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If You Build It

Yellow stripes, ice and art.

It’s come to this. I photographed a parking lot. Ice had partially covered the yellow strip that divides parking places. I added some magical dust and bingo-bango, it turned into art. Or, a kind of art.

But that’s what this post isn’t about.

It’s about three freezing days and our quality of life. It’s a counterpoint to those tourist magazines and blogs who say we live in the best tourist destination in the world. I suppose if you come here for a few days or a week, it might be. Especially if you mostly stay in The French Quarter.

But, if you live here…

We are truly one of those places that the man who runs the country described a few days ago. You know the ones. They begin with “S” and end with holes.

If we forget for a minute the things I’ve written about in the past and just focus on the past couple of days, you’ll get the idea.

For the first day or so, we were virtually cut off from the world. Every bridge, interstate and road out of town was closed due to ice. Public buildings — like schools — were closed due to ice. Many businesses were closed due to ice. The public transportation systems — including the streetcars — were closed.


They told us to run a trickle of water to keep the pipes from freezing. Until they didn’t. And, they told us we were using too much water and the water pressure was too low. If the pressure falls below a certain PSI the entire water system is compromised. So the entire Eastbank is under a boil advisory. For those of you who don’t know, that means you must boil your tap water if you plan on ingesting it. It means that certain people can’t take showers or wash their faces in it. It means that if you wash your hands in it, you must use a liquid cleaner.

They blamed this on us. We used too much water. They said.  This, in a place that loses 40 million gallons of drinkable water every week due to underground pipe leaks.

It turns out that they lied. It wasn’t our fault at all. City and parish water mains had broken in key locations. Apparently, they weren’t strong enough to function after three days of cold. The mayor said the system is ancient and failing. It wasn’t the leadership’s fault. It wasn’t our fault even though they tried to blame us.

It was the pipes fault.

I realize we live in an age of deferred maintenance, but really? We have two sets of underground water pipes. One that brings us fresh water. One the drains out waste water. Without them we would sink into the gulf. Somehow, you’d think those pipes would be a priority. But, nooooooo.

So, we still don’t have potable water. We have the water pressure back. But, they have to run tests which takes 24-36 hours to make sure microbes from upriver haven’t polluted the water. You people in Minnesota. First, you beat our football team. Now, you pollute our water. You know, my snark is coming out. I’m kidding about both.

Then, there’s electrical power. Don’t get me started. I’ll just add this. Because it was cold we were using a lot of power to run our heaters. This created power failures in some neighborhoods. This, too, is our fault. We wanted to stay warm. Imagine that.

Add the usual. High crime. Broken streets. Bad education systems. Not enough Cops. Or, fireman. Abandoned buildings everywhere. A city built on tourism in which the people who cook your food and make your beds can’t afford to live.

And, you wonder why I grumble. A lot.

At least I’m not alone. Read any social media. It’s nasty out there. This one may have been the straw. The one the broke the camel’s back.

I’ll let you know when we can drink the water.


Ice, Ice, and a Little More Ice

Cold and blue.

It arrived. The cold front and storm. It closed just about everything. Roads. Businesses. Schools. Bars. In New Orleans, that’s a disaster.

It closed the interstate highway system to the point that if you drove around barriers because you thought you are smarter than anyone else you could be arrested.

The state declared a disaster. We can get Federal funds for two days of ice.

And, it was cold. Very cold. Bone numbing cold.

Breaking through.

Today. Not so much. It’s cold. But, not very cold. It’s icy. But, a lot has dried up. I actually took the all-seeing dog for a pretty good walk. Unfortunately, she found the black ice. She’d slip and slide. But, most of it was around a foot long. So, she didn’t slide much. I kept trying to lead her away from it. But, she’s stubborn.

I imagine that by the end of daylight today most ice will be long gone. The cold air will last another day. We’ll get back to more normal winter weather.

Bluish shadows.

The pictures. You are seeing what I saw. I mostly brightened and sharpened them a little bit. Blue ice? Well… anything white in deep shadows shows up as blue. Especially on Sony sensors and processors. Even if you are working RAW. That’s the natural color. I could have pushed the blue back to white, but what would be the fun in that?

Cold, Cold, Cold

Before the weather turned cold.

18 degrees.

That’s what Alexa said when I went for our usual morning walk. I have no idea what weather service Amazon uses, but the world was frozen when I went out. I was wearing cold weather underwear. I was wearing heavy socks. Good cold weather gear.

Still I was cold.

