Deep, dark and rich.

Pictures. You know that I’ve been working in my archives looking for pictures for a project. I’ve found some, but not all. I did find this picture. A photograph.

It is so appropriate because. I have been thinking lately about my past. You know, getting deep inside. I won’t write much about the picture on this side of the page except to say that the beads are old and faded. Like me. Or, not.

Going inside to look around at what you did wrong and what or right isn’t easy. I wonder, even though there can be no regrets or late happiness.

“Years will pass before we turn to face the place where we come from, years will pass before we learn what time denies to everyone. ” — MCC

Finding her, finding her music seems to have come a perfect time. Or, maybe not.

I guess that I’ll see soon enough.

I left out a line. At first it was intentional. Now, I think it matters.

“If we are lucky ghosts and prayers are company, not enemies.”

This line gives me hope. When I see the ghosts in my dreams, I am happy to see them. I want to know what happened to them between then and now.

Maybe you do too.

Old pictures. Are the just souvenirs? Or, are they something more? You know that I’ve been digging around in my archives. Sometimes I find what I am seeking. Sometimes, I find the unexpected, like this picture.

I’m not sure how i lost this picture. It’s a gem.

The beads are a little faded from our extreme weather. They are slightly overgrown. The fence looks a little worse for wear.

I made this photograph with some kind of longer lens because everything is compressed. It makes the picture a little more powerful.

This is a portfolio picture that fits into a group of images about Mardi Gras and what it means to the city, especially now that we are considering not have carnival in 2021.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask.


Mardi Gras beads in the gutter.

New Orleans is in mourning.

The worst possible thing happened last night. A woman was crossing the street in between floats. Or, so she thought. She actually was trying to cross between two connected floats. She tripped or fell. The second float hit her and killed her.

The Krewe of Nix came to a halt. The walking members of the parade — the bands and such — were rerouted down a side street, but it was too narrow for the floats to proceed. The last twenty floats were stopped and the back end of the parade was cancelled.

The mood of the parade changed for celebratory to sober within about 15 minutes.

I am so sorry for the woman who died. I am sorry for the Krewe of Nix members who travelled from far and wide. I am sorry for all of us. I am sorry for our city.

I don’t know what this means for me. I have to let it roll around in my brain. It certainly took all the wind out of my sails. I didn’t even process my images. Normally, I do that when I get home so that I have something to show you the next day.

I really haven’t been feeling this years Mardi Gras. If I decided not to keep working on it, is it an excuse or a reason?


Always beads.

Time for a change.

I reckon that yesterday’s post about spring was a fairly good one. That’s a good way to go out.

No.

I’m not leaving. I’m just a little tired of photographing nature when I’m not even a nature photographer. I suppose it shows. Real nature photographers go places. Even if they stayed around here, they’d head out to the swamps, to the gulf, to the bayous that aren’t in the city.

Me?

I don’t even know the difference between most flowers. You know me. I describe flowers as a pink one, a yellow one, a blue flower. I make pictures on dog walks.

But, I am a fairly good street shooter being born and bred as a photojournalist. And, I don’t mean the kind of pictures that pass for street photography these days. You know the ones. Pictures taken from far across the street. Pictures taken of people from behind. Pictures taken of the street. All are fine if they are done for a reason.

But, most of the pictures I see on Facebook or Instagram are not done for a reason. They are made by people who are scared of other people. People who just “got” a camera and out the door they go. They declare their work to be street photography because they don’t know what else to call it. Or, themselves.

Why can’t they just say, “I’m a photographer and these are my pictures.”

I’ve just called myself a street photographer. Sort of. I wander the streets and photograph what I see. In my town. My city. If that makes me a street photographer, so be it. I don’t really care. I take pictures. For myself. For my clients. For my agencies. For you.

The pictures I make for myself are usually the ones I like best. That’s what you are going to see here. At least until the end of April. Maybe longer. Some will be “little” pictures like this one. Others will have a depth to them that makes them a “bigger” picture. We’ll see.

This picture. I started this little portfolio with beads on a fence because it says New Orleans. Even though most beads are thrown for Mardi Gras and a couple of other seasonal events like St. Patrick’s Day and so on, the beads don’t just disappear. They can’t. They are everywhere. These beads are fairly new. They haven’t faded yet, to the dull silvery-gray color that is the base of all plastic beads. With our extreme weather they will. I’m not sure how much experimenting I’ll do with this collection. As I said, these are more about photojournalism than not. The rules — well, my rules — say that you can’t do what I did with yesterday’s flower and call it street photography.

Anyway.

Enjoy the new collection of pictures.


Beads, beads, beads, beads…

The rain, the beads and other stuff.

There has been a fair amount of rain. Not quite the deluge that the weather folks have been hollering about, but enough to cause parades to be rescheduled — forward, not back — and for one to be moved from Saturday to today.

That’s all fine.  It gave me time to think about my Mardi Gras coverage. When I first returned from my time in the high desert, I photographed as much of the parade season as I could. Then, I noticed that a lot of my pictures had a sameness about them. So, I started picking and choosing parades a little bit. Until last year. I started out like a flash. And faded toward the end. They say that most things are not about how you start, but how you finish.

