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?


T

here haven’t been very many new pictures made this week. I haven’t been inspired or pushed out the door, which is the usual fix.

I was working in my so-called digital studio when I saw the afternoon light playing on the walls. I just photographed what I saw. You are seeing some of it now.

An espresso cup, mini blind, Alexa and a test print, and the light underneath two photographs that first caught my eye.

All things around me.

Don’t ask about the mini blinds. They came with the house. I was going to change them out, but they are great for shutting out light so they live on to blind me to the light on another day.

Alexa needs cleaning. The print above it is a test print. There are two tests going on. The first is that it’s an early smartphone picture enlarged to 13×13 inches. It held up just fine.The second is a longevity test. It’s been hanging for six years. No fading yet.

The brick wall is where I first noticed the light and the lightbulb went off. Pictures. Pictures. Pictures.

And the espresso cup. What can I say? What is there to say?

Let this whole exercise be a lesson to me. There are always pictures floating around. They just have to find you.

M

y question was how far to take these images in post production.

The answer was not very far.

All I really did was clean things up.

That was enough.

I also tested a different kind of picture grouping template. I don’t see that it’s anything different than I could have done by hand.

I suppose that normally I’d have a big picture followed by three smaller ones.

But, that’s about it.

I am very, very slowly starting to use this block (head) system. I’m just not sure that it’s worth the time.


The region of storms. And, kings.

The rain came down. Then the temperature dropped. Finally, we are turning a corner into pleasantness. At least, for now. The passing of winter to spring is always interesting in the swamp.

May you have an interesting life is one of the most harshest of Chinese curses. I think most people are like dogs. We like routine. That’s what’s been so hard living in the pandemic era. Routines are blown. Lifestyles are blown.

We’ve lost a lot. Everything is changing. Nothing is normal, or at least what we used to call normal. I’ve discussed that a couple of times. The new normal is a chance for us to do better. At least I hope that it is.

I have a better sense of hope, even though you can’t eat it, as Neil Young says.

But, with the change of presidents and governing administrations issues are being dealt with in an efficient manner. I just wish the other side would stop lying. The New Green Deal, which is only an idea, did not shut down power in Texas. Nor, did it blow out all kinds of water pipes.

I don’t see the gain in saying such nonsense. Eventually, the truth comes out. Especially these days when you don’t have the last president creating chaos everyday just to see his name out there. That noise is just about gone.

Yeah. He’s gonna run again. After four years of healthy change even his base is not going to be interested. Yeah. He’s going to start a new social media. Just like his steaks, wine, and university.

He’ll be so buried in legal issues that he’ll spend the rest of his life trying to suck money out of the last true believers to pay his legal fees that he’ll never raise his head again.

Now, that’s hope.

See where the picture of the rainy street lead me.

Now, that’s imagination.

drive by shootings. No. Not those kind. The kind where I make photographs from a moving car.

I’ve discussed this enough in the past that you know I don’t take silly chances. I’m not going to get hurt, nor am I going to hurt you.

Look at the picture. Not a car close enough to see me.

The real trick to this picture and the other picture from a couple of days ago is to find a color palette that makes sense for the subject.

The next trick is to be able to duplicate it in such a way that you can make subtle changes to suit the picture.

Once you’ve figured that out the rest is easy.

To be sure, the subject really should dictate the color palette. I don’t think bright, sunny scene would look great using this one.

Stay safe. You know the rest. Enjoy every color palette.


Flambeaux portrait.

Flambeaux. New Orleans is steeped in traditions. I could go on forever, but let’s limit it to the subject at hand.

Once up on a time in the last century twice removed, many streets were not lighted. Black men lit the streets with flaming torches. They worked for tips. They made enough money that there were waiting lists to join the groups. The money was a good part of their income.

Today, there are still sort of informal waiting lists because they still make reasonable money from the tips as they walk the parade route. Of course, the price of tips went up.

The guy in the photograph pretty much posed for me. I gave him five dollars. He expected a good tip and I didn’t think twice.

Make no mistake, this is hot dirty work. Even though the torches have changed a lot and the fires are controlled and inspected by the fire department, the oil which a sort of a jelly, pops and crackles. It drips on the carrier.

Most people hand the tips directly to them, but some just toss coins on the street. Imagine holding the torch and stopping to pick up the money.

Then, there is the route. It’s about twelve miles long. Do you think that you could carry a hot, heavy torch for twelve miles? I’m pretty sure that I can’t carry it twelve feet.

Of course, this is a no parade year. These guys, along with many, many others, are losing a lot of money. Sometimes, there are different online events held to raise money for unemployed workers.

