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If Only


Art harder.

Art harder.

That’s about all I could do. Especially, since art is what I do.

I’m pretty sure that I know what you are expecting. An attack on the orange haired fool who lives in The White House. The one who committed treason according to its very definition, live from Helsinki.

Nope.

All the words that could be written, were written. All the things that could be said, were said. All I could ever add is to tell you that my heart is broken. Many things that I’ve done in the past don’t matter now.

I did what I always do. I worked.

I made this picture a few days ago. It’s a Mardi Gras wreath hung on a neighbor’s door. Seeing one at this time of year is like seeing a Christmas tree in a window in May. You know. It’s like, “WTH?” So I made the picture. I had to.

Then, I tinkered. I played. I experimented. I let my mind stay open and focused. Let is the key word. It was real easy to close down yesterday. Time passed by without me knowing it. It didn’t stand still. It moved forward.

Eventually, this picture emerged.

I didn’t stop there. I reworked it in a couple of different ways. The one you see is the one  I liked best.

It helped. It calmed me down. The work became the prayer. Never the less, I’m still stunned. Like the rest of the world.

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Street Photography


Real street photography.

Now, this is street photography.

A picture of the street.

Nah. That’s not what the photographic world means.  In actual fact, the photo world doesn’t know what it means. It’s a catchall for just about every kind of unplanned work. A friend of mine thinks that you just stick your camera out there and push the button while trying to remain anonymous. What happened to the decisive moment? Or, photographer and subject interaction? Then, I guy I follow on WordPress started posting art museum pictures that he took secretly, saying this was a street photography technique.

I can tell you that some of the greatest working photographers do not work secretly.  They work in fairly close with ether a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm lens. You can’t miss them. One thinks when he is working with a 50mm lens that he is using a telephoto.  It’s funny. But, real.

Caution. Rant coming. Sorry too. This is normally a family blog.

Cut the bullshit. Stop the gutless, scared approach to photography. Stop taking pictures from across the street with a telephoto lens. Stop traveling to foreign countries to stick your camera in some surprised person’s face who won’t say no. Because they don’t speak English.

Engage your subject a little, even if all you do is hold your camera out and point to them. And, make sure they can see your work. I once made a picture in Thailand of a farmer way in the back country. He spoke little or no English. After, I was done and was thanking him, he looked at me and asked, “Digital?” So, I showed him what I did. I left him smiling. And, if you can, give your subject a print. Even if you have to mail it to them 8,000 miles away.

See that line about leaving them smiling? Do that.

Some photographers will say that’s not street photography without being to define what street photography really is about. I’m not buying that.

That’s it. Rant over.

The picture. It really is of the street. It’s funny what you can see if you live in the moment. Just a little. I made it with an iPhone. I promised myself that I would stop doing it. This picture shows why. Technically it’s terrible. It looks great on the phone’s screen. But, anywhere else…

 

Working


Almost like fire.

The question remains.

How?

The answer is always the same.

Study. Practice. Study. Practice. Study. Practice.

That’s how you learn and improve no matter what it is that you do.  That’s how you get good, or even great, at anything.

Here’s a story. When I was a young man, I was a semi-gamer. I wasn’t playing computer games at the level that real gamers do, but that’s how I spent my down time. Photoshop was a new tool back then. I decided that it was the tool of the future.  I gave up gaming and filled my down time studying and practicing post production. Not only did I learn what has become essential software for photographers, designers and other visual creatives, but I learned what I didn’t want to do. It brought clarity to the way that I work.

Study. Practice. Study. Practice. Study. Practice.

The picture. Well now. I was out on a walk. I passed by a pick up truck. There were leaves in the bed of the truck. I saw them. I didn’t think twice. I photographed them. I processed them to get to this picture.

That’s another thing.

You can learn to see in the same way.

Study. Practice. Study. Practice. Study. Practice.

Mostly Red


Almost like fire.

On a late afternoon walk.

I saw the backlight on this group of leaves and I couldn’t resist. Could you?

Yes. It took some work in post production to help it be the picture that I saw in my mind’s eye. But, it was straight, normal work. I darkened the over all image, added contrast and leaf detail. That was it. Nothing that couldn’t be done in an old school wet darkroom.

I suppose this brings me to seeing a scene and understanding it for what it could be. I suppose that it’s a kind of expanded thinking.

There are a couple of blogs that I read whenever they are posted. These bloggers travel to some great locations. I want to write in the comments section, why don’t you just stop and hang out for a bit and wait until the light is low and magical?

It seems that they have deadlines to keep. On their vacation.

