Turn and frayed.

T

he original image is ancient. I was playing around during a snowstorm in New Mexico. It was one of my picture a day images.

It’s shredded newspaper.

Everything came together at once. I need to make a picture and I had a new shredder that I wanted to test.

So, I shredded up a lot of newspaper and made a few pictures.

This was the result. Something huge for your wall. Maybe even wallpaper. Of course, your house would have to be able to pull it off. I’m not sure what kind of house that might be.

I’m thinking something very modern, all in white except for one wall. This wall. The one with shredded newspaper as wallpaper.

I make no claims about being an interior designer. My idea of covering walls is to fill them with framed art until there isn’t any more room and then rotate pictures in and out. The goal is to keep much of my work off the walls as possible.

After all, I know what my work looks like. I want to know what your work looks like.

I used to do some trading here. I thought we were doing a simple transaction. Mine for yours. Yours for mine. I didn’t work out that way. I’d send mine. I never received yours.

So, I stopped dong that. The experiment failed as most do here. I’m not sure why that happens. I have my theories, but I’ll leave that alone unless you really want to know and ask.

A

s I look at this picture a lot of memories come flooding back.

I’m one of those unfortunates who remembers everything.

Sometimes those ghosts are friendly. Often they are not.

Today is one of those days when they aren’t friendly. The biggest memory is why I moved to New Mexico in the first place.

We are a little over a month from the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina changing life as we knew it in New Orleans.

I’d wanted to retire in New Mexico. That would have been a good thing. It wasn’t good because of the way I went there.

I wasn’t done with New Orleans. I missed everything about it.

I remember my first Mardi Gras there. A parade was held in Old Town at the plaza. I got all excited.

What a come down it was. There was one cart that was supposed to be a float and a few people walking with it.

Luckily, it was held on the Saturday before Mardi Gras Day. I hopped on an airplane and got back to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras Day.

It was glorious. Most of us hadn’t returned to the city yet. The city was in shambles. The parades were small. The Zulus had been scattered to the four corners of the country. Somebody paid for The Shaka Zulus to come from South Africa to replace them.

But, man did we celebrate. We were alive. As Mardi Gras Indians say, “Won’t bow down. Don’t know how.”

That’s what’s in my head today. I don’t know why. I suppose that it’s a kind of PTSD that comes and goes whenever it feels like it.

It’s one of those things that inspires me to say, “Control is overrated.”

It is.

You must be wondering about technique by now. There really isn’t any. Shred all the newspapers you have in the house and take picture of the remains.

That’s it.

A perfect picture of the newspaper industry as it stands today.


The wheel.

T

his is it. The very first one. The very first experiment in layering. I made this picture in 2010, in Albuquerque, New Mexico on my kitchen table.

According to the EXIF data, I made it with an iPhone 4, in December. That means the weather was cold and there may have been snow on the ground.

Normally, that’s not a good reason to stay indoors. Albuquerque doesn’t get that much snow so the city doesn’t own the usual snow plows. Often, you get trapped indoors until the snow starts to melt.

Anyway, I must have been a little bored so I did some experimenting. I’ll get into that on the right hand column.

The subject matter is two items. An indoor fern and a box with watch parts and a razor blade.

For a while my dad played with watch making. He thought that he might like to do that as a job. He’s like me. Either he didn’t have the patience or he lacked really fine motor skills.

So, he gave it up and put watch parts, repair tools and some broken watches into a tool box and into the closet it went. Many years later, I found it in the same closet.

I didn’t do too much with it until that cold December. I opened the tool box and thought, “Wow! I could something with this.”

So, I did.

W

hen I started working on this picture, I had no idea where I wanted to go. For sure, I didn’t know what I was doing.

I know why I photographed the watch parts. I have no idea why I photographed the fern.

Anyway.

Somehow an idea formed in my brain that I could use both of the pictures together.

I didn’t know it, but that was the start of my adventure with layering.

As I recall, I didn’t do much of it for a long time. I started playing around with archive images.

Before I knew it…

This layering is relatively simple. Layer the fern over the watch parts. No adjusting because I didn’t know how to do it.

I did do some finishing work using OnOne yesterday, but that’s it.


New Mexico Light and Scenes

L

ittle pictures. Details. Something to show the texture of a place. You’d think they would be the easiest to find and see.

They aren’t.

Usually, you see them on the way back from whatever caught your eye in the first place. In a design piece they are often called point pictures which is the opposite of a hero picture. Alone, these pictures can’t carry the page. But, together they have some power.

Sounds like human beings doesn’t it. It takes a village. There is no I in team. Stuff like that. That’s why The U.S Army’s old advertising campaign of a team of one, never worked. There are no teams of one. And, before I forget, Happy 246th Birthday U.S. Army.

I’ve given some thought to another approach to using little pictures. What if I compiled a collection of these and printed them huge and turned them into a kind of art statement?

I’m starting to do the ground work to some new projects. Maybe this could be a component in one of them.

T

here really is no secret technique to making these photographs.

The key is to not edit yourself in the field. See it, shoot it. Don’t think about it.

