Strange sky.

There. I did it.

I broke the sky.

Not really. I was just experimenting a little last night and I made this picture. The base picture was a silhouetted building and tree and the late blue hour sky. I started tinkering. I tinkered some more. And, just kept going.

I’m not sure what I think. I kind of like it. That’s the minimum for sharing my work with anybody. And, it is different. Very different.

What do y’all think?

In theory, I’m retired. As of last month. I told you that. I have never been busier. I guess I don’t know how to retire. Just as well. I’d only get bored sitting around and watching Game of Thrones. Or, some show like that. Maybe, House of Cards. They really are about the same topic. Politics as sports.

Let’s talk quickly about contests. I looked at the one in which I didn’t stand a chance. Some of the winners were pure photojournalism. Some was art. The person who picked one of the pictures is a big time gallery director. She selected a picture that looked like a black jagged line on a white background. I thought, “What the hell is that supposed to be?” She didn’t know either. She said she didn’t know what it was, but she liked it.

Silly me.

I always thought that a photograph should communicate something to someone. I’d humbly suggest that if the judge didn’t know what the picture was, than it failed in its most basic test. And yet, she selected it. And, it won.

That may very well encapsulate the state of photography in 2018.

Now that I entered that contest, I’m getting all sorts of contest offers. They all want money to apply and enter. I never do that. Most of them charge fees to make money in order to exist and support the owners of the contests.

By that very nature they aren’t really legit.

They can’t be. After all, the more images the photographer enters, the more money they collect. When you reach a certain point, you have a better chance to win because you — and they — sort of stack the deck.

At least, that’s what I think.

Maybe some of you have entered contests. What do you think?


Into the light.

I made a few new pictures. New work. Seasonal work. Spooky work.

You’ll see.

They say that all art is autobiographical. I agree. To a point. Even though I’m going through a burnt out phase, I’m not feeling dark. I’m not sure that you can really find that in my work because of the way I work. I photograph what I see. I suppose that I could be looking for things that are dark. However, this picture is the result of the dog “who sees things” wanting to go for a walk around dusk.

It could also be the way many people are seeing the world. Me included. We are passing through a very dangerous time. A time when lies are passed off as truth. When up is down. When we have been told to only trust one person. That’s rich. That person lies as easily as he breathes.

You know.

I’m not really feeling that way. I’m just looking for a way of moving forward. That’s hard. It’s always hard. I think it’s best to just be open and let it come to you. Just like good pictures. They are out there. They’ll find you. Just be open to them. So will the way forward.

Anyway.

This picture. It really is the result of a dog walk at around dusk. The blue hour. We were passing by a little alley and I looked up. There it was. Hanging on a tree. A picture. So, I made it. The extra bit, a balcony, was bathed in light. Red light. What a nice counterpoint. Done and done.

One more thing.

I think that we should all be a little sad right now. A president died. A man died. His last words were, “I love you too.” He said that to another president. His son. Make no mistake, I feel about him the way that I felt about the late Senator John McCain. I didn’t agree with him a lot of the time. But, I respected him. He harkened back to a time when we could disagree, and debate, politely. That may be really why I’m a little sad. I fear those days are over.

Our National Day of Mourning is on Wednesday. I’ll mourn. For about ten minutes. I strongly believe in the Chinese saying that translates loosely to, “when somebody who is 80 dies, you laugh.” It’s not as harsh as it sounds. It really means when somebody has lived a long, full life, you should celebrate that.

By all accounts, that’s what George H.W. Bush did.

Besides, wouldn’t you like your last words to be, “I love you too?”

Rest in Peace Mr. President. Be with Barbara. You’ve earned it.

 


Kind of a twofer.

This is another one.

It is a picture that I overlooked because I was trying to make a picture of the full moon. This picture obviously failed. Or, did it?

If I was only trying to photograph the moon, for sure, it failed. If I was trying to make something a little different from the usual than it succeeded. At least it did for me. You may be walking away, shaking your head and laughing. “You call THAT a picture?”

Oh yeah. The moon is the little round white light towards the left bottom center of the picture.

