You know that I live in a semi-tropical place. You know that we aren’t built for freezing weather. I bet it never occurred to you that when tropical plants freeze they die. I didn’t ever occur to me until I started living here.
That’s not to say every plant dies in cold weather. After all, everything grows here. There are plenty of northern plants that do just fine. But, the local sub tropical plants?
First, they sort of collapse inward, on themselves. Then they turn brown. Then they shrivel. Then they are dead. The plants in the picture are in about the second phase. Eventually, if left to nature, they will pile up and turn into peat, which then will turn into carbon. With enough compression, they will turn into diamonds. Of course, this pile of leaves and plants has to sink at least 90 miles beneath the earth’s crust. And, it takes at least a billion years for the process to complete itself.
This is no get rich quick scheme.
I never said that nature was fast, only that she always seeks stasis. And, always wins.
The picture. I saw it as I was walking past. Some folks have already trimmed the dead plants as close to the ground as they could. They’ve cleared the waste. If they are lucky, the root isn’t dead. By summer, you might see some small green shoots starting to pop up here and there.
The root died in the extreme cold. Eventually, someone will dig that up and replant. With luck and water, the new plant will grow. In a few years another deep freeze will come and… oh you get it.
They seem dead. They look like skeletons. They add to the coldness of winter. They also suited yesterday’s mood.
I think most of us have recovered from the news of why Tom Petty died. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m feeling kind of empty. I suppose it’s the realization that all things must pass. Or, so said George Harrison, one of Petty’s band mates. And, a Beatle.
Of course they do. Still, I’ve never understood the way in which many things pass. Believe what you want. Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist. Or, anything else. That doesn’t answer the questions. Big ones. Like, why are we here? What are we meant to do?
Or, littler ones. Like, why do some of us suffer so much from some kind of physical pain or illness. After all, the physical side affects the mental and spiritual. The hopeful side of me says, “Well, I’ve paid every possible debt and I’ve done the best I can so I should just breeze through those pearly gates.” Now, you know what I believe. Sort of. However, the cynical, and more realistic side of me says, “Yeah, right. It’s all pain. No payoff.”
I suppose the trick is to balance those two lines of thought, keep doing what you are doing, make as many amends as you can and do the best work possible.”
It’s that work thing that matters to me. You know, “The work is the prayer.” The thing I say when somebody needs a prayer. That’s how this picture got made. Rather than wallow in sadness, I went for a walk — albeit a short one — and made pictures. That was my prayer. For Petty. For his family. For me. For you. For people that I don’t know.
That’s the best I can do.
The picture. The sun was so bright in the viewfinder that I couldn’t actually see what I was photographing. So, I put the camera in the place that I thought would frame the subject pretty well and pushed the button. I think that I did alright. The tree could be positioned at little more to the right. But, it’s not terrible. A lot of work was done in post production, not because I wanted to improve the image, but because it did need some help.
Once, there was a man named Tom Petty. He was a musician. He played rock ‘n roll. the way it should be played. He was humble. He was driven. He was well-loved by people who weren’t his fans. His fans adored him. He played a long tour last year. He went home. And, he died.
His death broke a lot of hearts.
Yesterday, when the coroner’s reports were released, his death broke a lot of hearts. Again. He didn’t die from a heart attack. He died from an overdose of a massive amount of pharmaceutical pain medications. His family released a statement supporting the report and him.
He had a number of illnesses, including knee problems and emphysema. But, the thing that killed him was a fractured hip that got worse as he toured. On and on he went until on the last day of his life, he learned that it had finally broken. The pain must have been unbearably intense. He tried to medicate himself. And, he died.
I could not imagine jumping around on a stage in that sort of pain. It must have been agony. His fans never knew. He kept playing. He gave them everything.
My heart is broken because I know about pain. I play it down when I sometimes write about it here, on Storyteller. I rarely tell the truth about it. Even to those I love because I don’t want to worry them. My pain is nowhere near what Petty must have felt on any day, playing any show. But, I do take various pain medications. Not one of them is strong as the pain meds that he was taking. That’s good. If I get to that place where I mostly live in a fog, we’ll see what happens.
The pictures I publish here on a daily basis come at a price. A very painful one. The dog who walks me and sees things knows. She is very patient with me. We might cross paths with a squirrel. She loves to chase squirrels. Right up the tree. But, she doesn’t. Somehow, in her doggy mind, she knows if I have to chase her it will hurt me.
That said, in case you are wondering why I haven’t made many street pictures, or second line pictures after I said that I would, that’s the reason. That pleasure might not be worth all the pain. Sometimes, it is. I have to weigh those options.
I love making picture. I love making pictures on the street. But…
As Neil Young once wrote, “The thing that makes you who you are will kill you in the end.” I know that to be true.
RIP (Again) Tom Petty. RIP (Again) Prince. (Who died the same way)
It’s come to this. I photographed a parking lot. Ice had partially covered the yellow strip that divides parking places. I added some magical dust and bingo-bango, it turned into art. Or, a kind of art.
But that’s what this post isn’t about.
