Emerging from the foggy bottom.

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et’s see if this thing works today. In many ways, I’m becoming afraid to post. It’s become what bad thing is WordPress going to do to me today.

I don’t know why I care. It’s not the most important thing do on any given day.

I read an op-ed column in which the writer tries to understand what is causing so many massive protests. He suggests a couple of potential reasons; the pandemic and the failure for government to take care of us.

Let’s talk about the last one and then get a little more granular. See, I know contemporary buzzwords.

Hurricane Ida left us with a lot of damage. I applied to FEMA for grants. We received the emergency grant of $500. That’s for food and hotel rooms. But, I didn’t receive the business grant of $1,500.

Almost immediately I received an email from the SBA who wanted me to apply for a low interest loan. I ignored it. I received another the next day, and the next day and the next day.

It seems the U.S. government wants me to take out a loan. I finally called someone at FEMA who apparently was used to dealing with brain dead monkeys. Every time that I need to make notes she asked me very carefully if I had a piece of paper and something to write with. After the third time, I asked her why she would think that if had those things the first time why I wouldn’t have them now.

That’s what she is trained to do.

She told me that I had to be apply for a SBA loan in order to qualify for more FEMA aid. Oh, okay.

In order to do that you join a general government aid website. Then, you join the FEMA website, and finally the SBA website.

If that doesn’t make sense, in order to read an email that FEMA sent you have go the general website. No email can come directly to me at my personal/business email address which is Ray@Laskowitzpictures.com.

I gave up.

Just last week I received an email from a human at SBA, wanting to know why I hadn’t applied for a loan yet. I told him in no uncertain terms why I hadn’t.

I’ve been dealing with federal crap since 1970. I’ve had enough.

I think I’ll start a protest march against FEMA. I know plenty of locals who would join me.

Then just because I can, I think I’ll start another march… against WordPress.

Are you reading automattician?

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ound two. In which the idiot (me) thinks he can get through writing this blog unscathed.

While I was editing the other side, it came to me that I am going to fight my way through governmental interference and apply for an SBA loan.

Yep. With interest below one percent I’m going to apply for the full monty. $40,000.

I need it to buy a computer. That’s gonna be some computer.

I also wanna buy a hat. And, socks.

S

o, the picture.

I started with the background. It’s a bush full of pink flowers. I made it as over processed as I could. Then, I layered another flower over that.

When that was sufficiently mixed up, I added the trees to that.

I wasn’t sure at first. But when I tinkered with it, I was.

That’s why you get to see it.


Bare trees in Autumn.

It comes when it comes. Inspiration. I was talking with a friend a couple of nights ago when she said that inspiration is everywhere. I know that. But, I forgot that I did.

So.

Here’s the best possible example. We had a big day out. We went places. Well, two places. The gasoline store and the grocery store. It was the first time I put gas in my car in three months. While we were making groceries as they used to say down here, I kept seeing things. No, not like that. I saw pictures.

I did the only thing that I could. I started making pictures. As we were headed out into the parking lot my seeing didn’t stop. I made a couple more photographs. This is one of them.

I have questions.

Questions like how did this tree get so bare when most of the trees are just beginning to change colors. I don’t need an answer because this is another favorite look of mine.

The tree was planted in the middle of the parking lot along with others in hopes of eventually having shade in a bare parking lot. Define eventually as in about 20 years.

It’s a start and that’s important.

One more little thing. We are into the last three weeks of the race for the direction of our country. Most of us know what we are going to do.

We did an accidental test today. The only news that I read was baseball and the arts. We listened to the Senate hearings for the next Supreme Court Justice while we were running errands. They were polite and as you think that they should be.

But, again, no news.

Our day was so good. I encourage all of you to turn off the news unless something major happens and it can’t be avoided. We didn’t intentionally do it, but it made a world of difference.

Seeing pictures. My friend is right. Inspiration really is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes, your ears, your nose and your heart and you’ll see and feel amazing things.

That is easier than it sounds. For me, something has to cue it up. The conversation last night did it.

It could be something else. Something I hear in a song. Something I smelled that brought back a memory. Something I saw that lead to something else.

When this happens, let your creativity out. Don’t try to edit it on site.

I’m pretty sure people were wondering why I was taking pictures.

Unless they ask, let them wonder.

If they ask, tell them you are a photograph and you just saw something that needed photographing. If they want to see don’t hesitate to show them your LCD. Especially an inquisitive store manger. That didn’t happen today, but it could have.

