Blue dreams.

What I saw… in a dream. I woke up with this in my head. Well, not exactly. But, this picture is close enough.

In my dream, I was swimming upward through the color blue in this picture. I was swimming up and up until I broke through the surface with a spray of water and glowing light surrounding me.

I awoke feeling happy and smiling at the thought of my dream.

So.

I tried to duplicate it in a photograph or two. Instead of me rising to the top I added flowers. Blooming flowers.

I wanted to make a happy picture. I think that I did. I’ll tell your more on the other side.

Why do this picture at all? Hmmm. Since lockdown I haven’t really been very happy. It’s one thing to stay home when you want to, but what about when you want to roam about?

I read a piece in The New York Times about ten steps to achieving a kind of happiness and coming back from the brink. I don’t think that I was near any brink, but I wanted to know more.

Of course, the Times made t hard. They were are going to post one step a week. I had a bad thought and remembered that I know how to Google along with about 200,000,000,000 people.

So.

I Googled. I found what I was looking for.

The first step is to recalibrate your thinking. In short, make yourself believe that you are happy. Where I come from we say, “Fake it until you make it.”

It worked once, why not twice?

They say you can’t catch lightning twice. I agree. But this is something different. Maybe thunder.

I’m anxious to see where this goes.

Making this photograph took a bit of thinking before I started.

Normally I experiment along the way.

Not this time.

I knew which two pictures in my current archives might work. If it matters, I made both of them last week.

I worked on each of them then I layered them. They fell into place easily, which means that I’m on the right track.

I fine tuned them. And, I fine tuned them a second time.

The finished picture is what you are looking at.

Makes me smile. Maybe you’ll smile too.


Seeing is believing.

Luck. Photographer’s luck. I got lucky. I saw some new arrivals in the world of nature yesterday. I was able to take my time and really work the scene.

As you know, while walking a dog or two that rarely happens. But, the all seeing dog walked herself into a tired puddle. Whenever I stopped to explore a potential picture she just sat down and waited. When we returned home she laid down and slept for about three hours.

Then, she wanted to go for another walk. For a dog approaching thirteen years old she still has a lot of energy. I doubt that I’ll have that much energy as I approach 91 years old, which is about her equivalent age.

No worries. The day was coolish and dry so I let her go, but normally I wouldn’t let her get that far out because it is hard on her to return home. Trust me. I look after her very well.

These are blooms that you are looking at. They will eventually turn into purple flowers. If you’ve been here for a few years, you’ve seen them. I’ll try to do something different as I did with this picture.

It really comes down to light. And, with that it’s time to jump to the right hand column.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Enjoy all the nature.

Any photograph is about light. For that matter, so are paintings.

If I always had my way, I wouldn’t work until the light was right. That’s not always possible.

But, yesterday morning I awoke fairly early. So did the all seeing dog. She barely let me suck down a cup of coffee before we were off.

I made this picture at about 8 am. The light wasn’t just breaking through the sky, but it was low and very illuminating.

The dog of the hour waited and I made this picture. We were inbound so she was tired. It’s mostly backlighted with a little shadow in the foreground.

I did pump it up a bit because I wanted the glow to pull you into the center of the image.

I think it works as intended.


Purple, just a royal color.

I remember, I remember.

Those words almost brought me to tears this morning. There was a piece in The New York Times sports section about Johnny Bench.

For those who you who don’t follow baseball, he was a Major League baseball player. He was a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He was probably the best catcher in history.

Catching is a hard job. You work in a squat. You are involved in every pitch of every game. In a close play at home plate other players tried to knock you down. And, you are supposed to be able to hit.

In other words, Johnny Bench is a tough guy.

He’s in the baseball Hall of Fame along with a number of other players with whom he played. Being a catcher allowed him to get to know a lot of players. You talk at the plate sometimes. It’s a fraternity of sorts.

This last year has been brutal for all of us. It has been very brutal for MLB, and the living Hall of Fame of players.

Ten of them died.

He spoke about each of them. When he got to Tom Seaver — a world class pitcher — he said that he was very nervous catching him the first time because he was Tom Seaver.

Tom Seaver passed this year.

Then he got to a point where he talked about his feelings and he said, “I remember, I remember, I remember.”

It broke my heart.

The late musician John Prine, another victim of CoVid-19, wrote a song called, “I Remember Everything.” When he passed it broke my heart and about a gazillion other musicians and fans hearts.

He won a Grammy this year for that work. Some where in the universe I know he smiled his crooked smile.

The main story in the Times was about never being able to reach herd immunity. There are a lot of contributing factors, not the least being that about 40% of the country don’t want the vaccine.

Combined with other issues like a mutating virus, economic conditions, and temporary surges many scientists believe this will never end, that the best we can do is manage it.

One scientist went so far as to say that he believed that it will take about two generations to manage it to the point that it will be like getting a common cold.

I was taught that a generation is 40 years. Many people say 30 years. It doesn’t really matter. Reaching that point will take somewhere between 60 and 80 years.

That’s something to look forward to.

