The scary Quarter.

Spooky. Scary. That’s the season. The season of the witch. It’s really scary around swampville today. Sometime early in the morning my phone went crazy with a 36 hour hurricane warning. You have no idea how it feels when you get any kind of notification like that. Your heart pounds. You are wide awake. Your brain is moving too fast. And, then they say that we may have to evacuate.

Hahahaha.

Evacuate to where? In the season of the other witch — CoVid-19 — where do we go? Anyway, this storm has moved slightly to the east, but we will get hit pretty hard. We have no idea about is strength. Yet. It has to pass over the gulf, which is still very hot with summer’s heat. That charges it.

I already know the answer to my next question. And, I don’t like it.

I have a 505 area code. New Orleans has a 504 area code. My code is from our sojourn to the high desert in New Mexico after Hurricane Katrina did its thing. How did I receive an alert that is relevant to the 504 area code?

That’s easy. The least invasive is Google. I use Google Maps and their direction service. Google knows where I am. So does Apple and Samsung. I don’t like it, but that’s on me. Telling them where I’m located makes life easier.

The alert didn’t come from any of them. It came from the feds, through NOAA. They track my movements too. I read a piece in the New York Times, by Kara Swisher, who has been doing heavy digital studies for twenty years. She said that the government knows where we are every moment of every day. Mostly, they just collect the data. Sometimes they use what they’ve collected. This was one of those times. At least it’s for good.

But, what if it’s not? People were fighting against leaving their contact information at restaurants in case someone got sick and they needed to do some contact tracing. Who cares, we already are known to the people that matter.

Ms. Swisher said the only way to beat what amounts to a huge invasion of privacy is to buy a “burner” phone and only use it to make calls. You should also use an alias. After a few calls, dump it and start again. If you buy a smartphone and use it to check your email, or go to social sites you are immediately known.

Some life, eh?

Halloween and the picture. I haven’t been photographing a lot of holiday stuff lately so this is a retread. But, I’ve always really liked this picture. I made it the Quarter. Originally, it was in glorious color. But, when I experimented with it, I found that I liked this version a whole lot better.

Normally, I would photograph the Krewe of Boo. That’s cancelled this year for obvious reasons. Assuming we don’t take to big of a hit from the storm, I may wander around the Quarter looking for new and even more scary pictures on Halloween. We’ll see.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance.


In between light and dark.

In between.

At the edges. Where the good stuff lurks. Where our imaginations create stuff. Where our dreams arise. Where nightmares come into being.

That’s why I like making pictures like this one. At night. Or, dusk. Things are lurking in the darkness. In the shadows. You can see some of it, but not all. You have to guess. Use your senses. Interpret. What you see is not what someone else sees. What they see may not be there at all.

Pictures like this one are scary. Or, not. They are moody. Or, not. They might even be artistic. Or, not.

Most of the time, their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

All of this is why I look at paintings rather than photographs for inspiration. It’s why I read rather than look at pictures if I am traveling to a place. I’d like my imagination to kick in, rather than look at what’s already been done. I think that I can get closer to the edge that way. As musician Neil Young once said, “whenever I find myself in the middle of the road, I head straight to the gutter where things are more interesting .”

Me too. Not all of the time. But a lot of it.

The picture. The usual thing. See it. Photograph it. Make it what I saw while I was working in the field. I do that in post production if the camera’s technology can’t keep up with my mind. The computer’s can.

Happy Sunday.


Into the darkness.

What do you see? At night? When you are alone?

What do you imagine? Late at night? When nobody is around? Do you worry about your bills? About the next day? Maybe even the ultimate thing — dying? Does that make you fearful? Does it scare you? Does it excite you?

I’ve been reading some posts from friends. On Facebook. On Twitter. Even a few on Instagram.

Some are about loneliness. Some are about the long cold night. Some are about a day. Good or bad. Some are just saying good night. Some are about not being able to fall asleep. Some are about having somebody to talk to at 3am. Online.

I have no answers to these questions. Or, the posts.

I have my own late night issues. Mostly, I’m just not a great sleeper. It’s not worry. Even about the great ending. I’ve always reckoned that we all have to pass sometime. I just don’t sleep sometimes.

