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The End of Time


What remains today.

What remains today.

Out there where the swamps meet the lakes it looks like this.

Not exactly this way. I made this picture look this way. But, the trees are broken. Many are gone. The swamps are dead. The land is desolate. The way you might think that the end of time looks.

Some of this is storm damage. Hurricane Katrina made landfall just a few miles from here. But, it’s been 11 years ago. Nature has a way of healing things. Especially nature’s own things.

This is something different. Much worse. This is the result of land subsidence. This is the loss of our outlying land. And swamps. And, the merging of salt water with lake water. That brackish water is killing the plant life that isn’t used to it. That’s my simplistic and layman’s take on it. There are plenty of places to read more about it. One of the best is http://www.jrconline.org. It’s a science site. Not a political one. It doesn’t grind axes.

That said, this place does make for some striking pictures. I’ve photographed the area mostly in the warmer months. This year I want to work there in the winter months. Well, our winter. Which isn’t really that much of a winter. Even so, it should be truly desolate.

However.

Since I’m on an experimental journey, I thought I’d use a little heavy post production technique. Okay. A lot of photo manipulation. I thought that I would make it brighter and more punchy than my last few pictures. I have two reasons for this. One, the basic scene was blue and green. Converting it to something dark just looked sort of weird. And, not everything around here is bleak and muted. As I always say, let the picture teach you. I think if you rework a picture about 300 or 400 times, eventually the picture will take you to the place where it is supposed to be. I’m not sure that it is there yet, but it stopped me in my tracks while I was working on it.

What do you think? Am I on track? Or, off the rails?

Deserted Cities


Deserted cities.

Deserted cities.

“Upon this street where time has died. The golden treat you never tried. In times of old, in days gone by. If I could catch your dancing eye. It was on the way, On the road to dreams, yeah. Now my heart’s drowned in no love streams, yeah. The street is cold, its trees are gone. The story’s told the dark has won. Once we set sail to catch a star. We had to fail, it was too far. “

— Deserted Cities of the Heart,  Jack Bruce & Pete Brown/Cream 1968

I have no idea how this song got into my head. But, it seemed to fit the picture. Sorta. or, the picture fit the song. One or the other.

I’m getting into my storm mental zone. I didn’t mean to, but things have a way of happening. A lot of what I post this week will refer to Hurricane Katrina. In some way. All of the work will be heavily post produced.

Because.

When I started to work through my photo archives after I returned to New Orleans most of the slide film had been soaked. Much of it was unusable. Some was good enough to be scanned. But, upon enlargement they showed all kinds of weird stuff. Mold had eaten into the plastic. It caused strange colors and shapes. It really couldn’t be fixed. Or, retouched. I kept the scans, but tossed the film. You don’t want mold lingering in your house. In any way. Especially that mold.

Luckily.

The really good images. The keepers. The portfolio pictures… were scanned long before Hurricane Katrina even was a blip on the horizon. Like a couple of years before. And, as you’ve seen, the black and white negatives were fine.

This is not a scanned slide. This is a new digital image. But, I managed to come very close to what that damaged slide film looked like. All it took was a lot of tinkering. False starts. And, a couple of successes.

That’s how it goes.

 

It Never Ends


Drive back.

Drive back.

It’s raining again.

The weather guys said that Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas are getting another five inches of rain. That means the people who were flooded last week will get flooded again since the ground already has too much water in it. In many ways, it’s just a setback. I didn’t go upriver last weekend. But, from the pictures that I saw, the survivors have tossed their lives into the street and have started gutting and remediating their homes.

They have a few things going for them that we didn’t have after Katrina blew New Orleans apart. As somebody wrote in one of the local papers, “It seemed like half of New Orleans was in Baton Rouge this weekend.” People came from everywhere to help. People who wanted to help us after the storm, couldn’t. We were underwater. And, that’s the second thing they have going for them. Once the rain stopped and the flood waters receded, they could get to work on their property. My house marinated in hot water for six weeks. Sheesh. I went to Beijing, China, on assignment. I came back and still had to live in a motel.

And, so it goes.

The picture. I made this picture from something much simpler. The actual photograph is silhouetted telephone poles and farmland at sunset. I added what looks like rain. It came out of my brain, but it could have been real. Sometimes, around here, the rain falls in sheets. One side of the road is dry and clear. The other side is soaked with a downpour. I suppose if you like metaphors, you could say I was moving from stormy days to sunny days. Or, something like that.

A little housekeeping. I’m probably going to get a little weird this week. Today is exactly one week from the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall. Last week’s floods have brought up all sorts of memories. More than last year, when the 10 year anniversary was a really big deal.

Sorry about that.

I’ve made a very conscious decision not to photograph the floods of 2016. I also said last year that I was done mourning Hurricane Katrina. That I was not going to photograph the memorial second line parade. After thinking about it, I have no choice. I’ll be in the 9th Ward in a week. At the levee. Our memorial can speak for the people upriver.

A Sunday Test



Because I’m lazy, I’m trying something out that could be important in the future. I took the picture normally, imported it into my phone, did the post on the phone and posted it to Storyteller without ever leaving the comfort of my phone. 