I doubt anybody thinks about these guys. Or, just about anybody who helps the parades roll. Hourly workers and contract workers don’t get paid.

Despite the creativity of many New Orleans people, somethings just won’t get done. This is one of them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Eat your spinach.

Night photography. I say that I made my career doing it.

After years of practicing night work I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

It’s really a matter of doing it over and over until the technique becomes second nature.

If you struggle to make picture, guys like this know it and walk away.

They would rather make money than stand around waiting for some photographer to figure out to take the picture.

These days, because of digital photography, night photography has gotten easier.

I usually set the ISO at auto because the camera’s light meter is far more accurate than the photographer picking an ISO.

My goal is to work at a shutter speed of 1/250th or higher. I don’t care about the f stop as long as I can make a good exposure.

Of course, the flames of the torches light up the immediate area so that proper exposures are easy to make.

The rest was done in post production. A strange thing happened to the subject.

The subject’s eyes are tack sharp. By the time WordPress compressed the image his eyes were made a little soft.

Aaarrrggg.


The waiting…

Everyone knows that it’s the high school bands that I like best when they roll during a Mardi Gras parade. The floats are fine. The Rolling Elvi are fun. The motorcycle riders are fun.

But, the marching bands. That’s the thing for me. They combine three wonderful elements. Music. Energy, And, color.

If there was going to be a Mardi Gras parade season this year my plan was to focus on just high school marching bands. I was actually going to reach out to some of the schools so that I could have a little more leeway on the streets.

As always, my trade would be my pictures. Since mostly high school students and parents are their photographers I’m guessing mine would be a few notches above the usual work. Who knows? One of the parents could be a retired National Geographic photographer.

That said, it’s a good thing most of the public versions of Mardi Gras have been shut down. A scientific analysis was released today. It looks like one carrier infected 50,000 people during Mardi Gras 2020. Not directly, but one person infected another and so on.

We were blamed for the surge last March even though we didn’t even know there was a virus. While it seems extreme, I’m glad the mayor is taking such a hard line this year.

Yesterday, she had a group of Big Chiefs on the podium with her. Each one of them implored the Indian community not to come out so that they would be alive to roll next year.

It’s serious.

So.

Tourists stay home. There won’t be much for you to do anyway. You won’t be allowed on the famous Bourbon Street unless you live there. If you gather illegally you could be fined or you could serve jail time. You don’t want that. We don’t want that.

There is the Jefferson Parish issue. I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Semi-monochrome. That’s what I’ll call this picture. As I said a few days ago, I let the picture guide me in post production. All I want to do is print them down a bit.

As I wrote on the left side, I like high school marching bands.

I work hard to photograph them. One year, two high schools were rehearsing ten feet from each other. A battle of the bands broke out. The drum majors were prancing in each other’s faces. They gave no ground. They held no quarter.

But, just like a good sporting match, when they were done they broke apart and shook hands.

I’ll look in my daybooks and find the year. If I can, I’ll publish some of the files from that night. I won’t tone them down. I’ll light up the page with them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Listen to all the high school marching band music.


Mardi Gras 1 Krewe of Cleopatra

The picture is the thing. That’s what I say. No matter what happens make your picture.

A wise old professor used to say that sometimes the hardest part of making a picture is getting there. He’s right.

Even if you are working in your own city that is still true.

When I photograph a Mardi Gras parade, I leave home which is very close to the parade route, at least 90 minutes ahead of starting time.

If I wanted to work from St. Charles Avenue (Where the tree streetcars run.) I could simply walk a block and half and be there.

I don’t.

I like to work from the start of the parade where all the little pictures are. Krewes preparing. Marching bands rehearsing. Paraders hanging out. Everyone loves to be photographed and that’s what I do.

But, getting there is hard.

The backstreets are already being jammed up by buses carrying the parade participants.

So, I leave very early.

There is a natural parade line break point on my street. I drive through the crowd when the stoplight changes. I head upriver on St. Charles, I drop down to the parade starting point behind it.

Now, I’m approaching the parade from downriver. I get as close as I can and start looking for parking. Because I arrive early, I usually find a space just about where I thought it was be.

I walk to CC’s coffee house, order and sit. Because I’m usually by myself a group of NOPD sits at my table. I ask them questions about the parade and they ask me questions about cameras.

Knowing them helps on the parade route.

Keep in mind, I do all of this so…

I can find a parking space.

There was a year when I worked eight parades at night. I parked in the same space for eight nights.

Day parades are different. If you are photographing a big one, you might have to arrive at 8am for a noon start.

It’s a lot of work.