I have my own ways of dealing with it. When I know I have to get up early, it’s in pill form. Sometimes, it’s just simple carb loading and decline. Sometimes, not wanting to disturb anybody, work helps. Usually, in the studio. Once in a great while, I go outside and look around. I make pictures. At 2 am. Or, 3 am. I’m sure if a neighbor saw me, the local cops would appear asking me what I was doing.

That’s how this picture came to be.

Not sleeping. Walking. Looking. Seeing. Making a picture or two. Let me tell you, things get spooky out there. At about 3 am. In the darkness. Well after dark. Way before dawn.

Now you are wondering, I think. How is the tree lighted? It’s an urban area. The light comes from a street light. Shining from across the street. With a nice long exposure, I was able to put enough light on the sensor to illuminate the tree. The bare tree. The moody tree. The spooky tree.

In order to get my head in the right place to talk to you, I listened to Spirit. From an album called, “The Family That Plays Together.” For the more youthful of you who read Storyteller, I’m fairly sure you never heard of them. For the folks around my age, you still might  have never heard of them. They were only around for maybe five years. The album that I’m playing was recorded in 1969. Some members left. New players joined the band. Eventually the band splintered into a bunch of other bands. They are like branches of a musical tree.

That was a time.

Creativity burbled up from an underground spring. It carried on through the 1970s. Music changed. Art changed. It changed many people. I changed me. It brought me to where I am today.

Today, everybody is a musician, a photographer, a writer, a chef. That’s okay. But, really? There isn’t enough people to consume all of the new work. Not that they would. Because the new creators want everything right now. They don’t want to pay their dues. To learn. To grow. To practice. To grow some more. They’ll tell you that they don’t need a gatekeeper because the want to keep control of their work.

Seriously? Truth be told, they’d love a gatekeeper. Alas, much of their work doesn’t cut it. It isn’t good enough for mass sales. Make no mistake, sales aren’t everything. But, that’s how you put food on the table. And, sales mean that people are doing something with your work. They are seeing it. They are liking it. They want more. That’s the trick. Do something so well that your readers, fans, viewers, want more.

That.

That is why I work hard every day. Why I do what I do. Everyday.

What about you?

Sure. I get it. Day jobs. Paying the bills. Putting the food on the table.

But.

I hope that you think about your passion daily. After dinner, family time, good night-time to children. I hope that you do whatever you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be taking pictures at 3am. It could be watching a movie to study the cinematics. To look at how light is used. To see beginnings, middles and ends. Just to learn.

Learn. There’s my word for the year. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t force it. It just sort of came.

Apparently, I’ve ingested it. It’s my word for the year. It rises up out of the primordial mists that make up my brain, heart and soul. It’s right where I want it. I don’t think about it. It’s just there. There for whenever I need it.

And, you?


Adding just a little.

A little mystery.

When I was a young photographer, a mentor told me to imagine how a picture might be used when you are actually making it. He was referring to working on location and having a little trouble seeing the end result. For instance, that might mean leaving a lot of “dead space” toward the top of the picture so that type might be overlayed on a potential magazine cover. Or keeping the subject in the center so you can crop and give the final image some shape.

That’s two examples. There are many more.

Today, you can do that in post production. In the old days we worked in wet darkrooms and it was hard to do some of the things we do today. And, color was something very special.

So.

With this image, I tried to see a book cover. The leaves might be symbolic flames. Some of the reddish-orange might have to be toned down some in order to drop in some type. Especially at the top. Or not. That’s my mental exercise. Nothing more. In real life, a designer or art director gets involved at this stage.

What kind of book? Oh, I don’t know. Something gothic, maybe spooky, maybe one of those first person tales that starts off slow and builds into something terrible… that turns out to only have occurred in the author’s mind. I love those. Did it really happen? Or, didn’t it?

Something like that.

The picture. Since I’ve already discussed my thinking, this is just about technique. It was made in very low, dusk light. The image started out dark because of that. I made it a little darker in post production. I also made it glow in post. I made another, somewhat lighter version, but I like the glow in this one better.


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.


Mostly Bokeh.
Mostly Bokeh.

The experts tell you not to make a picture that is all bokeh.