I understand the sometimes need to get from point A to point B, but if you claim photography as your passion don’t you think you could let the light in a special place drive you?

Sometimes. Once in a while.

The people with whom I travel like my way of traveling a lot. They get to see more. They get to stop more. They get to explore. They get to eat and drink while they are standing on solid ground. And, because we’ve already built that time into the very loose general plan, the trip becomes a journey. Sometimes an adventurous one.

As my mom used to say about different kinds of food, “Try it, you might like it.”

Deep and Dark


What you can see… sometimes.

Take your time. Live in the moment. Be present.

All ways of saying the same thing. Or, about the same thing.

For the past few days I’ve been busy. Very busy. But, I’ve taken an old Chinese proverb to heart. “Walk slower, go farther.” I’ve gotten more done in the past few days than I do during some weeks. I’ve had to slow down time. Time shift, as it were. I’ve also gotten ride of the notion of multi-tasking. I always make mistakes when I try to do that. I bet you do too.

That’s how I came upon this picture. Dogarito was taking her time in the shade. She’s smart. The longer we spent in the shade , then the cooler we would be during our walks. She’s even managed to cut the length of our walks down by at least 30%. That’s less exercise, but she isn’t coming home half dead and very thirsty.

Dogs are the perfect example. No. They don’t think cognitively. But, the know stuff.  They live in the moment. They are always present. Even in the bathroom while you are showering. Heh!

The picture. While were taking our time I looked down to see this little scene. By little, I mean teeny tiny. I wouldn’t have seen it if we were marching our way through our morning walk. It’s like a little secret garden. A secret garden that is all of about ten inches long. The photograph is bigger than the real live scene. The rest was easy. Press the button. Do the post production.

They Said…


Coffee in my cup.

They said. Yes, they did.

They said that new studies indicate that coffee drinkers live longer. With the amount of coffee consumed around this place, I’m pretty sure that some of us will live forever. My first thought was “Damn, I’m never leaving.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have no death wish. I don’t want to die. But, we know that all things must pass. I accept that. Even living to over 100 years old really doesn’t interest me. The quality of life just doesn’t seem to be there. It’s likely that you’d out live most friends and family. It could very well be that living to 100 is a very lonely endeavour.  I don’t know.  I’d ask the next “senior-senior” citizen that I see, but that might not be the kind of question you should ask. Seriously.

Anyway.

I was watching the espresso flowing into the cup when I thought it actually looked kind of cool.

So.

I photographed it while it was in process. Then, I did my thing to it and made it a little more creative. I also realized that when I posted a coffee picture a while back, I earned a new follower. A blog about coffee. I never posted anything about coffee again. What must he or she think of me? Probably, like I’m some kind of bait and switch dude.

Y’all know better than that. I photograph what I see.

By the way, the couple of you who responded to my “should I beg for money” question, said that I should. I probably will. But, it still feels weird to me.

The Pirates


Memories and clouds.

” It’s a summer afternoon, somewhere in Kansas or Illinois or Oklahoma. The wind is blowing the leaves down the gutter as the mailman comes by. “Afternoon Mrs. Higgins, hot enough for ya?” Over on Stone County Road there’s the smell of chicken frying.

“Henry! It’s getting t’wards suppertime you know. Henry!” There she calls from her second floor room. The end of a back porch afternoon. Where we’d stand on the bow of our own man-of-war.

No longer the back porch any more. And we’d sail pulling for China. The pirates of Stone County Road. All weathered and blown. And we’d sail ever in glory. ‘Till hungry and tired.

The pirates of Stone County Road. Were turning for home. “

— 1969, John Stewart. From the album, California Bloodlines.

Once a upon a time. Long ago. I seem to be determined to go on a journey through my past. I’ve been having dreams about the past. About a 1969 El Camino with a 454 big block motor. About places that I’ve been. About people I’ve lost over the years.

This musician, John Stewart, mattered to me a lot once. After he passed I sort of forgot him. Magically, this song popped into my head this morning. So, now I’m playing the album from which it came. It’s called, “The Pirates of Stone Country Road.” The version that I like best is live, from an amazing concert back, way back in time. The live album is called, “The Phoenix Concerts.” No. Not after the desert city. After the bird who rises from the ashes.

Anyway. Enough of you are interested in my ancestor’s history that it sparked my thinking. I’ve decided to take one more shot at learning about my family history. This time I’ll do it right. I’ll spend more money on research. I won’t stop with Ancestory.com. I have nothing against them. But, they can only take me as far as I already know. We are taking this a step further. A lot of steps further. A trip is in the very basic planning stages. My little town – Horodok — is in sort of located in an odd place. Even though it’s a Belorussian place, it’s actually located in Ukraine. The closest big city is located in Poland. The legend of this region is that you could live there, go to sleep in one country and wake up in another. That’s just how fast the borders changed, especially pre-1910.

