Out on the road.

L

ouisiana is leading the country in Covid-19 infections. We are nowhere near 70% vaccination rate. Orleans Parish beat the CDC in mandating masks indoors again.

Now I’m starting to hear whispers in the wind that musical venues will close again and that includes both Jazzfest and French Quarter Fest. The loss of both of them will cost the city a lot of money. It’ll hurt musicians once again.

The anti-vaxxers are causing this.

Not only are we leading the country in new infections, but we are among the bottom two or three states in vaccinations.

Many of my friends are angry. I’m angry. Until the virus is managed or defeated I can’t doo much of anything. And, the things that I do have to be thought of through the lens of risk v reward.

It also seems the regional and local leaders are handling this better than our national leaders, at least in blush states. In other states legislators are moving to restrict scientists and governors.

Then, there are people like Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida who restricts masking and vaccinations. He says that his state is doing just fine, if almost six thousand new infections per day is doing fine.

This isn’t a political issue. Or, it shouldn’t be. This is a life and death issue.

Anti-Vaxxers claim that their freedom is being restricted if they are forced to get jabbed.

Nonsense.

What about my freedom to not get sick and die? Let’s put it this way. If I get sick I have nothing to lose. I’m coming for you. My breath will be like dragon’s breath.

That’s just how angry I am.

W

hen I was first diagnosed with CLL, once we got over the shock, we took a drive to Natchez, Mississippi.

That’s about a three or four hour trip. It took us ten hours.

We stopped to take pictures just about everywhere. Broken down buildings, Civil War battle fields, cemeteries, and old stately plantation houses and just about everything else in between.

We stayed in Natchez for three days and explored the area. Because I was here, there and everywhere, people got to know me.

You know that’s how I work. I talk to people. We’d be walking to a scene, and some guy would be biking in the other direction and would wave hi because he met us somewhere else.

Anyway.

This is a drive through shooting.

You can almost see where the camera is located at the top of the dashboard.

It was a little sporty, but I was careful. To me, it was one of those risk v reward things. It was different than being around people, but in many ways the same.


Daybreaks.

S

ometimes it pays to cover old ground. One day I drove out to an odd section of the Ninth Ward.

I parked as close to the levee as i could get and walked into the neighborhood which is known as Holy Cross. I saw the wonderful light and stopped.

I made about three frames and moved on.

Then, I stopped for coffee at a favorite place that was just coming back after a lot of years following Hurricane Katrina.

Sure enough, I ran into a couple of folks that I know. We started talking. We mostly talked about what happened in the years following the storm.

Then, nothing.

Our lives had changed so much that we had nothing to say. How could we relate to each other’s stories?

We tried.

One of us suggested that we meet for a meal soon. I mumbled something about we’ll see and I will be out of town from September though mid-December.

The last part is true. Maybe. If the virus doesn’t do what a lot of scientists and doctors said it will, which is to explode into the worst surge yet with some 300,000 people getting sick per day.

Most of them doubt that we can stop this by getting vaccinated late in the game. I guess that’s another we’ll see.

It may be worse for me and mine. We live in a blue city that lies within a red state. Apparently, New Orleans has reached very near to the 70% threshold. The rest of the state is down in the low to mid-thirties.

Most of Louisiana follows the rest of the south. Mississippi and Alabama have even lower numbers than we do. As I recall, only Virginia has anywhere near the numbers we need to manage the virus.

I suspect that Virginia’s numbers are good because of the Beltway and all the people in the northern region of the state.

My very elderly neighbors may be proven right. There is no lost cause. There is just a continuation of the Civil War and the South shall rise — or sink — again.

T

he technique is simple. Wait for the right light. Be patient and wait.

Or, you can be like me and just get lucky.

That’s photographer’s luck. Luck that you make just by going out and roaming around.

I have a friend who is very frustrated. He lives near Tampa, a place where is so much to photograph. He mostly makes pictures of sunsets.

I don’t know why he limits himself. He doesn’t either.

