First blooms of the winter.

This picture. The real first blooms of winter.

I almost forgot to show you this one because I posted it on Instagram. I know that not all of you follow me there, so I decided you should see it here. On Storyteller. Where it belongs. My first social media home. That one that really matters to me. To you.

I’ve got a few more pictures like that. I’ll share them with you here.

When I made the picture I was just was really just trying to make a good exposure. The blooms were really out of reach for me with a phone. Once I saw how nicely the blooms were back lighted, I thought that the picture needed some special treatment.

Off to the digital darkroom I went. I worked. I played. I tinkered. I finally got to this place. I liked it. It has almost no bearing on reality.

That’s a problem.

I vacillate between something semidocumentary and something that is a kind of art. I reckon that I should sort of settle on some direction. I could do both. That would require separate marketing. Separate websites.

Sheesh. I can barely keep track of one.

We’ll see.

I realized that these days I’m not wanting to spend a lot of time building websites. That came about from my Smugmug experiment. I’m still doing it, but to do that well it takes more time than working on Storyteller. The point is less work. Not more. I want to be making pictures, not fiddling around with a new website.

Another problem has arisen for Smugmug. I watched two pricing videos. I read a lot of their material. They are great at helping you solve technical issues. They are horrible at photo philosophy, which bleeds into sales. Nobody has been able to teach me about price points.

As I see it, just about every photographer links their prices to a photo lab. They sell their prints for what it costs to make a print. Nothing else is added. I eat what I kill. Doing that might get one of my pictures in somebody’s hands, but I can’t make any money from it.

The way to do it, it seems to me, is to add the print cost to the total fee. So, let’s say you want to buy a 16 x 20 print. That costs about $12.00 to make the print. Likely, I’d want to add at least another $250.00 for the subject matter. So, your cost would be $262.00 plus the cost of shipping. I can’t find a photographer who actually does that so I could learn from him or her. When I asked around, it was crickets. Apparently, most photographers who use Smugmug are rich and don’t even want to try to pay for the cost of cameras, lenses and other photographic gear.

And, we wonder why the photo industry is so broken.

I am regional president of a trade group called ASMP. American Society of Media Photographers. We work very hard at teaching professional standards. That includes what it actually costs to produce an image. Wholesale costs and net costs. If photographers actually listened to us, and many other working professionals, we might actually make a living.

But, noooo.

So many photographers are so excited that somebody actually wants to use one of their pictures, that they give them away.  You see it at professional levels all the time. Image users want to use a picture for a credit. I can’t eat credits. I’m at the point in my career — as many of us are — I don’t need the exposure. In many ways I don’t care what the other guy does. It’s not my business. They say.

They are wrong. When another photographer gives away a picture, or undersells a picture, it erodes the market. Ultimately, it hurts me. Luckily for me, the people that I call clients know the difference between a hobbyist with a camera and a professional who has paid his dues.

Aren’t you glad you saw my email and opened it?


Big clouds.

This morning’s readings were pretty bleak.

I learned about the word deep. And how it might be the word of the year as it is currently used. Everybody seems to be diving deep into all sorts of data. Our personal data is no longer safe no matter what we do.

I learned about post truth. That this years Superbowl is perfect for the current President of The United States. Illegitimate. I don’t say that as a Saints fan. I say that as a fan of the truth.

I learned that just about everybody who knows about such things as war, safety, immigration and most world views disagrees with that same president.

I learned that the door is open to beating and hurting people who don’t look like you. Who don’t act like you.

That makes me sad.

No country for old men. Sheesh. No country for anybody.

On the other hand.

This picture makes me smile. It’s the one I saw when I made the picture of trucks and me, that I posted yesterday. Look at it. Look at the beauty of nature. Even in changing and often hard times. Look at it as the clouds blow into the region dropping the temperature by about 30 degrees.

This is the real stuff. All the rest — post truth, lack of privacy, and violence — is just temporary. It’ll come to an end. It has to. Nature won’t allow it to go on. For me, there is no debate about climate change even if the president doesn’t understand what extreme weather really means. He keeps going on about how cold it is in the midwest, forgetting that on the other side of the world temperatures are way up in triple digits. That there are some children who have never seen or felt rain because droughts have lasted for longer than their short lives.

Nature seeks stasis. She’ll do whatever it takes to balance the planet. That could mean getting rid of us. Getting rid of all the noise. Getting rid of the polluters. Getting rid of those of us who do not respect her ways.