Anyway.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Especially me. Don’t chimp. Don’t delete. Don’t even look at questionable pictures for a couple of days. And, when you do, make sure that you look at them on a big monitor. Those itty bitty LCDs on the back of your camera or on the front of your phone are next to useless when it comes to evaluating a picture. I keep yammering away about that. I hope you hear me. By the way, yammering is a veiled reference to some of the early comics of the late, great Stan Lee. Somebody was always yammering at somebody else.

Think about the next issue. You made a bunch of pictures that are sharp. They are technically proficient enough.

Great.

You don’t have to publish all of them. I see so many blogs where the blogger publishes way too many pictures. That’s great if they tell a story. That’s terrible if most them look about the same.

Food bloggers are the worst. I’m pretty sure they read something that said a lot of pictures are a good thing, without understanding that the pictures should be different and probably tell a story.

That’s especially true with recipes.

Recipes are a process, and fit very neatly into a particular form of storytelling. It is more-or-less, beginning, middle and end. In this case, the end comes first in order to catch the reader’s eye. The rest of the middle pictures show the reader how make the finished food. That’s actually easier in video form. That’s why so many YouTube “how to” videos are so popular. I use them all the time. The end picture — the closer — is another version of the first picture. The same. But, different.

That’s the story. Of telling. Heh. See what I did there?

There are other storytelling forms. I’ll get there eventually. But, I am late to publishing. Many of you are late to reading.

Have a good day or night.


Night motion study part deux.

The blue hour. In motion.

I look back at my career. In the middle past. It was a time when I used film to do this kind of work. It was a time when sometimes I had no other choice. Film had a slow ISO. You had to adjust or light for it. I loved it then. I love what I do now, except that it often takes me time and thought to get back to what was once easy.

Forgive me for constantly dipping into the past. I firmly believe that if you don’t understand where you came from, you’ll never have a path to get to where you are going.

This picture certainly wasn’t made 20 years ago. It was made last night when I was waddling around full of too much turkey and the fixin’s. It’s an example of what you can do if you take your mind out of it.  Or, if you can barely stand up because you ate really well. Too well.

I’ve often found that when I am at my worst physically, I make some of my best pictures.

I discovered that in about 1990, when Kodak gave a number of us a new film emulsion to test. As I recall it was some kind of beefed up Kodachrome.

I caught the flu.

We had deadlines.

I worked with a heavy and spinning head. My brain was turned off.

I worked in all sorts of light. I exposed four rolls of film. I thought, well this is gonna suck. I didn’t see the results until well after the technicians at Kodak did. I wondered, whatever they are the going to think of me. When I saw the film, I was amazed. It was as good a shoot as I was doing back in those days.

Today I say, turn your brain off when you are out making pictures. Don’t think. React.

There is a huge qualifier to that. It is about the same as the Boy Scouts motto. Be prepared. For the most part, if you work like I do you are always prepared to make a picture. If you are working in a new place, read about it. Study it. Listen to the music found in the region. There is so much information to be found online. Find it. Use it.

That’s the same with a portrait or some kind of people shoot. Learn about the person before you make their picture. That works especially well with famous people. Do a little research about them. If you have something to talk to them about, they’ll relax. You’ll make a much better picture.

Don’t look at other photographs pictures of it or them. You’ll only make the same ones. Or, frustrate yourself trying. Make your own pictures.

This picture was made with a simple upward movement when I pressed the button. You can do it. Practice doing it. Don’t do it when you are out there working unless the picture calls for it. No need to duplicate what’s already been done.

That brings me to social media, especially Instagram.

That’s for tomorrow. I promise.


Late fall sky.

It’s the time of year.

In many ways, this is the prettiest time of year in Southeastern Louisiana. There are wonderful sunrises, except that I’m rarely awake to see them. I am awake to see the sunsets which have this exploding light sort of feeling.

Funny thing.

As much as I say I don’t photograph sunsets, I do. I suppose what I really mean is that I don’t chase after them. But, like all of my subjects, if I see it I photograph it. Sometimes that means putting a sort of funky subject in the picture in order to give it context. Telephone lines. Oh, come on. In my own defense, I’m often way out-of-place to make a pretty picture.

Now you know about the picture.

