Train under a fluid sky.

On a Sunday morning. I realized I haven’t published multiple pictures in some time. I’ve been photographing bits and piece of trains forever because I like them. I grew up riding the Super Chief and the El Capitan and eventually The City of Los Angeles from Los Angeles to New York City via Chicago.

Of course passenger service isn’t what it was. Amtrak is always broke because Congress won’t fund it properly. When they do money is poured into the Eastern Corridor which is mostly a long distance commuter line The runs from Boston through New York City and into Washington D.C.

The trains there are already pretty good. Soon that line will be getting trains that are capable of European fast speeds. Of course, timing is everything. How many people are commuting anywhere in the age of the pandemic?

It’s the long haul trains that are getting worse by the minute. Amtrak markets them as being great. Read the comments on Facebook to find out they aren’t. I rode trains at the end of their glory years. They weren’t good then and they are worse now.

The last time that I travelled on a train from the West Coast to the East Coast was in 1969. In 1970, amid massive losses in profit, passenger service was nationalized into Amtrak.

History shows us that passenger trains were never money makers, except for the years during World War II. Even in the days of fast steam engines and streamlined cars freight subsidized passenger revenue.

There’s some history for you.

That’s the long way of saying that I still like trains and I’ll photograph them where I find them. If you like them too, type #trains into the search box in Facebook and watch the fun.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. And, always take a ride on the Reading Railroad. If you pass go collect $200.

Pictures, pictures, everywhere. I’ve been just making railroad pictures whenever I see something that catches my eye.

I try very hard to let the picture guide me in post production. That’s why each picture has its own look.

Unfortunately, the picture in the middle of three wanted to go off into outer space. I tried to guide it back but it liked it out there so I left it alone.

GT. What is GT? Not only did the government scoop up all the passenger lines, but they bought most of he freight lines on the east coast and called it ConRail. Eventually, the government got out of the freight transportation business and sold ConRail to different carriers. Canadian National came along later and started buying up railroad companies east of the Mississippi River. Grand Trunk was one of them even though they weren’t much of a company by then.

Most engines were branded CN. Sometimes, they just left them in their original livery. Those are the ones I like. They are beat up, rusty and look their age, which is this case is 40 years old.


Another yellow photograph.

More yellow. I don’t know why. I guess during the winter months I like color. Yellow is warm. It’s inviting. In the world of big commercial presses it is used to give “lift” to a photograph. Most importantly, it makes me smile.

I’d like to revisit yesterday’s discussion for just a few minutes. Okay ten minutes.

The person who asked the questions that turned the discussion into chaos is well regarded in the photo community. He’s not a great photographer, but he is a person who raises up photography and photographers. He discusses our work, our projects, our books and what he believes a picture could be.

He can be a little sheltered since he mostly looks at the photo art world, which is often an enigma to me. I had to laugh once when he looked at an old friend of mine’s work and proclaimed how good it is. It is good, but in my world that photographer is a legend.

All of that said, he really never came back to the discussion, which angered a lot of people on both sides of the issue.

I expected a wrap up the next day. All he said was that he didn’t expect such a reaction. He moved on to his next question which was something along the lines of the previous question. Huh?

I thought to myself, “Are you just going to drop a discussion that prompted such emotional responses?”

There are topics that deserve serious discussion despite what I may think of the work of one or two particular photographers. This is one of them.

His next topic, by the way, is about one of my former mentors who has been accused of being a sexual predator by a number of young women. “Young” is important because he is 75 years old. The women in question are in their early twenties. He is in a position of power with the ability to make or break somebody’s career.

Notice the use of the word “former.”

I can’t abide by him.

On to something else. This is easier. I have made it a point to not name names even in a complimentary way. Do y’all think that I should continue that? Even though I learn some things quietly, it eventually gets published anyway.

Experiments. I like doing them. It’s how I learn. Success or failure doesn’t matter to me, as long as I learn.

This photograph is a grand experiment.

It’s layered with the same image just slightly skewed. If nothing else I’ve found a way to control the yellow. I suppose I could perform another test where I layer the same picture without skewing it.

In the commercial printing world that’s called a double hit. An example of that is Coca Cola Red. It cannot be done in one pass. So… a double hit.

I don’t know what you think, but I kind of like this picture. To me it’s about the cycles of nature. And, while nature is patient she is always moving.

That’s it from the right side.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy nature.


Crossisngs.

All you need to know is in the headline. I had an interesting day. It occurred to me just how common the threads that bind us together really are.

