When I lived in New Mexico, I used to make a lot of pictures on Route 66. It was an easy “go to.” After all, old Route 66 runs east, west, north and south in Albuquerque. Yes. It’s true. The pre-1937 Route 66 comes down From santa Fe in the north and can be traced down to Los Lunas in the south where it turns left on the map and heads west. After 1937, Route 66 was made a little more direct east-west highway, and ran along what is now Central Avenue. That’s the short story. There’s a lot more.
These pictures were made for a piece of a book project and were made from Albuquerque, west to Seligman, Arizona. As they say, all art is about the maker. Although these pictures might not look it, they are personal to me. They bring back memories of my childhood when my parents liked to travel to The Southwest on vacations and holidays. Some of the landmarks from my childhood are still landmarks for me today. Some are gone. Some are changed. Sort of like life, eh?
Even though I said that I would bring the posting of Mardi Gras 2012 pictures to an end, those images have been on my mind since I’ve had a huge amount of post production and meta data file building to work through.
I keep finding images that I liked a little more after I sat with them. This image is one of those. I told a friend of mine that it has taken a decade of shooting Mardi Gras parades to understand the pictures. And, it did. But, to me this picture captures all the energy, light, motion and passion of a parade in a very impressionistic way. call it art. I call it a solution.
Back in the days of old — read that, when we all shot film — this kind of blurred image was my usual stock in trade. After all, how far can you really push slide film? And, lighting it properly with more that one light source is an impossibility on a parade route. But, in these digital days, it’s very easy to crank up the ISO, pray for no or little noise and shoot away. In theory, every image should be made by the numbers and be sharp. Too sharp. No soulful feeling. No passion. It all seems a little cold to me. That’s exactly the trap I found myself falling into. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with sharp pictures.But, there’s also nothing wrong with impressionistic pictures, either. So, I went back to my roots and made this pictures. There’s nothing that a little 1/2 second at f5.6 won’t cure.
Continuing my thoughts from yesterday’s post about light… I found two images that are really just pure light with just a bit of content thrown in to ground the pictures. What I find very interesting is that both images were made in a holy building; either a church or a Buddhist temple called a wat in Thailand. Both are made at an places were offerings are made. One, from the church, is about candles. The second, made at a wat, is about a candle and oil. For the record, the church is located in Corrales, New Mexico. The temple, or wat, is located in Bangkok, Thailand. I’m told there is a new Thai-styled wat around here on the Westbank. I’ll have to go check it out.
I was reading something in Burn magazine about “A Sea of Light.” When I looked at the images, I realized that often I shoot a lot like the featured photographer, Elena Perlino. No. Our work isn’t always similar, but I do a lot of the loose kind of shooting that she does. And, I often do a kind of image painting in the same way that she does. However, her vision and approach is much more defined then mine is. Oh well. Maybe when I grow up. I thought that I would look through my archives to see what kinds of images were similar to hers because of it reminded me of a lot of pictures I made in the past. I want to share them with all of you. Before I got very far, I discovered this image. I made it a few years ago in New Mexico during the first year of my Picture A day project. After I downloaded it and made a proper picture I started playing with it using various plug-ins and Photoshop tools. This is the result. As far as making the picture in the field goes, it was pretty simple. I was returning from one shoot when dusk fell on this big moon so I pulled into a parking lot and quickly made a few exposures. It was simply being in the wrong place at the right time.
A peaceful Sunday. A little break. Three pictures. Quiet pictures. Made at different times and places. For different reasons. The three of them are: Taos Dusk, Bamboo and Morning Spider Web. Yes. I have some shot back stories to share.
Taos Dusk. Everybody photographs this place. Everybody paints it. Ansel Adams made a landmark photograph there. Georgia O’Keeffe painted it. Just about every photographer and painter who is on some kind of Southwestern trip stops there so who am I to try to photograph it? This place is located in Rancho de Taos a few miles away from the town of Taos. It’s real name is San Francisco de Asis. And, why the try to capture it in some way? How would I make my own statement? How would I make a picture that is a little different? I had no idea. I’ve photographed it in the past and the pictures were okay. Just okay. So, I was out looking around in the fields and roads just behind the church when the late afternoon light started turning into an exciting and bold dusk. I got to the church just as the light was at its most striking. I made maybe 20 frames. This image is the result. It is sort of my signature piece of the location. Nature did it. I didn’t. Sometimes, that’s how it works.
Bamboo. Need a quiet place to take a break in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong? Head to the cemeteries in Wan Chai. They are located almost in Happy Valley. They are beautiful and very quiet, yet just outside their gates the streets are roaring with traffic and people. There are three. Muslim, Indian and Christian. As you wander through them you might find a stand of bamboo. What am I saying? Might? You’ll find bamboo everywhere. The day that I was there was warm, but not the hot like the weather is in July and August. There was a nice breeze so I slowed down the camera’s shutter speed, and popped a little flash. More nature. Mixed with a little technical skill. Very little technical skill.
Glistening Spider Web. Yet another storm story. Three hurricanes in 2005 that struck somewhere in Louisiana. The first was Cindy. Originally, it was called a tropical storm. But, insurance findings later caused it to be upgraded. Get that? INSURANCE findings. The last two are better known. They are hurricanes Katrina and Rita. After Katrina, I re-located to Lake Charles, Louisiana. That seemed fine… for a few weeks, when along came Rita and another evacuation. Good thing too. Rita touched down at Sabine Pass, just about 70 miles from Lake Charles. It was brutal. The evacuation was hellish for everybody. It was a super hot summer. Houston, Texas was threatened by the storm. The main highways became parking lots. Cars ran out of gas on them. People ran out of food and water on them. You couldn’t budge for hours. So, I took back roads aways from Lake Charles. There were no motels available that would take pets until I reached Mountain Home, Arkansas. There, I found a Best Western that took in everybody. Best news was that FEMA/Red Cross paid the bill. But, that drive took 18 hours as compared to 7 when we made our way back to Lake Charles. 3am and I’m wired as I could be from the drive. But, I did fall asleep… until 6am. I awoke and decided to take a walk. It turned out that this little B
est Western had a beautiful garden that was a cross between something Asian and an English garden. I always carry a camera. This is the first picture I made after the hell that was Katrina and Rita. It had to be peaceful. I needed that.