If you are in The United States, you are likely counting the hours until this day passes because you have a four-day weekend. It’s Thanksgiving. If you are brave enough to deal with the crowds, Friday is called “Black Friday,” because there are huge fake sales on all sorts of thing that you normally wouldn’t buy.

For me, and mine, the holiday starts today. It’s my birthday. I am 65 years old. In theory, it’s my retirement day. Have you ever heard of an artist or photographer ever really retiring?

Not me.


Then fall really arrived.

Out on a walk. A dog walk. What else would I be doing?

We went out at about blue hour. That wasn’t intentional. The dog who takes me for walks wanted to go out. So, out we went.

The sky was kind of magical in every direction. I unleashed the magical phone to try to capture nature’s magic. Yeah. I know. How many times can I work magical or magic into one sentence? Trust me. It started out as me not being aware. Then, I was. It was a happy accident. I do that a lot.

Anyway.

Remind me to tell you the story of how anyway came to be in my posts.

We turned a corner and there it was. A full moon that was trying to shine through the almost bare trees. I realized that I didn’t have the reach to photograph the moon as a dominant subject so I went the other way. I photographed the tree with the moon just poking through the branches.

That was my thought process.

After about  five or six pictures, I was done on location. Note that phrase. “Done on location.” This image took a lot of work in post production. I didn’t want the trees to be silhouetted completely. Nor did I want the sky to overpower anything. It took some time to create the image that you see.

I also went completely the other way. I made a black and white image that is all silhouette. I’m saving that one for my Instagram account.

Let’s talk about just one other thing. My website is hosted by Squarespace. They did exactly what WordPress did. They linked Unsplash to their services. For those of you who don’t know, Unsplash is a stock agency. You can use pictures for free. You don’t even have to credit the photographer. If you modify the picture in any way, you can call it your own. I smell a class action lawsuit in that.

I’m trying to figure out what’s in it for the contributing photographer. They don’t get paid. And, they don’t get any kind of credit.

Although I complained about it to WordPress, I sort of understand. About 90% of the blogs are writers blogs. They need illustrations. As I wrote a post or two back, nobody wants to pay for anything. I may test that here. I may rework a writer’s post just a little and call it my own. After all, fair is fair. Right?

However, Squarespace websites are primarily visual. That means there are a lot of photographers using their services. This is a direct slap in our faces. A big boycott movement is starting. If nothing changes by the time I pay my yearly bill, it’s likely that I won’t. I’ll leave.

The funny thing about Squarespace is that even the non-photographers sites are primarily people who produce stuff. There are a lot of bakers and chefs there. They don’t want stock pictures. Somehow they want pictures of what they do.

Life in the trenches.


Into the sunset.

Moving. Changes. Life.

If you read Storyteller yesterday you know that changes are on my mind. Most for the better. Some not so much. Today, bright and early, I got a reminder of changes. My new phone shows me anything it thinks is important the minute that turn it on. Note that phrase, “anything it thinks is important.” AI has invaded my little home.

Anyway.

My neighbor and friend sent me a private message via FB in which she attached a long statement about my drugstore. They are closing. Today. My files and prescriptions are being sent to Walgreen, which I suppose is better than CVS, who I escaped from to go my little pharmacy. Apparently, the parent company — Fred’s — decided to close it.

That’s bad enough.

But, in talking with one of the women who was so helpful to me over the past couple of years, I learned how the staff found out.  When they arrived for work last Tuesday — not yesterday — there was a hand written note on the door from Fred’s management.  They had no other notice. No notice of how their salaries would be handled. No two weeks notice. No nothing.

Huh?

Is this what we’ve come to? No consideration for the employees. No consideration for the customers. No consideration for people. If that’s what corporations are doing these days, it’s time to take a big step back. I would suggest that we buy local. But, that’s what I thought I was doing.

Basta! (that’s Italian for enough.)

Ironically, yesterday, I received an email from Kamala Harris, the junior senator from California. You might know her from her very lawyerly-like grilling of Kavanaugh during his hearing. It was kind of a general email to those of us who interacted with her in some way over the past year. She wants me to run for something. It doesn’t matter what office as long we populate it with like-minded people.

Maybe I should.

