Two trumpets, one musician.

This is a fine example.

An example of not letting pictures marinate long enough to see the good ones. The subtle ones. The slightly hidden ones.

As you know, I photographed the Dumaine Street Gang second line a week ago in Treme. I showed you a few pictures, moved into my comings and goings and thought I was done.

Oh no.

My final work flow is to run through the outtakes just in case I missed something. Then, I add  any further selected images to my archives.

This time?

Not so fast, buddy.

It appears that I missed five pictures. Five pictures that you might like. Five pictures that my more editorial agent might like. Five pictures that are just too many for me to miss. Miss one. Miss two. That’s okay. But, this was like I was culling with one eye closed.

Anyway.

Here they are. They are more graphic than documentary. That’s just fine. The top picture really caught my eye. Normally, you don’t see one musician playing two trumpets. You still don’t. Two trumpet players were facing each other. In the street.

The bottom picture is another one that made me wonder what I was doing all last week. I wanted to catch the mass of brass. Something like that needs a subject, like the man in the foreground happily playing away. It helps the building in the background is painted a light shade of purple.

In many ways, this is a weird set of pictures. Even though brass bands working the streets are a little chaotic, they generally face in one direction. You know, like a band walking down the street. These guys are all over the place. They are facing each other. They are off on the side. They are turned in every direction. I guess this is what happens when you crash a couple of bands with extras who normally don’t work together.

All brass. All light.

One more thing. A good thing. The dog who sees stuff is a full-blooded Cocker Spaniel. She came with an AKC registration. She’s also a rescue dog. The person who owned her passed away at 85 years of age. We scooped her up. She was never really trained well and often ate food near the table.

She’s smart as she could be. Training was easy. We make homemade food. Every dog loves it. But, she never had a bone. Ever. I felt terrible. Every dog should have a bone. I’ve tried in the past and she didn’t know what to do with it.

Tonight. We had really thick double cut pork chops. Nice, thick solid bones. I put one near her and walked away. Pretty soon she was tasting it with her tongue. Then she started it nibbling at it. Now she’s laying down happily chewing away at it.

Yipee.

Every dog should have a bone.


Through the crowd.

A hard picture to make. And, a very lucky one.

Sometimes I like to shoot into the crowd. Wait, wait. That’s not what I meant. I’m not that guy. The crazy guy. With too many guns. Let’s try this. Sometimes I like to photograph into the crowd.

There. That’s better.

I like to do that with a long lens. It compresses the subject matter. And, used properly long lenses can help me to make a more graphic statement. I rarely use a long lens to get close. I have feet for that. And, knees. And, one good hip.

While I was working the Dumaine Street Gang second line, I realized that just about everything I wanted to photograph would be impacted by the crowd, which was pretty good-sized with our nice day and their reputation.

So, I played to that. Yesterday’s picture was one way of handling it. Today’s picture is another. Today’s is a harder picture to make, because compression images depend a lot on luck. After all, I couldn’t see what was happening on the sides of this picture. People could be moving into the frame and I might not see them until they mostly fill it. In fact, you can see that almost happening.

The rest is fairly simple. A good exposure means a lot less work in post production on a documentary type picture.

Today is a quiet day.

It is The United States official day of mourning for the late President George H.W. Bush. Federal offices are closed. Most businesses are open, but I have seen a lot of flags flying at half-mast. As I wrote earlier, I’m not that much in mourning. The man was 94 years old. He lived a very full life. He lived many people’s’ dreams. For me, it is a day to think and to say goodbye in my own way. As you know, that means something to do with pictures.

After all, the work is the prayer.


Count the cameras.

See what I mean?

Look at all those people taking pictures. There are six smartphones that I can count and I think a see a seventh hiding behind the blue umbrella. That’s a lot of pictures made in just a few minutes. That’s a lot of uploads to these folks’ favorite social media. That explains why various social media talk about such high numbers of uploads.

It’s also a lot of noise. Not a lot of signal.

I mentioned to a Storyteller friend that the marginal to good pictures posted online was at least 80 to 20%, which is an old business ratio. Truth be told, it’s probably about 97% of posted pictures that make up the marginal side. There are so many pictures being posted each day that it is almost impossible for the good ones to be seen.

