Feeling it.
Feeling it.

Southern tales. Southern stories. A love story.

One night I was talking to my friend, Chesley Thompson. She’s a Southerner. Born and raised. She has family all over the south, especially in Mississippi and Louisiana. She’s a school teacher. An incredible school teacher. Just ask her former students. I met her at UNO when we were both working on post-graduate classes. Among many other things, she is the mother of my god-daughter. She and her husband think I have some sort of magic about me. Or, at least I’m responsible. In some way. After all these years, they still haven’t learned. Heh!

Anyway.

She started telling me stories about her family and growing up in the south. They were really good. Not only did they help me to understand her a little more, but they helped me to understand  the place that we mostly call home.

She’s a little nervous about publishing this. She doesn’t do this often. In fact, this is the first time she’s written this down on a piece of paper. Or, on a computer screen. She has a ton more stories to tell. I hope that I have the honor of sharing more of them with you. That’s her call.

It took me a little longer than normal to get this story together. She wrote it. I couldn’t photograph it. It was just hard making pictures that even came close. Sheesh, I’m really a city boy. I’ve never even seen a turtle in the wild. Watermelon patch? Don’t you go the grocery story and buy them? Then, I took a break from Storyteller. There were some family changes… all for the better. We grew. And, as John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

But, here we are. Finally.

A watermelon story from Chesley…

Sometimes stories just need to be told. They swell up and pop in your mouth and the next thing you know, they are filling the room with bubbles.

My daddy was raised on a farm but as he was the baby of the family, he was often told to stay out of way so he wouldn’t be underfoot. All the time he was looking for something to do, he was really wishing he could be elbow deep in some greasing of tractor parts or some other integral part of really farming.

On the farm, my grandfather set aside a vegetable patch for anyone interested, primarily my green-thumbed grandmother, to grow food for eating. Nowadays we’d call this a collective garden but then it was just known as the Patch. Mrs. Galloway from the next farm over tended to the pole beans. Lucy Lacey planted marigolds all around the edges to keep the bugs away and because she loves all flowers. The tomatoes were pampered by everyone and Jesse grew the best, sweetest watermelon anyone had ever tasted.

One long, slow summer day when my daddy was once again shooed away from the real work, he decided that one of Jesse’s watermelon’s would be really refreshing after the sun went down and everyone was sitting on the back steps talking about what they would be doing in the morning. So, being the thinking kind of boy he was, Daddy decided that watermelon would be even better if it were cold. No large ice drifts being available in middle Mississippi in the heat of the summer, Daddy decides that cooling it down in the pond was the next best option.

However, there was a small problem. The pond was all the way at the other end of the gravel driveway from the Patch. But this didn’t deter Daddy one little bit. He picked the biggest melon he could find and just rolled it up the driveway to the pond. He sank that sucker in the deepest part of the pond where he knew the water was the coolest, buried it in the red Yazoo clay that constituted the bottom of that pond so it wouldn’t float to the top and proceeded to attempt to stay out the way for the rest of the day.

Quitting time rolls around and Daddy was in the orchard picking a boot box full of green plums—that’s another story for another day—- but he fails to see all the men walking up the path. He doesn’t get to see their faces and hear their amazement at the huge swath of gravel missing from the middle of the driveway. He completely misses all the talk of a giant turtle grading the way from the Patch to the grass near the pond; about how darned big this thing must be and about what a good dinner that will be when they catch it.

When he finally sees them and remembers his surprise for them, he scrambles down the trees, dives into the pond and rubs all the clay off this now very cool monster melon. Just about then, it dawns on him that this thing is too big to carry, even the 20 yards to the car port steps. So, doing what he knew worked for him, he put it down and rolled it.

After the men had picked out the gravel stuck in the rind, and laughed themselves to crying, they ate the best watermelon God ever put in the path of boy trying to show his worth.
Legend says there’s still a turtle crawling around out there, somewhere.

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Glowing.
Glowing.

Cloud Study. Two. Too.

Once again, I don’t this all that often. But, the light has been amazing before, during and after our daily storms. So, I shoot what I see. What inspires me. Scenes that are a little minimalist. A little impressionistic. A little glimpse of the fleeting moment. In nature.

Yesterday’s picture was a little powerful and noisy. Today’s picture, calming and quiet. I had a fleeting thought. Print this as large as the RAW file will allow something around 12 x 8. Feet. Or, larger. Hang it simply without a big frame and just look it. Meditation.

