Something wild, something yellow.

T

here is a period in my life when I liked to make very closely focused pictures that are akin to macro photography.

That period started about twenty years ago and continues to this day. Some period, eh?

For me, this work is something like a palette cleanser between other, more gritty subjects.

Of course, I’ve been trapped lately.

Eventually that will change, but nobody knows when or how. When it does I’ll be chasing all over wherever I am, making pictures of anything, of everything.

Because, that’s my magic. My way of contributing. The thing that I know best. These days I feel old, but i’m young. The age thing will go away once I make magic, with light and color.

Then there’s musical magic.

As I write, I’m listening to an album called, “One Night Lonely.” Mary Chapin Carpenter did a live streaming show from Wolf Trap. There was no audience except remotely. It’s her and her guitars. She doesn’t talk, but she plays for two hours.

She’s doing the same thing that she did when I rediscovered her when she was playing songs from home.

Like James Taylor, she’s doing what she did back then, bringing me peace. We could all use a little bit of peace just about now, right?

T

his picture is about seeing. For sure, the yellow caught my attention. But, the details took some seeing. Or, luck. Photographers luck.

You make that kind of luck by being there. By being present. By focusing. And, by emptying your mind for just a little while.

I have a routine to do that. I’d tell you about it, but you may want do it differently. There is no one way. There is no right way. There is no wrong way.

That’s good.

We’d get bored if we did things the same way as other people.

So don’t.

I see so many derivative pictures on all social media. There is a saying among new photographers, “Fake it until you make it.”

That’s a saying from AA for newly sober people who are struggling to do what sober people do until they understand it.

It applies there. It shouldn’t apply to someone making pictures.

Stop copying. Stop faking. Start experimenting. Start being you.

You’ll go farther, faster.


Flower, my way.

Happy Mother’s Day.

For a long time I used to post a picture that I made in 1980 of my mother and grandmother. It’s called, “Two Before Me.” Make no mistake that may be one of the best pictures that I ever made. But, I feel like moving on.

My grandmother passed in 1982. My mom passed 25 years ago in 1996. I’m not going to forget them. It’s just time for other pictures. At least here, on Storyteller.

I was testing my new phone. I returned to an iPhone and wanted to see how the camera function had improved. I made this picture. I intentionally photographed a portion of the flower because capturing the whole flower seemed too boring.

The image was a little soft, but I thought that this was for Mother’s Day so I softened it some more. Then, I made it dreamy. There, all done.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Read the latest CDC advisory. Look after each other. Be patient. Give your mom a kiss from me.


I saw this in a dream.

Does this ever happen to you? You see something in a dream and then, there it is in real life. That’s how I came to make this photograph.

My dream was weird and wild — as they often are — but toward the end as I was waking up I was enveloped in this purple cloud.

That’s all the I remember of the dream.

The final scene got stuck in my head. While we were out walking I started looking for a purple flower, something that I could photograph closely.

Two days later I found it.

I actually worked it as if I were photographing something for an assignment. I made a lot of pictures which reminded me of something a friend of mine said. She was on assignment for a regional magazine. They wanted one picture. She said, “So, of course I took 300.” I replied, “That’s all?”

You know me. No machine-gunning. No spray and pray. Work deliberately until you know that you can’t do anything more. Work until your explorations can go no farther.

I didn’t make 300 pictures to get to here.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Be patient. Don’t get stupid. Listen to scientists. Enjoy all the purple.

This photograph. This very one. I really like it. I could see this on our walls.

I told you how I found and why I was looking for it.

Here’s a how I processed it.

The picture is soft and delicate right out of the camera, er, phone.

It was also pretty purply as a RAW file.

So, all I had to do was make sure that it stayed soft and sort of gauzy.

To do that, pull the structure slider back rather than push it forward. That action is the same on Snapseed as it is using OnOne.

That’s the same way that I soften skies to make subjects in the foreground.

If you recall, I just sort of figured it out. You also know that I discover “new’ things about ten years after everybody else did.

I look at the work of a lot of painters. They’ve been doing it for decades, maybe centuries. I just didn’t know it.

Maybe if I would have taken those art appreciation classes seriously.


Much further in.

Sometimes, it’s worth the time to look inside. Of anything.

I’ve been looking inside myself since mid-lockdown. We have no need to go there today. Looking inside of things that may be near and dear to its is another matter entirely.

For me, that really is only three things. Photography, art, and music.

For sure, family and friends matter as much or more as those external cares. They are for another day.

Photography and music are in about the same place. Earning a living is harder than ever because of disruption and democracy. Just look at Bandcamp or Instagram. There are so many people who want to enter some kind of creative business that they have diluted the production pool to the point that it takes a curator to find anything worth listening to, or viewing.

