Whenever I have time and am in place to do so, I work on what appears to be my never-ending Central City project. Mostly, I look for things that help tell the story as I see it. But, I get lucky once in a while. During my last drive through, I ran into a guy called Dilly Walker. He’s lived in Central City for sixty plus years. He pretty much grew up there, except when his family moved to Carrollton. He told me that a lot of older families moved from Central City to other places in New Orleans because they could have back and side yards. As he tells it, his family were country people from Magnolia, Mississippi. That’s just south of McComb. His grandmother wanted to move to New Orleans and so the family moved. But, nobody remembers why. When they got to the city, they settled in Central City. But, they didn’t like it because the houses are packed closely side-by-side. Even the backyards were filled with what we would now call mother-in-law or back houses. So, they moved to the Carrollton neighborhood, where they could have a backyard for the children. There’s a lot of history to the area. For instance, during the Civil War, soldiers drank a lot of whiskey and were mostly drunk. Their commanding officer allowed them to drink because he believed it kept them safe from “country fever.” The section where Mr. Walker’s family lived is known as “Black Pearl.” It is closest to The Mississippi River. Today, the area is known for… what else? Restaurants and entertainment.
Even though I make a lot of sort of, somewhat, possibly artistic pictures. It’s pictures like the one of Dilly Walker that I like to make. I enjoy listening to, and telling, their stories. I guess that’s why my first jobs were as a photojournalist and my last college degree was more-or-less focused on ethnography. There are plenty of stories to tell. Maybe even books to photograph and write. We’ll see. First, I have to stay around. Second, I have to find the energy. This isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Anyway. Meet Dilly Walker.
Well. I must admit this picture sort of looks that way. A California picture. Palm trees. Flat roofed contemporary house. Fully restored 1964 Mustang. But, noooooooooo…
Lakeview. Located in a neighbor that I think are called the bird streets. Yes. The streets are named after birds. But, it is certainly located on Robert E. Lee Boulevard. And, definitely in New Orleans. What? You didn’t know that New Orleans has houses that are designed like this one? Oh yes. usually, they are found close to big bodies of water like Lake Ponchartrain. Where this one is located. This neighborhood was developed and constructed in the 50s. The 1950s. Not the 1850s, like so much of the city. My sources tell me — well, a very close friend — that the owners of this house own the house next door to it. They live in the other, un-photographed house, and this one is their “play” house. Indeed.
So. As usual. This picture. F3.5 and be there. It’s hand-held because, also as usual, I really wasn’t prepared for what I saw. I’m glad it is so well lighted because otherwise it would have the shakes. I had the shakes. Any post production was done to just clean up the image slightly.
Well. Not really. Although it looks like some Martian creature walking down the road, it is really the St. Claude Avenue Bridge. It is the gateway from the rest of New Orleans, especially The Upper Ninth Ward and The Bywater, to The Lower Ninth Ward. I’d like to call it a draw bridge. But, it is really a bascule bridge. Sounds kinda fun, yes? It was constructed in 1918 to span the Industrial Canal, which is part of the intercostal waterway. At one time trains, as well as one lane of cars, trucks and buses rumbled across it in each direction. Today, it simply carries two lanes of vehicular traffic each way. Oh yeah, pedestrians and bicyclists share a very narrow three-foot path way along the outer lane of traffic. By today’s standards it would not be built. It isn’t really wide enough for all that traffic. That’s about all I know. I suppose if I really want to make a proper picture, I’m going to have to park somewhere and walk across the bridge. But, after having driven across it a number of times that doesn’t look like a lot of fun.
Anyway. This picture. I made a family portrait on Thanksgiving night, when everybody else was starting their black weekend buying all sorts of things that will break in a few months. That’s a whole other rant. Anyway (again). We decided to make the picture in front of a haunted plantation called The Le Beau Mansion in Arabi near the Domino Sugar Mill, or factory, or something like that. I believe I’ve published a picture of it on Storyteller during the summer. On the way home, we crossed the St. Claude Avenue Bridge. I made a bunch of pictures from the front passenger’s seat. See? I don’t always make pictures while I’m driving. While I was editing the file, it struck me that the picture of the bridge as we passed over it, made it look like something out of War of the Worlds. So here it is. The glow? Well. Sometimes it’s foggy near the bridge. That’s not the real reason. In an effort for all out transparency I must tell you that I am hiding some imperfections. I knew that turning up the ISO could cause a lot of noise, but I really had no other choice. The word “could” turned into “would,” so… I added the glow in post production.
Many of you already know that I make some pictures by shooting out of the windshield. That’s pretty easy with all these new fangled auto-everything cameras. Just point and shoot. But, sometimes, I hold the camera with my left hand and focus on my left rear view mirror. You never know what might show up there. Like that big semi following closer behind me than you might think. When I work this way I usually some kind of wide lens. If you are filling the frame, or at least the mirror with the image, you have start getting pretty close. And, that’s another thing. I’m old enough to come from the fill the film frame with the intended subject school of thought. That way, I get the subject in the picture without having to crop for impact. There’s a lot of ways to do this. You can use telephoto lenses. They are great. But often the picture looks a little flat and compressed. Me? You already know this, but I like to work from the inside out with shorter and wider lenses. In that way, the image takes on a stacked look to the point of almost feeling sort of 3D. It also allows me to engage the subject which means better emotional interaction. But, with the speeding heavy truck, I mostly just want to let the truck get close enough to make a picture like this one. I don’t really want to interact with it. I have this thing about living and not becoming one with the truck. Silly me.
