Winterlude Five. Bare Trees.

Bare Trees.

Winterlude. Again. As we head towards spring in the swamps, we have a weather pattern that is up and down. Cold. Wet. Warm. Humid. Cold. Rinse. Repeat. Ten times.

I made this picture a few days ago. I was bragging about our warm spring like days. Then. This.

Luckily, I really like this picture. It’s clean. Minimalistic. Monochromatic. You could do a lot with it if you wanted it to be a base for some layering.

I put a frame around the picture. Last time that I did that, it was because I felt like it. Not this time. I needed to hold the picture within something lest it blend into the white background.

Speaking of backgrounds, head over to http://www.laskowitzpictures.com to see my new website. The background is black. I think that it looks really good. I finished the architecture yesterday. That means all the underlying work, the things you don’t see, is done. I just need to add more pictures and write the “About Ray” section.

You can even buy pictures. Not many. Not yet. I’m still building that collection.

I’m pretty sure that, unlike some of my former websites, this one will be fairly active.  It won’t just be a portfolio site. It has a blog component. It has the above mentioned sales section. And, an ever-growing collection of my work.

Oh. There are two Storytellers. One says “Storyteller on Laskowitzpictures.” That’s the blog attached to the website. The other Storyteller leads you right back here. How cool is that?

I said something in a similar vein a while back, but as I work through my archives in order to build this website, I am stunned by the volume of work. It goes on and on. I’m my own hardest critic. Looking at my work in the space in between, I am amazed by the quality. I should have known. My publisher signed me to all those contracts on strength of individual portfolios tailored to each proposal.  Still…

That may explain a bit of my reluctance to go back out in the street to photograph events in big crowds. I started photographing my projects almost from the day we returned from the desert. Eight years ago. I’m probably a little toasty. A little burnt. I know myself. Even in physical pain I can usually rally and play the ninth inning. The fourth quarter. Score the winning run or touchdown. It’s not that I can’t. It’s that I don’t really want to do that.

As far as my six book projects go, that’s different. I won’t be working in crowds. I won’t be shooting a version of the same old thing. The subject matter is interesting. My way of working is more studied.

Page 43. It’s an old David Crosby song. You know, Crosby, Stills and Nash. That David Crosby. One line touched me this morning. “Look around. Have a sip of it. Or, else you’ll find it’s passed you by.”

As I’ve worked through my learning process I’ve been grimacing a bit. About my past. Yeah, the past is the past. Can’t go back. Not that I’d want to. But, you can learn from it. The past that makes me frown is about blown chances, or, not going far enough. Not working hard enough at times when it was laid out in front of me.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

I think I’m old at 65. Much of that comes from my semi-broken parts. But, that’s young when it comes to artists. That’s how I have started thinking. Young. Young. Experienced. Young, Wise, Young. Thanks Michelle, “MamaMick,” on her blog pages, for pushing me into it. Good journey so far.

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A little colder.

These days.

It’s hard to stay in the zone. To stay focused. To stay intent. I know this from my own actions. And, from those around me.

I suppose it was the turn of the year. Even though many people claim not to make resolutions, in many ways we do. After a while — maybe even a day or two — something gets in the way, or we just slip. We either throw up our hands and give up, or we admit our mistake and move on.

I really don’t have a great deal of advice, at least as it pertains to photography, but I can tell you what I do. I’m in the middle of all those book projects, in addition to regular work and the other side of my life as well as family. If you look at all that from any distance, it’s a giant ball of twine.

Look at it long enough and pretty soon paralyses sets in.

Or.

I try to remember these two things.

Go slow because slow is smooth and smooth is fast. And, one day at a time. One hour at a time, one minute at a time if necessary. I learned both of these ideas a long time ago. I always forget them until they occur to me… at a time when I need them.

I started out like a flash after the turn of the year. Pretty soon, all the stuff started clogging me up. I realized that on Sunday. I returned to my two sayings. I’ve gotten so productive this week that I could easily take off tomorrow and still be content with the work I’ve completed.

There’s a corollary to this. I read it today in a New York Times column. No Tweeting. For that matter, no social media. Aside from being a giant time suck, there’s very little new that is ever shared. Some people post or tweet just to hear themselves share. Others like to pile on. Especially in these mean-spirited and polarized times.