The dog who sees stuff had no idea what to do. She was slipping and sliding. She almost couldn’t find a place to “do her business” because the ground was frozen and had no smell. There is ice on the sidewalks. She’s a Louisiana dog.

18 degrees.

I wish we had snow. But, no. We have is ice. Everywhere. As you probably know, bridges and overpasses freeze first. They did. Every interstate bridge is frozen. The Causeway is frozen. The bridges into New Orleans are frozen.

New Orleans is cut off from the world.

Depending on what you believe, that’s either a good thing or bad thing. For most of us, since there really isn’t much snow, we are staying home. There is no reason to go out. No reason to deal with New Orleans drivers who are either bad or drunk in normal weather.


The picture. Early yesterday, the clouds started rolling in. From some views you could see the cold front clearly shown as it blew in. But, this picture pretty well illustrates what we saw. When I saw it, I photographed. I didn’t have to do much in post production because nature took care of that. All on her own.

I’ll show you some ice tomorrow.

A Little Pop

Red berries and art.

Winter is settling in. We might have wintry conditions today. That means a little snow or ice might fall from the sky. Having that happen every ten years or so is something. Having that happen twice in one year is really something. If that happens I’ll chase around for a bit. If not, well…. I just don’t know. The light has been pretty ugly for the past few days. I was lucky to make this picture. Even so, it took a lot of work to make it into a picture that I liked. And, I’m running out of fresh pictures.

I think in the photography world there is a lot of running in place going on. A lot of us are sort of stuck. It’s not a photographer’s block. We can take pictures. It’s something else. Sort of a tiredness. I see it here on WordPress. But, I see it in the real world. I’m not sure about the cause. It may come down to an old phrase.

This one. “All noise. No signal.”

There’s just too much. Too much of everything. I talked to a friend of mine who said that during the last second line he made about 3,000 frames. To be fair, it was a long, long second line. And, when you work with two camera bodies as we do, everything doubles. He’s also the real deal.

But, it seems like everybody is doing it. I see Facebook posts of 100 or 200 pictures from some event. Who can wade through that? Who cares enough to look at all that? Same thing when you Google something. Pages and pages of words… and data. It’s too much.

Think about that for a minute. Not just in terms of pictures. Instead, in terms of all the data being produced on a daily basis. On a weekly basis. Or, OMG, a monthly basis. You can’t read it and you can’t produce enough of your own work to make any sort of dent.

So. What to do? I have no idea. A lot of this new “stuff” really needs curation. Some needs to be eliminated. But, to what end? That’s really the question. And, then how much blowback will there be from those who believe in participation trophies?

The picture. I saw these little red berries on a bush. I don’t really know what they are. But, they were the only color I’d seen in days. The light was flat and gray. I made the best picture that I could on the scene. The rest was done in post production. I pushed and pushed and pushed. This picture is the result.

Oh. By the way. The real key to continued success for working photographers is distribution. Either in pictures. Or, of portfolio work so that people who make assignments can see your work. That means, OMG, self-curation.

One more thing. When you produce a ton of work — like my buddy’s 3,000 frames — it takes a lot of time to review them, to curate them, to edit them and to fine tune them. Then, of course, there are storage issues. Think about that.


Just playing around.

Finally. I seem to be feeling better.

That’s good. I’m running out of fresh work. I made this picture a few weeks ago. But, I didn’t tinker with it. Until today. I wanted a certain color, shade and hue. I thought that I was onto something new and different. The joke is on me. I’ve been working in this basic color palette for at least two years. At least that’s how far back I went in my archives until I couldn’t take it anymore.


I alway think as an artist — any kind of artist — that you should pretty much always move forward. In photography, for example, you start by being really happy that there is an image on your film or file. Later, you want the image to say something about the subject, or you. Still later, you might want to move into a kind of art. Sometimes you make a little portfolio of images that have the same look and feel. Then, you move on.

Near as I can tell, I just moved backwards. Oops. That’ll happen. I like the picture well enough. I wouldn’t show it to you if I didn’t. But, it looks like two-year old work. To me. As far as the subject matter goes, my friend in Louisianahhh, thinks power lines are her bane. 🙂 I think power lines are great leading lines. I just wish there was a real subject at the end of them.

I can wish all that I want. It takes work to make wishes come true. Now that my head is clear after what seems like six weeks of fluishness, I better get back to it. Whaddya think?

The picture. All kinds of tinkering after the fact. I wish that I could tell you every step. But, this was one of those times when I knew what worked when I got there. If it didn’t work, I went back to the next saved step.

