French Quarter street lights.
French Quarter street lights.

A funny thing happened. One of my agencies asked me to photograph some of the top ten tourist locations in New Orleans. So, I Googled around. In general, most of the top ten lists of places to go in New Orleans are located in The French Quarter. Maybe eight out of the top ten.  I know it’s a chicken and egg deal. The tourism board markets the French Quarter very heavily, so the tourists go to the French Quarter. They tell their friends and they go to the French Quarter. So it goes. As I’ve written in the past, many of them don’t even realize that there’s a pretty big city outside of the Quarter.

As a resident, I think that’s too bad. There are a lot of wonderful places to visit is the city. You’ve seen a lot of them here. But, I earn my living this way so if an agency asks, I’ll do what I can. I will drag it out a bit. Not intentionally. Or out of protest. If I’m going to photograph the same old tourist locations, at least I want the pictures to be a little different from most. That difference is found in the light. I think. And, really great light doesn’t appear just because I want it to. I have to wait for it.

Here’s an example. The bottom picture. You’ve probably seen the location on Storyteller maybe ten times. It’s the falling down apartment on Royal Street. Everybody who passes by it photographs it. Me too. But, every now and then the light gets really good. And, I get really lucky.

You've seen this before.
You’ve seen this before.
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It's the light. Really
It’s the light. Really.

It is the light. It’s always the light. I took this picture in The French Quarter, at about the same time I made pictures for the last couple of posts. In any other light I’d have likely just walked right by this scene. But, in golden light the reds just popped and the shadows got deep, rich and contrasty.

It’s luck. Timing. Being in the right place at the right time. Whatever.

It’s also the reason that some pictures of similar subjects are better than others. Of course, you can help yourself a little bit by leaving your computer chair, or couch, or Barcalounger, at the right time of day and putting yourself in front of a scene that will blow up in the right light. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sure if this is one of those scenes or not. It was one of those pictures that I took on my way to someplace else. On the other hand, I know I wouldn’t even considered it if I saw it in muddy, gloomy light. I might not even have thought about it in high noon, bright sunlight. But, in low golden light…

 


French Quarter Spring.
French Quarter Spring.

It goes like this. I stop to take a picture in a touristy place — like on Royal Street in The French Quarter — and people either say to each other, “What is he taking a picture of?” Or, they turn on their smartphones and take a picture of whatever think that I did because they didn’t want to miss something. Of course, they never knew my intent or even what I saw. I imagine when they get to their hotel and are getting ready to Instagram all over the place that they are wondering why they even took the picture.

Oops.

Here’s why I took it. Golden light. That very same golden light is bouncing off the school building making it bright red. New Spring growth on the trees. The golden light helps to illuminate the leaves as well.

That’s what I saw. Springtime in an urban setting.

I also knew that I could add a little color and glow to the picture in post production and make  the finished image look like my mind’s vision.

One more thing. I bet you never even considered the possibility that there is a school inside the bounds of the neighborhood that we call The French Quarter. Even though so much of it is given to tourism, The French Quarter is a real live New Orleans neighborhood.


Crowds walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Crowds walking through The French Quarter in New Orleans.

Yes. I know. The French Quarter is a major tourist attraction. So major, in fact, that many people who visit think they’ve seen all of New Orleans when they’ve only walked around the Quarter. Except on rare occasion, or when the weather is way too hot and humid like the months of August and September, the Quarter is pretty busy. The crowds get almost unbearable during Carnival Season, Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest or other festivals that I can’t quite think of right this minute.

Sheesh.

I made this picture last Wednesday at about 7pm. I get it. A lot of schools were on some version of spring break. But, do these people look like high school or college students? The people leaning along the wall were waiting to get liquored up. Except for the children. They were waiting to eat tourist food. T heir parents dragged them there. You can tell. The folks passing by in the foreground were part of some tour. Maybe one of my favorite kinds of tours. Architecture. The last time I ran into a group like this I overheard the guide say, and I kid you not, “This is an example of architecture.” Yeah. Really? You paid money to hear this guy say that?

The picture. Hmmmm… I’m not always the biggest fan of my own work. But, the more I look at it, the more I like it. It’s a nice little storytelling moment. Technically, making it was pretty simple. It’s about a 1/15th of a second exposure. I made sure to keep the people in the background, and the background in focus, while I let the people in the foreground walk through the picture.