We all seem to forget that.

There has been an ongoing and emotional discussion in one of the photographers groups to which I belong. In many ways it was annoying. The group’s founder was trying to understand why a certain genre mattered. I’ll leave out exactly what for obvious reasons.

Once it got going it really got going. There were some 400 comments before they were shut down because one of the moderators had to leave so she could prepare for four classes that she was reaching.

I’d like to say that the usual suspects squared off, but that wouldn’t be accurate. The usual extremists did battle, but the rest of us just talked.

It eventually evolved into old white men being blamed for holding back the marginal photographers. That’s where I left the discussion before I said something that would come back to bite me in the butt.

I’m an old white guy. I worked very hard to get where I am. In two years I will hit the 50 year mark as a working photographer. It wasn’t easy. When it should have gotten easier it got harder through no fault of anybody unless a virus is a person.

The loudest person is a woman who is beyond a feminist. I’m a feminist. I don’t really know what she is, but when I get ready to engage somebody like her I have a look at who she is in real life.

She’s young. She takes pictures. By now you know the difference between taking and making pictures. If you are unclear still, she isn’t very good in any genre. She wants to be championed because she is on the margins.

Screw that. Work hard. Get good. And, everyone will champion you. A while back photographers like her declared themselves to be the founding women of photography.

This didn’t sit well with one of the best photojournalists working today. A woman. She started asking all of us, her colleagues, to name women with whom we’ve worked that were older than the current crop.

I’ve managed a couple of photo departments. I’ve managed regional photographers of the year. I’ve managed two Pulitzer Prize winners. All of them women.

Sheesh. One of the Pulitzer winners covered the downfall of the Soviet Union for The Associated Press. She’s Russian and speaks the language. I’m pretty sure that she managed me while working for me. That was a good thing.

I tossed their names in the ring. Pretty soon there were over 600 women photojournalists who came well before the current crop.

If you disagree with the way pictures are made within a certain genre of photography, that’s fine. Speak loud and clear. But, for God’s sake don’t complain about being on the outside as part of that discussion.

That’s a different discussion.

That’s a discussion that people like me can offer you some tough love. If you don’t fight it, maybe you’ll get good. Or, at least, you’ll understand the hard work and effort that it takes to get good.

Sometimes contrasts are a good thing. Sometimes they aren’t.

Apparently, I’m having real problems with yellows. Or, rather, my phone’s sensor is having problems.

This time I set it to make an HDR picture. That should have settled down the contrast issues.

I didn’t.

I did the best that I could to tone things down. This is where I managed to finish.

This group of flowers are interesting. They bloom at the wrong time of year. They die at the wrong time of year.

Maybe it’s just me.

Maybe I’m seeing things at the wrong time of year.

Who knows?

I should just leave this behind, but I want to talk about the right hand column.

Ansel Adams once said that your first 10,000 pictures are your worst ones. He also said that if he made ten good pictures in a year he had a great year.

To me, it seems that the loudest complainers are the ones that don’t want to put the work in. Making 10,000 pictures takes a long time if what you really want to photograph 10,000 subjects.

Time?

That takes too much time. Often, they want it now.

Ten great pictures in a year? Huh? Maybe ten great pictures in an hour is what they want.

I dunno. Remember, I’m an old white guy. I’m the one who is supposed to be privledged.

Of course I am. That’s historically, not photographically.

Think about that.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy every day because there are no useless days.


Pretty in red.

There is something about a red rose especially when it is growing in the middle of winter. It struck me as one of those little miracles that make me smile.

Lately, there have been a lot of things that make me smile. It started right around January 20. The change of presidential administrations helped a lot. It felt like we went from darkness to light in an afternoon.

Of course there will be battles and compromises even in the light but they won’t feel like we are falling off a cliff.

The biggest thing will be to include everybody, to make friends of our enemies, and to be kind to each other. The last point will take some doing.

Even if people aren’t openly antagonistic to each other, we don’t always pay attention. Think about the folks that stop in the middle of an aisle to answer their phone, or those who cut in front of you to pick up whatever it is they needed.

They mean no harm, but they aren’t paying attention. They generally apologize when they realize what they’ve done. It forces you to speak because you are wearing a mask and they can’t see your smile.

These are little things. They don’t mean anything. But, what happens with larger issues that do mean something? That stretches into all walks of life and through all levels of importance. Can we remember to “look after each other,” the phrase I use as I close Storyteller everyday?