Making the picture was easy. Remember, expose for the highlights, especially if you want a silhouette.

That’s it.

Stay safe. Stay mighty, Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after others.


Like a guiding finger.

Yes. It’s here.

It came earlier than I thought it would. It came like an onrushing tide. CoVid-19 arrived yesterday. The person who caught it lives in Jefferson Parish. He or She is being treated at the new Veterans Administration hospital in Mid-City, New Orleans. We haven’t yet been told much beyond that. I suppose we could deduce from the treatment hospital that he or she served the country.

However, that’s the least of our questions. Where did this person live? Who did he come in contact with? How long did she have the virus? Where does he work? Did she travel or did she catch it from someone else in Louisiana?

That’s not all.

There is the personal aspect. I’m old. I have a compromised immune system. I’ll stay within my community except for essential trips, like to buy food and water and soap. I’ll follow the protocol as laid out by the CDC. That leaves me with the ultimate question. If I catch the virus will I live or will I die?

It still may be too early to ask the question. If the virus’ rapid spread is any indication it’s time to think of some tactics to cope with this and come out on the other side with my life intact. Of course, we don’t know when the otherside will be, nor do we know if the summers heat will kill it, or if it will just return in October. The thing about our heat and humidity is that everything grows.

So.

I made this picture the other day. I thought the clouds are what makes it even a little bit different. I suppose it works on that level.

What do y’all think?


An amazing turn of events.

After a while, winter’s bare trees start to get boring.

I set out to make something that is a little different. Something that adds 1+1 and makes the answer come out to three. I think that I did it. What I made is a huge image. One that takes up the entire top of Storyteller.

That’s cool. I like big pictures. Very big pictures. This image could easily fit from floor to ceiling in most houses. This one might actually get printed for the studio.

Generally, I have an idea of where I want to go when I’m doing this amount of post production. I didn’t this time.

I started with a fairly straight forward edit. I knew I could make more of the picture. I cropped out branches that were in the way on the left. I removed all of the saturation. I made the background as clean as possible. It looked great like that. It was just pure black and white. I lightened the black to a sort of brown. I added and layered another picture. I fine tuned that and added a frame to control edge bleed.

That’s it.

I’m laying off of politics for now. The guy in The White House ordered something horrible. In short, he fired the first shot of a war. Then, he doubled down and said he would attack 52 sites, many of them cultural and historical artifacts. That’s terrorism. The last time anybody did that it was the Taliban. I guess that’s how far we’ve fallen.

Sorry about that. I couldn’t help myself.


It can fool you.

It can fool you.

The picture. Sometimes, the weather. This picture looks cold. It’s not. I made this picture yesterday. The high was unseasonable. It was 80 degrees. The winds blew, a storm followed and the temperature won’t get above the mid-fifties. For the next four days.

Yippee.

With Mardi Gras Indians Uptown Super Sunday, and St. Joseph’s Night to photograph, colder is better than warmer. Besides, if I get too warm I can start taking layers off. If the day starts out warm, well, nobody wants to see that.

This picture. I really did make it yesterday. It really was 80 degrees. But, the way that I photographed it combined with the post-production it looks and feels cold. Yeah. A picture says a thousand words. These days, you can’t always trust a thousand words.


Natural experiment.

A natural mood.

An attempt by me to do two things. Or, three.

It’s cold in the swamp today. It was cold and extremely windy last night. That’s what this art is about. You’ve got the bare tree. The kind you see in winter. You’ve got a monochromatic picture because yesterday everything was gray and muddy. Finally, the post production brings you to ice. It covers everything.

No.

We don’t have ice. It is a symbol for winter. The winter that many of you are digging through right now.

I’m trying to stay away from weather pictures. Unless you are very lucky and in the right place, at the right time, weather pictures start looking the same. I wasn’t even going to make pictures yesterday, but I felt the calling. Still, without a lot of help, they looked the same as pictures I made last year. They year before that and…

That’s where all the heavy post production came in.

When I do this sort of stuff, I work until I’ve gone too far, saving versions along the way. When my brain clicks in and I realize that I’ve gone over the top, I save the picture. I go back one version and there it is. The picture of my senses.

That’s the story.

I have a comment about yesterday’s news and those “good” Catholic school boys doing their best to intimidate a Native American Vietnam Vet. I don’t know if it’s because our so-called president has made it okay to be as nasty as you want to be to people who aren’t like you, or if it’s something else. When did it become okay to do something like that? I assume because they attend a Catholic school that they have learned a simple question. “What would Jesus do?” They should think about that and do it.

