This Day


All the junk that fits.

On a day like this one. Back in 1953. At 10pm. I made my appearance. Here I am in 2020, one of the worst years in at least a century, still going.

I’ve pretty much lost any sense of time. The calendar means very little. Clocks keep turning. The only sense of time that I seem to have is what occurs in nature.

Nature never slips up. She knows what she is doing. Even during the worst catastrophes, she knows. Fires, floods, hurricanes, and now a pandemic. She knows. She’s telling us. Mend your ways. Don’t make me come up there and destroy your home.

She will. Just to get rid of whatever annoys her. She doesn’t care. She seeks stasis.

Into the beginning of this current world I was born. In 1953. On today’s date. I guess that I have some sense of time. Or, Facebook told me. I could have sworn that I removed my birthday from my personal information. But, Facebook knows. So does Google. Ans, Amazon.

Anyway.

We could have a discussion of privacy. But, I don’t feel like it.

You know why.

Broken stuff city. I could be talking about New Orleans in general. But, I’m not. I’m not working that broadly.

I’m just talking about a truck that I saw loaded with broken bikes and parts.

It’s in my nature. I’m drawn to these things.

I let my inner self make this picture. Then, I tinkered with it.

WordPress helped by compressing it to the point where it has no highlights. I really wish all these digital companies would turn off the AI. You’d be amazed at some of the words I don’t type. That I fix when I edit the stories.

Anyway.

Enjoy the junk

Stay safe. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy all the cake.

Shadows, Silhouettes, and Silliness


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.”

Oldest School


Bike attendant in Shanghai.

One thing leads to another.

While I was poking around my newly resurrected archives looking for the Earth day picture, I found this one. I made it in Shanghai, China in 1989. In those days Shanghai was still a dark city. No lighting. Electricity was marginal. You bought your groceries in little shops or on the street. When the food ran out, you had to wait. Until the next day. The joke was that you could send and receive a piece of mail quicker than you could make a telephone connection.

And, there was very little automobile traffic.

But, huge bike traffic. Everybody rode bikes. Bike crashes were the leading cause of injury and death. You had a little bell on your bike. You were supposed to ring it whenever you passed somebody or crossed an intersection. You can imagine how that went with a city of about 12 million biker riders. Bells ringing from every direction. You just rode on and hoped for the best.

Things change. They always do.

Today, of course, everybody in China wants a car. And, many cities are hyper-polluted because of it. So, in many ways, this is still about Earth Day. It comes under the heading of WTF were we thinking?

Hmmmm…

The picture. The same the past few days. Black and white film, printed, scanned and tinkered with as usual. After doing a little reading, I’ve come to learn this is becoming a thing. Even when a photographer makes new images using a digital camera. It appears a lot of us are getting tired of razor-sharp, clean factory-like pictures. So, we are combining old and new schools. Of thought. Of theory. Of technology.

One Night, One Time


A quick phone call.
A quick phone call.

It almost looks like I took this picture in Europe, doesn’t it?

Nope. The French Quarter. A neighborhood that is French, Spanish and a little American. All in one. I suppose the woman has a little European look to her. That may be stretching things a little too much. However, the bike is as All-American clunker. Rebuilt and restored to navigate our streets.

The picture. I took a bunch of pictures. Maybe ten or so, with different framing. She finished her call and asked why I took the picture. I showed her. She thought the pictures were very cool. She asked a favor. The next two streets were not well lighted. Could I walk with her through them?

Of course.

Let’s Just Hope…


Chrome Head. In the French Quarter.
Chrome Head. In the French Quarter.

Hmmmm…

Sometimes when I walk around I just photograph what I see. That’s probably the same with most people. It’s just that I do it more often and with some sort of intent. To sort of paraphrase Einstein, it’s not that I’m better than anyone else. It’s just that I work longer and harder at it than most people.

Eventually, something has to give and I make a couple of worthwhile pictures.

If think that’s pretty much the same with most artists. You work and you work and you work. And, on one day. One very happy and lucky day, you break through to someplace else. I think that’s where I am now. I’m moving my work to something else. But, where and what that is…

Well, I have no idea.

It’ll come when it comes. Trying to force it will only delay it.

Change is hard. But, it’s worth it.

A popular mode of transportation around here.
A popular mode of transportation around here.

A Million to One Shot?


Winter light, yellow bike.
Winter light, yellow bike.

No. There’s no one in a million shot here. The headline is just half of a quote.

The next line goes like this. “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Those lines are from the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” I think they really refer to me thinking that I’ll able to post on WordPress for 30 days in a row without having a problem.  Sheesh. This used to be a no-brainer. Now, it’s an adventure in frustration.

So.

