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.
I’m quite proud of it. Because, when I said I made it, I meant that. I took a picture of an overcast sky with power poles scattered throughout. I saved it, mostly because it wasn’t much.
I started reading about Todd Hido, who is one of the photographers interviewed in the book I mentioned a few days ago. If you Google his images, you’ll see quite a lot. He’s built the artistic pedigree that I wish I had.
Everything that he does is made in camera, using a medium format body and film. He does no post production. I thought about that for a while and wondered if I couldn’t make an image with similar atmospherics in the computer.
Note. Similar. Not copying. Not faking it until I make it. Just experimenting. This image is the result.
That’s the story of this picture. But, what’s the story behind it? Taking chances.
I could say that a lot of my career was based on taking chances. I could say that I photographed on the edge.
The edge of what?
The edge of technical limitations. The edge of the city. Or, is it really the edge of madness?
I’m not mad. Or, crazy. Or, lacking in certain cautions. But, I do take chances. I didn’t always. I was photojournalist. Pure and simple. My pictures were clean, sharp and well made. They had to be. That served those years of my career well.
After I moved on I found other mentors. Other photographic friends. They talked. I listened. With any luck at all, I grew.
One night, while walking in New York City, a friend and mentor, showed me how to expose for the night light and subjects. I made a picture that was just dripping with motion and energy. His exposure became my base exposure. Two Seconds at F5.6. Over the years, I modified that according to the scene and what I hoped to achieve.
That got easier in the digital age because F stops turned weird. Traditional numbers meant nothing. Gone were the days of, F2, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8, F11, F16 and F22. Instead using the camera’s light meter and histogram, often you saw numbers like F9, F7.2 and so on. Precise light measurements. Checking the histogram told you if the exposure was correct from a light to dark balance.
That made pushing the edge easier. It also made it more time consuming. Photographers, still unused to digital capture, started checking the LCD on the back of their cameras. Not only did they check the exposure, but they check the subject for sharpness, contrast, and composition.
Experienced photographers who trusted their instincts didn’t look at the LCD, instead they created a term for it. Chimping. You can figure out why.
A curious thing happened with many of these chimping photographers. You’d think that the volume of their shoots would drop. Instead it rose. These guys still had no confidence in their work. They would shoot a non-moving subject that they could control, holding down the shutter release button, while making 500 pictures of the same thing.
That’s a big mistake.
There are a few ways to learn not to make that mistake.
Photograph a lot comes to mind. No. That doesn’t mean holding down the button. It means look for many subjects. If you want to play this game, limit yourself to only five images per scene. I know a photographer who limited himself to one image.
Create a way of working. One way is to make a picture per day. Do that for a year. I did that for a while. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about light. You learn a lot about subject matter. I liked it so much that my one year turned into two, then three. I stopped after my fifth year.
Find a mentor. I did that in my early newspaper years. I found a guy who was brutal. His first critiques could make a grown man cry. Little by little as I learned and grew, his critiques turned positive. When it was time move to a bigger newspaper, he recommended me for a job at a newspaper that was the sister paper to his paper.
There are other things you can do as well. Ask your mentor. That’s what I did.
I’ve heard this little round, normally white wildflower called a Clover Flower. It may very well be because it grows in small patches of clovers. Three leafed ones, not four. Or, it just might be a local phrase.
Obviously, I did a lot of work in post production. But, it’s not what you think. I did not add color, I removed the haze caused by the white color to reveal what is underneath. It’s really something, isn’t it?
This way of working is really a large press printer’s technique. It’s really contra to normal instincts.
I learned it from a long time veteran of working on big presses. He could print anything, repair bad color film and fix design mistakes. All, on press. I learned as we worked on big jobs. There is no class that you can attend. There are no set of tips that you can buy. You have to live it on high pressure, tight deadline projects. I worked with him for seven years. I probably know 10% of what he knows.
You’d think that I’d be done learning about photography. But the same thing holds true as it did learning to print books. After 45 years I probably know and understand 10% of the photo knowledge that is floating around through history.