Try your best to keep pictures like these clean.

This is no time for fancy post production and modifications.

You might want to work on these at their biggest magnification. There is no telling what’s hiding in the background.

El Sancturio de Chimayo, the Lourdes of The United States. The church is called that because of its healing properties.


Red.

This is a Chinese Rose. I’d never heard of such a thing until a little debate broke out on Instagram. Someone posted a picture of a flower that he called a Chinese Rose.

It wasn’t.

Even with my lack of knowledge about flowers I knew that. So off to Google we went. It turns out that this picture is of a Chinese Rose. It looks nothing like the picture on Instagram. It also turns out that the flower isn’t named because of its color. There are many colors.

My neighbor has a bunch of them growing as bushes. I just thought that they were roses. You learn something everyday.

At least you better.

Life long learning is a partial key to my life. It makes a big difference. I’m not talking about reading the news or staying online too long. Both just barely scrape the surface. Just like Googling. It worked fine for the flower, but it ain’t research.

I think that you have to get as close to the original source as you can possible get. It’s one reason that I don’t use Web MD.

Aside from the notion that you either have a sprained wrist or cancer using a Web MD diagnoses, The Mayo Clinic or John Hopkins have real live researchers who add to the data base well after their work has been peer reviewed.

One more thing about this medical stuff. If you don’t know what you have don’t self diagnose. You’ll be wrong 98% of the time. I use it to learn more about my doctor’s diagnosis or what meds he’s given me to combat it.

That works.

I put a lot of work into this picture. My smartphone still isn’t right.

Nothing was tack sharp. I reasoned that since everything was a little soft that I could make corrections in post production.

Most of those modifications did barely okay.

But, I have a trick. There is a setting in Snapseed called Drama. If I use one of two dark settings, add color and work from there I can sharpen images to the point of hyper sharpening them.

I don’t like doing it a lot because it can make things weird.

I used it this time. Everything that should be sharp is sharp. Still the picture looks a little strange.

I suspect that’s the limitation of a phone. I don’t know, but it’s time to use at as a phone, which is its worst characteristic.

Back to a Nokia flip phone for me. The new ones are trying to compete in the phone market after being left for dead by Apple and Samsung. They make new flip phones for nowhere near the cost of the current smartphones and they do what I really need them to do.


Making my way.

We seem to be headed backward.

The governor closed all of the bars statewide. Actually, he just renewed their closings. If things don’t improve by cutting infections in a little more than half, we may revert to phase one. That’s the one where we stay home, eat too much and start day drinking. For some, anyway.

Meanwhile, the teachers are on the warpath. Orleans Parish is fine. School won’t begin until after Labor Day. That gives the teachers a month to prepare and to hope that the virus settles down.

In Jefferson Parish, which is about five miles away from New Orleans, the schools are in turmoil. They are starting on time come hell or high water. The teachers want to work from home. Half of the students do too. Or, rather, their parents do. The school board doesn’t seem to care. The teachers report on Monday. Nothing has been done.

All of the school board’s promises have been broken. No safety gear. No specialized cleaning people. Not enough distance between students, even if they are only kept three feet apart. The students will not be able to socialize. They’ll eat at their desks. There will be no physical education. One more thing. at one school there is no hot water or soap dispensers in the lavatory. So much for the twenty second thing.

The teachers are understandably scared. And, uninformed.

In order to keep enough distance between those students who ride the bus, there will be two bus schedules. Forget the fact that the bus drivers will have no time in between runs to clean the buses, the teachers haven’t been told what time to report to school. Today is Sunday. Did I mention that the teachers start the school year on Monday?

In my dual careers, I make plan A, plan B and a fall back plan because the minute that you implement plan A everything changes. The school system has a board members who run things, and about a billion administrators. They had three months to plan and to communicate. Crickets. Twice.

They are messing with people’s lives. Students, parents, teachers, staff and school administrators.

Just like the people won’t wear masks and keep their distance, I don’t think the parish school boards are taking this seriously enough.

I say keep the schools closed until we know which way the wind blows. Louisiana has the highest rate of infections per capita in the country. We are about fourth in the world. And, we are just a state.

The real problem is that teachers have become nannies, social workers, policemen and even nurses. If they got paid for that, maybe the administrators would have some second thoughts. Maybe parents won’t dump all of that on teachers.

The Picture

You know me. I’m a pretty simple photographer. I just stick my camera or phone into the middle of things and make a picture. Of course, I have many years of practice because I am an old colonizing white privileged grump. Read yesterday’s Storyteller to find that reference. Please.

The all seeing dog and I were walking just as the sun started to get low in the sky. I was looking for a subject, when I saw how the light fell on the leaves. I thought, “Why not?” I stuck my phone right into the middle of things and let the auto focus do its thing. I helped make the leaves pop out a little and almost look three dimensional by softening the bokeh.

Don’t get me started on bokeh. That Japanese word that westerners don’t understand is raising its ugly head again. Some days it’s like playing whack-a-mole.

And, so it goes.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy yer so-called bokeh.


Morning sun, part two.

Just Dandy. See what I did there?

