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Sinking


The pool needs cleaning.

The picture really isn’t about the pool. Or, the water. Or, even the leaves. It’s about the shapes and the color. It’s also about what I did in post production.

Debra at http://breathelighter.wordpress.com found my cropping interesting. So, I thought that I’d talk about it. A little.

When I was a young photographer, back about 150 years ago, I mostly worked with Kodak Tri-X black and white film. Like many faster films of the era it was grainy and lacked resolution. We learned to crop in camera so that we didn’t have to crop and enlarge in the darkroom. Later, I moved on to color transparency film. Slide film. While there were some great films at the time, most of us would agree that it was better to fill the frame with the subject that you wanted. Cropping radically wasn’t usually a good idea.

Along came digital photography. Originally, file sizes were small. Then they grew. Bigger. Bigger. Bigger. At the time, the digital gurus mostly talked about image quality.  Of course, somebody figured out that if you had a huge file size, you could crop when you didn’t succeed in the field. For many consumers that meant their shooting got sloppy. And, sloppier. And, even more sloppy.

In addition to machine gun spray and praying, many people didn’t really pay attention to the subject. After all, they had a bazillion pictures from which to select, AND they could crop in on the subject.

Arrrrgh. You know what I’m going to say about spray and pray. I’ve said THAT about a bazillion times. But, cropping. I think that you should fill the frame with you intended subject. You might have to trim the edges if you work in an uncontrolled environment like the street. Besides, from a quality standpoint, when you crop to get to the subject the picture looks flat.

Or.

You could make a very radical crop as I did today and yesterday. I do that mostly out of a need to shape the page. Digital or print, sometimes the page needs direction. And, given that WordPress isn’t really a photographer-friendly place I sometimes need to game their system and make pictures big. Real big.

By the way. This picture. It started out as a horizontal frame. Not only did I radically crop it into a vertical picture, but I flipped sideways and upside down so that so that the stairs lead to the water, which lead to the leaves. I would not do this with a photograph that was more “real,” as in a human being or a recognizable scene.

There you have it. A little lesson for today.

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Now Comes Spring


Looks like spring.

We had four really cold days down here in the swamp.

That’s it. That was winter. I know this because while we were walking — that dog and I —  saw brand new growth. Grass was sparkling in the winter sunlight just as if we walked into a magical forest; passing through time into spring.

New grass wasn’t just growing in one tiny place. It was growing all over this little pocket park that we like to walk through. Thinking back, I realized that in the past few weeks I’d seen what looked like bird seed scattered around the bare soil. I didn’t think much of it, except that maybe somebody was feeding birds because it’s late fall, almost winter.

A lot of rain fell during our big “snow event.” Enough to build up standing water in most of the regular places. I suppose the rain, plus the seed, resulted in the grass that I’m showing you.  Not being Mr. Natural, I’m not really sure. I do know we are a natural outdoor hothouse even when the weather turns a bit chilly.

It was worth two pictures. See the comments about making them below the jump.

Original view.

The pictures. I am often asked about my post production. Some of you want to know about my tricks and technique. My finished post production is mostly about trying to show you what I felt. Deep vertical crops are usually done to make a bigger picture on the monitor. Sometimes, I get really weird and that becomes something similar to painted art.

So.

The bottom picture is as I saw it in the little forest. The winter light was low and angular. I lowered my camera to the ground and made the picture. Yes, there is some enhancement going on. No matter what, I want you to see the picture as I originally saw it. No picture comes straight from the camera without needing a little something.

The top picture is my final and finished version. I’ve added a lot of warm tones, and obviously I radically cropped it. The warmth is to enhance the morning light. The crop is to enhance the picture and help to shape the page. It also helps to draw the viewer into the picture.

Building Blocks


Zen balance.

Balance. It’s an art.

It’s a kind of wabi sabi. A zen thing. It’s a little imperfect. It’s a kind of natural thing. Like this picture.

This image has a point and a counter point. Sort of. The point is the red fall leaf. It’s not exactly in the right place. The counterpoint is the almost square shape. The only reason that it comes close to being square is that it runs into the frame of the image. I could have moved the leaf to put it in the right place. I could have reframed the picture to move the square.

