Golden woman.

Mardi Gras.

What it is. What it isn’t.

This post is driven by a couple of comments I read on Facebook. It seems that a small city in Indiana might not be able to have Mardi Gras because a bar closed.

Really?

Is that what you think of Mardi Gras? Sure, we have big parades. The krewes toss beads and other stuff. You know, “Trow me sumptin’ mistah.” There is plenty of boozing and a little debauchery, usually on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. But, that’s not all.

At the heart of it, Mardi Gras season — Carnival — starts on the Twelfth Night after Christmas when the wise men journey to Bethlehem to bring the baby Jesus gifts. It lasts until midnight Mardi Gras Day when the police clear out the remaining revelers.  Night turns into day. And, it’s Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent.

In other words, it’s a religious holiday. Imagine that.

It’s also a time when we locals celebrate quietly. It’s more-or-less like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. We visit with friends and family. We gather around meals. We bring little gifts. The more blue blood among us go to fancy balls and events that are by invitation only. The big krewes, like Muses, have balls, lunches and other events for their members and guests. It’s an honor to be invited.

For our part, we host a brunch on the Sunday before Mardi Gras Day. Our friends and family mingle, eat, have a drink or two. If they want, they can walk up a couple blocks and see the parades on St. Charles Avenue. We are also lucky enough to be invited to two balls. We aren’t blue bloods. Imagine me in evening wear with a little mask. That’s what I do. That’s what they do.

There is a lot of symbolism. Mardi Gras Day is the day when the Indians reveal their new suits for the first time. For some, a year’s worth of work comes down to this one day. For others, they’ll show their new suits throughout the year. It’s a day when Zulu leads the parades. They mask in blackface. It harkens back to a time when they couldn’t afford masking materials. The  so-called Take It Down movement wants them to stop. The Zulus just laughed and started dancing. As far as I’m concerned, the Zulus can do whatever they want. They are the soul of Mardi Gras. Maybe of the entire city.

The million or so tourists who flood our streets, drink way too much, and fight for beads and other “throws” don’t know any of this. It’s all a giant party to them. One day of being stupid. Some try to arrive on the day, itself. With blocked streets, heavy traffic and the parades they are lucky to get anywhere near in time for… what?

I’m not attacking the partiers. Sheesh. We need the money. I’m explaining what those Mardi Gras partiers in other cities don’t understand.

When I was exiled to the desert after Hurricane Katrina, I went to Mardi Gras in Old Town Albuquerque. Make no mistake, Christmas there is breathtaking. The onset of fall is wonderful. But, Mardi Gras? Not so much. It made my very sad. I think we went during our first year there. It was on a Saturday. Sheesh. Whatever happened to Fat Tuesday? I was so homesick that we flew back to New Orleans for a cobbled together Mardi Gras, because 80% of the city was still broken. It’s when I saw Zulu warriors — the real ones from Africa — walking in place of our Zulus because most of them couldn’t get home. If they could, they had no home to come back to.

That’s what Mardi Gras means.

The picture. This is the one I planned for yesterday. I intentionally made it contrasty. WordPress “helped me” by tuning it down. She walked by me while I was sitting on a wall getting ready for the next parade. I couldn’t catch up with her. That is, until we both walked into the local grocery store for lunch. I asked if I could photograph her. Even though anybody masking is fair game, it was our lunch break. Heh! I made some smiling portraits and I made this one. I like it best. My agencies will like the smiling pictures. They are trying to make money for us. Besides, you can see me working in the reflection in her sunglasses. Nice shorts, huh?

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Getting ready for the big ride.

I had other plans.

This wasn’t the picture that I was going to publish today. I had something grander planned. But, Apple came along and did it’s thing again sometime early in the morning. Not only did those bastards download stuff that I didn’t ask for, but they changed every setting. It took a good hour to get back to where I was yesterday when I put the computer to sleep. They are determined to make me use that weak Safari instead of Google as a search platform. They went so far as to shut down Google. Improperly, I might add, so that it took forever to reboot.

Enough.

I’ve complained and complained and complained. You know how that goes. Usually, you can’t even find any contact information. So, it seems that my only choice is to seek injunctive relief. Unlike so many people, I have a contracts attorney just waiting… A Texas attorney, and all that it implies. I don’t care about a settlement. I want this to be so public that it scares the other members of the big four. Apple. Microsoft. Amazon. Facebook.