This is especially important in light of what I just wrote. Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Enjoy all the purple.

Well, that left hand column was something. It took a lot out of me to write.

This side won’t be anywhere near as compelling.

Luckily, the dominant color is purple. I like purple. It’s the color of royalty. It’s a Mardi Gras color. I used to wear purple shirts.

This picture was edited fairly straight forward in post production. I really didn’t add much color. I just darkened things up and added contrast.

That’s an old approach. People used to say that I added too much saturation.

No, I didn’t. I just brought out whatever was there in the first place.

Oh yeah. Of course, I sharpened it. I had two ways to go. I could edit it as you see it, or I could add a lot of glow and make it soft and fuzzy.

One more story.

The war against working photographers is heating up.

A photojournalist, documenting the number of tortoises in a place where the sand of the beach was being eroded at a very fast pace, ran into a self-proclaimed speaker for the group who was working there.

She demanded that he leave and destroy his files. He left but didn’t destroy anything. Most comments were in his favor citing the usual legal findings.

I didn’t say anything. If I had, it would be along the lines of what I would have said to the woman on the beach.

I have looked at her and said, “Ma’am, this is a public beach. You have no authority over me or anyone else.”

Apparently, she was pretty aggressive. If she continued with me, I’d have concluded like this, “Ma’am step back and away from me,” In my most low but authoritative voice.

Then, without warning, I’d call the local sheriff.


The beginnings.

This was a terribly hard picture to make. I couldn’t find the angle. I couldn’t find a clean way to make it. I was working too close. I stood back, worked wide and finally made an image that I liked.

Generally, I think a good picture is fairly easy to make, at least in the short term As I’ve said repeatedly, let the picture come to you.

Some folks are confused by that notion. They think I mean going out looking for pictures completely unprepared.

That’s not true.

I’m always learning, studying, testing and experimenting.

Everything that I read, listen to, and see comes into play. Then, there’s just living my life. And, my personal history.

When I actually start making pictures all of that comes into play. I try to make photographs that are more than just a document of what I saw. I try to make you feel what I felt when I made the picture. I try to go further but that’s really hard.

I don’t talk much about gear on Storyteller. I try to teach you how to think about pictures. It’s philosophy not technology that you find here.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You are experts in the rest. Enjoy all your jabs.

I titled the image, “Springish.” It’s about early blooms and the change of season.

As I said in the left column, this picture was hard to make. For me, finding a clean composition is important.

This picture is fairly minimal. I like photographs that are minimal as long as that doesn’t hurt the subject. Let the picture tell you what to do.

Once I made the picture I headed into the digital studio.

There was a lot of work done in post production. I made sure the background was as clean as I could make it. I added a little glow.

Because the picture is so light I put a heavy border on it.

That’s what I did.


Blue skies for a while.

Like just about everyone else who could watch it, we watched it. We watched a new president be sworn in as a very small crowd watched.

For many of us it was areligious experience. I think the administration planned it that way. It was all inclusive. It was inspiring. It moved everyone in this house to tears.

Tears watching Kamala Harris. Tears watching Joe Biden speak. Tears of joy watching the past president who shall not be named leave.

A four year nightmare was over.

A day or two ago I felt the weight lift off of my shoulders. Many of the folks that I talked with felt the same way.

Today, I’m positively giddy.

I heard the words, “Make friends of your enemies,” echoing something Abraham Lincoln said immediately after the Civil War ended. We’d better listen.

I don’t know about all of you, but this really is a new day. Will the new administration be miracle workers? I doubt it. But, they are on the right track and so are we.

Peace.

I made this picture a few days ago. I was saving it for something special.

Today is the day.

I did not publish the picture on the actual day of the inauguration. I’m pragmatic enough to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

The best happened. The worst never did.

The picture was actually pretty easy to make because f the time of day and quality of light. It was also easy to develop and edit.

You know you are on the right track when that happens.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Keep your head about you, but enjoy the rest of the week. It’s the best week that we’ve had in a long time.

Peace.


The start of something.

The idea started yesterday. But, between then and now I fell asleep three times. I don’t know why. I’m not tired. I’m not sick. I don’t feel stressed. At least not any more so than any other day this year.

The idea was flowers for friend. A friend who was there at the start of my career and who passed yesterday. He was a few years older than me. I have no idea what took him. I believe he lived in Tucson. In Arizona. In normal times, I’d go to his funeral.

While there are a lot of deaths this year, there aren’t many funerals that anyone other than close family can attend. Sometimes the rules get broken slightly, like when there was a second line for a former Zulu king. In that case, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

You know, the old risk v reward thing.

All I know, in New Orleans at least, is that if we ever make it through the pandemic and when the vaccine works at a very high rate, there will be God’s own second line/jazz funeral. Too many people have passed without any kind of commemoration. We need to do it. It’ll be good for them. Good for their family and close friends. And, good for us.

What I did. To the picture. I saw these little blooms. The all seeing dog paused during her walk and I framed what I saw and pushed the button. I let the file sit and marinate. When I learned that my colleague passed, I knew what to do.

