I am NOT laughing at you who live in places where it so terribly cold.
Instead, I’m showing you what we get for putting up with New Orleans things. We have a high murder rate (two weekends in a row). We have an ancient water system that breaks every week. We have a terrible street infrastructure filled with car killing pot holes. We have a city government that wraps everything up in a marketing tagline, “The City of Yes.” Yes, most of us would like them to actually do something rather than all their posturing. And, they raised the value of our homes so that they could claim that they didn’t raise property taxes. The list continues. And, continues.
We also have mild weather. Of course, that contrasts with the extreme heat of summer. But, our mildness allows me to publish a picture like this one, twelve days from the winter solstice and the actual start of winter.
Older people who live in the north move to Florida for mild weather during the winter. They don’t have dodge bullets and potholes. And, the don’t have to live in our summer heat if they live somewhere near Florida’s long coast.
The picture. I saw it, I photographed it. It didn’t need any help in post production.
For me it’s a time of review. Not just for 2019, but for the decade since 2020 is the start of a decade. It’s also just not only about me. It’s about the state of the planet. The state of being. And, it’s about the people that I’ve lost. The people who are no longer on this planet. And, it’s about one more trip around the planet.
It started with sports. Not playing, but reading about sports. A lot of writers were doing best of the decade sporting stories. That gave me an idea. What if I did my best ten pictures of the decade?
On one hand, it was fairly easy to pick my ten best. They have been signature pictures since the day I made them. On the other hand, the exercise was miserable. I made a lot of pictures in the last ten years. My kind of pictures. The ones that were more like photojournalism than art or nature.
I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been very productive over the last two years. Yes, sure, I’ve made a huge amount of my faux nature pictures. To me, they don’t count. That’s not what I do. I could write that off to being in pain, to being afraid of falling down in the middle of a second line, to being fairly depressed because of the pain and feeling like my career is winding down.
That’s not me.
I’ve always played through the pain. This pain is for the rest of my lifetime. So? I’ve always lived by Neil Young’s song, “Don’t be Denied.” I’ve got a fairly high threshold for pain. I’m not the guy who thinks that he’s dying when I catch a cold.
They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. I’m going to do my level best at finishing so strong, you’ll just think I took a few years off for some unknown reason. Besides, there is just too much to do. Too much that I don’t want to leave undone.
One more thing. This year was the year of learning. I didn’t learn that much externally. But, I did internally. I looked into my past. At my beginnings. How I got to this place. There are some bad memories. But, there were some awfully great times.
Here’s one of both.
You know that I spent six years in Hong Kong, more if you count China. I used to manufacture books. I would close the process by doing a press check. We’d work night and day. We’d look at color quality. I learned the subtle art of compromise. I learned that perfection is for angels. Especially when we were printing 8 or 16 pages at a time. The red you want on one page is the red you don’t want on another page. But, the pages are being printed together. I had to figure out the balance. The difference.
I was in Hong Kong for ten months without coming home at all. At the end of my time there, I went to Singapore to print one more book. This book was a co-production with an unreasonable partner. The book was very late coming off the press. The partner wanted to review every running sheet. I was in Singapore. They were in New York City. That meant a delay of two days for every one we were on press. The whole thing devolved into a long distance three way screaming match between me, them and my bosses who were on my side.
Finally, I just said screw it. I said I would send them the running pages. I printed the entire book and sent them a loosely gathered set of pages. They hit the roof. They wanted to make changes, not just in book quality, but in content. I replied the book is in the bindery. It’s done. Dead silence from the other end. I hung up and went about my business.
I was exhausted.
Up all night. Up early in the morning. Up during the day. That’ll exhaust you. But, I wasn’t done yet.
From Singapore I flew to Copenhagen via Zurich. I didn’t have to change planes. I slept through the stop. I slept until we were about an hour out of Denmark. The flight attendant fed me after saying that she tried to wake me but couldn’t. Exhausted.
When we landed I went straight to my little house. One room, with a sleeping area, a kitchen, sitting area and a world class bathroom. Like an Air BnB, but 20 years early. I took a shower and turned on the television. I found VH-1, mostly since I couldn’t understand the Danish stations.
The first thing I see is this guy singing and dancing. He’s wearing long beaded dreadlocks. He looks very happy. Adam Durwitz. Counting Crows. Playing and singing Mr. Jones. Remember that song? From the early 1990’s?
Oh, man. Did that ever make me sing and… dance.
Music saved me.
Oh, Copenhagen? I loved it. I could walk from my place to work in a design studio on a cobblestoned walking street. I could stop for a great breakfast and even better coffee along the way. It was early June. It fairly cold so I bought a jacket. I photographed constantly. Three weeks later, I left for home.
Sometimes, that’s where the picture lies. I did that the other night at around dusk. I was housebound and I need to get outside for a few minutes. I made the picture about ten steps from the door.
Is there a lesson in there someplace? Nah. I’ve preached enough about going outside when you are in a photographer’s block. You don’t need to read it again. Oh wait. You already did just read it. No matter. If you’re like me, a little brain pounding is needed. If not, sorry.
I’m going to post another reworked picture tomorrow. It’s about something that is seen yearly in the French Quarter. I was going to write something about not having to work the scene again because it’s always the same. While I was thinking that, an idea came to me. It’s an early evening shot, so I’ll go very soon to see if it works. At least, my brain is starting to work.
It hasn’t been working for most of the week. But, that’s another story, for another time. I’ll eventually discuss it, but not now.
The picture. It’s a kind of F8 and be there thing. But first, you have to find the framing.The picture is cropped into a square because I didn’t exactly find the right frame. I cropped it into the right frame. And, that little dot way up there? That’s the moon.
