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Sometimes It’s Art


Morning glow.

Sometimes it’s art.

Mostly it isn’t. That’s the time in which we live.

I have a buddy who makes real, live travel videos. For National Geographic Traveler and clients at that level. He was on a great Facebook rant. He was getting tired of seeing some guy and that guy’s girlfriend taking empty and vacuous travel videos and then immediately selling their teaching services when they don’t know what they are doing or selling.

I was reading in a couple of places, about food photography. About how hard it is. Then I looked at the work. I saw ill-composed collections of bits of food that really made no sense. The pictures didn’t come close to classic food photography. At best, those kinds of pictures are a kind of still life. Real food photography takes a long time to create. It takes skills and techniques that most photographers never even heard about. And, a big studio with a working kitchen. Digital disruption hasn’t changed that.

Then there’s my favorite.

Travel photography. There’s a group of photographers who all know each other. They photograph the same things, which usually means they hike someplace far, use all the “latest techniques” of slow shutter speeds to make swirling and foggy water. They take pictures of each other. The pictures eventually start to look the same. They sell their workshops to each other and “newbie” photographers. The worst group of these guys are the ones who hang around OnOne. It’s long story how that happened. Not for nothing, OnOne makes software. They want to be a big digital community for the benefit of member photographers. They say. My cynical self says, no. They want an enclosed market… to sell digital software.

The photographers in each of these examples have no clients. They have no idea how to make a storytelling picture. They have no idea about deadlines. And, they have no idea how to make a group of pictures that hang together but don’t look the same.

Is this a rant?

No.

My thoughts actually came from something I just read about what Congress really should be. The one that Senator John McCain keeps talking about. Before I write further, know this. I’m not his biggest fan. But, I do believe he cares about the country.

One particular word came up.

Paideia.

It’s a Greek word for the education of one another for the growth of citizenship. It’s done for free. It’s done by real experts. And, it’s done for the betterment of the country. It’s not being done right now.

As usual, I took that line of thinking a step further. Instead of trying to make a profit from other artists, why don’t we just try to make the art world a little better for free? Why? Just because. No other reason is needed.

Art is important. Veteran artists should teach. Those coming up behind them should want to listen.

Of course, that would mean the guys with about a year’s worth of experience would have to actually take the time to learn something and not sell what they learned 15 minutes ago to the next guy in line. It would also mean that they would have to produce something meaningful for a client who is paying really money and is demanding.

How about it? Can we do it?

The picture. Another dog walking picture. Even though I’m pretty busy these days, I’m not making the kind of work that I usually do. There are a couple of reasons for this. A couple of you who know me best, know why. However, the dogs demand walks and I always carry something with which to take a picture. And, I like to play in the digital studio. I’m starting to believe that my next level of art comes from a mix of working styles.

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About Morning Light


Leaves in the water.

Painting with light. Or, drawing with light.

That’s photography. That’s what word means in Greek. That’s what we do. That’s what photographers do. We chase the light in order to make a meaningful picture. If we’ve managed to do that, our next step is to make the picture look like our vision. The one we have in our heads. A few people can do that in camera. But, that takes a lot of gear in the field. Lights. Tripods. Filters. Maybe a tethered computer.

Other people do that in the studio. Not the photography studio. The digital studio. That’s what I do. I have a pretty good idea of what I want my finished picture to look like. It’s never complete when I push the button. It is complete once I work on it using various photo editing softwares.

Well, may not entirely.

I believe the picture teaches you what to do. A picture that I finished one way a year or two ago, may get finished yet another way a week or two ago. My vision changes. My thinking changes. Even my technique changes as I learn more.

I’m always learning more.

This picture. I made it on a dog walk. The morning light caught my eye. The fall leaves floating in the water were almost secondary. Normally, the light enhances the subject. This time, the light is the subject. All of the post production was done to enhance the light and soften the picture in order to make it a little dreamy.

Turn the World Around


Where it all began.

This place. One time.

