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Motion Studies

They all came out.

The story until now.

They all came out on St. Joseph’s Night in Central City. They walked. They danced. They sang. They challenged other tribes to prove they are wearing the prettiest suits. They all say, “Pretty, pretty,” after they do a little dance off. Both are prettiest.


As a photographer, I see this is as a night filled with color and light and energy. So, that’s the kinds of pictures I try to make.

I have to think about this sometimes. We live in an age where many people define a good picture by its sharpness. That’s why you see so many high megapixel cameras and high-resolution lenses. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’d rather start with that and work backwards, rather than try to reach forward with really cheap lenses.

I make a big deal of saying gear doesn’t matter. To a point that’s true. But, picture quality does matter. That means both cameras and lenses. It used to be that camera quality could last over many years. Now they are little computers. Unfortunately, newer usually is better. Lenses too. After a certain point, they need refreshing. I’m not saying older lenses are bad, but there are quality issues driven always improving technology. On the other hand, I intentionally use older glass to create an older and different mood.

That said, I worked at about f 5.6 and very low shutter speeds in order to make these pictures. That’s how I add flavor to the pictures that could be really boring if they were purely a kind of documentation.

The trick to this is to try to keep one thing — hopefully a face — fairly sharp. This is a kind of luck. But, it’s luck borne from a lot of experience working at low shutter speeds. In fact, I made the mid-part of my career making motion filled pictures. Everybody wanted them. Then, they didn’t.

And, now? There’s a whole crop of new young art and creative directors. They were raised on hyper-sharpness. When they see pictures like these, they are amazed. They want me to make pictures like this. Until they get bored with them. Again.

I’d like to talk about each of these pictures.

The top picture was made after the very last Indian came out of the club door. They are posing for pictures and greeting friends.

The bottom left picture is very powerful if you know the backstory. The man on the crutches is an Indian. He can’t mask right now. He’s still recovering. From being shot during last year’s St. Joseph’s Night. I told you. These streets are dangerous.

The middle picture is Big Queen running down the street ahead of the rest of her tribe.

Finally, that’s the Big Chief and Queen.


The One

Once in a great while…

St. Joseph’s Night. Uptown.

As the Mardi Gras Indians emerge from the club that is their dressing room, other unsuited Indians play and sing them out. For the unsuited Indians it is a tradition and a show of respect. They play as if their lives depend on it.

For me, it’s how things start. Loud. Noisy. Joyful.

I made this picture with a 16mm lens. Very wide. Very close. That’s how I like to work. In the middle of things. The Indians allow me to work like that because I show them the proper respect. If I can yell out loud enough, I thank them. If not, I give them a thumbs up and a nod of my head. I give somebody with pockets my business card. For them, my pictures are free.

On this night I was trapped between these guys, the Indians who were coming out on the street and the crowd trying to get close to either take pictures, or say hello to their friends and neighbor Indians. It was a good place to be trapped. All I needed to do was turn around because pictures were everywhere.

The picture. I call it “The One,” because every now and then I make a picture good enough to be my yearly signature picture. Obviously, I can’t predict the future. I may make other even better pictures as the year rolls on. Even though I certainly will try, I doubt it will happen. This was my magic moment.

To me, this picture says everything about the street, traditions and rituals. But, as I’ve learned in the past, you have to be there. If I show it to you in some place where our traditions aren’t well-known, you’d likely say something like, “Yeah, that’s nice,” and move on to another picture. I get it and it never bothers me.

The technical stats for those of you who want to know, are f 5.6 exposed for around 1/15th of a second using all the axis stabilization possible. Auto ISO. No flash. All available light. I was lucky, they were singing in a pool of light.

St. Joseph’s Night

Coming out.

A big night. A huge night. A colorful night.

St. Joseph’s Night.

It is a traditional night. A time when the streets all over the city are filled with Mardi Gras Indians. Uptown. Downtown. All around town.

For some people, like me, it’s the first time seeing the new 2018 suits even though they make their first appearance on Mardi Gras Day. Normally, I would have seen most of them on Super Sunday which is usually held on the Sunday before St. Joseph’s Day (and Night.) But, it rained. Or, so the weather folks said. There was rain early in the morning. That was about it. The Indians take no chances. The finery you see in this picture would be easily destroyed in rainy conditions.


This is sort of a teaser.

I was very, very lucky last night. I made a number of good images. That’s hard, working in the dark stumbling over our potholed streets in a large crowd of people who want to get as close to the Indians as possible. I’ll show them to you over the course of the remaining week.

The picture. You already know what I’m going to say.  F8 and be there. Press the button a lot because you won’t know what you are going to actually capture. Don’t bother looking at your LCD to check. I think it breaks your workflow, but try doing it at night in a crowd. You’d get trampled even though the people around you will be trying to pick you up.