These pictures were all made during Carnival Season. I saw them while I was going from one location to another. The picture called, “The Cook. In the Professional Kitchen,” was taken on the very first night of Carnival when we were on the way to Krewe du Vieux. It was the first picture of the season. The picture called, “Pay Phone in Blue,” was taken in Central City after I was finished photographing the Krewe of Zulu on Mardi Gras Day. It was not the last picture of the season, but it was the last formal parade I photographed. All the rest were taken sometime in between.

Here’s my photo lesson for today. Even though you are intent on photographing one thing, don’t pass pictures by thinking that you’ll come back at some other time. You won’t. Trust me.

Rollin’


Lighted night ride.
Lighted night ride.

Lighted wheel. In the French Quarter.

I don’t know if this is a thing or not. Or, if bike riders are doing this anyplace else, but I saw it and I took a picture. They were riding through the crowd waiting for the Krewe of Joan of Arc in front of the St. Louis Cathedral when they caught my attention. That’s another New Orleans thing. I just liked the spinning lights. I’m easy.

The picture. High ISO since it was pretty dark there. F stop of 5.6 since I think you need some shape to blurred objects. And, I have no idea what the shutter speed was. Probably not as slow as you might think because, again, I want some shape in the motion. I suppose I could look at the EXIF data. But, I’m sort of getting tired of losing the mystery to every bit of knowable data. So, if you decide to open this picture in some software where you can see all the data and find out, please don’t tell me. 🙂

Just to See (A Little Portfolio)


Big red bike.
Big red bike.

Just to see… what I could see.

I took a Sunday morning walk through the French Quarter. I realized that I haven’t done this in a long time. Probably over a year-and-a-half. When we were traveling so much, I used to take a fast walk through the French Quarter on Sunday morning after returning home. This was a great way of clearing my head after pretty much being in motion for a couple of weeks at a time. But, thankfully, the traveling slowed down a bit and I just stopped walking the Quarter on Sunday.

I really have no idea why. Perhaps, I just got tired of walking in summer’s humidity. It’s not so oven-hot at eight in the morning. But, you trade a little coolness for a lot more humidity. You feel like you are walking in a sauna. It could be that some of my life has changed and I can’t sneak out on Sunday morning. Or, maybe I just got lazy. You know. Sunday morning. Who wants to get up early? Who wants to get up early on any morning?

I did learn something. This walk is not like the early evening walks we often take. Those are pretty leisurely. The Sunday morning walks are more of a training walk. What’s the difference? The French Quarter is like no place else. Streets are broken, Sidewalks could be 200 years old. Some are slate. Some are brick or cobblestone. Some are broken concrete. Nothing is level. One curb could be three inches tall. Just across the street the curb could be 15 inches tall. Needless to say, I’m not in French Quarter shape. After at 90 minutes, I was tired.

Anyway.

Around bedtime it occurred to me that I hadn’t done a Sunday morning French Quarter walk in a long while. So, I actually set my alarm clock which is really my smart phone and got up when it started ringing.

This little bitty portfolio is the result. I made all of these pictures a few hours ago.

Usually, when I do a walk about I just photograph whatever comes into view. The pictures just sort of pop up. They did that today. But, I was working on three subjects as well. I like doing that because it sort of focuses me. No pun intended.

Lately, my pictures have been getting expansive. I’ve been seeing the entire scene. That’s not a bad thing, but a lot of my work is normally about details and “little pictures.”

So. Details and moments were my first two priorities. Then bokeh..

I was talking with a friend of mine about something I try to do with my pictures. I think I’ve talked a little bit about it in the past, but… I try to create layers in my pictures by focusing on the subject very closely, but keeping information in the background recognizable. That soft focused background is called bokeh. Usually, for most photographers there is no discernible subject matter. Just blur. People say that it is creamy or that the shapes are full. Okay. That’s really not enough for me. I try to add something to that.You see examples of that in the red bike picture, the ice cream cone picture and the bead picture.

Unhappy masks.
Unhappy masks.

Passing through.
Passing through.

Broken street sign.
Broken street sign.

Ice cream and espresso.
Ice cream and espresso.

Mardi Gras colors.
Mardi Gras colors.

Jackson Square


Biking -- sort of -- in Jackson Square.
Biking — sort of — in Jackson Square.

No biking. No skateboarding. No skating. No rollerblading. Normally, at about this point, I would snarkily add “and, no fun.” But, with all the street musicians, artists, fortune tellers and tourists wandering around, there is plenty of fun. None of those folks needs someone passing through Jackson Square at about 30 miles per hour. So, it’s a good restriction. Apparently, this young lady thought so too. I watched her ride to the edge of the square, get off her bike and proceed to walk it through it. Good for her.

The picture. We’ll, it was pretty much a grab shot. But I liked the color and I liked the motion. So, here it is. Unlike yesterday’s picture, I didn’t do very much to it in post production. I didn’t have to. The elements were already in the scene. And, it is a little painterly.