The picture isn’t it. Unless you look at the curve at the top, which is really the bottom.
Yeah. Sure. This is one of those scenes that I return to when I can’t find a subject to suit a great sky. But, it’s different. It’s a reflection made by pointing the lens into a car’s hood. A black car. A black, dirty car.
I’ll tell you why dirty matters in a minute.
I made the picture on another walk. I was trying to figure out how I could do something a little differently because the clouds were so intense. They needed to be photographed. I happened to look towards my right. There it was. An almost perfect reflection of the scene above. I didn’t even bother with the real sky. I found what I liked.
Ten exposures later and I was done. I did not over shoot. I worked the angles and the length of the lens a little.
Dirty? Oh, that matters because the little star field you think you see in the bottom of the picture is really just little bitty bits of dirt.
I suppose if I flipped this picture around so the up is down, you might think I made the picture at night and somehow managed to get the stars in the picture even though we live in a place where there is nothing but light pollution. You could never really photograph star in New Orleans.
That’s what I saw when I was outside. I needed a subject and there wasn’t one. Until I looked closer. A lot closer. Even those these berries look fairly large in the picture, they aren’t. They are about the size of my pinkie fingernail. Except that they are round.
I don’t really know what they are, but I wouldn’t eat them. There are no edible naturally growing berries around here that I know of. Go across the lake and it’s a different story. There’s a whole festival dedicated to strawberries. We do plant and grow them, but we buy strawberry plants at a nursery.
Besides, this photograph isn’t really about the berries. It’s a study in light. It’s about how light shapes subject matter in a picture. For instance, you can’t see the whole berry in the darkest areas, but you can see how they are shaped by light. Your brain fills in the rest. It’s called rim light. You can see it in natural light or you can create it in the studio. I don’t think that photo editing software will help you with this. It has to be made, or found, in camera.
That’s the picture. Sure. I helped it in post production. I made it sharper. I darkened it a bit. And, I warmed the light a little.
It’s Sunday. I don’t wax about anything all that much. Have a good rest of your weekend or first day back to work. Or, something.
I got a little bored last night so I started playing with another human being in post production. This time, it was a Mardi Gras Indian Wildman who I photographed on the Westbank for their Super Sunday.
As I recall, it was a busy Sunday. There were two second lines on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. One was Uptown, the other downtown. There was also the big Westbank Super Sunday.
The picture is a couple of years old. At least, the base picture of the Wildman is that old. In those days I had more energy. I photographed both second lines and drove across the Crescent City Connection and found the parade route at just about the right moment.
Finding anything on the Westbank is a big deal for me. I get lost the moment I cross the river. And yet, there is a wonderful New Orleans neighborhood called Algiers Point that I just love visiting. It looks like Uptown New Orleans, but it isn’t. There is also a great Asian grocery store called Hong Kong. I’ve been there many times. I count my blessings if it doesn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to find after I’ve gotten lost and driven around in circles.
The picture. The base image is the Wildman — the guy with the giant bones and skull in his hair.– who protects the Big Chief. The rest of the pictures that make up the background are images that I’ve made along the way.
Pro tip number one. Never delete anything. You just never know. There are backgrounds hiding in your archives. Besides you can study the out takes to learn something about your mistakes.
Pro tip number two. Make sure whatever background image you choose stays in the background. With most editing software, you can move the second image forward and back.
Once you positioned the two or more images, then go back into the editing software to smooth out the look and finish the image.
I have no idea how long it will take you. But, you shouldn’t rush it, While downloading, backing up, adding meta data and developing images can be a chore, this process should be fun.
As I once wrote, I gave up video games to learn how to do this. This had better be fun.
Let’s just emphasize that in case you didn’t read the caption. I like that little turn of a phrase. I could write it again just to make sure that you understand. Nah. Y’all are smart readers.
I stumbled on this picture a few days ago. I thought I would save it until I could put together a few pictures about Autumn water. However, I couldn’t wait. I like this picture. Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to make a picture like this. Either the water wasn’t right. Or the leaves weren’t right. Or, or, or…
I realized that I had to make an angular picture, so that’s what I did. I only made two or three images because once I had it, I knew I had it. The rest was easy. Aside from the radical vertical crop, I did very little to the picture. The picture pretty much took itself. That’s what you want. That’s when you know that you did okay.
I just discovered there is no second line for Sunday. In fact, aside from the normal Sundays off, during Mardi Gras and Jazzfest, there are a number of holes in the calendar. I have a pretty good idea of what that means and it isn’t good if you like our culture.
Many of the folks who actually create the second lines, and who are really first liners, have been forced to move out of the city because of intense gentrification. The very reason people come her is being gentrified out of existence. That means…
That some clubs and krewes, whose members haven’t left yet, cannot afford to pay the new city parade fees which have been raise by over 50% and, in some cases, close to 100%. If the clubs still exist, they can’t afford to roll.
New Orleans is mostly a service industry. People come here for the culture. If the culture ceases to exist what happens next?
