Blossoms on the Street.
Blossoms on the Street.

A little inspiration.

My writing usually comes from something that I’ve read or saw a day or two before I publish a post. Whatever new information I picked up spins around in my brain for a bit and comes back out in the form of a few comments on Storyteller.

Normally I write about whatever is on my mind then I talk about the picture. I’m going to reverse that. You’ll figure out way. I think.

This is one of those pictures that I made on the way to someplace else. In New Orleans. On the street. At this time of year, hurricane season is upon us. Even with no major storms lurking in the gulf, it is still the rainy season. It is still monsoon season. The weather changes hourly. No. Make that every fifteen minutes. Or, five minutes. First, it’s hot. A little wind blows. Rain falls. The humidity breaks. Then it gets worse. Then the cycle repeats. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Literally.

I ran into a friend of mine. A fellow photographer. He was soaked. I said, “Man, you look hot.” He replied, “I just got rained on.” I replied to that, “Oh, so you are evaporating.” We both laughed. That’s how it is. You’re soaked from above while you are standing on one street. Cross the street and you are soaked from below.

That’s how this picture came to be. One street was soaked. From above. I saw the blossoms that had been knocked to the ground by the hard rain. Oooh. Oooh. Oooh.

The picture would never have been this dramatic if the pavement wasn’t darkened by the rain. The blossoms would not have been on the ground. And, the picture wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have a camera with me. At most times. Everywhere.

As National Geographic photographer Sam Abell once said, “When the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.”

Never forget that.

 

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Mysterious
Mysterious

This is a symbol. An icon.

There’s been a lot of debate in The United States about symbols, flags and meanings. It started with murders. In New Orleans, it has gotten strange, with the mayor wanting to remove statues. Some people are cheering. Others are appalled.

This picture isn’t about any of that. I’m not getting into it. The real issues have devolved into well, nothing. Just yelling and screaming. This picture is about ways of making what could normally be a boring subject a little more exciting.

This is a bronze religious statue. You could use a flash and light it up. You could also make a strictly documentary picture, showing exactly what you saw. You could wait for people to move into the frame.

Some of that takes a little time and patience. Some of that takes technical skill. All of them are reasonable options.

Or…

You could walk around, look at the light and take no pictures until you see what the light is really doing. In this case. I took the picture through temple candles, focusing on the subject using a very shallow depth of field. This made the picture a little moody and a little mysterious. All those out of focus circles? The proper term, I guess, is bubble bokeh. I just think they are a kind of out of focus specular highlight.

What do I know?


Traveling, traveling...
Traveling, traveling…

I was talking about not having to go anywhere special to take pictures. That was yesterday.

Today is a different day.

But, it’s the same sort of topic. It’s about your picture and being aware of pictures around you. Let’s say you do travel. I do. Sometimes too much. I get stuck in airports. Stuck in train stations. Stuck in rental car lines. Why can’t you photograph those? Call it “the act of traveling.” It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey. How many times have you heard that?

It used to be a few years ago that people gave you suspicious looks when you took a picture in an airport. Now everybody does it. Nobody seems to care.

So…

Make your picture. Have fun even while you are in transit. Trust me. It will break up the boredom of being stuck in an airport for a million hours while your airline is trying to sort out some issue that has nothing to do with you. Or, missing a connection for some reason that has nothing to do with you.

There is a trick in this. I don’t take pictures of everything in transit. And, even though a lot of people do it, I rarely take pictures on board a plane. No real reason. I just don’t do it.

Here’s the trick. Give yourself an assignment. Make pictures to illustrate that. For me, passing through an airport is all business. I mostly travel because I have to, not because I want to. I try to move through an airport fairly quickly and efficiently. I really kind of look downfield and not too closely to the details.

So, for me an airport is all blur and motion. People going places in a hurry. Colors blending into each other. Shadows. Silhouettes. Graphic shapes. That’s what this picture is about. My travels.

 


An old fashioned commercial coffee pot.
An old-fashioned commercial coffee pot.

It just must have been the day. A little weird. It seemed that in every blog, on every photography website and even the couple of paper magazines that I read, the main writer was talking about having to go someplace far away in order to take pictures. Or, being completely unprepared when they saw something that caught their attention.

