Brass band out there.

They came out to play.

And, so they did. If a second line starts and rain falls in the middle of it, everybody keeps going unless the rain starts blowing sideways and upside down. Anything else is just a drizzle to them. And, us.

There’s a lesson in that. Don’t be denied.

There’s a lesson in that too. Here we are on the tenth day of January and I’m already reading about people who are starting to lose their way in 2019. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the leadership in The United States just isn’t up to the job. I watched both speeches last night. Afterwards, we all said the same the same thing. “That’s a half hour of my life I’ll never get back.”

For other people, the year started out terribly. People got sick. People got fired. A friend died.

You know what? That’s life. As John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Suck it up. Pull up your big boy and girl pants and move on. In a war long ago and far away, when something really bad happened, the African American troops used to say, “Ain’t no thang. Drive on.”

Drive on, indeed.

For anyone who thought that just because the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019 things were going to get easier, disabuse yourself of that notion. This may be the hardest year yet. Hopefully, when we come to the end of it, all the hard work, suffering and some pain will be worth it. Maybe. Maybe not. We may have another year to go.

This is your “Come to Jesus” speech for today.

Now, don’t make me come out there and give it again. Heh. How many of us heard something like that when we were growing up? If you were like I was, it was a daily occurrence. Or, it was this variation. “Just wait until your father comes home.” Or, “Apologize to her right now,” said with a stamp of your mom’s feet after you did something to your sister. I’m just talking here. I wouldn’t know anything about that. Heh. No. Not me. Never. Heh.

The picture. It’s a couple of weeks old. I’m trying to photograph second lines, but post them less because I’m not sure that you understand them. That’s what the numbers say, anyway. When I make good picture  — something like this one — I know you understand music, I’ll post it. Besides, the guy playing his trumpet right at me is my pal on the scene, Kevin. He likes seeing his picture. He’s a musician. What do you expect? It proves that he was out there. For that matter, it proves that I was out there.

Website update three. I have two more things to do. Figure out how to make my portfolio be found and accessed easier. And, figure out how to attach PayPal to those images. I want that to be seamless so that when you want to buy or license an image, you don’t even have to contact me. Did you read that? YOU. BUY. LICENSE.

 

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Seeing it from a different perspective.

Broken… or well-worn?

That’s my biggest change. A change in my personal viewpoint. It took my Storyteller break to help me see the difference. It took those days to help me understand that I’d better stop reading so much bad news. More importantly, I stopped reading viewers comments at news websites. Both sides are nuts. I’m not on either side. Most people seem siloed. The more you try to change them, the deeper they dig. They angrier they get. I’m not angry.

Who needs that?

Even though I don’t make New Year resolutions, I did kind of did make one.  By all accounts 2018 was a disaster. It left everybody unhappy, depressed, out of sorts. Me too. A lot of that was well beyond my control. You know what I’m talking about. Some of it is within my grasp, yet I didn’t do much to fix it.

That can’t go on.

For me, personally, if I live my life feeling negatively I don’t get much done.

Let’s just use Storyteller as an example. I started worrying about my yearly numbers. Don’t do that. It starts a cycle of posting for one reason only. Reader views and likes. Those numbers add up to nothing. Instead of doing that, post your truth. Post your best picture whether or not you think it will be well received. Post your best story. Let it fly.

Stop overtly selling.

There are a couple of bloggers that I’ve just stopped reading. They wrote a book. In an effort to drive people to the book, they stopped telling their stories. Everything is sell, sell, sell. Lead me to your work. Don’t shove it down my throat. That’s sort of a rule among more sophisticated sales people.

Besides. Probably 20% of the emails I receive want to sell me something. Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram have become never-ending sales tools. Don’t drown me in it. My reaction is to never buy anything. We both lose. You don’t make a sale. And, I don’t know what I missed.

Enough.

I’m not leaving social media unless personal security becomes a bigger issue than it already has. I want everybody to see my work. But, I’m not going to convince you to buy it. I’m not going to share most news events and I’m not going to get in what used to be called a flame contest. There’s no need.

