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It Takes You There


Another quiet day.

“What you are you can never erase,  It’s here til the end of time

What you lost you will never replace, Still you’re trying to find.”  — Ricki Lee Jones

It’s a long story. Because we are a musical city, you just never know who you’re gonna run into in the street, in a cafe, having coffee.

The picture. One more in a series of spring tree pictures. Because everybody could use a little rebirth in their lives.

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Something About Flowers


Experiment, a grand one.

The rain on Saturday. We mostly stayed inside. We watched Netflix. And, Amazon Prime. Eventually, I got a little bored.

So.

I started playing around. Tinkering. Experimenting.

I may have gone a little too far. There are 29 layers in this picture. It started with a human face. You might see the eyes near the top. I wanted to add flowers to the face. That didn’t quite work, so I kept going and going and going…

You know how storm days are. Time has no meaning. Light has no meaning. Meaning has no meaning. The only thing I  had to even think about was the weather wimps, or as you know them, the dogs. They refuse to go out in the rain until they absolutely have to. If we get into about 18 or 19 hours of rain, I force them out. It’s not healthy for them. They go out. They race back inside where warm towels are waiting for them. They like that.

Anyway.

That’s how I made this picture. A big storm. A dark day. And, boredom. I’m sorry. If you ask me what I did, I can’t tell you. It’s not that I won’t tell you. I just kept tinkering until I found the picture. The one that I like. The one that you see.

Circles


On the ground.

I was out walking. The dog who sees things accompanied me. She saw this. But, just the shapes. Not the color. The brightly colored circles caught my eye.  She — the dog — doesn’t see color like that. Dogs see monochromatically. That’s fine for them because their noses know.

I saw them. Circles. I think a space alien put them there. Or, a little kid. I’m not even sure what they are. They are round. Obviously. They are brightly colored. I thought that they might be rubber bands. Nope. They are made of hard material and have almost no flexibility.

I brought a couple of them home. I’ll photograph them and let Google Images do its thing. That may work. Since I don’t know what to call these things, Googling in the normal manner might not be of much help.

Anyway.

That’s life. Sometimes you find the thing you want. Often you don’t. For this discussion, things can be anything. Finding stuff on the ground often comes to mind. But, what if you are searching for something more specific? A partner? A new life philosophy? Even validation of your life or work?

I’ve come to think that the more you search, the harder it is to find the thing that you are chasing. You tangle yourself up in yourself. Your searching may scare the thing you want away from you.

That’s why I let pictures come to me. I think they’ll find me easy enough if I just look and see.

If you have read this far, you’ll notice that I haven’t cited any examples. That’s because I can only speak for myself. If I commented on another’s approach I would just be blathering. I don’t know enough about another’s head, heart and soul.

You work with intent. With vision. But, that’s an overarching set of concepts. The rest — the notion of letting a thing come to you — lies within them.

The picture. You know that I found it almost by accident. But, there was a framework. The dog who sees things likes a little plot of grass where I found the circles. She sniffs around. She gives me time to look. To see. She is patient when I start to work.

You know how I found it. My entire post is about that. My post production is mostly about highlighting color without getting otherworldly. Some of my production outtakes look like the world from neon hell.

On the Surface


Sun on a sunny Sunday.

The big storm came and went.

The winds were strong. So was the rain. The meeting of cold and warm air was violent. Thunder. Lightning. The skies got very dark and rain fell for about 12 hours, from about 11 am until 11 pm. Sometimes it fell in sheets. Other times, it fell sideways. Most of the time, it was just steady. We got, as they say, a good soaking.

I suppose that the water pumps in two parishes were working fine. Although there was some minor local flooding, there was nothing like the floods of last summer. Local flooding is normal. After all, we sort of live in a bowl.

When storms pass through at this time of the year they leave good, clean cool air in their wake. The temperature dropped by about 20 degrees. The morning is glorious.

This picture is the result of nature’s handiwork. A few remaining clouds early in the day and then… wowie-zowie. Wonderful light. You are seeing the result. Oh sure. I helped it along some. But, only enough for you to catch the feeling.

Enjoy it.

Big Storms Comin’ Soon


It’s a most peculiar gray.

Squalls out on the gulf stream. Big storm coming soon.