I suppose that’s the lesson. Save every step in your post production workflow. I know that most of what we do in post can be non-destructive. But, we don’t want to recreate everything when we take a fork in the road.


Above the sun.

I saw this. Floating high above me. The sun was so bright that all I could do was point the lens in the general direction. And hope. Trying to frame or focus only blinded me.


Nature at her finest. She seeks balance and stasis. Don’t mess with her when those two conditions are her goal. Think about that for a minute. Think about the wild fires and now floods near Santa Barbara, California. Both are terrible events. I have friends who live there. Or, maybe “used” to live there. To my twisted thinking, that’s a perfect example of Mother Nature at work. Too many people. She sent a fire. Those people returned. She sent them mud and water.

I’m not being mean. Maybe it’s time for us to listen. To observe.  Rather than to believe we can master all things. Because. We can’t.

Thank you. There were a number of people on various social media and on that ancien thing — email — who expressed their sympathies for my musical losses. Thank you again. Apparently, my writing leaves much to be desired. I’ve always know that. Now, you do too.

I wasn’t writing to express sadness. I was writing to tell you about the one thing we forget after a period of sadness passes.

Time is short. Don’t waste it. Do whatever it is that you are passionate about. Make no excuses. Do not be denied.

Yes. We all gotta eat. Don’t be quitting your day job. Don’t stop caring for your family. But, use your free time wisely. Very wisely. And, expect the thing that drives you needs nurturing. In photography, for instance, a wise man once said ” Often getting there is the hardest part of taking a picture.” Got that?

The picture. Very cold here again. Often that shows up in bright skies as a kind of clarity. Of  course, the sun seems brighter too. It was. I couldn’t even see to focus or frame. I just pointed the camera and hoped. I made five frames. It was all luck.

If you happen to see the Netflix David Letterman shows, these week featuring the former president, pay attention to the closing minutes. Letterman says everything that he ever did that was good came from luck.

Think about that.


Cold, Cold Night

Winter moon.

“Once the world was new,  Our bodies felt the morning dew, That greets the brand new day, We couldn’t tear ourselves away, I wonder if you care. I wonder if you still remember, Once upon a time, In your wildest dreams.” — Moody Blues

Ray Thomas passed earlier this week with barely a mention. Thomas was a founding member, flautist, and vocalist of The Moody Blues. The  band broke away from traditional rock ‘n roll standards in 1967. They played rock with an orchestral twist. A little psychedelic. A little spiritual. And, certainly with great humor.

They continue to play today. In a twist of twists, they’ll be in New Orleans in three days. I’m thinking that we should go. Half way recovered from the flu or not, we should be there. The musicians of my time are passing before our very eyes.

In the publicity walk up prior to Eric Clapton’s movie, he’s been doing interviews. The normal sort of thing. I was well aware of his back pain problems. He says that he’s happy that his hands still work. But, he also is going deaf and he has tinnitus. I couldn’t imagine not able to play, and not being to hear if my life was all music. His ear issues make sense because musicians of his early era cranked up the amps and blasted away. They did not mic them. They stood in front of them and that wall of sound blew threw their ears and anything else that got in the way.

Eric and I share a couple of things. We are both recovered from our demons. Me, for almost 26 years. Eric for around 30. He was, at one very early point, my hero. Not for his music, but for saying things that helped get me through my early days.

Our other common bond is that we are not quitters. When he plays, he plays in pain. It would be very easy for him to retire completely. When I work, even on my best days, I work in pain. I could retire too. I won’t. Instead, we both manage it and keep going. A couple of grumpy old guys. Give us a break when we need one.

He’s playing three shows this summer. Two in Germany. One in Hyde Park, in England. Yes. We’ll be there. I honestly don’t know how much more live work he’ll do. I do not want to miss this.

I’ve missed too much. Even during the last half of 2017.

I live with two lines from another old musician, Neil Young.

“Don’t be denied.”


“The thing that makes you who you are will kill you in the end.”

I finally got a look at my back x-rays. It’s fine to read what the radiologists wrote. But, I know how to read negatives. Maybe better than the medics do. I’ve got a metal hip. I’ve got a small notch in my spine. And worse, four vertebrae that are completely ridden with osteoarthritis.

Painful? Certainly. Sometimes.

But, here’s the thing. Those vertebrae are all on my right side. The same side that I used to carry about 40 pounds of camera gear in a messenger or satchel-styled camera bag.  Most photographers of my age have some kind of back, leg or neck ailment. We didn’t know better 30 or 40 years ago. Even if we did,  we didn’t have many options. Today, you can buy gear bags that are simple, wrap around you, roll, make you look like you are going off to war. There’s a reason soldiers and marines wear what they do. And, unless you really need heavy gear, you can switch to lighter mirrorless equipment or smaller dslr bodies.


