Mardi Gras Indian.
Mardi Gras Indian.

I don’t really have a New Year picture so I thought I’d publish a celebratory image. The Blue Indian. He is a Mardi Gras Indian masked for a parade that I happen to photograph. I sort of like his colors. You don’t normally see blues and whites as a motif.

This New Year Eve is a quiet one. We don’t normally do much because we like a low-key start to the year. This year is even quieter with all the illness. Something else is also going on, but I’ll leave that story for another day. Or, never.

The picture is another see it, focus on it, push the button. I did a little bit in post production mostly to give it a little dreamy feel. But, that’s it.


Happy New Year. May you have a great 2014.

In the 7th Ward.
In the 7th Ward.

Sometimes, while I’m working on one thing, I stumble onto another thing. That’s what happened in this case. I went to The Seventh Ward to photograph a second line. The big one, a couple of weeks ago. I got there a little early because I wanted to scout. I saw this woman sort of looking for something. And, she was waiting for the parade. I asked her if I could photograph her and she was very pleased . Before you think she is some kind of homeless person, she isn’t. Those bags are filled with stuffed toys, probably left over from last year’s Mardi Gras. I’m not even sure that is her walker. She walked around pretty freely and never seemed to look in its direction.

The picture. Pretty easy. Ask her if I could take a few pictures and then work it as quickly as possible. I did a lot of heavy post production, not because of her, but because the area is very, very gritty.


Somewhere in the Seventh Ward.
Somewhere in the Seventh Ward.

The whole place looks burnt out. It isn’t. It’s just a little wet from a late storm. But, it was pretty heavily flooded during and after Hurricane Katrina. This neighborhood sat in flood water from August 29 until sometime in mid-November. Just about like my neighborhood.  I have no idea what was in that water, but I don’t want to find out. I had my old wet darkroom stored in an out building. Everything was destroyed. But what concerned me most was the stainless steel film developing tanks. They were well designed to handle chemicals. Most photo process chemicals are pretty mild and benign, but if you process color film, some chemicals are strong. When I found these tanks, they were corroded and eaten through. In seven weeks. All officials denied the existence of anything harmful in the flood waters. Really?

Obviously, this neighborhood hasn’t recovered yet. Maybe a few people are living there now. But, I’m sure it is a ghost town compared to pre-storm. About this chair? And, those bricks? Likely, somebody hangs here. Maybe a couple some bodies. But, not on the day that I stopped by.

Not much to taking this picture. I decided to use the three-legged chair as the main subject, shoot with a real small aperture so that there is a lot of sharpness in the background to give you a sense of the neighborhood.

One way to raise a building...
One way to raise a building…

This is New Orleans… but, first my illness. I think my body finally won its battle with the flu. Last night was truly hellish. By about 8 pm I was shaking, I was fever-wracked and my head was pounding. I wrote yesterday’s post as quickly as possible  and went to bed. Normally, I would just take more Tylenol. But, because I was also taking some OTC flu med I had to be careful of taking too much Tylenol in one day. By about 11pm, I took what little I could and tried to sleep. But, I felt like I was burning up. I had to know just how hot I was. So… we have this new fangled digital thermometer. Nobody really knows how to use it. The first time that I stuck it in my mouth, the little bell rang and I looked. 188 degrees. Oh sure. I may have felt that hot, but that’s impossible. So, I pressed some more buttons and got… 103.3. Bad enough. But, probably real. I finally fell into a fitful sleep and eventually made it to about 8am. I took my temperature again and it was 100.2. Better. I was weak, but sort of had this peaceful washed out feeling. Tonight, I’ve passed the point of the onset of fever, head and joint aches. Nothing. Just a cough. So. I think I’m on the mend… there is a second line parade tomorrow. But, I won’t be there. Not ready for anything like that yet. 

Now back to New Orleans. This picture was made in Treme. Or, it might actually be a little piece of the Upper Ninth Ward. It flooded during Katrina. In order to buy any kind of flood insurance, buildings in the flood plain areas must either be elevated high enough by original construction, or be raised to meet new requirements. It appears that the owner of this building isn’t taking any chances. He’s lifted an entire building a whole floor depth. But, it seems he’s run out of funds or enthusiasm. I would too. Unless that building has some special emotional attachment to the owner, it pretty much looks likes it’s ready for that scrap heap. As far as stopping in the middle of a project goes, that’s sort of what we do. You can drive down almost any street and see a freshly painted building. Just the front. Not the sides. Drive by five months later and the building remains that way.

The picture. Once more it was one of those F8 and be there things. But, I wanted you to feel what I felt when I saw it so I enhanced it a bit — well, a lot of bits — in post production.

Glowing in the Sun.
Glowing in the Sun.

Well. We started improving. Then we started coughing. Pretty badly. Now we are worse. The funny thing about viruses is that you can’t do much about them. Sure. There are OTC treatments. There is steam. There is rest. Lots of fluids. But, until you really start to tank and your virus turns into something infectious, there is nothing to prescribe. I hope to stop this silliness well before this turns into that. Yeah, yeah. Shades of Richard Nixon… “let me say this about that.”

First, I just really like aluminum trailers, whether they are Airstream or not.They reflect a beautiful quality of light at almost any time of day. But, better if the sun is low in the sky. Something like winter afternoon light. I suppose morning light might work, but it would be coming from the wrong angle.

Al the rest is easy. Arrive at the right time, frame the picture, push the button. Let nature do its work.

Out on the road.
Out on the road.

