Too many leaves.

It looks like a whole lotta work.

You’ve seen the place. Normally, I make a Zen-like picture with something like one leaf twirling around a sparkling bit of water. That’s not what we saw yesterday.

The winds ripped the leaves from the trees. The rain pushed them into the little stream. The stream backed up. And, so it goes.

That’s the nature of things.

And, that’s it. A quiet day. I have to make up for the couple of days of lost production, which includes the mundane. You know. Like making groceries. Paying the bills. Scrubbing the kitchen floor.

These things could have all been done while Harvey was passing through.

But, well. You know. You know that you know.

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The storm mostly blew by.

Then.

As dusk fell last night, we saw this. A little peace on a mostly nasty day.

The dogs, who see stuff, are serious water wimps.  I have to be careful when I write that. They love to swim in the pool. They have no problem jumping into a smelly swamp and coming out muddy. But, when water falls from the sky. Uh huh. No way. They aren’t going out in that stuff.

So.

They stayed inside until the rain finally stopped. They mostly slept which is how they keep from needing to relieve themselves. The minute the skies cleared, out they went with a little help from their friends. Me.

I looked up. This was about the first thing that I saw.

Snap, snap, click, click.

A picture was born.

I think the worst is past. Well past. New Orleans happens to be in a split in what is left of Harvey. It’s a little windy, but the sun is shining. Apparently, the storm is passing through both sides of the region while avoiding us. We get little squalls of rain. The dogs are not amused.

But, Houston is another matter. The city is still flooded and probably won’t drain until sometime this weekend.

That’s just the beginning. Then it starts.

In New Orleans, we know about recovery from a disaster of this magnitude. It starts right off, with the discovery of your flooded home and everything you lost. I cannot begin to tell you what that feels like.

Then, it gets worse. Dealing with insurance companies, FEMA, contractors, adjusters, and every bit of criminal riff-raff who wants your money. This sucks whatever is left of your soul right out. This can go one for years.

While you may recover, you’ll never ever be whole.

Here’s an example. Because my sister lives in an earthquake prone place, we decided I would be the keeper of our family’s Christmas ornaments. Some of the decorations were purchased in 1942, while my dad served in the war.  I stored them in one of the out buildings.

When I finally got home after Katrina, I walked through my destroyed back gate and saw the soil and mud glittering. Huh, I thought. What’s that? Then it hit me.

Good move, Laskowitz kids. If the thunder don’t get you than the lightning will. Or the water. Or the chemicals in the water.

I guess those Christmas decorations found their final home. In a yard of a house in which I no longer live.

Make no mistake. We went on a Christmas decoration buying spree. We have decorations from all over the place. New Mexico. Texas. The West Coast. New Orleans. Europe. Asia. I can decorate two or three Christmas trees.

But, it isn’t the same. It’ll never be the same.

I’d tell what else was lost. But, I’d just depress you. And, me.


Healing prayers

August 29, 2005.

That was a day most of us who live in New Orleans will never forget. Hurricane Katrina blew in, and made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. The levees broke and 80 percent of the city was under water.

August 29, 2017.

Hurricane Harvey, now Tropical Storm Harvey, finally makes a turn away from Houston, where most of the city was flooded. Harvey sat over the gulf and refueled, headed northeast and then northwest. Towards us.

So far, in New Orleans, we’ve had 5.85 inches of rainfall. Our diminished pumping capacity is not really keeping up. Streets are flooding. All schools are closed. Many government offices are closed. Our smart phones have been going off all morning with flood advisories.

I know. 5.85 inches of rain is nowhere near Houston’s 40 to 60 inches of rainfall. But, our ground is already saturated. Our pumping capacity is down. The mayor’s office said that the original pumping station, the one that was repaired just about a week ago after being broken down for the last flood, broke down again this morning.

And, as a snarky aside, after most of the old Sewerage Board was fired or resigned, new consultants were hired. They are led by a man whose last name is Rainwater. Oh, come on. Give us a break.

