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Winterlude


Then fall really arrived.

Out on a walk. A dog walk. What else would I be doing?

We went out at about blue hour. That wasn’t intentional. The dog who takes me for walks wanted to go out. So, out we went.

The sky was kind of magical in every direction. I unleashed the magical phone to try to capture nature’s magic. Yeah. I know. How many times can I work magical or magic into one sentence? Trust me. It started out as me not being aware. Then, I was. It was a happy accident. I do that a lot.

Anyway.

Remind me to tell you the story of how anyway came to be in my posts.

We turned a corner and there it was. A full moon that was trying to shine through the almost bare trees. I realized that I didn’t have the reach to photograph the moon as a dominant subject so I went the other way. I photographed the tree with the moon just poking through the branches.

That was my thought process.

After about  five or six pictures, I was done on location. Note that phrase. “Done on location.” This image took a lot of work in post production. I didn’t want the trees to be silhouetted completely. Nor did I want the sky to overpower anything. It took some time to create the image that you see.

I also went completely the other way. I made a black and white image that is all silhouette. I’m saving that one for my Instagram account.

Let’s talk about just one other thing. My website is hosted by Squarespace. They did exactly what WordPress did. They linked Unsplash to their services. For those of you who don’t know, Unsplash is a stock agency. You can use pictures for free. You don’t even have to credit the photographer. If you modify the picture in any way, you can call it your own. I smell a class action lawsuit in that.

I’m trying to figure out what’s in it for the contributing photographer. They don’t get paid. And, they don’t get any kind of credit.

Although I complained about it to WordPress, I sort of understand. About 90% of the blogs are writers blogs. They need illustrations. As I wrote a post or two back, nobody wants to pay for anything. I may test that here. I may rework a writer’s post just a little and call it my own. After all, fair is fair. Right?

However, Squarespace websites are primarily visual. That means there are a lot of photographers using their services. This is a direct slap in our faces. A big boycott movement is starting. If nothing changes by the time I pay my yearly bill, it’s likely that I won’t. I’ll leave.

The funny thing about Squarespace is that even the non-photographers sites are primarily people who produce stuff. There are a lot of bakers and chefs there. They don’t want stock pictures. Somehow they want pictures of what they do.

Life in the trenches.

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Impression of Fall


With little fall highlights.

My two greatest influences are not photographers. They are artists.

Vincent Van Gogh is one. Georgia O’Keeffe is the other.

Then, the photographers fall into line. People like Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel and David Alan Harvey. Every one of them, artists and photographers, influence my way of seeing. In color. And, all for different reasons.

Who influences you?

I was reading an article about many of today’s “digital photographers.” They bought a camera, maybe a few lenses and a flash. Off they go. They have no idea of the history of what they are doing. Or, who came before them. And, techniques used to make the picture of their dreams.

Now comes a whole class of “internet photographers.” These folks have never worked on assignment. Never made a commercial picture.

As you know, I use OnOne RAW photo editing software rather than Adobe products. The company has a whole host of “gurus” who will teach you their favorite techniques. Some are free. Some cost money. Or, they’ll take you on a guided tour. For even more money.

That’s fine, I guess. Everybody has to earn a living. They lead you to some far-flung location like Iceland, which is beyond very trendy, and photograph right along side of their class. All fun, I suppose. But, if you ask them where you can sell or license your newly made landscapes, they have no idea. Most of them sell through their website.

The real take away from this is that you are trying to learn from a person who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. I don’t give workshops or lead tour groups because I don’t know enough. And, I’ve been doing this for 47 years.

I suppose I could do something in New Orleans. But, everybody and their other brother comes down here to lead some kind of group. I’d rather make pictures, then be responsible for getting someone killed because they wandered into the wrong neighborhood carrying 40 pounds of gear.

By the way, this is not a rant. I don’t have many of those left in me. This is pretty much kind of a state of the industry, especially as it applies to new photographers, or those of you who might get a new piece of equipment from Santa. One can only hope. Right?

Here’s what I suggest.

If I were starting out, I’d take the time to learn everything I could about my new-found love of making pictures. I’d go online. I’d go to the library. I’d haunt museums. And, I’d visit galleries. Not only will you learn what came before, but your own direction might find you.

Of course, I wouldn’t limit myself to that. I’d photograph constantly. Every city, town or  village is interesting in its own way. Your backyard might hold something interesting. You’ll see why in a minute. I’d look at my work, deleting nothing on a lcd because you can’t see anything on those tiny screens and you don’t want to be called a monkey because the slang for peering at your lcd after taking a picture is “chimping.”

I’d develop the new work and look at everything closely. What are your successful pictures? What are your failures? That’s the most important thing. Select a few pictures, not everything that is sharp because that’s not culling, and work on post production. I know that some people make a big deal of saying “this is straight from the camera,” but, that’s nonsense.

