nix. Both ar great fun. Both roll from the same place, making my life easy. I should be able to make some memorable pictures. Hopefully, that will make all of you smile.
That’s about it. I need to start getting my head on straight. You know. First, I plan. Then, I try to forget everything. The last part seems to be getting easier. Heh!
Pretty little one and dad.
krewe of ponchartrain
Taking a little break, krewe of freret during mardi gras 2020 uptown, new orleans
I said that I would experiment with Mardi Gras pictures rather than publish images that are documentary in nature. That turned out to be harder than I thought. It’s tough turning a clean, sharp image of somebody doing something into a kind of art. For the most part, it feels forced. And, it looks odd.
Finally, after an even more careful culling of my images I found this one. I knew that I could experiment and likely come away with my original intent.
Intention is everything when you make a cinematic image. Fiddling around with it shows.
So, what do we have here?
The subject is a St. Augustines Marching 100 drum major. He was in the lowest of light. I helped it by using a smaller f stop, which meant the shutter speed was very slow, probably around 1 second, hand held. The blur was intention. It was also helped because the picture was made at night. I could make a motion blurred image during the day, but it loses its mystery and mood.
We come for all sorts of reason. Some like the excitement. Some like the floats. Some come for the throws. I come for the music. I come for the marching bands. Of course, I photograph anything that moves. But, it is the bands that move me the most.
In the past, I use to publish images day by day. Parade by parade. That’s one way to organize pictures. These days, I publish by category. Today, the pictures are all about music. Heh! As if you couldn’t tell. Today is also a day off from the parades because nobody rolls on Monday. I may make my way down to the French Quarter and photograph the silliness there. We’ll see.
We also have to go grocery shopping, or make groceries as they use to say around here. I say “use to” because I haven’t heard that phrase in many years. Anyway, after yesterday’s brunch we are all out of food. We have some king cake, which is fine for breakfast this time of year. But, all cake and sugar does not make Jack a happy boy.
Carnival seems to run forever. It is six weeks long. Aside form a few early parades, most people don’t see what happens in the background. There are balls, parties and friends and family gatherings.
Then, there is parade season.
Even though many, many local people come out for the parade season, it is partially a tourist event. The parades are colorful, bold, fun and noisy. Even though I’m a local, I like going to them. I like photographing and swinging in time to the music streaming from the high schools big marching bands. Just like the scene, sounds and smells of a second line, my body seems to heal, albeit just for a few hours.
But, that’s enough. That’s enough for me. I’m always grateful as I walk back to my car.
Here are a few pictures from the first night. As usual, I’ve published them in little collections. It’s the way that I think you should make a portfolio. It’s the way that I think.
I hope that you enjoy them.
I a few hours we are off to participate in, and photograph the Krewe of Barkus. Yes. A dog parade. It starts in Louis Armstrong Park, dropping remembrances as it makes its way through the French Quarter.
The parade officials are doing a good job of notifying us about the weather. A few years ago, maybe six, I photographed it in the rain. It was wet and sloppy, but it kept the crowd down a bit along the route. In my current state, I doubt that I’ll come out.
That’s what Tom Petty sang. That’s what true. We waited and waited and waited. Sometimes that happens, a tractor broke down on one of the earlier parades. The Krewe of Cleopatra could do nothing but wait.
Besides, it’s peak New Orleans.
This picture is sort of a placeholder. I’m jammed up. Night time parades followed by daytime parades will do that. I thought this was a great picture with which to start. I’d have used it in a grouping as well as this way even if I wasn’t too busy.
I don’t think that I have to explain anything to you, do I?
I was out walking when I heard police sirens. I looked up. I saw Mardi Gras floats being pulled by their tractors. After being around for so long, I know that the floats are being towed to their parade starting points.
There are three parades in which I’m interested. They are all Uptown parades. However, there are at least three more parades that could be called local.
Today is when my Mardi Gras photographic season really begins. For sure, I photographed some of the downtown parades. They are great fun, but starting tonight the parades have some real history. And, tradition.
A couple of years ago the folks who organized the downtown parades thought they were onto something new.The organizers wanted to call their parade season “New Mardi Gras.” That was a non-starter. Nobody wanted that.
