A little motion.

More experimental than not. That’s this photograph. It’s about wind, which arrived in about 30 mph gusts. Even the all seeing spaniel wanted very little to do with it.

We walked for a while and after watching her ears fly around I thought it was better to head home.

That’s what we did.

We went home. Where I turned on Spotify and was immediately frustrated by its inability to load music at a reasonable rate. I’ve talked to them. Remove, reboot, reinstall.

No joy.

The internet has become our connection to — well — everything. We’ve seen some effects when some part of it crashes. People went crazy when Facebook burped, taking Instagram with it. Without knowing what happened, my day got quieter.

Solitude.

I know that many people take a digital holiday. I also know that many of them stare longingly at their phones, pads and computers while they attempt a digital detox.

I’m not someone who is against all of this. I’m no luddite.

On the other hand, don’t we all need a break from whatever we are doing? That is, except for photography. Heh.

Sometimes digital technology becomes restive. This is the third time that I’ve written this. I know that WordPress will blame me, but some glitch has deleted my work twice. It wasn’t even in the all posts file.

What do I know?

Maybe I need a break from everything. I’ll drive to Florida and lay on the beach for 67 days, or three. Whichever comes first.

Speed. Speed kills they say. I say put your foot to the pedal and fly.

Sometimes.

There are times when you just glide waiting for your opportunity. When it comes, you put the pedal to the metal.

That’s what the wind did yesterday. It was mild during the morning. Then, it got going in the afternoon.

It was about 3pm when I pushed the button on this picture.

I just let the shutter pick its own speed. It slowed down. This is the result. I’m blaming technology for making a good picture. That, and nature.

I had nothing to do with it.

It’s true. All I did was hold the phone. Speaking of technology, AI had this sentence written with “wash” instead of “was hold.”

Sheesh.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Where your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy all of the wind.


The marching band arrived late.

This Mardi Gras parade season seems doomed.

Last night we had tropical storm level winds, the gusts were around 40 mph. So the parades were postponed. Two will roll tonight minus all the walking groups. The third will roll on Sunday. That means 164 floats will be on the streets tonight. At least one of the most powerful krewes in the city — The Muses — will roll during daylight, when their floats are meant for night time. At least they get to roll.

The last twenty or so floats of Nyx may never get to roll. Even if they did, they may not have many “throws” because they could mostly only take what they could carry after the tragic end to their parade The Nyx captain is is exploring joining the Krewe of Pandora, which rolls in Metairie on Sunday. The captain of the Krewe of Nix – Julie Lea — is also the captain of Pandora. They’ll know sometime today. There are two issues. Very few throws. And, they rent their floats. There may not be enough floats for them.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned a lot about the unfortunate woman who died on Wednesday night. She was 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche. She did not trip or fall. She was trying to pick up some beads.

She gave her life for maybe ten cents worth of Chinese manufactured beads.

She was born and raised here. Toddlers are taught from the moment they come to parades not to run out into the street for beads. Do no cross in front of moving floats or marching bands. When I arrived 20 years ago that’s the first thing I was told when I attended my first parade.

Reading comments on Facebook was sickening. Many attacked the victim. They accused her of being drunk, of having no responsibility. Apparently, they never heard the old saying, “Never speak ill of the dead.” I guess this the the world in which we live.

I’m not buying that. I think she had a kind of tunnel vision. I’ve seen it a lot on parade routes. Parade goers see nothing but throws. They are aggressive and they want them all. Even though she was well old enough to know better, and a local, I think that’s what happened to Ms. Carmouche.

Four more issues to discuss. I promise that I’ll keep it short.

The picture is a leftover. With no parades last night, I ran out of culled and processed images. I also decided that the images I made while the Krewe of Nix was rolling will forever be unprocessed and will not see the light of day.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed my policy of not publishing names. While Storyteller remains art driven, I can’t tell stories without names. Of course I’ll follow my own ethical rules which are informed by years of journalism at a time when we were respected.