Certainly it is time to take back my country from high dollar corporate interests. From the one percenters. From the people who are too big to fail, as they flail around looking for any penny that they can find. Your pennies. My pennies.

I keep hearing from my friends who say that 65 isn’t old. That I’m not over the hill because the minute I climb over it there is another hill in front of me. And, when you consider who runs the country, and their ages, I’m still young. That’s saying something. Maybe I am.

See what happens?

Take away my local pharmacy and I get angry. I’ve been angry since about 7:15 this morning. I’m calm. Anybody who really knows me knows that’s not a good thing. Never mistake my calmness for giving up. Instead, I get resolute and lethal.

Oh.

The picture. You want to know about the picture. How could I forget that? It is one of the many I made when I was driving and shooting. I made it before the one that I posted a few days ago. You can just see the clouds starting to come together. Again, I didn’t really do very much to it. Nature took care of my work. As usual.


Lonely night.

Stan Lee left the planet. California is burning. And, in a few days I am officially over the hill.

I was thinking today about the things that I’ve seen in my own lifetime. A president assassinated. His brother killed. A man of peace killed for wanting equality. A war in Southeast Asia that reverberates today. Man walking on the moon. A president resigning in disgrace. A president working to heal the country. Oil shortages. New electric cars emerging. Technology developing and blooming. The end of the Cold War. Germany reunited.  Climate change that could end life on Earth sooner than we think. A never-ending war in Afghanistan. And, a shorter war in Iraq that gave birth to ISIS. Mass shootings everywhere. A president elected who does not have the skills, mentality or empathy to lead anybody. A country so polarized that being torn in two is an improvement. Immigrants walking, walking, walking…

And yet, I have hope. I believe in people. I believe that our best angels will eventually win the day. I believe in small steps. This last midterm election was about that. It proved that people of color, people of different religions, and women, may finally be starting to get their due. For sure, that fight isn’t over. Only one battle was won. But, it’s a start.

It should make us smile. It didn’t. I believe that our expectations may have been too high. I’m certain that we are all tired.

I do not remember a time when a sitting U.S. president was in our face all day, every day. I also don’t remember a time when a U.S. president flew to France not to honor our war dead. Not to work with his peers around the world. And, not to join them in a meeting for peace. All of this makes me tired. I’m sure that it makes you tired.

All of this went through my head when I made the picture. They tell you that the best way to photograph in the street is to clear your head and not think of anything. Just see it, focus on it, push the button. What I did was a little different. I didn’t think about the picture. I thought about other stuff. The stuff that I just wrote about. I made a very simple picture. My picture. My kind of picture.

Weird, huh?

I just looked up at the scene and though, “that’s a nice contrast.” That was it. I was mostly lost in thought. About the world. About me. About my place in it.

No. No. No.

My place isn’t as bleak as all the news. It’s actually pretty good. I have to make some choices. I have some decisions to make. And, move forward. Don’t worry. I’m not going to uproot anything big, like family. We are considering moving. I am coming to grips with 45 years of archives and what to keep, what to toss and what to put out there in the world. I am also trying to sort out a couple of new projects that sort of popped up when I was reading about something else.

I’d like to lay out the framework for this in eight days. That’s my birthday. I can start my birth year with a good idea of some direction. Maybe in ten years I can complete it. Sheesh. It’s a tough thing. I’ve been wrestling with all of this for well over a year. I’m like a shaken up bottle of soda. Ready to pop.

Oh, and about Stan Lee. He passed at 95 years old. I’m not in mourning. That’s old enough. But, he’s been with me since I was eight or nine when I read Spiderman issue number 2 and Fantastic Four issue number 3. I was on a trip. A train trip with my family. We were going from Los Angeles to New York City.

I started traveling young. I never stopped. Stan Lee was right there with me.

 


Dark and glowing dusk.

Mysterious blue hour.

It happens like this sometimes. You look up and think, “whoa, what just happened?”

So. You take the picture. With your brand new smart phone. Amazing. The sensor seems to dig out everything. Color. Shadows. And, it holds the highlights without much work

Thank you for all of your good thoughts. As they say, no news is good news.

Update. I’m sorry to report that my friend passed last night in her sleep at 11:07 pm.