Sure enough. I returned just in time for a big storm. A storm big enough to cancel today’s French Quarter Fest. That never happens. I can’t say I was excited about going. It’s grown so big that even my old trick of catching the street car doesn’t work anymore. That is, unless I want to park somewhere near the car barn and take it all the way to Canal Street. Still, I’d go. Just to say I went. And, maybe get lucky and make a few pictures.

All of that said, we are looking for five or six inches of rain in less than 12 hours. We expect heavy winds. And, tornadoes. According the weather folks there is a new stronger designation. Of course, we are in that. The fine, thieving folks at the sewage and water place say that only one pump is down. That should protect us from flooding. Unless the power fails. Or, the pumping stations catch fire. Both of those things have happened.

Of course, I’ve been jonesing  to make some real photographs. With a camera. Not a smart phone. That means that I may still go out and make weather pictures. No worries. I may be old, but I’m cagey. My many years of experience protect me from myself. The one thing to always remember is not to drive down a flooded street unless cars have passed through ahead of you. Because potholes. Big, car swallowing potholes.

The picture. You know how I like to be in the middle of things? Well… that’s how you make a vertical cloud picture. And, it helps if you always sit in the window seat. This picture was made yesterday, towards dusk.

You Can Tell


By the afternoon glow.

You can tell.

When I’ve been walking. When the dog and I are taking a stroll. You can see it in the pictures. In the light. In the shadow. In the glow.

You can tell.

When I’ve bothered to do what I suggest to you. Like look up. Or, down. Or, all around. This is one of those pictures. When I looked up into the light.

You can tell.

When I’ve helped the picture. A little. Just a little. Not so much to make a radical change in the picture. Just enough to help you to see what I felt. When I saw the scene. When I pushed the button.

A Long Story


Sitting, think and waiting.

Yes. It’s a long story.

The picture seems fairly simple. These two guys are waiting for Big Chief John to dress and make his appearance. That part is simple enough.

But.

Oh, you knew this was coming.

The Original Wild Tchoupitoulas were getting dressed next door. In a private home. One that was rock solid. The building next door had been falling down for years. But, gentrification is coming to Central City. It was being restored. I said to somebody at the time that now it looked like it was ready to fall down.

I was right. It did.

It fell down. The next day. On Monday. It completely collapsed, trapping three workers, and onto Washington Avenue, closing it in both directions until the debris could be cleared.

I’m trying to figure out a couple of things. It’s one of those chicken and egg things. The building was abandoned for years. For years, we sat on the stoop waiting for Second Sunday activities to start. Drummers played their drums on the porch. Brass bands practiced there. It was solid. Now with new construction and the shoring up of the foundation, the building became fragile. We all did the things that we usually did. It fell down.

Did we cause it to fall down? Was it the new construction? Was it simply the fact that it sat abandoned for so many years?  I don’t know. It’s probably our faults. Luckily, the workers who were trapped were not injured. And, the building didn’t block traffic during rush hour.

The picture. It was one those extra pictures I made during the main event. I just liked the position of the two men. I did a lot to it in post production, including adding that frame. I’m not sure if it helps or hurts.

One Time, One Night


Night time on Washington Avenue.

Street portraits made easy.

When you have help. My buddy, Pableaux Johnson was working with a new video light on a still camera. It is flat panelled and a continuous light source. He thought it would help illuminate the Mardi Gras Indians as they walked while they showed off their suits. After all, on St. Joseph’s Night we work in available darkness. He turned it on to take a picture of this guy. He couldn’t quite get what he wanted. But, standing to the side of him, I did. I just didn’t know it at the time.

I’m not sure I would use that light. It was a little cumbersome for him. It also seems to provide a very flat — meaning not enough contrast — light. And, I could see him from a block away. My whole way of working on the street is to blend in, and not be seen.

Anyway.

I made a pretty good portrait, mostly just by standing there and pointing the camera.

Of course, the original file didn’t look anything like this. Yes, the red color was there. It just wasn’t so enhanced. And, I buried a lot of noise with darkness. Even with the external light, I really was pushing the camera’s limits since we were standing in the darkest possible location. That took some doing because the picture — his face — needed some sharpening because the focal plane is centered on his hands and the sugar skull button. Even with masking, I ran the risk of sharpening the noise. I made it work. Just.

But.

It came together. I’m really anxious to run a test print. After all, it’s not really a photograph unless it’s printed on paper. With all the technical issues I had to overcome, I’m wondering if the image will just fall apart on when I print it.

