A member of the Pigeon Town Steppers rolls out of the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street.

Yes. It was Easter Sunday. Yes. There were three Easter parades in The French Quarter. I stayed for two of them. But, my real passion is photographing the deeply imbedded cultures of New Orleans. So, I headed over to Oak Street to photograph a second line parade that was led by The Pigeon Town Steppers and backed musically by The Stooges brass band. The proper name of the social  club is The Original Men Pigeon Town Steppers and Ladies Pigeon Town Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Club. This is their Easter Second Line. They were dressed in very classic Easter colors. A very tiny bit of research taught me a couple of things. Pigeon Town is a local nickname for Leonidas. It is located in the 17th Ward. That’s really a part of town that I don’t know very well. I stop on Oak Street sometimes for coffee or a meal. But, that’s about it. There is a very well known po’ boy festival held on Oak Street. Packing 50,000 people in on such a small, short street scares me. I’ve never been there. The picture. First off, this is just one of many. I had a very good shooting day. I’ll post of few more over the next few days. This picture takes a lot more work than you might think. The actual making the picture is easy. Focus and push the button. Getting there is tough. No. Not driving. That’s easy enough. But, getting in close to work is hard. There is the crowd. They want to see the parade too. These days, not only do spectators want to see the parade. They want to take pictures too. So, I have to pay attention to them and I try to stay out of their line of focus. That’s not as easy as it seems. Okay. Once I work my way to the front, things get a little easier. A lot of the participants attend almost every second line. They recognize me. I say hello to them. We talk. We laugh. They let me inside the little rope or string barrier so that I can work closely. Enough of them have my business card that eventually someone will call just to see my work. I’ll share.

Sometimes, it’s just the graphics of a thing that catches me eye.

I was walking up Royal Street one night, when I happened to look up and saw the light on. I noticed the fan in the window which seems to say a lot about New Orleans and the coming summer. You know the summer. The one that we have in New Orleans is usually pretty unbearable. I doubt this fan will do much damage to a hot room when the temperature is about 90 degrees and the humidity is so high that you can steam iron your clothes without using the steam. I think, like last summer, I’m going to have to figure a way to get out-of-town.  And head north. Way up north. Or, at least get to a beach that isn’t in the Gulf of Mexico. And, not in the Caribbean because, after all, summer is both the rainy season and hurricane season. But, where? I’m not certain.

There? See the stream of consciousness an open window with a fan can provoke? I bet y’all didn’t think such a thing could happen. That makes all of us. I didn’t either.

As far as the picture… goes. It could have been point and shoot. But, it wasn’t. I actually like the scene and I worked it. I made tight pictures. I made loose pictures. I made even looser picture. I made horizontal pictures. And, vertical pictures. It wasn’t until I got back home and into the studio that I actually saw the picture that did it for me. This one. The one you are looking at. The funny thing is this. Despite the fact that I was working at night I had to darken the picture to get it to say what I wanted it to say.

Real Good
I slept last night in a good hotel… maybe, not her.

There is an old Joni Mitchell song called “Real Good For Free.”  The middle verse goes like this. “Now me I play for fortune, And those velvet curtain calls, I’ve got a black limousine, And two gentlemen, Escorting me to the halls, And I play if you have the money, Or if you’re a friend to me, But the one man band, By the quick lunch stand, He was playing real good, for free.”

We were walking through The French Quarter on our way to a good dinner. Probably an expensive one. We crossed Royal Street and saw this band playing for tips. They were beautiful musicians. They were playing for tips and with hope that somebody would buy one of their homemade CDS. In between songs they held out their merchandise — or merch as the bigger bands — say. We looked at each other and felt guilty. In some other post I’ll tell you more about it. But, Joni’s song about nails it. I don’t know her. But, I get her and that makes me feel like I do.

So. We did the only thing we really could do. We put a bunch of money in her tip basket. Thanked her and the band. And left. We don’t even know their names.

The picture. I did what I always do. Framed the scene, let whatever was going to happen, happen. And, I pushed the button.


