Over and over.

Art or not, I like this photograph. It was the last of the New Mexico pictures that I was showing you earlier. I decided to make it into something more after claiming that my PAD pictures were akin to photojournalism.

So, I held it back.

It’s been living on my desktop staring at me, reminding me, nagging me. The image won. They always do.

I’ll discuss how I made it on the other side, the right hand column.

Under the heading of all the news that fits, there are some things going in the city that are scary.

There has been a rise in violent crime of 50% year to year. Shootings are up by 23%. There have been 12 shootings on upper Bourbon Street near or on Canal Street in the last two weeks.

One shooting was big enough that I read about it in the London newspapers. It was national news. You probably didn’t read about it because it’s likely there was another mass shooting the next day.

Somewhere.

Talk about a short news cycle.

Granted, the French Quarter is a touristy place, but the 100 and 200 blocks of Bourbon Street are gangland. There are armed wannabe thugs hanging out there, especially at night and the early morning.

If you are visiting stay away from there. Besides, there isn’t much to see.

The city’s response is to add another 150 cops there. That’s understandable because tourism is the city’s lifeblood. But what about other neighborhoods, of which the Quarter is just one?

In my hood we pay for armed private police. Most of them are former military and some are former M.P.s. No, they weren’t working in English parliament, they were military police.

They are armed, but they can’t apprehend anyone. They can put the cuffs on someone, but they have to call the NOPD in order to make an arrest.

I feel relatively safe right now. Most strangers are transients. They are either tourists taking pictures or people just passing by.

Right now nobody is passing by. Our street is finally being repaired. The construction crew thought the best way to fix it was to tear it all up. The street is all dirt with holes everywhere as the city pipes are being repaired to replaced.

As messy as it is, that’s a good thing. And, they are ahead of schedule, The original plan was to begin work in 2032. There are a lot of political and business heavyweights who use and live on the street. The former mayor’s aunt lived there.

What do you think happened?

His aunt was 82. She passed before any of the work began.

I was afraid that with the original schedule, the same thing would happen to me. I suppose that it still could.

And, so it goes.

Balloons floating through the air in the quiet of early morning.

That wasn’t enough so I added a foreground.

That still wasn’t enough so I added what picture editing apps call bokeh. I think they are just round circles that have been softened so that the fit into the picture.

Besides, bokeh is something else entirely. It’s the quality of the out of focus area of the picture.

For a while it was a really big deal. Brand new photographers were trying to take bokeh pictures. Others were discussing how to add it when it didn’t exist in the picture.

The conversation turned silly, even though the very best out of focus areas are creamy, but in which you can still recognize the shapes.

I have friends in Japan. The word bokeh is Japanese, but they said nobody uses it there.

Oh well.

Another western appropriation shot to hell.

Anyway.

After I added all of that, I fine tuned and tinkered a bit. Finally, I was done. So was the picture.

The picture has a sort of explosive quality to it, don’t you think?

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Float around in all the air.


Drifting higher and higher.

The wheel is turning and it won’t slow down. Can’t back up and you can’t stand still

I learned a lot today. I learned it before breakfast. I watched The President’s discussion about the horrific number of pandemic dead in our country.

500,000.

That’s 120,000 more than the city of New Orleans.

I listened to a much hyped podcast on Spotify. It’s a discussion between former president Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. Today was podcast one. I think that there are eight in total.

Of course I learned different points from each of them, but when I spun it around in my head I came up with two things.

I realized that like most of the country I’m in mourning. I mourn for the 500,000 dead. I knew a few of them.

I also mourn for a way of life that will never return. When you think of what’s changed in your life you realized that the world shifted.

Make no mistake. I still believe that whatever the new normal is, wecan be much better than where we were pre-pandemic.

To get there, first you have to mourn. You must pass through the five stages of grief. And, then you can go on.

I can’t speak for others, but I am not particularly happy right now. It’s nothing in particular. It’s just the remains of the past year. And, this year. It is sort of a clod or fog that me feelings are in.

This year has also become a year of reckoning. It started with music. The music got into my head and I started thinking about it. It’s time to think about and work through my past life. It’s time to confront all of my ghosts, good or bad.

In case you are wondering, I’m not the only person going through this. Pandemic times opened a lot of people. We have time to think. Time to reflect. Time to make ourselves crazy.

