Over and over.

Art or not, I like this photograph. It was the last of the New Mexico pictures that I was showing you earlier. I decided to make it into something more after claiming that my PAD pictures were akin to photojournalism.

So, I held it back.

It’s been living on my desktop staring at me, reminding me, nagging me. The image won. They always do.

I’ll discuss how I made it on the other side, the right hand column.

Under the heading of all the news that fits, there are some things going in the city that are scary.

There has been a rise in violent crime of 50% year to year. Shootings are up by 23%. There have been 12 shootings on upper Bourbon Street near or on Canal Street in the last two weeks.

One shooting was big enough that I read about it in the London newspapers. It was national news. You probably didn’t read about it because it’s likely there was another mass shooting the next day.

Somewhere.

Talk about a short news cycle.

Granted, the French Quarter is a touristy place, but the 100 and 200 blocks of Bourbon Street are gangland. There are armed wannabe thugs hanging out there, especially at night and the early morning.

If you are visiting stay away from there. Besides, there isn’t much to see.

The city’s response is to add another 150 cops there. That’s understandable because tourism is the city’s lifeblood. But what about other neighborhoods, of which the Quarter is just one?

In my hood we pay for armed private police. Most of them are former military and some are former M.P.s. No, they weren’t working in English parliament, they were military police.

They are armed, but they can’t apprehend anyone. They can put the cuffs on someone, but they have to call the NOPD in order to make an arrest.

I feel relatively safe right now. Most strangers are transients. They are either tourists taking pictures or people just passing by.

Right now nobody is passing by. Our street is finally being repaired. The construction crew thought the best way to fix it was to tear it all up. The street is all dirt with holes everywhere as the city pipes are being repaired to replaced.

As messy as it is, that’s a good thing. And, they are ahead of schedule, The original plan was to begin work in 2032. There are a lot of political and business heavyweights who use and live on the street. The former mayor’s aunt lived there.

What do you think happened?

His aunt was 82. She passed before any of the work began.

I was afraid that with the original schedule, the same thing would happen to me. I suppose that it still could.

And, so it goes.

Balloons floating through the air in the quiet of early morning.

That wasn’t enough so I added a foreground.

That still wasn’t enough so I added what picture editing apps call bokeh. I think they are just round circles that have been softened so that the fit into the picture.

Besides, bokeh is something else entirely. It’s the quality of the out of focus area of the picture.

For a while it was a really big deal. Brand new photographers were trying to take bokeh pictures. Others were discussing how to add it when it didn’t exist in the picture.

The conversation turned silly, even though the very best out of focus areas are creamy, but in which you can still recognize the shapes.

I have friends in Japan. The word bokeh is Japanese, but they said nobody uses it there.

Oh well.

Another western appropriation shot to hell.

Anyway.

After I added all of that, I fine tuned and tinkered a bit. Finally, I was done. So was the picture.

The picture has a sort of explosive quality to it, don’t you think?

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Float around in all the air.


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.


Machines pale in comparison.

Flying.

“If man were meant to fly he’d have wings.” That’s what they said at the dawn of air travel. I wonder what they’d say about this helicopter that doesn’t have wings.

Once upon a time when I actually worked for a living at a photo agency, I helped to create an archive called, “Big-Little,” for lack of a much better name.  Generally, the pictures in that file contained a little, tiny man-made subjects contrasted against the bigness of nature.  Just like this picture.

Once upon a time this picture would have sold well. It speaks to the grandness of nature, the freedom of flight and man’s place in nature. Now, the picture industry is about dead.

There are actually online portals — not to be confused with a  real photo agency — that photographers upload their work to in hopes of getting “found.” The owners of the portal give the work away for free. The picture user doesn’t have to credit the photographer and — get this — if the user modifies the picture in any way, that modified picture is the user’s picture. The user is free to use it, license it, for sell it outright.

How does that work? The photographer earns nothing. If the user decides not to credit him or her, the photographer stands no chance of getting “found.” Oh sure, the user knows who the photographer is, but the world doesn’t. By the way, WordPress is encouraging bloggers to use one of these portals.

While image libraries have been racing to the bottom for more than a decade, these portals just about kill whatever is left. I’m not ranting or complaining. It’s just the facts, ma’am,

Luckily, I have other revenue streams and I think that I can create a couple more. How positive is that? That’s my word. Positive.

The picture. I heard the beating blades of the helicopter. I located it in the sky and waited for it to come into my view. There was no luck involved. I know a thing or two about helicopters. Anybody can do this. Set yourself up and wait. When whatever you want to photograph passes through the scene that you want to capture, press the button. You don’t have to machine gun it. I made just three frames.

That was enough.


Into the clouds.

New Orleans has a new airport.

It hasn’t moved. A new terminal and runway system opened about two weeks ago right across a couple of runways from the old one.

There were all sorts of complaints when the airport first opened. Curbside parking was a mess. There were very long lines to catch a taxi, Uber or Lyft. Most of the outbound baggage belts didn’t work. When they did work it was likely that your luggage went to Kansas City while you went to Los Angeles. Inbound was no better. The list was long.

