Changes. I have a friend — a photographer — who seems to think that my work is as good as some of the masters. I completely disagree. I replied to his email about getting me print sales via a couple of well know — in the photography world — websites by saying I’m just one of 274, 987 photographers in the world.
I see a lot of pictures. Good, bad and derivitive. The derivative pictures are mostly on Instagram and its big brother, Facebook. You know, one person makes an interesting picture and 749 other photographers copy the original.
But, this isn’t a rant about that. It’s a rant about me. I am truly bored with my own new work. I’m derivative. Of myself. I make a new picture and I think, “oh wow. this is cool.” When I return home, I find that I’ve already made the picture last year, the year before, and the year before that.
Oh goody. The picture. I saw it, I photographed it. I did very little in post production. Nature did most of the work. It may also be nature’s way of tell ing me something’s wrong.
What is the point of making this picture again in a month, or in a year?
Some people have told me that I’m wrong. Nature changes daily. One guy made that point by showing me a series of sunsets. Boy oh boy, he was right, they were different. But, they were so much alike that I couldn’t tell them from the other 20 million sunset pictures scattered all over the internet.
Don’t believe me?
Go to Google images and search for sunsets. Start on Saturday. By the end of the next week you’ll be done looking at each one.
Maybe I’ll find a subject that interests me enough to explore it for a good long while.
Changes in the weather can be extreme. Yesterday, the high temperature was 86 degrees. Today, we likely won’t get much above 60 degrees. I love it. The all seeing dog will love it. Some weather people are calling it a cold front. Maybe so, but it leads us right into cooler dryer weather.
We need something joyous. We’ve been cooped up hiding from the virus. We’ve been watching cities burn in the course of extremists pushing aside legitimate BLM protesters. We have an election coming up that scares me. I read a piece in The Washington Post that basically said November will be among the darkest times ever in my country.
I also read something interesting about veterans of foreign wars. The author said that everyone who served in combat served in hell. Eventually, a kind of recovery took place over many years. Hell receded into the background.
The vet who wrote this said that if the so-called Trump base decides to start what amounts to a civil war because their candidate lost, they will put the veterans back in hell. The vets know how to fight and that these wannabe soldiers with too many guns strapped to their bodies will learn about hell. They will learn that humanity disappears in a real war.
After all, the vets swore an oath to uphold the constitution. The far right owe their allegiance to one man. A bad man. One who gets worse with every tick of the clock.
Imagine reading this while eating your Corn Flakes in the morning. I about spit them out.
Is that where we’ve come to?
Talk of a shooting war on United States soil over the results of an election? Are the dark clouds really that dark? Talk of a new surge in the novel virus? Are the clouds getting darker?
God, I hope not.
I’ll have to fight or just leave. I already live in a third world Caribbean city.
Red leaves on a dark background with the sun shining through, illuminating them, is an eye catching display. At least, that’s what I saw.
There is an exposure trick that helps with this kind of powerful backlight.
If you let the meter pick the exposure the entire picture will be washed out. You can fix it in post production, but what’s the fun in that?
Instead, meter for the highlight, which is the red leaves. Get that right and the background goes dark. Not so much work in post production.
There you have it. A bright fall picture. The one that you dreamed of last night.
Stay safe. Stay mighty, Wear your mask. Enjoy every salad.
For the record, I don’t eat any of the food that I suggest that you enjoy. I don’t really like most of it, especially local food like Creole or Cajun things.
Time. I’ve been saying that it’s lost its meaning. That it just seems to flow. That its numbers are meaningless. That the only way to mark time is by listening to nature. I still believe that.
In my heart, I know time is getting short. We are a little over four weeks to an election that may very well determine our democracy. That will change the course of the entire world.
It’s time. To dig in. To work.
For me it is also time to call the ghosts, the long gone gurus and the long passed masters. We need the cavalry. The ancestors need to come riding into the fray and change the balance.
For me, it started yesterday.
Here’s what happened. We were walking the dogs. Not just the all seeing dog, but all of her brothers and sisters. We arrived at a little pocket park. They like going there mid-walk because they can sit on the grass, roll around and play. They can do this at home, but this is a new place.
There are two benches there. We sat on one. On the other bench were three youngish women, maybe in their late twenties or early thirties. On white, one brown, one black. The future. The future that is now.