The most important thing about working this way, especially if you are new to it and it feels a little overwhelming, is to have fun. Move to the beat. Dance with your feet. Go with the ebb. The flow.

I’ll tell you a little secret. Most of you know about my hip and back issues. When I get going out there, they all disappear. It’s the music, the people, the sense of place that does it. And, from a more medical perspective — I asked about this — everything warms up, gets loose and stays that way until I cool down.

Into the Mystic

Softly in the morning.

And yet, another tree study.

Spring is about rebirth. Trees are about rebirth. Is there any wonder why I’m fascinated by them? Especially as I get older.

I like to work in collections of things. I don’t believe that you can make a portfolio of anything in one or two quick shoots. You have to return again and again. I photograph other subjects as well during that time.

As I scrolled through my archives, I realized that I’ve been photographing trees and clouds for almost two years. That’s eight seasonal changes. In all kinds of weather. In heat. Humidity. Cold. Rain storms. I’ve worked in atmospheric pictures like this one. I’ve made tiny detail images.

What to do with them all?

Right off, some go to my various agencies. They’ll get lumped in with everybody else’s tree pictures. They won’t sell because of that. That’s not why I made them. I could pursue a little gallery show. The pictures won’t sell there either. That’s also not why I made them. Or, I could make a small book. Maybe 20 to 40 pages including front and back matter. It’s hard to say if the books will sell. If nothing else, I’ll have a small collection of this focused work in a book. I’ll enjoy it. That’s why I made the pictures.

We’ll see.

I’m not willing to print boxes of books that sit until one might sell. I’m also not willing to put them on Amazon where they sell of $1.99. The work is worth more than that. I guess it’s important for many people to have other people read their work. They want to be heard. I get that. But, there is something I’ve learned over the years. The cheaper you price a product, the less it’s worth.

Guess what? There is a second corollary. Once you price your work very low, it’s almost impossible to raise the price. You’ve already set your worth.

Since this likely won’t have a publisher, I’ll print them on demand using some company like Blurb. I’ll price them appropriately at right under $20 a book.

Would you buy them? I have no idea.

Will I actually do this project? I have no idea about that either.

So many words that came out of a pretty little picture. Hmmmm.

The picture. It’s the usual simple thing. See it, photograph it. Do some work in post production to make it what I saw. And, share it with you.

A Peaceful Sunday

Morning peacefulness.

Sunday morning.

The house is quiet. The dogs are asleep. The only one awake is me. I like working in the quietude of morning. On a normal business day, I usually complete the tasks that must be done for the day by noon. Today, aside from a few household chores, I’ll be done when I finish this post.

This is a Sunday picture.

Quiet. Peaceful. Gentle.

A good start to a fairly calm day. One of few.

The day could have been really, really busy. Today is Uptown Super Sunday. The day when the Mardi Gras Indians gather to show off their finery. When people descend on Central City who would not normally come anywhere near it. True. It is a rough neighborhood. But, I always feel safe there. Most of the residents are blue-collar. Like me.

There is also a second line that winds its way through another area of Central City. Trying to photograph both takes some great energy. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at that kind of planning. That would be funny. Even if I planned and timed everything down to a minute, these things are organic. The Indians will follow a planned route, but the start time is always flexible. The second liners will follow a planned route, but that could change if they cross the Indians, even within a block or two. Then there’s their start time. Heh! It’s a New Orleans thing.

You know the joke about God and your plans? The one that goes something like this. “If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.” That one.

Yes, indeedy.

The skies are heavily overcast. The weather experts are calling for 90% rain later this morning and through the afternoon. Normally, I don’t trust the experts. But, 90% changes that equation a lot.


Super Sunday has been postponed until next weekend. The Indians make these kinds of calls early because they don’t want their suits destroyed in the rain. They suits may be big, and bulky. They are 125 pounds of wonder. But, they are very fragile. I don’t know about the second line yet.

I suppose that we could get a lot of little stuff done around here. Nah. A free quiet day is a free quiet day.

The picture. I saw it. I pushed the button. This time, I made a slight change. I knew what I wanted to do in post production so I made the original file to compensate for that. I wanted to make this work look like a Japanese woodcut. It’s not quite there yet. But, you can see how the leaves sort of make a stamp of themselves. It’s called offsetting.

It’s a gentle picture.


As flowers drift by.

A little bit of peacefulness. Flowers drifting in water. An interplay of light and shadows. Slightly wind-blown grasses.

All this and more.

In my imagination. A dream sequence that helps me relax in a time of tension and international stupidity.

I work in the real world.

