Potter’s field in New Orleans.

I’m going back.

Carole King wrote it. Just about everybody recorded it. “Going Back.” A song for the ages. A song for me.

I was alright. I’d gotten over the shock. Of the feeling of loss. I knew it wouldn’t last. I didn’t expect it to arrive yesterday.

Here’s what happened.

My old friend and I have mutual friends. One of them was a good friend to me. We haven’t seen each other since the storm. Hurricane Katrina. She moved to North Carolina after the storm and a failed marriage. We do keep in touch. It’s hard not to in these days of every kind of messaging available to us. She texted me. Was I going to the memorial? Yes. Could I pick her up at the airport? Yes. Could she stay with us if have we the room? Oh, we got room.

On August 29th, we observe the 14th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at Buras, Louisiana.

It’s been fourteen years. Since we were driven from out home. Fourteen years since I saw my friend. Other friends. How did that happen? Where did the time go? Did I waste it? Did I just pass it?

Or, did I fill it with work? With fun? With light and love? God, I hope so.

All I know right this minute is something Neil Young wrote.

It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.

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Sunset in a special place.

I don’t often photograph sunsets.

When I do. I either turn around and make a picture of where that glorious golden fell and illuminated something, or I make the foreground dominant. To me, a sunset picture without that is just a postcard. That’s why I photograph power poles. They aren’t pretty but they give the scene some kind of subject. That happens when I’m out-of-place.

On St. Joseph’s Night I was very lucky. I parked my car near the cemetery as I usually do when I work on that side of Central City. I got out of my car and this scene was staring at me. All those crosses. Even the telephone pole seems to fit right in. This is a prime example of photographer’s luck.

I learned something that night. I’ve been calling the side-by-side cemeteries Lafayette No. 2.

Nope.

I saw a brass sign. It is located in a place where you might not look. Those two cemeteries are St. Joseph No. 1 and 2. I’ve been calling them by their wrong names for years. So does the city. So does Google maps. So do the people who live there. It just goes to show you what nobody knows anything. Much.

The picture. I actually made it through a chain link fence. It stuck the lens through one of the links and took the picture. The rest was easy. It almost needed no post production work.

 


A different view.
A different view.

St. Roch.

I’ve written about this place in the past. Mostly, I’ve posted pictures of the offerings of prosthetics and crutches to St. Roch for help with health issues. That’s generally what most people photograph when they come here. Just like most people, I’ve probably photographed the inside of the chapel five or six times. Or, seven. I don’t remember. Too many times.

The story of the cemetery, chapel and grounds is rooted in New Orleans history. It was dedicated as a shrine and cemetery by Rev. Peter Thevis as a way of keeping his promise to St. Roch, the patron saint of good health, for keeping anyone in his parish from dying of two yellow fever epidemics in 1867 and 1878. Although the neighborhood surrounding it was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and there is a general uptick in local crime, the shrine and the cemetery remain a landmark. The neighborhood is not particularly safe. But, walking around inside the grounds is fairly safe. No. I’m not armed when I visit places like this. It doesn’t seem right. Somehow.

Almost in Europe.
Almost in Europe.

The pictures. I had plans of photographing something else. I decided that I didn’t really want to do that… after I arrived in the general neighborhood. That’ll happen sometimes. Since the weather was stunning with almost winter looking light, mild temperatures and no humidity, I started wandering around. I made a lot of pictures that day. I guess I’ve been feeling cooped up for a while and stuff just started flowing.

That’s good for me. That’s good for you.

When I stumbled into this neighborhood — St. Roch. — I decided to photograph the grounds. All of them. This time, a little differently. Usually, I head straight to the chapel and photograph the offerings. That’s the usual picture. Even though it doesn’t look like it, that’s become the “postcard picture.”

Instead, I just walked around the entire area. Inside and out. Like many New Orleans cemeteries, it is divided into a couple of enclosures. They were built as they filled up. I walked around one and then the other. These pictures are the result of not doing the same thing. Not doing the expected. These pictures are the result of following my muse.