These pictures. After taking a break last year, the 9th Ward folks decided to honor the 12th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a gathering at the levee and a second line followed by a party in the 7th Ward. The city strongly suggested that everybody who didn’t need to be on the streets, stay off the streets.

So.

No memorial. No second line. No party. Just rain. Just water. More rain. More water.

I decided to show you some of the pictures that I made in 2015, commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the storm. The one when seemingly every media in the world descended upon us… and got most of their stories wrong. You know. Ten is a big number. Twelve, not so much.

Some of you who have been around Storyteller for that long may remember some of these pictures. The top picture, of Big Queen Cherise, is sort of famous. It hangs in the Jazz and Heritage Festival’s permanent collection.

Today, I honor our twelfth year anniversary and those Texans who are still going through the flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. They will be recovering for a long time. We’ll be there for them. We can do less. They were there for us in the aftermath of Katrina.

That storm isn’t done yet.

Once it finally turns north, it doesn’t stop until it reaches Indiana. With luck, we’ll only have five or six more inches of rain, bringing New Orleans to about 12 inches of Harvey-produced rainfall.  By the way, that brings us to well over a record-setting summer rainfall total.

Have a good thought. For all of us.

Dancing


Legs in a window.

I see things. Details. Windows. Nooks. Crannies.

I’ve probably photographed this store widow five or six times. Usually at night. Evening light, plus the lights in the window, make these mannequin legs look sort of garish. In daylight they look just fine. Toning down the color a little and adding a little softness makes them look a little mysterious. And, it hides me. My reflection is behind the middle leg.

Needless to say, I’m enjoying the new photo editing software. I learned something today that made me smile. For most work, I have to fine tune each image individually. With this app, I can stack similar images, create what amounts to a formula and process them all at once. Not only does that save time, but it allows me to make a collection of images that have the same basic look and feel, in one go.

Weather report.

If you’ve watched or read the national or world news you know that Houston, Texas, is underwater. The hurricane, which is now a tropical storm, is going to linger in the area until Thursday when it moves northward. By the time the storm finally leaves Houston, about five or six feet of rain water will have fallen. That’s five or six FEET. Not inches. This is unheard of. Nobody seems to know what to do to help the region recover except to keep on rescuing people and doing what we can. This is a disaster of epic proportions. It will take Houston years to recover. Shipping and oil refining is shut down. The airports are closed. Hospitals are being evacuated.

In New Orleans, this sends shivers down our spines. We know what this is. We know how it feels. We will do whatever we can to help. Meanwhile, we’ve had some rain, with more on the way as the storm bands swing around to the east. We expect maybe another eight to ten inches. This would not be a big deal… if the pumps and power turbines were all working. But, they are not. To make matters worse, the entire sewage system needs to be cleared, cleaned and repaired. We have five old sewage trucks and a new one on its way. If they don’t break down and work at full capacity it will take them 20 years to clear the system. Then, they start again.

Think about that.

TWENTY YEARS. And, while they are at it, our streets will be repaired at about the same time. My street is scheduled to be repaired in the year 2032. FIFTEEN Years. Sheesh, assuming I survive that long, I’ll probably be rolling around in a Hoveround. You know, one of those motorized scooters.

The picture. See above. Way above. Heheheh!


St. Louis Cathedral

A little different look.

Not only did I make this picture during normal daylight hours, but I used completely different production software.

Because.

Two reasons. I do like to experiment and tinker. But, my usual software, On1, has some new downloaded upgrades. The company seems to be struggling when it comes to new products. Especially with new upgrades. In this case, not only did the updated software crash their own system, but it crashed my computer. Three times. I kept thinking that if I reboot everything, the new upgrades would settle down.

No joy.

I’ll contact them tomorrow. I know what they are going to say. It must be your computer. Funny, that. It’s powerful enough for their software, the hard drive is fairly clean and the other software works just fine. The fix will be to remove their software and reinstall it. I don’t think so. Not this week. Downloading their base software is very time-consuming. I have a few thousand other things to do.

