Like winter.

Didn’t I say it?

Didn’t I say that in just one day the brightly colored autumn trees turned bare? That the still living leaves fell to the ground in faded piles?

Well, here it is. The proof.

When I photographed this tree, we were out just around dusk. That didn’t matter since the sky was grey. There was no blue in it at all. As I worked the picture in processing, what little color left in the tree and  leaves disappeared.  So, I let it go all the way to black and white on its own. I like it this way. It’s stark and wintery.

I started thinking about the trees and their loss of color and leaves. It’s a natural thing. We see it in seasons as they pass by. But, it exists in living breathing mammals. My hair is graying. That’s not so bad. But, my beard is silver except near my neck where it is white. That wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t so soft. It takes some hard work to shave there.

Then, there is the dog who sees stuff. She’s 11 years old. She’s a buff cocker spaniel. Her face is turning white. And, so is her back. It’s not white yet, but buff has turned to light sand color. You can see the original coat color down by her rear legs.

That doesn’t seem to matter to her. She loves long walks. When she’s home with the other dogs she aggravates them just like she’s always done. It’s funny to watch. She still loves to play soccer with her humans. She uses her front paw to kick a tennis ball around the house. We block it and kick it back. She catches it and returns it. The dogs also play a kind of rugby. The dog who has the ball is attacked by all the rest.

So, everything seems fine. I treasure that. For her. For the rest of the doggo family. For all of the humans. And, for me.

Maybe it’s the time of year.

 


Sometimes you just feel like it.

Because… why not?

I was working on the original version of this picture in color. A light bulb went off. Experiment in black and white, I thought. So, I did. I liked it. I smoothed it out a bit. I helped you to see some of the rain drops and that was it.

I’ve been reading about pictures. They seem to be flooding everywhere and everything. Apparently, about 30,000,000 pictures are uploaded to somewhere every single day. That’s amazing to me. I suppose, in one way, that’s a good thing. In theory we should all be speaking the same language. Unfortunately, we aren’t. Most of the pictures are made by people with phones who really don’t know the first thing about photography. That’s okay. They mostly take pictures of their friends and family. And food.

What it does mean is that pictures aren’t worth much these days. Maybe ten years ago, Bob Dylan said “music ain’t worth nothin’. ” I’m sure that except for the very elite most art isn’t worth much.

There’s just too much of it.

The best thing I can suggest is to find your niche and build your community. That’s a big reason I don’t shut down Storyteller. I’d love to move it to my more commercial site, but I lose all of you. There seems to be no way to convert you to Laskowitzpictures.com. I’d have to do it by hand. Email address by email address. Some of them are imbedded when you comment. Some are not.

It cuts both ways.

Some of you rarely comment and I can’t really see who stops by just to visit or hit the like button. But, I enjoy visiting your blog. I’d lose that. I don’t want to lose that.

One more thing. There seems to be a move towards making slim volume photo books on very short press runs. I feel about that just about the same way I do discussing the release a music album and spending a lot of time promoting and supporting it. It doesn’t work anymore. Marketing music is best done one song at a time on some streaming platform. That keeps your name out there, driving publicity. And, you are making new music every month.

Writing that just cleared my head. How would you feel about subscribing to something like one picture per month?

Instead of a book, you get a portfolio of 12 pictures over the course of a year.

There are some logistics to think through, like the size of the print, the selection of the image and the cost. I have some ideas, but I want to mull them over.

There other questions like matting, glazing and framing. But that could drive the cost through roof. Besides, odd as it sounds, that’s more personal than liking the art. Ten people can agree that they like a picture, but each of them will have their own ideas about hanging it.

Hmmmm.


Black and white study.

As a young man I studied all of the classic black and white masters. Weston. I read his diaries. Adams. I learned his exposure system. Strand. I studied his composition. The list goes on.

That’s what we did back then. No. We didn’t copy them. Instead, we looked at their works in books. We went to museums. If we were lucky, one of their shows appeared at a local gallery. So, we went.