Follow your muse. Do something different from your usual work. From everyone’s usual work.


In the neighborhood.
In the neighborhood.

Wandering around. Again.

I made this picture on a day when a storm broke. When the heavy clouds were lifting and the scene was getting a little bright, sparkly and shiny. It’s a cemetery in Uptown. For those who are keeping score, it’s a Jewish cemetery.

But.

This post isn’t about the subject. I like working in cemeteries. Just about everywhere. You already know this.

No. This post is about the next step in mobile image processing. This is about processing RAW files on whatever your portable happens to be. Apple made a big deal of saying that their iPhone 7 or 7s — I forget which — would be able to shoot and process RAW files. But, you had to download software (an app). And, the software isn’t ready yet.

Oh.

I don’t care what Apple does. Eventually, they may change photography again. Just as the smart phone pretty much killed the mid-market point and shoot camera, this might kill the consumer market for dslr cameras. At least for most consumers and some prosumers. But, not for those of us who make our living from our work. I could not imagine showing up for a job and saying to the client, “this is what I shoot with,” and holding up a phone. I guess some younger guys do it. But, I’m not a younger guy.

Anyway.

That doesn’t mean I won’t use the portable tools that are found on an iPhone or iPad. For instance, Snapchat. With their latest upgrade, they added RAW processing. Now we’re talking. For now it’s complicated. For instance, I took this picture with a dslr. I uploaded it to Apple Photos, which for me is another form of cloud storage. It appears on all my computers. From there I processed it on Snapchat, using their RAW processing engine. They also added text in that upgrade. So, I added my copyright symbol and I was done. Since I really do like working on a big computer, I just picked up the finished picture from the Apple Cloud. And, here it is.

I suppose that once the software is available for the latest iPhone the process will get easier. Shoot the picture on the phone. Ignore Apple’s RAW processor and just work in Snapchat. Who knows? A technology win.


Holy storm...
Holy storm…

Big storm comin’. Soon.

Not in New Orleans. Not right now. In this picture. A picture that I made a while back. In New Mexico. Yes. I miss the quality of the light there. It is clean. It is contrasty. It is dry. Without the extreme humidity that we have in the southeast, the sky is bluer since light is not reflecting off of all those microscopic water droplets that really makes up the humidity we feel. Water droplets reflect red light. The light combined with the blue sky makes it look grayish to our eyes. And, so on.

I tinkered with this picture some. But, without its base I could never have played with it enough to make the sky look like it does in the picture.


Graveyard statue.
Graveyard statue.

Back to the desktop. A little more layer experimentation. And, a little less color.

I forget when and where I made the two base images. My guess is that I combined one image from New Mexico and one from Louisiana. I did that a day or two ago.

But.

Even though I store my EXIF data with the image, I do not save location data to the digital file unless I actually make I a finished image for some kind of distribution. Unless, its pure travel or cultural imagery, I reckon the location doesn’t really matter. It’s usually stuck in my head if I need to make an identification.

Anyway.

Lately, I’ve been more about experimenting than making pictures. A least locally. In New Orleans. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. I know I’m motivated to make pictures, but…

Until a few days ago.

I was doing some deep excavation in my archives. For no real reason. I was just sort of poking around. I started looking at pictures that I took four, five, six years ago. I was kind of amazed at the out takes.

Here’s why.

You know my series, “what the dog saw?’ All that stuff on the ground? At her line of sight? Well, guess what? I shot the same kinds of pictures with a different dog. During a different year. At a different location in the city. Some of the images are even framed just like the newer ones.

Huh?