Huh?

Pictures are everywhere. Sometimes, they are hidden in the details. Sometimes, they are hiding in common everyday sort of items. Like this commercial coffee pot. They are in your house. They are just outside your door. Everywhere.

All you have to do is look. And, see. And, react.

Of course that means carrying some kind of camera with you. Always. Or, at least most of the time. It’s pretty easy these days.You can make some pretty good pictures with the smart phone that never leaves your side.

Because?

The moment happens when it happens. Once it’s gone it’s lost. Maybe you can take a picture of something similar, but the light, the timing — the moment — that caught your eye in the first place is gone. Forever.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s up to you. Not everybody is driven to make pictures all the time. Not everybody wants to think about what they are seeing or the quality of light, or, or, or… But, you don’t have to travel a billion miles to some exotic location to take pictures. You don’t have to go on some kind of picture safari or walk about. Quite frankly, some of those kinds of pictures are so overshot that unless everything is perfect and you get really lucky, they are really boring. I think — “little pictures” — the ones of every day life or every day things are far more interesting. Especially if you put the same effort into them that you do with something exotic.

That’s it…

One more thing. Let that be a reminder to me.

 


The joy of pictures
The joy of pictures.

This is it.

This is my photo lesson for the week. For you. For myself.

Look at her. Look at the happiness on her face. She’s having a good time.

For those of you who follow Storyteller and are a fellow photographer, this is it. Photography is fun. It’s not a struggle.

Yes. There is a learning curve. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. Yes, you’ll blow the decisive moment. I deal with all of those things. That’s part of the fun.

More importantly, it doesn’t matter what gear you use. It doesn’t matter at what level you consider yourself to be. It’s fun.

The picture. Well, I worked for that framing. I worked for the layers. And… as usual, there is a certain amount of luck involved. That little smartphone flash is real. It’s not added in post production. There is no way that I could have known when she pushed the button. Now, THAT’S luck…


Trumpeting.
Trumpeting.

It was hot. The weather. And, the music.

The guys you see playing on the streets for second line parades can really play. They play in clubs. They tour. They record. They earn their livings playing music. They hustle to do that. And, they get paid.

Do you have an idea where I’m going with this?

If you’ve been reading the news, or following Twitter, or been awake at all, you know that Taylor Swift pretty much took down Apple on the issue of usage payments. I have my own feelings of how that happened and I’m not going there on Storyteller. I will say that Ms. Swift is right. Musicians make music. It’s valuable. They should be paid. But… anyone who makes art, writes a book, takes photographs should be paid. Our work is valuable. For many of us it’s how we put food on the table. It’s how we pay the rent or mortgage. It’s how we afford to keep making our art, using whatever media that happens to be. When we share, as I do here, it’s our choice. We have different reasons for doing that. The reasons evolve over time.

That’s all.

This isn’t a rant. It isn’t an argument. It’s just a fact.

That said, Storyteller is going to make some changes. No, no, no… I’m not changing the way you see my work. I like sharing with you. But, I am going to add some features that will hopefully allow this blog to pay for itself. Yeah, sure. Many of the pictures here are made as part of a larger project or passing from one place to another. But, it takes time to process them for optimal WordPress parameters. It takes time to write. You know the drill… you do it too.

 

This picture. Hmmmm…. just an old saying. F8 and be there. I work my way into the parade and take the picture. Pretty much how I photograph most subjects.


The parade leader.
The parade leader.

Even with a little better mobility, I still get stuck in the middle of second lines. I’m sure that will get better with time. But, for now, I take advantage of my positioning and just be part of the parade inside of the ropes and kind of away from the crowd of spectators. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes I pretty much am in danger of getting run over. I was fast enough last Sunday not to let that happen.

But, I did manage to make this picture. The orange version of the blue picture. Or, something like that. I wasn’t trying for that. It just happened. You really can’t plan this picture. Or, the other one.

Who is this guy? What is he holding? Well, he’s the flag or banner bearer. He is in the absolute front of the parade. He leads it. Not only does he walk in front of the second line, but he carries a pole with a huge banner with the name, date and other embroidered information on it. This thing weighs at least twenty-five pounds. Imagine carrying that for five or six miles. Imagine carrying that on a 95 degree day with the humidity hovering around 90%. You can’t imagine it. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. This is a strong dude.