But.

You don’t know what’s behind the square. And, in this day and age of no rules, I have a rule. I never move anything when the picture finds me. The leaf stays where it is. That’s it. That’s my rule. I created it. You can follow it too. Or, not.

There are other rules. For instance, “The rule of thirds.” Many new photographers scream — yes scream — you can’t make me follow rules. I’m not following rules. Oh really? The minute you place a subject in a certain place to make it look attractive, you just followed a rule. Whether you know it or not. After all, the rule of thirds is simply a mathematical equation to express something that happens in nature. Naturally.

Why talk about this now? Every year or so, this pops up on various social media. Seems it’s that time again. Sheesh. Settle down. Learn a few rules. So that you can break them. Intelligently.

The picture. Well… the proof is in the post production. This picture is art. My art. I made the base image knowing what I would do with it. To a point. It started with the background. I like old cement as a background. It’s sort of 18% gray which is the gold standard in the film days and now. Get that right and you can do anything. I also like working in low flat light. You can pretty much do what you want in post production.

Oh. It really does seem that somehow I slipped into the picture a day thing. I made this about 5pm yesterday. You’ll see it by around noon. My time. 19 hours later. That ain’t bad.

 

Golden Light


Golden light experiment.

I did a little experiment.

I’ve done this in the past. But, now I have the subject matter that matters. Winter trees. Bare branches. A couple of leaves. A kind of simplicity. An elegance of sorts. Nature’s spare beauty.

And, that’s the picture. Today’s picture.

Oh. You want to know how I did it. Heh. It’s a mystery to me. Even.

Picture A Day


Magenta dusk.

I used to photograph a year-long project called picture a day. Or, PAD for short. The idea is to make a picture every day. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to shoot just only one picture while taking your time to find the right angle, framing and light. The other is to work the scene, taking as many picture as it takes to find the picture. I chose the later, because that’s my normal working style.

I started for one year. In 2006. I used my birthday as the start date. I did it for four more years. It was sort of a personal test. When other photographers would ask me about it, I would recommend it as a way of learning about yourself, and as a way of learning photography. I used to say that it’s fairly easy to work if you have an assignment, or if you travel, or if one day you feel like taking pictures. It’s much harder to pick up a camera and do it every day.

I haven’t thought much about those five years. Most of the work is unseen by — well, really — anybody. Although blogging was in full swing, I didn’t step into it until about 2010. Even when I did, my blogging was sporadic at best. And, it was on eBlogger which is fairly limiting, but easy to use.

I could show that work here, on Storyteller. But, I’m really trying to move forward, not back.

Besides, it seems like I’ve unintentionally started doing it again. If a picture finds me during the day. I take it. I do my usual post production trickery. And, I publish it the next day. I think this started about two weeks ago. This current work is quiet and not personal as the five year body of work, but it’s a little more artistically sound. I’m not promising anything because I can be pretty random and spontaneous. But, let’s see what happens.

Anyway.

This picture was obviously made at the end of a day. I hadn’t made a picture during the day. The contrails and magenta sky was staring me in the face so how could I not push the button? The rest, including the crop, happened in the digital darkroom.

Now It’s Time


Christmas balls everywhere.

Now it’s Christmastime.

I found this picture.  Actually, the dog who sees things found it. My head was wrapped in thought. Or, fog.

I walked right by it. The dog saw the shiny object and had to investigate. Good thing too. I had a back up picture for today, but it is plan B and all that it implies. How last-minute is this picture? I’m writing this at 11:40 am Central Standard Time. I according to my phone, I took it at 10:48 CST.

The dog saved me yet again.

So. What was I thinking about?