Hard at work in The Napoleon House.

Cooking. Working in a commercial kitchen is harder than most people think. It’s hot and fast paced work. Older kitchens are designed something like a dungeon. Of course, The Napoleon House is one of the oldest buildings in The French Quarter so that makes the kitchen — even with modernizations — one of the oldest kitchens in The Quarter. This is one of my “walking and passing by” photographs. But, the cook saw me and gave me a helping hand. He thought my interest in making a picture like this was amusing. So, he opened the kitchen window so I could make something more than a snapshot.

The picture. After he opened the window, the picture was more-or-less frame the picture and be patient. When the moment arrived, I pointed and shot. Blammo.

The bokeh… in the background.

Bokeh. It’s a Japanese word for the blurred out of focus areas in a photograph. Good bokeh has certain characteristics such as definable round shapes.  It is mostly found around highlight areas and places where specular highlights appear. Specular highlights are  pure white areas that usually appear when light is reflected off of a very shiny surface like chrome or a mirror. Controlling it important.  Certain lenses produce more or less bokeh. You usually see it with short or medium length telephoto lenses. Sometimes in macro lenses. Always with mirror telephoto lens that produce bokeh that looks like donuts.

It is an over used word today. Many photographers make pictures that are nothing but bokeh.  Just like I did. They think it’s something new. I don’t. I learned that an image should have a definable subject to make it interesting. But, every now and then a picture that has nothing but highlights and out of focus areas makes some kind of statement. But, it’s one of those things that really is depends on the eye of the beholder. I happen to like this picture. I like the circular shapes and very defined colored sections of the image.

You’ve seen this scene before. Remember the carriage, taxi and car? That’s it. Same scene. Same street. The red circles and shapes are tail lights. I’m not so sure about the bluish-white or gold colors. Different region of focus. More definition in the circle of confusion. To me, it makes a sort of artistic statement about light and night. If I were one of those photographers who blend multiple images, this picture would be a good background. But, I’m not that clever, Thankfully.

Oh. I forgot to mention. I was voted as one of Hub Pages rising stars. Thank you for voting.

Parade Remainders -1
Remains of The Day.

We are a messy bunch in New Orleans. And, we like parades. Mardi Gras. St. Patrick’s Day. Super Sunday. Easter. Second Line. Jazz Funerals. And, probably a lot more that I haven’t of. When we parade, we party. We make a mess. We don’t mean to. But, we do.  Think of us as three year old children. This is what it looks like afterward. But, not to worry. With so many parades spanning so many years, the city has figured out way to clean up our mess. I made this picture about 45 minutes after the last float passed by. About 45 minutes later, this street — St. Charles Avenue — was cleaned up. I’d say as good as new. But, very little is new in New Orleans. Oh, and by the way. I should clarify something. Most people in New Orleans party when they attend a parade. But, not me. Usually, I work. Yes. I’m pretty boring.

The picture. Very simple. I put the camera down on the street. Yes. Right on the street. I turned the LCD up so I could see what I was doing and made a bunch of pictures. That car in picture? That’s a police car. He officer saw what I was doing and he pulled his car up blocking the street. I guess he thought that he didn’t want the street cleaners picking me up in addition to the trash. That was very nice of him.

The toothbrush? I have no idea. It is a throw from a float rider. But, I don’t know why.

St. Louis Cathedral during Holy Week.

Casting a shadow. Locally, people call this view “Touchdown Jesus.” What do expect from a city who has an NFL football team called “The Saints?” After all, we live in “Who Dat “city. I’ve photographed this scene from many angles. But, never straight on. I guess I thought that the bars on the fence would get in the way, so I never even considered about it. Guess what? I stuck the lens of my camera through the bars and everything was fine. So. I made a Holy Week picture. On Sunday, I’ll return and photograph everyone in their Easter finery. Easter is a real big holiday around here. Three parades snake their way through The French Quarter. Women are dressed in real Easter bonnets. Children wear their best dresses and suits. Hopefully, it will warm up just a bit. Last night was the coldest night this late in March since 1955.