This isn’t just any field. Any forest. This is someone’s front lawn. There was a house here. Once. This is the Lower 9th Ward. Yeah, yeah. Sure. Some of it has been restored. Generally the middle part where Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Homes have been built. Those were built fairly early in the restoration of New Orleans. They look a little faded. The look a little worn. They were and are and good idea. But, Southeast Louisiana weather seems to be getting the better of them.

That’s another story.

The story is that this place is a food desert. A desert that stretches from well within the border of St Bernard Parish to the middle of The French Quarter where there is a small Rouses. That’s a regional grocery company who expanded after the storm. Yeah. there are a few “food stores” here and there. Stores like Chicken Mart, or Brothers, which is really a gas station. Prices are high and the selection? Well, let’s say it ain’t great. There is also a small family store deep within the Lower 9th. A one man operation. He’s a local hero. But, his prices are high and his selection ain’t great. Getting credit lines from big grocery suppliers is hard. Harder still if your business is out here.

A friend of mine started this conversation in a comments section. I forget if it was here or on his blog. Doesn’t matter. He said the city should do something. Maybe condemn the abandoned properties and sell it so that maybe a store could be built. That won’t work. Ownership titles are muddy. Ancestor succession is even harder to prove, or not prove. And, if the city can auction a piece of land it is likely they can’t do the same for contiguous land parcels. Trust me. I own land out there. I’ve tried.

Besides.

Look at this picture. Lots of overgrowth. Lots of return to nature. But, right there in the middle. What do you see? Mowed grass. Somebody owns this land. Somebody who has hope. Somebody who thinks that he might return sometime. Someday. Even if I could buy that land, do you think I want to be the guy who takes away that glimmer of hope?

The truth about the 9th ward is simple. The neighborhood is below sea level. It really isn’t a safe place to rebuild. It would be better off as it was when people started living there. Truck farms. The farmers produced food for the French Quarter restaurants. The secret to this land is simple. Anything grows there. Without much help. Some people are trying to do that now. Small farms dot some of the land. But, they are small. I think most of them try to feed the small group of returning residents.

The answer?

My friend sort of threw his hands up and said, maybe the whole thing should be plowed under. Maybe. Probably not. The answer is long and arduous. Many have tried. I know a legal assistant who spent almost a year trying to track down the descendents of landowners in hopes of clearing titles. After a year of traveling around the South, she and her firm gave up. I suppose the city could declare eminent domain and start clearing everything. Besides the 50 million lawsuits that would be filed, that costs a lot of money. Money that the city doesn’t have. And, won’t have. It’s already stretched to the breaking point trying to rebuild the police department, fixing the streets and rebuilding the water drainage system.

So. Here we are.

Stuck.

Like so much of our country.

The picture. I guess that I’m feeling better. I wrote a lot. And, it came pretty easily. That happens when you really have something to say. I suppose that’s a big point. I read a lot of writer’s blogs. Most of them are either exchanging tips about writing, or seem to have a kind of writer’s block.

I’ve always think two things about that.

One, stop blogging and talking about writing and just get to it. It’s a discipline. Stephen King — as famous and well-known as he is — gets up every morning, reviews what he wrote the day before and writes for four hours. He’s done for the day. That’s discipline.

Two. I already discussed it above. Sort of. Write. Keep writing. Don’t edit yourself. Just put the words down. Every day. For a specific period of daily time. Then walk away. Until the next day. No blogging. No semi-marketing. That comes after you’ve written your book.

There’s also a lot of conversation about research and traveling to the place that you are writing about. That’s all good. Do it BEFORE you sit down to write. Let what you’ve learned and seen roll around in your head where it really becomes part of the story.

I do sort of the reverse when I work. Pictures are different from words. Doh! If I’m going to travel to work then I read. I read fiction about the place I’m going to. I read history. And sometimes look at old maps. But, I never look at other photographer’s work. I don’t ever want to intentionally copy them. I don’t want them to influence me. I keep reading that you should look at pictures, find the location and go to it and take the same picture. If find these comments in those things like “ten tips that will make you a great photographer in an hour.” Why? That’s already been done. Probably to death. There used to be an old joke. “If you want to make your picture stay away from tripod holes.”