We said hello, and I realized it was time for “Songs From Home,” Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Sunday morning mini-mini-concert. We played it on my phone.
I think that MCC is feeling the way I am. She called on a living master, calling his song one of the best songs that had ever been written. She played Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing.”
Covers are covers. She played this one straight. Her voice was clear and powerful.
Listening on it on my phone meant that it was loudish. The three young women stopped talking and started listening. I held my phone so they could see too.
Afterward, they asked who the singer was, and what was the name of the song. I told them the backstory. About a time of change that began in the early 60s and lasted for almost a decade. I also added that we blew it. We had a chance and we dropped the ball.
We all introduced ourselves. As the old one, they asked me what I thought.
I said, “I’m old now. I may have one more fight in me. But, it’s your world now. Make it a good one.”
Art. I’m not really sure there is a real definition of it. The closest I can come is what John Lennon said about his songs. When he was asked what his songs meant, he said, “whatever you want them to mean.”
I think that applies to whatever we classify as art. Art is whatever you want it to be. You don’t have to be what we commonly call an artist.
You could be a mechanic who feels the car. Or, a baker who feels the flour.
You can’t say that these people aren’t artists. Convince me otherwise.
Many people call me artist. It’s a mantle that I’ve long resisted. I take pictures of whatever I see. I do that when I have a job. That’s what I get paid to do.
In order to test the theory of my artistry, every once in a while I experiment with a photograph.
I made this picture while we were on a test road trip. I pointed my camera out of the passenger side window. Passenger side window. Note that. I wasn’t driving. We were just rolling along River Road on the Westbank.
I liked what I saw. So I pressed the button. When we returned home I let the take marinate. When I started culling my work, this picture popped out at me, not for what it was but for what it could be.
I started tinkering. I tinkered some more. I kept going on two software programs. Out came this picture.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Stay healthy. Enjoy your time, it’s shorter than you know.
This one. This picture. The best picture that I’ve ever made of the balloon fiesta. It’s the one I told you about. I was late to the liftoff because of accidents on I-25, so I worked my way through the backstreets and came to this place on 4th Street.
I thought I was in the worst possible place. Shows you what I know.
I had to pass through a gate that lead me to a bunch of transmission towers. Once I got clear of them this was my view.
There is a giant take away from this. Never, ever give up. It would have been easy to go back home, have another cup of coffee, some breakfast and go back to bed.
What would be the fun in that?
Once I recovered from the emotional high of finding this scene and making the picture, I started thinking clearly and started chasing individual balloons as they split off from the main group.
Eventually, I made my way home where i did have that cup of coffee, had some breakfast and started working on my new pictures.
Stay Safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy every donut.
Some technical picture stuff. A number of you have asked in the past, and again on other social media for technical tips.
I’m not the biggest photo tech guy in the world. But, I can tell you what went into individual pictures.
The first thing to talk about is ISO. I usually work at the lowest native ISO, which means for this picture ISO 100.
Next we come to aperture and shutter speed. I cheat a little here especially with lighting like this.
I set the aperture, usually to f5.6 and let the shutter speed fall where it may. But, knowing I wanted front to back sharpness, I set the aperture at f16. Normally, the shutter speed would be way too slow. But, not when you are shooting pretty much directly into the sun.
When I’m chasing around like I was, I usually use an all purpose travel lens which is a 28-200mm/ f4 / f5.6 piece of glass.
I had the time to switch to a 20mm lens, while I was walking through the field. That’s why the picture has such an all encompassing feel.
A 20mm lens set at f16 and everything is a sharp as it can be.
Very little post production was needed. I’d have to look at the RAW file, but I’m willing to bet I just lightened the shadows a bit.
This is another event that the pandemic killed for this year. The Albuquerque Balloon Festa was supposed to fly for its 49th year. You might think that being out on a cold and windy balloon field would be safe enough, but people come from all over the world. They need places to stay, places to eat and places to recreate.
No go for 2020.
When we were living there, attending was no big deal. I would ask any one of a number of picture editors to write me a letter of assignment. I would go the day before the event began and secure my credentials, which included the all important parking pass. I could also book a flight if I wanted, but I don’t like to get trapped anywhere when I’m working. By the third year, my face was enough for credentials.