I’ve long said that the work is the prayer. If I believe that, I must work tonight. There are enough people who could use a few prayers right about now. And, that’s just in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras parades are an interesting thing. Just about ever local who participates in them does it for the experience, for the fun.

Really?

I talked to enough people on Twitter to realize that they were overjoyed at not having to be anywhere near the parades last night. One woman on NOLATwitter said that she felt free.

If that’s the case, just what the hell are we doing?

Do we feel so obligated to “celebrate” that it’s become work?

Even me. I was preparing to go to the parade route when I checked social media one more time. Even though I’m not riding on floats, or marching in bands, or throwing beads, I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I didn’t have to go.

What am I thinking?

 


Drum major my way.

Promise kept.

I said that I would experiment with Mardi Gras pictures rather than publish images that are documentary in nature. That turned out to be harder than I thought. It’s tough turning a clean, sharp image of somebody doing something into a kind of art. For the most part, it feels forced. And, it looks odd.

Finally, after an even more careful culling of my images I found this one. I knew that I could experiment and likely come away with my original intent.

Intention is everything when you make a cinematic image. Fiddling around with it shows.

So, what do we have here?

The subject is a St. Augustines Marching 100 drum major. He was in the lowest of light. I helped it by using a smaller f stop, which meant the shutter speed was very slow, probably around 1 second, hand held. The blur was intention. It was also helped because the picture was made at night. I could make a motion blurred image during the day, but it loses its mystery and mood.

Happy Mardi Gras y’all.


Mardi Gras time.

The future.

Not so far in the future. Maybe just up to Mardi Gras parade time. Anything more would be wasted because as a not-so-wise boxer once said, “You can make all the plans that you want, but once you get punched in the face all the plans go out the window.” That’ll happen with Mardi Gras plans as well. The minute the season starts, everything will change. I have to be on the scene to understand the plans.

My biggest question is do I shoot what I’ve done for the last seven years and work the start of the parade? Or, should I do something different? What that is, I’m not sure yet. Hopefully, it’ll come to me in a dream, or in the shower.

There is also the yearly question of scheduling a number of events. They need to fit somewhat neatly together. Once I’ve got that clear in my mind and on paper I can fit the rest “stuff” into the year.

That’s another thing.

Although I do my scheduling on a digital calendar, I’m going back to paper for the details. It’s a better way to remember and it just feels better, which is like the debate between digital capture and film photography. They both have their place, but to me digital capture is like working on an assembly line in a factory. Film photography feels crafted and a little more artistic.

The picture. A very early Mardi Gras parade image. It was made on film and scanned much later. I forgot about it because somehow it was filed in the wrong archive. It was lost until I started digging. In those days I mostly worked with Fuji Velvia. Its ISO was 50. It really did better when you rated it at ISO 40. That’s slow. Very slow. That made working at night a challenge if you weren’t using strobes. I don’t use strobe at events like that because unless you hit the light dead on the picture looks way over lighted.

Instead, I would work for motion and ambient light. That allowed me to make pictures like this. The only sharp part of the image is part of a motorcycle wind screen is in the middle of the frame.

A picture like this one is impressionistic. That makes sense because of all the photographers who inspire me, painters inspire me more.

That’s the story.


Abstract French Quarter.

Rain. Motion Blur. And, a strange crop of a woman standing next to me.

It seems that there is a kind of finality to this picture. That’s a good thing. This is the last of this series. I reckon that you’ve had enough. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday. The first day of the week. The first day of a new thing.  Don’t ask me what.  I haven’t thought that far in the future. Yeah. I know. That’s just tomorrow. It’ll come to me sometime before that.

As you already know, sometimes I don’t talk about the picture. I veer off in some other direction. This is one of those times.

Yesterday evening was just terrible.

Peter Fonda died. He’s a big part of my youth. Movies like Easy Rider helped to form me. The music of that time was the soundtrack to my life. It really hit me when Roger McGuinn — the founder of The Byrds — tweeted, “I just lost a dear friend.”

