I have a New Year Eve tradition. I like to start the year off right by working. Or, at least making a picture that I like. Since nobody around my house drinks, we generally find a place for me to work, have dinner and go home well before midnight. Sometimes we do that with friends and then I make what I call small pictures. Really small pictures. Living in New Orleans makes this tradition very easy. Go to The French Quarter. Walk around. Make a picture or two. Have dinner. Or. Have dinner. Walk around. Make a picture or two. Head for home. That’s what we did tonight. One of those two sequences.
The food was good. It usually is good in the places we like. But, the pictures. Whew. I could see very, very well. Pictures just sort of popped out in front of my eyes. This started almost from the time I found a parking space, which was really easy despite what the talking heads on television news said 100,000 people descending on Jackson Square for the dropping of the fleur de lis. No shining balls for this city. Anyway. I did my usual thing. I drove through Treme. Yes, it really is a place, not just a show on cable. Then I crossed Rampart, which is the boundary of The Quarter. I drove a couple of blocks and found a spot. Easy. I saw pictures while I was looking for that spot. That doesn’t happen very often. Photographer’s luck. Or, good karma.
So. We walked before dinner. I probably made five or six pictures that you’ll see here, on Storyteller. In fact, for Wednesday’s post I’ll show what Santa Claus really does with his time off.
But, for tonight it’s about music. There is a little two person band who has been playing around The Quarter for years. They make their living by playing on street corners, especially on Royal Street. That’s where I found them. Their music is beautiful. The violinist’s notes are haunting.
The pictures. Yes. Pictures. Two. I rarely post more than one. And, there is one image that I like a lot. But, it doesn’t really set the scene. So, there are two. Enjoy them. I’ve been photographing around the Quarter for a long time. I know these two musicians on sight. They know me a little. When the violinist saw me, she smiled and nodded. She knows I always leave a few bucks in their tip basket. So many people don’t. Worse. In this age of smart phones, people snap a few frames and wander off. No tips. To me, that’s wrong. This is how these musicians earn their living.
Technical stuff. Not so much. I really do like the Sony NEX 7 that I seem to have migrated to from my heavier Nikons. These pictures were made at ISO 1600. No noise to speak of. That makes pictures like this exposed in pretty low light very easy.
Happy New Year.
And so another year comes to a close. I thought I’d do some kind of wrap up. I was having trouble figuring out what to do. I was thinking about posting my Picture A Day project minus one picture for the 31st. But, who wants to see 364 tiny pictures at one time? I’d bore you. Sheesh. I’d bore myself. Then I thought about posting my best twelve pictures for the year. You know. One for every month. That’s a lot, you know. The late, great Ansel Adams said that he felt like he had a great year if he produced ten good pictures. I once tried to shoot five great pictures over summer and couldn’t do it. But, I’ve worked a lot this year and thought I might be able to pull twelve portfolio-level pictures together. Or, maybe not. But, along came WordPress. They saved me. I’m sure those of you who are my blogging colleagues received a set of statistics similar to mine. Numbers of viewers. Countries from which these viewers came. Most comments. Referring websites. Stuff like that. I also was shown a set of pictures that received the highest viewer response. There weren’t many. Four. To be exact. You’ll see them in a minute.
If there is one word to describe these four pictures, it’s confusion.
I publish pictures on Storyteller for a number of reasons. In many ways, the pictures you see on this blog are experimental. I hope to learn a little bit about what you think. I hope to gain a little artistic direction. Trends change. Styles change. I change. That’s all good. It’s growth. Growth comes from interaction. Enough about that. But, when you see these four pictures I’m sure that you’ll agree they are all over the place. No trend. No identifiable collection. I have no idea…
All of that said. So far, I’ve had a great time. I’ve made some new friends. I’ve renewed some old friendships. And, I’ve learned a lot about many of you. I’m grateful for that. And, I’m humbled by some of your comments. With that…
Happy New Year, y’all.
I had a better shooting night than I remembered when we went to Caroling In Jackson Square. I made four or five picture that I like a lot. This is number three. The first was the hands holding Christmas songs and candles. The second, I published yesterday. And, here’s another one for today.
