Sitting and playing.

T

he next day. We needed coffee. Good coffee. It turned out that a coffee house was less than two short blocks from our hotel.

Even better were the people who worked there. The were friendly and energetic. One of them took us to this place, an empty club.

Apparently, it was fully functioning until a movie production company used it to make a James Brown biopic. When they tore the set down, they gutted the building.

Those are the kinds of stories that you won’t hear if you just pass through a town, keeping to yourself. I suppose you could look around and never say a word to anybody, but what would be the fun in that?

Anyway.

This little bar or club or cafe is now being rebuilt back, good as it ever was.

One of these days we’ll pass through Natchez again and see it for ourselves. But, not this year.

T

here is some post production technique to discuss.

As you know, I’m about feeling more than seeing.

The picture was easy to make, especially if I didn’t want to show you the guitar player beyond what I did.

The club felt smokey, with a little bit of mist drifting in and out. I could see people standing around listening to the band, drinking beer and hanging out.

But, the club was empty. There wasn’t a finished wall in sight.

So, I softened everything. I made the scene glow a little bit.

The rest is in my imagination. Or, yours.


One stop shopping.

T

his is the kind of place that we saw on our drive to Natchez. That’s Mississippi, in case you were unclear on it.

Stopping at little places like this were one of the reasons the drive too so long. This place was closed. The drive would have taken longer if it had been open because the owner would talk to me and I would start a longer conversation.

If you want to take pictures in unfamiliar places that’s how you do it. Talk. Talk. Talk. Let them know that you aren’t a threat in any way.

Make your picture, thank them and move on.

Do that 15 or 20 times on a trip and it adds up to real time. On the other hand, it’s worth it. Meeting new people is always worth it. And, you may learn something about the place you are photographing.

It may not be historically accurate, but who cares? We do it for the stories we can tell. And, for this blog. Well, I do anyway.

And, then there was lunch.

We read about a legendary cafe tucked away between Highway 61 and the river. We knew the crossroad, but that’s all. It took some poking around and looking because the cafe was located in the middle of a trailer park.

That’s also the joy of this kind of travel. Even though the hangries were approaching, we had fun finding the place and eating. The food was really good. Sort of southern home style cooking.

Imagine that. Southern home cooking in the South. What’ll they think of next?

S

ince there is no technique to making a photograph like this one, other than what I wrote about talking to people, I thought that I would talk about yesterday.

I went to an appointment with a new oncologist. There was nothing wrong with the old one. I liked him a lot. But, he retired.

I kind of grilled him about the efficacy of my vaccinations as oppose to what my CLL did to them.

He looked very carefully at my blood work and saw something encouraging. My hemoglobin numbers look almost normal.

So, in the next week we are going to run a detailed panel just looking at that. If it is as we hope, there is a chance that I don’t have to stay locked down, or at least I don’t have to be quite so strict because if the hemoglobin is near normal then the vaccine will work to a point.

Have a good thought for me.


Out on the road.

L

ouisiana is leading the country in Covid-19 infections. We are nowhere near 70% vaccination rate. Orleans Parish beat the CDC in mandating masks indoors again.

Now I’m starting to hear whispers in the wind that musical venues will close again and that includes both Jazzfest and French Quarter Fest. The loss of both of them will cost the city a lot of money. It’ll hurt musicians once again.

The anti-vaxxers are causing this.

Not only are we leading the country in new infections, but we are among the bottom two or three states in vaccinations.

Many of my friends are angry. I’m angry. Until the virus is managed or defeated I can’t doo much of anything. And, the things that I do have to be thought of through the lens of risk v reward.

It also seems the regional and local leaders are handling this better than our national leaders, at least in blush states. In other states legislators are moving to restrict scientists and governors.

Then, there are people like Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida who restricts masking and vaccinations. He says that his state is doing just fine, if almost six thousand new infections per day is doing fine.

This isn’t a political issue. Or, it shouldn’t be. This is a life and death issue.

