I didn’t quite make it.

Not because I couldn’t stand it. Instead, I realized that “best of” collections are best done before the turn of the year. Not on the first, or second of January when I said I would return. Instead, I’m back. Sort of. On December 31, 2018. Tomorrow is January 1, 2019. That matters to some people. I’m still on the fence about that.

These are the photographs that I think are my twelve best plus one more. That’s fine because what you call a “baker’s dozen” we call lagniappe. A little bit extra. I think you can figure out which one it is. It’s not the picture directly below, although it is the lone black and white image in a sea of color.

You’ll also notice that the pictures are my people work. Street pictures. Documentary pictures. Photojournalism. They are not my more intentionally artistic pictures. They are not what “the dog saw.” Those pictures are for another time. Another place. These are pictures that get a little closer to the heart of me.

For a little bit of what I’ve been doing during my break please drop down to below the last photograph.

It’s like cabbage.
A daughter’s kiss.
Dancing days are here again.
Big Chief John
In black and white.
Sunset in a special place.
Once in a great while…
Secret garden.
Loud noise.
Waiting.
Smiles.
Jazz portrait.
Rain gear.

So, what did I do?

There are two answers to this question.

Personal stuff. All holiday, all the time. As I said when I begged off, it was about family, friends, neighbors, the guy on the street.

I followed my advice about working in the French Quarter or a second line.

Always keep some one dollar bills folded in your pants pocket. I did that.

Sort of.

I kept them in my car’s seat divider. I gave them to sincere sign holders on the neutral ground. I’m sure they made more money then I did over the Christmas Season, but it was the Christmas Season. Those folks were they guys on the street. Literally.

Professionally.

A lot.

Freeing myself from a few daily grinds allowed me to photograph more frequently and with more focused intent.

When I worked with my not-as-new-as-it-once-was super smart phone I really experimented. I wanted to find its limits. I haven’t yet.

When I worked with real cameras, I focused on what I do in the street. I still haven’t made it to the Quarter to photograph all things Christmas. I have a few more days until the Quarter turns into all things Mardi Gras. Yep. That season is almost upon us.

January 6 is the Twelfth Night. The first day of Carnival season.

Most importantly, I’ve been rebuilding Storyteller into a more fully functioning website. It actually lives here on WordPress, but isn’t activated yet. It may take a few weeks for a soft opening and will continue to be a work in progress over the next few months.

That’s it for my yearly wrap up.

As far as 2019 goes, I hope it will be a “damn sight better than the old one.” That’s a quote from Sherman T. Potter during the old M.A.S.H. television show.

2018, in a word, sucked. But, I’m old enough to know that just when you thought things couldn’t get worse… they do. I hope that I’m wrong. Really wrong.

I don’t make resolutions because I know that I’ll break them within a week. We also don’t go out partying on New Year Eve because when I used to drink I thought it was amateur night. Usually, we stay home helping the dogs get through the noise. We probably will do the same thing. They are fine as long as they can see their people. If we aren’t worried, they aren’t worried. I will try to make a picture after midnight. That sets the tone for the year.

Happy New Year 2019.

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Merry Christmas.

I made an executive decision.

At least I’m not throwing the world into turmoil with my choice. I’m just taking a break. I realized that I’m a little bit burnt out on daily pictures and musings.

Even though the actual process of posting doesn’t take a long time, I find pictures and process them. I work on the metadata. That’s the stuff you never see.  The stuff I do so you can find my work. Keywords (tags). Resizing the image so it loads quickly. Building categories.

There’s the constant reading. That’s easy because I am sort of a news junkie. That’s coming to an end. You know why. After yesterday, POTUS threw the world into chaos in every possible direction. You know the rest.

In short, I’m tired. If not physically, than mentally. Maybe a little bit emotionally. No worries though. A little break and a recharge is good for us all. Besides, it’s Christmas time. Family time. Friends time. Neighbors time. The guy in the street who I pass by, time.

I also realized that I haven’t taken time off from Storyteller since July 2017, when I took about ten days off. I will respond to your comments, but I’ll likely not read many blogs.

I’ll see you all on January 2, 2019.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Peace, Ray


About understanding.

Deep Blue.

When I made the picture I had the title in mind. I forgot what I already knew. Deep Blue is the title of a song by George Harrison. He wrote it upon the death of his mother and while he was trying to keep his father and brothers together.

Unless you are like me, you might have never heard it because it was the B-side of Bangladesh of which the proceeds were given away for charity. You know, to help the people of Bangladesh.

Of course, if you have an A and a B side of a record that means you are listening to a 45. I’m old enough to still have a small collection of them, although many of my records were washed away in the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. That’s why, for me, Spotify is the greatest invention since records. I get to listen to just about everything I want just by hitting search. You can do that on YouTube as well, but the sound quality just isn’t the same.

