Intentional Chaos

A kind of throw.
A kind of throw.

Chaos. Second line parades. Plus, my own intent. That equals a few pictures.

This second line — The Treme Sidewalk Steppers — started out a little chaotic. That’s to be expected. It’s a second line parade, after all.

I was surprised by two things. I forgot how easy it is to find parking in Treme when Carnival is over, or, when there isn’t some big festival in the Quarter. And, I didn’t think a huge crowd would come out for a second line just five days after Mardi Gras. I was wrong about the second point. I’m happy that I was.

Intent. For me, that’s the important thing. What am I trying to do when I take a set of pictures like these? That’s always the question. Lately, I’ve been trying to photograph second lines in a way that shows you their energy. I think that you have to work very closely to the subject to do that.  You know. The old Robert Capa saying. “If the picture isn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough.”

Yesterday, I stripped my gear down to the basics. One body. One very short zoom lens. A 16-50mm lens to be exact. That’s it. Oh, and spare batteries and memory cards. I rarely fill a card. That would be too many pictures. But, Sony cameras are battery hogs.

Check out the big bottom picture. Years ago, there was a young boy who played a trombone that was taller than he was. Troy Andrews. Today he’s called Trombone Shorty and is one of the next generation of New Orleans brass players. He tours the world. His albums are well done and popular. He’s not yet 30 years old. When I saw this little girl blowing her trombone, I thought, “And, there’s Trombone Shorty’s successor.” All is good.

Picture lesson for today. Intent and picture editing. Think about what you are trying to say with your camera. At a certain point, if you’ve photographed a lot of street music, pictures start to blend together. Figure out how to say something beyond documenting the event. The same goes for anything you like to photograph. Picture editing (old school definition) follows that. Shape your take into something that supports your intent. I’m a big believer in the old saying, “Less is more,” or something Miles Davis used to say. “The space between the notes is as important as the note itself.”

If you want some data — because we are in a big data era — here’s something I learned when I edited for a living. Keep in mind that this isn’t a target. This is just an analysis of the numbers.  A solid edit is no more than three percent of the entire take after all the technical mistakes have been removed. You know. Eliminate out of focus images, poorly exposed pictures and photos in which there is too much extraneous information.

Start culling from there. Likely, you’ll keep about 10 percent. Then be ruthless. Likely you’ll end up with about 3 or 4 percent of your entire take. Yes. That’s right. Three percent of 100 is three. Pictures.

Let’s put it this way. I like tough picture editors. Humans. Not software. Those are the guys from whom I learned the most. I still learn from them.

If you do this, people will compliment you. Your work will look great. Some will sell. Trust me.

Young trombone player.
Young trombone player.


    1. Thank you. I think there’s a couple of keepers in there. BTW, I love our weather people down here. Light drizzle, they say, as the rain is coming down side ways in buckets. Thunder, lightning, a tornado warning. Nothing like living on the Gulf Coast in the early spring.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I had always thought I would be a photographer but today an doing something totally different from that. I own a book shop. Sometimes I try to take pictures of books with my phone. The picture quality is usually not as clear and that of a professional’s but I works for me as DP on my BBM for sales of my book. I totally believe that there is noting as powerful as stuff that keeps memories for the future. Thanks for sharing this pictures and writing on intent. Now I can clearly focus on the message am trying to pass to my audience when I take a photograph.


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