Mother Nature in the tree.

Keep your eyes open. That’s what I always say.

I do.

If I didn’t, I would have missed the wood nymph hiding in the tree trunk. Do you see her? Do you see her eyes? Her nose? Her lips?

Or, is that a very young Mother Nature? She could be, since we’ve never seen Ma Nature. There are plenty of illustrations. A couple are quite famous. But, in a photograph?

The cocker spaniel who sees stuff went crazy. Bark, bark, bark.

Nah.

That didn’t happen.

With the rain and the warmth around this place, we’ve had some wonderful moss blooms. I found one that is as green as this picture. I photographed it. I prepared a picture for Storyteller. I liked it well enough, but it just seemed empty. When the background is the subject, sometimes it’s a  little boring.

Make no mistake. Backgrounds are important in the design process. An art director might use the mossy, green picture as a background for something else. He or she could tone it down, lay type over it, add maybe a picture or two. And, viola. You be surprised at how many movie posters are a combination of images that have very little to do with the film.

Anyway.

My working method these days is to prep the picture at night and post it the next morning. Or, schedule it to be posted for the next day or two. I do try to keep current.

I did that.

I went to sleep. I awoke with the picture on my mind. I remembered photographing a little girl of four maybe last summer. I found the file. I did the magic of stacking and blending. Here we are.

The wood nymph, or, Mother Nature.

Just a little Saturday experiment. Because? Because why not?

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It’s all in the eyes.

The street.

A place that I enjoy working. I like to make pictures that are a slice of time. Photographs that are a glance. On the street.

Pictures that are an image of an idea.

Pictures that take you there.

Pictures that let you feel.

Pictures from the inside.

Pictures that are from my insides. From my eyes. From my brain. From my soul. From my heart.

That’s the deal. My deal.

Sometimes it works. Often, it doesn’t. It worked a lot this past Sunday. You’ll see over the next few days.

The picture. I got stuck in the middle of the band. That happens when you work closely. Those out of focus areas in front of the tuba player are other band members. I was working on the inside. Just that close. The tuba player’s reflective sunglasses are what caught my eye. Even though we were in constant motion, I managed to make three good frames of him. Photographer’s luck. And, my ability to walk sideways and forward at the same time. The development and post production was easy after that.

That’s it for a Monday morning.


The eyes that made other pictures.

 

Eyes.

They say that eyes are the window the soul. I believe that to be true. I think most portraits should be simple. See into the person. See what they are about. See who they are.

I’ve been using this little girl’s eyes as a design element.

After discussing the eyes with a number of you, I thought it would be a good idea to show the portrait. I cropped they original image to get this tight image. The background information just cluttered the important part of the picture — her eyes.

Then, me being me, I had to tinker with the image until I arrived at this point. My vision was fairly simple. I wanted the final image to look ancient. I wanted it to look beaten up, like it had been buried somewhere. You have to understand that I’m easily influenced. I have been watching a couple of archeology-based shows on various streaming services. The information sort of went into my brain through my eyes. I had to dump it somewhere. So…

That’s the story. What influences your work?

 


 

Eyes of the world 

“Right outside this lazy summer home

You ain’t got time to call your soul a critic no

Right outside the lazy gate of winter’s summer home

Wondering where the nut-thatch winters

Wings a mile long just carried the bird away

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world

The heart has it’s beaches, it’s homeland and thoughts of it’s own

Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings

But the heart has it’s seasons, it’s evenings and songs of it’s own

There comes a redeemer, and he slowly too fades away

And there follows his wagon behind him that’s loaded with clay

And the seeds that were silent all burst into bloom, and decay

And night comes so quiet, it’s close on the heels of the day

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world

The heart has it’s beaches, it’s homeland and thoughts of it’s own

Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings

But the heart has it’s seasons, it’s evenings and songs of it’s own

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home

Sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone

Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world

The heart has it’s beaches, it’s homeland and thoughts of it’s own

Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings

But the heart has it’s seasons, it’s evenings and songs of it’s own”

Lyrics by Robert Hunter, Melody by Jerry Garcia, Song by the Grateful Dead


Look closer. Much closer.

This picture surprised me.

You’ve seen it in the past. It’s an image from a Central City second line. You saw it in color here. In black and white on Instagram. But, never like this.

Because.

I opened this picture by accident. On a huge monitor. I started looking at it. Really looking at it. The image isn’t how I saw it in the past. For one thing, there is a lot of extra information in the frame. It isn’t needed. For another, I always saw the young man in the foreground with his sunglasses falling down his nose as the main subject. In this version, he’s just part of the darkened outer frame of the picture. It’s all about the eye. Almost in the middle of the picture.

As I said, “at least in this version.” Pictures —  like music — teach you how to make them the longer that you work with them. A friend of mine once answered a writer’s question about a particular song changing from the album to what it became played live, on stage, by saying “play a song 500 or 600 times and it will teach you how to play it,”

So.

Here’s what I did. Let this be a lesson to y’all. Let this be a lesson to me. Or, at least, a reminder.

One reason to work in RAW and with a fairly larger sensor size is because the picture is easy to crop and still have a fairly large image when you are done. There is a certain amount of flexibility and freedom working this way. You do the work after the fact. That’s just one reason.

So. (Once again)

I cropped the picture. I took out extraneous background information. I drew your eye into the center of the frame, in order to see the eye in the center.

I tinkered with the color. I made the picture into some kind of old fashioned monochrome rather than just pure black and white. Or, my usual vibrant color.

I burned and dodged the image. Again, to pull your eye into the center of the frame.

Then I softened the edges of the picture. I bet you know why.

Finally, I added a little vignette. To — imagine this — further draw your eye to the subject’s eye.

That’s it.