During this bit of seasonal existential search I’ve been having dreams. Oh my! What dreams. Given how I see the world, my dreams don’t surprise me. They are bright, energetic and very colorful. But, the best thing. All sorts of people are popping up from my past. I awoke thinking how good it was to see all of them. These are people who I lost mostly because I was moving around a lot in the early days of my career. People who, intelligently, did not join Facebook so they don’t pop up as “people you might know.”

About that.

A publicist with whom I work says that everybody has to be on Facebook, because it has become the telephone book of the digital age. I don’t know if I agree with her or not. If you want to find me, Google me. I show up about a bazillion times. Just like my pictures do. People find my work on Google even more than they do at my agencies. And, they try to steal it more from Google. I’m fixing that. I have a better way than seeking direct copyright damages.

Anyway.

The picture. You know me. I’m a fairly simple photographer these days. See it. Photograph it. Hope for the best in this kind of light. Of course, the best version of this picture would be made with a tripod. But, I wasn’t planning to actually make this picture. It was just sitting there, waiting for me to find it.


Cold winter light.

This was going to be a Christmas post. And, post about how pictures are everywhere.

The picture is about just that. We went to visit some friends. A Christmas visit. I walked out through a gate and saw this picture. I made it without thinking twice. I did some work in post production and here we are.

The end.

Of that.

The real post is about sticking to your truths. By now I’m sure that you are all aware of how Facebook sold or shared our personal data with all sorts of companies. A couple of them even had the ability to read our private messages and delete them. The main three said that they never used that function. If you believe that, I got a bridge for you. This has become a major issue. A reason for government regulation. You know how hard it is for me to say that.

I read a New York Times columnist called Charles Blow. He’s a fellow Louisianan. He is usually very good. He says what a lot of other journalists won’t. He wrote a column about Facebook just excoriating it. All good so far.

Then, he said that he still posts his column there. He never reads the comments and he doesn’t care one iota about it. He tweeted about this.

Huh?

What’s the point? He already has a fine career. Not only does he work for the New York Times, but he’s the author of at least one best-selling book and is a pretty in-demand speaker. He’s not furthering his career on Facebook.

The replies on Twitter were damning. Most people said that he was self-serving. I suggested he should take up a new career in politics. To my way of thinking he is slicing and dicing too finely. In short, one of my favorite columnists has become a hypocrite.

I’m really wondering if this has become a thing. I use Facebook to further my career too. I also use it to keep in touch with long-lost friends. I’m also considering leaving Facebook for the same reasons I just wrote about. I haven’t come to that decision yet. If I leave I’m not coming back. And, I’m not making qualifying statements about lukewarm participation. I have to do what’s right and follow it through. At least, for me.

Make no mistake. I’m not suggesting that any of you do anything. That’s your call. I am suggesting that whatever you decide to do, stick with it. At least until things change. Really change.

Merry Christmas.


Not like winter.

Winter. Not winter.

No. I’m not gloating. I just feel lucky. After being in the cold north for a bit and coming back to NOLA, I realized just how good we have it. In late fall, winter and spring. The rest of the year is hot, humid, sticky and generally miserable. We all try to leave.

For a little bit.

With climate change and all that it implies right this minute, I have no clue where to go to cool off in the summer. Just about everywhere is hot. Oh sure. There is dry heat. After a while that just feels hot. If you happen to be in the high desert, the temperatures drop at night. That’s something. At least. The very least.

For right now, this picture is fun. I made it yesterday. After being in the cold for a few days, just seeing the flowers made me feel good. Even better, they are fresh blooms. These aren’t the last of dying flowers left over from summer.

Okay.

Housekeeping. Part two.

I told you yesterday that I made my decision. I’m staying here at WordPress. I’m sticking to that because today starts the billing cycle for next year on both sites. I removed my work from Squarespace and closed the account. I reupped here. Doing it prior to the very last second gave me a break. My year starts today but lasts until May 18, 2020.

WordPress congratulated me.

My next step is to turn this into a .com instead of a .org. You won’t notice the difference. From there, it’s off to the races.  WordPress says that they have a new photography oriented basic template that is more along the lines of what I want. I’ll check it out and go from there.

Things may be a little wonky here for a few days or a week or so, while I make changes to Storyteller. Hopefully, it won’t last long. At least for the basics. I think this will be an ongoing project for a couple of months. You’ll see little things, tiny things, change over that time.


Before the Storm.

Yes. The big square.

It made a lot of sense to me to crop the picture into a square format. Normally, I would say that square crops are sort of a vanilla design approach. It keeps the picture from showing motion. Or, direction. It’s been a fad for website designers for a while now. I think it’s simply because they don’t understand photographs. To them, they are just design elements, rather than something that speaks 1,000 words.