This post should take about 100 years to produce. The categories and tags alone will take a long, long time to write.
Anyway. PAD. Picture a Day. A lot of photographers do this. Some don’t make it. It’s a really tough discipline to shoot SOMETHING everyday. Some guys claim that they only shoot when their muse calls to them. That’s easy. That’s fun. But, try shooting when you don’t want to. Try shooting when you almost forgot to do it. Try doing it when you aren’t feeling well, or as I did when I was recovering from surgery. As an aside, the early the images from that period were pretty bleak which as they should have been since they say that all art is autobiographical. At any rate, I’m a little OCD. I’ve been shooting this project for over three years. It seems that every time I reach an endpoint and tell myself that I’m done and not going to resume, I take a break and start again. Sometimes I start on one of my two birthdays. Sometimes I start on a new year… either calendar or lunar. But, I always go back to it.
Aside from the discipline of forcing myself to shoot, there are other benefits. It’s a daily look into my life as I saw it at the time. It gets me out the front door — well mostly; sometimes I see things around the house — and since a big part of making a picture is getting there, every little bit helps. It keeps the motor running — if you’ve ever picked up a camera after a shooting break
, you know that you are fumble fingers for a while and you might forget the mental checklist that you run through before you shoot. Most importantly, it teaches me a lot about myself.
All of that said, there are way too many pictures — 30 (I know, I know.. February only had 29 days, but I believe in lagniappe which is the giving of a little extra like a baker’s dozen) — to tell all of their backstories except to say that since I photographed Mardi Gras for almost three weeks, this month’s PAD is really heavy on carnival images. But, there are other images. There are images that you’ve seen in earlier posts. There are also surprises here and there. I hope that you enjoy them. As usual, I always enjoy making them.
Since I’m a little out-of-pocket today, I thought I’d reintroduce a little of my signature work. Maybe just three pictures a day. And, I’ll tell you the stories behind the images. Three pictures from Asia today. Shanghai Dancers, Central Wet Market and Hong Kong From Above.
Shanghai Dancers was made on early morning in — you guessed it — Shanghai, China. I knew that Tai Chi was practiced on The Bund, but I wasn’t sure at what time. So, I got up extra early and waited. Pretty soon people started showing up in all sorts of clothes. Chinese people exercise in whatever clothes they happen to be wearing. They started exercising and my wait paid off. The sun started rising with the new Pudong District — all those really other worldly modern buildings across The Pearl River — in front of it and behind my foreground scene. My patience was rewarded. Patience, patience, patience.
Central Wet Market. There is an escalator in Hong Kong that is called the world’s longest escalator. It’s not really that. It’s a system of escalators, human conveyor belts and flyovers that creates what is today called, The Travelator. When you are on it, you are generally traveling above the streets, little neighborhoods and businesses. You are elevated. You walk. You ride. But, you are not too high to see what’s going on. I used to pass by this scene every day and night for a long, long time. One day, I set up a tripod (yeah, me the anti-tripod guy) and made this picture. In many ways, it’s nothing special. It happens every night. On the other hand, I’ve never seen this picture anywhere except in my files, published with my name under it or via my representation. Sometimes the best pictures are right in front of us. We just need to open our eyes.
Hong Kong From Above. A walk to the roof of my flat got me to a position where I could make this picture. It speaks to me about the density and energy of the city. Of course, I made it sound easier to get to the roof top than it really was. First, I had to contact building management, who had to contact corporate management who had to speak to their legal counsel. When they realized that the roof has rails and places to stand, they didn’t have a problem with me being there. But, I had to go with a building security man, take an elevator to the top floor, climb up two flights of stairs, let him climb up a metal ladder to unlock the hatch and then I could go up. Sometime the hardest part of making a picture is just getting there.
A year or so ago I published a little Blurb book called “Red. Red. Red.” I used it mostly as a marketing piece. But, it is still listed in the Blurb library. If I were asked what my favorite color is, my reply would be color. I like color. I like powerful, strong, bright, energetic color. I once photographed a Chilean artist who said to me, “I am not afraid of color.” Just like Ernst Haas’ words from yesterday’s post, these words stuck with me too. That said, I am mostly drawn to the colors red and purple. I’m not sure where the purple comes from except to say that in New Orleans, that’s probably a good color to like. But, red comes from rambling around Asia for 20 years. In Asia, red is everywhere. It is the sign of good luck and good fortune. It can symbolize strong emotion or passion. Hmm… No. I don’t wear either color. Anyway, here’s a little offering form the book.
No. This isn’t a picture from The Middle East. It is a picture made during one of the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.
These guys are called flambeaux, who according to history, light the way for the rest of the parade. Therefore, they are known as the keepers of the light.
I’m not going to get into the cultural politics of the tradition except to say that the original flambeaux were slaves.
It is traditional to toss coins to them as a way of thanking them for their work and play since they dance around carrying poles of fire. Trust me. Carrying a hot, flaming pole is really a lot of work. These guys certainly aren’t begging.