It’s about three freezing days and our quality of life. It’s a counterpoint to those tourist magazines and blogs who say we live in the best tourist destination in the world. I suppose if you come here for a few days or a week, it might be. Especially if you mostly stay in The French Quarter.
But, if you live here…
We are truly one of those places that the man who runs the country described a few days ago. You know the ones. They begin with “S” and end with holes.
If we forget for a minute the things I’ve written about in the past and just focus on the past couple of days, you’ll get the idea.
For the first day or so, we were virtually cut off from the world. Every bridge, interstate and road out of town was closed due to ice. Public buildings — like schools — were closed due to ice. Many businesses were closed due to ice. The public transportation systems — including the streetcars — were closed.
They told us to run a trickle of water to keep the pipes from freezing. Until they didn’t. And, they told us we were using too much water and the water pressure was too low. If the pressure falls below a certain PSI the entire water system is compromised. So the entire Eastbank is under a boil advisory. For those of you who don’t know, that means you must boil your tap water if you plan on ingesting it. It means that certain people can’t take showers or wash their faces in it. It means that if you wash your hands in it, you must use a liquid cleaner.
They blamed this on us. We used too much water. They said. This, in a place that loses 40 million gallons of drinkable water every week due to underground pipe leaks.
It turns out that they lied. It wasn’t our fault at all. City and parish water mains had broken in key locations. Apparently, they weren’t strong enough to function after three days of cold. The mayor said the system is ancient and failing. It wasn’t the leadership’s fault. It wasn’t our fault even though they tried to blame us.
It was the pipes fault.
I realize we live in an age of deferred maintenance, but really? We have two sets of underground water pipes. One that brings us fresh water. One the drains out waste water. Without them we would sink into the gulf. Somehow, you’d think those pipes would be a priority. But, nooooooo.
So, we still don’t have potable water. We have the water pressure back. But, they have to run tests which takes 24-36 hours to make sure microbes from upriver haven’t polluted the water. You people in Minnesota. First, you beat our football team. Now, you pollute our water. You know, my snark is coming out. I’m kidding about both.
Then, there’s electrical power. Don’t get me started. I’ll just add this. Because it was cold we were using a lot of power to run our heaters. This created power failures in some neighborhoods. This, too, is our fault. We wanted to stay warm. Imagine that.
Add the usual. High crime. Broken streets. Bad education systems. Not enough Cops. Or, fireman. Abandoned buildings everywhere. A city built on tourism in which the people who cook your food and make your beds can’t afford to live.
And, you wonder why I grumble. A lot.
At least I’m not alone. Read any social media. It’s nasty out there. This one may have been the straw. The one the broke the camel’s back.
It arrived. The cold front and storm. It closed just about everything. Roads. Businesses. Schools. Bars. In New Orleans, that’s a disaster.
It closed the interstate highway system to the point that if you drove around barriers because you thought you are smarter than anyone else you could be arrested.
The state declared a disaster. We can get Federal funds for two days of ice.
And, it was cold. Very cold. Bone numbing cold.
Today. Not so much. It’s cold. But, not very cold. It’s icy. But, a lot has dried up. I actually took the all-seeing dog for a pretty good walk. Unfortunately, she found the black ice. She’d slip and slide. But, most of it was around a foot long. So, she didn’t slide much. I kept trying to lead her away from it. But, she’s stubborn.
I imagine that by the end of daylight today most ice will be long gone. The cold air will last another day. We’ll get back to more normal winter weather.
The pictures. You are seeing what I saw. I mostly brightened and sharpened them a little bit. Blue ice? Well… anything white in deep shadows shows up as blue. Especially on Sony sensors and processors. Even if you are working RAW. That’s the natural color. I could have pushed the blue back to white, but what would be the fun in that?
That’s what Alexa said when I went for our usual morning walk. I have no idea what weather service Amazon uses, but the world was frozen when I went out. I was wearing cold weather underwear. I was wearing heavy socks. Good cold weather gear.
Still I was cold.
The dog who sees stuff had no idea what to do. She was slipping and sliding. She almost couldn’t find a place to “do her business” because the ground was frozen and had no smell. There is ice on the sidewalks. She’s a Louisiana dog.
I wish we had snow. But, no. We have is ice. Everywhere. As you probably know, bridges and overpasses freeze first. They did. Every interstate bridge is frozen. The Causeway is frozen. The bridges into New Orleans are frozen.
New Orleans is cut off from the world.
Depending on what you believe, that’s either a good thing or bad thing. For most of us, since there really isn’t much snow, we are staying home. There is no reason to go out. No reason to deal with New Orleans drivers who are either bad or drunk in normal weather.
The picture. Early yesterday, the clouds started rolling in. From some views you could see the cold front clearly shown as it blew in. But, this picture pretty well illustrates what we saw. When I saw it, I photographed. I didn’t have to do much in post production because nature took care of that. All on her own.
Winter is settling in. We might have wintry conditions today. That means a little snow or ice might fall from the sky. Having that happen every ten years or so is something. Having that happen twice in one year is really something. If that happens I’ll chase around for a bit. If not, well…. I just don’t know. The light has been pretty ugly for the past few days. I was lucky to make this picture. Even so, it took a lot of work to make it into a picture that I liked. And, I’m running out of fresh pictures.
