After the storm. If you’re lucky you get a rainbow.

Sometimes,

You get lucky. You get to see the rainbow after the storm.You get to see nature being friendly rather than allowing us to get sick and die. That’s what this picture is about. Hope. You know me. You can’t eat hope. If you have hope right now, you’d better go to work.

Hope, unfortunately, is withering on the vine. I read a story in The New York Times about our new future. It’s grim. The virus is forever. There will be ebbs and flows depending on what we open and what we don’t. I fear sort the sports and entertainment industries. Fans going to a venue wil be in a petri dish. Maybe some get sick. Maybe some won’t.

We are in the digital age, so maybe some of these events can be done online. While some people might recoup some funds, that’s not what live events are about. It doesn’t account for what they really about. Excitment. Energy. Fan interaction. Instead there will 300 or 400 people in a stadium designed for 50,000 people.

Okay. That stuff isn’t important.

Non-essential businesses are important. How are they going to be staffed? How are they going to be regulated from a health standpoint? How do staffers interact with the public? These questions, and more, are yet to be answered.

You can’t rush this stuff. You can’t set a deadline. You can’t rush nature. Nature moves in her own good time. This new normal is forever. Oh sure, it will be modified as we learn. I’m sure that there will be V. 1.0, V1.5, V. 2.0, and so on. Maybe in 70 years things will settle down. After all, that’s how long it to the Spanish Flu to eventually morph in H1N1, the seasonal flu that rolls around in the fall.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


Life in between.

On the edge.

It seems that all the president’s men are clamoring to open up the country.  They are hoping for business as usual. I’m not. I think we can be better in just about every way. I believe that even before CoVid-19 most of our systems are broken. The virus just provided clarity.

I could go on and on about the broken issues. I’ll just discuss one. Infrastructure. I can’t speak for your city, but mine is in horrible shape. We still don’t have full capacity pumping stations. Our streets are mostly a mess. Potholes are everywhere.The city and the contractors still haven’t demoed the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel. Two bodies are still trapped in the debris.  A building collapsed yesterday. It just fell down. There are some 30,000 buildings in dire condition. And, so on. And, so on.

I’m not ranting. We can get this stuff done. We can fix the national infrastructure too. Those folks who lost their jobs, jobs which may never return, could be put back to work. In this case, history really does repeat itself.

More importantly, we can change ourselves. We can change personal stuff that might make our lives better. We can also be honest about how we feel. An artist that I follow on Instagram realized that she didn’t have to work right now. She now bakes and cooks and has a drink while she’s doing those things. She allowed herself to be sad. She passed through her dark moments.

Where does the leave me?

There is a photographer I like called Todd Hido. He’s a couple of years younger than me. He makes books. He does major shows. His work is hanging in the Smithsonian. He’s a true photographic artist. He discussed his projects in a piece that I read. He said that even if his project lasts for ten years (He photographs multiple projects at once), when it is done, it’s done.

Ah ha.

My own over arcing project is done. I can’t seem to make myself go out to photograph second lines, Indians, Zulus and all things of that nature on the street. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with that. Reading Mr. Hido’s comments gave me permission to say I’m done.

I’ve been pursuing my art-like the pictures I’ve been posting on Storyteller. That’s where I’m headed. That’s where I want to go.

This lockdown time has given me time to think, to let stuff roll around in my brain. Sometimes to get clarity you have to let your thoughts or pictures marinate.

Oddly, just as I arrived at that conclusion, WordPress sent me an email about blog site renewal. I’m using a business plan. I can roll my prorated funds into the top plan. If I do that. I have to sell art from here to make it worth doing. I’m doing it.

There’s a lot to learn. I understand and have fairly good business practices. I understand SEO to a point. The point being like dipping a toe into a giant swimming pool.

There you have it. You’re stuck with me.

The picture. Make that two pictures. The foreground silhouette is something I saw two days ago. You’ve seen the background image. I layered them, making sure that the bright background colors did not overwhelm the foreground. I tinkered some more and it was complete.

Stay Safe, Look after each other. Take your time reopening your lives. Wear your masks. Wear your gloves. Keep your distance. Don’t congregate. Enjoy every left over Easter egg.


In the New Orleans Sky.