About that last one, you know what I mean. You think about something you did in the past and you say to yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?”

Remember one more thing.

My koan or word for the year is truth. Not telling the truth. Inside truth. The one only I know. And, God.

More balloons. This is what people from all over the world come for. Mass ascensions.

The sun is low in the sky. Balloons are up.

Albuquerque has a wind pattern called The Albuquerque Box. Wind hits the Sandia mountain range, bounces along its face and pushes back out in the direction from which it came.

In theory, that should make photography easy.

You know about theories. They break down. Sometimes the balloons drift away. The end up all over the city.

One morning when I wasn’t going out, I walked into the kitchen to see a balloon almost in my backyard.

That’ll happen.

Instead of making pictures, I helped the pilot since his chase car couldn’t get anywhere near him.

I’m not that good of a guy. I didn’t want my windows broken. We were renting then. I could just imagine walking into the management office and asking for my kitchen windows to replaced. “What happened?” “They were hit by a balloon.”

Right.

The picture itself. F8 and be there. Point your camera into the sun even though they say not to do that and fire away.

“They” is often wrong.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You are experts in the rest by now. You know what to do. Enjoy every Albuquerque Box.


One glorious morning.

Once upon a time. I lived in New Mexico. We lived there after Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans. We needed a little peace. Solitude. Quitetude.

I don’t know how long we planned to stay. I thought maybe a year or two. It turned out to be almost five years.

We heard the pounding of the Mardi Gras Indian drums. The noise of second lines. The brass music on the streets.

In the distance.

We returned to the place from which we came.

Now, almost ten years later I have a feeling. It’s not a good one. It’s one that’s been creeping up on me a little at a time.

I made a mistake. A big, huge mistake.

Looking back, we should have just stayed there. Maybe we should have moved from Albuquerque to Santa Fe or even Taos.

And, now?

It seems like it would fun to return but we’ve got too much invested in the other “new.” Not New Mexico.

New Orleans. I don’t know if I have the energy to move a quarter of the country away.

Ten years in one place means ten years older. Ten years means 67 years old. If I move it would be my last move. Yeah. That sounds ominous. It’s not. But, who wants to keep moving?

As I worked to make my career I moved many times. That got old, but I had a direction. Upward. Ever upward. Now? Not so much.

I have friends with whom I went to high school in Long Beach. A good number of them married their high school sweethearts. Others married a little later. But, they stayed. They stayed for 50 years. In Long Beach. Or, Southern California.

Some days that sounds really good. For some of them, their big trip is to Las Vegas. That sounds good.

Now.

For a long time that sounded boring. For me, it may have been. I think you learn a lot by being in a place. I know a lot of cities pretty well. Of course, some of those memories have drifted. But, a little strolling around and I’m right back where I left off.

That sounds fun. But, who’s traveling now?

Not me.

One more thing. I’m mostly thinking out loud. I’m not going anywhere.

Are you?

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. That’s where I made this photograph. We lived about five miles from the balloon field.

That meant I photographed it almost every year. I used to scrounge up a letter of assignment from a friend of mine. That got me press credentials which don’t matter on the balloon field, but they give you parking. That matters.

Of course, the great equalizer is the traffic.

There were some mornings when I got tied up in traffic. Those fives miles took 45 minutes to work through. I arrived late so I had to find other ways to make pictures.

New Mexico has wonderful light. Some photographers think that means all day. For sure the light is crystalline even at noon. But, the usual rules apply. Work at the ends of days where the golden light is the best.

Morning balloon lifts are great for working in some amazing light. If I arrived late I just chased balloons which allowed me to make pictures like this one.

A picture that speaks to solitude. To peace. To nature.

Man (the balloon) becomes a tiny speck in the universe.

Isn’t that what we are? A blip. That is reinforced time and again. It’s what brought us to New Mexico. It’s what happened to the people of Texas last week.

So, really. That’s what this picture is about. Man. Nature. Our relationship.

Which isn’t so great right now.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know exactly what to do. Enjoy your universe.


Dawn balloon lift off from 4th Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This one. This picture. The best picture that I’ve ever made of the balloon fiesta. It’s the one I told you about. I was late to the liftoff because of accidents on I-25, so I worked my way through the backstreets and came to this place on 4th Street.