I think in the photography world there is a lot of running in place going on. A lot of us are sort of stuck. It’s not a photographer’s block. We can take pictures. It’s something else. Sort of a tiredness. I see it here on WordPress. But, I see it in the real world. I’m not sure about the cause. It may come down to an old phrase.
This one. “All noise. No signal.”
There’s just too much. Too much of everything. I talked to a friend of mine who said that during the last second line he made about 3,000 frames. To be fair, it was a long, long second line. And, when you work with two camera bodies as we do, everything doubles. He’s also the real deal.
But, it seems like everybody is doing it. I see Facebook posts of 100 or 200 pictures from some event. Who can wade through that? Who cares enough to look at all that? Same thing when you Google something. Pages and pages of words… and data. It’s too much.
Think about that for a minute. Not just in terms of pictures. Instead, in terms of all the data being produced on a daily basis. On a weekly basis. Or, OMG, a monthly basis. You can’t read it and you can’t produce enough of your own work to make any sort of dent.
So. What to do? I have no idea. A lot of this new “stuff” really needs curation. Some needs to be eliminated. But, to what end? That’s really the question. And, then how much blowback will there be from those who believe in participation trophies?
The picture. I saw these little red berries on a bush. I don’t really know what they are. But, they were the only color I’d seen in days. The light was flat and gray. I made the best picture that I could on the scene. The rest was done in post production. I pushed and pushed and pushed. This picture is the result.
Oh. By the way. The real key to continued success for working photographers is distribution. Either in pictures. Or, of portfolio work so that people who make assignments can see your work. That means, OMG, self-curation.
One more thing. When you produce a ton of work — like my buddy’s 3,000 frames — it takes a lot of time to review them, to curate them, to edit them and to fine tune them. Then, of course, there are storage issues. Think about that.
That’s good. I’m running out of fresh work. I made this picture a few weeks ago. But, I didn’t tinker with it. Until today. I wanted a certain color, shade and hue. I thought that I was onto something new and different. The joke is on me. I’ve been working in this basic color palette for at least two years. At least that’s how far back I went in my archives until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I alway think as an artist — any kind of artist — that you should pretty much always move forward. In photography, for example, you start by being really happy that there is an image on your film or file. Later, you want the image to say something about the subject, or you. Still later, you might want to move into a kind of art. Sometimes you make a little portfolio of images that have the same look and feel. Then, you move on.
Near as I can tell, I just moved backwards. Oops. That’ll happen. I like the picture well enough. I wouldn’t show it to you if I didn’t. But, it looks like two-year old work. To me. As far as the subject matter goes, my friend in Louisianahhh, thinks power lines are her bane. 🙂 I think power lines are great leading lines. I just wish there was a real subject at the end of them.
I can wish all that I want. It takes work to make wishes come true. Now that my head is clear after what seems like six weeks of fluishness, I better get back to it. Whaddya think?
The picture. All kinds of tinkering after the fact. I wish that I could tell you every step. But, this was one of those times when I knew what worked when I got there. If it didn’t work, I went back to the next saved step.
I suppose that’s the lesson. Save every step in your post production workflow. I know that most of what we do in post can be non-destructive. But, we don’t want to recreate everything when we take a fork in the road.
I saw this. Floating high above me. The sun was so bright that all I could do was point the lens in the general direction. And hope. Trying to frame or focus only blinded me.
Nature at her finest. She seeks balance and stasis. Don’t mess with her when those two conditions are her goal. Think about that for a minute. Think about the wild fires and now floods near Santa Barbara, California. Both are terrible events. I have friends who live there. Or, maybe “used” to live there. To my twisted thinking, that’s a perfect example of Mother Nature at work. Too many people. She sent a fire. Those people returned. She sent them mud and water.
I’m not being mean. Maybe it’s time for us to listen. To observe. Rather than to believe we can master all things. Because. We can’t.
Thank you. There were a number of people on various social media and on that ancien thing — email — who expressed their sympathies for my musical losses. Thank you again. Apparently, my writing leaves much to be desired. I’ve always know that. Now, you do too.
I wasn’t writing to express sadness. I was writing to tell you about the one thing we forget after a period of sadness passes.
Time is short. Don’t waste it. Do whatever it is that you are passionate about. Make no excuses. Do not be denied.
Yes. We all gotta eat. Don’t be quitting your day job. Don’t stop caring for your family. But, use your free time wisely. Very wisely. And, expect the thing that drives you needs nurturing. In photography, for instance, a wise man once said ” Often getting there is the hardest part of taking a picture.” Got that?
The picture. Very cold here again. Often that shows up in bright skies as a kind of clarity. Of course, the sun seems brighter too. It was. I couldn’t even see to focus or frame. I just pointed the camera and hoped. I made five frames. It was all luck.
If you happen to see the Netflix David Letterman shows, these week featuring the former president, pay attention to the closing minutes. Letterman says everything that he ever did that was good came from luck.
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