Not ten minutes later I learned that Nancy Parker, a journalist and anchor person for local television channel FOX 8, died in an airplane crash while she was working on a story about Franklin Augustus, a local a licensed stunt pilot. He was also killed. Nancy Parker had been with the station for 23 years. It seems that everybody knew her or watched her. To a person everybody talked about her kindness and caring. I met her very briefly prior to the Zulus starting Mardi Gras Day one very cold year. We talked for a few minutes as people do. She made sure to stand behind me, so as not to get in the way of my lens.

My city is in mourning.

You know what I always say. The work is the prayer. That’s what I’m doing. I’m listening to Byrds music. A little of it was used in Easy Rider.

RIP Peter Fonda

RIP Nancy Parker

RIP Franklin Augustus

 


Street musician.

The first picture.

No. Not the first picture that I ever made. If you’ve been around Storyteller long enough, you’ve seen my first picture when I published a black and white portfolio of my earliest work. The work was maybe 45 years old. I published the portfolio a few years ago.

This is the first picture that I made when I switched from DSLR cameras to mirrorless cameras back in the summer of 2012. I wasn’t so sure about these new fangled cameras so I bought a Sony NEX 5 and a kit lens. I loved it from the minute I started making pictures with it. I loved it so much that a week or two later I sent musical miss to Adorama in New York to pick up an NEX 7 (the top of the line back then) and a couple of lenses.

Lenses. They were an issue in 2012. Sony hadn’t made many of them. And, adaptors were pretty much useless. Flash forward to 2019 and there are plenty of native lenses produced by both Sony and Zeiss. Lens adaptors are great, to the point that I use my Leica glass on Sony bodies. If you want a sharp file, an image made with that combination will peel your eyelids.

Even though I’ve invested in newer and better bodies, I still have the NEX 5 and the 7, which I fried in a driving rain and ice storm during Mardi Gras. Even though it was top of the line, it had no weather sealing.

I didn’t know that I had a problem until maybe six months later when the moisture finally worked its way to the motherboard. That was exciting.  No big event like an explosion. The camera functions just slowly stopped working, until one day I couldn’t turn it on. I sent it out for repairs. It was returned to me as being unrepairable. It could have been repaired, but the work and the parts would have cost more than a new camera. I loved that NEX 7. I may buy one again. They are so technologically old that they only cost about $300 for an excellent used one.

So.

This picture. I made a couple of pictures before this one. Just test shots. I couldn’t figure out why the subject was out of focus. When I opened up the file on my big machine I could see why. The image wasn’t out of focus. The auto focus was so sharp that it picked a place that didn’t matter to me. Once I learned how to control that, all was good. Then there were ISO issues. Over the years of digital capture I’ve learned that you can’t really crank up the ISO without creating noise. So, I didn’t. That gave me motion blur all over the place on this picture. But, you know me. That’s one of my signatures. Of course, that’s changed too. Today, you can raise the ISO without doing very much damage. At least, a little bit.

Looking at this picture makes me think that I really ought to be prowling The French Quarter at night a little more. Maybe I will. Next week.


Rainy weather in New York City.
Rainy weather in New York City.

Bad weather.

I like working in it. Rain. Snow. Slush. Ice. Even wind. I often quote National Geographic’s Sam Abell who said, “When the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.” I probably live in a good place for that. Although we don’t often get snow or ice in New Orleans, we do get a lot of rain. Misty rain. Sprinkles. Hard rain. Sideways rain.

This picture was made in 1995. In New York City. I was mostly working with a lot of color slide film by then, but often I would shoot a little black and white.

Just because.

Generally, I was falling into one of the patterns you see today. Some of my better work was produced while I was on my way to someplace else.

This picture was made with a Nikon F90. Yeah, the “Rest of the World” version of the of the N90, which I believe was only sold in The United States. I’m not such a gear guy, that I know those sorts of things. For sure. Especially something from 20 years ago. The lens was a 105mm. F 2.8. The film, as usual, was Kodak Tri-X black and white film.

Here’s where the fun begins.

