To me, this take is amazing. It is still part of the 45 minute dusk shoot that I had in Cairo. In that short time, I pretty much made pictures that capture the sense and feel of a long road trip. I kept saying that I was “photographically fulfilled,” which is a riff from “musically fulfilled.” I can’t help saying that. I was. And, it was pretty amazing. It normally would take me days to make these pictures. It was either photographer’s luck times ten, or I was just full of energy after driving about 9 hours. And, I released it all in one go.
These pictures are pretty much what I saw. I added a few different techniques in post production, but that was just for fun. The pictures could stand on their own. In fact, the picture I call “The Real Thing,” does stand on its own. No added extras. Just a little cleaning up. But, that’s normal. Nothing comes out of a digital camera that is ready for prime time.
One more thing. I thought that I would be showing you pictures of Mardi Gras Indians and Super Sunday. But, the Indians postponed it because of predicted rain. Of course, there was no rain today. Something is blowing in tonight and the temperature should drop into winter highs. So, they say.
I wasn’t sure what to publish next, but there were a couple of comments on Facebook and here that sort of guided my way. My friend Greg Gross, who publishes a great travel blog called, I’m Black and I Travel at http://www.imblackanditravel.com made a few comments about the history of Cairo. I had no idea of its history. Whew. It also explains a lot of what I saw in my brief time there. Then, another friend — Penny Speaker — asked if I was going to publish more pictures from Cairo. I replied that I wasn’t sure since I spent all of about an hour working there. And, while I was working I was strapped to a puppy. But, he is cool. He let me work a little.
But, as I curated my work (such a pretentious word for editing a bunch of pictures) I realized that I actually made a nice little collection of pictures in about an hour. I was lucky. Very lucky. Photographer lucky. I had nice clean winter light. And, I managed to arrive around dusk so that I could make “my pictures.” So, a few more images of my time in Cairo, Illinois. Ha! Most of my time was spent looking after a puppy and sleeping.
This picture. I was standing on what they call a levee, looking north towards the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The sun is setting toward the left. The right place. My left is west. That’s right. Isn’t it? You know that I get confused easily. The color was pretty wonderful. Better yet, I did very little to the color in post production. I really like it when nature does the work. Seems better to me that way. I did add a bit of softness to the picture because there was a bit of ground fog that the camera’s sensor didn’t quite pick up.
Finally. More color. This is a strange little place. It’s been a bar, a restaurant and now a florist shop. The front is okay. But the back is so New Orleans that I photograph it almost every time I pass by. Since it’s located in my neighborhood — sort of — I can walk to it. Then I can stop for flowers, or if I keep walking, a meal or ten and… wait for it… coffee.
The picture was made near dusk. I helped the colors a little bit because the camera’s sensor just couldn’t match the real thing.
A little housekeeping. I’m going to take about a week break from posting. Nothing big really. I’m transporting a four-month old Yorkie puppy to my friends in Michigan. It’s really only about a two-day drive, but I want to get him to his new home as quickly as possible. Riding in a car all day is no place for a puppy. But, on the way back I’ll take my time and make some road pictures, some winter pictures and some pictures of different junk. Normally, I do this sort of thing very seamlessly and I never say a word. When we were touring so hard, I’d come home on our breaks and work hard in New Orleans so that I could position myself as a New Orleans photographer. Whatever I photographed on the road was used for different projects or posted here later.
Not this time. I want to care good care of the puppy and just work on making pictures without rushing back to my motel to process and post something. I might make a few iPhone pictures and maybe I’ll post those, but that’s about it.
Magazine Street. We live within walking distance. Like ten minutes time. We are lucky. Very lucky. I know that. When we want a coffee or a meal, we just go for a walk. When the dogs go walking, they pick up bones from the staff at famous restaurants. I have no idea if they know they are lucky. But, they sure are happy dogs. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not bragging about any of this. I know I’m lucky. I’ve lived in a lot of places. I haven’t like all of them. But, I like it here.
That’s about all I can tell you. I have to dig much deeper in order to write much more.
That said, I wanted to write about the history of Magazine Street. After all, it stretches from Leake Avenue near the Mississippi River, past Audubon Park and all the way to Canal Street, where it turns into Decatur Street as it passes through The French Quarter. There are three miles of shopping, eating, looking and browsing. The restaurants range from little hole in the wall dives — my favorites — to world-class fine dining establishments. The street ranges from down in the mouth as it heads downtown to very upscale as it heads upriver.
You can read all of that on any tourist website or by reading a guidebook.