Most of the participants in the parade — not the second liners — are pretty strong. They walk in costume, dressed to the nines, playing musical instruments and dancing. Think about that for a minute. If I sound like I respect them, that’s because I do. A lot.

Photographically speaking. I always photograph this guy, or one like him, full frame with the banner in full display. Here’s a tip. I’m old school. Even though I would probably never publish that picture, I do it as a way to identify my take. In the old days of film photography — and for some of us, right now — there was no data attached to every frame. So, we just took an identifier picture. Today, even with all the methods of metadata capture, I still do it to back myself up.

That subject leads me to another subject that is sort of related. In those days of yore when we shot film, we never threw anything away. We generally filed our negatives in strips of five or six. It was much easier to make a contact sheets and store the negatives. Not only that. We also learned from them. Especially from our mistakes. Trust me. I made a lot of mistakes. Sheesh. I still do.

Today, people look at those little itty bitty LCDs on the back of their cameras and start deleting the “bad” pictures. Huh? What can you see on those screens? Save every picture. Mass storage is inexpensive. Buy more SD or CF cards. When you download them at home or at the studio save everything. Study the outtakes. Keep your shoots together. Once again, mass storage in the form of external hard drives and cloud storage is inexpensive. Why are you hoarding space?

If you are blowing pictures so badly because of over exposure, under exposure or terribly out of focus pictures that you feel compelled to delete those, don’t. Save all of them. They’ll inspire you to learn how to use your camera, its light meter and histogram.

Technically speaking. Now that I’m very comfortable with scheduling posts, I was thinking about writing about a week’s worth and just scheduling them. Then, I thought about it. I thought about it again. I decided to save that for when I’m in transit and can’t really post. Because why? Storyteller is kind of organic. I’m influenced by things that happened in the previous 24 hours. It’s not exactly real time. But, it’s close.


Happy to see each other.
Happy to see each other.

I just had to.

I had to come out on Sunday. I had to be part of the Perfect Gentlemen Father’s Day second line. I had to make pictures because last week was very, very hard. A lot of people left the planet. In New Orleans. And, in Charleston. Some I knew. Some I wished that I knew. My way of honoring them and mourning for them is to do what I do best. I don’t really do that much. I take pictures. I write a little bit.

I’m doing both. For them. For me.

For me. It was a little more than an offering.

As you know, I haven’t been all that well. There are two issues. They are unrelated. Supposedly.

One was repairable. I did that. I’m supposed to walk a little. About fifteen minutes, four times a day. That is, until I get stronger and the repair heals. Then, I should walk more. Until I’m somewhat normal. I’m not so sure my doctor meant that I should walk about four miles, sometimes backwards and sometimes at a jog, in typical New Orleans summer heat.  While I was walking, back stepping and jogging in the parade my repair felt fine. But, on my return back to where I parked that changed a little. Well, a lot. I hurt. I’ve rested some and I feel better. The other issue is chronic and forever. They tell me that I’m probably one of the lucky ones because it will likely never progress. Now. The data is with me. I guess that time will tell.

The pictures.

Yep. I was right in the middle of things. Right where I like to be. And the middle was kind of messy. Normally, a second line starts from a building. Could be a house. A bar. A club. A cafe. This time, it just sort of started in the middle of the street. The band started it playing. DAM — Dignified Achievable Men Social & Pleasure Club — just sort of assembled and started walking from the middle of nowhere. The ladies — CIA Ladies Social & Pleasure Club — where not pleased. They ended up walking through what amounted to an uncontrolled crowd. Then things fell into place. I’d say, “like normal.” But, this is New Orleans. We aren’t normal.

I’ll post more pictures throughout the week. Sunday was a good day. You should see the pictures.

Hugs and happiness.
Hugs and happiness.
Reaching out, Fathers Day Second Line, CentralCity, New Orleans.
Reaching out, Fathers Day Second Line, CentralCity, New Orleans.
Finding out loud.
Finding out loud.