That is so true during the last days of Carnival. Every day builds up a little more, and more and more. Until it peaks on Mardi Gras Day.

I peaked well before that last year. Not this year. The rain gave me a good excuse not to work on the earliest days. To be sure, I work in the rain a lot. The wet stuff had nothing to do with it. I realized I wanted to be strong at the finish.

So, I’ll really start today with the Krewe of Barkus. Dogs. A parade for dogs. Maybe 3,000 or 4,000 dogs. Some in the krewe, some just registered for the parade and some just joining in. Obviously, the parade is important around here. With luck we won’t get rained on.

The next ten days are important to me. Hopefully, we’ll mostly be dry.

The picture. Very ironic, this one. Brand new Mardi Gras beads hung on an old fence. That’s normal. But look in front of the beads. Trash cans. Normally, when you catch beads, they either are saved in a closet or attic or given away to a charity recycler. Or… they head straight into the trash can,  These folks made it easy on themselves. This is very efficient. Imagine that. Efficiency in New Orleans.

Oh yeah. I just saw it and pressed the button. I made the picture a little moody in post production.


Beads on a fence.
Beads on a fence.

Beads.

They are everywhere. This time of year. And, most times of the year. These are fresh. Bright. Shiny. New. As the year rolls on they will begin to fade. If they manage to hang around for a couple of years they will show their true colors. Black. Gray. White.

For now, they sparkle in the sunlight. Gleam at dusk. Reflect light in the dark.

They are ubiquitous. Parade goers fight for them. In the Quarter some people — tourists — display body parts. Some people — locals — hoard them from year to year. It’s amazing what some people will do for a string of beads that costs about 8 cents to produce and that can be bought at any shop that sells Mardi Gras stuff for about $3.00 a dozen. After, retail pricing and seasonal markups.

These pictures. As I do often, I made them on the way to some place else. One the way to the parades, to be specific. In low afternoon light. The beads hanging from the tree branches are on their way to becoming part of another unique New Orleans thing, a bead tree. A few years back, there was one or two of them located along St. Charles Avenue. As usual, that number grew and grew and grew. I suppose that’s a fun thing. But, we seem to be a city of copycats. Just ask people who make their livings in the restaurant industry. Sheesh.

Starting a bead tree.
Starting a bead tree.


Mardi Gras Red.

Mardi Gras.

Things are taking shape. The city is getting ready. Decorations are popping up everywhere. 

Normally they are green, gold and purple. 

I have no idea why these are red. Or, why the skulls are featured. But, the whole thing caught my attention. Hopefully it will catch yours.

The picture. Oh, you know.


Mardi Gras beads and a tree.
Mardi Gras beads and a tree.

This is where Mardi Gras beads come from.

They grow on trees. All over the city. You pick them when they are ripe.

But, seriously…

They mostly come from China. The same place just about every inexpensively manufactured product comes from. Some glass beads still come from the Czech Republic. But, they are pricey and few. In the six years since we returned, I can count on one hand how many glass beads we have. We keep those. On the other hand, if we hadn’t given most of them away, I could have weighed the plastic ones by the pound.

Trees.

Once, many years ago, I remember seeing one bead tree located in one neighborhood along St. Charles Avenue. It was created by accident. The krewes riding the parade floats threw beads out far, wide and high so the people standing the back rows of the crowds could catch some too. This one particular tree was located in a place where beads just seem to collect. They also collect on power lines. Phone lines. Streetcar power lines. Shop signs. And, so on.

Just like anything that is even marginally successful in New Orleans, this accidental occurrence was copied again and again and again. Now there trees are all over the city. And, they are no accident. For instance, this tree is located on the downriver side of Jackson Square. No parade has ever passed this way. At least, in the last couple of centuries. Somebody just thought it was a good idea. At the time. After a few “adult beverages.” I’m just guessing here. But, this is The French Quarter. In New Orleans.

It probably was good drunken idea. (See what I did there?) But, most Mardi Gras beads are cheap. The color doesn’t last. Especially in our extreme weather. Eventually, these glistening beads will turn flat black, gray or even a dirty white. The tree won’t look so pretty then. Nobody will climb up and take them down. When the string that holds the beads finally rots, down will come the beads. One string at a time. Round objects that are rolling around 18th Century pavement are no fun.

The picture. Probably f5.6 at 1/4 of a second with a twist.

A twist you ask?

Cameras today have all kinds of anti-motion software. In the old days 1/4 of a second generally meant you added motion to the picture whether you wanted to or not if you weren’t using a tripod.

Today, you can make a sharp picture whether you want to or not. So, as I pressed the shutter release button I sort of twisted the hand that’s holding the camera. My left hand. I made forced movement. There’s a clue you can use.


Silhouetted Krewe of Druids.
Silhouetted Krewe of Druids.

Mardi Gras 2016. The end of the season coming soon.

I’m not done yet. Today and tomorrow are Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras. I’ll get real busy on both days. I’m not sure yet if I am going to shoot the last two Uptown night parades tonight, but for sure I’m going to photograph a little, quirky parade called, “The Red Beans Parade,” in the Bywater during the afternoon. Then, of course, comes Mardi Gras.