Then, study some more, make more picture and do it again. And, again. And, again.

That’s the secret. Hard work.

I said that I talk to you about backyard pictures. Well, this picture is one of them. I walked outside around the blue hour and looked up. Believe or not, I didn’t do much to it in post except enhance what I saw. I did go further but the warm colors started turning electric. Like neon signs in the cool blues. That didn’t work for me. This did.

Quiet


The quiet of a little green.

“I told you about the fool on the hill. I tell you he’s living there still.”

Well, that’s not what the picture is about. That’s a lyric from “Glass Onion.” From The Beatles “White Album.” The newly released 50 year anniversary version. Remixed. With a lot of other versions of songs with I which I grew up. I working my way through it right now. I haven’t gotten to the demo versions which are stripped down and, I’m told, are very good.

I’m listening to the remixed songs that I know by heart. It’s strange. The remix changes a lot of things. Guitars pop out in front on some songs. Vocals are brighter. The drums are moved around. Bass notes are up front in some cases. Buried in others.

It’s kind of off-putting. After listening to songs played one way for fifty years, and hearing them this way is often confusing. I would have been very happy with a remix that just emphasized the differences in technology. Oh well.

That brings me to pictures.

I’m forever remixing older work. I take the master image, which I may have made ten years ago, and rework it using newer, better technology, and what I’ve learned over that time. I hope that I’ve made the picture a little better. Maybe a little cleaner. Sometimes, I go too far. I make a mess. An example of that is this picture.

As you see it now, it is elegant and very clean. For me, it’s artistic. But, last night I started playing around with it. I went too far. I went further still. And, beyond that. It turned ugly. It turned dystopian. I’m sure you are wonder how this picture could end up looking like something from a terrible future. Suffice it to say, I did it. And, you aren’t going to see it anytime soon.

Sometimes you have to know when to just hide a thing away. Not every picture deserves an audience.

Simplicity


Simplicity, itself.

Something for Friday. The end of the business week.

There was more to these leaves when I found them. With tight framing, a little cropping and some gentle post production, I turned clutter into simplicity. I followed my minimalist heart.

Minimalism seems to be in fashion right now. My generation — Baby Boomers — was collectors. We wanted stuff. We bought and paid for stuff.

Millennials — the next powerful generation — are not collectors.

In fact, it seems that they don’t want to own anything. They are the ones who repopulate city centers so they can walk or use public transportation. They don’t want to own a car. They stream rather than collect CDs or DVDs. They try to keep their wardrobes simple.

All good things.

On the other hand, they also think that everything should be free. They really don’t want to pay for music, movies or photography. WordPress caters to them by telling them how to find free pictures for use on their blogs.

Of course, I’m being very simplistic when I describe both generations. And, there are other generations between the two. We all share certain traits because we are individuals. For instance, I’m probably more minimalistic than many members of my generation. Some members of the Millennial group collect all sorts of stuff, especially trivia like comic books and movie memorabilia. Fun stuff.

The question I have for all generations is simple. If you don’t want to pay the artists who produce the things you like, whether you listen to, or watch it via streaming, who is going to make them? We need to eat too.

I have a better question. Streaming generally costs money. Not much compared to buying the actual product. But, still. What do you do for money? From what I read, you start out working for something like a big tech company, hate it, and drop out to make some kind of art. Or, you cook or bake something. Or, you become photographers in a world where it’s almost impossible to make money. Because you want pictures for free. Because you want art for free.

See where this is headed? It’s circular. You can’t make a living because you want it for free. You want it for free because you can’t make a living.

The picture. I saw the red leaves glowing in the sun. I made a number of exposures trying to simplify the picture at the scene. I found one that I liked and stripped it down. That’s it. Easy.

 

Once Again… Into the Sky


Chugging through the clouds.

Sky train number two.

One of the benefits of staying in one place is that you get to see some of the same subjects in a different light. Yes. That means the physical and the metaphysical. The old Robert Capa saying, “if the picture isn’t good enough then you weren’t close enough,” really has two meanings. The first is obvious and I clung to that for years. Work closer. Make a better picture. The second isn’t so obvious. A good friend of mine mentioned it to me.  You have to be close to your subject in order to understand your subject. From that springs a better picture.

Think of it this way. Maybe you are one of my writer friends who reads Storyteller. You ask me to photograph your family because you think all you take is snapshots. While my pictures of your family might be better technically than anything you shot, I can pretty much assure you that your pictures will be better than mine from a content point of view. You know your family far better than I do.