Between musicians news and my own mind, I started digging around in my own memories. I won’t go further. Doing that affects all of us in a different way. Sometimes, I want to put my hands over my face and just ask, “what the hell was I thinking?” Then I move forward.

The picture. What do you think? It’s symbolic. Winter. Winter in my soul.

The brightness of 2018 sure lasted a long time. 13 days.


The Glow

Adding just a little.

A little mystery.

When I was a young photographer, a mentor told me to imagine how a picture might be used when you are actually making it. He was referring to working on location and having a little trouble seeing the end result. For instance, that might mean leaving a lot of “dead space” toward the top of the picture so that type might be overlayed on a potential magazine cover. Or keeping the subject in the center so you can crop and give the final image some shape.

That’s two examples. There are many more.

Today, you can do that in post production. In the old days we worked in wet darkrooms and it was hard to do some of the things we do today. And, color was something very special.


With this image, I tried to see a book cover. The leaves might be symbolic flames. Some of the reddish-orange might have to be toned down some in order to drop in some type. Especially at the top. Or not. That’s my mental exercise. Nothing more. In real life, a designer or art director gets involved at this stage.

What kind of book? Oh, I don’t know. Something gothic, maybe spooky, maybe one of those first person tales that starts off slow and builds into something terrible… that turns out to only have occurred in the author’s mind. I love those. Did it really happen? Or, didn’t it?

Something like that.

The picture. Since I’ve already discussed my thinking, this is just about technique. It was made in very low, dusk light. The image started out dark because of that. I made it a little darker in post production. I also made it glow in post. I made another, somewhat lighter version, but I like the glow in this one better.


Early morning hours.

Like Bart Simpson, I didn’t even know that there is a 5 am. “When did they start that,” Bart asked.  Obviously, I know. I’m rarely up at that time. I like to work into the night. My job has never been anything like 9 to 5. For me, it’s always been work late, sleep late.


Some dog needs to go out. And, demands a walk.

Those really early morning walks are not short. The dog who sees things gets all excited. She wants to walk. I’m not excited. I’m lucky to get into coffee into my system. I’m even luckier if I can see straight. And, not fall on my face.

When I do manage, it’s worth it. Wonderful morning light. Especially in winter. Except for right now since everything is bathed in fog. That’ll change in a day. An hour. A few minutes. I know what you’re thinking. I should be working in the foggy soft light. I’d like that. But, can we have a word about Louisiana drivers? You know what I’m about to say. So, I won’t bore you. Even with new laws; people still text, talk on their phones, put their make-up on, tie their ties, eat a donut, or a breakfast burrito. Everything but actually drive. So… in the fog? Not me.

The picture. I enhanced it a little in post production. It didn’t really need much, but I did want you to feel what I saw. Yes. It’s another tree. Trees are about rebirth. Enjoy them for now. I’ll move on. I always do.


Winter Skies

The everything picture. At least for now.

I know that I wrote that I would get back to my old self. Second Lines. Brass Bands. Mardi Gras Indians. Mardi Gras, itself. And, I will.

Unfortunately, I caught the flu. The one that never goes away. No. I don’t feel terrible. And, my coughing seems to have cut back from all day to a few times an hour. But, I do tire easily. And, I get that stupid feeling right in the middle of my head.

Yes. I have a little medical supervision. My pharmacist, rather than my doctor. I reckon she’s seen this more, or at least, as much as he has. She says that at this point it just takes time. I can work. I can keep doing what I do. But, I have to be prepared to rest when I need to.

Here’s how that goes.

Yesterday, I woke up at about the normal time. I worked all morning. I took the “all-seeing dog” for her walk. I had lunch at about 1pm. I thought I would take some “executive time,” lay down and read for about an hour. I awoke at 4:20pm. It’s not lost time because I can work later. But, it is annoying. I’m not normally a mid-day sleeper.

I’m not photographing what I want to. I can only go so long and so far.


This is my everything picture. Bare trees. Power poles and lines. Winter sunset. It’s got all the usual elements. In one picture. It took a little post production. I wanted it to be warmer than the original. I wanted it to glow a little.

I’m just hoping I’m ready for Mardi Gras parade season. Whether I stay or go, I want to be at full strength. So, I’ll take it easier now.

Isn’t that a great way to start 2018?

All things happen for a reason. They say.