It’s worthwhile to say that there may be some gems lurking in pile of music and photographs but finding them isn’t easy. It’s also true that everybody deserves a chance. It’s even truer that everybody deserves to be paid properly.

That’s the catch.

Newbees have no idea what their work is worth so they give it away for pennies. WordPress even recommends a site where all the pictures are free. Modify the picture and you can lay your copyright on it.

Huh?

Musicians have always been poorly paid until they reach the higher levels. Even then there is a fight over percentages.

I wish I had some idea of what to do. The genie is out of the bottle as they say. It isn’t going back. Some of my friends have turned their careers into something else. One is trying to make pure art. Another is sort of becoming a photojournalist in Mexico. He has one particular story in mind.

That’s all good. They’ll probably grow. But, then what? Is the work they are making a sort of placeholder for something else?

That’s what I feel like I’m doing. Projects and Storyteller aside, I have no idea of my REAL way forward. Or, if there isn’t even one.

I make a good living doing my musical thing. I haven’t seen much for it in the last year. For sure, that’s a pandemic thing. But, nobody knows when it will start again. Sheesh. Blue Note is offering 20% discounts on music that has barely been heard yet. They have to make some return on their investment.

Where do I go from here and now?

I was thinking about a grocery store. People need to eat. Right? I have no idea how to run a grocery story. That shouldn’t stop me. After all the people who decimated my industries didn’t know what they were doing.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Follow all the rest and don’t get complacent. Enjoy all the things you love. Everyday.

That wasn’t a rant. Dammit. That was a state of my life as it relates to my work. I truly have no idea what’s next.

I do know that I’m very tired and bored of making pictures like these.

Oh sure, they document the seasons and nature in Southeastern Louisiana.

Scroll through my archives for the last ten years. The pictures repeat themselves. Not once or twice, but for every season that I’ve been back. Forty seasons.

Yes. I documented the culture. I photographed every second line during my first six years here. I photographed every Indian event I could find. Don’t get me started on Mardi Gras.

A photographer whose work I am very fond of, photographs long projects. They are usually three of four years of production. He was asked how he knows a project is finished.

When I start repeating myself was his response.

I’ve been repeating myself for years. Even the cultural pictures are blurred to me. All I see are the changing colors.

I’ve been putting off photographing my project. I have a hard time understanding why I am doing it. For myself isn’t an answer. What could it bring to the world is really what matters?

Maybe I should take my own advice. My buddy in Mexico wrote me a long email about his project. He was talking about magazine pieces, books, gallery and museum shows, grants and on and on.

No worries. He’s capable of making the pictures.

My answer was short and to the point. “Forget all of that. Just make the pictures.”

Good advice. Maybe I should take it.


The power of purple.

How it began. I talked to a friend of mine who suggested that I make some changes in how I look at my world. His thinking is solid. I fear that I’ve already worked through the process, at least as far as Storyteller goes.

He did offer me another idea. In order to do that I guess that I’m going to have to leave my compound and start looking around. A lot of people seem to be moving about in order to make pictures. Or, do anything. Like travel.

I’m not sure what my fear of doing that is about because I really don’t need to be close to very many people. That should keep me safe. After all, we run errands, go grocery shopping and the like.

We mask up. We use sanitizer and wash our hands when we return to our home.

And, yet.

I suppose it comes from one underlying condition. CLL. It’s a kind of Leukemia that doesn’t do much. It won’t kill me. It might not even make me ill. But, I produce too many white blood cells and not enough red platelets.

It’s the later that could kill me if I caught the virus. Bottom line, my body can’t defend itself from something like CoVid-19. Or, if it could it would be a big fight.

So. I sit. I want to go out and make pictures away from my neighborhood but I have some fears.

Even though there is some logic too them, they also seem to be a little irrational, especially if I’m 50 feet away from the next person.

What do y’all think?

Magenta. As I’ve said about 100 times, we don’t have a very cold autumn or winter. We do have a few days when the temperature might dip into the teens, but for the most part the weather is pleasant this time of year.

Right now, the temperature is in the low 60s. The windows are open. Cool fresh air is cooling the house.

That’s the long way of saying that flowers are still blooming.

And, that’s what I saw. New blooms. New Camellia blooms.

I haven’t made a detailed, macro picture in a long while so that’s what I did. I set out with intent.

Working in that way allowed me to not have to work much in post production. I developed and fine tuned the file and away I went. It is how you see it right this very minute.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after others. Be kind. Don’t follow leaders. Pay your parking meters. Enjoy every bowl of gumbo.


Creativity. That’s what we all want. We want to be able to make a good picture, whether we use a camera, paint, charcoal, pencils or crayons. And, that’s just a few visual media.

If you are a musician, you seek other techniques and outlets because your finished product is not captured on paper.

And, so it goes.

Creativity isn’t something that comes on demand. It just sort of shows up from someplace else. Musicians like Bob Dylan and Neil Young say that they are just conduits.

