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In a Golden Hour


Golden light, golden leaves.

Time passes. Seasons change. The world keeps turning. What seems important today is meaningless tomorrow.

I never claimed to be a nature photographer. In truth, I’m not. I photograph what I see. For the last few years a lot of what I see has many elements of nature.  I suppose it could be attributed to my dog walks. Whether it is the pack or just the dog who sees stuff, we tend to walk in places that they like. That means nature rather than urban. True, we live in an urban environment, but they head straight to the places that they know.

I tried an experiment a few weeks back. I took the all-seeing dog to Treme, where I has a little business. When that was concluded, I took her for a walk. She walked around a very long block. But, she didn’t like it. I thought that the new smells, sounds and sights would interest her. They didn’t.

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a long piece in the New York Times about city folk moving to the country, primarily in the Hudson Valley just Upstate from New York City. I found the piece interesting, but the people who were buying property were all creative hipsters.

That’s fine.

But, I’m a lot older than the oldest person interview. One thing I that I know about this particular class in New Orleans is that they are incredibly ageist. They don’t like me. I’m happy to return the favor if that’s what they want because I’ve long said that I am a mirror. I don’t believe I can convert you to anything. And, you can’t convert me. I’d prefer to be good to everyone, but if you attack me… well, you know. Don’t open a window that I can jump through.

Anyway.

The seasons are changing. What a metaphor. The picture is about the last one I can take of fall in the swamp. We are four days away from winter. The scenery around me finally looks like it. Most of the leaves are on the ground. The weather has finally turned cold. Well, cold for us. I doubt that we’ll have the kind of winter that many of you will have. Snow. Low double digits. Maybe even single digits. That could happen down here. But, not for very long.

As you know the season is changing for me too. I turned 65 in November. That’s one of those “big” birthdays. Based on statistics, I know that I have about fifteen years left on this planet, give or take. I have a friend who is about 72. He lost his main source of income, which was stock photography. To be sure that he and his wife aren’t destitute, but they are thinking very hard about moving to Mexico. They want to go out on their terms and with some sort of class. My musicians friends, who are about 70, are producing heavily at the end of their careers, know that time is short.

I’m a little younger than most of them are. Imagine that concept, “younger than.” Sheesh. I can’t say that about many people anymore. That said, I know my time is short. Fifteen years might seem light a long time, but the first 65 years went by like a snap of my fingers.

So, when I talk about changing websites, or taking you with me if I do, I’m not in any pain or mental agony. I just want what are some of my last moves to be productive. Artists of all stripes never really retire. There are just somethings we don’t want to do any more. Since you know that music is important to me, I look at all the musicians with whom I grew up. Many are playing farewell tours. Some are saying that their next tour could be their last. Some won’t do more than a few shows a year in places that they know and like.

It’s not the music from which they are retiring. They love playing music. It’s the nonsense of touring that they can’t stand. The process of marketing their new work is even less appealing. That’s the same with photographers. A friend of mine often quotes this saying, “sometimes the hardest part of taking a picture is getting there.” That’s mostly what I’ve left behind. The marketing, the sales and the constant contact that eat up about half of my day. Days that are getting short.

For sure, I have some traveling left in me. But, to places that I want to go.

Like where?

Belorussia. I may say that I’m Russian. That’s just short hand. I’m really Belorussian on my father’s side. I’m haunted by not knowing much about my family. I doubt going there will help me locate anything, but I’ll feel like I really tried.

A long road trip through The United States. It’s been years since I’ve toured the country and looked into our nooks and crannies. Sure, I travel for business. Both businesses, in fact. But, I never have the time to go out and really explore.

Hong Kong. Yes. I used to know it well. You can’t help spending six years in a place and not knowing it. I want to see what’s changed and what’s the same. There are photographic places that I didn’t know about while I was there that make great statements about our planet. Actually, I knew about them. I just didn’t see them as I would today.

All of these places would be great picture producers. That’s part of my journey. That will always be part of my journey.

It’s Sunday. I wrote way too long. Sorry about that.

It’s getting longer.

I was walking the dog who sees stuff when it occurred to me that you might be worried about me. With all this talking of passing. No worries. PLEASE. I’m just planning for the future. I’m not worried about it. I’m not even scared of dying. Make no mistake. I don’t want to die. But, as they say, nobody gets out of here alive. The way I figure it, I’m already playing with house money. Besides, every time I photograph somebody who lives into their nineties, I think to myself that I don’t really want to live like this.