We are already seeing it.

Brand new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was criticized for saying the world would end in twelve years. That’s not what she said. She cited studies that said we have about twelve years to do something before it is too late to do anything. She gets attacked for anything she does. Sure, sometimes her numbers are off. But, she has our welfare at heart. The point is simple. We don’t have that much time to act. Twelve years is a short time.

That’s what these clouds got me thinking about. That’s what the words I read this morning got me pondering. That’s what this post is doing. At least, it is for me.

The picture. It’s a drive by. We talked about that yesterday. It’s a fairly simple thing. See it. Make it. Yet, so much is contained within its frame. For me, a picture brings up all sort of thoughts. I hope, if it isn’t this picture, that some picture does the same for you.


In a crowd.

The deep freeze is really 42 degrees.

One day the talking weather people heads will get it right. One day. Last night they were predicting starting the day with temperatures in the low twenties. That may be true somewhere. They said we might have snow. Somewhere else too. Wind was going to coming ripping through. Not here. Not in New Orleans.

I want their jobs. Say whatever you want and get paid for it.

I made this picture yesterday, while I was running errands and pretending to be productive. At first, all I really saw was the traffic and the trucks. Since you can  barely see the LCD in bright light, I didn’t see that I was in the picture.

No matter.

Upon closer inspection, this picture wraps up the day very nicely. Leaving nice blue skies and heading into the storm. With me in the middle. With my phone hanging out the open window. Yes. The case is purple. I thought that I was being different. I thought I could pick it out in the crowd. No. It seems purple is a very popular color for phone cases. Who knew?

So.

More about the picture. No. I’m not doing a drive by. I’m waiting in the left turn lane at a full stop. The trucks are moving while I was sitting there making pictures. I originally wanted to make pictures of the amazing sky that you can barely see. Then, this happened. I took advantage of it. Eventually, I also made the picture I wanted to make.  A window opened and I jumped through it. The door didn’t close. I drove through that a few minutes later.

Sometimes one thing doesn’t have to close in order for another to open. You can have both. You have to be ready for that. You have to accept winning. You have to accept success even when you aren’t sure that you deserve it. For instance, I thought I was sort of a fraud because what I did came easy to me. That happened in photography. That happened in academia. In three post bachelors degrees, I earned almost perfect grades. It seemingly just flowed out of me. It took awhile for me to realize that I started my degree programs later in life. I had real life experience in the subject I studied. All I really did was codify my knowledge with academic work. It was a lot of work. It was easy work. Like working at a hobby job.

That happens in a lot of subjects with which we are involved. For instance, we think that a new musician on the scene broke out easily with one popular record or song. We forget that they may have been singing and learning to play an instrument since they were four or five. They practiced every day. They woodshedded. They played in small public gatherings. The practiced some more. Somewhere along the line, they discovered they could write songs. They made a demo. They got lucky. Somebody liked it. Their career was born.

Same with other careers. Same with me. Those of us who broke through early tend to wonder. Was I lucky? Am I really good enough? Am I a fraud? The answers to those questions are yes, yes, no.

I’ve simplified the process. The path. There is a lot more to say on this subject. Not today. Eventually.

Just know this. Easy or hard, anybody who is productive in whatever they choose to do is not a fraud. We worked hard to get wherever we are today. Even me. Even me in the freezing (kinda) swamp.

Peaches. Oops. I meant peace.


Winter color.

More cold.

The few blooming flowers are no more. They don’t like the cold temperatures. They pass into another world. The world of compost. The world of endings. This happens before their seeds are passed from flower to flower. There are no flying insects to do that job.

They do another job. They catch my eye. I’m not that important. They catch everybody’s eye. That’s more important. They give us all a break from the winter drabness. I can’t imagine living where some of you live. Where you have a five month winter of cold and snow.

I complain about our hot, humid summers. At least they are bright and colorful. Until the end, when even the greenest of leaves look washed out and faded.

They say that cold winters are better than hot summers. That you can pile on the clothes. I’m not sure about that. Even with our mild cold, it takes me ten minutes to prepare. I suppose that I’m used to it, but I’d rather change my clothes and take more showers than prepare to take a walk.

Anyway.

The picture. At this time a year my eyes are drawn to bright spots, whether they are blooming or dying. I try to make a picture that reflects a flower’s life. In this case, it’s almost a macro picture so that you can see the state of the flower.