Still really, really sick. In fact it got much worse last night. But, we seem to be getting better. Maybe in a couple of days I’ll go outside and try not to fall on my face. Or, maybe 8 days. Or… oh never mind. It may be just as well. I’d like to clean up a lot of images in waiting between now in the new year. I can work for a little bit and then I get the shakes, face flushing and my head hurts. But, not so bad tonight. So, I work. Listen to my body. Lay down. Get up. Drink a bunch of water. And work again. Or just watch a bunch of movies on Netflix.


I like these blurry things. They are about movement, motion. Maybe a little power and energy. They are about life on the road. Traveling and living in a rolling house.

The picture. Slow shutter speed, pretty high aperture and fire away. The post production was mostly used to calm down the contrast.

Bonfires along the Mississippi River... in Lutcher, Louisiana.
Bonfires along the Mississippi River… in Lutcher, Louisiana.
Lots and lots of firecrackers are added to the wood.
Lots and lots of firecrackers are added to the wood.
Crowds watch as the bonfire burns in an effort to guide Papa Noel down rive to New Orleans.
Crowds watch as the bonfire burns in an effort to guide Papa Noel down river to New Orleans.

I did the very thing I hoped not to do. But between last night’s trip upriver and today’s Christmas events, I have a suffered a relapse. A bad one. But, since I’m a generous guy, I shared. Now pretty much everybody has it in varying degrees. Luckily, one of our newest visitors is a retired nurse. That’s the good news. The bad news is her former speciality. She’s a surgical and scrub nurse. I’m counting on one thing.That she knows which end the thermometer goes in into me.

I’m showing you these pictures because I’m proud of last night’s work. The environment was a little hard to work around. Aside from the overall coldness, we had a lot of rain this week. That meant that the levee edges were soft, spongy and slippery.

The picture. I think my brain was functioning much better than it is tonight, but between being ill and working in pretty bad conditions, I’m amazed that I and such a good yield. I’ll tell you more about how I did it. But, right now I’m just hoping that I don’t plant my face on the keyboard.

Breaking news. I just pushed the spell check button. Either it isn’t working or I should work more often when I’m not sure where I am. No errors were found.

Bonfires and fireworks at Lutcher.
Bonfires and fireworks at Lutcher.

I did it. I kept my promise to you. A Christmas promise.

Here’s the story. Every Christmas Eve, for as long as anybody can remember, bonfires have been lighted along the Mississippi River to guide Papa Noel downriver to New Orleans. This has been going on since the early 1800s. Yes. We are a very old place. The very first time I saw this event, bonfires were still pretty simple and pretty small. But, they’ve grown over the years. Now the bonfires are huge. And, fireworks have been added. I suppose that’s necessary since the river is sort of one the major flight paths for airplanes landing at MSY. The Louis Armstrong Airport. Without fireworks, it’s likely Papa Noel couldn’t find his way down the river with all the airport landing lights. Why can’t he use the landing lights to guide him? He comes from a different age. He doesn’t like them.

The picture. Well. Finally. A story worth telling. Normally, we are late and  barely arrive in time to scout. Or to find parking. This time we were early. Really early. I found a couple of locations. I must confess that after photographing this event for many years, it finally taught me how to photograph it. The picture isn’t made from the top of the levee where I normally think that I should work. Nope, it’s from down below near the roadway.  I finally figured it out. You need the upward angle to make the fires and fireworks look dramatic.

Now the fireworks. They are a whole other story. The best way to photograph fireworks is to, put the camera on a tripod, use a smaller f-stop, set the camera on B for bulb, make a long time exposure and hold your hand over the lens when there are no fireworks in the air in order to make multiple exposures of the fireworks. This fills the frame with deeper, richer fireworks.


In this location, I didn’t have that option. I could only hand hold the camera. So, I just pressed the button in anticipation of the fireworks and hoped and wished and got lucky. Very lucky. Photographer’s kind of lucky.

One thing that is obvious. The original intent of the bonfire is sure dwarfed by the new fangled fireworks. What can I say?

I can say this. MERRY CHRISTMAS

Somebody doesn't look happy.
Somebody doesn’t look happy.

I have to be careful here. The first thing that comes to mind when I look at this picture is that somebody wasn’t a good kid. But, who knows? Maybe the folks on the left don’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe they left town. Or, this being a classic New Orleans double, the folks on the right own the entire building and they turned it into one giant house. Sure. The addresses are different. But, this house looks very well restored and that could just be part of it.

Never judge a book by its cover.

I have to admit that I do like the right side. A lot. It’s warm and homey. At least visually. I don’t know what goes on there, Or who lives there. Once again. Never judge a cover by its book.

The picture. I actually used a tripod. It’s sharp. I tuned things up a bit to make the picture say what I wanted it to say. But, that’s it. When I added a little glow because I like that for Christmas pictures, I softened the picture up a bit.

On another note. We’ve been sick with colds. We laid back yesterday because we didn’t want to get sicker by attending Caroling in Jackson Square in the rain. But, we will not missing Christmas Eve’s bonfires on the river. It’s a bit of a drive and it will be really cold. The weather folks say the temperatures will be around 27 degrees. It will be colder upriver. It will be windy on the river too. That’s okay. Somebody has to guide Papa Noel (Santa Claus to you) downriver to New Orleans. Besides. We have family coming. We know the truth. They freely admit it. They may come to be with us, but they really like New Orleans. Especially at Christmastime.

I will do my best to post something from the bonfires immediately. The event closes sort of early. But, it is Christmas Eve and no creature should be stirring.

If not. Merry Christmas.