I’m happy to be just like I am.

The end.

For now.

 

 

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Skytrain Three


It’s the clouds.

The third time is a charm. They say.

Maybe.

It does help to return to the scene of the crime, er, picture. Eventually, I’ll get it right. This may be the best of the skytrain pictures, mostly because of the clouds, the light and the golden color. Also, because I finally found the right angle to capture what a train and the bridge looks like.

If you see a little bow in the middle of the bridge, that’s real. It’s not a lens flaw. The bridge, both the ones for trains and cars has dips and rises in it. It feels a little sporty when you cross the bridge for cars. It was built in the 1930s when cars weren’t so big. It was renovated and widened a few years ago. There’s only so much you can do with a fairly fixed space without messing with the integrity of the original structure.

Anyway.

The only better view would be from the left, but much further down the tracks where the trains make a turn towards New Orleans.  Even then, line of sight is limited. The only way to really show the view would be from the air, which means using a drone. However, most railroad property falls under Federal jurisdiction which means you’d need permission from the rail company who owns the track. That either means Canadian National or New Orleans Beltline. I’d prefer that latter. I own a tiny piece of it, as we all do. And, their offices are local. I could actually talk to somebody there.

So.

There’s some history and a little bit about railroad companies. I didn’t intend to go that far and yet, here we are.

The picture was easy to make, as most of mine are. See it. Photograph it. Clean up a bit in post production and viola, done. It’s a good example of why you always keep some kind of camera with you. You just never know what you are going to see.

While you are running errands.

 

 

Boredom


Bored in the car.

Big storms. Boredom.

Sometimes while we are out and about running errands a big storm explodes into sideways rain. A hard rain. Rain that drenches you even with an umbrella. So, we wait. Waiting for the hardest rainfall to pass. It’s the hardest part. In the car. Then, we get bored.

I solve my problem by making pictures. Of the rain. Of the scene in which we find ourselves. Looking through the right hand side mirror. Things like that.

This picture was made by turning the windshield wipers off, letting the water accumulate in front of me and watching rain drops splash off of that. In many way, nature makes its own art. You have to be a little bit patient with this. But, once the water builds up the way you would like, you can make a lot of pictures quickly. Just don’t turn the windshield wipers on.

Then, it’s off to the post production software to further amplify what you saw.  I had very little to do with what  you see. It’s all nature’s work. I just brought it to you on this page.

Housekeeping.

I thought I had it solved. I thought I would move to Squarespace after beating them over the head in an email conversation. They want me to renew. I said no. They asked why. I told them they were hurting me and my business be recommending Unsplash for free pictures. They offered me a deep discount. And, they would make my website more commercial friendly. That sounded good.

Then came the deal breaker.

They have no idea how to transfer all of you to my version of Storyteller over there. The suggested a couple of different blogging tools. I tested one of them. It is designed to capture stuff found on the internet and post it to your blog quickly. You can even schedule it to do it multiple times a day according to the kind of material you would like to share. All AI. You don’t even have to do the work.

I’m pretty sure that’s why there are so many general purpose blogs that don’t generate real content but have a very high readership. Post popular items that you find on the net and do it about five or six times a day. You’ll get huge readership.

That’s not what I’m about. You know what I do. I post my own content, both in pictures and words. I post once a day. In order to post more than that, I’d have to make blogging my full-time job. People do make good money doing that. I may have uncovered their secret. I’m pretty sure that’s not for me. Oh, I like the money idea. I don’t like being uncreative to earn it.

So.

Back to square 1.5. Modernizing Storyteller, turning it into a website and keeping all of you. I’ll get it done this weekend. I have to. A friend of mine said that when he’s out of options, things get real simple and he gets ruthless achieving what he  needs to do.

Me too.

Mind the Gap


Fall colors.

The gap. The gap between all of the trees in which the sky shows in what is normally a dead space.

If you’ve spent any time at all in British Commonwealth countries you’ve heard that phrase. “Mind the gap.” It refers to the gap between a station platform and the train or subway. It’s a way of telling passengers to be careful. I first heard it in Hong Kong. It became so common that I tuned it out. I’m pretty sure most people do that.