Blue.

The picture needed to be blue with some colorful highlights. I did the work, first using Snapseed and finishing it using OnOne. You are looking at the result. What do you think?

Is it good enough? Is it tribute enough?

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after others. Enjoy every sandwich.


Then, they floated away.

Come down in time. That’s what Elton John sang back in 1971, when my life began. Or, something like that.

There are moments that truly amaze me. I had one of those today. I received a letter that said my checks could no longer be sent to me because they didn’t have my address. Okay. But, at the top of the letter there was an address. Mine.

Before you ask.

Yes. It came from the federal government. I tried to call them. They are closed. I forgot.

It’s Veterans Day. Before I forgot to do this, for all of you who served, thank you for your service. For all those who served in Vietnam, welcome home.

We watched a movie last night called “Outpost.” It was about a distant firebase in Afghanistan. It was an army compound. Whenever something fubar happened, one soldier would say snarkily to another, “And, thank you for your service.”

They know, as I do, “Thank you for your service,” has become very empty. Most people say it without thinking. It means something. Or, it should.

And, that’s the story for today.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your gloves.

What the hell is that thing? I know that’s what you are thinking.

It’s a couple of flower blooms. You know the drill. I tinker with this stuff until something emerges.

Not this time.

A few weeks ago I published a picture of a truck that was all mist rolling down the highway.

A friend of mine really liked it. He said that I should stop talking about paintings and the like.

He added that no matter how we try, digital is digital. It is its own art form. Stop apologizing.

I took that to heart.

I made a picture of some tiny pink flowers that seem to bloom whenever they feel like it.

It was slightly soft, so I thought why not this one? I did my usual tinkering. I sent it to him.

He replied that it might need some color in those white “blobs.” He meant flowers.

I did that. And, that’s what you are looking at.


As the season change.

Staying True.

I’m having a conversation with some Photoshelter folks about the so-called Photographers Bill of Rights via a comment section. Most of it concerns photojournalism. That’s where my career started. That’s where my heart lies.

I read the entire document. If I’m going to talk about it, I should read it. That’s only fair. I have questions.

Let’s start with this one.

Why is a portrait photographer — a good one — telling photojournalists how to be? This is the same guy who wants working photographers to seek permission before we photograph someone on the street or at an event like a protest.

I’d like to know if he’s ever worked on the streets. He has no idea what that world is like.

Then, there is the term that the authors want to use for us. “Lens Based Workers.”

Oh really?

They claim that they want to be all inclusive. They want the term to be about photographers, videographers, picture editors, and so on.

Great !

I like inclusiveness. But, why such a low end blue collar name? Most of us attended universities. We are, at the very least, professionals.

Some of us have more advanced degrees like a Master of Science, or even a doctorate. That would be me. Laskowitz, PhD. I don’t use my title very much because my work has nothing to do with my degree.

You don’t get to call me a “lens based worker.”

If you push me, I’m going to insist that you call me, Dr. Laskowitz. Nobody wants that. Least of all me.

At the end of the day, I see this as an attempt to quantify what most of us in my generation have known for most of our lives. I don’t want that. I bet the young men and women won’t either.

I learned how to be a photojournalist/photographer from those who came before me. My elders. I’m willing to be a young photographer’s elder. Mentor. Guru. All they have to do is ask.

Just don’t call me an old white colonialist.

You have no idea what I think. As little as I know about my heritage, I know this. It’s very likely that my grandfather was a kind of serf. He left because Communism was raising its ugly head. He wanted to be free. Just like me.

What kind of colonialist is that? White? I’m sorry (not sorry). I was born this way. Old? I hope the writers of the document get to be old. Like me.

I had to think about why I take offense at the so-called bill of rights. The headline says it all. What I do is my calling. My work is what I was given to do. If I’m any good at all, it’s because I worked hard, listened to my elders and took a few chances.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy your own photographs.


Evidence.

Winter.

I have a friend in Milwaukee who was complaining because his four year old snow blower broke down yesterday. I have friends further east who were just waiting until the big snowstorm reached them. Even in Seattle, where the weather is fairly mild, the streets were tangled by snowfall.

Not down here. Oh no. Not down here in the swamp.

Instead, the temperature yesterday was in the mid to high 70s. The Japonicas are blooming. So are all sorts of new little buds. The squirrels are complaining. I’ve heard bird sounds that I’ve never heard in the past,

Not to worry. Today turned chilly. The rest of the week will be downright cold. Lows in the low 30s. At least cold for us.

Then, around the first week of May, things will heat up. NOLAHeat will come after us until October. If I could think of a place where we could spend our summer, we’d go there. But, every place is hot. Some air is dryer. Some air is moister. But, it’s still hot.

My neighbor suggested that we go to the beach. Do you have any idea how expensive it would be to stay for at least eight weeks? If I were going to the beach — which sounds very nice — I’d like to go to the ocean, not the gulf. I’d rather go to the Pacific, not the Atlantic. If course, beggars can’t be choosers.

Where would you go for a couple of months if you could?