I’d rather post about art. In all of its forms. That’s what I understand best. That’s what I like.

That said, this picture. I made it at a second line. The tuba, or sousaphone if you want to split hairs, was resting. It was waiting to be played on a long walk through Central City.  I saw it. I photographed it.

You can look at the picture in one of two ways.

The instrument is busted up. The sidewalk behind it is busted it up. My city is busted up.

Or, it’s well-worn and repaired from playing a lot of music. The sidewalk is torn up because the city is 300 years old and that’s why a lot of us live here.

Yeah, sure. There is plenty to repair. The streets are potholed. The water pipes and pumping stations break down. Power fails.

Yet, one yearly statistic made me smile. The murder rate was lowest that it’s been in 50 years. That’s a start. A pretty big start. Hang on to that and build. Build a little more. And, keep building.

A little housekeeping. The new website/blog is about ready. I’m a little afraid to push the button. There are a couple of reasons for this. They all center around the unknown.

I have no idea what Facebook and Twitter will see through my distribution channels. I have no idea whether I can build portfolio pages from which pictures are sold or licensed. I have no idea about static background pages that are not the main page. And, I don’t know if I can post multiple pictures in one post. There is no going back once I push the button. I can’t know those things until I do that.

I suppose that I should jump and fix things on the fly.  Nobody will die if I get parts of it wrong.

Wish me luck. Or, at least, a soft landing spot.


French horns and helmets.

Once upon a time I posted a brass bands’ instruments at rest. The were lying on the street, on a curb or something like that. A number of you commented. You wondered how anybody could just lay their instruments on the ground.

Here’s your answer. They learned how to do it in high school. These pictures are from a couple of different bands. Mostly they came from the St. Augustine Marching 100. This is a big time band. They’ve played The Rose Bowl. They’ve played during half times at NFL football. The travel all over the country.

And, they leave their gear on the street. Especially when they have a long break between arrival to a parade and actually marching. After all, this gear is heavy. They march 12 miles for the length of the parade. Then, they turn around and do it the next day. Every minute that you can stay lighter matters. Just like me. Less gear means more pictures.

It matters to me in other ways. I can make some nice artistic pictures with their gear. They don’t care. They just don’t want me messing with it. That’s fine. I’m more of a photojournalist than a studio guy. But, if I did want to turn a piece of gear I’d ask a band member for help. They are happy to do it.

The pictures. The usual. F8 and be there. Or, in the case of the low light and rain, f 4.0 and be there. The rest is simple. Leave the picture as you found it. No tinkering unless it is to adjust lightness, contrast and general color.

Cymbal as art.


Big horns and light.

“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on

You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

Won’t you try just a little bit harder, Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

Won’t you try just a little bit harder, Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

Round, round robin run round, got to get back to where you belong

Little bit harder, just a little bit more, A little bit further than you gone before

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on

You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod, Big wheel turn by the grace of God

Every time that wheel turn ’round, Bound to cover just a little more ground

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on

You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will”

— Lyrics and melody by Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia — The Grateful Dead.

Which brings me to this.

For some reason I started poking around in my own past. It started by listening to a lot of Grateful Dead on three cold and rainy (the snow came, but on the Northshore) days. Somehow the Dead triggered thoughts of people in the past.

I decided to Google one of them.

He and his girlfriend (now wife) actually brought me to the band. In 1970. What I found made me sad. It’s not what you are thinking. They appear to be fine. They own a fabric company. Something like my parents used to own. They have been on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles for years.

They were there at a time when I worked and lived in the city. They are in the very neighborhood in which I traveled because a lot of photo companies were there. Film developers, camera rental companies, prop companies.

I never knew. I never even thought about it. We didn’t have falling out. We went to different colleges. To different worlds. But, dammit, forty-five years has passed. True, the last time that I lived there, the internet was barely a thing. We still sent telexes rather than emails. But, we had these things called telephone books. I could have looked, but I just didn’t.