That’s not the frustrating part for him. He and his wife are cruisers. Most countries aren’t allowing people from certain other countries in their borders.

That means no, or very limited, cruise ships.

He thinks he has to sail to Italy, spend a few days photographing whatever else does and move on to — oh, I don’t know — Spain and do the same thing.

That would be great if he found the places that tourists don’t go, but he doesn’t.

What’s the point?

Sheesh.

In Tampa there’s Ybor City. It isn’t as funky as it used to be, but there’s still good stuff to photograph.

Photograph it. Dammit.

That’s my technical discussion for today. Go take a picture of some stuff. Good stuff.


Drifting higher and higher.

The wheel is turning and it won’t slow down. Can’t back up and you can’t stand still

I learned a lot today. I learned it before breakfast. I watched The President’s discussion about the horrific number of pandemic dead in our country.

500,000.

That’s 120,000 more than the city of New Orleans.

I listened to a much hyped podcast on Spotify. It’s a discussion between former president Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. Today was podcast one. I think that there are eight in total.

Of course I learned different points from each of them, but when I spun it around in my head I came up with two things.

I realized that like most of the country I’m in mourning. I mourn for the 500,000 dead. I knew a few of them.

I also mourn for a way of life that will never return. When you think of what’s changed in your life you realized that the world shifted.

Make no mistake. I still believe that whatever the new normal is, wecan be much better than where we were pre-pandemic.

To get there, first you have to mourn. You must pass through the five stages of grief. And, then you can go on.

I can’t speak for others, but I am not particularly happy right now. It’s nothing in particular. It’s just the remains of the past year. And, this year. It is sort of a clod or fog that me feelings are in.

This year has also become a year of reckoning. It started with music. The music got into my head and I started thinking about it. It’s time to think about and work through my past life. It’s time to confront all of my ghosts, good or bad.

In case you are wondering, I’m not the only person going through this. Pandemic times opened a lot of people. We have time to think. Time to reflect. Time to make ourselves crazy.

About that last one, you know what I mean. You think about something you did in the past and you say to yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?”

Remember one more thing.

My koan or word for the year is truth. Not telling the truth. Inside truth. The one only I know. And, God.

More balloons. This is what people from all over the world come for. Mass ascensions.

The sun is low in the sky. Balloons are up.

Albuquerque has a wind pattern called The Albuquerque Box. Wind hits the Sandia mountain range, bounces along its face and pushes back out in the direction from which it came.

In theory, that should make photography easy.

You know about theories. They break down. Sometimes the balloons drift away. The end up all over the city.

One morning when I wasn’t going out, I walked into the kitchen to see a balloon almost in my backyard.

That’ll happen.

Instead of making pictures, I helped the pilot since his chase car couldn’t get anywhere near him.

I’m not that good of a guy. I didn’t want my windows broken. We were renting then. I could just imagine walking into the management office and asking for my kitchen windows to replaced. “What happened?” “They were hit by a balloon.”

Right.

The picture itself. F8 and be there. Point your camera into the sun even though they say not to do that and fire away.

“They” is often wrong.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You are experts in the rest by now. You know what to do. Enjoy every Albuquerque Box.


One glorious morning.

Once upon a time. I lived in New Mexico. We lived there after Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans. We needed a little peace. Solitude. Quitetude.

I don’t know how long we planned to stay. I thought maybe a year or two. It turned out to be almost five years.

We heard the pounding of the Mardi Gras Indian drums. The noise of second lines. The brass music on the streets.

In the distance.

We returned to the place from which we came.

Now, almost ten years later I have a feeling. It’s not a good one. It’s one that’s been creeping up on me a little at a time.

I made a mistake. A big, huge mistake.

Looking back, we should have just stayed there. Maybe we should have moved from Albuquerque to Santa Fe or even Taos.

And, now?

It seems like it would fun to return but we’ve got too much invested in the other “new.” Not New Mexico.

New Orleans. I don’t know if I have the energy to move a quarter of the country away.