Tuned out. Just like so many people do to their surroundings. Even I do that. If I’m in a hurry, or thinking about something, I often fail to see. That’s terrible if you are somebody like me. A guy who makes his living with his eyes. I shouldn’t discount my brain, heart and soul. But, the very first input is through my eyes.

This picture is one that I likely wouldn’t see. But, that sky. That’s what I saw. I started looking around for something to frame it. I saw all those trees and that was it. A very fall-like image. In my head. In my heart. In my soul. All that was left to do was push the button.

I did that.

It wasn’t enough. There was a disconnect between what I saw and what the camera’s sensor could handle.

Post production was a bit tricky. Most sensors cannot see what the eye sees. That means there always has to be some enhancements in post production. The question is always how much is too much? Or, what is the least amount that I can do to get the scene back to what I saw?

This picture is the result of about five tries. Most of them went too far. The reds were electric. The sky looked like a nuclear bomb exploded nearby.  Those weren’t right. I wasn’t aware of any explosions that day.

I backtracked.

I stripped the original file of a lot of its color. I built from there. That got me to the picture you see today.  Sometimes you have to do that. Take a step back to get to where you want to go today.

There’s a lesson in that. But, I forget what it is.

Maybe you know.

Another World


Strange sky.

There. I did it.

I broke the sky.

Not really. I was just experimenting a little last night and I made this picture. The base picture was a silhouetted building and tree and the late blue hour sky. I started tinkering. I tinkered some more. And, just kept going.

I’m not sure what I think. I kind of like it. That’s the minimum for sharing my work with anybody. And, it is different. Very different.

What do y’all think?

In theory, I’m retired. As of last month. I told you that. I have never been busier. I guess I don’t know how to retire. Just as well. I’d only get bored sitting around and watching Game of Thrones. Or, some show like that. Maybe, House of Cards. They really are about the same topic. Politics as sports.

Let’s talk quickly about contests. I looked at the one in which I didn’t stand a chance. Some of the winners were pure photojournalism. Some was art. The person who picked one of the pictures is a big time gallery director. She selected a picture that looked like a black jagged line on a white background. I thought, “What the hell is that supposed to be?” She didn’t know either. She said she didn’t know what it was, but she liked it.

Silly me.

I always thought that a photograph should communicate something to someone. I’d humbly suggest that if the judge didn’t know what the picture was, than it failed in its most basic test. And yet, she selected it. And, it won.

That may very well encapsulate the state of photography in 2018.

Now that I entered that contest, I’m getting all sorts of contest offers. They all want money to apply and enter. I never do that. Most of them charge fees to make money in order to exist and support the owners of the contests.

By that very nature they aren’t really legit.

They can’t be. After all, the more images the photographer enters, the more money they collect. When you reach a certain point, you have a better chance to win because you — and they — sort of stack the deck.

At least, that’s what I think.

Maybe some of you have entered contests. What do you think?

The Brink of Time


Changing time.

Time. It’s really all that we have.

The changing of seasons reminds us of that. In some places it sort of comes like a knife slicing through butter. In other places, it lingers for weeks until it finally sneaks up on us. The leaves are gone. The air turns cold.

That’s what this picture is about.

One day my dog was sniffing in the grass. The next day she couldn’t find the grass. Now the leaves are gone. The grass is brittle with cold. Some grass is dead. Some is hardy and will make it through most of our kind of winter. It doesn’t smell the same to her.

I don’t have the sense of smell that she does. But, I can see. That’s what I do. I see. I react. I push the button. I come back to the studio. I try to help you to see what I saw. To feel what I felt.

Sometimes I’m successful. Often I’m not.

That’s the way it goes.

It went that way for me yesterday. I received an email from the folks who run the black and white contest. If you recall, I offered them one of the best pictures of my career. The black and white version of Big Queen speaking to the media with photographers surrounding her. I’d like to report that it won something. But, no. It wasn’t even considered for anything. One of the best pictures of my career wasn’t good enough for anything.

What does that say about my career?

As you know, I’m going through some soul-searching. Some of it is about technical issues like websites, blog sites and how to best access my archives. Some of it is about me. My work. My continued work. It is true that I have earned a good part of my living from my pictures. I always wonder if I am sort of a fraud. If it came too easy.