The picture. You know my first little trick. I stuck my camera’s lens through the wrought iron fence. I also exposed for the white in Jesus’ s statue. That assured me of some detail and turned the rest of the scene darker which emphasized the giant shadow. I’m not really sure what is causing the purple light on the obelisk  on the right. Yes. Yes. That’s what that shape is called. An obelisk.  I thought it is called a plinth. But, that’s the square block at the base of the Jesus statue. If you take away just one thing from this post, it’s this. Google is your friend.

Oh yeah. before I forget. This picture was made at the back of The St. Louis Cathedral. This view, or any of the others I’ve made, were not possible before Hurricane Katrina. There were tall trees blocking the view. They were too badly damaged. They had to be removed. Not to worry. In about ten years the new trees that were planted after the storm will block the view again.

Cars, mule drawn carriages and taxis make their way up Royal Street.

Speeding through The French Quarter at night… or, so it seems. Royal Street is like most of the other streets in The Quarter. Old. Narrow. Badly paved. When the paving really falls apart, it’s patched. Not very well. Because of that, nobody is going to speed through any street in The Quarter at any time. Night or day. But, the lines of mixed traffic — old and new ways of commuting — do make for some very nice pictures. Especially at night. It’s even better when the pavement is wet or slightly wet. Then, there are reflections. Lots of them.  For me, even the much of the Quarter is given over to tourists, it’s fun to shoot there. Night or day. I’ve been going there for years. Especially after I’ve been traveling. The Quarter welcomes me. I feel at home. And, it never fails to surprise me when I see something new, on a street were I walk often. And, since the city is a dog and bike town, I can take the dogs. Aside from the pet shop that allows dogs to pick their own treats, there are many bars, cafes and restaurants that put out bowl of water whether the weather is hot or not. All I can say to that is… woof.

This picture. It came at the end of a stroll. Or, photo walkabout, as some people call them. I was headed back to the car when a line of traffic sort of stopped dead. I looked ahead and saw that it was stopped for a pedestrian. So, I made a few pictures. This is one of them. I wanted the carriage to be slightly blurred so I focused and followed the taxi. The one that looks like a van. That tactic seems to have worked out. And, the slowed shutter speed captured the moodiness of the misty night. Post production was fairly simple. I did add a little more softness and glow to the picture. I think it helps the mood of the scene.

Hanging out in a locals favorite bar.

As the seasons change and the weather heats up for summer, the months of early spring get a little weird. There is fog. There is mist. There are gray skies that linger. One day the high temperature is 82 degrees, The next day it’s 51 degrees. But, that ain’t bad. At least it’s not the 90 degree, 90 percent humidity days and nights of August. So. What’s a local to do? Tourists are wandering around in the misty night. They are getting damp. Some are getting drunk. Some are getting grumpy. On Bourbon Street they are drinking and yelling at the top of their lungs. There is a din on Bourbon Street that can be heard for blocks. By Pat O’Brien’s — the home of The Hurricane — there are lines down both sides of the street. Apparently, they need that powerful juice.

Meanwhile. The locals just want a night out.

They head to the bars on the side streets or the downriver end of The Quarter. They go to bars where everybody knows their name. They aren’t hustled. They aren’t hustling. They are just hanging out. They talk to each other. They talk to the bartender. They watch sports on the television. They have a few drinks. They go home.

A quiet night.

The picture. I follow the axiom, “when the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.” I hit the street. I walk around. I look for little pictures. I look in windows. I look for little moments that occur between people. When I find them I make a few pictures. If I believe I’ve made something worthwhile I go inside and chat with my subjects for a minute. I ask for names. If I think the image is marketable, I ask them to sign a release. In this digital age even that’s gotten easier. I used to keep a wad of wrinkled paper releases in pocket or camera bag. Now, my subject can sign a release electronically on my i-Phone. This is a different approach than I use in Central City where I talk first and make pictures later.