Restaurant owners and managers are already screaming for help because line cooks, back of house and front staff can’t afford to live in the city. Many restaurants are short staffed.
The culture bearers are leaving because they can’t afford to live here either.
It gets worse. Remember my discussion about police retention? They leave after gaining a couple years of experience, going to the next neighboring parishes where the pay is much better and the crime is much lower.
All this from a simple flowing water picture. Isn’t that something?
I wanted to see just how some of my new approaches to layering would work on a human being. The only place I’ve used them is on nature pictures.
After poking around on my admittedly limited smart phone archive I found a portrait of a Zulu Tramp. I thought that would be a good picture on which to experiment. Zulus are normally very colorful without my help.
A word about Zulus, and Tramps.
To me, and many others, Zulus are the heart and soul of New Orleans culture. The actual krewe is much like their brothers who walk for the Young Men Olympians. They are focused on community service. The often offer scholarships to deserving young people who couldn’t attend college otherwise. They are made up of people from all walks of life. Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, very successful businessmen. And, so on. And, so on.
The Tramps. They are the men who lead the first parade of the day on Mardi Gras day. They start around 8am. If you want to hangout and photograph them, you’d better get there around 6am. You could get there later. But, the later you arrive the further away from the start you’ll have to park.
How important is their parade?
The mayor, no matter who he or she happens to be, leads the parade on horseback. Not to worry. The Zulus meet and greet the Krewe of Rex as the day rolls on. Ultimately, the mayor leads both parades.
When Hurricane Katrina blew the city apart, most of the Zulus were scattered far and wide. They couldn’t come home for the first Mardi Gras after the storm because many of them had no homes to come back to. After all, Katrina arrived on the last day of August 2005. Mardi Gras was scheduled for February 2006. Five months. Not much time to rebuild anything.
In their place came the real Zulus. Shaka Zulus. From South Africa. They rolled in a very limited parade. But, they would not be denied. There are moments about that first Mardi Gras after the storm, the will live in me forever. Seeing the African Zulus on the streets of New Orleans was one of them.
Then, there was the next year.
I was photographing from Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue, By this time, there was some recovery. Nothing was complete in any way. There were a couple of Canadian women standing next to us. They came down to support the city. I was telling them that if they got to see the St. Augustine Marching 100 that they were in for a treat. Just then, they came thundering through the cement canyon formed by the buildings along the route. I stood there, not making pictures. There was too much water in my eyes. I never thought I’d see them again.
That’s what I remember.
The picture. Seems a little bit of a let down. But, here goes. There are multiple layers embedded in the final image. I started out trying to enhance a nature picture when I got the idea to add a human being to my pile of layers. That’s when the work got good. If I did it again, I’d have a better game plan. I’d start with the face. I’d add two flower pictures and one sand picture to it and be done with it. But, no. I had to take the long and winding narrow way.
If you really want to know the steps, I’ll create a formula. It’ll be complicated. It will assume that you have the proper components in your archives.
There is finally a little different feeling in the air. The air itself doesn’t feel like a hot, wet, wool blanket draped over everything in sight. And, when you are standing or sitting in shade, you actually feel cooler than when you are in direct sunlight.
That’s a big deal.
During the height of summer, it doesn’t matter where you try to hide, the air temperature always feels the same. Hot. Wet. Goopy.
I just wish the fine folks at the local news stations could understand this. All they talk about is numbers. Record highs and so on. Yes. They are right. Our normal highs for this time of the year are around 80 degrees. Our current highs are around 90 degrees or a little higher.
They don’t discuss how the air actually feels. They don’t discuss the dropping humidity. They don’t discuss the need not to take four showers a day. They don’t discuss how pleasant it is to walk in the morning. Sheesh, even the dogs understand that. They want to stay out longer and walk further. That’s good. For them. For me.
That seems to be one of the biggest problems today. You are either all in or all out. There are blacks. There are whites. No shades of gray. No fine shadings of context. I contend that we need to get back to looking at something more holistically. I don’t care what the subject may be. Look at it from all sides.
That’s how I work photographically. I may not push the shutter button a lot these days. But, I study the subject so that I don’t have to do that. I’d rather not have to do a lot of development and postproduction.
That’s how this picture was made. I’d seen the leaves starting to change, but they weren’t quite right for my purposes. So I held back. I was patient when patience isn’t my strong suit. Finally, I was able to make yellow surrounded by green. I’ll return again, and again as the yellows and reds take over. And, when the leaves are finally ready for raking.
In my effort to publish second line pictures, I almost forget that yesterday was the real start to autumn. To the fall season. Luckily, I’ve been finding and making pictures for the past couple of days. So, no worries.
I have two favorite seasons. Spring and Fall. Both are about changes. I guess that’s why I like them. There is implied energy to both. Even in my quietest pictures, there is a sort of energy. Mostly through the use of bold color.