Today, it’s a little different. You can find everything you want online. That’s good. And, bad. It’s a great reference point, but you can’t see the texture of the print. You can’t see the depth of shades of gray from pure white to the deepest black.

For so many new photographers seeing the work online is good enough. Worse, they are told by a lot of online photo gurus to “fake it until you make it.” That would be fine, but what they are really saying is “find a picture that you like and copy it.”

That runs across the grain of everything I was ever taught. I was taught to learn from masters, apply it to your work, but make it YOUR WORK. I’m pretty sure that copying an exact work runs counter to copyright law as well. But, that would mean the image was fairly complex with clearly defined characteristics. Most of what new photographers are trying to copy is fairly simple. Work that anybody could do.

The picture. I saw the rock laying in between the roots of a Texas Live Oak. I never arrange subject matter. I’m fairly sure the rock didn’t just happen that way in nature. Somebody, likely a child, put it there.  No matter. That’s how I saw it.

I also saw it in black and white. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. I work in color. I see that way. Not this time.

I’ve long said that Storyteller is an experimental place. With its new redesign, two of the four days work has been in black and white. Hmmmmmm.


Symbol of slavery.

St. Augustine Catholic Church.

In the Treme.

Just a few hundred yards away from the church, in what is now Louis Armstrong Park, there is Congo Square. This was a place where slaves could congregate on Sunday.  At the time, this was called back of town since it was located across Rampart Street from The French Quarter. The slaves would set up a market, sing, dance and play music.

That occurred during the French era. Things changed for the worse when control passed to The United States and Louisiana became a state.

Don’t worry. I’m going some place with this.

Back to St. Augustine Catholic Church.

Wait. Wait. There is no pun intended.

On one side of the church there is a rusting cross made of thick chains. Medieval metal shackles hang from the length of it. This is the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.

There is nobody buried beneath the tomb, but it represents the many remains found in unknown graves around the city when modern construction revealed them.

The cross was installed in 2014. In July 2015 Tootie Montana passed. In August 2015 Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana.

I’m writing this on All Souls Eve. I think my own long passed family and friends are in my head a little. The spirits of the city are swirling around too.

New Orleans will do that to you.


In black and white.

Slowly.

Ever so slowly. Because, I’m still recovering from a long and gruelling weekend.

The story so far. I’ve managed to download, backup and curate the images from four events. But, I seem to run out of steam early in the afternoon. So I cherry pick for you. At other times I sleep. I did way too much of that yesterday. I have a couple of big projects that need doing. They are going to need doing for the rest of the week.

Of course, my images must come first. So, today I think it’s this work. Walking the dogs. And, hitting the gym. That may not sound like much. But developing and fine tuning this work is very time-consuming. At least ten hours. Dog walks take about an hour and there are at least two. The gym also takes about an hour. Obviously, I won’t complete the photo work today.

That said, here’s my Super Sunday picture for today. I like it because of the black and white, highlighted by the touches of red. I think this guy is a Wildman. But, he turned away from me so quickly and got lost in the crowd that I couldn’t talk to him. Or, he could be repping something else. He comes very close to being masked as a skull and bones member. That’s sort of a violation of street code. Know who you photograph. Since Storyteller is distributed to Facebook and Twitter, maybe somebody will jump in and tell me. Please.

Anyway.

I’m sort of struggling with next steps. A lot of you here and on Facebook really liked my Sunday art work. I think that’s my direction forward. But, I’m a photojournalist at heart. And, the crosses at sunset seemed to confirm that with a lot of you. What do y’all think?

Trust me. I do listen. Tim suggested that I photograph the funeral first and I did. He helped me gain clarity. Sometimes, you just need to listen to somebody outside of your family.


Look closer. Much closer.

This picture surprised me.

You’ve seen it in the past. It’s an image from a Central City second line. You saw it in color here. In black and white on Instagram. But, never like this.