That damn wheel. It’s always turning. It never slows down.

The picture. It’s from the last second that I photographed. May 2017. Big Red Cotton’s second line. She was shot in the Mother’s Day second line mass shooting a few years back. She was seriously wounded. After three years of living in pain and new surgeries, she finally passed. Her spirit was strong. Her body couldn’t hold out.

I reworked the picture to be brighter. More “heavenly” like angels horns. Yes. I dropped that little burst of light in there. It just enhances a natural burst of backlighted reflection, which is really what the picture is about. Reflections.

That damn wheel. You can’t go back. And, you can’t stand still.


Trumpeteria.
Trumpeteria.

More Mardi Gras. Forever. Or, so it may seem.

I thought that on off days I would organize posts by category. So. Music. Floats. Spectators. Details. And, so on. There still isn’t enough time in the week to show you everything, so I’ll do a wrapper during the week after Mardi Gras Day.

These are a few moments from the music category. A guy I know says that the bands are the best part of the parade. I’m pretty sure that he’s right. Everything is photogenic at one of these things, but the marching bands always draw my eye. As we move into the high point of parade season, the big schools start coming out. Photographing them while they are rehearsing is something I’ve been doing for a long time. It gets really good when two bands face off and challenge each other. A battle of the bands. On the street. In full dress.

That’s one big, huge reason why I work the start of a parade. You will not see this along the parade route as the bands roll. Many people who have been going to the parades for years don’t know this happens.

These pictures. Bands. And support. I made all of them by walking around and looking. Looking. Always looking. This is sort of a triple brain thing. You have to see the big picture. Look for details. And, watch the ground. With our terrible streets, one false step and you could be flat on your face.

Oh yeah. One more thing. Most parades use a lot of horses to lead. Where there are horses there is…

Recovery time. Four parades over two nights and days equalled about 12 miles. That doesn’t count the dog walks, the walks in parking lots to run errands. And, so on. I spent most of yesterday hurting. You would be right to ask if I shouldn’t train for this sort of thing. You would be wrong to assume that I don’t.

I walk between three to five miles a day. Every day. The dogs won’t allow me not to. I stretch every day. Twice actually. Morning and night. And, I lift light weights every other day. I also watch my caloric intake. And, what’s in those calories.

In my case, aches and pains and recovery time are more about age than anything. I’m not comparing myself to professional athletes, but recovery time and increased training are two reasons why they usual retire before age 40. Many, much earlier than that. That doesn’t count the ones who get injured and are forced to call it quits.

Because of that, I always say that I’m not going to photograph Mardi Gras next year. And, then I do. Imagine that.


Tuba or something like that...
Tuba or something like that…

So. What would you like to know first?

The framing campaign slowed down quite a bit yesterday. That’s okay. I got a lot of likes and a couple of shares for my Indian portrait. I’m always appreciative for that. I always try t let you know that.

This is a sousaphone. Most people just call it a tuba. On the streets, most people know that the tuba starts a second line. It doesn’t matter what you hear first. Somebody yelling, “Let’s start.” Somebody blowing a whistle. Even that little whoop-whoop sound you hear from a police car that is trying to run you over. Oops. I meant pass around you.  None of that matters. The only thing that matters is the sound of a tuba starting the parade. When you hear that you know the parade is starting to roll.

The picture. A detail. I saw the shining brass and I focused on the tuba, er, sousaphone itself. If I would have had a little more time, I would have stopped down and tried to keep everything in sharp focus. As it happened, I’m happy enough to get the repeating circles in sharp focus.

Now please don’t forget. There are 28 days to go in my gallery printing, mounting, matting and glazing donation campaign. I still need your help. Lots of help. See Storyteller on November 4 for the details and for the list of gifts you’ll get when you donate a few dollars.

See directly below for the link to go fund me. Anything helps. It means a lot.

gofundme.com/gk8bajd8


Behind the tuba.
Behind the tuba.

That’s right. Somehow.