I know one thing as we head into a very different time and space.

Enjoy every sandwich.

The late Warren Zevon said that on the old version of David Letterman’s show. He said that knowing he had less than six months to live. He was dying from lung cancer. When Letterman asked him what he learned from this,  Zevon responded with, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

He played a couple of songs in what turned out to be his very last live performance. And, he left us with his best album. He didn’t live to find out that his album won a Grammy for best album of the year.

I’ve been thinking about that as I watched everything around me be cancelled or postponed because of the escalating numbers of CoVid-19. Most musical tours are postponed or cancelled. Every major sport, the same. Even local events like the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday.

I watched a video clip of the New York Yankees (I was born and raised to be a fan) and last year’s World Series champs, the Washington Nationals play a spring training baseball game. They are practice games. They really don’t count. The help to get the players in “baseball” shape.

The Yankees bat boy came out of the dugout and handed the home plate umpire a note. The umpire read it, called the two team managers out, who waved all of the players off the field. The game ended in the middle of the fourth inning.

Major League Baseball cancelled the rest of spring training and postponed the start of the season by at least two weeks, effectively making the start of the season an unknown. That same umpire who called the game said to the reporters as he walked out of the clubhouse, “Guys, I’ll see you in June.”

This is how it’s been going everywhere with almost every kind of non-essential event. Even Broadway went dark, prompting the late night shows to work without an audience.

But, the worst information of all came locally. Yes, our confirmed patients are growing exponentially. Yesterday there were 17 known cases of the virus. Today there are 31.

That’s still not the worst news.

Four people went home after visiting my swampy, potholed city. They are now ill with the virus. They caught it during Mardi Gras. Apparently, it’s been floating around New Orleans since at least early February.

Remember when I was in too much pain to work for the last couple of days of Mardi Gras, including Mardi Gras Days? I was miserable from both the physical and emotional sides of me.

Say what you will. Talk about it being a God deal. Call it divine intervention. Call it anything. But, without my pain, I could be sick right now because I work in the heart of the crowds. Isn’t that something? I’m humbled and filled with gratitude.

Anyway. We are just about that point when our lives will change forever.

Enjoy every sandwich.


Before the parades.

Photographers luck.

I was out walking when I heard police sirens. I looked up. I saw Mardi Gras floats being pulled by their tractors. After being around for so long, I know that the floats are being towed to their parade starting points.

There are three parades in which I’m interested. They are all Uptown parades. However, there are at least three more parades that could be called local.

Today is when my Mardi Gras photographic season really begins. For sure, I photographed some of the downtown parades. They are great fun, but starting tonight the parades have some real  history.  And, tradition.

A couple of years ago the folks who organized the downtown parades thought they were onto something new.The organizers wanted to call their parade season “New Mardi Gras.” That was a non-starter. Nobody wanted that.

I talked to one of the organizers. She wanted to know why I was opposed. I said that it was simple. All of Mardi Gras evolves every year. Krewes come and go. Some are replaced by new krewes. Some reform and return. Some are gone forever. All of the downtown parades are a part of that tradition.

I made this picture about 45 minutes before I published it.

I made it cinematic in post production because I like the style. A thought is rolling around my brain. Tonight, I start photographing parades for real. It’s more or less photojournalism. But, it doesn’t have to be. At least for here on Storyteller. I can make the pictures a little more magical which is the whole point of working on this stuff. That’s for y’all.

A little magic. Because… you know why.

For my client and agencies I’ll take a more straight approach. That’s how all of the images start out. Sometime they’ll enhance my work. That’s their call. I will add some of my enhanced work. They’ll see what I’m thinking. You never know. It might align with their thinking.

I’m a little excited about tonight. I know where i’m going. I know the routes. But, I have no idea what I’ll do. That usually comes to me while I’m standing around wondering what I’ll do.

That’s the story.

No. I didn’t forget the day. Happy Valentines to all of you. Please go to my Instagram feed to see how I celebrated it. It’s different. At least it has that going for it.


In the dark night.

I saw it. I photographed it. I added to it.

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.

Still, at 45 years on I still ask for advice.

Try it.

 


The Cedars are growing brand new leaves.

Yes. Some winter.

When I made this picture, the air was cool. The sun was bright. And, new leaves were already showing on the Cedars around this place. Sheesh.