So.

A while back, Google gave away the Nik products. That’s right. Gave away.  As in free. I knew there would be a catch. For a long time, there wasn’t. Eventually, Google said that they would no longer support it, which meant no new upgrades. But, the software works flawlessly. And, they say it will continue to work as is.

I haven’t messed with it much. But, this morning I decided I would give it a try. A long try. I’d like to say there is a learning curve. But, there isn’t one. It’s as intuitive as it could be. It’s faster than On1 or even any Adobe products. There is also some flexibility that nobody else provides. The really cool thing is that it’s not all one giant app. It’s organized into separate apps so that one is all the special effects, one is sharpening, one is black and white conversion. And, so on. This keeps them all working fairly quickly. My computer is not trying to run everything at the same time.

It’s still free to download.

Anyway.

The picture. Another one that I made while I was waiting for the Eclipse. A perfect little stock photographic image. A nicely exposed St. Louis Cathedral. Blue Sky. White puffy clouds. A nice old New Orleans wrought iron fence. My agency friends should be happy with this one.

It’s also a really nice, gentle, glowing, Sunday picture.


Lone tuba.

First and foremost.

Our prayers and thoughts go out to the people who live along the Gulf Coast in Texas. Twelve years ago, they came for us. Now, it’s our turn. Whatever they need. Whenever they need it. You’d have to have been here and gone through a major storm to really feel it deep inside. We did. We know.

Our hearts are in our throats.

Thank you for reaching out. We are fine here in New Orleans. Right now, it looks like we will get about 6 inches of rain over a four-day time span. That’s about like a normal summer storm. Yes, some parts of the city have other worries. All the pumps are not yet functional. Some of the electric turbines are still not up to full speed, and, for certain, the drainage system needs about 20 years of work. But, everybody is well aware of the issues and what we need to do.

So far, mixed sun and clouds. No rain. No wind.

I mostly only pay attention to the NOAA hurricane reports since that’s what the local television stations weather people read. I reckon given their percentage of being wrong and right, I’m about as qualified to read them as they are. Besides, I know when to shelter in place and when to evacuate. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

The picture. I made it on the day of the Great American Solar Eclipse. While I was waiting. My first inclination was to make the picture with just the tuba, the bench and the bicycle in it. But — aha — this woman came walking by. Those magenta tights were just the ticket to make the picture a little brighter and more colorful. I had to wait a minute because there was somebody walking in front of her. That turned out to be a good thing since she framed herself with that square sign board. Luck. Luck. And, more luck.

And, patience.


Working in Pirate Alley

I was walking by. I asked. She nodded.

It’s not what you think. She’s a small business owner. She’s the cleaning person. The bartender. The server. The manager. The book-keeper. From the looks of this, she works about 17 hours a day. Probably six days a week. Sounds fun. Or, not.

I suppose anything worth doing takes a lot of time. And, effort. I know chefs who live to cook. And, work. Same with teachers. Same with artists of all kinds. Even me. The list goes on and on.

Even when you supposedly work shifts.

I know an emergency room doc. She works 12 hour shifts. Do you think that she leaves at the end of her shift if someone comes into her ER shot full of holes? Oh wait. That’s a New Orleans thing. In some place else it might be a bad car wreck. But, you get the idea. She doesn’t leave. Same with other shift-driven occupations.

There’s the practice and constant learning. When I was young and a newspaper photographer, I used to go out “looking.” I used to make stand alone pictures that were evergreen and could be used when a newspaper page needed help. Not only did I generate pictures, but I saw things that might make a good picture story. Lessons learned young, are not forgotten. Today, that’s how a make a lot of pictures that you see. I call them “on the way to someplace else.”

Like this picture. I was just walking around waiting for the clouds to part so I could see nature’s handiwork. A partial solar eclipse. I was actually pretty productive. That’s one of the benefits of being able to return to a place again and again and again. I know where to look. I can put myself in places where pictures might be lurking.