I have a question for you. This could cost some serious money. I see a lot of pictures coming out of this. I see the possibility of a book. (Finally, I think that  have a project in mind that is worthy of a book.)  I advised a friend of mine to create a GoFundMe site, as I did once, to fund her gallery shows. I think these projects are self-contained and somewhat worthy.

I’ve watched GoFundMe deteriorate to the point where I watched a photographer ask for funding for a new camera. WTH? That’s a business expense. Get out of the industry if you can’t pay for your tools. I’ve watched two people ask for funding to pay for their vacations. WTH? Stay home if you can’t afford to travel for pleasure. And, the last came from a person who wants better seats at a concert. WTH?  I’m a fairly generous guy, but really, really and really?

You know where this is going. I think. I’d like your advice. Should I create a GoFunding page for this project? Or, am I over reaching just like the examples that I’ve cited? Oh, don’t feel compelled to contribute just because you think it’s a good idea. I just want your opinions.

Another Good Start


A summer scene.

First. The Wild Boars are free. That’s what I awoke to read today.

I think, after that, I’ll just stop reading the news. Most of it is bad.

I’ll just add one thing. We talk about police, firemen, that military as being heroes. They’re not. For the most part, they are just doing their jobs. Ask them. They’ll tell you. Ask a soldier. He or she will tell you that the only heroes are the ones who didn’t come home.

The divers and support teams who journied to Thailand are heroes. Combined with the Thai Navy Seals and the local medal staff, they went above and beyond. The international team didn’t have to travel to Chiang Rai from all over the world. But, they did. They shared their expertise, courage and skills with 12 young, scared boys and their coach while the world watched.

The picture. Simplicity today in a nod to the Buddhism that most Thais practice. Making this picture wasn’t as easy as you might think. If you look at the detail you know that I was pretty close to this scene. That means hands and knees on the ground. For my poor metal hip and arthritic back that takes an effort. I saw the picture. I wanted to make the picture. I ain’t done yet. The rest was simple.

Droplets


Under the leaf.

Water.

I read once that the next big war would not be fought over oil. It would be fought over water. I also read that in this time of proto climate change which includes droughts, higher temperatures around the world and extreme weather events, that there will be more immigration than ever. I read that even though the world’s refugees are fleeing oppressive governments and never-ending war, a large component of their movement is driven by climate and lack of much local water.

Think about that. I do.

In Louisiana we are lucky. Although we face the loss of our coastal land on a daily basis, and are known for powerful storms, tropical storms and hurricanes, we have plenty of water. So much so that the City of New Orleans loses something like 90,000,000 barrels of water weekly through our broken pipes and nobody blinks an eye.

Think about that. I do.

We also don’t have much winter. The weather turns hot about the first week of May, gets somewhat pleasant in late October and finally cools down for a few months. The cooler weather’s window is getting smaller and smaller.

Think about that. I do.

Happy thoughts for a Monday morning, eh?

Or, are they motivating?

You pick. Okay?

The picture. The one that got me thinking this way was made yesterday, after one of our short, but powerful summer storms. I just stuck the lens under the leaf and pushed the button. Nature did most of the work. I just cleaned things up a bit.

Nature generally does most of the work.

A Good Day Too


Into the experimental work.

I awoke to reading that four of the 12 Thai boys had already been rescued from their watery trap. The cave. The flooded cave.

Now, that’s the way to start a day. For them. For us. For me.

If you are human you have no choice but offer up prayers, good thoughts or whatever it is you do. For the boys and their coach. And, for all the rescuers who arrived in Thailand from all points around the globe. As I read somewhere, sometimes super heroes don’t wear capes. They wear diving gear.

You know what I think. The work is the prayer.

I started to make a kind of art. My kind. It’s about water. Just like the water in the cave. It is a version of the same take that I showed you a few days ago. After a very hard rain. A big storm. But, this time I tinkered with the original picture. A lot. It took a while to get to this point.

There are still 8 boys and their coach to be rescued. According to what I’ve read, this should happen in the next two days. Hopefully, nature will cooperate just a little. Southeast Asian weather is like ours down here in the swamp, times about three. It’s hot, humid and very stormy. I believe there is a race against time and nature.

Please continue doing whatever it is you do. I will.

I promise.