I’m not attacking designers. In my past I designed a lot of pages. For newspapers. For magazines. And, for books. I also know that web design is very different. You can use a lot of pictures because you don’t have to pay for the real estate of paper. When I was designing stuff, everything had to be relevant. That really does mean everything. Pictures. Words. Headlines. Even white space. Today. Not so much.  In most cases, you can not even tell what the photographer thought was the best or most storytelling picture because all pictures are the same size. Size has a weight to it that denotes importance.

So.

That’s what I’m thinking about today. I’ve had all sorts of people tell me that they want me to stay on WordPress. So, I’ll listen. It’s too bad because I really like the ease of use on Squarespace pages. But, y’all matter to me.

That said, I guess I’ll learn about WordPress coding, at least to the extent that I can understand it. There will be some changes made. It’s likely that Storyteller will have a static front page that looks more like a website, and then a header where you can find my daily musings and drivel. I’ll build portfolio pages behind that where you can see, buy or license my work. I’m going to limit it to all things New Orleans and Southern. I really am not up for travelling to take pictures. That is, until I feel like it.

All of that came to me in the shower. I do my best thinking there.

The picture. We are kind of in between season. In calendar terms, we have three more days until winter. It feels like winter down here. Our kind of winter. I really don’t know here this picture falls. I do know that the clouds were the lead up to a short but violent storm. What’s left of the few leaves in the foreground tree are now on the ground.

I did a little bit of cool post production. Mostly what I did was darken everything, which brought out the clouds. I went back in and opened up the silhouetted parts and sharpened them so that you could see individual branches. I added a little darkness to the sides to bring the eye to the center of the picture.

That’s the story.


Golden light, golden leaves.

Time passes. Seasons change. The world keeps turning. What seems important today is meaningless tomorrow.

I never claimed to be a nature photographer. In truth, I’m not. I photograph what I see. For the last few years a lot of what I see has many elements of nature.  I suppose it could be attributed to my dog walks. Whether it is the pack or just the dog who sees stuff, we tend to walk in places that they like. That means nature rather than urban. True, we live in an urban environment, but they head straight to the places that they know.

I tried an experiment a few weeks back. I took the all-seeing dog to Treme, where I has a little business. When that was concluded, I took her for a walk. She walked around a very long block. But, she didn’t like it. I thought that the new smells, sounds and sights would interest her. They didn’t.

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a long piece in the New York Times about city folk moving to the country, primarily in the Hudson Valley just Upstate from New York City. I found the piece interesting, but the people who were buying property were all creative hipsters.

That’s fine.

But, I’m a lot older than the oldest person interview. One thing I that I know about this particular class in New Orleans is that they are incredibly ageist. They don’t like me. I’m happy to return the favor if that’s what they want because I’ve long said that I am a mirror. I don’t believe I can convert you to anything. And, you can’t convert me. I’d prefer to be good to everyone, but if you attack me… well, you know. Don’t open a window that I can jump through.

Anyway.

The seasons are changing. What a metaphor. The picture is about the last one I can take of fall in the swamp. We are four days away from winter. The scenery around me finally looks like it. Most of the leaves are on the ground. The weather has finally turned cold. Well, cold for us. I doubt that we’ll have the kind of winter that many of you will have. Snow. Low double digits. Maybe even single digits. That could happen down here. But, not for very long.

As you know the season is changing for me too. I turned 65 in November. That’s one of those “big” birthdays. Based on statistics, I know that I have about fifteen years left on this planet, give or take. I have a friend who is about 72. He lost his main source of income, which was stock photography. To be sure that he and his wife aren’t destitute, but they are thinking very hard about moving to Mexico. They want to go out on their terms and with some sort of class. My musicians friends, who are about 70, are producing heavily at the end of their careers, know that time is short.

I’m a little younger than most of them are. Imagine that concept, “younger than.” Sheesh. I can’t say that about many people anymore. That said, I know my time is short. Fifteen years might seem light a long time, but the first 65 years went by like a snap of my fingers.

So, when I talk about changing websites, or taking you with me if I do, I’m not in any pain or mental agony. I just want what are some of my last moves to be productive. Artists of all stripes never really retire. There are just somethings we don’t want to do any more. Since you know that music is important to me, I look at all the musicians with whom I grew up. Many are playing farewell tours. Some are saying that their next tour could be their last. Some won’t do more than a few shows a year in places that they know and like.

It’s not the music from which they are retiring. They love playing music. It’s the nonsense of touring that they can’t stand. The process of marketing their new work is even less appealing. That’s the same with photographers. A friend of mine often quotes this saying, “sometimes the hardest part of taking a picture is getting there.” That’s mostly what I’ve left behind. The marketing, the sales and the constant contact that eat up about half of my day. Days that are getting short.

For sure, I have some traveling left in me. But, to places that I want to go.

Like where?