Bare trees look like they are reaching toward each other. It’s not a compositional trick. It’s not a camera trick. It’s not an accident. It’s just what I saw.
I think it’s a giant irony. As trees reach toward other, humans are fracturing more and more. Further polarization is in the air. Just read about the NATO 70th Anniversary meeting. Read the continuing silly attacks on the impeachment process. Red states v blue states. Ignoring the science of climate change for short term profits. And, on it goes.
But, nature knows.
Nature will probably have to destroy us to get us to listen. Maybe with the extreme weather of climate change, maybe with more people dying because of it, our leaders will take notice and listen. Maybe, hope against hope will prevail. Maybe nature will once again unite us.
Probably not. Likely it’ll further polarize the haves against have nots.
Who knows? It’s above my pay grade.
The picture. It was easy. I didn’t do much to it. Nature did all of the work.
Just when I thought I was out, I was pulled back in.
Actually, I went looking for these leaves. They are still hanging around on trees called Japanese Maples. They turn fall colors later in the season. And, the color lasts longer once the leaves do start to change.
I knew where I thought I saw them. I just haven’t walked in that direction in the past month or so, I headed there hoping against hope that I hadn’t missed them. I was lucky — that old photographers luck thing again — and they were as I expected them to be. Whew.
I made all kinds of pictures of them. I processed a lot of them which is unusual for me. I couldn’t find quite what I wanted until I saw this image. It looks like an explosion of color so I made it look even more explosive. That’s what you are seeing here.
I’d like to say that there is a lesson here. Maybe one of persistence. But, I wasn’t very persistent. Instead, it’s more-or-less how my mind works. Some vision clicks in and I try to find it in real life.
Maybe the best lesson for me is not to self edit in the field. I said about a week ago that one of my pictures was the last of the fall color. If I stuck with that I wouldn’t have walked in a different direction. I wouldn’t have found the wonderful late fall colored Japanese Maples.
That’s what I saw. That’s what I felt. Luckily, I was able to make a picture that has feeling rather than just the usual documentation of a thing or place. Let me tell you, that doesn’t happen very often.
It was kind of a fluke. Kind of photographer’s luck. Kind of what I tell me people who are suffering from a photography disorder.
It was a fluke because the dog and I normally don’t walk in this direction. It was photographer’s luck because we picked the time of day. It was the solution to the question I had been asking myself earlier in the day.
Together, all of this worked in my favor. Or, really, your favor.
The picture. From a technical standpoint, it was be there, see it, push the button. In post production it was more of the same. Most of the work was about darkening and enhancing the color to the point that I saw it while we were walking.
I was wrong. I found this tree a day or two after I said that all the leaves were down. However, I walked by it this morning thinking I’d add to the red collection. Now, I can safely say that all the leaves are down. The street was covered in the red leaves you see in this picture. I took a picture to prove it. I might post it next week. Or, tomorrow.
I guess this picture proves what I’ve long believed. Don’t mess with mother nature. Or, her trees.
Today is Black Friday in The United States. It’s a silly day created to drum up business. Prices are supposedly deep discounted. People used to line up at malls and big box stores at something like two o’clock. In the morning. Some stores are open on Thanksgiving Day.
According to some news reports that I read, it’s becoming a thing of the past. And, hopefully buyers are realizing that the deepest discounts are made on old stock, specially wholesaled stock, and stuff nobody needs. The good stuff may or may not be discounted. And, there may not be much of it. A lot of people have also discovered the joys of shopping online.
We don’t go to stores to celebrate overbuying. And overspending, which stretches out your Christmas giving for the rest of the new year.
Even when we do look at Black Friday prices, we actually don’t buy any goods. We might buy services. For instance, last year we subscribed to Hulu for 99 cents a month. This year, I’ll likely buy some photo software at a discount with a bunch of other goodies included. I may also subscribe to The Athletic, a very well reported and written sports website. It’s worth the normal price, but today it’s half price for a year.
What do you, in The United States, do on the busiest shopping day of the year?
Hopefully, like us, you mostly ignore it. Even the two items that I might download and subscribe to for the next year, came to me because I already use those services. I wouldn’t know about them if I didn’t. And, I wouldn’t care.
Didn’t I say that in just one day the brightly colored autumn trees turned bare? That the still living leaves fell to the ground in faded piles?
Well, here it is. The proof.
When I photographed this tree, we were out just around dusk. That didn’t matter since the sky was grey. There was no blue in it at all. As I worked the picture in processing, what little color left in the tree and leaves disappeared. So, I let it go all the way to black and white on its own. I like it this way. It’s stark and wintery.
I started thinking about the trees and their loss of color and leaves. It’s a natural thing. We see it in seasons as they pass by. But, it exists in living breathing mammals. My hair is graying. That’s not so bad. But, my beard is silver except near my neck where it is white. That wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t so soft. It takes some hard work to shave there.
Then, there is the dog who sees stuff. She’s 11 years old. She’s a buff cocker spaniel. Her face is turning white. And, so is her back. It’s not white yet, but buff has turned to light sand color. You can see the original coat color down by her rear legs.
That doesn’t seem to matter to her. She loves long walks. When she’s home with the other dogs she aggravates them just like she’s always done. It’s funny to watch. She still loves to play soccer with her humans. She uses her front paw to kick a tennis ball around the house. We block it and kick it back. She catches it and returns it. The dogs also play a kind of rugby. The dog who has the ball is attacked by all the rest.
So, everything seems fine. I treasure that. For her. For the rest of the doggo family. For all of the humans. And, for me.