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Cotton Candy Clouds


Color in the sky.

Cotton candy. In the sky.

Sometimes this happens in between storms. Around dusk. When the air is heavy and still carries a lot of water droplets to reflect the low sunlight. Sunlight that bounces around like crazy and paints the sky with amazing colors.

Sometimes, I have a great foreground. Usually, I’m completely out-of-place and I have to go to where I know. At least I wasn’t in a Target parking lot like a friend of mine was. But, it wasn’t much different.

It really was just point and shoot. And, hope for the best.

The pictures. Funny. Normally, I tune my pictures up. I want to bring out the color. The contrast. And, the shape.

Not this time.

The natural color was so bright and contrasty that I found myself working backwards. I removed contrast. I took the saturation down because everything looked garish even with just a tiny hint of extra color.

Nature took over. As usual.

Soaring in purple.

As dusk falls.

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New Orleans


Sunset after a storm.

The storm blew out. We got this. This sunset.

I went to one of my usual places. Not because I’m lazy, which is the norm around dinnertime, but because I knew I would have something if I just waited a while. And, because I like some kind of subject in the foreground of my sunset pictures. Even if it is just power poles.

Yes.

There is a lot of post production going on. Nothing really great comes straight from the camera. Even pictures of nature. Film or digital capture just can’t “see” the way the human brain sees. But, our human brains can help our images. To be what we see.

But.

That’s not what I want to talk about today. We can bat this ball around forever. Most of you who are not photographers would just get bored.

I want to talk about my city. I want to codify my sometimes rants. My ravings. After learning what we did about the Sewerage and Water Board, I’m livid. Furious. Irate.

Let’s start with this.

I’ve been “home” for six years. I came back at a time when I thought things were improving. I kept coming back during the years in between. I kept working at hurricane recovery from a distance. This place was home. Sure, things were still coming back from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the consequent flooding, which is now generally called “The Federal Flood.” But, it appeared the city was getting better. Healing. Recovering,

Nope.

Things are getting worse.

Crime is way up. The murder rate is skyrocketing. The shooting rate is higher. People are getting violently mugged in locations and at times when that rarely happened pre-storm. There aren’t enough cops to patrol the city even with huge amounts of overtime. State Troopers permanently patrol the French Quarter because tourism is our sole major industry. Private guards patrol neighborhoods that can afford it. My neighborhood pays for it. The jeep guards are great, but they can’t arrest anybody. They hold them until the NOPD arrives. Which is sometimes never.

Crime ties in nicely with gentrification. Most of the people who make the city what it is can no longer afford to live here. Many of the Mardi Gras Indians and the Benevolent Societies who I photograph during second lines and Indian events no longer live in Orleans Parish. The only people left behind seem to be the bad guys. And… the people who can afford to live in gentrified neighborhoods. Despite moving here for what they perceived to be our culture, music, food and old buildings, they want things to be like the places that they came from. Oh, and they don’t want to pay for services.

Which brings me to infrastructure. The streets. I live in a good neighborhood. I live on a corner. One street looks like Berlin in 1946 with potholes, patches and craters. The other street is half cobblestone and half pavement. It expands and contracts depending on the weather. We are lucky. There are streets in some neighborhoods, like Lakeview, that are not drivable. Of course, there is the electric power. Lines are patched, re-patched and left hanging to the point that two squirrels on the line at the same time means a power failure. In this day and age of all things digital, that’s disaster. It also means we buy a lot of storm lanterns to use without the arrival of bad weather.

All of this brings me to our latest flooding. Our latest rounds of lies from the people who are supposed to keep us safe from the weather. From flooding.

Let’s see.

On Saturday when the storm dumped all that water on the city, it was a “100 Year Storm.” That would be fine, if we didn’t already have another “100 Year Storm” two weeks prior. And, if last summer’s flooding of about 70% of the river parishes in the state wasn’t also a “100 Year Storm.” Then, we had a few pumping stations out. First, it was four, then eight and finally sixteen. Then, on Thursday all of our phones went off at about 3 am to tell us there was a fire in the turbine station which provides electric power to the pumping stations. Only a few of the pumping stations from the 9th Ward to Jefferson Parish were working. The mayor kept us updated throughout the day; mostly by making excuses that amounted to the catchall phrase, “who knew?” He’s supposed to know. One of his titles is President of the Water and Sewerage Board.

It turns out that of the 8 or so turbine stations located throughout the city, most of them have been offline for years. Waiting to be repaired. Or rebuilt. When this latest one caught fire there was no backup. Supposedly, as I write, the turbine has been repaired and two backup generators are on their way from Florida. During the highest point of hurricane season.

Huh?

We have FEMA money to repair the street. To repair our hurricane damaged pumping stations. To repair our turbines. Even to clean the entire system which means pipes and gutter drains. We are talking billions of dollars.

Yet, nothing really gets done.

Well, that’s not true. Some things get done. The man who ran the Sewerage and Water Board decided to retire on Sunday, after word of his lies first surfaced. He leaves at the end of the month with a $176,000 a year pension. Seems that he is a 28 year civil servant.