Yeah, sure. I need to do some of that to keep my work out there. But, I don’t have to respond to anything that isn’t related. Of course, I’m going to like and comment on others art, but I do that — at least, this week — in the morning and again at night. The time saved is considerable.

That isn’t to say, I just work more. Time saved from social media goes into other things. Reading. Watching movies. More family things. More dog things. More walking and exercise. Good stuff.

Time. More time. Isn’t that what we want?

I’ve taken enough of yours. Just think about it. nd, if you are off track, don’t worry about it. Just get back on track.

The picture. I made two cool images in about five minutes the other evening. I’m not sure how great they are, but they are interesting enough for me to want to share them with you. I was trying really hard to expose so that the street light would be hidden except for the light. As I worked on it, I started liking the entire picture opened up. It looks like a cold winter dusk. Because it is.

 

 


Into the night.

The space in between.

That’s where the good stuff happens. That’s where we fill in the blanks. That’s where we make our own little mysteries.

I made this picture the other night. I did developing and post production last night.

We were watching a video about a deep dive to find a sunken Roman ship. Apparently, the man who lost the ship was collecting art from all over his world. And, from as many eras as he had available to him. The ship sunk as it was returning back to Italy. It was brought down by either a huge storm or a giant monster. You can pick. I like the later.

The show was really inspiring to me.

I worked on this picture for much longer than normal. I’m like that. Something inspires me and drives me to better art.

I suppose that I should watch as many videos as I can while I’m working. No. I’m not talking about movies like, “National Treasure,” although we’ve watched it, I don’t know how many times. It’s fun. It’s imaginative. But, it’s sort of a cartoon.

I can read about this subject matter, but I need to see the visuals.

With all these projects coming up, I first do the research about what I know, but that need confirmation. Then, I look for the places that I’m going to on Google Planet. I rarely look at images. I don’t want to find myself looking for “tripod holes.” You know what I mean. I don’t want to make the same picture as the next guy. I want to try — at least — to make my own picture.

There’s a lot of misinformation about learning photography all over the internet. One is a variation of “fake it until you make it.” The original author suggested that a brand new photographer find pictures that he or she likes in print or online and copy them in the field.

Huh?

Why ever would anybody do that? Sure, find the location. Even take the exact picture because you have to get it out of your system. Then, make your own picture.

Notice the choice of words? Take v make. That’s intentional.

That applies to those of you who really don’t think of yourselves as photographers but enjoy taking pictures when you are out and about, or on vacation. Make a picture because you like what you saw, not because you think you should.

That could bring to the next internet fallacy. “If you don’t have a picture, you weren’t really there.” Huh? Huh? And, double huh?

My best memories are in my mind. My heart. My soul.

Besides if you extend this bit of nonsense out, you could say that since I rarely take a picture in a grocery store, I was never there. Yet, my full cart of groceries says otherwise. So does my AMEX card bill.

This picture. Yep. It’s the real deal. I made it at night at the end of a dog walk. My hip was hurting so I sat on a bench. The dog who sees things sat down beside me.

I looked up and saw the scene you are looking at. Of course that new smart phone is too smart and opened up the exposure way too much even though I was using the “Pro” screen which allows me to adjust shutter speed and aperture settings.

Yes, there is a bit of post production, mostly just to bring the picture back to how I saw it.

That’s my story today. You know the rest.


Dusk, like fire.

It looks like fire. Our winter sky.

It’s just clouds and what remains of the sunset. We’ve had some really beautiful days. A little cold, not like many of yours. Brilliant colors. At dawn. During the day. At dusk. I’ve taken advantage of these few days as much as I can. It does take some time. The dog who sees stuff and her brothers and sisters — the dog family — want to go for longer walks. One dog takes a little time. More dogs means more time. They walk in a pack. They don’t always want to go the same way. It’s like herding cats. Oop. Dogs.

There’s my learning moment. No matter how much people seem to be pulling in the same direction, they aren’t. Personal agendas take over. Some are needs. Some are wants.