However, every place that sold food worked. At least travelers could eat real New Orleans food from real New Orleans places run by real New Orleans people.

Overall, that sounds terrible.

Nope. By last night most of those issues were resolved. The only people still complaining about them are the people who always complain about everything. The only real long term issue is the direct ramp from the interstate to the airport. That was a mistake in planning and follow up. It should be finished in two years. By then nobody will care.

This picture has nothing to do with the new airport.  Sure, that’s where the jet departed from, but it’s a couple of thousand feet in the air. Because I’m driven towards art these days, there is a lot of post production going on. I’m not sure this one makes it.

Oh well.


Flying.

So.

I stole the title from a brand new song by Doyle Bramhall II, featuring Eric Clapton. It was released yesterday. I heard it first, on my iPad Pro. That’s normally pretty good. It sounded tinny. So, I opened it up on the real gear.

That did it.

I used it as the background music while I processed this picture.

Funny thing. I’ve been making a lot of pictures while I was walking around with my dog. Nature-like sorts of pictures. I think that I’ve photographed the seasons. That bored me. Eventually. I felt a little disconnected. Then, I took to the streets. People. Music. Indians. Baby Dolls.

That broke me loose.

I started looking for pictures. Like I used to do. On my way from one place to another. With the music turned up. Not so loud. But, loud enough.

That’s the other thing. Photography. Music. They are mixed together for me. When I lived in Dallas, I read that the new director of The Dallas Philharmonic Orchestra saw pictures when the music was just right. That made me smile. I hear music when the pictures are just right. That’s probably why I like brass bands on the street when I photograph second lines. The music is right. The pictures are too.

Anyway.

This picture. I made it at just about noon. Yeah, yeah. I know. I don’t work at noon. Usually. That changes a little with the kinds of clouds we’ve been having. It also changes by time of year or location. This time it was about the clouds. And, an idea that I had rambling around in the back of my mind.

I knew with a little luck that I could make the base picture into something else. So, that’s what I did. I made the original picture on the scene at about 30 miles per hour. I did the rest in the studio. At about 90 miles per hour. One the computer, using mostly OnOne. I used Affinity to make the watermark since OnOne doesn’t do that.

That’s the story. See if you can catch the little trick.


Into the storm go the happy passengers.

Into the sky we go. On a jet. On an airplane. Going somewhere. On business. For pleasure. Maybe going home. Some of us white knuckling the take off. Some of us not caring. Some of us drunk enough to board the plane.

I posted a very heavily reworked picture of another plane taking off a few days ago. Some people saw it for what it was. Foreboding.

I decided to tune this one back a bit. This may be about hope. The plane is flying out of the darkness into the light. It’s flying out of the clouds into clear skies.

We found a little hope a few days ago. In New York. In Queens. And, the Bronx. With a young woman. A woman from the Bronx. Alexandria Ocasio – Cortez. She surprised everybody. She went from tending bar to defeating incumbent Joseph Crowley. He was the heir apparent to Nancy Pelosi. She’s 28 years old. Her’s is a Democratic district, so it’s very likely she’ll be the youngest person in the House and in Congress. She is a Democratic Socialist. That might not mean what you think. Read what she has to say on her website at http://ocasio2018.com  

As a way of contributing, we bought a lot of her t-shirts. For sure, this is a political contribution. In order to fulfill Federal legal statutes be prepared to reveal a few things about yourself. Your occupation and your company. No big deal. The Feds already know. Yeah. I know we live a thousand miles away. In my mind, her campaign is a national one.

Let’s face it. We spoke about change in 2016. We got Clinton v Trump. How exactly was she changing anything? Trump? You know the rest. Current Democratic presidential hopefuls are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. How old are they? How is electing either of them change? I like Biden. I have mixed feelings about Sanders. They have both served the country for a long time. Time to step aside.

Meanwhile on the Republican side of things, Mitt Romney has resurfaced. He’s 71. He’s moderated himself from “Anyone But Trump,” to a Trump supporter. Oh yeah, Trump is 72.

In theory, I’m one of them. An old white guy. But, I see the future very differently. I don’t want to preserve the country’s whiteness. After all, we haven’t done such a good job. I see the country as being white-black-brown-yellow-red. Mixed up. Blended and apart. I support Ms. Ocasio-Cortez because I think she is exactly what we need. Now and in the future.

Oh. I know. I haven’t mentioned communities like LGBT. I’ll get to them all soon. For now, just know that I support them. And, that I support every legal protection for their rights. Even the other day when I had the baker discussion. I don’t believe their rights should be hurt. Nor, do I believe the baker’s beliefs should be hurt. It’s very confusing. I know. Most of the important stuff usually is.

Peace, Y’all.


Into the mystic.

I’m taking a step forward. Or, back.

It all depends on how you look at it.

I haven’t been playing enough. I haven’t been experimenting enough. I haven’t been having enough fun.

Like many people, in this age of nastiness, meanness and cruelty. I’ve been taking things far too seriously.