Bottom line. I keep repeating myself on subject matter. I suppose that’s why I’m kind of done with New Orleans culture imagery. That collection is huge. Both in depth and breadth. But, the pictures have very little value outside of New Orleans and the folks who care about it. Even then, nobody really wants to pay for it. That’s not just my issue. That’s an issue across all arts. For me, part of that is okay. My art is what I do for me. Much my craft is done by assignment or commission. Besides, I’m not really trying very hard to sell the pictures you see on Storyteller. What you see here is an example of an old quote. “I have to do one photographic thing every day or I get crazy.”

That’s all I need to know.

 


Dancing on the tombstone.
Dancing on the tombstone.

So. One of you said yesterday’s picture was scary enough.

Ha!

This feels a little more scary to me. And, it’s within about five minutes walking distance from the house. The sign on the gate says plainly, “no dogs.” The dogs go there. No. They don’t do what you are thinking. I make sure of that. They just like to play hide and seek among the tombs. Sometimes, it seems as if they know who is buried in certain tombs. They also seem to have their favorites. Before you think we are the only rule breakers, they also have their favorite dog friends who they meet there. This is New Orleans. Dogs go to coffee shops. And, sit outside with their people.

The picture. More experiments. I’m getting quicker at doing them. I think, the speed mostly because my ability to predict what an image will look and my muscle memory is improving.

Working in the coal mine.
Working in the coal mine.

In case you are wondering why I’m going on about dogs, it’s National Dog Day.  There’s one now. She’s learning about old-fashioned UPI drum scanners. I’m pretty sure that she’s thinking, “Nine minutes to scan and transmit? Huh? I could do that now in a couple of seconds and still eat three biscuits.”


Mile and miles...
Miles and miles…

This is a perfect symbol. An icon. Of the state that I call home.

Louisiana.

Oil. Religion. All in one picture. Well, the oil “bidness” is tanking and the state is broke. That’s not the only reason. But, it certainly doesn’t help. The state is in a deep recession of its own making. And, religion? Well, I’m not going there. I never do. That’s a great way to start a really big argument. Let’s just say, that I’ve never seen so many churches in one place.

But.

I’m thinking it’s time for a change. It’s been rumbling around inside me for a while. The first thing to know, is that I haven’t been working very much. Oh, not in that way. I take plenty of pictures when I’m supposed to. You know, as in being paid to do it. I do my management thing. I rarely have the time to take pictures when I travel because of that management thing, so you think I only work in New Orleans.

I seem to have run into some sort of major block. A good friend of mine says that I may be coming to phase when the place is dead to me. How the hell could New Orleans be dead to anyone? Likely, it’s the other way around. Likely, it’s because I worked everything about three or four times over. This place just isn’t that big. The other day, I had to a file search for a client. You know, stock pictures. But, not the usual stuff. Pictures made my way.  He wanted something that comes down to “The Best of  New Orleans.” My way.

I searched my deeper files. I decided to go back to where I hadn’t been in a while. I dipped back to the year when I first returned. And, then I went forward from there. What I found sort of amazed me. Even though my technique, my style and my post production has certainly improved — practice, practice, practice — the subject matter remains about the same. As Led Zeppelin once sang, “The Song Remains The Same.”

I believe that every artist has to grow and change. Maybe it’s the subject matter. Maybe it’s the place. Sometimes, it’s the style itself. Or, maybe I just need to travel a little bit for myself. I keep talking about road trips, but I have never time to take the ones that I really want to do.

So. We’ll see. I’ll sort it out. I always do. It comes to me in a dream. Or, in the verse of some song. Or, from some other unexpected place. Or, maybe from just writing this. Where I come from, they say to always tell another human being. I just told all of you.

 


Bikes at Lafayette Cemetery No. 2
Bikes at Lafayette Cemetery No. 2

I often return to the scene. Of the crime. Remember the dusky, blue hour picture of Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 that I posted two days ago? I took this picture the next day on Super Sunday as I was leaving. I saw the bikes all lined up in a row. I took a couple of steps back and pushed the button. Just that quick. Just that simple.

Happy Friday. Happy Weekend.