If we are going to work together as a community, we harness all of that. It takes strong and enlightened leadership. An old saying proclaims, “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Folks in leadership roles will hopefully know how to shift between those three states. Sometimes a goal is set. A team is assembled according to their interest. The leader steps out in order for the team to do its work. Sometimes, the leader steps back in when the group seems to be losing traction. Often a word or two resets the course.

I’ve learned all of this years ago through various management classes, workshops and seminars.

Being human, I forget a lot of what I just wrote. Being human, I don’t do what I just wrote. Luckily, something or someone will remind me.

It’s the same with making pictures. That’s really what Storyteller is about. I forget what I already knew. Someone or something reminds me. Experience takes over. Even though I make an old composition, I make it in a new way. One plus one equals three. Most of the time. If it continues to equal two, then I’ve made a mistake.

I make a lot of mistakes.

I’m trying to learn from them, I’m often quote musician Neil Young’s words, “numbers add up to nothing.” The very thin data that WordPress gives us really doesn’t help us make considered decisions at all. That was proven yesterday. I published a second line parade. I said that data indicates that many of you don’t understand second lines. A huge number of you came by Storyteller.

Take that, Ray.

Last year I lamented that my numbers were way down.  Some of you said the same thing. We discussed it. We tried to understand why. Some said their friends on Facebook were way down. They weren’t posting. Same thing on most social media. A good friend suggested that I stop posting political things on Storyteller because people come here to get away.

All of that is valid.

This year. Two weeks into 2019, my numbers are through the roof. I have no idea why. Maybe some of you are getting back into blogging and reading blogs as a new year resolution. That may be true, to a point. I’ve seen names I haven’t seen in months. That will be tested as the year rolls on.

Maybe you like the new design of Storyteller. Or, not. I could be confusing since you have to click on a picture to get to the text. On the other hand, it could drive some of you to look at work you may have missed.

I don’t know.

That’s the point of learning. The more you learn, the more you don’t know.

That I do know.


Into the clouds.

As dusk falls. the scene turns mysterios.

Before it does, sometimes the scene looks like the picture you are viewing. Especially during late fall or winter light.  You cannot miss it. It’s just there.

For the past few days we’ve had milky clouds and some rain. Eventually the clouds broke. Golden sunlight pours through the remaining clouds and you see something like this. Wait for it. Be patient. It’ll come.

Some big time nature photographers will wait in one place for just the right light. For days. They set up camp. They figure out where the light will fall. And, they wait. It used to be that it took a long time and some education to predict where the right light will eventually break through and fall.

Now?

There’s an app for that. I’d say that is just one more thing that makes everybody a photographer.

But.

Not everybody has the patience. Not everybody is willing to camp for one picture. Not everybody is so obsessed.

That’s what separates the weekenders from the real deal. Sure. The weekender can get lucky. However, the ability to make a great picture every time is another great separator. Weekend photographers don’t. The real deal does.

This picture is a result of luck. Maybe next time I’ll miss it because I wasn’t there at the right moment. Or, I wasn’t paying attention. Or, or, or…

A little clarity.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen the black and version of this picture. Normally, I have a pretty strong opinion about which one I like best. Not this time. They are two very different pictures that just happen to share the same file.

And, one more thing. It looks like my decision about where Storyteller lives will be resolved in the next day or two. Both WordPress and Squarespace say that it’s time for my yearly subscription to be paid. You know my argument about Squarespace and free photos.

WordPress didn’t make it any easier. This is a paid blog/website. They are making me a great offer. Or, not. If I renew now they won’t charge me for web hosting which has been free in the past. They will charge me next year.

Everybody has their hands out. They want money for nothing.

I wonder how they will be react when I tell them that I’ll bring my own — laskowitzpictures.com — and drop theirs — laskowitzpictures.org — and keep the same space. I guess I’ll find out.


Into the light.

I made a few new pictures. New work. Seasonal work. Spooky work.

You’ll see.

They say that all art is autobiographical. I agree. To a point. Even though I’m going through a burnt out phase, I’m not feeling dark. I’m not sure that you can really find that in my work because of the way I work. I photograph what I see. I suppose that I could be looking for things that are dark. However, this picture is the result of the dog “who sees things” wanting to go for a walk around dusk.