And, I wonder about the state of my city.

Think about it. People retire after 20 or 30 years of city employment. After 20 or 30 years of not doing a good job. And, they get rewarded for it when they retire. They leave the city worse than they found it.

Now, the mayor is bringing in an outside firm to stabilize the water board since so many top officers were forced out in a matter of days. No bid. No city council approval. Follow the money. My money. My neighbor’s money.

And, I wonder about the state of my city.

At the end of the day, everything has gotten worse in the six years since I’ve been back. Much worse.

Oh yeah.

The mayor thinks he would be a good presidential candidate in 2020.

Good Lord.

 

 

Reaching


Reaching in the summertime.

A summerish picture.

A picture that is about the good things in the summertime. Vibrant greens. A clear blue sky. Glowing light.

Of course, this being Southeast Louisiana, wait about 30 minutes and the sky will turn gray. Storm clouds will form. And, heavy rain will fall. Sideways.

I awoke this morning to a New Orleans Parish bulletin. Apparently during the night a power station caught fire. The city is already down 14 water pumps. Now, the rest of them are down west of the Industrial Canal. I’m not even sure where that is. Around here we say stuff like upriver, downriver, lake side, river side.

Actually, I have a pretty good idea where that is. It’s the rest of the city from the Lower 9th Ward to Uptown. We are expecting a pretty big storm later today. The mayor is telling everyone to stay off the street. Orleans Parish schools are closed. Private schools are closed. Keep in mind, school started on Monday for most students. This reminds me of the Katrina year. Schools were in session for about two weeks. Then, they weren’t. For about a year or two.

Quite frankly, with all the flooding lately, everything reminds me of the Katrina year.  Like many of us, I suppose that I’m suffering from a little PTSD when it comes to floods. I should do something about it. Take a few pictures. I said that I was done with that at the 10th Anniversary of the storm. You know. When every kind of media descended on New Orleans like a pack of jackals and got most things wrong.

Maybe I’m not done with it. Yet.

Besides, making pictures is great therapy.

This picture. I just saw the glowing leaves in the morning sun. I cropped the picture into a square because I couldn’t control the direct highlights caused by shooting into the sun. I don’t make many square pictures. The old school photographer in me says that square images lack conviction. Of course, when Instagram was brand new on the scene, they forced you into a square picture. That changed when working photographers figured out a way to mask squares into normal rectangular shapes. Now, with locations being advertised as being Instagrammable, people with smartphones are forgetting to live their lives and have fun.

Oh.

Did I say that?

The Oldest Story


Through the stones.

Storm season.

Everything is wet. Sticky. Humid. Goopy.

That’s not always pleasant. But, it does keep us looking young and wrinkle free. When they say that 60 is the new 40, around here they really mean it. Living in an outdoor sauna helps. So does some kind of hair dye product. Or, a wig.

Oh. Never mind.

This kind of weather helps the plants, trees and flowers. Look at this picture. Brand new baby trees growing through a rock. I’m not sure that’s all that difficult around here. After all, even if you live on a ridge like I do, it’s still swamp bottom. You might have to go back a few years to find that. But, what’s 10 or 20,000 years among friends? Those rocks might not be so solid. A plant root might be able to crack something that is already soft.

The picture. Another dog walk. Photograph what I see. Eventually, I’ve got to get back to seeing more urban pictures, but for now a little peace and quiet is a good thing. Especially when most of social media was calling yesterday, “Nuclear Tuesday.”

Sheesh.

I’m too old to get blown up.

And, Glen Campbell passed. Rest in Peace. Or, Rest in Heaven, as they say around here. You were part of my youth. It is also the 22nd anniversary of The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia’s passing. He was 53 years old. He left way too young. Fame was hard on him.

Maybe I’m not too old to get blown up. Damn.

 

Leafing


In yellow.

Leaves.

Leaves that look sort of like fall. In the dog days of summer. After another rain storm. That’s the nature of things in Southeast Louisiana. It’s cool to see these little bits of color since most of the flowers are long gone. Some will come back again along about October when we have a second growing season. That is, assuming that we have a fairly normal fall season and the heat dissipates.

But, normal?

That’s the question. The unnamed storm that dumped between three and 10 inches of rain on the city in a few hours was not normal.

What was normal — the new normal — occurred in the hours after the rain fell. The event became politicized. Almost weaponized. Everybody blamed everybody else. Every kind of nonsense theory started to bloom. Thank God for social media and the internet. Or, not.

The truth is fairly simple.

Either the storm was a 100 year event which is what the old timers talk about. The real old timers. Like my neighbor who is 96 years old and remembers what her parents and grandparents told her about storms like this. It will happen again. But, not soon.

Or, it has something to do with climate change. If we don’t change our ways, it will happen again. Soon.

If I count the storm that flooded the Baton Rouge area last summer, causing billions of dollars of damage, I’d be inclined to think seriously about climate change. Soon. Very soon. Yes, that was 50 miles upriver. But, it’s still the same region.

Through the mud.