This picture? I just saw the scene. All the green was pretty to me so I stopped. I’m not sure I could find the exact location again. I know it’s in the Lower 9th Ward, but that’s about it. I did a little post on it, mostly to make it look old. The post work muted the colors. I brought them back because that was the whole point of the picture.

 

Wires


Looks like that place again…

It’s not that place. It’s a different one.

It appears to be lost in time. As do I. Because, I’m not making very many new pictures these days. Except for this one. I saw it. I pushed the button. On my iPhone. The sky was sort of milky just before it turned colorful. I took the colorful pictures also. But, from the minute I saw the quieter version, I knew what I was going to in post production.

I did this. A painting. Without using painting software. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

That’s the first time for that sort of continuous thought. Usually, I make the picture and tinker around. There was no tinkering this time. I knew exactly where to go. I suppose there was a little experimentation on my way to creating my vision. But, the steps were intentional.

About painting software. I don’t use it. I’ve tested it. I think it is trying too hard. You know. Push a button for watercolor. Or, push a button for Van Gogh. I don’t think creativity is enhanced. Or, works that way. It’s sort of like using a paint by numbers kit to make something to hang on the wall. It might like okay. But, it’s not from the inside. Where art is created.

And, that’s it.

Fall Finally


Fall Leaf in Art.

My twist on a fall leaf.

Fall fell finally.

Like that alliteration? The weather isn’t going to be all that different. The temperatures will drop by 10 or 15 degrees. That’s it. Eighty degree weather will return by the end of the week. If the humidity remains on the low side that will be fine. If not, it’s bait and switch.

So.

I decided to make a washed out icon. Originally, the picture was bright. The leaf was red. I made it to look old. Using some approximations of old techniques. Older than even film. More like an etching.

It works for me.

Drifting


New Mexican plains.

I’m not there yet. But, I will be.

I made this picture on New Mexico Route 43. I stopped because the abandoned buildings caught my eye. There was barbed wire fence and a lot of no trespassing signs. Normally, I don’t pay much attention. If somebody stops me I just speak in another language even if I don’t speak much of it. I look confused and that’s the end of it. This is one of those tips that I suggest you never try. Me? I’m fearless with a camera.

For some reason I decided to heed the warning sign. I can’t remember why. Probably, I caught a little motion out of the corner of my eye. And, my warning bells went off.

Anyway.

This is a newer, more gentle way of processing. I’m told it’s more contemporary. When was the last time I ever did something because it was new and contemporary? I don’t care about those things. I’m just experimenting.

Santa Fe


Like an adobe.

” She’s a good girl, loves her mama, Loves Jesus and America too

She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis, Loves horses and her boyfriend too

It’s a long day livin’ in Reseda, There’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard

And I’m a bad boy, ’cause I don’t even miss her, I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart

And I’m free, free fallin’, Yeah I’m free, free fallin’, All the vampires walkin’ through the valley

Move west down Ventura Blvd. ,And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows

All the good girls are home with broken hearts,  And I’m free, free fallin’, Yeah I’m free, free fallin’

Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, Now I’m, Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’

I wanna glide down over Mulholland,  I wanna write her name in the sky

I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’,  Gonna leave this world for awhile

And I’m free, free fallin’, Yeah I’m free, free fallin’,  Yeah I’m free, free fallin’

Oh! Free fallin’,  Now I’m free,  Oh! , Free fallin’ “

— Free Falling, Tom Petty

I had no idea. Rest in Peace, Tom.

My Mood


A little bleak for a Friday.

Yes. This picture is a little bleak. For a Friday.

It’s 90 degrees outside. An NOPD officer was shot and killed early this morning. We actually like our cops. Now I have to tell the beat cops who pass by our neighborhood that I’m sorry for their loss. I don’t want to tell them that. I don’t want them to have a loss.

I’m worn out by that moron in The White House who is intent on hurting as many people as he can. Oh, ending subsidies for those who can’t afford to pay for the most basic of needs — health insurance — is just a way to get Democrats to the bargaining table. I see. I get it. Let’s kill off about 7 million people if the Democrats won’t bargain.