Going forward, I suppose it could be called. If this messed up Republican budget plan gets passed, it strips away a lot of deductions that are normally there for artists. Artists of all stripes. Photographers. Painters. Musicians. Designers. The list is endless. Somehow, I just know that it’s going to stretch into entire industries. This is going to hurt all of us. Then, there is the next step. Tax revenues are bound to fall. The current crop of Republicans will use that as a trigger to cut Social Security benefits and Medicare. I’ve paid all my life into those accounts. Now they are going to try to claim that I can’t have that. Hmmm…

I wrote, yesterday, that my real home is Long Beach, California. I may visit there, but if this budget and thinking goes forward, I’m pretty sure I’ll never live there again. I’ll probably pass through the Pearly Gates (I hope)  from some place like Costa Rica, or Peru. Or Hong Kong, or Thailand. That sounds exciting. But, those places aren’t home. And, as you know, I have really mixed thoughts about New Orleans. And, Brooklyn.

The picture. Oh that. 🙂 See it. Press the button. Do a little post production to make it pretty. And, stuff.

Snow Day


Like fire and rain.

Like fire and snow.

Yes. We had a little snow. Mostly it didn’t stick to the ground. I suspect the ground is still too warm. Four days ago, the temperature was in the low 80s. It’s 33 degrees as I write. I tried photographing snow as it fell. That looked okay, but not great. I did make this picture which seems to sum it up.

Of course, in the south a little snow goes a long way. Schools were closed. Our typically bad drivers got worse. People in grocery stores were stocking up for the apocalypse. The usual stuff.

Meanwhile, Southern California burned. You’ve read the news. Watched it on television. I don’t need to rehash that. There was great piece in The New York Times about the firefighters and what they live through. I’d share it here, but they use a pay wall.

I haven’t said much, because I don’t know what to say. My heart hurts. It really hurts. I make a big deal of living in Louisiana, but I’m not from here. I make a littler deal about being born in Brooklyn. That’s fine. But, I grew up in Southern California. First, in the now hipster enclave of Silverlake in Los Angeles, and for most of my young life in Long Beach, where my parents could afford to buy a home using my Dad’s World War II GI Bill. I went to high school there. When I finally got to college, I studied at San Jose State University. Even though my first newspaper job came in Virginia, I freelanced in the Bay Area for a couple of years, mostly focused on music. That probably explains some things today.

Both my Californias burned this year.

I have no idea what to say. Except to say that I hold the state dear. I hold the people with whom I grew up with, and studied with, dear.

Once, earlier this year, we were talking about where we could move if the choice was unlimited. By the way, it mostly is. I said home. I didn’t mean Brooklyn. That Brooklyn has changed so much that I don’t know it when I am there. I meant Long Beach. To be more specific somewhere in Belmont Shores.

There you have it. Home.

The picture. Oh, you already know what I did. I saw it. I photographed it after trying and failing to make a worthy snow falling picture. I enhanced it a little in post production and you are looking at the result.

I will get back to reworking older pictures tomorrow. Or, maybe I’ll actually make my presence known on the street. It’s Sunday. There is a second line. It’ll be downtown. Near hipster central.

The Wheel


Big horns and light.

“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on

You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

Won’t you try just a little bit harder, Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

Won’t you try just a little bit harder, Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

Round, round robin run round, got to get back to where you belong

Little bit harder, just a little bit more, A little bit further than you gone before

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on

You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod, Big wheel turn by the grace of God

Every time that wheel turn ’round, Bound to cover just a little more ground

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on

You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will”

— Lyrics and melody by Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia — The Grateful Dead.

Which brings me to this.

For some reason I started poking around in my own past. It started by listening to a lot of Grateful Dead on three cold and rainy (the snow came, but on the Northshore) days. Somehow the Dead triggered thoughts of people in the past.

I decided to Google one of them.

He and his girlfriend (now wife) actually brought me to the band. In 1970. What I found made me sad. It’s not what you are thinking. They appear to be fine. They own a fabric company. Something like my parents used to own. They have been on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles for years.

They were there at a time when I worked and lived in the city. They are in the very neighborhood in which I traveled because a lot of photo companies were there. Film developers, camera rental companies, prop companies.

I never knew. I never even thought about it. We didn’t have falling out. We went to different colleges. To different worlds. But, dammit, forty-five years has passed. True, the last time that I lived there, the internet was barely a thing. We still sent telexes rather than emails. But, we had these things called telephone books. I could have looked, but I just didn’t.

That damn wheel. It’s always turning. It never slows down.