Happy weekend.

 


Passing by in the sky.
Passing by in the sky.

How could I not?

I claim that I’m not a nature photographer. I also don’t usually take pictures of clouds except as part of a much larger scene. But, when I see it I photograph it. So I did it. This is also what happens when you keep a camera handy. I was running errands when I looked up. I’m thinking that most of this week’s posts are the result of keeping a camera around all the time.

Sheesh.

I even took one with us on the way to the vet. One of my Cockers had the Spaniel trifecta. An ear infection, a gastrointestinal infection and a urinary track infection. Two of them are pretty unpredictable, but the extreme humidity this summer defeated our best efforts to keep her ears clean.

She slept in the back seat. I did my usual drive by shooting when we stopped for traffic lights and such. I think having a camera around helped calm her. If I do normal stuff, she may think that things are okay. I don’t know what’s in a dog’s mind, but they know stuff.

Oh. A day later. She seems to be feeling much better. She still has to take her course of pills and ear drops, but she slept soundly and hasn’t been making a run for the door every half hour. The other dogs are fine.


Driving in the pouring rain.
Driving in the pouring rain.

Storms.

Around here, it’s a way of life. Especially in the summer. If you are out and about, likely you will drive in the rain starting sometime in June through maybe September. You get used to it. You change your windshield wiper blades a lot. This is my version of what it was like to drive through Uptown on Tuesday.

The picture. Yes, I’m starting to shift a little. Organically. Without trying. It seems that I’m moving from documentation to something that is a little more impressionistic, or minimalist. I’ve also gone from having some sort of shooting block to working almost every day. I’ve also sort of shifted my usually approach to color a little bit. All good.

A quick bit of housekeeping. I’ve been exceptionally busy the last couple of days. With pictures. With family life. With dogs. Especially dogs. So, I’ve managed to accumulate about 198 (“about,” he says) of your emails in a day in a half. Yes. I answered everything that was pressing. Now, I’ll answer the important emails. Yours.

 


After a lot of rain.
After a lot of rain.

Rain. Lots of it.

I’m not complaining. We can always use more rain. Besides, it’s summer. Our rainy season. It’s also humid and warm — not hot — which makes everything grow. For a few months of the year we live in what amounts to a hot-house.

During my first year in Louisiana I asked one of my neighbors, an old Creole man who still spoke French as a first language, what I should plant. He replied, anything. Everything grows here. He was right. I planted tomatoes, peppers and some herbs. The only thing I did was separate and thin them. I didn’t water them. I didn’t fertilize them. I just let them grow. By the time they were ready for picking, which is different from ripe, I had so much that I couldn’t give them away quick enough. Sauce was made. Salsa was made. And, still tomatoes and peppers kept coming.

That’s how it is down here.

That’s also what happened to these bricks. Wet, wet and more wet. Moss grew. Just like anything. It’s fair to say that nature made this picture. I just saw it, pushed the button and did a bunch of post production.


As minimal as possible.
As minimal as possible.

Since the flower didn’t seem to help yesterday, I thought I’d move to more Japanese style of work in honor of the people who died or were wounded in Tokyo.

Yes. This picture is very minimalistic. Very Japanese. Very Asian.

I don’t say that without knowledge. I spent some nine years of my life — six years total — commuting back and forth to Hong Kong. Six years total refers to the time I actually lived in the city.

Since I worked to various deadlines, I often had small chunks of time free. Not enough time to go home to The United States. But enough time to travel all over the Asian continent. I absorbed many of the differences between Eastern and Western design style. You see that sometimes in how I photograph buildings. For example. In the West, we approach composition in one way with the corner of the building being the fulcrum between a long and short side. You can see two sides of the building. It follows the Rule of Thirds. In the East, often the building is photographed head on (from the front or side) and placed in the lower end of the composition. Or, sometimes to the far right, far left or even the top. It too follows the Rule of Thirds. In a different way.

So.

The subject is placed in the extreme third of a picture if you follow the Rule of Thirds or Golden Mean. Why? The Golden Mean may have a mathematical formula but it is based on nature. For lack of a better word, it’s natural. And, flowing. Your eye is comfortable moving from place to place in the picture. Both Eastern and Western styles are valid design philosophies. Just a different way of seeing.

Design nerd enough for you?