It took a little work in post, mostly to hyper-sharpen the details without making the picture go crazy with a sharpening rim. The best method is to darken the picture, increase the contrast to way more than normal and work backwards from there in small steps. It may not look it, but this image is the result of about 15 tiny steps. One of the markers that I look for is in the shadows. They are light enough to give you a hint of what is lurking there.

At the end of the day, I am balancing deep shadows with bright highlights after making the picture too dark and too contrasty in the first place. There is probably a more efficient way of getting there, but what would be the fun in that?


In between light and dark.

In between.

At the edges. Where the good stuff lurks. Where our imaginations create stuff. Where our dreams arise. Where nightmares come into being.

That’s why I like making pictures like this one. At night. Or, dusk. Things are lurking in the darkness. In the shadows. You can see some of it, but not all. You have to guess. Use your senses. Interpret. What you see is not what someone else sees. What they see may not be there at all.

Pictures like this one are scary. Or, not. They are moody. Or, not. They might even be artistic. Or, not.

Most of the time, their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

All of this is why I look at paintings rather than photographs for inspiration. It’s why I read rather than look at pictures if I am traveling to a place. I’d like my imagination to kick in, rather than look at what’s already been done. I think that I can get closer to the edge that way. As musician Neil Young once said, “whenever I find myself in the middle of the road, I head straight to the gutter where things are more interesting .”

Me too. Not all of the time. But a lot of it.

The picture. The usual thing. See it. Photograph it. Make it what I saw while I was working in the field. I do that in post production if the camera’s technology can’t keep up with my mind. The computer’s can.

Happy Sunday.


Japonica blooms.

New Blooms.

Wait. What?

It’s winter down here. Just like it is throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Our winter is fairly mild. We get a few sub freezing days. Not that many. We’ve had a long streak of cold fronts and gradual warming for the last month or so. Normal for us. In a few weeks, the weather will turn mild and stay that way. Until mid-May when summer arrives.

That’s the weather report.

My neighbor thought that these blooms were early. She thought they meant a hot summer. They could.

But.

I divide seasons by events. Normally, Mardi Gras falls in February. Sometimes, it’s very early. This year, it’s late. The first week in March. Even when Mardi Gras is early, when I walk to the streets where I like to work during parade season, the Japonica trees are in full bloom. Some flowers may even be starting to die.

These blooms mean nothing when we talk about summer weather. On the other hand, I was surprised when I shouldn’t have been, when I read the baseball’s spring training begins in three weeks when the pitchers and catchers report to camp.

Thank God.

Pro basketball means nothing to me. Football, just a little more. But, baseball? That’s a whole different story. Baseball is about life. The season is long. It stretches from very early spring to late fall. It has its ups and downs. You learn how to deal with adversity over the long-term. Events play out over many months rather the short 17 week season of football. It’s slow. You can think about it. You can study each game. You can learn from your mistakes. If you are watching it at home, on your television or on your computer, there is enough time during the natural inning breaks that you can go into the kitchen and get one of those things you like to eat or drink. It also means that for many of you, the cold and snow is coming to an end. Although the early games played in late March and early April can get a bit cold. So too, towards the end of the season and certainly during the playoffs and World Series.

You came here for pictures. Most of my pictures are about life. You can figure out the connection. Yes?

This Japonica tree is one of the few things that I haven’t documented around here. I see it changing every spring. I think I’ll get to it in a couple of days. It’s one of those scenes that I know I can come back to. It’s a picture in my pocket. That goes on for a few weeks. The flowers are gone. Oh well. Next year.

Not this season.

I photographed it when I first saw the little pods that contain the flowers. That picture went to my Instagram feed. This is the second picture from the Japonica series. I’ll keep doing it until the flowers fall to pieces.

They say that you should live in the moment. That moment is today. This hour. Those few minutes. Live those when the present themselves. You won’t go wrong.

Learning.


Higher and higher.

My fascination with trees. In all seasons.

Especially in winter. I counted. In the last two weeks, I’ve mostly published pictures of trees. I like them. I like their shapes. Their form. I like them when their branches are bare in the winter cold. I can see all sorts of thing going on. I like them in spring bloom. Everything seems possible. I like the shade they provide in the heat of summer. I love the color of their leaves as fall arrives and the air turns cold.

They give me hope. They are about rebirth.

Unless they get sick, they live for years. More years than I will. That’s okay with me.

The cycle repeats itself year after year.