Spring arrived. The time of allergies. The time of sneezing. Not from this little guy, but from Live Oaks. So much pollen. More pollen in years. At least, that’s what the weather person said who comes on at six.

Everybody is sneezing around here. Even the dogs. None of us are amused. Especially in this season of the witch. If we are walking somewhere and sneeze, people glare at us. No. We don’t have “THE VIRUS.” We have allergies. That what our docs told us. We have some kind of steroidal stuff that we spray up our noses.

It’s really not a big deal. It’s just a season in the swamp. I’d say that we get used to it. But, we never do. Just like we don’t get used to Carnival Season. When you think about it, even with a change of costumes, so much of Mardi Gras looks about the same. That’s a little comforting.

The picture. I think smartphones are amazing. The sharpness of the dandelion is something. I didn’t have to do anything magical, or technical. I just pointed the lens and waited until it found its focus point. And, check out the background bokeh. All those little circles pinwheeling around make the picture a little more interesting.

Just like everything seems a bit surreal right now, it’s even more so in my photographic world. Nobody is working. Most events have been cancelled. Travel photographers can’t travel. Music photographers have no music to shoot. Commercial photographers assignments have been cancelled.

When they can, I know a bunch of professional travel photographers who use the newest, most high end smartphone to do their jobs. Some of them don’t even bother to bring their DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. I don’t have that many guts. But, one of my agencies asked me to work using my smartphone in order to produce a different kind of photograph.

Different photographs. For sure. Because phones are so ubiquitous nobody pays attention if you make pictures in their presence. Sometimes I don’t even focus. The camera does. I just stick my hand into the middle of something and push the button. That creates another kind of energy and sensibility.

I didn’t take smartphone photography very seriously. But, lately I’ve seen some stunning work in print and on walls. This has been going on for awhile. I just never noticed it. Now that I have, I’m eager to test it. Not just with my version of nature pictures, but with real people, maybe at a second line or Indian event… if they ever happen again.

When we come out of the season of the virus, most everything will have changed. That’ll be the time to fix things. To make things better.

Even though I was pretty bleak yesterday, I still have a kind of hope. But, you can’t eat hope.

Instead of laying back and waiting, I think we ought to prepare, sharpen ourselves, train, get stronger and spring into action as soon as we can. I certainly don’t want to go back to the way things were with everybody screaming at each other, with intense polarization, with true greed showing at every turn.

I want things to be better. Much better. We can do this. I know we can.

Stay safe. Look after each other. Enjoy every sandwich.


A little magic for you.

Magic.

The Grateful Dead’s late Jerry Garcia said that we all need a little magic. I think he’s right just about now when the world seems to be spinning off into every kind of chaos.

I’m not going there today.

This is just something that I’ve being tinkering with until I got it to this point. It makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you.

I was hoping to photograph the first second line of the new season, but according to predictions, a hard rain is gonna fall. Maybe three inches in a couple of inches. You know what that means. Most of the city will flood. I’ll hang in for a while. Sometimes the timing is way, way  off.

The picture. A little of this. A little of that. A pinch of this. And a little wizardry mixed in.

Happy Sunday.


Well enough alone.

Ever wonder why your phone service is so bad?

Even your local cell service?

Ask AT&T.  I was out walking. I’ve been seeing this cluster for a while. I decided to take a few snaps. Since I’m feeling a little salty today, I thought that I’d share one with you. This is a cluster of wires to a still working copper wire system. Unless you have upgraded to their fiber optic system, this is part of how AT&T provides your cellphone and internet service.

When we used AT&T, our inbound  services dropped about five times a week whether they needed to or not. They installed fiber optics. Their agents didn’t know about it. I gave up. We switched to Cox. Many people hate Cox. We love them. Cox has dropped once in almost two years. They’d dropped a couple of other times, but that was due to power failure. You know. The New Orleans thing. Two squirrels on the wire.

When you look at Cox telephony boxes, they are enclosed and weather proofed. When, you look at At&T gear, well…

Of course it works well. Not.

The picture. aside from my previous comments, I do sort of like it. I started post production in Snapseed and finished it in OnOne. I’m glad that I did. It’s much richer in this form.


In the shadows.

It seems that digging into my past work is necessary, but not rewarding.

I can’t keep posting it. For sure, you’ve never seen it. It’s new to you. But, it’s not where I’m at now. In the summer of 2019.

This picture is brand new. As usual, I saw it on the way to some place else. I was in a hurry. I was lucky that the cross caught my eye. Photographer’s luck. When I actually pressed the button, I didn’t see it for what it was. I saw it for what it could be.

Finally.

Vision aligning with reality.

And, then going further.

I’m not making a statement about religion if this gothic cross means that to you. I don’t attack other people’s belief systems. As the late John Lennon wrote, “whatever gets you through the night.

I am making a statement about my sense of the world right now. We are broken. Everybody seems angry about even the littlest things. The doors and windows are closed. We are taking extreme positions about almost everything.

There’s no point in this.

I’d like to see the window frame painted nicely. I’d like to see the cross glowing. It like to see another version of this picture where everything is sparkling.

We can do that, you know.