The pictures. Pictures that I saw along the way. While walking a dog or two or three. They find this stuff. Not me. I just go where they point me. Talk about robo-photography. Sheesh. Most of what you see, and hopefully like, in these pictures comes after the fact. The originals are somewhat flat and dull. I have a pretty clear vision of what they will turn into once I’m done with them. At least for this go around. I’m sure, like anything else, I’ll change my mind and how I see.

On top of things.

A Rain Drop. Two Ways.


Rain drop on a leaf. The color way.

A little comparison.

A couple of you here, and on other social media, liked my last black and white offering very much. Thank you. You said that was the right direction to take the picture. I agree with you. I thought that it was too.

But.

You can’t possibly know that without seeing both versions of the image. Maybe the color version was really wowie-zowie. That’s a technical term for really good. Ha! Rather than repost a picture so soon along with its colorful mate, I thought that I would post two new images that are similar in subject and theme.

So.

Here they are. Still in the theme of water. Still a very tightly composed image, with no crops or external enhancements. Both versions do have a funny rim shadow that looks like I popped a strobe on it. I didn’t. That is just a characteristic of late afternoon light that feel after the storm.

By the way, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see a portrait of the dog who shows me stuff on our walks. It too is in black and white. I’m supposed to work in color. I’ve made my career on it. But, lately I’ve been intrigued by my earliest roots. Black and white photography.

Who knows where my muse will lead me. All I know is that I should pay attention.

Rain drop on a leaf. The black and white way.

Night Work


Flowing at night.

We had a huge storm. A lot of New Orleans was flooded because the amount of rainfall overwhelmed the drainage pumps. But, not Uptown. All that construction. The work I’ve been complaining about for the last three years.  Well. It paid off. Wet streets, but no heavily accumulated water.

The rain fell so hard, and for so long, that we did not go outside for much of the day. It’s smart to stay inside when somewhere near eight inches of rain falls in three hours.

By nightfall the dogs needed a walk. Yeah. Sure. They have a doggie door and a place to go when nature calls. Even during the lightest rain they are weather wimps. They refuse to go out.

They went out at around 8am. They stayed indoors all day long. By dusk I wanted them to go out. So, out for a walk we went. Nothing was falling from the sky, but the streets were wet and the grass and soil was soaked to the point of sponginess. We went to one of our usual places where there is kind of a water feature.

That’s where I made this picture.

Night Water. That’s what I’m calling it. Sometimes this place is almost dry. Not last night. Water was moving. Sparkling. Twinkling. I wasn’t even sure I could make this picture in such low light. But…

I did.

Droplets


Remains of a storm.

It rains around here. In the summer.

Water accumulates everywhere. If you are out walking soon after the rain stops you can find all the secret places. Except. They aren’t that secret. It’s just that most people don’t see them.

I do.

I photograph them.

I was talking with a friend of mine who was trying to illustrate passages in a book that really resonated with her. She told me that she and her husband drove about 100 miles looking for a “perfect” place which would yield a “perfect” picture. I told her not to work so hard. Pictures reveal themselves when they are ready. Not when you want them to.

The next day she walked 100 feet. There it was. The picture. Was it perfect? I don’t know what she thought. We haven’t talked yet. But, I liked it. Besides, perfection is for angels.

The picture. It’s a pretty nice color picture. When I started experimenting, I tried a black and white version. It called out to me. It was like “a ringin’ a bell.” It revealed itself to me. Not so much when I was actually pushing the button. But, later. When I was tinkering.

Tinker away. All of you.

Still Water, Still


When it rains…

Still water. Pooling after a rain storm.

Normally, this little pocket park is a mix of dirt and grass. When the rains come, the water pools and some of it turns into little temporary lakes. That’s what you are looking at. The drier land looks like a little isthmus. You can see grass growing on it. On both sides are little pools of water.

Truth be told, if I was just walking out there I would have stepped over it, or in it. But, when a dog is poking around, leading and gently pulling you, things change. I took my time. Not only did I want to see a bunch of “little” pictures, but I didn’t want to slip in the water because the mud below is very slick. After all, it is really old swamp bottom.

That dog is really good for something. Well, a lot of things. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll get to meet her a little later today. I managed to make a strange portrait of her. In black and white.

The picture. It’s enhanced. I had to do that in order to bring out the detail. And, to help you see what I saw. You know. The usual stuff.

Water World Part Deaux


Water flowing through a little canal.

Water, water, everywhere a not a drop to drink.

That’s an old saying. It suits this particular water. It looks fresh. it looks clean. But, it is not. It’s been working its way through all kind of man-made systems. I have no idea what’s in the water.

No matter.

It is pretty and it makes a nice little picture. In fact, I think it’s given me a project idea. About water. Normally, I approach these things from a storytelling perspective. This time, I think I’ll do it through pure art. There will not be a beginning, middle and end. Or, a process. Instead, just a portfolio of water-inspired pictures.

Funny thing. We had a lot of rain this morning. I think it started around 3am. Rainfall lasted until about 9am. With my new-found interest in all things water, you’d think I’d have been out working.

But, nooooooooooo.