I’m worn out by nature. Fires. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Floods. Maybe some pestilence in Puerto Rico because they don’t have clean drinking water yet.

I’m worn out by never-ending and forgotten wars. The United States isn’t going to win anything in the graveyard of empires. By polarized politics. We aren’t going to get anything done — which may be for the best — with our leaders screaming at each other. I’m worn out by social media. You can’t post anything without it being attacked politically. Post a flower and some guy will scream it’s a “libtard” flower. Huh? It’s a flower. Did your mother have any children that lived?

So my posts are a little bleak. I probably should do a couple of things. I should go to any of the 7,981,376 festivals this weekend and take pictures. But, I’m tired of being hot. I probably should stay far away from social media. That’s doable. It’s likely a weekend away will make a world of difference. That and the news in general. Except for sports. My Yankees are in the playoffs. I probably should take a road trip just for me. That’s also doable, but I don’t know where I want to go. We’ll see.

The picture. I made it a little while back. The new processing software — Stackables — that I’m playing with allows me to do a lot of interesting things. I don’t really know how to make it “stackable” yet, but it’s coming.

Dreaming


In the weeds.

I can dream, can’t I?

I made this picture in The Sandias, in New Mexico. In late fall. Look. There are little bits of ice and snow in the picture. It was cold. But, not that cold.

Meanwhile.

In the land of swamps and gators, the temperature is 83, heading to 86 degrees as I write. At 83 degrees we have a “feels like” temperature of 91.  We may have a cooling trend early next week when the high will be around 78 with the low around 59. It didn’t use to be this way this late into October.

Kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it?

You’d think that I would have grown used to this weather after living down here for so long. Nooooo. I really like cooler, drier weather. Yet, we stay. Talk about the definition of insanity.

I’m going to leave most political commentary aside except for this. In New Orleans, 12 years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, I’d say that we are still recovering. On the surface, it doesn’t look that way. Too be sure, there is plenty of work to be done. Those failing and sometimes burning pump houses are an example of that.

Houston and Florida will take years to recover. I’m sure we’ll be there.

The man in the high tower thinks that it’s time to go in Puerto Rico. After three weeks. Three whole weeks.

I’m just trying to figure out after he cuts taxes for the rich just how he expects to finance recovery in three flooded states and a burnt one. Oh, and overfund the military. And, build the wall that the Mexicans were going to pay for. And, add ten times the nukes to our already too big stockpile.

There’s only one word. The Secretary of State said it. Moron.

Oh. I said I wasn’t going to get political.

I forgot.

The picture. The Stackables app did most of the work in post production. All I did was act somewhat restrained. That’s not always easy for me.

When I Remember


The real spooky deal.

It’s gotten away from me. A little.

With all the news; hurricanes, mass shootings, fires, floods and stupidity from the White House, I seem to have forgotten one of the most important seasons in New Orleans.

So, let’s get back to it.

Halloween. When I remember.

This is the real deal. It isn’t a house decorated for the season.  It’s a house that isn’t quite abandoned, but is getting very close to it. The door is locked. Yes. I tried it. The window covering is in tatters. It was too dark to see inside. Who knows what is lurking inside. A ghost. A vampire. A ghoul. The monster who lives in your dreams. Or, the monster who lives in washington, D.C.

I swore I wouldn’t do that today.

Instead, I promised myself that I’d do a little publicity. There is a new vampire book out there. It’s called Monsters & Angels. It’s set in New Orleans. In the 1930s. There is a lot of blue in it. Blue on the cover. Blue in the characters. Blue in the author’s hair. It’s a wonderful book. And, that is coming from someone who doesn’t often read the genre. Oh yeah. I almost forgot. The author’s name. Jeezum. (That’s New Orleanian for sheesh) Anne Marie (I’m glad I just checked) Andrus.

You can buy it on Amazon or directly. Go here. https://monstersnangels.com/ 

The picture. Really. I stumbled upon the house. I don’t think that I could find it now or two days later. Yes, I worked some of my post production magic to bringing it to life. But, not too much. or, for too long.