A few days ago I mentioned that writing this blog on a daily basis came easy to me. I talked about my mental and emotional practice. It may come easy because it is all worthless. Often, the trial of doing anything equals the quality. Maybe, I’ve been fooling myself. And, you. Maybe not.

I don’t know.

The black and white contest posts the winners today. I’ll have a look. Maybe I’ll look and laugh. Many of these contests are popularity contests. Some are not. We’ll see.

Oh. One more thing. If I want to make WordPress the sole provider of my work, that’s easy. A few mouse clicks and I’m done. I’m done with Squarespace and GoDaddy. What remains to be seen is if I’m able to turn Storyteller into my commercial site with the blog as part of that. I’m very capable of learning. I believe life-long learning is the key to staying young. It may even curb dementia. On the other hand, I don’t want to be forced to do anything. I’m too old for that silliness. If I have a choice between learning to code for WordPress and — oh let’s say — playing the guitar, the choice is fairly simple.

By the way. Spell check wants to turn GoDaddy into Gordy. Hmmmmm.

Winterlude Three


Into the clouds.

As dusk falls. the scene turns mysterios.

Before it does, sometimes the scene looks like the picture you are viewing. Especially during late fall or winter light.  You cannot miss it. It’s just there.

For the past few days we’ve had milky clouds and some rain. Eventually the clouds broke. Golden sunlight pours through the remaining clouds and you see something like this. Wait for it. Be patient. It’ll come.

Some big time nature photographers will wait in one place for just the right light. For days. They set up camp. They figure out where the light will fall. And, they wait. It used to be that it took a long time and some education to predict where the right light will eventually break through and fall.

Now?

There’s an app for that. I’d say that is just one more thing that makes everybody a photographer.

But.

Not everybody has the patience. Not everybody is willing to camp for one picture. Not everybody is so obsessed.

That’s what separates the weekenders from the real deal. Sure. The weekender can get lucky. However, the ability to make a great picture every time is another great separator. Weekend photographers don’t. The real deal does.

This picture is a result of luck. Maybe next time I’ll miss it because I wasn’t there at the right moment. Or, I wasn’t paying attention. Or, or, or…

A little clarity.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen the black and version of this picture. Normally, I have a pretty strong opinion about which one I like best. Not this time. They are two very different pictures that just happen to share the same file.

And, one more thing. It looks like my decision about where Storyteller lives will be resolved in the next day or two. Both WordPress and Squarespace say that it’s time for my yearly subscription to be paid. You know my argument about Squarespace and free photos.

WordPress didn’t make it any easier. This is a paid blog/website. They are making me a great offer. Or, not. If I renew now they won’t charge me for web hosting which has been free in the past. They will charge me next year.

Everybody has their hands out. They want money for nothing.

I wonder how they will be react when I tell them that I’ll bring my own — laskowitzpictures.com — and drop theirs — laskowitzpictures.org — and keep the same space. I guess I’ll find out.

What Do You Know?


Two trumpets, one musician.

This is a fine example.

An example of not letting pictures marinate long enough to see the good ones. The subtle ones. The slightly hidden ones.

As you know, I photographed the Dumaine Street Gang second line a week ago in Treme. I showed you a few pictures, moved into my comings and goings and thought I was done.

Oh no.

My final work flow is to run through the outtakes just in case I missed something. Then, I add  any further selected images to my archives.

This time?

Not so fast, buddy.

It appears that I missed five pictures. Five pictures that you might like. Five pictures that my more editorial agent might like. Five pictures that are just too many for me to miss. Miss one. Miss two. That’s okay. But, this was like I was culling with one eye closed.

Anyway.

Here they are. They are more graphic than documentary. That’s just fine. The top picture really caught my eye. Normally, you don’t see one musician playing two trumpets. You still don’t. Two trumpet players were facing each other. In the street.

The bottom picture is another one that made me wonder what I was doing all last week. I wanted to catch the mass of brass. Something like that needs a subject, like the man in the foreground happily playing away. It helps the building in the background is painted a light shade of purple.

In many ways, this is a weird set of pictures. Even though brass bands working the streets are a little chaotic, they generally face in one direction. You know, like a band walking down the street. These guys are all over the place. They are facing each other. They are off on the side. They are turned in every direction. I guess this is what happens when you crash a couple of bands with extras who normally don’t work together.