I’d hoped to write a bit of history of the street. The best I could find is that it was either named after an ammunition magazine or a warehouse established by the former governor of Kentucky in a deal with the Spanish government who ruled Louisiana at the time. Hence, Magazine was named after the warehouse which, in Spanish, is magazin or almazon. But, that’s it.
So, let me tell you bit of the history of Uptown and The Garden District. Originally, a good part of Uptown was a separate municipality called Lafayette. It was laid out by Barthelemy Lafon, the surveyor of Lafayette under the guidance of Pierre-Benjamin Buisson as a semi-urban system of parks, fountains and canals. Buisson had once served under Napoleon and so many of the streets were named after important Napoleonic battles. Jena, Milan, Marengo and Berlin among them. When town of Lafayette was annexed by New Orleans in 1852, it was still governed as a separate city. The Garden District was developed between 1832 and 1900. It was originally laid out as a neighborhood for wealthy newcomers who did not want to live with the Creoles in The French Quarter. Originally, it was part of the City of Lafayette, but was annexed by New Orleans in 1852 at the same time Lafayette was annexed, two years before our house was built. What I didn’t know is that our house lies directly on the border between the Garden District and Lower Garden District.
That’s all I know. For now.
The picture. I made it on the day of the crazy winter light. As much as it might look like it, this picture was not enhanced in Photoshop, Lightroom or anything else. Yes. I cleaned it up a bit. I sharpened it a bit. I added a little softness but I did not tune up the color. There was no need to. The crazy winter light did it for me. It also explains why I was driving at the time the picture was made. I chased light all over Central City, The CBD and finally ended up back in my neighborhood.
Compared to yesterday’s post, the train on this page is downright modern. It runs and it runs pretty quickly. It’s headed someplace west. How far? I don’t really know. I made this picture on the Westbank near Avondale where big ships are built. Oops. Where big ships were built. The last US Navy vessel left last week. The shipyard is very quiet now. I’ve heard different stories about the next phase, but for now the shipyards are quiet. But, the railroads aren’t. They are always busy.
Here’s why. If you ever look at a Google map of GNO — Greater New Orleans — you’ll realize that in many ways we are a giant rail yard. Freight trains move through the region heading in all directions. East, West, North and deeper South. The main yards are scattered all over the place.They all come together — sort of — in New Orleans where engines owned by me — well, the public — hustle freight cars all over the place and get them headed in the right direction. That company is called The New Orleans Public Belt. Yes. It really is owned by us. Their livery is bright red and white. The engines look to be in really good condition. They are always busy working between the New Orleans yards and all of the freight sheds along the docks. Don’t forget. We are a port city too.
This picture was made on one of those days that I was chasing the light. I decided to cross the river on the Huey P. Long Bridge and look down along River Road. The other River Road. The one on The Westbank. Even though it is still bit of an urban area, it turns into country pretty quickly. I like that. In a 15 minute drive, I can be in another place. I don’t need to travel anymore. Yeah. Like that’s gonna happen. I even passed through the small town of Westwego. Wanna guess how that town got its name? I’ll tell you at the end of this piece.
The picture. It was red light picture. I had to wait so I went to work. I took my time getting to the actual red light. Nobody was behind me so it didn’t matter. I softened the overall feel of the picture to reflect what the light really looked like at the time. That’s a lot of what I do with my work in post production. I try to give you the sense of what I felt.
Westwego. Say it out loud and I think you’ll get it. But, here goes. There was a freight yard and passenger station at a little town called Salaville, named after Pablo Sala who owned and divided the plantation of Seven Oaks into $40 plots of land which became the town. When travelers at the station were asked where they were going, they would reply, “west we go.” The name stuck. There are other stories about how the city was named, but that’s the most well-known one. That’s the truth. I’m sticking to it.
I’ve walked by this place maybe 3,473 times and I’ve never stopped to photograph it. Well, that’s not true. I stopped in there on a Lonely Planet assignment maybe a decade ago. It’s a sort of combination book, art, curio and antique store. The owners have probably changed the product line a couple of times since I was there. But, that’s not what drew me to it a few nights ago.
No. Not their goods. Their lights.
Like a two-year old child I’m drawn to color and light. I’ve never seen it so lighted like this. I’m not exactly sure what holiday they are celebrating. But, does it matter? We are into Carnival Season, but we aren’t quite to the point where everything is draped in gold, green and purple. We are just moving away from the Christmas Season, so some places still have their Christmas decorations lingering. This place looks like it has a little of everything. That’s great for me. Colorful pictures that amuse a two-year old. But, that’s not all. There is that nice warm window light which is complimented by the blue of the dusk sky. Everything comes together nicely.