In the Gulf South, nature takes care of them. The former swampy earth is moist and healthy. Rain falls every month. Humidity keeps them young and tamps down the threat of fire.

Unless a hurricane blows through, it’s a perfect world for trees. Down here in my swamp.

That’s why I make so many pictures of them. Besides, Helen Keller had something to say about them. She had a lot to say about a lot of things.

The picture. I looked up in the cold winter light and saw this little cluster of trees and branches.  I exposed mostly for the highlight in the branches and let the light do the rest. I did a little work in post production and that was it.

Today. Friday. A quiet, but busy day for me.


A little colder.

These days.

It’s hard to stay in the zone. To stay focused. To stay intent. I know this from my own actions. And, from those around me.

I suppose it was the turn of the year. Even though many people claim not to make resolutions, in many ways we do. After a while — maybe even a day or two — something gets in the way, or we just slip. We either throw up our hands and give up, or we admit our mistake and move on.

I really don’t have a great deal of advice, at least as it pertains to photography, but I can tell you what I do. I’m in the middle of all those book projects, in addition to regular work and the other side of my life as well as family. If you look at all that from any distance, it’s a giant ball of twine.

Look at it long enough and pretty soon paralyses sets in.

Or.

I try to remember these two things.

Go slow because slow is smooth and smooth is fast. And, one day at a time. One hour at a time, one minute at a time if necessary. I learned both of these ideas a long time ago. I always forget them until they occur to me… at a time when I need them.

I started out like a flash after the turn of the year. Pretty soon, all the stuff started clogging me up. I realized that on Sunday. I returned to my two sayings. I’ve gotten so productive this week that I could easily take off tomorrow and still be content with the work I’ve completed.

There’s a corollary to this. I read it today in a New York Times column. No Tweeting. For that matter, no social media. Aside from being a giant time suck, there’s very little new that is ever shared. Some people post or tweet just to hear themselves share. Others like to pile on. Especially in these mean-spirited and polarized times.

Yeah, sure. I need to do some of that to keep my work out there. But, I don’t have to respond to anything that isn’t related. Of course, I’m going to like and comment on others art, but I do that — at least, this week — in the morning and again at night. The time saved is considerable.

That isn’t to say, I just work more. Time saved from social media goes into other things. Reading. Watching movies. More family things. More dog things. More walking and exercise. Good stuff.

Time. More time. Isn’t that what we want?

I’ve taken enough of yours. Just think about it. nd, if you are off track, don’t worry about it. Just get back on track.

The picture. I made two cool images in about five minutes the other evening. I’m not sure how great they are, but they are interesting enough for me to want to share them with you. I was trying really hard to expose so that the street light would be hidden except for the light. As I worked on it, I started liking the entire picture opened up. It looks like a cold winter dusk. Because it is.

 

 


At the end of day.

Quietly.

As the day comes to a close. I looked through the silhouetted trees, mostly bare from cold winter days and saw that faintest gleam of an orange sunset.

I decide to try to make a picture. This isn’t me trying to be cute by dropping the main subject into a tiny area of the picture. This was literally all I could see of what was a wonderful sunset.

I suppose if I had been some place with a long clean view I could have done something a little better. But, I wasn’t. I certainly couldn’t get there in the few seconds that this light was settling into the horizon.

Lately, that seems to be me. I’m out-of-place for almost every picture. Oh sure. I make the best image that I can. But, my work could be so much better. I’m not sure if it’s laziness or old age setting in. All these book projects that I have to do will be the test.

Anyway.

After I wrote about Pegi Young, we went grocery shopping. We like the middle of the week because every store is much less crowded. We went to Wal-Mart because we needed all kinds of stuff besides food. It used to be that we’d hit four or five stores, but this is easier. Besides, some of those stores don’t exist anymore. I suppose that’s Wal-Mart’s fault or Amazon’s.

I’m pretty sure the gods were following us. All of them. First, over the speaker system came, John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Then, Bowie’s, “Heroes.” At just that moment we ran into a group of people who are learning disabled. They are being taught how to shop and to take care of themselves. They are all friendly and kind. One shook my hand, gave me a fist bump and a high-five. When one did that, others followed. One of them hugged musical miss. Of course, she hugged him back. When we turned the corner and headed towards another aisle, she grabbed my hand. I looked into her eyes. Both of us had diamonds coming from the corners. So strange. Yet, so perfect. We just lived what I wrote about.

Listen, kids.

Don’t make me write about you. It just could come true.