Anti-Vaxxers claim that their freedom is being restricted if they are forced to get jabbed.

Nonsense.

What about my freedom to not get sick and die? Let’s put it this way. If I get sick I have nothing to lose. I’m coming for you. My breath will be like dragon’s breath.

That’s just how angry I am.

W

hen I was first diagnosed with CLL, once we got over the shock, we took a drive to Natchez, Mississippi.

That’s about a three or four hour trip. It took us ten hours.

We stopped to take pictures just about everywhere. Broken down buildings, Civil War battle fields, cemeteries, and old stately plantation houses and just about everything else in between.

We stayed in Natchez for three days and explored the area. Because I was here, there and everywhere, people got to know me.

You know that’s how I work. I talk to people. We’d be walking to a scene, and some guy would be biking in the other direction and would wave hi because he met us somewhere else.

Anyway.

This is a drive through shooting.

You can almost see where the camera is located at the top of the dashboard.

It was a little sporty, but I was careful. To me, it was one of those risk v reward things. It was different than being around people, but in many ways the same.


You’ll never guess the name of this flower.

L

earn something new every day, they say. I did. I learned the name of this flower from a friend of mine who’s lived here forever.

Care to guess?

It’s an Okra blossom. I never noticed any pods, but even if I had I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at.

I always thought of the bloom as a pretty, fragile, little flower.

But, I never knew what it was.

One of these days I’m going to learn more about flowers than, “This is a yellow flower, this is a red flower… ”

This post has taken all day to write. Business got in the way. Then, Wal Mart got in the way. In an effort to keep me healthy we started using their home delivery service.

It’s supposed to be simple, it’s anything but that. Deliveries go to wrong addresses, the order might not be complete, the driver gets lost while she is standing in front of the gate.

Last night the thing turned weird. Wal Mart sent me two emails saying sorry for the delay, we’ll let you know when it is coming. The groceries are supposed to be here between 7 and 8pm.

Nothing.

Yesterday morning at 6:20 am, they sent me a list of what had been substituted because they were out of stock. This is supposed to mean that the delivery will be made within an hour.

Oh no.

I finally arrived this morning, after cancelling the original order, calling customer service four times and reordering everything. Only 36 hours late.

They forget that customer is king. The CEO of Wal Mart has an Instagram account. Guess what I did? I wrote to him outlining these problems. Then, I wrote to you.

Safe yourself some grief, don’t use Wal Mart’s delivery service.

W

alking by, I saw these flowers. They usually bloom during late spring and last through early summer.

Okra.

I suppose if I tell some young millennial chef about it, he or she will use them in place of the real thing.

Hmm… deconstructed gumbo.

There is not much to making this picture. Find the angle, frame the scene, push the button.

Back in the studio, I processed the image and cropped it. That’s what I did. Nothing more.

Sometimes, being simple is better.

That reminds me of an ancient saying I learned at least 150 years ago.

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

That applies to the many things that we all do.

Ever get in a rush and nothing goes right? Slow down, you’ll get more done.

Getting more done, if you aren’t working until the early hours of the morning, is very affirming.

For people who are like me and are built to work it’s essential.

It may just be the start of pulling me out of this funk. That is, working until all hours of the night and getting things done that I want to get done.


The sky.

T

hey say to tell another human being. I suppose that’s what I did yesterday. I told all of you. It worked a little and it didn’t. I slept a little better, my head is a little clearer but, that giant hole is still there.

So, I called my primary care doctor and asked for a teleconference. They are big on that lately because they are trying to keep people out of their offices unless we absolutely have to be there.

Their first question when I told them why I wanted to talk to him was are you a danger to yourself or others?

Nah.

Taking my own life is not within me. Ever. There are two ways to look at that. Either I’m pretty strong emotionally even though I’m down now. Or, I’m a coward because it takes courage to end your own life.

Hurting others?

Nah.

For me, violence is only for self defense. Besides, I’m sad not mad. And, I am mostly just quiet.