Questions? Ask away. Answers? I’m all ears. Like the picture? Buy it. Papa needs a new large format printer to crowd an already crowded studio.

 

No Quarter


Dancing days are here again.

It could be something else. The picture.

It reminds me of the fifth Led Zeppelin album. Houses of the Holy. Mostly, it’s the sky. An odd shade of popsicle orange. It is a little weird. Mysterious. Spooky.

Another of my portraits on the scene.

I made it prior to all the events of St. Joseph’s Night, when Mardi Gras Indian tribes roamed the streets of the city hoping to show off their pretty suits.

This little guy isn’t quite dressed for his tribe. One day, if he works at it, he will be.

Just like me, he was interested in what was going on in the cemetery as light began to fall. I asked his dad if I could photograph him. After he said yes, I let his dad direct him… kind of. When I was done, I handed his dad my business card. Maybe one day, he’ll ask for a print or two. Always free to the people who I photograph. Charging them is not how I earn my living. Without them in the picture there would be no picture. It’s a fair deal all around.

The picture. Well, this’ll teach me. I passed it over when I was curating the images to show you the next day. Here we are almost a month later. I was recurating pictures for another collection when I saw this one.

It was a little technically deficient because of the back light and how he was standing. I tinkered with it. Somewhere way back in my brain a bell went off. The color of the sky reminded me of something. Something from 1973. The aforementioned Led Zeppelin album. From back when albums were albums.

That got me thinking that I should listen to it. I haven’t for a long while. So, I did. Man, is it good. It’s a transitional sort of album. Listen to it if you get a moment. It might not be what you are thinking.

Far From Home


St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

Cemeteries. A lot of people like to photograph them. I’m one of them. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I like to use them as a base photograph for something else. After all, where can you find a place that’s sacred, moody, mysterious and spooky? All in one? You just have to work at the right time of day.

Like anything photographic, I think that you just want to feel, and not think about the subject too much while you are making the pictures.

But, but, but…

I also believe that you have to make a loose plan that outlines your goals. Often times, I just sort of stumble onto pictures. That’s not always an effective way of working. If you are seeing well, you can make a bunch of good pictures in about a half hour. Or, you might spend all day looking, but not seeing. The result is predictable. No pictures. A tank of gas wasted. Time wasted.

My preferred way of working is by assignment, or self assignment. That doesn’t mean that every picture has to be planned. In fact, it shouldn’t mean that.

It should mean that you’ve picked a location based on your interest. Or, a subject that you enjoy exploring.  It might mean that you’ve done a bit of research. You might know the area’s history. You might have talked to people who spend a lot of time at your soon-to-be-photographed location. And, who might understand the subject better than you do. They might even become part of your picture story.

From the  technical side, you might have planned for the light and shadows. You know, the time of day in which natural light helps make the picture better. You might bring allied equipment like strobes and reflectors.  If you want maximum sharpness and depth of field you might also bring a tripod.

Depending on your planned location, you might also bring other people. Maybe just a friend to watch your back. Maybe an assistant who understands photography and can make your life easier. And, maybe a fixer who takes care of everything needed to allow you to be in the place you want to work. This person, understands your photographic needs, speaks the local language and English and can deal with the proper paperwork.

Please don’t misunderstand. On most self-assignments, I’m just exploring. The only extra person I might bring is the one who watches my back. The other two assistants that I mentioned are really for a paid assignment work.

The one thing you don’t want is a map of tripod holes. That’s a joke. You know, that’s when you try to find the exact place where a great photograph was made so that you can copy it. Make your own pictures. Always.

This picture. I made it a few weeks ago on St. Joseph’s Night when the Mardi Gras Indians rolled through the streets of New Orleans. Even though I knew the kinds of pictures I hoped to make, I also knew from experience that if I parked my car on the street that divides the two sides of the cemetery I might get lucky and make a couple of unrelated, but good pictures.

I did make a few pictures worth looking at more than once.

This ought to help you understand the notion of “photographer’s luck,” which is really a mix of experience, talent and situational awareness.  It paid off nicely. I made the “sunset, crosses and telephone poles” picture that many of you liked. I made this picture, along with another that I haven’t shown you yet. Unlike the first picture, this one took a lot of work in post production to make it look like my vision. The vision in my head.

That’s my story. I’m sticking to it. I’ll answer questions though. I’ll always answer questions.