Gritty.

I

t started this way. This picture was made at the very beginning of my career. I worked for a chain of tiny newspapers in rural Southwest Virginia. We thought we were pretty good and most of the time we were.

The two biggest photo subjects were sports and stand alone art. The former you understand. The latter are pictures that can be used as needed. That’s what this photograph was intended to do. A space filler.

We started a new product designed as a tab, meaning magazine style. It was really intended as another way of selling advertising. Unfortunately for the ad department, we took it seriously. We saw it as a prime display section.

We had a short deadline for the first edition. It hit me, we hadn’t used the welder yet. So, that was the cover. I followed him around for a while so I made a nice picture story which we used to fill the center of the paper.

It was printed at night when the press wasn’t running with the dailies. The advertising department never saw it until it was printed. They had multiple heart attacks and went roaring off to the publisher.

I’m no fool.

I already showed and pitched it to the executive editor and we pitched it to the publisher. When the ad manager ran into the publisher’s office and held up the newspaper, the publisher smiled and said, “pretty good isn’t it?”

He liked it so much that even though it was intended to sell ads, it would feature photos and photo stories. That was great until I realized that meant more work for me.

No good dead goes unpunished.


It was a dark and cloudy day.

Everything changes. I had some lessons in that today. I wasn’t going to renew my premium membership with WordPress. It’s digital dump day, or whatever today is called. You know the equivalent of Black Friday. For electronic stuff.

I ended my premium plan yesterday. I received an email from WordPress today. 40% off for the next two days. I’m nothing if if not opportunistic. So, I renewed.

Don’t judge me.

While I have some complaints, especially with the Block System, I like it here. I have a community here.

I’ll still rebuild and redesign my website. That’s still the plan and the project. But, now I have a little more time. Like a year. That’s good because along with being opportunistic I’m lazy.

There is another important change too. You remember how I said that the all seeing dog was showing her age?

Wrong.

I noticed that when she stretched her jaw after waking up she would yelp in pain. I couldn’t find the problem until I put her leash on her. I happened to touch the back of her jaw. A little yelp.

Uh oh.

Another jaw infection. I called her vet and he prescribe the same antibiotics that he did when she lost a few teeth.

A week later and I let her out about 7am. The weather has turned cold here in the swamp. Luckily I had the presence of mind to dress properly even though I thought we’d be back inside in a few minutes.

Wrong again.

We went on the longest walk we’ve been on in the past few weeks.

Yippeeeeeeee.

Clouds. Both sides now. Joni is 77 and Judy is almost 80. My musical heroes may not be with us much longer. We’d better enjoy them while we can.

These are the first clouds of what turned out to be a three day storm and a cold front.

I made the file in color. I started messing with it and thought it looked better in black and white.

For sure, it brought out some things I didn’t see when I made the picture.

You can see the storm front as it moves. And, if I’m not mistaken, I can see a water spout. I didn’t hear any reports of a tornado, so maybe it broke apart.

No telling what a little post production will do.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy every snow flake.


All the black and white.

As the calendar turns I thought I would start on something that I haven’t done in a long time. Black and white photography for you. Not only that, but it’s new work, not archival as I’ve done in the past.

My time may be winding down here. It seems that WordPress wants Storyteller to be all or nothing. I may be misunderstanding, but if I don’t choose to do a paid subscription Storyteller might cease to exist on December 18.

If that’s how they want it, fine. It’s not my first choice. But, one of my best traits is that I am able to walk away from any deal if it is not in my best interest.

We’ll see how it goes.

There is a concerning factor in leaving. I was going to take a number of you with me, the ones with whom I talk. I did a little accounting and there is a large number of you who like my work, are very new to Storyteller and never converse. I’d prefer not to not lose you.

If you don’t talk I can’t see your email. No worries. I won’t use it for marketing, but my website and other blog space doesn’t have WordPress’ ability to communicate instantly. So, I have to turn to something like Constant Contact. For that I need your email.

So, please if you want to continue seeing my pictures and laughing at my ramblings, just say hello.

Please.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Follow directions. Forget turkey leftovers, enjoy every pizza.

Black and white work isn’t easy for me. Although I started my career in black and white, I’ve long moved to seeing in color.

Using most cameras, you must work in color unless you prefer to work in .jpeg or buy a $7,000 Leica body.

I work in RAW capture so that my original file is made in color. I have no choice. I convert it from there in post production.

There is plenty of editing software that does the job nicely. I happen to use OnOne, but I could name at least five others.

One more thing about seeing in color v BW is that some folks say BW is true a photograph because you see the subject clearer than you do in color.

Ha! Ever wait for days to get the right color light at the right time of day?


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.