Zulus. Indians. Skull and Bones. Hopefully, the Krewe of Saint Anne. And, a little daytime walking through the Quarter. I’ll leave night-time in the Quarter to the serious hard partiers. All of this assumes that I can actually run my own personal route early enough to find a little parking. And, stuff.

Sunday? We have a lot of guests. Plus, invited neighbors and local friends for a buffet. And, booze. It was their day. A little walking to the parades on St. Charles Avenue. A little Super Bowl. A little music at home. And, a whole lot of eating.

Pictures. I’ve had a couple of interesting photo discussions that I want to talk about. But, not today. Maybe, later this week. For now, let’s just say that I realized just how technology driven many of my Mardi Gras pictures really are. Without new, larger digital sensors and high-speed focusing modules, I probably couldn’t have made all of them. Oh yeah, and better lenses. I know if I was shooting film some of the pictures would be impossible to take.

Now. The pictures. Really.

I like the lead picture. The Krewe of Druids. The silhouette makes them look as mysterious as they should be.

When I was taking the picture called “Videos Are Horizontal,” I had a funny discussion with the guy holding the smart phone. I was working within earshot of him. He was holding the phone vertically. I said, “Videos are horizontal.” He replied, “What do you mean?” I said, “How do you watch television or a movie?” He said, “Oh yeah, thanks man,” and fist bumped me.

The picture called, “Flowers In Their Hair” is an example of what a few of you keep saying about me. Experience and good seeing.  The flowers are heavily backlighted, making them the subject. But, it needed more. I left the woman wearing sun glasses as sort of a secondary subject. She anchors the picture. Yeah, I know it’s an odd crop. My kind of crop.

Then there is “Shiny Beads, The Other Version.” That’s the picture I intended to make when I shot yesterday’s main picture. Remember? The all bokeh vertical image, which was accidental. More technology. The camera’s focusing module was having a hard time finding a sharp area while the beads were blowing in the breeze, but my finger was on the button so it did what it could do.

Finally. “Parade Coming.” This is one of the joys of living in New Orleans. Even with all the traffic, construction and parking issues; there are these little moments. Like this one when the floats are coming from wherever they are stored. They are rolling in a long caravan at about 40 mph with a police escort. I couldn’t get to that scene, but I did manage to make a picture with my two favorite contrasting colors. Pink and blue.

I’ll be back with three more days of Carnival… Lundy Gras, Mardi Gras and a final set of pictures.  Then… something else.

Parade coming.
Parade coming.


Sparkling beads.
Sparkling beads.

St. Charles Avenue.

I didn’t travel on this street very much during the parade season. I usually seek out little back streets to make it to and from home.

But, I happened to pass by a few days ago. I was truly amazed to see the little city of parade ladders, folding chairs, folk art and carnival tents that had grown up on the neutral ground on which streetcars normally travel.

It’s been big in the past, but with all the never-ending road construction and blocked off streets, it’s grown to huge proportions. If streetcars and automobiles are blocked, so are the places that they travel. So, serious parade watchers took advantage of that.

I decided to take a walk in what really is my own neighborhood. Aside from walking the dogs, I really don’t poke around all that much. I should. Not only did I take these pictures, but I found a lot of other non-Mardi Gras pictures along the way. So, I took those too. You’ll see them eventually.

For now, it’s all Mardi Gras all the time.

The pictures.  I worked at a time of day that I claim I don’t know exists. As Bart Simpson once said, “There’s a 5 o’clock in the morning now? When did they start that?”

It wasn’t 5 am, but it was early. For me.

Early morning. My subjects were lighted in a soft yellow glow. By walking I could see so much more. You ought to see my cemetery pictures. Wow. Not to worry, you’ll see them. Soon.

Aside from the people hanging out by their tents and ladders, there weren’t all that many people out and about when I first started working. By the time I was done, more people were starting to look for spots to catch beads since the parades started earlier in the day.

Finally, when I was done I just walked home. Easy.

A few words of explanation. All of those six-foot step ladders started out home-made. Some dad probably wanted a little extra height for his child to sit, see the parades and catch about a billion beads and other throws. Now, they are factory made and sold at a places like Lowes, or Home Depot. But, only where Mardi Gras is celebrated in a big way. Like Louisiana. I’ve begun to notice that ladder owners are customizing them with their very own kind of folk art.

Cool.

The top picture is all bokeh. No subject. Well, kinda sorta. It’s what happens when backlighted beads blow in a slight breeze. In winter light.

Finally. My favorite picture is what I call a little picture. The purple beads and the pink flower. That pink flower is a great example of what we like to call winter.

Have a great Sunday.

For us in New Orleans, it’s still Mardi Gras. Until the stroke of Midnight on Tuesday evening. For many people in The United States, it’s Super Bowl Sunday. Big, giant football game. American football. Not what some of you call football, or soccer. It’s likely that as the game starts I’ll be photographing the Krewe of Bacchus parade. For many of you, it’s Sunday night. Or, Monday morning. Sorry about that. Some times I can’t publish stuff quickly enough.