My take is simple. First transparency. I’m Catholic. I’m not much of one these days. I attended Catholic school from the first grade until I graduated from high school. We were taught by nuns, brothers and priests. I’m pretty sure that if I was in those pictures and videos, the nuns would have cracked my knuckles with a yardstick until they bled. I’m not much for corporal punishment. Even the dogs don’t get yelled at around here. In this case, let me hit them with a yardstick.

That said, I stand with my Native American brother. Yes. I know his name. But, it’s policy of Storyteller not to publish names unless I have permission. I believe that everybody in the pictures and videos should be expelled. That’ll about kill their chances of ever getting into a good university or college. Good. Their lives should be spent saying, “would you like fries with that?” Once that is done, the entire staff of the school should resign. Obviously, they haven’t done their jobs. They can join the boys at the hamburger factory.

Yes. I believe in second chances. I believe in redemption.  After a suitable time, they all should be welcomed back. Maybe fifteen or twenty years.

I never get this angry. This kind of anger isn’t good for anyone. Me. The person with whom I’m angry. The world. But, this was just too much.

Sorry if I offended anybody. At least I didn’t curse a blue streak.

 

 


Into the darkness.

What do you see? At night? When you are alone?

What do you imagine? Late at night? When nobody is around? Do you worry about your bills? About the next day? Maybe even the ultimate thing — dying? Does that make you fearful? Does it scare you? Does it excite you?

I’ve been reading some posts from friends. On Facebook. On Twitter. Even a few on Instagram.

Some are about loneliness. Some are about the long cold night. Some are about a day. Good or bad. Some are just saying good night. Some are about not being able to fall asleep. Some are about having somebody to talk to at 3am. Online.

I have no answers to these questions. Or, the posts.

I have my own late night issues. Mostly, I’m just not a great sleeper. It’s not worry. Even about the great ending. I’ve always reckoned that we all have to pass sometime. I just don’t sleep sometimes.

I have my own ways of dealing with it. When I know I have to get up early, it’s in pill form. Sometimes, it’s just simple carb loading and decline. Sometimes, not wanting to disturb anybody, work helps. Usually, in the studio. Once in a great while, I go outside and look around. I make pictures. At 2 am. Or, 3 am. I’m sure if a neighbor saw me, the local cops would appear asking me what I was doing.

That’s how this picture came to be.

Not sleeping. Walking. Looking. Seeing. Making a picture or two. Let me tell you, things get spooky out there. At about 3 am. In the darkness. Well after dark. Way before dawn.

Now you are wondering, I think. How is the tree lighted? It’s an urban area. The light comes from a street light. Shining from across the street. With a nice long exposure, I was able to put enough light on the sensor to illuminate the tree. The bare tree. The moody tree. The spooky tree.

In order to get my head in the right place to talk to you, I listened to Spirit. From an album called, “The Family That Plays Together.” For the more youthful of you who read Storyteller, I’m fairly sure you never heard of them. For the folks around my age, you still might  have never heard of them. They were only around for maybe five years. The album that I’m playing was recorded in 1969. Some members left. New players joined the band. Eventually the band splintered into a bunch of other bands. They are like branches of a musical tree.

That was a time.

Creativity burbled up from an underground spring. It carried on through the 1970s. Music changed. Art changed. It changed many people. I changed me. It brought me to where I am today.

Today, everybody is a musician, a photographer, a writer, a chef. That’s okay. But, really? There isn’t enough people to consume all of the new work. Not that they would. Because the new creators want everything right now. They don’t want to pay their dues. To learn. To grow. To practice. To grow some more. They’ll tell you that they don’t need a gatekeeper because the want to keep control of their work.

Seriously? Truth be told, they’d love a gatekeeper. Alas, much of their work doesn’t cut it. It isn’t good enough for mass sales. Make no mistake, sales aren’t everything. But, that’s how you put food on the table. And, sales mean that people are doing something with your work. They are seeing it. They are liking it. They want more. That’s the trick. Do something so well that your readers, fans, viewers, want more.

That.

That is why I work hard every day. Why I do what I do. Everyday.

What about you?

Sure. I get it. Day jobs. Paying the bills. Putting the food on the table.

But.

I hope that you think about your passion daily. After dinner, family time, good night-time to children. I hope that you do whatever you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be taking pictures at 3am. It could be watching a movie to study the cinematics. To look at how light is used. To see beginnings, middles and ends. Just to learn.