Belorussia. I may say that I’m Russian. That’s just short hand. I’m really Belorussian on my father’s side. I’m haunted by not knowing much about my family. I doubt going there will help me locate anything, but I’ll feel like I really tried.

A long road trip through The United States. It’s been years since I’ve toured the country and looked into our nooks and crannies. Sure, I travel for business. Both businesses, in fact. But, I never have the time to go out and really explore.

Hong Kong. Yes. I used to know it well. You can’t help spending six years in a place and not knowing it. I want to see what’s changed and what’s the same. There are photographic places that I didn’t know about while I was there that make great statements about our planet. Actually, I knew about them. I just didn’t see them as I would today.

All of these places would be great picture producers. That’s part of my journey. That will always be part of my journey.

It’s Sunday. I wrote way too long. Sorry about that.

It’s getting longer.

I was walking the dog who sees stuff when it occurred to me that you might be worried about me. With all this talking of passing. No worries. PLEASE. I’m just planning for the future. I’m not worried about it. I’m not even scared of dying. Make no mistake. I don’t want to die. But, as they say, nobody gets out of here alive. The way I figure it, I’m already playing with house money. Besides, every time I photograph somebody who lives into their nineties, I think to myself that I don’t really want to live like this.

I’m happy to be just like I am.

The end.

For now.

 

 


It’s the clouds.

The third time is a charm. They say.

Maybe.

It does help to return to the scene of the crime, er, picture. Eventually, I’ll get it right. This may be the best of the skytrain pictures, mostly because of the clouds, the light and the golden color. Also, because I finally found the right angle to capture what a train and the bridge looks like.

If you see a little bow in the middle of the bridge, that’s real. It’s not a lens flaw. The bridge, both the ones for trains and cars has dips and rises in it. It feels a little sporty when you cross the bridge for cars. It was built in the 1930s when cars weren’t so big. It was renovated and widened a few years ago. There’s only so much you can do with a fairly fixed space without messing with the integrity of the original structure.

Anyway.

The only better view would be from the left, but much further down the tracks where the trains make a turn towards New Orleans.  Even then, line of sight is limited. The only way to really show the view would be from the air, which means using a drone. However, most railroad property falls under Federal jurisdiction which means you’d need permission from the rail company who owns the track. That either means Canadian National or New Orleans Beltline. I’d prefer that latter. I own a tiny piece of it, as we all do. And, their offices are local. I could actually talk to somebody there.

So.

There’s some history and a little bit about railroad companies. I didn’t intend to go that far and yet, here we are.

The picture was easy to make, as most of mine are. See it. Photograph it. Clean up a bit in post production and viola, done. It’s a good example of why you always keep some kind of camera with you. You just never know what you are going to see.

While you are running errands.

 

 


Bored in the car.

Big storms. Boredom.

Sometimes while we are out and about running errands a big storm explodes into sideways rain. A hard rain. Rain that drenches you even with an umbrella. So, we wait. Waiting for the hardest rainfall to pass. It’s the hardest part. In the car. Then, we get bored.

I solve my problem by making pictures. Of the rain. Of the scene in which we find ourselves. Looking through the right hand side mirror. Things like that.

This picture was made by turning the windshield wipers off, letting the water accumulate in front of me and watching rain drops splash off of that. In many way, nature makes its own art. You have to be a little bit patient with this. But, once the water builds up the way you would like, you can make a lot of pictures quickly. Just don’t turn the windshield wipers on.

Then, it’s off to the post production software to further amplify what you saw.  I had very little to do with what  you see. It’s all nature’s work. I just brought it to you on this page.

Housekeeping.

I thought I had it solved. I thought I would move to Squarespace after beating them over the head in an email conversation. They want me to renew. I said no. They asked why. I told them they were hurting me and my business be recommending Unsplash for free pictures. They offered me a deep discount. And, they would make my website more commercial friendly. That sounded good.

Then came the deal breaker.

They have no idea how to transfer all of you to my version of Storyteller over there. The suggested a couple of different blogging tools. I tested one of them. It is designed to capture stuff found on the internet and post it to your blog quickly. You can even schedule it to do it multiple times a day according to the kind of material you would like to share. All AI. You don’t even have to do the work.

I’m pretty sure that’s why there are so many general purpose blogs that don’t generate real content but have a very high readership. Post popular items that you find on the net and do it about five or six times a day. You’ll get huge readership.

That’s not what I’m about. You know what I do. I post my own content, both in pictures and words. I post once a day. In order to post more than that, I’d have to make blogging my full-time job. People do make good money doing that. I may have uncovered their secret. I’m pretty sure that’s not for me. Oh, I like the money idea. I don’t like being uncreative to earn it.

So.

Back to square 1.5. Modernizing Storyteller, turning it into a website and keeping all of you. I’ll get it done this weekend. I have to. A friend of mine said that when he’s out of options, things get real simple and he gets ruthless achieving what he  needs to do.

Me too.