All brass. All light.

One more thing. A good thing. The dog who sees stuff is a full-blooded Cocker Spaniel. She came with an AKC registration. She’s also a rescue dog. The person who owned her passed away at 85 years of age. We scooped her up. She was never really trained well and often ate food near the table.

She’s smart as she could be. Training was easy. We make homemade food. Every dog loves it. But, she never had a bone. Ever. I felt terrible. Every dog should have a bone. I’ve tried in the past and she didn’t know what to do with it.

Tonight. We had really thick double cut pork chops. Nice, thick solid bones. I put one near her and walked away. Pretty soon she was tasting it with her tongue. Then she started it nibbling at it. Now she’s laying down happily chewing away at it.

Yipee.

Every dog should have a bone.

Einstein, Disguised as Robin Hood


With his friend, a jealous monk.

Like Desolation Row.

A trip through Central City reveals a place that is still falling down despite claims that New Orleans has recovered from Hurricane Katrina. To be sure, Central City was falling apart long before the storm approached. But, it wasn’t too long into the recovery process that people were starting to talk about the gentrification of the neighborhood. They said that it was the only place in the city that was above sea level that hadn’t been recovered.

Guess what?

It never happened. Sure, a smallish area near St. Charles Avenue was partially redeveloped. They got some new apartments. A new food court. A few restaurants and a couple of other things. That’s about it.

The rest of the neighborhood? Not much. There is some minor redevelopment. For the most part, Central City looks about the same as it ever did. Oh, the big Catholic Church that the diocese finally sold has a new coat of paint on it. I have no idea what it’s going to be. We thought it would make a fine recording studio. I doubt that anybody else thought that way.

I haven’t been spending much time there. I drop in and out for second lines, but that’s about it. I need to start haunting the place again. It’s been pretty much left alone and that’s enough for me. Besides, it’s funny to watch the porch sitters dive for cover when you drive by a second time. You can figure that out.

The picture. In spring this is one of those houses that will be covered in tiny, yellow flowers. That’s worth a second trip right there. Or, maybe even more trips. Despite its reputation for danger, I’m comfortable there. Often I’m greeted with, “Hey, mister photographer are you coming out for the second line on Sunday?” Go to a place long enough and people start to know you. Funny how that happens.

Anyway.

I saw the house and photographed it. The light wasn’t right. But, I liked what I had. Tinkering away I went. I literally made this picture. The original exposure was simply a component. The rest pretty much came out of my head. The title and caption are borrowed. They are lines from Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row.” The lyrics are a little ridiculous. But, they paint the scene. They give you the feel. The picture combines the two.

Works for me. Maybe you too?

 

Deserted City


Lafayette Cemetery No. 2

Into the deserted city of the souls.

That’s where I went. Or, as we know it, Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 in Central City. Often as I drive around going from one place to another, I end up going to someplace that I know well. Someplace where I know there is an interesting picture waiting for me.

This is one of those places.

The picture has an interesting genesis. The cemetery was closed, so I thought that I would just stick the camera’s lens between the bars. That wasn’t doing it for me. I backed off and saw that tire laying by the curb. That was just the counterpoint that I needed. The city is old. The city is broken. The city is trashy.

Settle down. It’s my city. I can say that.

The original exposure was almost black and white. I added a lot to it in post production. I helped with the tone. And, the feel. It’s a little moody now. And, spooky too. Post production is an amazing thing. The picture was made at about 3pm. That’s a time when I don’t like to work. My editing apps helped a lot. As usual, I made the post much more complicated than need be. This is my fourth try. I finally had a good feel for the picture and it had a good feel for me.

Coming up. I’m trying to make some “Christmas in New Orleans” pictures. Our Christmas is unique. My agencies want the pictures. Of course, the skies are overcast tonight. The temperatures are cold. The minute the sky clears around dusk I’ll be out there.

One more thing. I’m a little worried about the all-seeing dog. She hasn’t wanted to go for her usual long walks. She’s eating well. Sleeping well. Playing a little inside. With a bazillion dogs, as you might imagine, we have a good relationship with their vet. I sent him an email. He asked a couple of questions, including her age. She is ten-and-a-half years old. No worries he said. She’s just starting to show her age. A little. Just like me. Her person.