This one works.

The only working pay phone in New Orleans lives in Central City. It’s sort of in one of the worst areas of the neighborhood. I suppose people need to communicate or — forgive me — set up drug deals.

That’s what makes this corner of the area so dangerous. When drug deals go bad, there is gun play. When there is gun play innocent people get shot. Innocent like a little three year old girl who was celebrating her birthday.

Even though that was a few years ago, I won’t soon forget that. I had an assignment. I photographed her grandma. We had no real contact information but we knew where she lived.

I knocked on her door with my heart in my mouth. She stepped out of her door and screen door just enough so I could make her picture. I took a couple of steps back so I could set the context and found success. As much success as you can have photographing a grieving family member.

I haven’t been to Central City in a long time. I don’t really feel unsafe there, but the pandemic changed everything.

And, speaking of that, don’t make me start having to type that tagline again. The United States is on its way to a fourth surge. The head of the CCD was almost in tears as she talked about it. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please do it. Please keep your distance. And please wear your masks in public places.

And, please be patient.

I know that we are burned out from being isolated or in a lock down, but now is not the time to take chances.

One more thing. None of this is a political thing. The last president made it so. He’s a moron. Don’t listen to that. This is a health issue. A big, giant health issue.

Honestly, this is an older image. There are a couple of reasons for that.

You know me. I’m marginally digitally incompetent.

I downloaded and installed an upgrade for OnOne. Everything works as it should except that it can’t seem to see my desktop. That’s where new pictures go until they are archived.

It sees everything else. It even archived the unarchivable.

I can find no solution or even the same question anywhere. I have an idea that it’s not OnOne, but it’s Apple. Apple hates everybody. So does Adobe.

There isn’t much to say about this photograph. I found it in my archive. I’d forgotten about it. I fine tuned it with something that OnOne calls cinema and that was it.

The pay phone is an added bonus. And, yes it really works.


Prayers for you.

The weather turned a little cold and very bright. So, I started chasing my project. I found an old house with a statue in front. The Virgin Mary protects the house. The house protects the occupants.

I don’t know much about this place. There were no cars in the street or in the short driveway so I couldn’t stop and ask. So, I just stopped and photographed. Maybe, I’ll go back.

The way I work on projects is to photograph everything that interests me. I don’t pre-edit. I really don’t edit any of my takes except to cherry pick for Storyteller.

I have no idea if the pictures I make will hang together as a story or if they are more of an art statement. Only marination and time will tell.

And, sometimes I’m not even sure if I made a good picture. When I’m really right in the field I don’t even remember what I did until I look at it on the monitor.

There are other ways of working. Studio photographers don’t waste as much gas as I do. Wedding photographers make more pictures of people than I do. Nature photographers, well I can’t imagine walking around in mud boots way too early in the morning.

What about you?

For those of you who are photographers, how do you like to work?

Working on this project is a cross between photojournalism and documentary photography.

That means I don’t experiment much. I make pictures of what I see. I may lighten, brighten or slightly enhance the color. That’s about it.

You sort of have to pick your place. A friend of mine does all this weird stuff to second liners and Indians. Another friend and I keep telling him to stop doing it. He doesn’t listen. Yet, when a picture of his shows up on a second line or Indian page it’s cleared up.

What do I know?

I have my beliefs. They’ve sharpened over forty plus years. They may not suit you.


Look to the west.

We listened to a podcast this morning that stopped me in my tracks. It’s a conversation between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen.

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s not about that. Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican, this is worth listening to. You’ll learn something about the two men. More importantly, you might learn something about yourself.

They discussed their fathers and how they helped them grow, or didn’t. Mostly, they didn’t. Obama’s heritage is well known. Springsteen’s not so much.

I relate to Springsteen’s story much more than Obama’s. I’ll stop there because I’m not quite really explore those depths and write about them. Let’s just say I am what I am despite my upbringing.

Springsteen did say something funny that can be taken one of two ways. He said that he dresses like a blue collar worker, but he never worked a day in his life. You can take that at face value.

Or.

You can take it the way that I did. Even though every musician that I know says they are working or that music is their job. It’s the kind of job that they love doing. In that way they have never had a job. They enjoy what they do.

Do you?

Into the sky. That’s what caught my attention. The crazy, almost exploding sky.

Look at it. Please.

It’s almost like an upside down beach with the waves leaving trails in the newly exposed sand.

I’ve seen a lot of sunsets and I don’t think that I’ve ever seen one like this.

I did what I could to make the proper exposure so that it would be easy work in post production.

I helped it a bit. The result is what you see here. For me, the real trick was to keep the buildings in silhouette while retaining just enough light on them to let them glow.

Let’s see what happen today.


It’s green.