This picture was made where Pirate’s Alley empties into the little plaza in front of St. Louis Cathedral. During the daytime there are artists, tarot card readers, buskers and musicians working here for tips. It’s a great place to sit and eat lunch. The little bit of a column that you see on the very far right of the picture is The Cabildo. It is a museum now. In late 18th Century it was named after the municipal governing body. Yes. That’s Spanish. But, remember The French Quarter and all of Louisiana was once ruled by The Spanish. Most of The French Quarter architecture is Spanish, having been rebuilt during their rule after a major fire. The buildings toward the center of the picture facing Jackson Square are a section of The Pontalba. The apartments upstairs are the oldest in The United States. They were designed by Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba. And, you thought I have a long name. HA! Anyway, she built them in 1848 after tearing down the squalid housing the surrounded the Place de Arms, which is where Jackson Square is located. The city owns them now. If you want to live in one of them, you get on a very long waiting list. Hopefully, you will still be interested a decade later.
That’s your history lesson. I love history of just about anyplace. But, this is supposed to be about pictures. I’m thinking that maybe the pictures are about history.
This picture. Well. I was on a little roll so I thought I’d just keep using my senses and brain and worked in manual. As you know, I like to use very low ISO settings and so with this one I did just that. This is f5.6 at 1/4 of a second. Hand held. I like not using a tripod sometimes at night because my natural body motion gives the image a little extra kick. Of course, nature helped a lot by keeping the stones around the square nice and reflective. I suppose, in a lot of ways, this is my attempt at art.
Speaking about history, here’s a very cool website that is mostly about the history of New Orleans in pictures. But, it’s not just limited to New Orleans. Have a look. No. I don’t know the owner. I just like the site. A lot.
We were walking back from listening to Caroling in Jackson Square when I noticed that most of the carriages were empty. No people riding in them. Very odd for a night when so many people were in The Quarter. I thought about stopping one. But I’ve done this a few times. The picture doesn’t really work from inside the carriage. So, I decided to walk alongside one of them and just shoot. This wasn’t the best idea I’ve had since I’ve been struggling with some tendonitis in my heel. You know. My Achilles heel. My doctor told me the best thing for it was to stay off of it. For six weeks. Yeah. Like that’s going to happen. So, it lingers. However, since I’ve mostly been sitting around over Christmas, it seems to be getting better. Imagine that.
Anyway. I limped after the carriage and made this picture. I wish I could tell you more about how I actually made the picture. But, I went on pure instinct. I was working in manual. No fancy auto or program settings. Just looking. Seeing the light. And sort of guessing what it would take to blur the carriage. I did add a bit in post production. In addition to Photoshop, I use a plug-in called OnOne. Actually, it’s more than a plug-in since it can work as a completely standalone app. Alternatively, it can be installed in Lightroom. I believe that originally it was designed for portrait and wedding shooters. But, the software has grown quite a lot and now guys like me use it. It’s really my go to image improvement software. And, trust me. I’ve experimented with a lot of different software.
What did I do? I mostly use OnOne to enhance what is already there. I made this picture warmer and more golden. Hopefully, I made the image a little aspirational. That’s the fifty cent word for making you want to be there and take part in what I did. Well. Not the limping part. That hurts. Oh yeah. At the request of someone — Jasmine — who comments here frequently, I made the file bigger. Enjoy it.
Well. Mostly I like to walk. Trains. Planes. And, automobiles. They are just for getting someplace quickly. To see. To really see, you have to walk. Walking gives you just enough time to see what’s coming and to react in order to make the picture. And, you can see the details. The devil is in the details, they say.
This picture was made on the same night I made the bonfire picture. In order to get to the bonfires you have to cross the road. Yeah, yeah. I know. Why does the photographer cross the road? To get to the picture. True, dat. I don’t care about getting to the other side. I care about getting to the picture. This is a relatively quiet time on River Road. Two minutes before I pushed the button, there was a line of traffic that stretched downriver for a few blocks. Fortunately, there are local parish sheriffs and State Troopers to direct traffic. This picture should give you an idea how close people sit to the to the main street, even though it is only a two lane road. The exposure for this is pretty easy. I try to shoot at F5.6 and let the shutter speed fall wherever it may. In that way, some motion is stopped, some is blurred and the light is fairly well-balanced.
And, that’s it for this picture.
But, wait. There’s more.
I few weeks ago I reconnected to an old high school friend via Facebook. His name is Craig Loe. Among other things, he writes stories for a travel blog called tripbucket. He asked me if I would help out and discuss travel photography for all levels of photographers. I think that I surprised him with my lengthy answers so tripbucket broke my story into two parts. The first part was published today. Words and pictures. I told him that part of my lengthy writing was due to my attempt to write to all levels of photographers. That’s very hard to do and keep it brief. Or, maybe I just felt like “talking.” Maybe you might learn a thing or two. I did. By organizing my thoughts I remembered a few things that I forgot.