I thought I was in the worst possible place. Shows you what I know.

I had to pass through a gate that lead me to a bunch of transmission towers. Once I got clear of them this was my view.

There is a giant take away from this. Never, ever give up. It would have been easy to go back home, have another cup of coffee, some breakfast and go back to bed.

What would be the fun in that?

Once I recovered from the emotional high of finding this scene and making the picture, I started thinking clearly and started chasing individual balloons as they split off from the main group.

Eventually, I made my way home where i did have that cup of coffee, had some breakfast and started working on my new pictures.

Stay Safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy every donut.

Some technical picture stuff. A number of you have asked in the past, and again on other social media for technical tips.

I’m not the biggest photo tech guy in the world. But, I can tell you what went into individual pictures.

The first thing to talk about is ISO. I usually work at the lowest native ISO, which means for this picture ISO 100.

Next we come to aperture and shutter speed. I cheat a little here especially with lighting like this.

I set the aperture, usually to f5.6 and let the shutter speed fall where it may. But, knowing I wanted front to back sharpness, I set the aperture at f16. Normally, the shutter speed would be way too slow. But, not when you are shooting pretty much directly into the sun.

When I’m chasing around like I was, I usually use an all purpose travel lens which is a 28-200mm/ f4 / f5.6 piece of glass.

I had the time to switch to a 20mm lens, while I was walking through the field. That’s why the picture has such an all encompassing feel.

A 20mm lens set at f16 and everything is a sharp as it can be.

Very little post production was needed. I’d have to look at the RAW file, but I’m willing to bet I just lightened the shadows a bit.


I don’t normally ask for things like this. But, please vote for this picture. Here. http://www.bucketlistpublications.com/portfolio-view/travel-photo-contest-19/ I’ve entered it in a fellow blogger’s travel photo contest.

The picture?

It was made a few years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the opening day of The International Balloon Fiesta. It was mostly a combination of luck and, well, luck. I was heading towards the balloon field for the first morning’s mass ascension when I ran into a massive traffic jam on the interstate. Yes. I left for the even in plenty of time. By the time I worked my way through all the traffic many of the balloons were already in the air. So I  drove around to the backside of the balloon field and happened to find the this picture. 


Morning Balloons is a case of a good sense of direction and a whole lot of luck. I planned to photograph the first morning of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I planned to arrive well before the first mass ascension which meant getting up very early and sneaking up I-25 to sort of a backdoor exit to the balloon field where the event is held. What I didn’t plan for was two accidents  on I-25. From the minute that I entered the highway, I knew that I was in trouble. It was a parking lot. I exited as quickly as I could which probably took 30 minutes. By then I knew that I could never reach the field in time for the morning events, so I picked my way through smaller city streets until I got behind the balloon field and onto 4th street, which is an extension of old Route 66, north of the field and the city. I saw the balloons lifting off and made a dash to a place where I could position the Sandia Mountains and the early morning sun in the background. I broke most of the rules. I shot directly into the sun using a wide angle lens. I said a little prayer and hoped for the best. I guess the photo gods were on my side. This is probably just a case of knowing the location and your place in it.

Cemetery Boots is mostly about liking a certain place and returning to it again and again in order to photograph it in all kinds of light. This is Mount Calvary Cemetery. It is tiny, dusty and a bit run down. It is across a two lane street from its church which is also tiny. How tiny? Tiny enough that a priest comes once a week from Santa Fe in order to say mass. Why this place? Well, for some strange reason I like cemeteries and it is easily accessible. It also has that sort of run down boot hill of look. The boots were sort of new to me. They were glued to a headstone as a monument to the deceased. This image is a great example of being in a place long enough to really know it. I guess there are two theories. When you travel to a place for a few days or weeks, you sort of scrape the surface and make sort of shallow images. On the other hand, you see it with fresh eyes. The second theory is to really photograph a place you have to really know it and that means you have to be there. I think that I subscribe to the second theory.

New York Motion is an elderly image that was actually made on film. I made it in this painterly way because to my mind it captures the energy and motion of New York City at night. The image was made in Times Square on a very cold night. I was shooting Fuji Velvia film, using a 20mm lens set at 5.6 and I let the shutter speed go wherever it needed to be which was probably around 1/2 second. This is an example of letting the scene dictate the technique. And, that’s as it should be.