Ten years in one place means ten years older. Ten years means 67 years old. If I move it would be my last move. Yeah. That sounds ominous. It’s not. But, who wants to keep moving?

As I worked to make my career I moved many times. That got old, but I had a direction. Upward. Ever upward. Now? Not so much.

I have friends with whom I went to high school in Long Beach. A good number of them married their high school sweethearts. Others married a little later. But, they stayed. They stayed for 50 years. In Long Beach. Or, Southern California.

Some days that sounds really good. For some of them, their big trip is to Las Vegas. That sounds good.

Now.

For a long time that sounded boring. For me, it may have been. I think you learn a lot by being in a place. I know a lot of cities pretty well. Of course, some of those memories have drifted. But, a little strolling around and I’m right back where I left off.

That sounds fun. But, who’s traveling now?

Not me.

One more thing. I’m mostly thinking out loud. I’m not going anywhere.

Are you?

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. That’s where I made this photograph. We lived about five miles from the balloon field.

That meant I photographed it almost every year. I used to scrounge up a letter of assignment from a friend of mine. That got me press credentials which don’t matter on the balloon field, but they give you parking. That matters.

Of course, the great equalizer is the traffic.

There were some mornings when I got tied up in traffic. Those fives miles took 45 minutes to work through. I arrived late so I had to find other ways to make pictures.

New Mexico has wonderful light. Some photographers think that means all day. For sure the light is crystalline even at noon. But, the usual rules apply. Work at the ends of days where the golden light is the best.

Morning balloon lifts are great for working in some amazing light. If I arrived late I just chased balloons which allowed me to make pictures like this one.

A picture that speaks to solitude. To peace. To nature.

Man (the balloon) becomes a tiny speck in the universe.

Isn’t that what we are? A blip. That is reinforced time and again. It’s what brought us to New Mexico. It’s what happened to the people of Texas last week.

So, really. That’s what this picture is about. Man. Nature. Our relationship.

Which isn’t so great right now.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know exactly what to do. Enjoy your universe.


The original title was going to be “The Boys of Summer,” after reading about a number of great baseball players of my youth passing. But, Eddie Van Halen died. He was 65, a year younger than I am now.

He died after a very long battle with cancer. He family was with him. He was a smoker, but he thought holding metal guitar picture in his mouth may have had a lot to contribute to his throat cancer.

I wasn’t the biggest Van Halen fan, but I admired his guitar playing. He befriended Eric Clapton because that’s who he patterned his playing after. Of course, Clapton followed the originals, especially Robert Johnson.

Rest in Peace Eddie Van Halen.

It’s time to talk about baseball players so let’s just “Jump,” to the next topic.

Apparently, I was born and bred to be a New York Yankee fan. Some of that fell away because I grew up in Long Beach which made me a Dodger fan too. If they both happen to make it through the playoffs and play each other in the World Series, I revert to type and root for The Yankees.

I probably started following baseball seriously through baseball cards when I was about 7 or 8. I remember listening to Dodger games on my transistor radio, sometimes late at night under the covers.

I’m still a baseball fan today. When I think back to all the great players I got to see I feel very lucky to be on the planet at the same time they were.

2020 has been rough for a lot of reasons. Obviously. I’ve discussed a lot of them here. But, the boys of my summer are dropping once or twice a week. Many were in their 80s, which should tell you how long I’ve been a fan.

Bob Gibson. Tom Seaver. Lou Brock. Horace Clarke. Lou Johnson. Jay Johnstone. Al Kaline. Don Larson. Ron Perrinoski. Claudell Washington. Jimmy Wynn. Bob Watson.

To be sure, this isn’t all of them. These are the guys I remember seeing play, either in the stadium or on television. On an old black and white television that received six channels via an old fashioned rabbit ears.

We got six channels instead of the usual three because we lived in Long Beach and received three local Los Angeles channels. Two of the three local channels broadcast baseball.