That’s the thing about New Orleans. When everything comes together, the place is wonderful. When it doesn’t, well, it isn’t so wonderful… maybe like any place else, except just more extreme.
Yes. You’ve seen both of these locations in the past. But, these pictures are new. I promise. In my house the phrase “I promise” means a lot. I suppose there is a reason that the oldest section of New Orleans is called The French Quarter, or in French, Vieux Carre. It was originally… wait for it… French. But, much of the architecture is not. Back in the day, the Quarter burned many times. The resulting architecture is actually Spanish except for here or there. And, of course, a lot of American and Federal architecture. But, that came later.
But these two places, Pirate Alley and the one apartment building on Royal Street that I keep returning to, look so French that sometimes if I let my mind wander, I think I’m in Paris. So, I return there on my walks through the Quarter. Of course, the poodle knows these routes too. So he leads me. He’s French. He knows. I just follow him and push buttons. That’s just a riff on an old Jerry Seinfeld joke.
What’s different about them? Why take them again? Well. The apartment building has Christmas lights on it. One weak little string. I don’t know if the resident is afraid of burning down the building, or he doesn’t care or what. But, it struck me as, well, I don’t know. Maybe ironic? Maybe a little sad. I’m just guessing. He, or she, may be a quirky millionaire for all I know. But, he does have a garden hose draped down from the floor above the balcony. What’s that about?
Pirate Alley is a little different from my last version of it. There’s a person huddled against the cold, talking on her cellphone. It is not as graphic as my last offering. This version is a little more “street.” You can see a little more of the place. It also isn’t quite as colorful, with the dominating red light.
They say that the best pictures come when you really know a place. You move from the predictable to something a little more special. I suppose that’s what I’m trying to do. Eventually I’ll get it.
I needed a little break from the holiday. So I took the poodle and went for a walk in The French Quarter. I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in some other place and I told him I was doing that. He seemed amazed. Going to The French Quarter for most of the world means flying from somewhere else, and hiding out in a hotel. Us? It’s a ten minute drive. I haven’t felt much like making pictures lately. I don’t know why. So main intent was to have a nice walk. But, I always carry a camera. The air was brisk and chilly. The light was just about right and I started making a few snaps. The next the thing I knew I was actually having a little fun.
The Quarter was very crowded. I couldn’t figure it out. The people seemed more touristy than usual. They were getting lost, wandering into the street to almost be run over by a mule drawn carriage. Or, by a speeding taxi. Some were standing on darkened streets trying to figure out how to use Google maps, all the while risking something bad because they looked lost. When I see that, I generally I ask if they need help. The Quarter may look like an adult Disneyland, but it can get a little dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing and look a little lost.
Anyway, it finally came to me. The Quarter was crowded because there were all sorts of people in town for a big football team game at The Superdome. Two out-of-town football teams. Grambling and Southern, or something like that. Normally I stay away from crowds. But, not tonight. I’m glad I stayed around. I made a lot of good pictures including these two which just seem a little sparkly and colorful to me. Maybe it’s the magic of the season. I don’t always see The Quarter this way. Often, to me, it is gritty and dirty.
The pictures? Oh, they are simple. See light, frame the picture, push the button. Not much post production. Mostly just to give the pictures the sparkly, gem like quality that I saw.
It’s a funny thing. Second line parades can pop up anywhere, and at any time, in New Orleans. Sometimes, they are small neighborhood affairs. Sometimes, they are massive planned events. And, sometimes they are corporate affairs performed for a special event or company. That’s what this one was. These guys were working for a corporate convention. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. The music sounds the same. The parade feels the same. And, there is one more thing. It is so cool watching the look on people’s faces who have never experienced an event like this before. They are amazed. It shows.
So. This picture. There is an old saying that was passed on to me by an old and very good friend. “Sometimes your best picture isn’t your sharpest picture.” That’s certainly the case here. Hearing those words rattle around in my head helps when it comes to editing. Er, curating. I have a couple of frames that are sharp as a tack. The lead trombone player’s eyes are tack sharp. His glasses could cut ice. But, it doesn’t seem to have the intimacy that this picture does. So, I choose this one to show you. I’ll eventually send both versions to my agency. They’ll let the client decide.
Having said that, this picture was made with a 16mm lens. Okay, with the crop factor, it sees about like a 24mm lens. Still that puts me awfully close to the action. How close, exactly? Well, the lead trombone player had to turn if he wanted to fully extend his instrument. That’s why the three musicians look so compressed. They were trapped in a semi-enclosed space with me in the front of them. I’m not sure they liked that. But, as with most things New Orleans, we all worked around it. I made my picture. They played their songs. The crowd was happy. They must have been. They were all dancing.