I don’t know. But, I hope so.

We need each other now more than ever.

What do you think?

Red, red roses. I said they are a winter miracle. They are more than that to me.

I see them as a symbol of good things even in the cold of the day.

I try to photograph them as that, which is why I work close. I don’t want anything dead to pop up in the picture.

Luckily, the sky was overcast when I made it. Normally I like contrast. But, you saw yesterday what happened to the yellow flowers when there was too much.

A picture like this one needs even, muted light. That’s what I had. The rest was easy.

There were no struggles in development or in post production. The picture was made in camera before I had to mess with it.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow. There are new challenges every day.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy all the flowers in winter.


A kindred spirit with a stranger’s face. That’s how it starts. A friendship. An album. A project. A life. This photograph.

I keep stealing words from a friend. She’s gonna want a word with me. Eventually. But, not right now. For me, the words are just a good place to begin. That means something to me too. But…

I found these flowers planted near a little pocket park. They don’t belong here. They aren’t native to the area. They are like me.

I got into one of those conversations.

The ones that make me crazy. The ones where somebody who was born and bred in New Orleans says that I’m not from here so I don’t know about things.

Normally I would explain that I’ve lived here for twenty years. Not this time. Since I’ve emerged from whatever funk I was in I’ve been feeling my oats.

This time I looked that person straight in the eye and said, “Thank God for that.”

Try as he might he couldn’t get me to move off of my position. He gave up when I said, “Why would I want to have your inbred southern ways?

The end.

No, not the end. I don’t really feel that way. But, don’t push me. I’m glad that I’ve lived all over the place. I’ve been lucky to absorb bits from many cultures, from many races. I feel at home in many places. I’m from many places. I’ve gotten to know many different kinds of people.

You know. The words that I began with. A kindred spirit with a stranger’s face.

Lucky me.

I mean that.

Yellow flowers in New Orleans. Maybe. But not this shade. Not this bright.

These flowers are especially bright because they are backlighted. That’s what caught me eye.

That’s also what caused such extreme contrast. Little phone sensors just can’t deal with it.

There is an HDR setting. I used it. This is the result.

Oh well. You know what I always say. Perfection is for angels.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Notice all the light.


One winter afternoon.

One day in winter when the sun was starting to lower, I saw the it explode behind a tree. Light and color went flying everywhere. I left without my hat.

After seeing the image on the monitor I started thinking random thoughts.

Again.

I have a friend who lives in Vermont. The state has done an amazing job of controlling CoVid-19. It wasn’t until last week that there were enough infections to rise to the next level of sickness.

It comes as no surprise that he doesn’t get it. He was wondering when things would return to normal. You know what I think about normal.

He was really concerned about masking and social distancing. Sorry my friend, since the scientists are saying even with the vaccine you should still wear your mask, I think that’s going to be around for a long time. Maybe a decade. Maybe forever.

And, social distancing. As long as I can hug the people I love and care for I don’t give a hoot about relaxing it. Besides, after my family and friends, there might be six people in the real world that need a hug from me.

He wasn’t even thinking about changes that will last forever. We can do business without being a road warrior. We can learn from anywhere, even though it’s a documented fact that children learn better in school. We can even play full blown concerts without have to be on location. That, unfortunately, is not is much fun without a live audience.

There are downsides that are beginning to evolve. Crossing international borders will get harder. You may have to provide your passport, your vaccination certificate, and your recent negative CoVid-19 document.

That will feel like the very old days.

“Papers please.”

Sun explosions. They don’t really happen. It just looks like they do. Besides, if the sun really exploded, goodbye earth. Goodnight moon.

I saw the scene. I pointed the lens right into the sun. Everything kind of blew up, sending light and shadow everywhere.

You need light and shadow to enter through your cracks. A friend says that’s how you know you are alright.

Anyway.

I knew what I had. I developed it and worked in post production on Snapseed. Then, I ran it through OnOne where I added some exploding bokeh.

I finished it and here it is. I’m late today because I had to buy dog food fixins’.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Watch all the beautiful light.


Deep and dark.

Night. Moody, deep and dark. Sometimes scary. Always interesting. That’s one of my favorite times of day to work aside from the ends of the day.

Working at night means that you can hide some imperfections. You can build in the shadows. Pools of light become subjects in themselves. Trees often become silvery in the winter.

On the other hand, daytime photography assures you of a good exposure, especially if the light falls on the front of the subject. But, to my way of thinking, high noon daylight images are boring.