When I, like most of you, subscribed to any of their services we did it for what they could do for us. It seems that they are trying to turn the tables. They want us to bend to their wills. I can tell you, it ain’t happening.

One of the best things about getting old is that we won’t take BS from anybody. I don’t care if those four companies are worth trillions of dollars. They ain’t the boss of me.

Then, there’s WordPress. They aren’t bullies. They just don’t like pictures very much. They drive bloggers towards free picture sites. They make great templates for writers. For photographers, not so much. I really dislike my blog design now. I want you to see a lot of pictures without a lot of clutter. It’s cluttered. I can’t even find some of the things I need. Worse, for somebody who lives on visuals, their compression ratio is terrible. When I make a finished photo file, it’s done. Leave it alone. I’ll forget more about color reproduction than any millennial coder will ever know. This picture had good contrast. The woman had shape to her cheeks. The reds were red. The picture looked good.

Oh no.

WordPress’ compression software squeezed the image to death. It removed the contrast. It toned everything back. In case you are wondering, this is something new. It’s only been happening in the last few weeks. Let me remind you, I pay for the pleasure of this. All of this.

I’m slowly going to move my best blog work to laskowitzpictures.com. I encourage you to follow me there. Eventually, probably when my yearly charges are due, I’ll sort of drift away from WordPress. After all, I want what I want. Especially, if I’m paying for it.

Aren’t you glad you stopped by today? I’d apologize for a seemingly never-ending rant, but I’m not sorry. I’m fed up.

The picture. I’m disappointed at its technical look. I’d change it if I had all day to fiddle with this stuff. The woman in the picture is getting ready to ride in a parade. When you work outside sometimes there is no place to get ready. You do what you can. She did. I just photographed her. She posed. I suggested she just do what she needed to do. She liked that better. Time was running short.

One more thing. I never threaten legal action. I just do it. I suppose this time, I’m wondering if I can turn this into a class action suit. That means more than an individual action.


Dancing.

Mardi Gras Parades.

All about motion. Movement. Energy.

Often, it’s hard to show that. Motion is thought of being better portrayed on video. I don’t make videos. I do it using still cameras. I’ve done that since the days of film. For a time, I made my career on that.

The trick is to find something that’s recognizable and keep that somewhat sharp. Like a face. With a big smile. With laughing eyes.

I don’t do it as much because in the digital age, everybody thinks the picture should be sharp from front to back. That’s too bad. I find intentional motion blur to be one of the most interesting parts of a photograph. There’s many ways to do that. One, easy way, is to focus on something that doesn’t move, use a slow shutter speed and let things in motion pass through the picture.

That’s not what I did.

I allowed the subject’s natural motion meet my natural motion and create another kind of painterly motion to take place. Because the picture was made at night, all I did was stop down and let the shutter speed take care of itself.

As far as presenting pictures from Mardi Gras goes, I’m not going to try to show them in chronological order. Instead, I’m grouping them by photographic subject matter. I’ve been lucky to have made really good shoots. There is too much material to present the pictures by parade. Yesterday’s post of ten pictures was way too much. It was hard on me to do the prep work. It was hard on you to work your way through so many images. There is one blogger who posts a lot of pictures. He or she is proud of themselves when they write something like there are 42 pictures in this post. I usually just trash the blog. I don’t know about you, but 42 pictures is way too many to view. Especially, when it looks like the photographer stepped two steps to the left or right. Sheesh. Cull your work.

That’s not a rant. It’s a pro tip.

New Mardi Gras parades resume on Wednesday. You’ll probably see the work in a week. Heh!


Are you taking my picture?

Krewe of Barkus.

Masking dogs. Masking people. I remember when only the dogs masked. Their people just came along for the ride. Not so much. Anymore. Even people who do not have a dog walking in the Mardi Gras parade come masked. And, anonymous.

I’ve been using all of the first week Mardi Gras to just make pictures. I haven’t been photographing it as an event. I will later this week. The first few days were to make pictures. Pure and simple. I’ve had a great time doing that.

Except for one thing. I tried to pick something up on my right side. On the ground. I know better. Next thing you know, I was on the ground. I fell in slow motion. In sort of a corkscrew. Protecting my gear. Luckily, there were two of New Orleans’ finest standing three feet away. They helped me up, asked if I needed an EMT and sat with me for a few minutes. I wasn’t hurt. I was embarrassed. I know not to put that kind of downward pressure on my right hip.

