Green knight.

T

here’s no mystery to this picture. See the subject, talk to him for a minute and ask if I could photograph him.

But, I wanted to open up the picture and turn it into something the verges on the edge of high key. That meant dropping out a lot of background detail which I did. By doing that I sort of highlighted the church in the background which made a great background for a green knight.

In fact, the more I look at the picture as I write, the more I think this is a great portrait. It’s not the usual Mardi Gras parade photograph. It’s something else entirely. It almost has a very stylized studio-like feeling. This may be something else to explore a little.

If I do everything I’ve said I wanted to do, I would never have to leave the house again except to go on the road. I doubt that I’ll accomplish everything especially since we just bought the farm.

No. Not that way.

I mean that we just spent a lot of money for a house in the country. And, some land. 80 acres of it.

Something to keep us busy in the new year.


USMC and the Flag.

Wow! What a busy weekend. For the of us who are in New Orleans we are think about the Mardi Gras parades that won’t happen. The celebrations in the quarter that will be muted.

But, wait.

There’s more. We are in the midst of the Lunar New Year. Or, as some say, the Chinese New Year. Gong Hei Fat Choi as they say in Hong Kong. Friday was the actual day, but like Carnival, CNY is celebrated for two weeks.

We are not done yet.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day to y’all. Lot of Valentines in this house.

Normally, on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday we have a big brunch. An open house. Not this year. Our pod is our pod. Our friends and family are not in our pod. Hopefully, on day we’ll all be together. In one extended pod.

In many ways, in New Orleans, this holiday is when the pandemic exploded and surged. I’m not celebrating that. Actually it was a week or two later because Carnival like The Lunar New Year follows the — wait for it — lunar calendar.

According to the traditions of Chinese New Year, you use this time to clean your house, make amends, pay your debits. Then you visit relatives and friends. The people you visit usually give your children Lai See, little red envelopes with money stuffed in them.

All of that sounds like a good idea. Except for the little red envelopes.

Many people use the calendar new year to reassess , make resolutions and set goals. Most of those good intentions are forgotten in about a month. This would be a good time to reassess your reassessments.

And, start again.

USMC. They carry the American flag and lead each parade group. It’s their honor to be there, and it’s our honor to have them.

Some are in dress blues, others are in camo BDUs.

The marines in their BDUs are on the street to help out if there is a problem. No, they are not armed.

I made this picture just as the lead marine was getting ready to unfurl the flag. This is truly photographer’s luck.

Since I don’t machine gun my exposures, and I wait for the decisive moment, I could have just as easily missed my picture.

For this series, I did all the things I do to tone the image down and add some extra artistic stuff to it.

Stuff is right. I don’t know that the work I did adds to the photograph.

You know that Storyteller is just a giant experiment.

For all you know, I’m just a giant experiment.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wear another mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Attempt a giant experiment.


Flambeaux portrait.

Flambeaux. New Orleans is steeped in traditions. I could go on forever, but let’s limit it to the subject at hand.

Once up on a time in the last century twice removed, many streets were not lighted. Black men lit the streets with flaming torches. They worked for tips. They made enough money that there were waiting lists to join the groups. The money was a good part of their income.

Today, there are still sort of informal waiting lists because they still make reasonable money from the tips as they walk the parade route. Of course, the price of tips went up.

The guy in the photograph pretty much posed for me. I gave him five dollars. He expected a good tip and I didn’t think twice.

Make no mistake, this is hot dirty work. Even though the torches have changed a lot and the fires are controlled and inspected by the fire department, the oil which a sort of a jelly, pops and crackles. It drips on the carrier.

Most people hand the tips directly to them, but some just toss coins on the street. Imagine holding the torch and stopping to pick up the money.

Then, there is the route. It’s about twelve miles long. Do you think that you could carry a hot, heavy torch for twelve miles? I’m pretty sure that I can’t carry it twelve feet.

Of course, this is a no parade year. These guys, along with many, many others, are losing a lot of money. Sometimes, there are different online events held to raise money for unemployed workers.

I doubt anybody thinks about these guys. Or, just about anybody who helps the parades roll. Hourly workers and contract workers don’t get paid.

Despite the creativity of many New Orleans people, somethings just won’t get done. This is one of them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Eat your spinach.

Night photography. I say that I made my career doing it.

After years of practicing night work I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

It’s really a matter of doing it over and over until the technique becomes second nature.

If you struggle to make picture, guys like this know it and walk away.

They would rather make money than stand around waiting for some photographer to figure out to take the picture.

These days, because of digital photography, night photography has gotten easier.

I usually set the ISO at auto because the camera’s light meter is far more accurate than the photographer picking an ISO.

My goal is to work at a shutter speed of 1/250th or higher. I don’t care about the f stop as long as I can make a good exposure.

Of course, the flames of the torches light up the immediate area so that proper exposures are easy to make.

The rest was done in post production. A strange thing happened to the subject.

The subject’s eyes are tack sharp. By the time WordPress compressed the image his eyes were made a little soft.