Sometimes, there’s no winning. I couldn’t do it yesterday so I shut the conversation down. I couldn’t get through. Everything was an excuse. Or, a weird kind of arrogance. I have no use for that.

Oh well. Another war lost. One I shouldn’t have fought.

These two pictures are of the same location. They were made from a parking lot in Jefferson Parish. If I’m not mistaken, they are the same frame. They are just reworked in two different ways.

I did this to teach myself something about processing because there is a lot of things I have yet to learn, especially in the digital world, which is often an enigma to me.

No matter what happens, learning is paramount. If you aren’t a life long learner in at least one thing, I’m pretty sure that early onset dementia sets in.

Oh, it’s not that extreme. But, you know what I mean.

You learn. The first thing is technique. Then, come a lot of things. Feeling. The ability to leave spaces for the work to breath. And, then to be able to strip the work down to its barest essentials without losing the feeling and intent.

That’s the key to knowing.

Two photographs. Two photographs processed in very different ways.

The first way was to just make a kind of art. Or, to make the sky look like it did in Los Angeles when I was growing up. Green.

The second image looks like night even though I made it at about 11am. The film industry calls their technique “Day for Night.”

I didn’t use that. Instead, I removed the color until it was black and white and I darkened it until night came to the picture.

That’s it. The take away is simple. You don’t always need filters. You can do it yourself.

You can.

Like night.


Floating.

Over and over. I took a step back and tried very hard to slow down. I supposed that’s easier to do when I am well rested.

For some reason after going to bed at an early time for me, 12:30am, I awoke very late at 9:40am. Everybody was up. They decided to let me sleep. Even the dogs left me alone.

I must have needed it, but I didn’t have any kind of level of exhaustion. We watched a couple of movies last night and that was it.

Normally, my mornings are pretty fast paced. Since I already was more than half way through when I started, I decided to slow down a little. Well, a lot. I decided to do what I normally don’t do.

Mornings are normally quiet. Not today. I started playing music as soon as I sat down at my desk.

I didn’t answer as many emails as I normally do. I just answered two, from a friend of mine with whom I’ve been having a long running discussion about art, photography and the meaning of luck.

Music and a discussion about art. That’s a great way to discuss the day.

Oh, and I took The New York Times Friday news quiz. The way I score my results is backwards. The fewer questions that I answer correctly the better I feel. That means I didn’t spend too much time worrying about things over which I have no control.

That’s it for now.

Layers. That’s what makes this picture anything at all.

I started with a picture of the sky. That’s the first layer and the background of the image. I had to crop it a bit because there is train on the bottom of the picture. It’s gone now.

I added the top layer which is the lawn with all those little snowball like shaped wildflowers. They are everywhere right now so there’s no way to ignore them.

I started blending and subtracting color. Layering often magnifies the saturation.

Doing that also allowed more background to make its way to the top. You can see the clouds floating through the lawn.

A little sharpening to keep the flowers from looking like white blobs and I had what you are seeing right now.


Lost in nature.

Friday follies. That’s what they said years ago during a war that shall not be named. It meant that the generals held press conferences in which they lied to, and gaslight, America.

The made statements like, “In order to save the village we had to destroy it.” Does that make any sense at all?

My follies are a little different.

I do ridiculous things to what were once photographs in search of art. Sometimes I find it. Mostly, I don’t. I’m not sure about this one.

I’d like your opinions.

I’ll say that this is a plant. A Sword something or other. I started working on this one late at night. I just kept going. More about that in the other column.

There are times when I like to experiment and wander around. There are other times when I head straight to the image. No turns. No experiments. My best experiments usually come late at night when I’m tired, and my brain is off. I just react to whatever I see on the screen.

That’s a lot like I work in the street. Pure Zen. Turn off my brain and just react. Try it sometime. You might be amazed at your work. I usually am. I often wonder who took the picture. It might be so good that I’m sure it wasn’t me.

That’s what I’m after.

This image was a photograph.

Once.

I started tinkering with it. Soon it didn’t look like a photograph but it didn’t look like this.

Somewhere along the line my brain clicked off. Then, it clicked back on.

The picture was at the point that you are seeing now.

You know what I thought about?

Art that we did when we were children. Remember?

We’d color a sheet of paper with every color in the Crayon box. Then, we’d cover that in black. Finally, we’d etch out the black and make art that had colorful markings next to the black.

That’s what this looks like to me.

I made it back to my childhood.

Finally.


Sometimes just the sky.

It’s a great day for experiments. Rainy. Kind of cold. We’ve had a lot of rain since yesterday. Supposedly, there are three or four more inches on the way.

So, I used a new app. I’ve used it once in the past. I’ll get into the technical aspects of that on the right hand column.