Oh well. That didn’t stop me from working. I just wished that I wore a mask.

The pictures. See them, press the button.Make sure that you’ve set everything in the camera the way that you’d like. There’s a lot of post production to do if you don’t. Almost no post production was needed on these ten pictures.

I have two days off before the run up to Mardi Gras Day begins. I’d better use them wisely. You too.

Butterfly dog.

 

All in white.
Pretty cocker spaniel.


Reflections.

Too much.

Either I’m working much slower, or I’m working much more. Or, both. Either way, I can’t seem to keep up on my posts. While I’ve edited and processed my raw files, I’ve got a long way to go until they are ready to be seen.

So.

This is an image that I made on my phone, with the intent of posting it to Instagram. I like the picture just fine. In fact, I like it a lot. It just wasn’t my thinking to post something on Storyteller that I captured quickly via phone.

No worries.

One parade today. The Krewe of Barkus. The dog parade. Yes. The hounds in this house like to go even though we are no longer krewe members. I like to photograph dogs and their people so it works out just fine. I’m not sure how far we’ll walk with the parade as it winds through the French Quarter. Wall to wall people, except the center of the street where the dogs and their people walk.

You know what I wrote about crowds. And, me.

No matter. There is plenty to see and photograph without getting squashed in the Quarter.

My plan — yes, I have one — is to finish the edit of about 900 pictures and get them ready for you and my agencies, who need a specific kind of picture. I’ll do this tomorrow after the dogs on parade.

Anyway.

This picture was easy. See it. Check its reflection. Try to stay out of the picture. (I didn’t succeed.) Push the button. It’s almost like two pictures for the price of one. It helps to have multiple tuba players with well polished instruments.

Happy Mardi Gras.

 


Tuba player waiting.

The first one. The first Uptown Mardi Gras parade.

Normally on the first night shoot during Mardi Gras, I’m trying to knock off the rust. Not this time. I had an almost perfect shoot. Not only that, but getting there and parking was easy. I parked as close to the parade route as I could. I returned home easily. All of this matters.

The pictures. Let’s put it this way. I could see. I could see as the pictures revealed themselves to me. I suppose that put me in a good mood and place. It seemed like everybody I photographed was happy and having fun. Or, it may have been me.

That shows in the work.

You know me. I like to work at the start of a parade so I can make more than just the usual, “float rolls down the street” picture. I made a lot of good pictures. You’ll see them eventually. For today, you are seeing only one. I’m a bit late and should be on my way to some day parades. Their time has been moved up since we are expecting pretty violent storms.

Anyway the lead tuba player was looking over my head into the crowd for somebody or something. I managed to make the picture in poor light. But, not as poor as this picture indicates. WordPress got me again. Their compression software about killed the image quality. When I look at it on my monitor via OnOne, the image looks great. Not so much here.

Oh well. It’ll get better in the new building.


Purple day.

Ah yes. Purple. Purple Furble.

I don’t know why that old joke came back to me. Back in the old folkie days, when songs were heard in a haze, a friend with whom I grew up heard the wrong words to a song and said, “Oh wow. Purple Furple.”

This may be due to “learning.” As I wrote in any earlier post, the koan has opened me up to a lot of things. Including bits of memories of things still to come.

This is all very interesting. We’ll see what becomes of it.

So.

The picture. I made this picture a few weeks ago. I let it sit because it was too similar to others I had just posted. While it sat, I played. I made some extreme experiments. More extreme than this image. When I got all the way out there. I reversed course and headed back. This image is the result.

If you were to ask me what steps I took, you’d have me a disadvantage because I let the picture lead me. I don’t write down what the picture and I did. I save each step. I suppose I could post a whole lot of little pictures if someone insisted. I’d rather not. After all, had you lived back in the 1880s you wouldn’t ask Van Gogh each step to his paintings.

Wait. I’m not comparing myself to Van Gogh. That would be a big stretch on my part. Besides, I have two ears. Still.

That’s it.

Parade season — the real one — not all those downtown walking parades, starts tonight. This continues, with a few breaks, for the next ten or so days when we all end up on the streets for Mardi Gras Day. Wish me luck. Right now, I feel pretty good. My back and hip seem fine, or as fine as they can be.

The dog food is almost cooked for most of those ten days. The dogs are nagging me for a walk. So…


Winterlude Five. Bare Trees.