I don’t believe that anybody can know it all. I see the compiled knowledge as something akin to understanding Photoshop. That software is so big and all encompassing that you learn just enough to do what you do after a steep learning curve of five years.
I suppose the bottom line is simple. There are no tips or tricks to turn a person into a great photographer in a very short time. True, you can fake until you make it by copying others work, but where’s the fun in that?
The fun comes in the process. All art is a process.
This picture is for all of you who still are suffering from cold weather, and I don’t care what that little rodent said. In many places it’s cold. Down In the swamp, we have all sorts of blooms. In this picture I tried to make that point by layering two flower images. The image is bold and bright. Just the way a spring picture should look. Except it’s not yet spring.
My dear old dad used to say that when a person wrote a letter and about half of it was about the weather, the person had nothing to say. He was probably right.
I’m going to talk about photography. I’m a reading book called, “Photo Work: Forty Photographers on process and practice. I think it was recommended by someone who posted to a photographer’s network. It’s a good and interesting book despite it’s academically lengthy title.
In a few words, those 40 photographers are asked a series of questions which are the same for all of them. The group came from different backgrounds, use different tools, and answer the questions fully.
I’m about half-way through the book. Reading is slow, but not for the reason you might think. Instead, I’m savoring it. I read no more than two chapters a day, or, about two photographers a day.
I’m happy to know that many of them think as I do; instinct over research. I also learned that I might be on track when it comes to New Orleans culture. A project or series of pictures might take ten years to complete, but when it’s done, it’s done.
There’s more, but I’m I’m still reading.
The picture. I mentioned that it is layered. Let’s talk about that because I actually made the picture just like I normally do. See it, photograph it.
Layering works only if you have pictures of the same size and shape. You can approach color from a lot of ways. My two favorites are the use of contrast and bold colors or by using extremely similar colors. You can find your own joy.
It’s a matter of fine tuning and adjusting the layered pictures from there.
I’m reading a rather long op-ed piece by The New York Times’ Ross Douthat. It is a take out of his upcoming book called, “The Decadent Society.”
The name is not what you are thinking.
He quotes Jacques Barzun, who says, “The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable . When people accept the futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”
I don’t know about you, but I keep saying that all systems are broken. They are broken to the point where I am thinking seriously about leaving the country in November if the worst possible thing happens.
That said, let’s limit this to what we do. Most of us either write, or make pictures.
There is no new or newly broken ground. There hasn’t been for a long time. In the book world, I have to ask how many new vampire books do we need? Seems like Anne Rice broke the mold on that one. Or, how many historical fictional novels do we need that feature a good looking bare chested guy squeezing the hell out of a beautiful woman?
It doesn’t get any better in the photo world. Sunsets, sunset and more sunsets. There are so many that they are loaded to Upsplash, the site that doesn’t pay photographers. Or, night photography featuring star fields? Or, slow motion water so that the water looks smooth?
I’m guilty of it too.
All these faux nature picture that I produce. are not new. I made the same thing eight years ago. And seven years ago. And, six and five and four and so on.
This work is easy to make. This work breaks no new ground. It doesn’t move my art forward. I’m not certain that I can move it forward, but I’d like to try. Realizing this is hard. Even though I love photographing Mardi Gras, I’ve been fighting to get myself to go.
Yes. The floats and themes change. So do the people. But, I’ve done it for how many years? A lot. This year I’m getting paid by one of my clients to set them up for next year. I’m incentivised. I’ll go. Once I get there I’ll have fun. It’ll turn magical. But, they are paying me for work that is yesterday’s. That’s the funny thing about showing portfolios. If the client likes your work, they want more of the same.
Think about this. How does it apply, or, not?
For sure, don’t confuse yourself with all the things you did to get to the picture. Often times the hardest thing about taking a picture is getting there. But, that ain’t the picture. The picture is the picture.