What to do? What to do? What’s a wise man to do?

If you are trying to build a career these days it’s tough. You can use various tags as a couple of friends of mine do to alert the gatekeepers to your new work. With luck, they’ll see it.

You can build a community, like many book authors do. Hopefully, enough people will see your work and may want to do a project with you.

You can work at your photography in such a way that it becomes unique and go old school by sending emails and other reminders like postcards to your selected gatekeepers. The warning here is simple. Don’t do it too often or you become a pest.

You can buy mailing lists. That’ll get you breadth but they may not be current. It’s a shotgun approach.

You can do what I do. Target about ten companies with whom you really want to work. Combine everything above and try to develop conversations with them. Don’t be pushy. Be yourself and show them work that fits their needs. Of those ten — remember the 80-20 rule — you’ll be lucky if two of them want to work with you. And, that might be in the year after you started your campaign. The cool thing about this form of relationship building is that visual gatekeepers will take you with them since they change jobs frequently.

A couple of other issues.

Don’t be competitive with photographers on the scene. Help them out. Good street cred is as important as anything. Besides, the only person to compete with is you.

Understand that even if you take a mind-blowing picture, there might be 20 other pictures that are just as good, or good enough. And, it’s likely that you’ll never know it. Don’t worry about it. I go out there because I enjoy it. The work that puts kibbles in the dogs’ bowls isn’t anything like this. Even if you do something else to pay the bills, come out because you have a real passion for it. That means all the subjects you enjoy photographing.

This picture. This was as intentional as it comes. I’ve been talking about pictures, picture quality and the numbers of people producing pictures for a while now. And, how people take them. I started looking for pictures on the street that could illustrate my words.

I suppose I found it. I knew that I wanted to have some subject in the foreground. The two women fit that nicely. The rest came from keeping my head on a swivel. Like a bobble head.

Yep. A bobble head. That’s me.


Trumpeting on the second line.

I came out. To the streets. Of the place.

I thought that I’d photograph the Dumaine Street Gang second line. It was mostly fun. I worked it in slightly  different way. I set out to photograph little slices of it. Trying to capture the entire sense of the second line is almost impossible in Treme’s tight streets. Next time, I’m not going to stand where we all stand, at the coming out place. It’s too hard to get ahead of a second line once the first line passes by. Especially in those tight streets. And, with my slow speed. These days.

A word about this trumpet player. I don’t know him. But, whew. Mostly what I hear on the route is sort of a chaotic blaring of music. It heard that. But, this guy… he was wrapping wonderful notes all around the inside of the song. And, he kept doing it as he and I walked.

The picture. Sometimes I start to wonder if I can produce a straight, documentary photograph. I think I proved that to myself yesterday. That gave me the framework to mess around after I made the original image. I’m not sure I could tinker with this particular picture, but there are some that would be pretty good candidates for playing, maybe producing my kind of art. Also, it felt really great using a real camera. Smartphones are fine, but there is a certain join joy in holding and working with a camera. Especially since I understand it way more than I do my current phone.

I did something good for me today. Normally I read the news in the morning. Today, I didn’t. I read sports, arts and a wonderful column about 41 by The New York Time’s Maureen Dowd who was The White House reporter during his administration. I barely even looked at social media. The places I look at have become too infected with politics, which has become like watching a sporting event. Everybody counting balls and strikes, or touchdowns and field goals.

Sheesh.

Give it a rest.

 


Second Division.
Second Division.

Color. That’s today’s topic.

But, first just a bit about the subject matter. The content. This is the second division of the Dumaine Street Gang second line parade. These guys seem bent on attracting more people to the parade by sheer force of bright color.

So, I did whatever I could to show the color.

For me, having just arisen from my death-bed, the best way to do that was to compress everything so there was just a wall of color and little sparkling details. It helped a lot that the colors were mostly magenta and cyan. And, a deep shade of red that could be called ruby. Or, Maroon. The colors contrasted so well that they just exploded in front of my eye when I saw them. I had only one job. Push the button.