After working through the process, I’ve found that it’s simple and fairly straightforward. But… You knew there is a but in there, didn’t you? There is one problem. I have fairly big hands. And, big fingers. iPhone keyboards are made for little hands and littler fingers. 

Oh well.

Oh, the picture. I made it in the 9th Ward near the river. The post production is yet another experiment. This time I muted things up a bit. It’s just a little slice of life in a neighborhood that most people don’t think about when they think about New Orleans.

Cease Fire


A good thought.

A good thought.

Cease Fire.

These signs started showing up a few years ago. They didn’t work. There are weekend news reports that read like a baseball box score. But, instead of hits, runs and errors it reads like shootings, muggings and murders. For a while, it seemed like the police had a handle on it. But, we are still short about 500 officers and they can’t be everywhere. Over the summer the body count started to rise. Even though experts disagree, a lot of people who live in inner cities believe that the lack of air conditioners and extreme heat have a lot to do with spiking crime rates. And, there are too many guns on the street. We aren’t taking about Second Amendment rights here. We are talking about criminals with guns.

That’s not the only point of this picture. I photograph what I see. Usually, I just make a few enhancements because I’m one of those people who believes that no picture comes out of the camera finished. That’s for the kind of work that I do. If I was shooting news or was a photojournalist it would be a whole other thing.

However.

I’m in an experimental mood. Part of it has to do with that summer heat I wrote about a couple of paragraphs above. I do have air conditioning so I prefer to stay indoors in the heat of day. Once my other work is finished I get to play.

This image is the result of that. I made it in Central City.

Central City is one of the last remaining ungentrified neighborhoods in New Orleans. But, that’s changing rapidly. It’s valuable real estate even though a lot of it is broken down because a lot of it is located above sea level. You know what that means. A good part of it is in walking distance to the Central Business District and to places like the Superdome.

That all sounds good. Right?

Nope. The home of jazz — Treme — has gone through a gentrification process. Long time families have been forced to move because the rented their homes. For years. They never had enough money to buy them. Their houses were sold out from under them. For a lot of money. Musicians and artists have left. They can’t afford it. I’m always amazed when I talk to some of the benevolent societies while I photograph a second line. Many of their members no longer live in the neighborhood. The very neighborhood they were organized to serve. Instead, they live upriver. Some live almost in Texas. They come home for the parade and drive back the same day.

That’s no good.

I fear the uniqueness that attracts people to the city will come to an end. The music will stop. The the color will turn gray. Luckily, and I say that with mixed emotions, the things that I photograph got very popular after the storm. People come from everywhere to see the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sundays. Or, for the really big second lines. And for just about every possible festival.

The picture. After all that I wrote does it matter? All I can say is that it started out like any normal picture. A good base exposure. Reasonable composition. Good shadow and highlight detail. Then I set out to destroy it. It appears that I succeeded. Heh!

Broken Tracks


Experimental railroad.

Experimental railroad.

I decided that really staying around home was in order today.

Yesterday was hard. I needed a little recovery time. Today, I mostly hung out with the dogs. They looked after me. They know stuff. I also played around with photographs. This is the result of some experimentation.

I learned something very interesting over the past couple of days about our transportation system. I’ve written this is the past, but New Orleans is really a giant rail hub. If you look at something like Google Maps, you’ll see massive rail yards surrounding the city. Freight trains come from all over the country and transport goods that arrive by ship, either down the river or through the Gulf. Or, the goods the trains carry are loaded onto ships that travel anywhere in the world. All from my little weird city.

There are massive rail yards the run along the river not that far from the house. Sometimes, we walk sort of near them. I noticed that the diesel engines were shut down completely. That rarely happens.

I asked a guy who I thought was an engineer. Turns out he is the engineer supervisor. He starts trains. It takes about 45 minutes to start one of those big diesels. It takes a couple of hours for them to warm up to the point that they can pull anything. It’s very rare that they aren’t running even if they are parked for a long time. They were shut down because they had no place to go. Nothing to do.

Because.

Anything that was to be shipped to the west and north was shut down due to the flooding. The yard near us is the place where those freight trains are broken down and cars are re-ordered and sent to the east and northeast.

See?

This is what you can learn by walking the dogs. I wouldn’t have known any of this if I didn’t let them lead me around. They enjoyed milling around and sniffing the tracks. Yes. Yes. Yes. We are very careful.

The picture. Oh my. I tinkered with it for a long time. I backed in and out of layers. If I had to tell you exactly what I did. I don’t think that I could. Let’s just say that I added and little of this and that. And, I removed a little of the other. How’s that?

What the Dog Saw. Two.


The fence. As the sun goes down.

The fence. As the sun goes down.

I wasn’t going to publish a new “What the Dog Saw” image for a few more days. But, we went on a road trip. To a park. Down the street. I like new experiences. So do the dogs. So off we went.

This is really a picture of almost nothing. A chain link fence with summer growth starting to cover it. That’s it. Of course, there is some amazing glowing light, but…

I’m not exactly sure what the cocker saw because nobody was playing on the court that would attract her attention. But, she was looking at this glowing fence. I thought if she likes it, I’d better photograph it. And, that’s it. The whole story.