I was walking the all seeing dog, when I saw this reflection is a water feature that can be found along one of her routes. For some reason it was clear and blue. It was also highly reflective. The bare trees of winter were looking back at me. I made a lot of pictures. I made some with the bank and made some that are much more colorful than this one.
This one reminds of a Van Gogh painting. Of course, his has little cherry flower blossoms in it that really bring it to life. As much as Van Gogh has always been one of my muses, I only recently learned of his fascination with all things Japanese. I have a show catalog that is based on it.
One more thing.
To me, this picture is a bit confusing. It looks upside down. It isn’t. That’s how the trees in the background were reflected. My instinct is to flip it over.
I’d write about winter. But. it seems aside from a cold front moving in yesterday, our winter looks like most people’s spring.
I was surprised to see these little guys in full bloom. When I say little I mean it. Through the magic of a macro lens I was able to make the flowers look silver dollar sized, when in reality they are smaller than the size of a dime.
Of course, since I can no longer get down on my hands and knees to make pictures like this one I let the auto focus do its thing. Fortunately, it latched onto the bloom.
That reminds me of my first mirrorless camera experience.
My Sony NEX-7 arrived along with its kit lense. I decided to go for a drive in the rain, because that’s what I do. I needed gas, so I stopped to fill ‘er up. I sat in the car while the gas pumped. I started to make test pictures through the rainy windows. I looked at the enlarged images on my monitor and thought that the camera had a problem. Every image appeared out of focus
I looked at them again at a slightly less magnification.
Every image was in sharp focus. Huh? The autofocus module picked the rain drops on the windshield as the subject. They were as sharp as they could be while the background was well out of focus creating a little mystery.
That was in 2012, well before the mirrorless camera market was developed to the point that it is today. There is something fun about being an early adopter.
Unfortunately, for me, the development has gone in the wrong direction. Lenses are getting much bigger. Camera bodies are growing too.
One of the main attractions for me was that the gear is small. My first lens purchase was a 16mm/f 2.8 wide angle lens. According to the pixel peepers it was no good. It’s a great little lense. It’s also a pancake model which means that is less than 1/2 inch long. It weighed almost nothing. That’s what I was after.
If I wanted to buy a better 16mm lens, I could do that today. There is one that is an f-stop faster. It meets the pixel peepers approval. But, it is about four inches long and weighs around a pound.
I didn’t know that when I photographed the Japonica trees a day or two ago that it would be my last chance. Normally the flowers would last another two or three weeks. But, we had a pretty bad storm this afternoon. Not only did we get a lot of rain, but we also had a lot of hail.
The hail knocked off about 95% of the Japonica’s flowery petals. I’m glad that I photographed the fully blooming trees when I did. Now THAT’S photographers luck.
The best thing about the storm is it that sits on the leading edge of a cold front. That’s good because the weather was starting to get a little too warm for this time of year. I like winter to feel like winter for more than a day.
The winds did something else.
They blew down the scaffolding at the yet to be completed Intercontinental Hotel near the river. Luckily, nobody got hurt, although a couple of cars were badly damaged. One was a taxi with passengers in the back. Once the riders got over the shock of having metal rain down upon them, they walked away without injuries.
As a friend of mine tweeted, “we are not so good at constructing tall buildings around here.”
This image started out as one of my night time blue sky pictures. I thought the foreground subject matter was a little boring, so I set out to change that. After adding and subtracting for a little while, I almost gave up.
I started piling up various actions. The picture started getting weird. I kept going. And going. Things got even weirder. I kept going. And, here I am.
If I could tell you all the steps, I would tell you. But, once I get going in some direction I move pretty quickly without too much thought. That’s the only way to create something that even approximates art.. You know me. I try not to think when I’m out making pictures.
You know what the legendary New York Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra, said to his manager while he was trying to work out of a hitting slump. His manager said, “Think Yogi, think.” Yogi replied, “You want me to hit the baseball and think?”
Some things are better done without too much thought while you follow your instincts.