With all the rain, I needed something to counteract that on Storyteller. This picture just about does that. It’s bright. It’s gauzy. And, there’s a lot of yellow. The photograph, if that’s what this is, moves from darkness to light, at least for peoples who read from left to right.

Even thought there’s been a lot of stupidity as the pandemic seems to be getting managed, that’s what this picture might mean. We are headed into the light.

Or, if you are if you are cynical like me, moving into the light could mean the end. You know what people say when they have died and came back because it wasn’t their time yet.

I think I’ll choose the first option, mostly because I’m not ready to go just yet. There’s a lot of work to be done. And, I want to help.

I know that you want to help too.

Amiright?

So. The app. It turns the image into all sorts of colors. The original photograph was monochromatic, even with the golden arches in the background.

If that wasn’t enough, I added a setting from OnOne that made those globes, which are supposed to be bokeh.

It’s really not bokeh. Bokeh, an often misused Japanese word that Japanese people don’t use, refers to the quality of the out of focus parts of an image.

Usually, that’s found in the background. You want something that’s soft and creamy with some shape.

Once I completed that, added a border. I had something mid-way between a photograph and something else.


Not always this way.

Once upon a time we lived in a land of peace. But, I forget when that was.

I read a comment that said we’ve had two mass shootings in two weeks. Yes, America is opening back up.

In New Orleans last Saturday night there were eight shootings. They weren’t in one place so it wasn’t a mass event. Still, eight people were wounded or killed. On touristy Bourbon Street, two people with guns shot at each other and hit two other innocent people.

Are we emerging from a year long lockdown only to walk into a hail of bullets?

So.

I decided to publish this spring-like picture of these pretty little wildflowers. They were growing along the parking lot to my doctor’s office.

Oh, nothing is terribly wrong except that I’m still very limited in what I do. I mostly chatter on about my back and legs. Those won’t kill me, but CoVid-19 combined with CLL will.

I’ve written about this is the past. I have a kind of Leukemia that doesn’t do much. It’s called CLL. I get my blood tested twice a year and I talk with my oncologist about anything else but my condition. You see there’s nothing to be done. Or, that needs to be done. I’m mostly fine.

But.

If, by chance, I caught the virus my body couldn’t defend itself. My red blood platelets are compromised. There are “holes” in them. Vaccination or no vaccination, I could die.

That’s what my doctor told me yesterday.

Me? I treasure my life. I have things to accomplish. I have things to do. Roads to travel. Life to live.

You? Stop shooting each other. Your life is worth something too. Enjoy it. If your mind and emotions are twisted, get some help. Don’t buy a gun.

Do you remember when I first started adding a tagline to my posts?

It started with “Enjoy every sandwich.” Warren Zevon said that to David Letterman when he was asked what he took away from his death sentence of cancer. It was his way of saying life is short. Enjoy it.

Man. Enjoy every sandwich.

I wish I had some big post production story to tell you about this photograph.

I don’t.

I made it after I left my doctor’s office thinking that we had all dodged some kind of bullet after being vaccinated. Most of you have. I haven’t.

I did the only thing I know to do in good or bad times.

Make a picture.

Two different kinds of monks say, “The work is the prayer.” If you’ve been around here for any length of time you’ve read that.

That’s what it is for me. Work equals prayer.

After that, post production editing was easy. The hardest part was to keep everything from becoming too bright, too oversaturated, too bloody.

That’s it. That’s the story. Photographing this bunch of little wildflowers made me feel good.

Maybe, they’ll help you feel good too.


Let it rain.

More about the reckoning. I’m starting to poke around a little deeper. It started last night or early this morning when I awoke from a delicious dream.

It was about my newspaper days. For some reason the newspaper photo staff was made up of about everybody with whom I ever worked.

We were sidelined. The new, young staff was sent on assignment. They couldn’t complete it.

Some editor came back to the photo area to ask us to finish the assignment. Off we went, the pros from dover. The heavyweight veterans. Heh, heh.

Mostly, our hair was silver and our beards were white. Veterans, indeed.

It was some huge event, but I don’t remember what. I do remember that there was color exploding everywhere. It wasn’t violent. It was pretty and awe inspiring.

We divided up the coverage and came back with every possible picture. The young guys didn’t know what to think. We, the old guys, knew what to think.

All I can say is that it was very good seeing those guys again. Sheesh. Some of them had to come back from the grave. That was even better.

A few words about the picture since I completely ignored it in the left column.

I’m back to the project. I realized that I just couldn’t force it.

I always say to let the picture find you. I wasn’t doing that.

This time it did. It was so stealthy that I didn’t even realize that it did find me.

It took a review of work to actually see it.

When the picture really does find you, there is no need to overwork it.

It just is.

Even the little raindrops are nicely shaped.

Okay. Picture number three.