It could also be the way many people are seeing the world. Me included. We are passing through a very dangerous time. A time when lies are passed off as truth. When up is down. When we have been told to only trust one person. That’s rich. That person lies as easily as he breathes.

You know.

I’m not really feeling that way. I’m just looking for a way of moving forward. That’s hard. It’s always hard. I think it’s best to just be open and let it come to you. Just like good pictures. They are out there. They’ll find you. Just be open to them. So will the way forward.

Anyway.

This picture. It really is the result of a dog walk at around dusk. The blue hour. We were passing by a little alley and I looked up. There it was. Hanging on a tree. A picture. So, I made it. The extra bit, a balcony, was bathed in light. Red light. What a nice counterpoint. Done and done.

One more thing.

I think that we should all be a little sad right now. A president died. A man died. His last words were, “I love you too.” He said that to another president. His son. Make no mistake, I feel about him the way that I felt about the late Senator John McCain. I didn’t agree with him a lot of the time. But, I respected him. He harkened back to a time when we could disagree, and debate, politely. That may be really why I’m a little sad. I fear those days are over.

Our National Day of Mourning is on Wednesday. I’ll mourn. For about ten minutes. I strongly believe in the Chinese saying that translates loosely to, “when somebody who is 80 dies, you laugh.” It’s not as harsh as it sounds. It really means when somebody has lived a long, full life, you should celebrate that.

By all accounts, that’s what George H.W. Bush did.

Besides, wouldn’t you like your last words to be, “I love you too?”

Rest in Peace Mr. President. Be with Barbara. You’ve earned it.

 


Then fall really arrived.

Out on a walk. A dog walk. What else would I be doing?

We went out at about blue hour. That wasn’t intentional. The dog who takes me for walks wanted to go out. So, out we went.

The sky was kind of magical in every direction. I unleashed the magical phone to try to capture nature’s magic. Yeah. I know. How many times can I work magical or magic into one sentence? Trust me. It started out as me not being aware. Then, I was. It was a happy accident. I do that a lot.

Anyway.

Remind me to tell you the story of how anyway came to be in my posts.

We turned a corner and there it was. A full moon that was trying to shine through the almost bare trees. I realized that I didn’t have the reach to photograph the moon as a dominant subject so I went the other way. I photographed the tree with the moon just poking through the branches.

That was my thought process.

After about  five or six pictures, I was done on location. Note that phrase. “Done on location.” This image took a lot of work in post production. I didn’t want the trees to be silhouetted completely. Nor did I want the sky to overpower anything. It took some time to create the image that you see.

I also went completely the other way. I made a black and white image that is all silhouette. I’m saving that one for my Instagram account.

Let’s talk about just one other thing. My website is hosted by Squarespace. They did exactly what WordPress did. They linked Unsplash to their services. For those of you who don’t know, Unsplash is a stock agency. You can use pictures for free. You don’t even have to credit the photographer. If you modify the picture in any way, you can call it your own. I smell a class action lawsuit in that.

I’m trying to figure out what’s in it for the contributing photographer. They don’t get paid. And, they don’t get any kind of credit.

Although I complained about it to WordPress, I sort of understand. About 90% of the blogs are writers blogs. They need illustrations. As I wrote a post or two back, nobody wants to pay for anything. I may test that here. I may rework a writer’s post just a little and call it my own. After all, fair is fair. Right?

However, Squarespace websites are primarily visual. That means there are a lot of photographers using their services. This is a direct slap in our faces. A big boycott movement is starting. If nothing changes by the time I pay my yearly bill, it’s likely that I won’t. I’ll leave.

The funny thing about Squarespace is that even the non-photographers sites are primarily people who produce stuff. There are a lot of bakers and chefs there. They don’t want stock pictures. Somehow they want pictures of what they do.

Life in the trenches.


Lonely night.

Stan Lee left the planet. California is burning. And, in a few days I am officially over the hill.

