Sometimes, I see things that can be changed.

Lessons learned. Learned well.

They come to mind without really coming to mind. They are just there. They are a kind of koan. You see something. You react. You stop thinking about your approach. To paraphrase and old Nike tagline, “You just do it.”

Back in 1974 when I was in photojournalism school at SJSU, we had a main photography professor. His name was Joe B. Swan. He was from West Texas. He moved slowly. He talked slowly. We called him “Slow Joe.” It was not out of snarkiness. It was out of affection.

In one of our beginning classes we learned about shadows and silhouettes. Except, Joe said it with his West Texas accent. He called them “shaders and silerettes.” I think that’s how you spell those words. Just say them out loud and you’ll understand.

He made a point to tell us that these tools are like spice on food. Don’t use them all the time, but when you do, they’ll make the rest of your take sparkle.

That was 45 years ago. I still hear those words today.

I could write a lot about Joe B. Swan, but it’s enough to say that he was one of the kindest human beings that I’ve ever met. You didn’t think that he was a great teacher until you thought about it. Here I am quoting him 45 years later.

Before I tell you about this picture, I have to tell you that I’m in a strange place. Remember that my word of the year is learning. The best time for me to learn is when I’m not trying to learn. Just like making a picture. If I don’t look, the picture will find me soon enough. Same with learning.

So here we are at the start of four months into 2019. The first three months have just blown by. Mostly good things have happened. But, there have been some bad. The best of those things is that I’m learning. I found out that my dad had a sister, making her my aunt. An aunt that we never knew about. I don’t know why that is, and we may never find out, but that’s something. Through that we found out we have some second and third cousins that we didn’t know about. I hope to learn more about them because they might be able to tell me about our aunt — their grandmother.

How’s that for learning?

Things like that have begun to take me on a journey through my past. I’ve said that before. But, this time it’s on steroids. I expect that’ll change the way I see photographs and the way that I make them. We’ll see.

Anyway.

This picture. I saw it while I was crossing the street. first I saw the bike and the wheel. I looked down. A “shader.” A “silerette.” I made the picture. I went to work in the darkroom in my computer. If I were to show you all the pictures, you’d see the progression. Both in the field and in the studio. This is the final version. And, the one that I like best. Which brings me to a topic for tomorrow. Let’s just call it, “So many pictures.”

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Night time on Washington Avenue.

Street portraits made easy.

When you have help. My buddy, Pableaux Johnson was working with a new video light on a still camera. It is flat panelled and a continuous light source. He thought it would help illuminate the Mardi Gras Indians as they walked while they showed off their suits. After all, on St. Joseph’s Night we work in available darkness. He turned it on to take a picture of this guy. He couldn’t quite get what he wanted. But, standing to the side of him, I did. I just didn’t know it at the time.

I’m not sure I would use that light. It was a little cumbersome for him. It also seems to provide a very flat — meaning not enough contrast — light. And, I could see him from a block away. My whole way of working on the street is to blend in, and not be seen.

Anyway.

I made a pretty good portrait, mostly just by standing there and pointing the camera.

Of course, the original file didn’t look anything like this. Yes, the red color was there. It just wasn’t so enhanced. And, I buried a lot of noise with darkness. Even with the external light, I really was pushing the camera’s limits since we were standing in the darkest possible location. That took some doing because the picture — his face — needed some sharpening because the focal plane is centered on his hands and the sugar skull button. Even with masking, I ran the risk of sharpening the noise. I made it work. Just.

But.

It came together. I’m really anxious to run a test print. After all, it’s not really a photograph unless it’s printed on paper. With all the technical issues I had to overcome, I’m wondering if the image will just fall apart on when I print it.

Questions? Ask away. Answers? I’m all ears. Like the picture? Buy it. Papa needs a new large format printer to crowd an already crowded studio.

 


Lone tuba.

First and foremost.

Our prayers and thoughts go out to the people who live along the Gulf Coast in Texas. Twelve years ago, they came for us. Now, it’s our turn. Whatever they need. Whenever they need it. You’d have to have been here and gone through a major storm to really feel it deep inside. We did. We know.

Our hearts are in our throats.

Thank you for reaching out. We are fine here in New Orleans. Right now, it looks like we will get about 6 inches of rain over a four-day time span. That’s about like a normal summer storm. Yes, some parts of the city have other worries. All the pumps are not yet functional. Some of the electric turbines are still not up to full speed, and, for certain, the drainage system needs about 20 years of work. But, everybody is well aware of the issues and what we need to do.

So far, mixed sun and clouds. No rain. No wind.

I mostly only pay attention to the NOAA hurricane reports since that’s what the local television stations weather people read. I reckon given their percentage of being wrong and right, I’m about as qualified to read them as they are. Besides, I know when to shelter in place and when to evacuate. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

The picture. I made it on the day of the Great American Solar Eclipse. While I was waiting. My first inclination was to make the picture with just the tuba, the bench and the bicycle in it. But — aha — this woman came walking by. Those magenta tights were just the ticket to make the picture a little brighter and more colorful. I had to wait a minute because there was somebody walking in front of her. That turned out to be a good thing since she framed herself with that square sign board. Luck. Luck. And, more luck.

And, patience.


So. I was very late yesterday and I’m very early today. That’s what happens when I can’t sleep. This is one of those pictures I made on my walk through The French Quarter. The bikes are typical for the rough streets located there. For me, the added touch was the faded Mardi Gras beads which seemed to add just the right touch. It helped that The detergent – street cleaning truck was passing by just as I stumbled upon the bikes. It helped give the street a rather interesting glow. 


Time to move. At least on this blog. Today’s picture is from The Bywater area of New Orleans. The Bywater is an old blue collar area of the city. It once was home to a  lot of coffee importers and roasting plants. There were also a lot a fruit importers located there, too. But, that’s all gone now. The big buildings are being repurposed into lofts, condo, art galleries or have just been abandoned and torn down. The neighborhood has changed as well. It’s being repopulated by hipsters. They are artists, musicians and other kinds of creatives. Oh, and by the way, my use of the word hipster is not a bad thing. They are rebuilding flood ravaged areas that were horribly run down before the storm. In other words, they are investing the city. My city.

Oh yeah. I like their hats.

This picture. Funny thing. I made this picture a few years ago. It’s kind of a signature picture for me. A few months ago I was driving down the street where this bike lives. And, there it was. In the same place. Still chained to a porch railing, a little more faded and worn but still working and functioning. Sounds like a metaphor for life. Or, for me.