A lot of steps. Steps that were mostly learned in a real live wet darkroom, making prints. It was a lot harder and more time-consuming back in those old school days. It was worth it. If nothing else, working that way taught me what to do in the digital world. It taught me about production economy. And, picture culling skills.

After all, why make 20 marginal pictures of something when you can make one really great, storytelling image of the same thing? Don’t self edit in camera. On the scene. Or, the street. Or, even in your car.  You can’t see much on those itty bitty camera lcds. Wait until you are culling them on your computer monitor. Look at them at once in one place. On a big lcd. Pick the best one or two. You’ll be able to concentrate your post production to just those few images. You won’t rush. You won’t try to get everything done in a few minutes. You’ll take the time to make reasonable corrections and enhancements.

Trust me.

Your pictures and readers will thank you for it.

 


An experiment in black and white.

This is a test. In many ways.

Of course, there are my continued experiments in new ways of making the image true to my vision. Even though in the music world, the vinyl craze has started to peak and CDs are slowly being phased out in favor of streaming, I wanted to test something because I have an upcoming project. No matter how streaming affects their sales, many musicians still see CDs as an artistic construct. It’s how they organize their thoughts. It is true that feeding the streaming machine is better done by releasing a song when it is ready and keeping your audience engaged. But, many musicians don’t care.

That said.

I also wanted to test WordPress’ new smart phone app. Of course, it was released half-baked. It hung up on my last comment. It didn’t crash. It just didn’t do anything. I had to delete the app and reinstall it. When I finally got it working, I found that it makes no sense for a photography driven blog. That’s typical. In their rush to have people post just about anything, they forgot that most of the best blogs are not something you can produce on your phone while you are commuting, or having a coffee. Good blogs take time, planning and a monitor large enough to see what you are doing. This isn’t Twitter. But, it’s trying to be.

Or.

Maybe I’m just an old guy who can’t, or doesn’t want to, adjust to the new world.

Anyway.

The picture. I thought this would be a good change from discussing the week from hell. There will be plenty of time to discuss what happened to Texas, and their recovery in the coming weeks, months and years. There will be my work, others work and so on.

This is a picture I made a while back. The original is a color digital capture.  I slowly converted it to black and white. Then I destroyed it. The new app, called “Stackable,” allows me to do things I could only think about in the past. The result is as you see it. I’d like to say the thinking is all original. It’s not. I am influenced by a photographer/artist/illustrator/film maker called Matt Mahurin. For a look at his work go here http://www.mattmahurin.com   .

This is more than just adding a bunch of Instagram filters. Or, editing layers. I may have started out experimenting, but that was mostly just to learn the software capabilities. Once I did,  I set out to fulfill the vision that I had in my head.

That’s really what the digital world has opened up. A better way to get to your own truth. Or, you can use it to argue with people you don’t know and never will. You choose.


Among the Notes.

I need to get out more.

I made the portrait before I returned to New Orleans. I was back for a visit when I ran into this guy on the street in The French Quarter. He’s an old friend. We had a coffee and went our own ways. I thought, at the time, that it was very cool and I could have my old friends back if I just returned. So, I did.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Many old friends were leaving. Even the man in the picture. He moved to Breaux Bridge. A place that’s become home to all sorts of musicians. Famous ones. regional players. Local players. This guy has a pretty good statewide reputation as a fiddle and accordion player. He is also a pretty good Cajun singer.

That’s his story. And, the base portrait is his picture. He’s used to being photographed so taking a picture of him in a coffee shop is no big deal. Actually, if you’re around me for any length of time, you get used to being photographed.

The picture. You know about the portrait. The rest is my usual odd bits and pieces of information. I did do a lot of work in OnOne. The picture as it emerged from Snapseed was just too raw and kind of glaring. So, I needed to finish it and help the color to settle down some.


Out of the blue.

Emerging.

I used that in my tags. The word, in this case, has two meanings. The face is emerging out of the darkness from something that looks like a forest. The other meaning is more autobiographical. You know what I say about making art. The word might be about me and my work. I’m emerging. My work is emerging.

Even though a street approach to photography is what defines me. I wonder if I can really do it again. If I want to keep doing it. Making a good street picture feels very good. But, so does making this work.

Layering is not that hard to do. Commercial wedding and portrait photographers do it all the time. They make the original base picture in a studio, or even in their backyards. They add all sorts of fantastical images to the final piece. A portrait of a young child starts in the studio and ends up in some kind of wonderland.

Their work is inspiring. But, it’s different from mine. Theirs is from the outside, in. Mine is from the inside, out. Mine is the stuff of dreams. Or, nightmares. Often the base picture — or portrait, in this case — is decades old. The past. Mostly, the top layers are new. Made in the last few weeks. The present. Sometimes, the image crosses into the future. That’s hard to do with a photograph.

Anyway.

The picture. The base picture — the portrait — is 40 years old. It’s made on black and white film. The layers are fairly new. The rest is as always. Find the right mix, position the bits and pieces, fine tune, crop as needed and post.


Flowery portrait.

Another portrait.

Because.

I actually received an email from somebody wondering if I could shoot their portrait in this style. I replied that I could, but I wasn’t available until early August. Like everybody these days, this person couldn’t understand that. They wanted it now. As an aside, that’s one of the things the internet has wrought on us. Immediacy at the expense of quality. Eventually after a few emails, my customer (different from a client) agreed.

So.

I think that I’m going to post a few more portraits so that we are on the same page about what this “new” style of portraiture is really about. After all, you don’t see a whole lot of the human subject in this work. That’s my intent. If my customer want more of the human form in the picture, I suppose that I could make the base layer the top layer. I’d have to experiment to understand what it would do to the final image.

And, you know how I feel about experiments. About messing around. About tinkering.

Heh, heh, heh.