This picture. One of my favorite subgenres of imagery. A kind of portrait. A person doing what they do. Or, in her case, just part of a very long day. It’s a simple picture. See it. Take it.  Chat for a minute. The only post production I did was mostly to balance the lights and darks. That was easy. Remember what I said about that day. Open cloud cover. Nature’s very own reflector.

 


Superdome weather.

Well. I guess you would rather see art, than documentation.

Fine with me. I’d rather make art. I’ll save the documentation for my agents.

Let’s see what I can do with some of the work I produced on Monday. I’ll start with this picture. I was on my way to The French Quarter, when the light changed for the better. The Superdome was lighted from sun rays bouncing off the clouds.  Of course, I was driving on the interstate at the time.

So.

I did what I haven’t done in a long, long time. A drive by shooting. With a camera. Not a weapon. As some of you know, who have been with me for a while, I just prop the camera on the dashboard of the car, set everything on auto and more-or-less point and shoot.

Sometimes I get really lucky. Mostly, I don’t. I think I was fairly lucky with this picture. I like the framing. I like the light on the dome. I like the silhouetted sign. I wasn’t happy with the sky.  So, I added a lot to it in post production including the rain. No. It isn’t accurate from a documentation point of view. But, it does represent New Orleans. Especially this time of year.

In order to really see the picture properly, I suggest that you open it up. Way up.

No. I didn’t use Snapseed for post production. Unless I load pictures made with a camera into iPhotos or Google Photos and work via my smart phone, I can’t use Snapseed. That’s just as well. It’s a fine app. But, I like working with other software, on a monitor that I can actually see. And, there are more options. And, better quality processing with software like OnOne, or PhaseOne.

I suggest that you work on a bigger monitor too. As you know, I think there are a lot of junk pictures online. 95% of them, in fact. I suspect a good number of those marginal images live because the person who took them can’t see them very well.

Think about that.


French Quarter

I took a stroll in The French Quarter. I made a few “traditional” pictures. I’m pretty sure that will make my agencies smile.

Doing the work and walking around the Quarter made me happy. Yes. It was hot. It was humid. And, the eclipse was all but invisible there. But, it wasn’t crowded. And, the people who “are from here” seemed happy. Free, two-hour parking was found just about everywhere. If I wanted to stay longer, all I need do was move the car.

I haven’t been in the Quarter for a good long time. I’m well aware of the Bourbon Street rebuilding. New street. New pipes. And so on. The schedule is very late, way over budget and now, stopped at a certain point while the city pours money into repairing the flood control system. But, I was surprised by how much other construction is going on right now. Many side — lake to river — streets are being repaired. Many buildings are also being repaired, restored or just renovated.

I suppose that makes sense.

We are passing through the dog days of summer, when it is too hot and humid for all but the most hearty tourists. Of course, because tourism is our main industry, shop owners and restauranteurs are counting their pennies and hoping they make it through the summer slow period. Anybody who has been in business for any length of time has been through this every year and knows how to stash a little money away during their busy seasons to carry themselves through.

For the tourists who are willing to deal with our steamy summers, good deals are everywhere. Lodging, food, and just about anything they might want to buy are marked down well below normal cost. Of course, for many of our seasonal events — Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest — everything is marked way up. So, there is kind of a balance.

The picture. Since most of my work is either high stress (corporate and advertising), low light, or artistic, making a daylight picture under blue skies seems easy to me. I mostly have to find a scene that says The French Quarter and work on it. For my agencies, I mostly just process and make slight corrections. They want a “straight” photograph. For you, I added a little more color and glow.

I’ll tell you. I had so much fun doing this, that producing pictures to fulfill my contracts will be a blast. I fully intended to go back this morning.

But.

Nature got in the way. Heavy overcast. The solid kind with no character in the clouds. There is a 40% chance of rain. If it rains around dusk, I’ll go back today. If not, I’ll try again tomorrow. Or, the day after that. Or, the day after that. Just being there helps.

It makes me smile.