I talked to one of the organizers. She wanted to know why I was opposed. I said that it was simple. All of Mardi Gras evolves every year. Krewes come and go. Some are replaced by new krewes. Some reform and return. Some are gone forever. All of the downtown parades are a part of that tradition.
I made this picture about 45 minutes before I published it.
I made it cinematic in post production because I like the style. A thought is rolling around my brain. Tonight, I start photographing parades for real. It’s more or less photojournalism. But, it doesn’t have to be. At least for here on Storyteller. I can make the pictures a little more magical which is the whole point of working on this stuff. That’s for y’all.
A little magic. Because… you know why.
For my client and agencies I’ll take a more straight approach. That’s how all of the images start out. Sometime they’ll enhance my work. That’s their call. I will add some of my enhanced work. They’ll see what I’m thinking. You never know. It might align with their thinking.
I’m a little excited about tonight. I know where i’m going. I know the routes. But, I have no idea what I’ll do. That usually comes to me while I’m standing around wondering what I’ll do.
That’s the story.
No. I didn’t forget the day. Happy Valentines to all of you. Please go to my Instagram feed to see how I celebrated it. It’s different. At least it has that going for it.
I’m quite proud of it. Because, when I said I made it, I meant that. I took a picture of an overcast sky with power poles scattered throughout. I saved it, mostly because it wasn’t much.
I started reading about Todd Hido, who is one of the photographers interviewed in the book I mentioned a few days ago. If you Google his images, you’ll see quite a lot. He’s built the artistic pedigree that I wish I had.
Everything that he does is made in camera, using a medium format body and film. He does no post production. I thought about that for a while and wondered if I couldn’t make an image with similar atmospherics in the computer.
Note. Similar. Not copying. Not faking it until I make it. Just experimenting. This image is the result.
That’s the story of this picture. But, what’s the story behind it? Taking chances.
I could say that a lot of my career was based on taking chances. I could say that I photographed on the edge.
The edge of what?
The edge of technical limitations. The edge of the city. Or, is it really the edge of madness?
I’m not mad. Or, crazy. Or, lacking in certain cautions. But, I do take chances. I didn’t always. I was photojournalist. Pure and simple. My pictures were clean, sharp and well made. They had to be. That served those years of my career well.
After I moved on I found other mentors. Other photographic friends. They talked. I listened. With any luck at all, I grew.
One night, while walking in New York City, a friend and mentor, showed me how to expose for the night light and subjects. I made a picture that was just dripping with motion and energy. His exposure became my base exposure. Two Seconds at F5.6. Over the years, I modified that according to the scene and what I hoped to achieve.
That got easier in the digital age because F stops turned weird. Traditional numbers meant nothing. Gone were the days of, F2, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8, F11, F16 and F22. Instead using the camera’s light meter and histogram, often you saw numbers like F9, F7.2 and so on. Precise light measurements. Checking the histogram told you if the exposure was correct from a light to dark balance.
That made pushing the edge easier. It also made it more time consuming. Photographers, still unused to digital capture, started checking the LCD on the back of their cameras. Not only did they check the exposure, but they check the subject for sharpness, contrast, and composition.
Experienced photographers who trusted their instincts didn’t look at the LCD, instead they created a term for it. Chimping. You can figure out why.
A curious thing happened with many of these chimping photographers. You’d think that the volume of their shoots would drop. Instead it rose. These guys still had no confidence in their work. They would shoot a non-moving subject that they could control, holding down the shutter release button, while making 500 pictures of the same thing.
That’s a big mistake.
There are a few ways to learn not to make that mistake.
Photograph a lot comes to mind. No. That doesn’t mean holding down the button. It means look for many subjects. If you want to play this game, limit yourself to only five images per scene. I know a photographer who limited himself to one image.
Create a way of working. One way is to make a picture per day. Do that for a year. I did that for a while. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about light. You learn a lot about subject matter. I liked it so much that my one year turned into two, then three. I stopped after my fifth year.
Find a mentor. I did that in my early newspaper years. I found a guy who was brutal. His first critiques could make a grown man cry. Little by little as I learned and grew, his critiques turned positive. When it was time move to a bigger newspaper, he recommended me for a job at a newspaper that was the sister paper to his paper.
There are other things you can do as well. Ask your mentor. That’s what I did.