Because.

I opened this picture by accident. On a huge monitor. I started looking at it. Really looking at it. The image isn’t how I saw it in the past. For one thing, there is a lot of extra information in the frame. It isn’t needed. For another, I always saw the young man in the foreground with his sunglasses falling down his nose as the main subject. In this version, he’s just part of the darkened outer frame of the picture. It’s all about the eye. Almost in the middle of the picture.

As I said, “at least in this version.” Pictures —  like music — teach you how to make them the longer that you work with them. A friend of mine once answered a writer’s question about a particular song changing from the album to what it became played live, on stage, by saying “play a song 500 or 600 times and it will teach you how to play it,”

So.

Here’s what I did. Let this be a lesson to y’all. Let this be a lesson to me. Or, at least, a reminder.

One reason to work in RAW and with a fairly larger sensor size is because the picture is easy to crop and still have a fairly large image when you are done. There is a certain amount of flexibility and freedom working this way. You do the work after the fact. That’s just one reason.

So. (Once again)

I cropped the picture. I took out extraneous background information. I drew your eye into the center of the frame, in order to see the eye in the center.

I tinkered with the color. I made the picture into some kind of old fashioned monochrome rather than just pure black and white. Or, my usual vibrant color.

I burned and dodged the image. Again, to pull your eye into the center of the frame.

Then I softened the edges of the picture. I bet you know why.

Finally, I added a little vignette. To — imagine this — further draw your eye to the subject’s eye.

That’s it.

A lot of steps. Steps that were mostly learned in a real live wet darkroom, making prints. It was a lot harder and more time-consuming back in those old school days. It was worth it. If nothing else, working that way taught me what to do in the digital world. It taught me about production economy. And, picture culling skills.

After all, why make 20 marginal pictures of something when you can make one really great, storytelling image of the same thing? Don’t self edit in camera. On the scene. Or, the street. Or, even in your car.  You can’t see much on those itty bitty camera lcds. Wait until you are culling them on your computer monitor. Look at them at once in one place. On a big lcd. Pick the best one or two. You’ll be able to concentrate your post production to just those few images. You won’t rush. You won’t try to get everything done in a few minutes. You’ll take the time to make reasonable corrections and enhancements.

Trust me.

Your pictures and readers will thank you for it.

 


Too much moisture.

This is what happens when we get a lot of rain, combined with summer’s heat and normal humidity.

Weird mushrooms.

And, black and white art.

I made this picture in between storms. In some areas of the neighborhood, water was still standing. What am I saying? Was? We haven’t had heavy rainfall in a couple of days and water is still standing. We are saturated. Supersaturated. I suspect if we have another heavy rainfall next week, there will be more flooding. With or without the water pumps.

Sheesh.

We aren’t even half way through hurricane season. Yet.

The picture. I made it in color. It looked fine. I tested it in black and white. It looked much better. Besides, the color of the mushroom is a light pale yellow on dark brown ground. It looked about the same in terms of color and hue. This one just feels more weighty.


Remains of a storm.

It rains around here. In the summer.

Water accumulates everywhere. If you are out walking soon after the rain stops you can find all the secret places. Except. They aren’t that secret. It’s just that most people don’t see them.

I do.

I photograph them.

I was talking with a friend of mine who was trying to illustrate passages in a book that really resonated with her. She told me that she and her husband drove about 100 miles looking for a “perfect” place which would yield a “perfect” picture. I told her not to work so hard. Pictures reveal themselves when they are ready. Not when you want them to.

The next day she walked 100 feet. There it was. The picture. Was it perfect? I don’t know what she thought. We haven’t talked yet. But, I liked it. Besides, perfection is for angels.

The picture. It’s a pretty nice color picture. When I started experimenting, I tried a black and white version. It called out to me. It was like “a ringin’ a bell.” It revealed itself to me. Not so much when I was actually pushing the button. But, later. When I was tinkering.

Tinker away. All of you.