So you know what I did. Immediately.

Simply put, bokeh is the out of focus area in the background of a picture. It’s a Japanese word gone wild.

The key is to leave something kind of recognizable in the background. Hopefully, you can see shapes of buildings out there in all that softness.


Mule drawn carriage rolls by on Royal Street.
Mule drawn carriage rolls by on Royal Street.

Seems like I make some of the pictures that I like best on the way to some place else. This is picture was made on Royal Street as we walked back to the car after making all those Harvest Moon lighted pictures. It was one of my last for the night. There were actually a couple of carriages rolling down the street and I just couldn’t resist doing my version of an old, but effective motion study. Somebody asked, on Facebook, if I use a tripod when I shoot this kind of picture. Nope. I depend a lot on my body’s own natural motion to contribute to the painterly feel of the picture. Work at a low enough shutter speed and you can’t help but capture some of that. And, that’s what you are seeing here. Well, partially. Even with a tripod, because of the slow shutter speed needed to work in a pretty dark place, there would still be a lot of motion blur. But, there wouldn’t be a very slight up and down movement that you perceive in this picture.  Yes. I like Royal Street much better than I like Bourbon Street. Even though it still attracts a fair amount of tourists, it is quieter and not quite so honky-tonk. Well. Not at all honk-tonk.


Night NOLA-3
Night Time At The Interstate

Night NOLA-5
Lots of Rain. Really.

So. It’s Spring in New Orleans. That means lots of hard rain. Lots of clouds. And, in between a little bit of sunshine. I decided to photograph some of that as I was driving from one place to another. As I have written in the past, DON’T YOU DO IT. It’s not a very safe thing to do even if you do it the way that I do, which means I never look through the camera and I do not take my eyes off the road. That’s why I make some oddly cocked angles when I do make pictures this way. For me, those angles add to the picture because it really happened that way I photographed it. The secondary point is to make these kinds of pictures without killing myself or others. Maybe, that’s the entire point.

Philosophically, if you believe the journey matters than you have no other choice. Driving in rain or at night is part of the journey. The shooting technique is simple. Set the camera to make it do what you want it to do. Point it and press the button. Yes. The ultimate point and shoot. Or, the ultimate drive by shooting because nobody gets hurt. Oddly, I license a lot of these kinds of pictures. They usually are used for motion or something about the act of traveling or even a kind of urban study. I’d keep making them even if I didn’t get paid.


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The bridge over the Mississippi River.

I really like this bridge. It was one of the few bridges in the world were it trains look like they are flying. And, from the right angle, you really think that they do. This is The Huey P. Long Bridge. Locals call it “The Huey P.” It was completed in 1935 to replace The Walnut Street Ferry. It was named after the late governor who was assassinated eight months before the bridge was completed. It’s history is very interesting. Southern Pacific Railroad proposed the bridge in 1892. With the development of The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, a state constitutional amendment was passed giving the City of New Orleans the right to build and operate the bridge even though the bridge is really located in Jefferson Parish. Design began in 1925 and a few pilings were driven into the river to allow the congressional authority to continue. Financial problems during the depression cause further delay. The construction finally started in 1932. It continued for three years with few problems. In 2006, major reconstruction began which created wider lanes and other structural changes.  It is just now nearing completion. The picture was actually made in a place where seven years ago I couldn’t have driven.

This is how things kinda go around here. It only took 43 years from the original proposal to completion of the bridge. Prior to reconstruction, plenty of people drove across it. But the lanes were very narrow having been designed for 1930s car and trucks. Think about it. Some of those double duallies and Hummers take up both of those 1935 era lanes just to drive in a straight line.

Anyway. Before I go on an anti-big pickup truck rant…

The picture was made on one of the new sections of the roadway leading from the bridge to The Eastbank of the Mississippi River. I couldn’t have done this a couple of years ago. Once you get used to this new route it really is quiet smooth. But, the freight train above me is running on rails that haven’t changed since the 1930s. Yes. Of course, they been well maintained and some rails have probably been removed and replaced. But, the basic configuration is still the same. Me? It’s another of my “through the windshield pictures.” Hold the camera steady on the dashboard and push the button. Let the auto-everything functions do their thing.