Anyway, my doc and I talked for about 12 minutes, which is the normal span of an office visit. I take a medicine for pain that was originally developed as an antidepressant. He raised the dose. I’ll check in with him or his office in 72 hours.

For y’all, no worries.

A

fter looking and not seeing I pretty much gave up trying to make a few new pictures.

Then, I took the trash out. This wonderful sky is what I saw. I took a bunch of pictures.

I suppose that photographer’s luck comes into play when you aren’t trying so hard.

I wasn’t trying at all.

Editing and post production was minimal, just enough to define the clouds a little better than the original file.

This is not my usual style or work. I’m usually bolder and use more contrast than this.

This picture just sort of floats. It’s what I needed at the time.

Something light, lacy, floating and almost ephemeral.

Maybe you could use that too.


Inside out.

W

hen I awoke, I was feeling confused. Something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.The feeling passed. I let it go.

It came back when I started working. I still couldn’t place it.

I played some music. Music is magic. I takes me to other places. It inspires me. It centers me. And, if I’m lucky, it clarifies my thoughts.

That’s what it did.

I don’t know why I selected an album called “Age of Miracles,” by Mary-Chapin Carpenter. The backstory is complicated. It was her first album after leaving Columbia. It was her first album after she recovered from two pulmonary embolisms. It was the first album after her divorce.

I don’t listen to it often because she seems confused. She’s trying to break free of her country reputation, yet she falls back on it. She does sing one of the saddest songs in the word called, “I have a need for solitude.”

But, it caught me. I realized what I was missing.

And, it made me very sad.

I’ll work small to larger. You’ll understand. And, you’ll understand this picture.

I miss Sophie Rose terribly. We have other dogs, but Sophie chose me. I was her person. I feel like I let her down. I know that I didn’t. After a lot of reading, it’s very possible that she had been coming to her end for couple of months. It was just her time. But, that may give me a pass, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Then, there is my CLL, a blood cancer. It likely will never do anything terrible to me. But, it limits me. My CoVid-19 vaccinations do nothing for me. That means, no festivals, no second lines, no Indian events, no Mardi Gras.

If that isn’t depressing enough, we are back to wearing masks because our infection rate, like most of the country has grown by about 150%

Being in my condition of combined illness, sadness and depression makes it very hard to work. I can’t seem to let a picture find me and I can’t work. I have all sorts of projects that could take the rest of the year or more. You’d think I’d be excited to get started.

What do I do? I sleep.

When I finally start my day, I find everything to do but work.

In a word, it sucks.

I wish I knew the path. Maybe I’ll get lucky and stumble onto it. I doubt that. It’s bigger than letting a picture find me. It’s all of me.

Writers give advice about being authentic. Is this authentic enough?

F

or us, down in the swamp, late summer is already approaching. It’s gotten hot. It’s turned dry.

Stuff is dying.

I took a walk with a couple of the other dogs. They need walks too. I was looking for a picture. Or, was open to letting one find me.

No pictures because there is no color. The flowers die in the heat.

It’s also hard to stay motivated because after five minutes you are too hot. After ten minutes your shirt blooms with sweat.

The dogs felt it too. They were ready to turn around after they did what they needed to do.

So, that’s the technique. Walk until you can’t. Make a picture of whatever you see and return home.

The picture suits my mood.

In that way, I suppose I was successful. Or, not.


Summer rain leaves droplets on the leaves.

S

ummer is our rainy season. We had an amazing amount of rain this month. They said we had five times the normal amount of rain for a July. That’s something for us because July is very wet.

The constant rain gets a little bit tiresome, but it does yield scenes like this one. It’s a combination of nature and magic.

Look at those reds. Those blues. Those purples. Those colors are something aren’t they? They look like fall colors except that it’s July.

It’s all about the water.

I’ve written a lot about the lack of water in most of America. We don’t have that problem. We have another problem. We have too much water. We don’t take drought seriously. When we talk about it, it’s after ten days of no rain.

It’s a matter of perceptions.