My best pictures tend to come when I’ve emptied my head of everything and just make pictures. A friend of mine used to call me a Zen photographer. I don’t know about that, but when I am back in the studio the best thing that I can think while I’m looking at, and culling, my pictures is “who the hell shot that?”

Hopefully, I say that a lot if it’s a good picture, and very little if it’s a bad picture.

How do I, and they, get to this place? That’s a topic for another time. Maybe tomorrow. Let’s just say that a pre-work routine is a good idea.

Inside a flower.

The picture. I saw it and I stuck my lens as close as I could get to the center. I intentionally metered the scene so that only the highlights were exposed properly. I’m not sure that you can do this on a smartphone unless you have a professional function that allows you to use manual settings. I think most new phones do.

With the highlight exposed properly, the rest of the flower went dark. But, not so dark that you can’t see a little red in the background.

That’s it.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy every po’boy.


Bicycle bell.

Something simple.

I’ve been reading a lot about the future by studying the past up to now. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t want things to return to normal. I want them to be better.

I like the idea of NCY closing a lot of streets to traffic so people can walk about freely, but still social distancing.

I like the idea of the city of Berkeley closing their streets to traffic in order to create a giant outdoor food mall.

I like the idea of driving less.

I like the idea of permanently working from home as the Twitter staff are doing.

I like the idea of fewer, but better restaurants.

There are costs associated with all of this. Some may be smaller than we think.

For instance, if New York keeps many streets closed, how will people get to work? Working from home is the answer. Of course, that impacts the land and property owners who won’t be able to lease property at the current high prices. Maybe that will drive property prices down to something more affordable for those who want to open a business.

That may be a plus. It also affects many small business. Coffee shops. Smaller cafes. Small stores. These are places were workers of all stripes stop to get their morning coffee, lunch and maybe to pick up dinner. There is an obvious work around for this. I’ll let you tell me what it is, keeping in mind that many modern day New Yorkers can’t cook. Heh!

That’s just one example.

Let me just say that in New Orleans, we could probably do with a lot fewer restaurants. Pre-pandemic there was one for every 300 people. That’s unsustainable in a good year. Yes. I know that means fewer jobs. That’s an adressible issue.

The list goes on.

Some of my reflections came from a long piece in Eater. If you don’t know it, you should. It’s http://www.eater.com Pick your favorite city and have a look. It’s a foodie group of websites but many topics are addressed on its pages.

Eater published a long story about the state of the meat packing industry. In a word, it’s frightening. My takeaway is simple. We don’t need to eat so much commercial meat. If we pay a little more and shop locally, we can keep ourselves healthy and taste the meat again.

At the end of the day, in almost every category, smaller is better.

That is something we can all do starting now.

Don’t misunderstand. Even this little action is complex. Buy local meat and create unemployment at the big corporate slaughterhouses. Once again, the owners will skate while the rank and file suffer. The issue needs careful study. Keep in mind, the federal government can’t help. The president issued a defense decree and the workers said, “yeah, we won’t be doing that.” You can’t order people to die.

That’s enough for a Sunday afternoon. We should all be relaxing.

The picture. I saw that bike bell. It looked cool to me so I made three pictures. This is one of them. I brought out the color a little, But that’s about it. It is that time of year when bike rides are better.

Another test. This one should link to a YouTube video.


Red, red, red.

Red.

They say in design school that if you want to make your readers or viewers happy use warm colors rather than cold. So, that’s what I did. And, a red rose. For love.

The picture is simple. It is a macro photograph. A real one. I saw it. I stopped. I made a few pictures. In fact, you’ve seen another version of this in some of my layered images. This one took very little post production. Nature did the rest.

Some virus notes. No statistics. No bad news. Just a few observations.

I saw a couple of folks shopping in their PJs. At least PJ bottoms and a house t-shirt. You know the ones. They are really ready for the rag bag, but they are so comfortable that you never put them there.

A lot of people stopped combing their hair. For the first week or so everything was unique. As we entered in the third week, people gave up or just don’t care. I’ve a had a number of online meetings. At first, people looked like they were dressed for work. Now? Not so much. Some people look like they haven’t shaved since stay at home rules were put in place. Some of them, like me, may have started with some kind of chin hair. Now, I’m really close to having a full beard.

At least I get dressed. And, wear pants.

Then there are groceries. I have no idea what motivates people. One day there are no paper products at all. I’m not sure why people are buying everything. How many fancy dinner napkins do you need? The next day, those shelves are restocked. But, other shelves are empty. Why, oh why do people need every potato chip in New Orleans?

And so it goes. And, goes. And, goes.

Stay Safe. Look after others. Wash your damn hands. Keep your distance. Wear a mask in public. Enjoy every piece of sushi.