 


Wild Man John's suit, waiting...
Wild Man John’s suit, waiting…

It seems like a long time ago. But, Super Sunday 2016 is less than a week old. Time seems to moving so fast these days.

Generally, when I start looking for pictures on big days like the yearly gathering of Uptown Indians I start looking at “little” pictures. A picture that is somewhat symbolic, but not the main reason I came out. It helps me to get into my own groove. It’s like stretching prior to exercising. It gets my mind, heart, soul and body working together. It’s why I come out an hour or so early before the “published” start time. It allows me to stop thinking and to just take pictures of whatever I see.

All of that matters.

A week before I was late to the scene. I parked, walked quickly to the start of the second line and out the first liners came. I wasn’t really ready. I wasn’t really in my zone. I got lucky. I made a couple of good pictures. I received a couple of compliments. But… It never really felt right.

Keep in mind, I’m discussing what works for me. Everybody has a different approach. A different reason for taking pictures. A different intent.

What’s yours?

 


Bikes at Lafayette Cemetery No. 2
Bikes at Lafayette Cemetery No. 2

I often return to the scene. Of the crime. Remember the dusky, blue hour picture of Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 that I posted two days ago? I took this picture the next day on Super Sunday as I was leaving. I saw the bikes all lined up in a row. I took a couple of steps back and pushed the button. Just that quick. Just that simple.

Happy Friday. Happy Weekend.


Bicyclists riding through the light.
Bicyclists riding through the light.

Photography. Painting with light. That’s what the Greek words means. Sort of. That’s what I was taught about a billion years ago. That’s what most photographers say. But, literally, it means writing with light. By photographers I mean the kind who actually studied something about their art. Their craft. Not the ten minute kind.

Oh, let’s not go there today. This isn’t  rant sort of day.

Big storms in town. Huge thunder and lightning. A big part of it came when I was asleep. I couldn’t tell if it was in my dreams or in real life. You know that state in which you sometimes get stuck.

But, here’s the weird thing. For the past two days I dreamt about a dog. A cocker spaniel. Probably my favorite dog of all. Hush. Don’t tell these five dogs who share the house with us.

In the first dream — yesterday — the spaniel and I were trying to get out some weird blown up place. Sort of like the pictures you see of the Middle East today. Like Aleppo. Or, some place like that. But, here’s the thing. She was about the size of a horse. And, she defended me. The size surprised me. But, not her defense. She always did that when she was on the planet.

In today’s dream, while the thunder was crashing and the lightning was illuminating the sky, I dreamt that we were in some big old place. A building. Maybe a huge house. With every crash of thunder something fell down, like a wall. Or, a door fame blew out. Or, the windows blew in. The spaniel was young. She looked like she did when she was like one or two years old. She’d lead and wait for me to follow. She’d pick her way through the debris and show me the path. She did that too, in real life.

I don’t know what dreams mean. There’s every kind of theory. I probably think that the Jungian theory is closest. Dreams are answers to questions that we haven’t even thought about yet. I don’t know. If that’s even right, what am I thinking about? That, I don’t know I’m thinking about?

Man. I miss that dog.

Oh. The pictures. I made them while I was looking for Mardi Gras Indians. On just about the same street where I took yesterday’s cemetery picture. That’s how it goes some days. Pictures just pop up out of nowhere. If you open your eyes. If you are just present. That’s a kind of magic.

Long shadows.
Long shadows.


Lafayette Cemetery No. 2.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 2.

I need a break from Mardi Gras Indians. You do too.

This isn’t a complete break because I made the picture on St. Joseph’s Night while I was looking for the Indians. But, it looks like a break. That’s what we need.

Here’s what happened. When I work around A.L. Davis Park in Central City, I like to park on one of the streets that divides Lafayette Cemetery No. 2. into two blocks. I knew the indians would be gathering at a neighborhood bar that is back by the biggest orange light. So, I parked. While I was organizing myself and my gear, I happened to look up. This is what I saw.

A couple of things.

When you work on the streets, situational awareness is key. In all honesty, I didn’t just happen to look up. I was watching my own back. Because. The best surprise is no surprise. And, I did a lot of post production on the picture. I wanted it to be moody, and a little cinematic. I also wanted it to feel a little lonely even though a crowd of people was walking down the street maybe 75 yards away from me.

It’s all about perceptions. Right?