I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at Ray@Laskowitzpicturess.com or Pictures34@me.com. For a quick look at my work please go to www.laskowitzpictures.com.


Upside down world.

The rain stopped earlier then predicted.

It didn’t matter. Water was flowing from America’s eyes. It started with a brief tweet referencing TMZ that said Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. At first, there were disbelievers. Not me. I’m not a fan of TMZ-style journalism, but when this kind of horrible news breaks they are first and they are right. It only got worse. We know that five people died, including his 13 year old daughter, Gianna. We think there are four more dead and the pilot.

The entire world reacted. Athletes from every sport tweeted both their condolences and their admiration for the man. At the NFL All Star game, which is sort of a meaningless joke, many football players were upset. When the stadium announcer asked for a moment of silence the fans did that and then started chanting Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.

I could go on and tell you about his basketball career, but you can read or listen to that anywhere. I could tell you about his failings, but you can read that just about anywhere. To me that means he was a man. A normal man who succeeded and sometimes failed.

He was also just a basketball dad taking his daughter, her friend and her friend’s mom to a game. Like any of us. I know. Most of us don’t do it in a helicopter.

I followed his career pretty closely. I’m not a basketball fan, but I grew up near Los Angeles. I followed the Lakers in good times and in bad. I watched Kobe grow from your typical punkish teenager into a man. A good man. And, I am sad, Very, very sad.

My thoughts are with his wife and three remaining children. His youngest is six months old. I have no idea what it’s like to grieve, recover and work your way through that horrible emptiness.  My prayers — our prayers — are with them.

My thoughts are also with the musicians who are attending the Grammy Awards tonight. The Grammys are held in Staples Center, the house that Kobe built. This should be a night of joy and happiness. Instead, it is muted with most musicians saying something about him. The sadness won’t stop.

There’s nothing more for me to say.

Well, one more thing. I know a thing or two about helicopters. Witnesses say it landed upside down on its rotors. They said it seemed like the pilot was looking for a place to land. That’s not human error. That’s catastrophic failure. We’ll see.

The picture. I had already learned about the sad news, but I need to run an errand. I took the dog who sees things. She jumped out of the car and lead me straight to the scene. It seems appropriate for the day so I made the picture. In case you caught that, “Tonight,” I normally write in the morning but I had to get this out of my head. So I wrote at about 8:30p Sunday might.

Peace.

RIP Mamba 1978-2020


On a winters day.

It’s a blue sort of day.

The weather is frightful. It’s raining outside. Jazz music is playing inside. They say that we are going to get wet. Very wet today. Rain all day. Into the night. The late night.

Some plans went out the window.

I gave some serious thought to photographing one of two things. A walk through The Bywater with a group of photographers. I know. I wrote that I don’t work well in groups. This sounded fun. Or, I was thinking about photographing a second line. The first was cancelled yesterday because the group leader got sick. The second is postponed because of the weather.

Not doing both are fine with me. These days I’m trying to roll on. There’s plenty to do around this place. Or not. Maybe it’s a listening and reading day.

The pictures. I’ve been experimenting with a single way of enhancing pictures with basically one click. One move. I hesitate to call it post production because it’s been incorporated into my normal workflow. My new move seems to enhance the darks and bring out the highlights.

I did have to be careful in my culling. The techniques works best with blues. I tested it on a number of pictures. Warm tones hate it. Colder tones seem to like it.

The trees are just two bare branched winter ones that I saw around the neighborhood.

Even bluer.


Looking into the light.

Looking into the light.

No. Not heading toward the light. That’s something else.

This means breaking one of the rules of photography, and in particular when you are using a digital camera. They tell you not to photograph directly into the sun. They also tell you that doing that with a digital camera will destroy the sensor. I suppose it might, if you left the shutter open for an hour or so. Who’s going to do that?

Besides, who is they?

For the 1/2000th of a second or so that it took to make this picture nothing bad will happen to the camera. But, something good will happen to the picture that you just made. Not only will you make a strong silhouette, but you’ll get some flare and even a bit of sun streaks into the sky.

All of that makes for a more interesting picture than a normal exposure would do. If you are like me, you aren’t done. You’ll also work on the picture a lot in post production to help make the finished image what you really want it to be.

This picture is a great example of how I see these days.


Changing the look of past pictures.

I promise.

You’ve seen the pictures that I layered to make this picture. Based on another bloggers positive comments I thought I would tinker with a couple of them. My intent is to show that while nature always seeks stasis — which is why we are doomed as a species — she is also very flexible.

Stasis is one thing. Static is another. Nature isn’t static. Think about trees for a minute. They change according to season. Leaves bloom, the flourish, they fade and finally die. The tree doesn’t die. The leaves do. We couple explore further, but I think you get the point.

The picture was made from two very different pictures of the same tree. Layering is fairly easy once you select the images. Blending and finishing is not so easy.

I was chatting with a neighbor about my working method. I cannot listen to anything when I am writing. That takes thought. I can listen to music when I’m processing and finishing pictures, just as I can when I experiment. I just react. I don’t really think.

Same thing when I’m photographing. I review everything that I know about the scene and what it takes to make a good picture. Then, I try to clear my head of anything. I just try to react.

That’s also why I rarely go on photo walks. The last time that I did, I worked so far from the group that whatever caught my attention was not apparent to them. Talking in my ear doesn’t help when I’m trying to take a picture, unless it is from somebody I’m to whom I’m very close. Even then, talking takes the form of suggestions and directions.

That’s me. I can’t speak for you. How do you like to work?

 


My version of winter.

I’m listening to an interesting YouTube video as I write.

It’s about “work that matters.”  The visual podcast is called The Art of Photography.