What is there to say about Autumn? Leaves change color and eventually shrivel, die and fall to the ground. The days get shorter. The light gets lower. We set the clocks back by an hour in most states. The air gets colder. And, the season progresses until winter arrives. Eventually, the days start to get warmer, daylight increases and the cycle turns. As it has for many millennium.
The Young Men Olympians Social and Benevolent Society were celebrating their 135th anniversary. Just about everybody I knew came out. I reunited with photographers that I haven’t seen in years. That’s the exact spirit of any second line. They are about hanging with family and friends.
They are about a joyous celebration. That’s why I come out. I see my friends. As one of them says, it’s like going to church. Fitting, since second lines roll on Sunday. Sometime they roll on other days, but that usually to make up a parade that was postponed for some reason.
Playing in the band.
A celebratory cigar.
A little history.
The Young Men Olympians were found in 1884. Think about that time in the history of The United States. The South was still being reconstructed after the Civil War. Versions of Jim Crow laws were rampant. Even though they were free, African Americans were still second class citizens. Usually, they couldn’t buy insurance. They couldn’t be buried in certain places. They couldn’t go to white doctors. Sometimes, they couldn’t shop in grocery stores.
Social and Benevolent Societies started to emerge in Black communities. They were groups of mature men who provided many of the services they couldn’t get elsewhere. They took care of the sick. They buried their dead in two cemeteries that the city provided in Central City. They bought groceries for those who couldn’t afford them
Today, The Young Men Olympians serve a different function. The basic services that I mentioned are now easily obtained. And, if there is a problem they can solve it because the membership is made up of successful business people, doctors, lawyers and working class people who have connections in their industries. Some are members of other groups, usually brass bands, and Indian krewes.
They provide one very important service. They raise up young men who can join the krewe when they turn about 7 or 8 years old. They set strict standards. The children must get good grades in school. They cannot use drugs or get arrested for anything. They must be civil. And, even when they aren’t wearing their suits and YMO colors, they must be dressed well. No jeans pulled down to the bottom of their bottoms. No gang colors. No torn up clothes.
Ain’t that something?
Looking after children in their formative years. Helping them to grow up as productive and upstanding citizens. They say it takes a village, and here it is in practice.
The pictures. I haven’t come out to a second line in a good while. Most of my absence had to do with two things. Travel and heat. I won’t be traveling for a little while. And, even though the heat isn’t as bad as it was in July and August, the temperatures were still over 90 degrees. Between the urban environment and the large crowds, 90 degrees felt like 100 degrees. That’s the long way of saying that it was hot. Never the less, I’ll be out next Sunday.
Cameras. I used only one this time out. I wanted to see what my baby Leica could do in this kind of situation. So, that’s what I used. Leica glass is amazing. I used to say I could tell the difference between Leica taken pictures and all the rest. I certainly can see it in digital photography. I found myself reducing contrast in order to get back to my look.
The camera has a fixed lens. Like a high end point and shoot camera. It is fairly limited because it’s a 28 – 75 zoom lens. That meant I had to work a little closer than other photographers. You know me. I think you should work from the inside out so this camera suited me.
I seemed to make some pretty good pictures. Don’t be confused. There were plenty of clunkers that y’all will never see. That’s a pro tip. If you make 200 frames of a scene, you don’t have to use them all. Cull your work down to what you think is your best work. Show those. Learn from the rest.
It started by binging 11-22-1963 on Hulu. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a Stephen King book made into something else entirely. I won’t tell you much in case you do decide to see it. The title should tell you that the book is about the assassination of JFK. I can also tell you that a guy travels back in time in hopes of stopping it. Time intervenes in many ways.
Anything else could ruin it for you. Don’t multi-task. Just watch it.
I’ll tell you one more thing. The very end isn’t quite what you think. It was very sad for me. It brought up distant memories of people in my past. Some were lost to events. Some were lost to time and place. Others were just lost.
Do you ever think about what it would be like if you could be with them again? Could you pick up right where you left off? Would it be awkward for you? For both of you? Would you just be reeling in the years?
I don’t know. I didn’t go to my high school reunion. I was injured. It was the start of my back problems. I also didn’t really feel like it. Our next big one comes up in 2021. I have to think about that. It’s my high school’s 100th anniversary. It should be a big deal. I dislike big deals.
The picture. I stacked and layered four images together. I filtered it. I added stuff. I subtracted stuff. This is the picture that emerged from my experimentation.
I did another experiment. It was prompted by this very bloody weekend in New Orleans. As I write this at about noon on Sunday, 15 people have been shot. Of those, five are dead. I made a picture of a brass band playing during a second line. I layered it with red stuff that looks like blood. It is powerful. I just don’t know if I should publish it here.
To those of you who said that they wanted to see a picture of me in my seersucker suit, you should all know better. Saying “a picture or it didn’t happen” is an Instagram thing. I won’t ever play that game. And, when did I ever publish a picture of myself on Storyteller? It’s not that kind of blog.