Learn. There’s my word for the year. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t force it. It just sort of came.

Apparently, I’ve ingested it. It’s my word for the year. It rises up out of the primordial mists that make up my brain, heart and soul. It’s right where I want it. I don’t think about it. It’s just there. There for whenever I need it.

And, you?


Looking, searching, learning.

Always learning.

That’s what Storyteller is about. That’s what I try to do. It ain’t always easy. You can rile up some people along the way. You ask questions that can’t be answered. I ran into that yesterday.

It was that music thing. The blogger thought that I was offended. I have no idea how he got that idea. Nothing I wrote indicated that. I still don’t understand what he’s doing. The worst thing you can do with certain kinds of interactive events is to impose too many rules. I never really received an answer. I guess I won’t be trying to play along. Oh well. I’m not very good at games anyway.

If I’m writing about it, I guess it bothers me. It does, because the whole idea behind making pictures or blogging is to communicate something to somebody in an understandable fashion. At least, that’s what it means to me. But, I come from a journalism background. Whether you tell a story in words, or in pictures, the basic premise never changes. Tell a story. Clearly.

I fail at doing that as much as the next guy.

Musician Stephen Stills once said that in his early days, when many of his best songs were written, he just wrote them. They sort of came to him. He said that later, he got too cute. He started analyzing his writing as he wrote. We haven’t seen a new, great song for him in years.

That happens to all of us. If you are of a certain age you might think that the late 1960s and 70s were popular and rock music’s best era. You might even listen to those musicians today. They might even be writing new music. Unfortunately, their peak creative time has passed. Very few continue to write as well or easily as they did in their youth.

That also happens to all of us. After working in my archives, I’m convinced that although I’m a much smoother photographer than I was, most of my best work lies behind me. I’m not complaining. It’s the truth. I’m glad I had a time of “best work.” Some never do.

Anyway, I’ll play along with the single word thing since one of you was clear in why she does it. It’s a pretty fair assessment of herself even though I only know her online. My word is learning. I realized that when I started thinking about how and when I stop reading certain blogs. I hope to learn something from everything. Even if it’s only to help me remember what I forgot. When I don’t learn, I move away.

The picture. It is about learning. Learning to use my not so new smart phone. Learning what it can do at night, in the dark. Learning my own limits. Learning what kinds of post production I can do with an image like this one without going too far.

The truth is, I saw the scene and I pushed the button. It took me a while to realize that the design element that helps make the picture for me is two overhead wires.

Post production is minimal. Mostly, I darkened the original picture in order to bring up the details. Sometimes, you do that to hide the noise because the camera’s sensor can’t handle a picture like this. In computational photography, it seems that there is no noise.


Winter glow.

There’s a world. The winter world. It came. It will go.

Like all things in life.

A friend of mine is excited that there are buds on the Japonica trees. The cold weather followed by a bit of warmth forced the buds. She said. Nope. Japonicas start to show buds in late january. They start to bloom in early to mid February. Every year. They are the first flowers to bloom. Every year.

We may still have another cold snap. In New Orleans we have different season than the rest of the world. One is Mardi Gras. Carnival season. There have been years when the temperatures never rose above 30 degrees on Mardi Gras Day. We had rain, which turned into sleet. All day. I can’t tell you if it will happen this year. But, Mardi Gras is very early. We could turn very cold again. Or, not.

That’s not really the point of this.

The real question is, why do you want to rush things? All things happen in their own time. Seasons change. And, change again. As Bob Dylan wrote, borrowing this from Ecclesiastes, and The Byrds made famous, “To Everything There is a Season.”

Remember that.

There is no sense rushing life. It’ll keep happening whether you want it to or not. Enjoy it.

The picture. Aside from seeing the scene and pressing the button, this image is wholly made in the computer. The strong light, the color, the contrast, the hue were added after the fact in post production. I made this picture to be what I saw in my head. The truth is that the light was sort of flat. The clouds were “mushy.” This is a perfect example of the old saying “Don’t take the picture, make the picture.” There are a lot of ways to make the picture.

A bright red Cardinal just tapped on my studio window. I forget if that’s good or bad. But, it just happened. Maybe he knew I was talking about nature. I couldn’t wait. I just Googled it. I found a site called California Psychics. Yeah. I know. They say that a Cardinal is an spiritual messenger. They are like a hinge on a door. The open a spiritual point and are usually associated with good things. Renewal. Change. Growth. Answers to important questions.

It’s gonna be a good day.