Bare Trees.

Winterlude. Again. As we head towards spring in the swamps, we have a weather pattern that is up and down. Cold. Wet. Warm. Humid. Cold. Rinse. Repeat. Ten times.

I made this picture a few days ago. I was bragging about our warm spring like days. Then. This.

Luckily, I really like this picture. It’s clean. Minimalistic. Monochromatic. You could do a lot with it if you wanted it to be a base for some layering.

I put a frame around the picture. Last time that I did that, it was because I felt like it. Not this time. I needed to hold the picture within something lest it blend into the white background.

Speaking of backgrounds, head over to http://www.laskowitzpictures.com to see my new website. The background is black. I think that it looks really good. I finished the architecture yesterday. That means all the underlying work, the things you don’t see, is done. I just need to add more pictures and write the “About Ray” section.

You can even buy pictures. Not many. Not yet. I’m still building that collection.

I’m pretty sure that, unlike some of my former websites, this one will be fairly active.  It won’t just be a portfolio site. It has a blog component. It has the above mentioned sales section. And, an ever-growing collection of my work.

Oh. There are two Storytellers. One says “Storyteller on Laskowitzpictures.” That’s the blog attached to the website. The other Storyteller leads you right back here. How cool is that?

I said something in a similar vein a while back, but as I work through my archives in order to build this website, I am stunned by the volume of work. It goes on and on. I’m my own hardest critic. Looking at my work in the space in between, I am amazed by the quality. I should have known. My publisher signed me to all those contracts on strength of individual portfolios tailored to each proposal.  Still…

That may explain a bit of my reluctance to go back out in the street to photograph events in big crowds. I started photographing my projects almost from the day we returned from the desert. Eight years ago. I’m probably a little toasty. A little burnt. I know myself. Even in physical pain I can usually rally and play the ninth inning. The fourth quarter. Score the winning run or touchdown. It’s not that I can’t. It’s that I don’t really want to do that.

As far as my six book projects go, that’s different. I won’t be working in crowds. I won’t be shooting a version of the same old thing. The subject matter is interesting. My way of working is more studied.

Page 43. It’s an old David Crosby song. You know, Crosby, Stills and Nash. That David Crosby. One line touched me this morning. “Look around. Have a sip of it. Or, else you’ll find it’s passed you by.”

As I’ve worked through my learning process I’ve been grimacing a bit. About my past. Yeah, the past is the past. Can’t go back. Not that I’d want to. But, you can learn from it. The past that makes me frown is about blown chances, or, not going far enough. Not working hard enough at times when it was laid out in front of me.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

I think I’m old at 65. Much of that comes from my semi-broken parts. But, that’s young when it comes to artists. That’s how I have started thinking. Young. Young. Experienced. Young, Wise, Young. Thanks Michelle, “MamaMick,” on her blog pages, for pushing me into it. Good journey so far.


A different kind of learning.

To everything there is a season.

My season seems to by learning in some of its purest forms. I could also curse this thing. It’s really opened me up. That’s a good thing. It’s helping me to see with different eyes. It’s helping me feel with a different heart.

But.

It’s also bringing up emotions at inopportune times.

After all, who wants to start leaking when you are grocery shopping? That almost happened, as I watched a daughter about my age help her dad with his shopping. Her tenderness towards him was amazing. He was ancient and wearing a World War II service cap. Pinned to it were a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Thanks for your service. You helped save the world.

On balance, I suppose that it’s a good thing. We’ll see where I come out. Next year.

Anyway.

This picture is also about learning. In a different way. It is about experimenting with my smart phone’s camera. Once again, this picture was made in manual, in the so-called pro setting. I did a tiny bit of post production, but the picture is as I saw it on the monitor.

That’s something.

One more thing. If you are so inclined, please go to http://www.laskowitzpictures.com. Take a look around. For sure, there are lots more to be done. But, it’s my new website. It has a blog called Storyteller. Imagine that. There is one post. There is also a store. You can buy photographs there. Currently you can only download files. By the end of the week, it’ll be linked to a printer called The darkroom. They’ve been around for 40 plus years. You can select a picture, select the size, and the finish and it’ll be shipped directly to your address.

Please tell me what you’d like to see in the store. You aren’t committing to anything. I’m just very interested in what might sell. Be patient with that. It’ll take a while to upload masses of pictures from which to select.