See? I told you. I’m lazy sometimes. Or, I suppose it could be said that I have a lot of experience. I sort of know what to do and that nothing throws me. Too much. You know. Old fox v young fox thing. Old fox always wins. Oh? My death-bed? I am feeling much better. My head is clear — or as clear as possible — and I have a little cough. But, that seems to be retreating. That’s good. I really have to work tonight.

Details
Details


Coming Through The Door.
Coming Through The Door.

From the ground up. This is what an actual Dumaine Street Gang member looks like. He’s not dressed in sequins, feathers or satin. Just a well cut pair of trousers and a dress shirt. And, a Barbie doll. I don’t know why.

I’m having a little trouble writing this. I’m not sure what more to say. I guess I’m not sure about next Sunday’s parade. I should be home a few hours before it starts. I’m not even sure where in the city it will happen.

I’m trying to decide if I’ve gotten bored photographing these things. It may just be that my flu and its leftovers have just been taking forever to leave. And, that’s making me feel just a little weird.

Or, it may be that even though the costume colors change and, the social clubs change, the brass band members don’t. Aside from the local neighborhood residents, even many of the parade goers are the same. They come out to support each other and to pay their respects to their local neighborhoods. That’s a good thing for them. Not so good for me.

So… it’s all starting to look a little the same to my eyes. It’s been three years of this for me. Sometimes I need a change of subject and scene. To help fight that, I keep looking for changes in angles, views, perspectives. But, it’s hard to find. I can’t even control the light. The light is whatever it happens to be when the parade rolls. An unused, but good angle, would be from above. That’s not easy to find. Even when I do find a suitable place, it’s private property. Often time the best elevation I can get is from a stoop. That’s front porch to most of you. You know just how tall that is… not much.

So.

I’m rethinking a lot of things. Second line parade coverage is just one of them.

The picture. F 8 and be there. A little fine tuning in post production, but that’s about it.

 

 


Second line singing.
Second line singing.

Sometimes.

Singing looks like yelling. He’s singing. How do I know? I was there. How do you know? Look at those nicely lined up trumpets — and one trombone — in the background. Look at all those happy, but cold people, in the background. Singing.

I am sorry to say that I don’t know this man’s name. But, I do know his masking style. It has been around for at least and a half years. The first time I saw it, and him, was at Uncle Lionel’s massive jazz funeral. If you scroll back… waaaaaaaaay back. To July – August 2012, you can see it. I remember that day well. I was in Austin, Texas. I left in the morning for New Orleans and managed to get back in time for our evening event. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, believed that I could do it. But, I did it. That’s why God invented airlines.

The picture. Aside from recognizing the man and the mask, I like this image because the color just pops out from all of that muted background color. It didn’t seem all the cold. But even when the temperatures are in the mid 50s, it feels cold because the humidity just doesn’t disappear. It sort of lays there in a cold, wet blanket.


King Dwight Ballard, Dumaine Street Gang
King Dwight Ballard, Dumaine Street Gang

17 years. Yes. That’s how long these guys have been rolling. The Dumaine Street Gang. No. Not the kind of gang that you are thinking of. This is another social club. They help people.

Aside from jazz funeral second lines that are held to honor some locally well-known person who has just passed, this is the biggest parade in Treme. The real Treme. Not the cable television show. This is the place where so many of New Orleans’ most famous musicians call home. Here, and the Lower 9th Ward. And, they all come out for this parade. Three brass bands. TBC. New Birth and The Tru Brass Band. Five divisions of formal paraders.

This one is huge. How huge? Well, I got up off my death-bed like Lazarus to photograph it. Well, not the bad. But, every time that I work hard as it takes to stay ahead of a parade, I start coughing and whatever it is that’s left inside of me rears its ugly head.

So. This guy. Royalty. New Orleans royalty. He is King Dwight Ballard. Do not quote me on this one, but he may also be a Mardi Gras Indian. His dress sure looks like that of an Indian to me. He might be using it to do double duty. The rest of his club were dressed more normally. Very elegant, formal and bright suits and hats with matching everything. Even cigars.

The picture. Well, I’m felling really lucky to have made this, and a few others. I was mostly out-of-place. As I said, I’m still not feeling great which made my timing off a bit. And, the guys carrying the yellow boundary ropes were relentless. I think I was mostly working on instinct. Sometimes you make the best pictures that way. Other times, not so much.

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