Aaarrrggg.


Down to the start of the parade.

The trolls are coming out of the woodwork the closer we get to Fat Tuesday.

One guy said that he had just arrived in New Orleans. He asked what there was to do. Many, many, many people replied sincerely.

Something felt off so I went to his Facebook page. He lives in Chalmette, a whole 12 miles away from the French Quarter. Or, about three miles from the Orleans Parish border.

I called him out. Normally, I wouldn’t be bothered. But, all these well meaning folks were answering him and they needed to know.

Worse?

He’s a Mormon from Utah. He moved here to do church service.

This is a daily occurrence.

Here’s one more. This will make you laugh.

A young woman posted in comments asking why many sports teams are changing their names and logos.

In baseball, the Cleveland Indians already removed their logo, Chief Wahoo, and are changing their name. In football, The Washington Redskins are changing their name. They had temporary name last season. They were called The Washington Football Team.

In Atlanta, The Braves are talking to tribal leaders. I don’t know about The Kansas City Chiefs.

Anyway.

She wanted to know why all these teams were destroying history. To give credence to her question she claimed to be a “Native American.” She has a name similar to mine.

Oh no you don’t.

The first telling clue is that Indians do not want to be called Native Americans. They prefer to be called American Indians. That name is more accurate and they believe that true natives are likely not Indians at all.

We tend to worry about the big liars. Trump. Bannon. Robert Kennedy Jr.

But, what about the little liars who do it everyday as easy as they breath?

What do we do? Banning people from social media really is a slippery slope. For sure, because social media companies are private there is no First Amendment protection. But, when do they become dictatorial enforcers?

Nobody, not me, not you, has the time to read comments and correct them. Besides, nobody reads or cares anyway.

Still, the misinformation percolates to the surface.

When marching bands get ready to roll in a parade they have to come from wherever they were rehearsing.

If you’ve been out on the parade route in the past you know ever these places are.

I sat on a porch making pictures and talking to the kind folks who let me sit there.

I made this during my time of extreme pain. I barely could walk for more than a few minutes. Luckily, that issue was repaired.

When I started working on this project I selected this picture almost immediately. I wanted to really rework it. I guess I did that.

I started in Snapseed and finished in OnOne. Actually, most of the work was done in OnOne. I need some applications that only they provide.

Keeping at least some of the band from becoming a solid mass of shadow was challenging.

That’s it.

There are five more parade days during which no parades will roll.

Just as well, the weather is changing from mild to frozen in just a few days. If the weather folks are right, the temeprature on Fat Tuesday will be around 20 degrees with rain, sleet and a possibility of snow.

I’m leaving. If I could, I would.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Get your vaccine, and still… Stay safe. Stay strong. Yada, yada, yada.


Mardi Gras 1 Krewe of Cleopatra

Light and color. Rather the lack of color. I always say that when you have to explain the picture that you didn’t do a good job.

I guess I didn’t.

It’s two members of the Krewe of Cleopatra dancing in the street. I guess what I really like is the movement passing through the very muted color.

That brings me to this little nugget.

We have reached a point where many artists of all stripes are not doing the work for the works sake. They are doing it to breakout, to make a lot of money, to attract a crowd.

I saw that during the half time show during the Super Bowl. The Weeknd might as well phoned it in from home. Oh, wait, what? He didn’t?

He’s a good musician. His music isn’t exactly my style, but it’s good. It does remind of the old days, when Smokey, The Temps, and the Supremes (Yes, I know. We lost one today.) ruled the air waves.

You wouldn’t have known that on Sunday night. It may have been technical issues, but that gets no pass from me. When touring musicians can get the sound right on the same day they go on stage, surely the Super Bowl techs can get it right in a week.

I heard a very weak and flat singer. For many younger musicians the Super Bowl halftime show is a chance to break out into audiences they might not normally access. He didn’t do that.

I was excited. For years the half time shows were performed by the ancients of the music industry. I suppose after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, they planners wanted to play it safe. After all, who wants to see a half naked Paul McCartney?

This all dovetails into my original premise. Doing it for the money doesn’t really get you there. Doing it for your art leads to edgy work, breakthroughs and — wait for it — big money.

That just wasn’t the intent. Expressing yourself honestly and authentically was. That’s one of the reasons that I intentionally stay away from gear reviews. There are websites that began as blogs that talk about gear. They have company sponsorships, they receive gear to review, they get paid for promotions.

I’d like all that stuff too. But, I’d rather stay close to my vision.

Besides, I’m not a gear head.

The right hand column. It’s the technical column. I suppose today’s will be fairly short.

There just isn’t much to what I did. Come to think of it, there rarely is much to my work.

I’m a fairly simple photographer. Even when I use assistants and lights and remotes, my pictures are simple.

So.

I found the picture in my archives. It was made in my usual style. It was bright. The motion was fairly defined.

When I removed the color the edges blurred to become unrecognizable.

When I finished the work I thought, wow, that really works.