The same thing happens with travel pictures. If you go on some sort of tour, whether it’s a cruise that stops in certain places, or a guided tour through some country, your pictures will be fairly common and will reflect the fact that you don’t know the location well.

I never take those kinds of tours. I learn as much as I can about a place and schedule enough time so that I can just hangout and learn the flow of it. I also don’t try to cover too much. I really and truly dislike packing and unpacking and packing… you get the idea. That’s for my photographic work. My other life is different. But, I’m not trying to learn about a place.

That said…

The same thing happens when you live in a place. You can return repeatedly to places you find interesting. In theory, your pictures should improve. I’m lucky (or not). I live in a very popular place that tourists and travelers just love. The best travel destination in the country. So the travel magazine and guidebooks say.

After all, how many of you can walk out the door around golden and blue hours and say, “I’ll be back. I’m going to the French Quarter to take pictures.” I may grumble about the city, but most of the time it’s giant set waiting to be photographed… and eaten. Yeah. Lots of world-class restaurants. Even on the greasy spoon end.

One more thing. No. Not every place is New Orleans. But every place has great pictures lurking in the corners. You just have to leave your Barcalounger and your 92 inch television and go outside and look for them. Do this for a couple of days in a row and the pictures will find you. I promise.

The picture. I photographed this bridge a few weeks ago in bright sunlight. I happened to be nearby yesterday so I had another look. The dark clouds were the remainders of a big northerly storm. No more 80 degree days. I awoke to 36 degrees today. The same people who were complaining about the heat are now complaining about the cold. I am not one of them. I like the cold. The dog who sees things loves the cold. For the past couple of days she’s come hauling ass out of the house and dancing around in the cold air.

Anyway.

I must feel like writing.

Back to the picture. Not only was there clouds in the sky, but there were diesel engines on the bridge. That bright orange is the BNSF paint scheme. It just jumped out of the overall darkness. I made some closer pictures too. You can see the graffiti covered billboard. I like it well enough, but this picture speaks to the long distance nature of rail travel. In music this might be called the high lonely. The train is eastbound. I don’t know where it originated. Many trains crossing here have traveled from the West Coast, usually Los Angeles. But, the hopper cars aren’t covered in graffiti. They didn’t start in LA. The other LA. Movie stars, palm trees, swimming pools.

Enjoy my tales. I’m finally enjoying writing them.

Some Kind of Night


Into the sunset.

Moving. Changes. Life.

If you read Storyteller yesterday you know that changes are on my mind. Most for the better. Some not so much. Today, bright and early, I got a reminder of changes. My new phone shows me anything it thinks is important the minute that turn it on. Note that phrase, “anything it thinks is important.” AI has invaded my little home.

Anyway.

My neighbor and friend sent me a private message via FB in which she attached a long statement about my drugstore. They are closing. Today. My files and prescriptions are being sent to Walgreen, which I suppose is better than CVS, who I escaped from to go my little pharmacy. Apparently, the parent company — Fred’s — decided to close it.

That’s bad enough.

But, in talking with one of the women who was so helpful to me over the past couple of years, I learned how the staff found out.  When they arrived for work last Tuesday — not yesterday — there was a hand written note on the door from Fred’s management.  They had no other notice. No notice of how their salaries would be handled. No two weeks notice. No nothing.

Huh?

Is this what we’ve come to? No consideration for the employees. No consideration for the customers. No consideration for people. If that’s what corporations are doing these days, it’s time to take a big step back. I would suggest that we buy local. But, that’s what I thought I was doing.

Basta! (that’s Italian for enough.)

Ironically, yesterday, I received an email from Kamala Harris, the junior senator from California. You might know her from her very lawyerly-like grilling of Kavanaugh during his hearing. It was kind of a general email to those of us who interacted with her in some way over the past year. She wants me to run for something. It doesn’t matter what office as long we populate it with like-minded people.

Maybe I should.

Certainly it is time to take back my country from high dollar corporate interests. From the one percenters. From the people who are too big to fail, as they flail around looking for any penny that they can find. Your pennies. My pennies.

I keep hearing from my friends who say that 65 isn’t old. That I’m not over the hill because the minute I climb over it there is another hill in front of me. And, when you consider who runs the country, and their ages, I’m still young. That’s saying something. Maybe I am.

See what happens?

Take away my local pharmacy and I get angry. I’ve been angry since about 7:15 this morning. I’m calm. Anybody who really knows me knows that’s not a good thing. Never mistake my calmness for giving up. Instead, I get resolute and lethal.

Oh.

The picture. You want to know about the picture. How could I forget that? It is one of the many I made when I was driving and shooting. I made it before the one that I posted a few days ago. You can just see the clouds starting to come together. Again, I didn’t really do very much to it. Nature took care of my work. As usual.

Elephants Can Cry


Lonely night.