I was thinking today about the things that I’ve seen in my own lifetime. A president assassinated. His brother killed. A man of peace killed for wanting equality. A war in Southeast Asia that reverberates today. Man walking on the moon. A president resigning in disgrace. A president working to heal the country. Oil shortages. New electric cars emerging. Technology developing and blooming. The end of the Cold War. Germany reunited.  Climate change that could end life on Earth sooner than we think. A never-ending war in Afghanistan. And, a shorter war in Iraq that gave birth to ISIS. Mass shootings everywhere. A president elected who does not have the skills, mentality or empathy to lead anybody. A country so polarized that being torn in two is an improvement. Immigrants walking, walking, walking…

And yet, I have hope. I believe in people. I believe that our best angels will eventually win the day. I believe in small steps. This last midterm election was about that. It proved that people of color, people of different religions, and women, may finally be starting to get their due. For sure, that fight isn’t over. Only one battle was won. But, it’s a start.

It should make us smile. It didn’t. I believe that our expectations may have been too high. I’m certain that we are all tired.

I do not remember a time when a sitting U.S. president was in our face all day, every day. I also don’t remember a time when a U.S. president flew to France not to honor our war dead. Not to work with his peers around the world. And, not to join them in a meeting for peace. All of this makes me tired. I’m sure that it makes you tired.

All of this went through my head when I made the picture. They tell you that the best way to photograph in the street is to clear your head and not think of anything. Just see it, focus on it, push the button. What I did was a little different. I didn’t think about the picture. I thought about other stuff. The stuff that I just wrote about. I made a very simple picture. My picture. My kind of picture.

Weird, huh?

I just looked up at the scene and though, “that’s a nice contrast.” That was it. I was mostly lost in thought. About the world. About me. About my place in it.

No. No. No.

My place isn’t as bleak as all the news. It’s actually pretty good. I have to make some choices. I have some decisions to make. And, move forward. Don’t worry. I’m not going to uproot anything big, like family. We are considering moving. I am coming to grips with 45 years of archives and what to keep, what to toss and what to put out there in the world. I am also trying to sort out a couple of new projects that sort of popped up when I was reading about something else.

I’d like to lay out the framework for this in eight days. That’s my birthday. I can start my birth year with a good idea of some direction. Maybe in ten years I can complete it. Sheesh. It’s a tough thing. I’ve been wrestling with all of this for well over a year. I’m like a shaken up bottle of soda. Ready to pop.

Oh, and about Stan Lee. He passed at 95 years old. I’m not in mourning. That’s old enough. But, he’s been with me since I was eight or nine when I read Spiderman issue number 2 and Fantastic Four issue number 3. I was on a trip. A train trip with my family. We were going from Los Angeles to New York City.

I started traveling young. I never stopped. Stan Lee was right there with me.

 


Changing weather.

As winter shuffles off into spring, the weather gets a bit contentious. One day is bright and sunny. But, cold. The next day, a storm blows in. Humidity reigns. It’s warmer. The rain breaks the humidity. Within a day or two, the weather is back to where it started. Sunny and cold.

That’s the nature of things down here in the swamp. Probably everywhere. I wasn’t always paying attention or observing it.

The picture. I saw the bare trees backlighted against the cloudy skies. Rain was not falling. By the time I was done working the scene a little, big fat raindrops were pouring down.

The dog who sees things and I were soaked by the time we got back to the car. She doesn’t mind baths. She truly hates rain falling on her. I know that. I keep one of her towels in the car, this being the rain swamp. She really likes being rubbed with a towel. All was good.

Anyway.

Most of what you see was done in post production. I thought about making it gray, which would have been fairly accurate. As usual, I tinkered around. I really liked the warm tones and a little glow. It seems to set the scene.

One more thing.

I’m going to give a little workshop on SEO from the point of view of WordPress in the real world. The topic is very important today. As we move away from more and more printed matter, it is essential for the future. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how do you find the picture?

This is important from a writer’s point of view as well. My writing friends work very hard on marketing. Still, the question remains how do you find their book without being told about it?

In both examples, SEO is important in building a culture. Communities are great. We’ve built a nice one on Storyteller. But, the culture is the thing. That’s where communities come together. That’s where you can sell books, pictures, music, outside of a relatively small circle of friends and few passersby.

My thoughts are on paper. I’m still working them out. In the music world, I’d be starting a long sound check on the day of a concert.

Would you like me to share this with you?