Those of us in the Gulf Coast States don’t think about the lack of water when we should be thinking about how to distribute our water to people living in the west.

It’s a funny thing. I was thinking about all of the infrastructure proposals and I haven’t seen anything about water issues. Nothing. Zero. Zip.

Well, I have a proposal. Let’s move some of our unneeded water west. A series of giant pipes might be cost prohibitive, but maybe not. Not if we want fresh fruits and vegetables.

Or, maybe there’s another way. I’m not the smartest person in the room but others are. It’s time we start thinking about this. It’s time for those smart folks to get going.

After all, we all get thirsty.

T

his picture didn’t take much post production. I made the picture as I saw it and added a bit of color that the sensor couldn’t seem to see.

But, I only added enough color to make the photograph look like the scene that caught my attention so that you can see it too.

I had to be careful because these rich blues, reds and purples are some of my favorite colors. My natural inclination is to take them too far.

That’s the trick sometimes, knowing when to stop. Maybe that’s the trick with everything in life. Knowing when to stop.

I dunno. I’m just thinking out loud.

Maybe I should stop.

O

ne more thing. You knew it. I couldn’t stop.

Seriously, after a lot of thought, I’m staying here on WordPress.

The basic community building theory is what’s most important. I know a lot of you here. I can’t build that again, because it’s only taken me eleven years.

There’s more too. It’ll take a lot of time to build anything. Time is short these days. Time is expensive. No matter how you use it.


Darkness at the edge of town.

O

bviously, I made this picture a while ago, like in winter. I tucked it away and you’ve never seen it. I’m starting to work through that collection now.

Unfortunately for me, these pictures are scattered throughout the last few months which means that I have to find them. Hard to do when you’ve forgotten about them. That’s how the infamous lost files are found.

This is a prime example of me seeing a scene for what it could be and making that happen in post production. It’s very likely the sky was pale winter blue and the foreground in good light.

That’s fine.

But, it doesn’t always fulfill my photographic needs. In fact, the deeper my journey becomes the more I want to make pictures that express my vision.

Usually, that doesn’t mean making a documentary style photograph. Nor, does it mean just throwing a couple of filters on a picture and calling it done.

The best of my work is brought about by thinking about, and then working, on the picture.

That doesn’t always happen.

I get rushed. I don’t think clearly. Even worse, I don’t feel clearly. I believe that you, the viewer or reader, can tell that. You see right through me.

At least that’s what I think.

N

ow, here are some technical issues to overcome.

First, as I wrote on the other side, the picture was made in color.

As I also wrote, the image was made in pale winter light. It was pretty enough, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I thought about it and decided it might look like winter feels. Brooding. Moody. Even scary.

I took out as much color as I could. But, if you notice, not all.

Then I softened the sky and enhanced the silhouetted subjects.

I blurred everything to soften the feel.

That’s it. That’s enough.

How about those of you who are photographers? How do you achieve your vision?


Free falling.

T

oday got rolling just about the time I got up. I told you that I was going to get busy. I didn’t think that I meant right this second.

I thought I could cruise into the work a little bit at a time. Silly me.

I made my first mistake when I started listening to music. I started with something soft, slow and nostalgic. I almost couldn’t get started. I switched things up. I started Playing a playlist called “Ray’s Mix.”

Yeah. That’s me. I made it when I thought making play lists on Spotify was important. It’s loud. It’s s noisy. And, I know all the words.

Anyway.

This one will keep me working for hours.

I’ll keep this short. Work awaits.

Darn.

D

o you want technique? This one should fill you up. To the top.

The picture really is about nothing. Since all art is autobiographical what does that say about me?

That aside, this was a picture made from desperation. Or, it was an attempt to come back from wandering in the wilderness.

I made the picture, developed it and thought, “Now what?”

I removed a lot of color and muted it. Then, I tinkered around with different modification filters until I came to this place.

The picture highlights something I’ve been saying, and saying, and saying…

Go outside and take a picture. You’ll find one, or it will find you.