The picture. It’s from the last second that I photographed. May 2017. Big Red Cotton’s second line. She was shot in the Mother’s Day second line mass shooting a few years back. She was seriously wounded. After three years of living in pain and new surgeries, she finally passed. Her spirit was strong. Her body couldn’t hold out.

I reworked the picture to be brighter. More “heavenly” like angels horns. Yes. I dropped that little burst of light in there. It just enhances a natural burst of backlighted reflection, which is really what the picture is about. Reflections.

That damn wheel. You can’t go back. And, you can’t stand still.

Street Photography


Leaf in the street.

Street photography. At its best.

If you are a photographer, this is kind of an inside joke. If you aren’t, let me explain it to you. I’d venture a guess that about 80% of “new” photographers call themselves street photographers. That means wandering around and taking pictures of whatever you see. Most of them don’t have a clue. Street photography, at its best, has an element of the decisive moment. It can also mean some kind of engagement with the photographer’s subject. Lately, there has been a trend of hiding the camera, or just sort of pointing and shooting. This is justified under the mistaken thinking of “what does it matter if you get a picture?” To which I reply, “A picture? How about THE picture?” And, “What are you so afraid of?”

One more thing. I don’t ever “get” a picture. I make a picture.

Anyway. This is a street photograph. At its best. Or not. I took a picture of the street. With a fall leaf laying on it. Then, I did my tinkering… and there you have it.

Funny thing. Somebody added me to a Facebook street photography group. I’m not exactly sure why. It’s a downtown (where The French Quarter is and further down river) hipster group who meet at a beer laboratory. Whatever that is. I think when I was growing up, that would simply be called a beer bar.

Two other points. I’m just a photographer. I don’t sub-classify myself. For instance, most street photographers of this generation have no lighting skills. I can light. Sometimes so subtly that you don’t realize I did it. And, I don’t drink. What am I going to do in a beer “lab?” Experiment with water?

The picture. I was crossing the street. There was a nice red leaf hanging around, so I took the picture. I did my post production thing in order to make some kind of art. Or, so I claim.

Yeah. I know. Very snarky this morning. Here’s why. Even though I always put my main computer to sleep, Apple thought it would be a good idea to fix some stuff remotely. I know this because things like their cloud which didn’t work properly since the new OS was installed now works. When I finally gave up and rebooted the computer this morning, one of their first prompts was to ask me if I wanted their help to set it up. Huh? I will, a little later, send their executive group a little legal love note reminding them to stop invading my privacy. Harsh? Maybe. But, sometimes these things have to be done.

I ought to send them an invoice for my lost time. That’ll make them smile.

In the Winter


All in one day.

It arrived. Winter. All in one day.

Yesterday, the high temperature was somewhere between 79 and 82 degrees, depending on which weather service or local media you believe.

Today?

42 degrees when I woke up. 44 degrees when the amended dog walk took place. She’s not stupid. She’s a New Orleans kind of dog. Warm weather is what she likes. Normally in the morning, we walk around a mile and a half. No way. Not today. Around 500 plus steps. I know that because my Fitbit told me.

For us, this is cold. Remember, just because the temperature drops doesn’t mean the humidity goes away. Combine cold air with humidity and 42 degrees feels like 32 degrees. It’s the reverse of summer, when the air temperature is 90 degrees with 90% humidity and it feels like 110 degrees.

This weather is predicted to stay. As the rest of the week rolls on, the temperatures will drop even more. There is an event I want to photograph tonight. It lasts for a couple of days. It’s called Luna Fest. Gallier Hall is lighted with images. It’s beautiful. I missed it last time because I didn’t know what it was. Now that I know… well, you know. I can’t keep away.

Anyway.

This picture. A very short storm rolled in a few days ago. It was a prelude to today. I started seeing what was left of the leaves stuck to everything. These particular leaves are piled up on a windshield wiper. I especially liked what I saw because so many trees are reflected in the background. Those trees are a mix of pine and Texas live oak. One never loses its bristles. The other doesn’t shed its leaves until spring. This picture didn’t need a lot of post production. Mostly I darkened, brightened and sharpened it a little bit. I’m of the belief that every picture needs at least that. Or, something close to that.