The really good thing was the commute time. Fifteen minutes from door to parking lot, except for the time I made my best picture ever of a balloon lift off. I would generally roll up I-25. Usually, timing wasn’t an issue. On one particular morning there was a string of traffic accidents on the interstate which slowed traffic to a crawl.
Living in a place that you are working has its perks. One is that I knew my way around. I picked my way through surface streets and came around behind the balloon field, looking directly into the sun.
This picture is not that. This is an unpublished photograph. I might post the “great” picture tomorrow. It’s just that I try to stay away from reposting, although it’s been awhile.
This is an image I made almost on top of our home during a morning lift off that went bad because there was too much wind. It broke down the “box” which is how the wind plays off of the Sandia Mountains and keeps the air fairly stable.
I just drove the streets, chasing balloons until I ran out of card space. I had more energy back then. I think I made too many exposures. But, you never know.
Stories about pictures are fun, yes? Some people like to read about me. That’s pretty cool. But, I’m mostly interested in pictures and how they came to be.
In the main story I told you how I chased around, which is mostly what making pictures takes. You can’t give up if you want something that you like.
This picture was likely made with a longer lens. I needed the compression and I wanted the graphic shapes. A friend of mine posted on Instagram that the best thing about a telephoto lens is that it gets you closer to the subject.
That’s what legs and motors are for.
Long lenses help to make pictures like this one. For sure, it got me closer but that wasn’t my main intent.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy every enchilada.
between travels. I’ve traveled since I was a little boy. Maybe five or six years old. We took the Santa Fe El Capitain to Chicago and from there the Broadway Limited to New York City. We did that almost every other summer until I was 15 years old. Trains started changing. The Broadway Limited was a New York Central System train. Sometime in the middle 1960s they merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both were losing money. Apparently, the owners thought that they could lose money together.
That lasted until 1970 when the federal government stepped in and created Amtrak. They never make money, but they weren’t created for that. In fact, since the end of World War II, passenger trains lost money. There just wasn’t a way to earn the money that freight trains do.
Enough about trains.
That’s not where this piece was going. It’s about me. Me. Me. Me.
I started traveling again after 1972. I took mostly road trips. I also commuted from San Jose to Long Beach, California. I went to college in San Jose.
My first real job in the long arc of my career was in southwestern Virginia. Once we got there, we didn’t travel much except to photograph sporting events and to visit friends who lived in Washington D.C. That was before I worked there.
Eventually. I worked at couple more newspapers. By then I was an editor. We never traveled. I join the staff of one of two picture agencies. I never traveled for the first one. I always traveled for the second one. That wore on me. Fly back to The United States from Hong Kong, overnight in Dallas where I supposedly lived and fly to New York the next day.
I kept doing that kind of work until the 2000s, when I began my second career. That one entails constant traveling especially in the summer. I set my alarm and wrote on a piece of paper, “You are in xyzzy city.”
Blammo. Then traveling stopped. Totally.
The summer of the great pandemic.
For the first month or so, being at home felt good. It was different. We got to be home. Even those of us in our households who didn’t travel liked us being home. Now, a little over six months in, our stirs are going crazy. I feel like I’m in a Jimmy Buffett song. “I just shot six holes in my freezer. I think I’ve got cabin fever. Somebody sound the alarm.”
Many of us have completed long postponed home projects. Obviously, if they were undone for so long, they didn’t need to be done. What the hell am I going to do with the five level bird house? There aren’t five levels of birds around here.
For some of us we know that we won’t really start traveling until spring of 2022. That’s right 2022. Not 2021. Not by the end of this year. 2022. I have no idea what trouble I will have gotten into by then.
The picture. We moved to New Mexico in late 2005 after Hurricane Katrina “wiped out region clean like the Bible said.” If memory serves we arrived in mid-November. We stayed until mid-2011. We took a lot of road trips. We flew for business. We flew for pleasure.
Even after we returned to New Orleans, the travel never slowed down.
Even though I complain a lot about my ailments (That’s what old people do), I’m built to travel. I can drive 12 hours a day. I recover quickly from jet lag to major time zone crossings. I enjoy all sorts of food. I get along with all sorts of people.
But, here we all sit.