It really hit me today when I read that Ron Perrinoski had passed. He played for a couple of teams but chiefly for the LA Dodgers. He was a lights out reliever who came in for big name starters like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

I thought to myself that a lot of these guys had died recently. So, you get to read a large part of Storyteller dedicated to them.

Under the heading of all the news that fits, there is one more item to discuss.

Hurricane Delta. It’s a very late season storm that could hit us almost dead on as a category 3 or 4 hurricane sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning and hang around until late Saturday night.

This one doesn’t seem to have much cone variance so it doesn’t look great out there. Just when we thought it was safe to come out of the water. I’ll let you know more as the week rolls on.

As usual, the picture has nothing to do with most of Storyteller. What I wrote might be more important than the picture, although I like it a lot.

I made this picture a few years ago when I was on the road to someplace north. It was during the time when I photographed everything that moved.

The truck was moving and so was I, so I thought it was a good idea to make a few pre-dawn pictures.

I think the picture feels like being out on the road. It gives you that sense of travel.

The crop is radical for two reasons. The picture just had too much dead area in the sky. And, I wanted to test this shape in the universally hated block system. It seems to have worked out just fine.

I made the picture on a full frame mirrorless DSLR. Surprisingly, it generated some noise so I corrected for that in post production. But, I did little else.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Look after each other.


Golden flight.

This is another event that the pandemic killed for this year. The Albuquerque Balloon Festa was supposed to fly for its 49th year. You might think that being out on a cold and windy balloon field would be safe enough, but people come from all over the world. They need places to stay, places to eat and places to recreate.

So.

No go for 2020.

When we were living there, attending was no big deal. I would ask any one of a number of picture editors to write me a letter of assignment. I would go the day before the event began and secure my credentials, which included the all important parking pass. I could also book a flight if I wanted, but I don’t like to get trapped anywhere when I’m working. By the third year, my face was enough for credentials.

The really good thing was the commute time. Fifteen minutes from door to parking lot, except for the time I made my best picture ever of a balloon lift off. I would generally roll up I-25. Usually, timing wasn’t an issue. On one particular morning there was a string of traffic accidents on the interstate which slowed traffic to a crawl.

Living in a place that you are working has its perks. One is that I knew my way around. I picked my way through surface streets and came around behind the balloon field, looking directly into the sun.

This picture is not that. This is an unpublished photograph. I might post the “great” picture tomorrow. It’s just that I try to stay away from reposting, although it’s been awhile.

This is an image I made almost on top of our home during a morning lift off that went bad because there was too much wind. It broke down the “box” which is how the wind plays off of the Sandia Mountains and keeps the air fairly stable.

I just drove the streets, chasing balloons until I ran out of card space. I had more energy back then. I think I made too many exposures. But, you never know.

Stories about pictures are fun, yes? Some people like to read about me. That’s pretty cool. But, I’m mostly interested in pictures and how they came to be.

In the main story I told you how I chased around, which is mostly what making pictures takes. You can’t give up if you want something that you like.

This picture was likely made with a longer lens. I needed the compression and I wanted the graphic shapes. A friend of mine posted on Instagram that the best thing about a telephoto lens is that it gets you closer to the subject.

Nah.

That’s what legs and motors are for.

Long lenses help to make pictures like this one. For sure, it got me closer but that wasn’t my main intent.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy every enchilada.


This is what I saw.

In the morning.

When you rise. Do you think of me?

From an old Crosby, Stills and Nash song. Without Young. The band that will never play together. That’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell it some day. At least, as I know it. Let’s just say that there are too many old resentments and jealousies. At this point in their checkered past, the only thing that will bring them together again is a huge payday. And, that means Young has to play in the band… which he won’t.

Such good music. At an end. At least we can listen to their old songs. And, some new music. Later this month Young releases an album called “Colorado.” Crosby has released three new albums in four years, matching Young’s production. Nash? Nada. Stills? He would if he could. But, he’s stone deaf. He can play live music as long as he follows other band members and can feel the bass rumbling through his feet. Still, his guitar solos come in odd places and timings.