Compression. A lot of photographers use telephoto lenses to get closer. I work closer and use them to produce compressed images or graphic shapes.

That’s what I did this time. I crowded as much as I could into one picture.

Working at night both helps and hinders. It forces you to shoot wide open at your widest F-stop. That’s good in this case.

It hinders you because you can’t always get a high enough shutter speed to protect the image from motion blur.

Sometimes that’s a good thing.

If the subject is in sharp focus while everything is moving around them that’s a pretty good picture.

Usually, the whole thing is a crap shoot.

It helps if you’ve been doing it most of your career and know how to compensate for some of it.

The biggest trick is to always shoot about three frames. Bam. Bam. Bam.

The first and third frames are usually out of focus or have too much motion blur, but the middle frame will be sharp and the image you hope for.

That all has to do with the body’s natural motion. Tense. Relax, Relax too much.

Stay safe, Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Stay relaxed.


A day of reflection, a day of hope.

Farther along and further in. Those words are about learning, reflection, truth and peacefulness. That’s what today is about.

We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. There is a lot we can do or not do. I started this day with — what else — a dog walk. I made a few pictures. You know me. The work is the prayer. The prayer turned into a sort of meditation.

Reflection.

Where to go from this place in time. Not necessarily about my work. More about me and my place in the universe. I looked at my past, not to worry about it, but as a guide post to my future.

What kind of person do I want to be? I think that I know, but a little thought always helps as long as I don’t obsess about it. How can I help? How can I be of service?

That’s just the start.

In a little while I’ll help clean up a stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central City. You know, the work is the prayer.

The hood. My hood. Where I photograph second lines, Black Masking Indians, Zulus and Mardi Gras. Where I eat BBQ sausages. And, talk to the folks who live there.

And, then back to work. You know…

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Do a little reflection.

Street portraits. For me they are easy to do. But, I talk to the people that I photograph. I don’t work from across the street. I learn their names and why they are doing what they do.

That’s how you do it.

Anything else is just cultural theft.

So.

The picture is small because I made it for another project with a maximum size.

No matter.

The picture is really about this young man’s eyes. And, maybe the flag.

I made this photograph while we were waiting for a Mardi Gras parade to start. It’s the best I could since I was very young when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I never had the chance to photograph him.

That’s how it goes sometimes. You do the best you can with what you have.


Deep, dark at dusk.

They said that we were going to have snow. Yep. That’s what they said. We may still see some, but the national weather maps have snow as a possibility in northern Louisiana. Not down here in the swamp.

The temperature is cold for us. We had a high of 40 degrees. We had cold rain. We had miserable dogs. They don’t like going out in rain. They really hated cold rain.

For me, a guy who dislikes summer’s heat and likes cold weather, this is a dream.

However spring flowers are already blooming. The Japonica tree has quarter-size buds on it. Sheesh. It’s mid-January. And, barely that.

Maybe that’s a sign. A sign of things to come. On the other hand, I’m about ready to toast 2022.

2021 already seems to be saying to 2020, “Hold my beer.” Maybe things will get better. I do worry about the next nine days.

Maybe I’m worrying for nothing.

I hope so.

This is what I saw before the cold rain came pouring down.

I normally don’t make a cloud picture without some kind of anchor — a tree, a building, the ubiquitous telephone poles — but theses were just to powerful to ignore.

You know the next step. And, the step after that.

This image took almost no work in post because I exposed for that highlight — the bit of sky that is bright white and blown out.

I usually do that by accident.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy the cold weather.


Sophie Rose.

She just had to look at the lens. So, I made her portrait. I made three frames and off she headed.

As I wrote yesterday, WordPress made me a deal I couldn’t ignore. So here I am. I would have still been here until December 18, even if I hadn’t taken the deal.

The funny thing about that is WordPress is treating me like a new customer. They are teaching me how to use the site and block. As I commented on a friend’s blog, “Block sucks.”

There, I said it as clearly as I can.

It does allow me to create this page almost everyday. Trying to do something else is like an exercise in terror.

I see this as change for change sake. I agree that the only constant is change. But, sometimes you go with what works for most people. And, it certainly doesn’t work the way it is intended.

On your phone.

I can’t see what I’m doing. It was hard enough in the past, but with block it is near impossible.

Let’s change something else.

Dog of the hour. Sophie Rose. As I said on the left hand column, she decided to see what I was doing. She stuck her nose in the lens.

That’s my girl. Cocker Spaniels are, by nature, inquisitive. She leads her pack.

I’m working in black and white for a little while just to figure out if I can still see in black and white. Once that test is done I’m back to color.

Could be today. Could be next week. Could be next months.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Enjoy your life.