On here, not so much.

There’s a technical reason for that. Just like Facebook, WordPress squeezes the hell out of the highlights and shadows. That’s what we are seeing here.

I usually do work arounds to account for that. I thought that I did. Apparently, it isn’t enough.

Oh well. It’s that perfection thing again.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Don’t squeeze your highlights.


A day of reflection, a day of hope.

Farther along and further in. Those words are about learning, reflection, truth and peacefulness. That’s what today is about.

We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. There is a lot we can do or not do. I started this day with — what else — a dog walk. I made a few pictures. You know me. The work is the prayer. The prayer turned into a sort of meditation.

Reflection.

Where to go from this place in time. Not necessarily about my work. More about me and my place in the universe. I looked at my past, not to worry about it, but as a guide post to my future.

What kind of person do I want to be? I think that I know, but a little thought always helps as long as I don’t obsess about it. How can I help? How can I be of service?

That’s just the start.

In a little while I’ll help clean up a stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central City. You know, the work is the prayer.

The hood. My hood. Where I photograph second lines, Black Masking Indians, Zulus and Mardi Gras. Where I eat BBQ sausages. And, talk to the folks who live there.

And, then back to work. You know…

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Do a little reflection.

Street portraits. For me they are easy to do. But, I talk to the people that I photograph. I don’t work from across the street. I learn their names and why they are doing what they do.

That’s how you do it.

Anything else is just cultural theft.

So.

The picture is small because I made it for another project with a maximum size.

No matter.

The picture is really about this young man’s eyes. And, maybe the flag.

I made this photograph while we were waiting for a Mardi Gras parade to start. It’s the best I could since I was very young when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I never had the chance to photograph him.

That’s how it goes sometimes. You do the best you can with what you have.


 

Street portrait of a captain.

Back on track, I’d say.

I’m not that back on track. I thought that I’d written and posted this. Unfortunately, I fell back asleep before I completed this. I walked a lot last night. You know. Five parades. 164 floats. A billion beads. Not as many people as I thought would come out.

All that walking took its toll. First, my hip started killing me. Then, the pain moved to my knee. Luckily, I was able to depend on the kindness of strangers. They let me sit on their stoops, their porches and even on the bumpers of their trucks.

But.

That’s not all. Walking in pain is very tiring. More so than just walking. So, I decided to mostly rest today. The parades that I were interested in photographing have long departed, but are still an hour or two from Canal Street, another good place to work if you can stand the throngs of people competing for beads. Because of the pictures I’d like to make, that’s not a big concern for me.

However.

Now that we are in the heart of the season, parking will be dear or non-existent. Normally, I’d just park in Treme and walk over. And, walk over. I’m not so sure about that. Walking over.

Unfortunately, this parade season is my last. Unless there is a real fix to my issues other than masking them with pain meds, I can’t do this again. That’s sad because I’ve pretty much given up second lines. I’ll likely photograph this years two Eastbank Super Sundays, but that too, will be it.

There’s plenty of stuff to photograph, even without travel. I could document everything in New Orleans and never, ever be finished. That won’t require the long walks that the culture events do. I’ll still walk some. The dog who see things requires it. Those are slow and gentle walks, with places to sit if I need to do that.

The picture. I guess because I carry myself like I look like I know what I’m doing, people take me seriously. I stopped this krewe leader and asked him to just look at me. This took maybe 30 seconds, and I thanked him. See you later. Happy Mardi Gras.

I was exchanging comments with another photographer/poet. She would like to do some street photography but working in a people-driven genre sort of scares her.

I suppose that it’s something learned. I’m sure that because I’ve done it for so long, I don’t think twice about making pictures of people. I usually kiddingly say that with a camera in my hand I’m Superman.

 


Waiting to start.

I’m sort of at a loss what to call this mini portfolio.

It’s mostly about how people — both krewes and spectators — prepare to roll or catch beads. I call this collection, “Standing Aside,” but that’s not exactly right. I suppose it doesn’t matter. The pictures are of things that I saw during the first couple of days of the Uptown parades.

This is about it for now.

Luckily, there are two big parades tonight night.  The Krewes of Druids and Nix. Both ar great fun. Both roll from the same place, making my life easy. I should be able to make some memorable pictures. Hopefully, that will make all of you smile.

That’s about it. I need to start getting my head on straight. You know. First, I plan. Then, I try to forget everything. The last part seems to be getting easier. Heh!

A little touch up.


The eye.

I thought I would do something different today.

We, in New Orleans, have started our celebrations for Carnival.  So, that’s in my head. It’s also a way to get out of a dark place. The one that is influenced by the real world as opposed to the fantasyland that we live in on a daily basis.

I also realized that because of the way I publish multiple pictures some of you might not have seen them. There are also a lot of you who are new to Storyteller. You’ve never seen them. You should see them.

The pictures on this page were made during Mardi Gras 2019. That was the year I mostly spent my time at a Mardi Indian wedding on Mardi Gras Day. Enjoy.