Oh well.

As Neil Young once said, “The thing that makes you who you are will kill you in the end.”

And, so it does.

I made this picture working in extreme pain. There are days when my poor old back sends signals to my legs that say, “Your muscles are so tight that they cause agonizing pain.”  Of course, the dogs don’t understand this and so I walk with them when I should really be sitting in one particular chair that seems to straighten my back which tells my legs they aren’t hurting.

Yes. I do. I take a light weight muscle relaxer. I’m not sure it does anything, because my muscles aren’t really tight. It’s just that the nerves think they are.

Oh well.

I work as much as I can when I can. I have a real heavy shooting month with all sorts of events coming up that I’ve agreed to photograph. We’ll just see if I can live up to my plans and contract. if I plan it right, I’ll be able to do just that.

The picture. It’s what I saw enhanced just a bit. It was luck that we even walked in that direction. Photographers luck. The more I think about those two words, I think that for veteran photographers it really just means get outside, stand in front of better stuff in the best light that you can find. Press the button. Work the scene. Walk away once you know that you have it. That’s where the magic is. That’s where whatever it is — a spirit, nature, a higher power — lives.

Because.

As the old biblical saying goes, “Faith without work is dead.”


Early morning hours.

Like Bart Simpson, I didn’t even know that there is a 5 am. “When did they start that,” Bart asked.  Obviously, I know. I’m rarely up at that time. I like to work into the night. My job has never been anything like 9 to 5. For me, it’s always been work late, sleep late.

Unless.

Some dog needs to go out. And, demands a walk.

Those really early morning walks are not short. The dog who sees things gets all excited. She wants to walk. I’m not excited. I’m lucky to get into coffee into my system. I’m even luckier if I can see straight. And, not fall on my face.

When I do manage, it’s worth it. Wonderful morning light. Especially in winter. Except for right now since everything is bathed in fog. That’ll change in a day. An hour. A few minutes. I know what you’re thinking. I should be working in the foggy soft light. I’d like that. But, can we have a word about Louisiana drivers? You know what I’m about to say. So, I won’t bore you. Even with new laws; people still text, talk on their phones, put their make-up on, tie their ties, eat a donut, or a breakfast burrito. Everything but actually drive. So… in the fog? Not me.

The picture. I enhanced it a little in post production. It didn’t really need much, but I did want you to feel what I saw. Yes. It’s another tree. Trees are about rebirth. Enjoy them for now. I’ll move on. I always do.


Like a swamp.

Yes. It’s my swamp.

First, the picture. Then, the real comment.

We were walking early in the morning when I happened upon this little scene. We don’t always walk in our neighborhood. I always carry some kind of camera. So, I used it. I enhanced the picture in post production. And, that’s really it. For those of you who keeps score, it was Snapseed for development, including that cute little bit of typography. And, Stackables for most post production.

The real point.

Our new mayor-elect has been issued a subpoena for credit card fraud. This isn’t new. Her personal use of her city council credit card was revealed during the election campaign. It became a huge issue even though she apparently paid back her personal debt. A couple of local news media did deeper investigation. They found that every council member used their cards for some kind of unauthorized purchases, but were able to justify their use.

That’s the basic story. It’s a little more complicated.

Our mayoral election became a choice between two lessers. As usual. But, the race also meant that for the first time in New Orleans history we would have a woman mayor. And, they are both African American. That’s a kind of progress.

But, one had really big money behind her. Good old boys in the background. And, the other either is guilty of fraud or just doesn’t understand how to manage her budget. Neither is what you want in a mayor.

So, back in the swamp we go.

But.

It’s my swamp. It’s my neighbor’s swamp. It’s my city’s swamp. We can do something about it. Somebody living in — oh, let’s say — California — can’t. They probably should just ask a question, but not comment on social media. You have no horses in my race. No dogs in my hunt. Besides, you make the typical comments about the south and about my city. You know the ones. The same kind you probably made about Meghan Markle.

Understand?