Anyway, please have a look at my friend’s work, my writing and a few pictures which you may have already seen.
It’s the red tail lights. It’s those tiny little spots of red that make this picture work. Without them this picture is pretty monochromatic. Maybe the yellow reflectors help as well. This is another of my traveling images. Looking at its shape and contemporary look, you’d think it was somewhere in Asia. In fact, there is a bridge with a similar look and feel to this in The New Territories of Hong Kong. It’s one way to get to the airport on Lantau Island. But, this isn’t that bridge. This bridge spans The Mississippi River at Destrehan. It is part of Interstate 310 that connects I-10 on the Eastbank with US 90 on the Westbank. I was driving east toward the little town of Destrehan, but I didn’t go there. Instead I followed the road made of spaghetti and found my way headed downriver on River Road towards New Orleans.
This picture. Yes, yes, yes. It’s one of those drive and shoot pictures. It’s one of three I made crossing the bridge. Three? That’s all? Yeah. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for my eyes to communicate with my brain and say, “Wow! This is a picture. Shoot it.” If I’d have been better prepared, I made have my a few more frames from which to choose. Luckily… it’s always luckily, isn’t it?
And so it’s time to move on from The Christmas Series. This may only be a short bridge series until the New Year. We’ll see. This year has been one of a lot of miles. A lot of different places. A lot of new things. So, I thought I’d do a little travel thing. Not so much about the place. Instead, about the act of traveling. Getting there. So. I thought I’d start with any easy one. When I’d come home for a few weeks, I’d rip around Southeast Louisiana making pictures for this blog. My real road pictures were already spoken for. Sorry. You’ll see some of them eventually. So, I’d shoot “Picture A Day” pictures, for that project. Christmas pictures for that just ended project. Or, I’d get into Central City and work a bit on that. But, I had to get there somehow. That’s what these next few pictures are about. Driving. Walking. Flying. Training. Whatever it takes.
This picture. Every time that I publish something like this I get scolded. Don’t drive and shoot. Well, if the bad guys do it, so can I. At least I’m not spewing bullets at somebody. My drive-bys are somewhat safe. And, actually my hands don’t leave the steering wheel. Usually. Even this picture looks more dangerous than it really is. I’m justing point the camera at the rear view mirror. I’m not even looking at the subject. I’m look down road. That’s why there is so much camera in the picture. I’d love to say this picture was F something and be there. But, it’s not even that. I set the camera to auto and pointed it at something. Not the best way to make a picture. But sometimes it works. Like this one. It’s actually kind of a favorite of mine. It speaks to me. And for me.
That’s all I was going to write. Nothing more. And, post this picture.
But, something happened that I want to tell you all about. I got lost. I rarely get lost even when I try to get lost. It’s just an instinct that I have. In my defense, getting to either Gramercy or Lutcher from the interstate takes you on some country roads that give you lots of options. To find your way. Or to get lost. I chose the latter. When I finally sorted things out, I wound up way upriver from where I usually like to go. That’s the other thing. It’s not like I haven’t been to these places in the past.
Anyway. When I found my way to River Road and the bonfires on the levee I came to this place. You’ll see it in the picture. In light of the events of the past two weeks, this place was perfect since I think the death of innocents weighs very heavily on a lot of people’s’ minds, including mine. As I’ve written in the past, I’m moving beyond the shock of that horrible day. But, I also think it’s pretty raw and painful still and should be acknowledged during the Christmas holidays.
The picture itself was truly photographer’s luck. If I had found my usual working spot, I would not have found this. I would not have seen twenty little cross and six larger ones. I would not have made this picture. I couldn’t have. I work by discovery, which is another way of saying I have to get lucky sometimes. I also think this is a fine way to conclude my 25 days of Christmas pictures.
I thought I would change the pace slightly and show you how Christmas decorations are made. I made an illustration for a client a year or so ago and just started messing around in my portable small product studio which was really my kitchen.
Lighting was fairly simple. I used a soft box and Nikon’s ring lighting and that was about it. Oh. And, a macro lens which allowed me to work closely.
Stay tuned. For Christmas Eve, I plan to be very live and photograph the bonfires on The Mississippi River. The ones that guide Papa Noel to New Orleans. Not to worry. Still lots of time for Christmas Eve dinner since the event is over early. Family first. Right? Notice the phrase “I plan.” We are supposed to have severe Thunderstorms on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Heavy rain equals no bonfires and rain falls harder upriver at this time of year. The bonfires are upriver. About 40 miles or so.
Anyway. This is how Christmas decorations are really made. Little people on ladders.