Me? You see it in my pictures. Main subjects often placed towards the bottom or side. With stuff going on in the background which is out of focus or a kind of bokeh. Another Eastern term. A Japanese one.  It’s well overused now. It’s a description of an out of focus background area, not a photographic style.

Yes. Those years living in Hong Kong and traveling to many places in Asia influenced me greatly. I’d like to think I’m better for it.


Another memorial.
Another memorial.

I love waking up to read of another mass shooting in the United States. This time in Fort Meyers, Florida. Since only two young people were killed — and 17 shot — it’s not huge news. Even though most of the wounded are very young. It has already fallen to fourth place on my news feed. Of course, over the weekend, there were attacks all over Germany and Afghanistan and Iraq.

In New Orleans, we had our usual Monday morning scorecard. Just like baseball, before all the data came into play. Hits, runs, errors. Except in New Orleans, its, shootings, stabbings and murders.

Scary? Tiring? I suppose. I just seems that we are getting used to it. It seems like none of these killings stir many emotions now. It’s more or less the new normal.

So…

Peaked inside an open door
“Looked around, don’t know what for
Way too bright, could hardly see
Oh no, can’t believe it
Oh yeah, could almost see it
In a dream in blue
I flew around with shiny things
When I spoke I seemed to sing
High above, floating far away
Oh no, can’t believe it
Oh yeah, could almost see it
In a dream in blue
In a dream in blue
Sock it to me one time
Woke up laughing in my bed
Silly smile stuck on my head
Am I real or still in a dream
Oh no, can’t believe it
Oh yeah, could almost see it
Oh no, can’t believe it
Oh yeah, could almost feel it
In a dream in blue
In a dream in blue.”

— David Hildago & Louis Perez/Los Lobos from the album, “Kiko.”


After the storm.
After the storm.

Look up. Look down. Look all around.

Or, as some people call it… being situationally aware. Every one of these pictures was made within a few days of each other. Usually after a storm rolled through. I probably could have made these with my smart phone since that always goes everywhere. But, I’ve been a little old school these past couple of weeks. I’ve been carrying a DSLR — mirrorless — just about everywhere. I think I make some people nervous because they aren’t used to seeing that these days. If they ever where. Doesn’t matter. Currently, I still think a camera’s larger sensor makes better files than a phone’s itty bitty sensor does. That’s not to say some good images can’t be made with a phone. They can be. And, they are. It’s really just my preference. And, really. It’s only a matter if time.

Enough of that. It’s a never-ending discussion. At the end of the day, use what you got. What makes you happy.

But.

These pictures. I was just walking or running errands and they sort of found me. The bottom right picture — reflections — is what caught my eye when I took yesterday’s summer picture. Of the tree. I don’t know if it works or not. But, I thought that you should see it. It is part of my work for the week. If you open it, you can see a lot more detail.


Summer tree.
Summer tree.

I make pictures in the weirdest places.

I took this one in the parking lot of a strip mall where I gone to run a couple of errands. At this point, I should say that I really don’t see myself as a nature photographer. I just sort of make it up as I go along.

Anyway.

We had one of our usual summer hour-long torrential downpours and I guessed, correctly, that everything would be washed and even the air would sparkle without its usual summer heaviness.

It did.

So I took some pictures. This one was almost an afterthought. I photographed what I thought that I wanted to, and it wasn’t really working. I was standing pretty much under this tree and looked up. I thought, “what the heck” and pressed the button a few times. This picture surprised me. I jumped off the screen while I was reviewing the images.

Of course there is the weather. Severe summer heat. Everywhere. Not just in New Orleans. Apparently, the country is in some kind of dome. A heat dome. Like the thunder dome, only worse. Or like Stephen King’s story called, “The Dome.” A dome even occurred in the Simpsons. None of them were good things. And, to make things worse, corn crops are sweating adding to the humidity in the Midwest. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Apparently, the worst is yet to come. According to NOAA, which is the national weather service that meteorologists use and the guys whose weather brief prior to Hurricane Katrina said something like, “There is a powerful Category 5 hurricane coming which will result in death, disaster and severe suffering,” the entire country with the exception of a strip of land in Washington State stay will stay hot. Luckily, they also said that it will cool down soon. In October.

October? Soon? Huh?

I say November. Around Election Day in The United States. That’s when the political hot wind will finally stop blowing. For a while.