I made this picture on a New Mexican road trip. I can’t remember where it was made. I suppose I could look at my daybook from the last year we were there. What caught my eye was the church. There are churches everywhere just like New Orleans. But, mostly the light got my attention.
Remember, I said that there is a magical quality to New Mexican light? I didn’t do anything to the light and sky of this photograph. That’s what I saw. That’s what you see.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy all the American Indian fry bread.
Travel. What does it mean? How do we do it? Normally it means going to a place other than your home. For some of us it feels like we move when we are done with a location.
We moved to New Mexico after Hurricane Katrina. It was a good move. I always wanted to live there. I was creatively productive.
But, the New Orleans culture kept calling us, so we moved back. Looking back that may have been a mistake.
We are now talking about moving to New Mexico. Yeah, I know you can never go home again. It was never home. Home is Long Beach, California. That state costs too much money. But, it is home.
If we actually do it, we won’t return to Albuquerque. We’ll either move to Santa Fe or Taos. Of course, Taos is really at the end of the road, even though it is beautiful.
Of course, there is the light. It’s is so hard to put into words. It’s just different. It’s one of the biggest reasons that visual artists move there.
The pictures. They were all made in New Mexico at different times. They are all about roads. They are about travel. They are about moving, and moving on. During those days I literally made a picture a day unless I was working on assignment.
That didn’t mean I only took one frame. I worked on a scene until I was done with it, unless it was a drive by or drive through.
It’s a great exercise. You learn a lot about photography. You learn even more about yourself. I suggest that everybody who is a photographer at any level do this exercise for a year. Photograph your world. Your life. You’ll be amazed at the results.
All of these images were made during my picture a day adventures. Two of the three pictures were accidental and driven by the quality of the light. The third picture, called 4th Street was just learning where a major street ended.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy all the green Jello.
The greatest story ever told. Maybe not the greatest, but very close. I’ve been looking for more upbeat thoughts. I heard one yesterday. A friend of mine said that his wife had stage four cancer. Note that word. Had. Usually at that point it’s all over but the funeral.
Not this time.
Somehow she was given the wrong chemo. Somehow. Mistakes are always made in hospitals. Some of them life threatening, some not.
In this case the mistake produced wonderful results.
After months of fighting this thing, her scans showed no trace of cancer. What was predicted to kill her was gone. Chemo treatments will continue for about a month to make sure that her cancer stays gone.
In 2020, with everything beating us about the head and shoulders, this is truly a miracle. My friend was so happy that he told people that he didn’t know. It put a smile on their faces, just as it put a huge smile on mine.
Hopefully, it’ll put a smile on yours.
The picture. If the picture looks more like spring than autumn, that’s because it is a picture of spring. I wanted something light and happy to match my words. Sorta. It’s an older archive picture. I made it durning my days if living in New Mexico. This rooting around in my archives has reveled many images that I’d forgotten about.
You’ll see more tomorrow. Something about roads and New Mexican light.
There is a trick to this picture. Expose for the dark leaves so that the back leaves are blown out and made pastel. Once you’ve done that everything falls into place.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy every burrito.
Colorful season. Today is the equinox. It is our signal that the seasons are changing despite the fluidity of time. Nature doesn’t need a calendar. She just rolls on. That’s probably a good thing.
Calendars are a man made contrivance, If it were up to us summer would last forever. Winter would be a day long.
Soon, the gulf coast will emerge from hurricane season. This has been a very busy storm year. As I write we will likely be hit by the outer bands of a tropical storm that is mostly headed to Texas.
It will also dump about six inches of rain on those poor people in the Lake Charles area. They aren’t even close to draining the flood waters from the hurricane that hit them earlier. They are still without power and drinking water.
In the Greater New Orleans area, it’s possible that autumn arrived a day or two early. We’ve had cool air with wind and a little rain.
The light is getting lower. It’s one of my favorite times of year to work. I’ll just have to wait until the cloud layer disappears, which might not be for a few days.
That’s the report from your man in swampville.
The picture. I hate to say this, but the image is one of last years. You haven’t seen it.
I’m doing something a little old school. In the days of yore, when magazines were printed only on paper seasonal work was photographed the year before it was due to be published.
That’s what I did.
I saw the scene and instinctively made the picture. I made a lot of tests files before I settled on this one. There’s a little post production hiding in there.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy all the beer.