Discovering a picture that looks like something in a dream is a combination of luck and paying attention… to the dog who sees things. She led me to this picture. She almost climbed up, over, and into the water. Apparently, she liked what she saw.

The picture. See it. Photograph it. It was as simple as that. The real work came in post production. Since the scene is in shadow, the camera’s light meter wanted to overexpose a little. I wanted to underexpose and make the picture be deep, dark and moody. That was what I did in post production. The shadows helped to keep the light even. Most of my corrections were simple.

In the Morning

One of those beautiful mornings.

So many changes. In nature. These trees were still shaking of their winter’s bareness a weeks ago. Now they are full, light green, and glowing in the early morning sunlight.


As I look out of my study window, the branches are still bare with not a new leaf showing. I can’t imagine that those frozen days could kill these trees. They are pretty old. But, you never know. Nature works in funny ways.

Just like life.

The picture. I saw the golden light filtering through the trees. I was having trouble finding a foreground subject that would add a little depth to the picture. I took a couple of steps backward and saw the four trees. Exposing a little more for the light I kept the trees in almost a silhouette. That made the picture a little more powerful. Especially since everything behind is glowing and soft.


The Beauty of Green

Into the green.

The power of nature is on display in this very green picture. Because spring is about rebirth. And, because about a week ago these new leaves didn’t exist.

Rebirth can be a generational thing too.

Watching the young students walk out of their classrooms in order to protest gun violence, and to commemorate those who died needlessly in the last school mass shooting a month ago, brought tears to me eyes.

They gave me hope.

They brought back memories of other protests. In different times. Struggles for equal rights came to mind. Struggles to bring an end to the war in Vietnam came to mind. This is not exactly original thinking on my part. Seeing this next generation of young people do what their hearts, souls and minds told them that they must brought it home in no uncertain manner.

To be sure, there were naysayers. Some claimed they should have been in class learning something. Fine. This is putting what they learned into action. Some say they are too young to know what they were doing. Fine. At 18 years of age they can enlist in the military. Possibly to fight and die for their country.  Some asked what does an 11 and or 12-year-old kid know? The know the fear of going to school and possibly not coming home. Some know the terror of practice drills.

Shall I go on?

A lot needs to change in my country, possibly in your country. These are the people to do it. Bob Dylan talked about that over 50 years ago in one of his signature songs, “The Times They Are A Changing.” A song that has been covered more times than I can count. A song that has been studied in every way more times than I can count.

As he said, if you don’t change you’ll sink like a stone.

And, that’s the story from high on Storyteller hill.

The picture. Seems anti-climatic, but I just stuck my camera into a long hanging tree. I pushed the button. The bright, almost emerald-green caught my attention. An early seasonal green. The green of rebirth.

Just a Little Moody

Changing weather.

As winter shuffles off into spring, the weather gets a bit contentious. One day is bright and sunny. But, cold. The next day, a storm blows in. Humidity reigns. It’s warmer. The rain breaks the humidity. Within a day or two, the weather is back to where it started. Sunny and cold.

That’s the nature of things down here in the swamp. Probably everywhere. I wasn’t always paying attention or observing it.

The picture. I saw the bare trees backlighted against the cloudy skies. Rain was not falling. By the time I was done working the scene a little, big fat raindrops were pouring down.

The dog who sees things and I were soaked by the time we got back to the car. She doesn’t mind baths. She truly hates rain falling on her. I know that. I keep one of her towels in the car, this being the rain swamp. She really likes being rubbed with a towel. All was good.


Most of what you see was done in post production. I thought about making it gray, which would have been fairly accurate. As usual, I tinkered around. I really liked the warm tones and a little glow. It seems to set the scene.

One more thing.

I’m going to give a little workshop on SEO from the point of view of WordPress in the real world. The topic is very important today. As we move away from more and more printed matter, it is essential for the future. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how do you find the picture?

This is important from a writer’s point of view as well. My writing friends work very hard on marketing. Still, the question remains how do you find their book without being told about it?

In both examples, SEO is important in building a culture. Communities are great. We’ve built a nice one on Storyteller. But, the culture is the thing. That’s where communities come together. That’s where you can sell books, pictures, music, outside of a relatively small circle of friends and few passersby.

My thoughts are on paper. I’m still working them out. In the music world, I’d be starting a long sound check on the day of a concert.

Would you like me to share this with you?

Cloud Play

Cloud play.

I talk like it’s spring. With colder temperatures and big rain storms mother nature reminds me that we are still officially in winter months.

That’s a good thing.


Low winter light makes pictures like this possible as it bounces through the remaining clouds of a fleeting storm.

Yeah, I enhanced it a little bit. But, not much. I didn’t need to. Nature saw to that.

Wowie Zowie.