We had about five days of sub-40 degree weather. It’s possible that we could get more. I remember working on Mardi Gras Day in 30 degree weather when sleet and freezing rain was blowing around in the wind.

I think that’s highly unlikely.

I fear is that this mild winter is a prelude to a very hot summer. I’m hoping that things stay mild throughout the year. For instance, last year, we had a lightly cooler winter, but the summer temperatures never reached triple digits. That matters. Even if it’s only psychological, there is a big difference between 100 degrees and 99 degrees.

I’m taking no chances.

That’s why we are looking for a coolish place in which to hide out for a month or so of the summer. Or, we change our minds and go to work in other places. We’ll see.

Sorry that this post is mostly about the weather. I was surprised to see trees showing new leaves so early.

The picture. At first I left it alone. Almost no correction in post production. There was no way to help it without hurting it. Then, I decided to test some frames. Most were just okay. I came upon this one. I loved it. So, here it is.


It feels cold.

Can we all agree?

For all of our good intentions at the start of a new decade, January pretty much sucked. The month seemed to last forever. Bad things never stopped.

Last Sunday, Kobe Bryant died sending most of the world into mourning. Yesterday, Brexit began with no real deal in place. And, yesterday evening the U.S. Senate voted not to allow new witnesses and documents into the removal trial of the president, thereby laying waste to democracy and The Constitution. For sure, he’ll be acquitted on Wednesday, the day after The State of The Union address.

I’m sure that other bad stuff happened earlier in the month, but I’m trying to forget.

So.

A little magic.

Magic that we all need. Magic that even though we don’t know it, we want. Something good has to come along and give us all a break. At least, in the swamp, we have Mardi Gras. We can share that with all of you.

I was thinking about not photographing it this year. I was thinking about leaving town. But, maybe its color and light will help everyone to smile. To feel better. To sing. And, dance.

So, tonight the Krewe of Chewbacchus rolls starting in the Bywater. It’s a little hard to photograph because it starts in available darkness, but I’ll be there limping around making pictures.

It rolls through the French Quarter but it gets way too crowded. People yell at you if you stand in front of them for longer than one second. They want their beads. I don’t want their beads. If I catch some I give them to the nearest child. That’s my traditional magic.

Let’s just hope that my traditional Mardi Gras parade routine brings me a little magic.

Tonight.


Looking into the light.

Looking into the light.

No. Not heading toward the light. That’s something else.

This means breaking one of the rules of photography, and in particular when you are using a digital camera. They tell you not to photograph directly into the sun. They also tell you that doing that with a digital camera will destroy the sensor. I suppose it might, if you left the shutter open for an hour or so. Who’s going to do that?

Besides, who is they?

For the 1/2000th of a second or so that it took to make this picture nothing bad will happen to the camera. But, something good will happen to the picture that you just made. Not only will you make a strong silhouette, but you’ll get some flare and even a bit of sun streaks into the sky.

All of that makes for a more interesting picture than a normal exposure would do. If you are like me, you aren’t done. You’ll also work on the picture a lot in post production to help make the finished image what you really want it to be.

This picture is a great example of how I see these days.


Into the clouds.

New Orleans has a new airport.

It hasn’t moved. A new terminal and runway system opened about two weeks ago right across a couple of runways from the old one.

There were all sorts of complaints when the airport first opened. Curbside parking was a mess. There were very long lines to catch a taxi, Uber or Lyft. Most of the outbound baggage belts didn’t work. When they did work it was likely that your luggage went to Kansas City while you went to Los Angeles. Inbound was no better. The list was long.

However, every place that sold food worked. At least travelers could eat real New Orleans food from real New Orleans places run by real New Orleans people.

Overall, that sounds terrible.

Nope. By last night most of those issues were resolved. The only people still complaining about them are the people who always complain about everything. The only real long term issue is the direct ramp from the interstate to the airport. That was a mistake in planning and follow up. It should be finished in two years. By then nobody will care.

This picture has nothing to do with the new airport.  Sure, that’s where the jet departed from, but it’s a couple of thousand feet in the air. Because I’m driven towards art these days, there is a lot of post production going on. I’m not sure this one makes it.

Oh well.