The film was rated at 320 ISO. The lens was set to f5.6 and the shutter speed went wherever it needed to go using auto metering. I’m guessing this picture was made at 1/4 of a second. I also took off the lens hood. Doing that made me a little less conspicuous. Mostly, I wanted to capture the feeling of being in a rain storm. I usually think feeling and sensing are better than documenting.

All that weird refraction and blur along the edges of the picture was caused by photographing through rain drops on the lens. Yes. I know. That’s not a great idea. Protect you gear at all costs. But, what’s the point of having cameras and lenses if you can’t break them while you are making pictures?

Seriously. The lens didn’t stay wet for very long. It does illustrate how far I’ll go to make the picture in my head.


Crowds walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Crowds walking through The French Quarter in New Orleans.

Yes. I know. The French Quarter is a major tourist attraction. So major, in fact, that many people who visit think they’ve seen all of New Orleans when they’ve only walked around the Quarter. Except on rare occasion, or when the weather is way too hot and humid like the months of August and September, the Quarter is pretty busy. The crowds get almost unbearable during Carnival Season, Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest or other festivals that I can’t quite think of right this minute.

Sheesh.

I made this picture last Wednesday at about 7pm. I get it. A lot of schools were on some version of spring break. But, do these people look like high school or college students? The people leaning along the wall were waiting to get liquored up. Except for the children. They were waiting to eat tourist food. T heir parents dragged them there. You can tell. The folks passing by in the foreground were part of some tour. Maybe one of my favorite kinds of tours. Architecture. The last time I ran into a group like this I overheard the guide say, and I kid you not, “This is an example of architecture.” Yeah. Really? You paid money to hear this guy say that?

The picture. Hmmmm… I’m not always the biggest fan of my own work. But, the more I look at it, the more I like it. It’s a nice little storytelling moment. Technically, making it was pretty simple. It’s about a 1/15th of a second exposure. I made sure to keep the people in the background, and the background in focus, while I let the people in the foreground walk through the picture.

 


Bicyclists riding through the light.
Bicyclists riding through the light.

Photography. Painting with light. That’s what the Greek words means. Sort of. That’s what I was taught about a billion years ago. That’s what most photographers say. But, literally, it means writing with light. By photographers I mean the kind who actually studied something about their art. Their craft. Not the ten minute kind.

Oh, let’s not go there today. This isn’t  rant sort of day.

Big storms in town. Huge thunder and lightning. A big part of it came when I was asleep. I couldn’t tell if it was in my dreams or in real life. You know that state in which you sometimes get stuck.

But, here’s the weird thing. For the past two days I dreamt about a dog. A cocker spaniel. Probably my favorite dog of all. Hush. Don’t tell these five dogs who share the house with us.

In the first dream — yesterday — the spaniel and I were trying to get out some weird blown up place. Sort of like the pictures you see of the Middle East today. Like Aleppo. Or, some place like that. But, here’s the thing. She was about the size of a horse. And, she defended me. The size surprised me. But, not her defense. She always did that when she was on the planet.

In today’s dream, while the thunder was crashing and the lightning was illuminating the sky, I dreamt that we were in some big old place. A building. Maybe a huge house. With every crash of thunder something fell down, like a wall. Or, a door fame blew out. Or, the windows blew in. The spaniel was young. She looked like she did when she was like one or two years old. She’d lead and wait for me to follow. She’d pick her way through the debris and show me the path. She did that too, in real life.

I don’t know what dreams mean. There’s every kind of theory. I probably think that the Jungian theory is closest. Dreams are answers to questions that we haven’t even thought about yet. I don’t know. If that’s even right, what am I thinking about? That, I don’t know I’m thinking about?

Man. I miss that dog.

Oh. The pictures. I made them while I was looking for Mardi Gras Indians. On just about the same street where I took yesterday’s cemetery picture. That’s how it goes some days. Pictures just pop up out of nowhere. If you open your eyes. If you are just present. That’s a kind of magic.

Long shadows.
Long shadows.