Stan Lee left the planet. California is burning. And, in a few days I am officially over the hill.

I was thinking today about the things that I’ve seen in my own lifetime. A president assassinated. His brother killed. A man of peace killed for wanting equality. A war in Southeast Asia that reverberates today. Man walking on the moon. A president resigning in disgrace. A president working to heal the country. Oil shortages. New electric cars emerging. Technology developing and blooming. The end of the Cold War. Germany reunited.  Climate change that could end life on Earth sooner than we think. A never-ending war in Afghanistan. And, a shorter war in Iraq that gave birth to ISIS. Mass shootings everywhere. A president elected who does not have the skills, mentality or empathy to lead anybody. A country so polarized that being torn in two is an improvement. Immigrants walking, walking, walking…

And yet, I have hope. I believe in people. I believe that our best angels will eventually win the day. I believe in small steps. This last midterm election was about that. It proved that people of color, people of different religions, and women, may finally be starting to get their due. For sure, that fight isn’t over. Only one battle was won. But, it’s a start.

It should make us smile. It didn’t. I believe that our expectations may have been too high. I’m certain that we are all tired.

I do not remember a time when a sitting U.S. president was in our face all day, every day. I also don’t remember a time when a U.S. president flew to France not to honor our war dead. Not to work with his peers around the world. And, not to join them in a meeting for peace. All of this makes me tired. I’m sure that it makes you tired.

All of this went through my head when I made the picture. They tell you that the best way to photograph in the street is to clear your head and not think of anything. Just see it, focus on it, push the button. What I did was a little different. I didn’t think about the picture. I thought about other stuff. The stuff that I just wrote about. I made a very simple picture. My picture. My kind of picture.

Weird, huh?

I just looked up at the scene and though, “that’s a nice contrast.” That was it. I was mostly lost in thought. About the world. About me. About my place in it.

No. No. No.

My place isn’t as bleak as all the news. It’s actually pretty good. I have to make some choices. I have some decisions to make. And, move forward. Don’t worry. I’m not going to uproot anything big, like family. We are considering moving. I am coming to grips with 45 years of archives and what to keep, what to toss and what to put out there in the world. I am also trying to sort out a couple of new projects that sort of popped up when I was reading about something else.

I’d like to lay out the framework for this in eight days. That’s my birthday. I can start my birth year with a good idea of some direction. Maybe in ten years I can complete it. Sheesh. It’s a tough thing. I’ve been wrestling with all of this for well over a year. I’m like a shaken up bottle of soda. Ready to pop.

Oh, and about Stan Lee. He passed at 95 years old. I’m not in mourning. That’s old enough. But, he’s been with me since I was eight or nine when I read Spiderman issue number 2 and Fantastic Four issue number 3. I was on a trip. A train trip with my family. We were going from Los Angeles to New York City.

I started traveling young. I never stopped. Stan Lee was right there with me.

 

Night Work


    Mind in motion.

Magical night work.

I used to make pictures like this all the time. They were a big part of my career. Then, things turned digital. Sharpness was king.

Enough of that.

Now, for me, experimentation is king. At least here, on Storyteller.

The picture. You can learn from me as I recover what I lost. This is a smart phone picture. Remember, this new magic phone lets me choose shutter speeds and f stops. It allows me to choose lens length. It also lets me work in low light. Or, no light.

No light. That’s what I worked in. There was a little ambient light. Not much. It really was more like no light. Setting the phone like I might set a camera resulted in this picture.

Cool, eh?

Out There


A long way.

There are days and there are days.

I tried to photograph balloons. There were three. Not enough. There was wind. You’d think that balloons like wind. They do. But, not much more than 10 miles per hour. The wind was stronger than that. So no balloons in the air. No dusk balloon glow.

I gave up.

I started heading back. Then, this picture happened. At 60 miles per hour. Luckily, the magic smart phone came to the rescue. All I did was hold it on the dashboard with a finger. It did the rest and I slowed down.

I have one more day to make a balloon glow picture. We have cold and windy air. With only Read More

Anywhere


Inside out.

What do you think?

Everywhere. They are everywhere. Pictures.

I made this picture when I went to the hospital. There. That got your attention. No worries. My doctor is based there. I went there for a “wellness” visit.

I was waiting for the elevator and looked out the window. It was storming out there. Wind. Rain. The temperature dropping. By 30 degrees in about six hours. Finally. Some cold weather. Apparently, it’s here to stay.

So.

The picture. I did what I always do. I made a picture. That’s what I meant earlier. Pictures are everywhere. You just have to see them.

Now. THAT takes some practice. Today. Tomorrow. The next day.

Try it.

For thirty days.

You’ll learn something. About making pictures. About yourself.