As the speaker talks, he reminds me of me. He says that a picture should strive for something, that it ought to push the boundaries, that it shows artist growth, and it goes beyond gear.

You know me.

I rarely if ever talk about gear. I always talk about subject matter, content and why the picture matters to me. I suppose if I did talk about gear I could monetize Storyteller with corporate sponsorships. But, that isn’t me. Of course I would like some help paying for this blog. But, I want it on my terms.

That’s important.

It’s also why I don’t take numbers very seriously. Sure, the more people who see my work, the more people who could possible know me and become some kind of client. But, as I’ve said to some of you by sharing a Neil Young quote, “Numbers add up to nothing.” Getting a lot of likes on Instagram or Facebook really just means that your picture happens to fit into the flavor of the hour. That is transitory at best.

I want my work to be long lasting and possible have some influence on a few people’s work. I do that now. Sometimes people talk to me about it. Often they don’t. I look at their work and I see my own work in their pictures.

Case in point. Since I’ve been making pictures of winters bare trees around sunset, I’m seeing all sorts of similar — but not the same — pictures that show up on Facebook friend’s feeds.

That’s all good.

It’s good because it means that I matter to somebody. I don’t need the validation because I believe in my own path. I like to know that somebody is watching… and reading.

The picture. I made a really heavily blurred image of some wild flowers a few days ago. By itself it was unrecognizable no matter what I did to it. It was mostly a yellow, green and black blob. I saved it and added some recognizable yellow flowers to it. That’s what you are looking at now.

Happy day.

 


Very cold this week.

So cold.

The air is cold. The wind is cold. The trees are bare.

It’s winter. Even in New Orleans. It doesn’t last like it does in the north. But, it does get cold. Combine cold air with ambient humidity and we feel it. Last night, the weather guy said the weather wasn’t quite as cold as the night before.

Yeah. Right.

When I let the dogs out for the final time, they were hunkered down. I was wearing something heavy. I wished I took my gloves. My 45 year old Isotoners. Once, a Christmas present. A gift, now a memory.

That’s another story for another time.

I was asked again about how I find the subjects that I photograph. I don’t know. I don’t really go out hunting for stuff. I just walk and see stuff. I take pictures of the stuff that I see. Sometimes I modify it a lot in post production. Sometimes I don’t.

It’s like that peanut commercial. Mr. Peanut.

“Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.”

Mostly, I’m just nuts.

That’s the secret.


A kind of rebirth.

I’m just happy to be here and to be alive.

That’s a line from “End of the line, by “The Traveling Wilburys. ” It was the first song that I heard this morning. It sums up the day so far, but a little nostalgia hit me.

The band was a true supergroup. Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Jeff Lynn, and Roy Orbison. Of the five, only two survive today. Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynn. Roy Orbison died of a heart attack between their first and second albums. In the accompanying video the remaining four play the music, while Orbison’s guitar rocks in a chair to complete the musical circle.

There was sort of a magic to those albums. Almost as importantly, the five of them — know to have pretty good sized egos — worked together like happy brothers. It was wonderful to see Tom Petty and Bob Dylan singing harmony into one microphone.

I have no idea how long the remaining two will continue. Jeff Lynn is actually touring for the first time in years, with his current band, Jeff Lynn and ELO. Dylan just keeps moving on with his so-called never ending tour. A couple of his bandmates have been on that tour since it began, nineteen years ago.

I’m pretty sure that we should cherish them just like we do all our aging legends.

And, just like this day. It’s cold. When we hit the streets the “feels like” temperature was 29 degrees. That’s cold for down here in the swamp. But, the sky is a beautiful blue (You can see it a little in the pictures) and the sun is shining.

“Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey, Well it’s all right, you still got something to say, Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live, Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive.” —

Nelson Wilbury, Lucky Wilbury, Charley T. Wilbury Jr, Otis Wilbury, Lefty Willbury, or, Harrison, Dylan, Petty, Lynn and Orbison.


A little weird.

Weirdness.

I made it that way. Unlike the speeding picture which happened in camera, this image was made after the fact in post production. By me. The original photograph showed a bright and sunny winters day.

I had a vision. I knew my final intent. I wanted to make what I kiddingly call a “Halloween Picture.” So I went to work. I removed most of the color, When I added black, I removed just enough of it to make the silhouette of the tree brown. You can see it mostly in the branches.

I knew when I was finished. That’s the thing about using vision to guide you. You know when you know.

That’s it for today.

If you are in the United States have a good Martin Luther King Day. If you are anywhere else in the world have a good Monday. Or, Tuesday.


Evidence.

Winter.

I have a friend in Milwaukee who was complaining because his four year old snow blower broke down yesterday. I have friends further east who were just waiting until the big snowstorm reached them. Even in Seattle, where the weather is fairly mild, the streets were tangled by snowfall.

Not down here. Oh no. Not down here in the swamp.

Instead, the temperature yesterday was in the mid to high 70s. The Japonicas are blooming. So are all sorts of new little buds. The squirrels are complaining. I’ve heard bird sounds that I’ve never heard in the past,

Not to worry. Today turned chilly. The rest of the week will be downright cold. Lows in the low 30s. At least cold for us.

Then, around the first week of May, things will heat up. NOLAHeat will come after us until October. If I could think of a place where we could spend our summer, we’d go there. But, every place is hot. Some air is dryer. Some air is moister. But, it’s still hot.

My neighbor suggested that we go to the beach. Do you have any idea how expensive it would be to stay for at least eight weeks? If I were going to the beach — which sounds very nice — I’d like to go to the ocean, not the gulf. I’d rather go to the Pacific, not the Atlantic. If course, beggars can’t be choosers.

Where would you go for a couple of months if you could?