I haven’t been working on the streets in a while. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. After missing a few events that I should have photographed, I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to work this second line. Ironically, we got the high-water. We had one of those biblical storms that dropped somewhere around four inches of rain in an hour. Streets flooded. Cars sank. People paddled around some streets in kayaks.

This parade passed by before that happened.

I decided not to be quite as aggressive as I normally am when I photograph these parades. That worked out fine. I could actually see pictures happening in front of me. Sometimes, it’s like being a batter in baseball. I press the button on anticipation of the moment. That’s hard enough to do when you are swinging at a baseball. But, it’s really hard to do when people are singing and dancing. On Sunday, I could see really well. Everything slowed down. I was in the zone.

Of course, that meant that somehow I joined the band rather than stay ahead of it. That was fun. Normally, I work very hard to let the band come to me. That means I’m running to stay out ahead of them. I switched gears. Rather than focus on faces, I just walked with the musicians just as if I was playing an instrument. I started seeing graphic shapes and reflections.

You’re looking at the result. What do y’all think?

Horns.
Horns.


Watch parts.
Watch parts.

This picture is a continuation of an experiment I started sometime last week. The good thing about digital files is that they are easily transportable. You don’t even have to carry any kind of hard drive. They live in a cloud. I download a picture, tinker with it on an iPad or some kind of laptop and put it back where I found it. Eventually, I download it here, to Storyteller. When it’s time.

Oh. Y’all know that a cloud is just a marketing construct? Right? It’s just a server or server farm. You can pretty much make your own.

The picture. The process. The image wasn’t created on the computer. The underlying file is actually a photograph of my dad’s old watch parts. These are gears. Circles. Wheels. On a watch they sort of spin constantly. Rocking back and forth. The help to keep the time. If they stop, time ends. The world comes to an end. No. Not really. Your own personal world might need adjusting. But, that’s nothing new. At least, for me.

All the rest is stuff that came out of my head. In some places they tell you to stay out of your head because it’s a very dangerous neighborhood. Think about that for a moment. `


Marching bands walk through crowded streets to reach their place in a Mardi Gras Parade.
Marching bands walk through crowded streets to reach their place in a Mardi Gras Parade.

Okay. I borrowed the title from Sir Paul. And, his then band, Wings. But, “Band on the Walk”  just doesn’t seem to make it.  This picture sort of illustrates the chaos “backstage” at a Mardi Gras parade. Especially a big one, which is how these things grow as we get closer to the big day, itself. The players — the floats, the bands, the dancers, the flambeaux, the speciality krewes all line up along the four corners of the block from which the parade starts. Between the parade coordinators, the great New Orleans police officers who are assigned to logistics and the participants they manage to merge into the parade from all four corners.

Oh sure. Parades run late. The tractors pulling the floats break down. People get tired. But, it is that time of year. Everybody plays their very best game. The parade handlers make up a little time if they pass by a smallish crowd. There are spare tractors stashed along the parade route. And, adrenaline carries the tired paraders. If it really comes to it, there are EMT units all along the parade route. And, lots and lots of cops. From all across the Louisiana. State Troopers too. There are ben police from out of state who are given some kind of special jurisdiction if they are accompanying some band (usually) from another state. Sheesh. We’ve had both the US Naval Academy and West Point bands here. The Marines that I wrote about last night were visiting from South Carolina. High school and junior college bands come down here too.

So.

This picture. It’s about how high school marching bands make their way down Magazine Street to take their place in the parade. It may look like they are walking on a busy street, but it’s blocked at both ends. The vehicles you see are all official in some way. Even that black Charger is official. It’s an unmarked State Trooper car. And, the vehicle to the far right? It’s a giant RV that is a police mobile command center.

The motion? Well, unless I want to start using flash on these band members, I had very little choice. They wouldn’t appreciate it if I started firing away. And, the picture wouldn’t feel “right” to me. I like the vibrant motion. It helps if you are lucky enough to have some part of the subject in duplicate. Like the tubas.