So. This picture is all about timing and the decisive moment. And, breaking off in time to avoid any possible disaster.
Sometimes on my back road drives, I find stuff. Well, not exactly that. I’m sure the stuff that I find isn’t lost. It is more like dumped. Sometimes it’s interesting stuff. You know what they say. “If you want to take better pictures, stand in front of better stuff.” Sometimes, even better stuff doesn’t help. Anyway, the thing about the high desert is its dryness. Very dryness. While we have humidity in New Orleans that ranges in 70 and 80 percent range, New Mexicans complain when humidity is like 12 percent. All that dry air prevents rust. Or at least inhibits it. While you may see old, dumped cars and trucks that look rusty, upon closer inspection you find that they are not. They are wind-blown and sand blasted. They are faded by the strong sun light. The sun tends to magnify in intensity when you are a mile up. At least you aren’t eight miles high. And, waiting to touch down. Did you catch that?
So. This truck. It’s an ancient GMC truck that I found “parked” in a field. I doubt that it ran or even could be started. It’s tires looked firm but dry rotted. Obviously, the windshield needs a little work. Other than that, it looked intact. Unfortunately, I stopped to make the picture at exactly the wrong time of day. High Noon. Flat. Chalky light. Ugly. Still I made the picture. It was a record shot. One that I would keep in the back of my mind for when I was in the “neighborhood” again. Something to be reworked at a more appropriate time of day. But, I “found” image file when I was looking for those act of traveling pictures that I mentioned. I decided to play with it. I added a little color. I added a little contrast. I sharpened some of the details. Then I added some “glow” to it. That did it. The image is somewhat presentable. Here it is.
Only in New Mexico. Only in the high desert of Northern New Mexico can you see a wonderful sunset and feel the rain on your shoulders at the same time. It’s wonderful. The rain falls. Hard. But you know that it won’t last long and you can get back to it. Or just get to it. I made this picture as I was getting ready to leave the state. I knew it would be a while before I would be back, at least with the time to poke around the back roads and find places like this one. And, what’s great about this road is that it is only about 15 miles west of Albuquerque which makes it an easy trip. That’s not a big deal. But, if you blow a sunrise or sunset, it’s not like you drove for 500 miles and camped out. Waiting and waiting. Instead, it means you come back the next morning or evening until you make your picture. One this evening I got lucky. Very lucky. I went out the weekend before I was leaving. I made three or four very nice pictures in about an hours time. And, that was it.
The picture. To me it means something about the great American open road. The miles go on forever. So does the view. It’s simply magnificent. But, you need a white pick up truck to complete the picture. Technically speaking, it isn’t much. I drove out there, turned on some music and waited. When the sun and the rain started doing magic things to the sky and the scenery I started working in a fast but measured manner. Click. Click. Click. The pictures started coming. Time slowed down. Pretty soon it was dark. It was time to go.
I had a weird client request. Not weird because the content requested is exactly what I like to do. I do it for myself. I like to photograph the act of traveling. Not the destination. Not the pretty beach scene. Or mountain scene. Oh. Don’t get me wrong. I do like those things. But, the act of traveling is interesting to me. Sometime it’s the open road on front of my car. Sometimes, it’s the old, beat up roadside kinds of stops. Or, it’s the act of boarding some kind of public transportation. Generally, I try to put myself in the middle of things. You know. Make pictures with a wide angle lens from inside of a crowd or parade or something like that, rather than photographing from outside of it with a longer telephoto lens.
This picture isn’t that. Or any of those things.
I was looking through a file called New Mexico Winter Drive. A lot of it was my usual out on the road material. But, then I stumbled on this picture and its sister, the horizontal version. I don’t really remember the circumstances of making the pictures. But, I do recall that I thought the picture would be better with a very slow shutter speed and small aperture. The result is this… even though there is a huge amount of motion which creates the blurred look, the bare tree trunks are pretty sharp and well-defined. What else? Well, obviously I added the picture frame. I also brightened and sharpened the image a bit.
It’s more about art than it is about documentation. It’s also a pretty good way to start a Sunday morning.
Oh yeah. Why was request weird? I received it by email. On Thanksgiving Day. I guess some people never close.
More Hong Kong. This is Admiralty just as it comes toward Central. This is pretty much the heart of the banking and government center. I made this picture late at night. Normally, this place is just packed with hundreds of people scurrying here, there and everywhere. But, not at around 9pm. I was able to shoot at a slow enough shutter speed that I could let what little traffic there was be blurred to give a good sense of speed and motion, while still freezing the buildings and other things that don’t normally move. The cool thing is that I was able to do this without a tripod. I don’t recommend it, but in this case I was on my way to someplace else when my muse tapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is a good scene. Take the picture.” I reckoned that I better do it or get a new muse. You know that wouldn’t have worked out very well. Always, always follow your muse.
I lived on this street many years ago. In those days, it wasn’t quite so colorful. Nor, was it anywhere near as energetic as it appears in this picture. In fact, in those days Staunton Street was just a little blue-collar neighborhood. Today, it is the home of many international restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. In fact, the building in which I lived is home to a very trendy cafe that was carved into a space that was just another flat.
This picture. When I made the exposure I was trying to capture its jewel-like quality. I’m not sure the original image caught that completely. But, now in the age of a myriad of post production tools it is easier to bring my vision and original concept to the finished picture. So what did I do? Obviously, I bumped up the color. But, what makes this picture work for me for is two layers of different kinds of “glow.” It sort of adds a sparkly, other worldly, look to the image. It works for me. I’d love to read what y’all think.