There I said it. Boring.

I started thinking about this when a friend said, in the comments, that my pictures are different. My writing above sort of explains why.

For many photographers my ways of working are just suggestions. For me, they are rules. I try to live by them religiously. That’s why some of you like what you see.

Sometimes this is an issue. I miss dinners, at least at traditional times. I get up too early, which means that I need a nap. Sometimes, I stay up too late chasing the night.

That’s all in a day’s work. I suppose. Everyone here is used to it, so it’s not a big deal. I’ll hear about it in no uncertain terms if it is.

I’ll explain how I made this image in the other column, where that stuff belongs.

Heh!

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your vaccine. Look after each other. Look up from the dirt to the stars.

Mystical trees. Or, something like that. The bigger this picture gets, the worse the trees look.

Oh well.

Perfection is for angels.

This is a layered picture. But all three scenes were made at the same time of day.

Trust me. I tried to cheat. It wouldn’t work.

So.

There is a base picture that doesn’t show up to your eye. It gives the sky depth. There is the sky and there are the trees. I think I reduced the mid-tones a little too much. If you are wondering, the mid-tones are in the trees.

Once the layers were assembled, I set to work tinkering. In this case tinkering means to balance out the layers so they don’t look like layers.

I added a touch of color, but that was it. Too much color and the picture turned atomic. Not enough and the picture became monochromatic.

Anyway.

That’s what I did.


Everything you need to know is in this picture.

Thoughts that cross my mind. Not everyday, but more often than not during our pandemic times. There’s another random thought that crossed my mind. “Pandemic Times.” A good name for a newspaper in these non-newspaper days.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Lately, my thoughts have been roaming and random. Like the one above, but it doesn’t count.

I think about how to fix the streets after the mayor made a big deal out of starting a big project in the area of the city in which I probably venture to twice a year. Meanwhile, my street has potholes in potholes. Some people grow crops in them. Some people decorate them.

I fix some of them the same way that my neighbors do. Fill the base up to about two inches from street level with unneeded Mardi Gras beads. Then, a layer of quick set concrete and finally a layer of a compound that looks like asphalt that you buy at Home Depot.

This is all illegal, but when the NOPD beat cops come by in their cars, they pull over blocking us from the street and turn on their red and blue lights. They are protecting us, so in return they get coffee, tea, water and some kind of snack.

This is one of the reasons we like our street level cops. They use their heads. They don’t over react. Besides, if they hit potholes near my house, their teeth rattle in their heads.

If you are wondering why they just can’t avoid the pothole, well, when you do that you just hit another pothole, probably worse than the one you’re avoiding.

The subject in the picture reminded me of all that. I’ll tell you about that in the right column.

The right hand column. It’s mostly used for technical issues. Because I’m not a huge technician there isn’t much of that.

I saw a car that was reflecting the foreground scene almost perfectly so I stood back and made a few frames.

I stood back because I didn’t want to be in the picture. That succeeded but I managed to capture a few letters. I have no idea where they came from.

I also had to use a border to hold in the bottom which looks like a mistake. It’s not. It’s just a part of the car’s hood.

The rest looks pretty cool, I think. It really needs those bright leaves to make the picture pop.

All of this was done in camera with just a bit of tuning up in editing.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy all the weather.


In the morning, when you rise.

Walking and seeing. That’s what’s been happening lately. For some reason unknown to me, I seem to have recovered my ability to see.

It may have been my own doing. I started trying to make art that wasn’t me. I was trying to tailor my work to a certain gallery, rather than find a gallery that was tailored to my work.

Once I realized the difference it took me a couple of weeks to work through that, but eventually I came out on the other side where my process was my process, and my pictures were my pictures.

Muted art be damned.

So, now I’m back at it. I can see, feel and think again. I’m not sure if my work is good, but I’m sure that’s mine.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy your vision.

Processes are different for all of us. Lately, mine has changed. Since I’m not a photojournalist I can do whatever I like.

Lately, I look at a scene and see it for what it can be. That’s what happened when I saw the scene that eventually became this picture.

We were out about about 10am. Winter light is better than many other kinds of light. That was in my favor.

But, blue sky and a tree wasn’t much. It came to me that I could do something with this scene and make it a little special.

I framed the tree in the sky and went to work back home in the studio.

There was a lot of experimenting going on. After that came tinkering and finally some kind of success. I finished it in OnOne and it is as you see it.

I’d ask if you had questions. I can teach you the technique. But, your vision is your vision.