So.

While the dogarito was sitting in the shade and enjoying a bit of a breeze, I started listening for passing jets. My timing is still pretty good, so I was able to put the planes where I wanted them in the sky. Then I thought, “Where’s the fun in that?”

When I got back into the studio, I started messing around. I kept messing around. I added layers. I added filters. I made this and a couple of other aeronautical pictures into something that I liked. Sort of. I kept going. And, going. And, going.

This is the result. I’m still not entirely sure about it. It sort of has an evil foreboding that you don’t really want in airplane pictures. At least that’s what they taught us in picture school.

And…

It appears that one of the comments that I suggested you read, still hadn’t appeared. However it was written it turned on my spam filter. Even by moving it from spam, it still didn’t appear because now it was placed in a moderation file that I didn’t know existed. It appears today. You should read it if you’ve been following along.

That said, I’ve mostly just sat back and watched. It is a good discussion.

I do have a thought.

There is the mistaken idea that if you open a business, you “have” to welcome everybody.

Uh huh.

I own a business. The reason I deal with the extra work of ownership — quarterly taxes, licenses, paperwork, incorporation fees and so on and so on — is because I want to choose my workflow and my client list.

At this point in my career, I turn down as many clients as I keep.

One of the biggest clients that I turned down in the last month was Air BnB. They wanted me to photograph people enjoying one of their properties in New Orleans. They wanted to show the “New Orleans Experience.” Besides the ton of pre-shoot work they wanted, they wanted me to indemnify them against property claims. I can do that because I have very high E&O insurance. You know. Another one of the necessities of owning a business.

The money was good. The job could have been good. But, I have a huge philosophical issue with them. What started out as a good thing — people renting unused space for a little extra cash — has turned very corporate with commercial owners buying huge swaths of property and essentially become hotel owners without dealing with the legal issues that entails. This is destroying communities.

That’s why I turned them down. I didn’t say that. I just said I was already booked for their time frame. No harm. No foul.

The baker could have said something like that. The gay couple could have Yelped him to death. And, took their money elsewhere. And, spread the news on what Jimmy Buffett once called the “Coconut Telegraph.” That would have probably killed his business, which I suspect was really the end game.

Instead, the went to court. And, more court. All the way up to the Supremes, where they lost. The only people who won — as usual — where the lawyers.

Yes. Rights. Both sides have rights. Is it discrimination to restrict a class of people? Absolutely. Does forcing someone to work for someone who they see as violating their religious beliefs violate his rights. Certainly.

There are two sides to every coin. One doesn’t outrank the other.

Use your head.


New Mexican balloon.
New Mexican balloon.

Well, I’ll be…

I wouldn’t have thought I would have gotten such a favorable response to this kind of tinkering around. It really hit me when an old friend of mine said this is where he hoped to go with his new-found love of photography.

Hmmmm…

I think I got to this place sort of out of self-defense. And, a desire to learn where I could really go with my work. This, to be sure, is not a new thing. I worked my way through some of my archives and these images go back a ways. A long ways. Not only did I take them a few years back, but I started experimenting with them around the same time. Maybe as long as 8 or 9 years ago. Different software to be sure. But, my vision was headed in this direction. These pictures are evidence.

I can remember clearly when I started doing this kind of post production work. I used to play a lot of computer games. I suppose there is some kind of problem solving and hand eye coordination to be learned from them. I thought back then that if I was going to spend so much time at the computer that I might as well learn something that I could really use. I stopped playing games and started to learn about Photoshop and what is well beyond.

I suppose that it’s like being a musician, which by the way, my friend with his new photographic passion, happens to be. You mess around and mess around until you find something the strikes you. You don’t have to rush through the process because it is uniquely yours. And, nobody else is expecting a finished production. It’s a kind of art for its own sake. Until you decide to show it.

The pictures. Two from New Mexico. One from Hong Kong. The balloon is from the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Since I lived nearby I could return to the event repeatedly. Mostly, I looked for low light images. Sometimes, I’d just take a singular picture as the basis for some later work, not even knowing what that might be. In the stock photography world, that’s called a component.

The space flower is also New Mexican. I saw the backlighted flower and put the camera on the ground. It’s been around in various forms, but never like this one. Not that you’ve seen.

Hong Kong days was made from my roof. You know that I’m lazy and sometimes don’t like to roam far from home. I asked the building management for permission. They gave me the key to the roof door and said don’t fall off. They were used to my odd requests by this time. The post production work is sort of prescient. Hong Kong has degraded a lot since the time when I made this picture.

Hong Kong days.
Hong Kong days.

Space flower
Space flower


Soaring at the Ascension Parish Balloon Festival.
Soaring at the Ascension Parish Balloon Festival.

Friday. Very, very long and hard week. So, I did what I could do. I made pictures. We went to The Ascension Parish Balloon Festival. It’s located in Gonzales, Louisiana. About 50 miles for New Orleans. It’s nowhere near as big as The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. But, few ballooning events are. When we relocated to New Mexico following the storm, I had the pleasure of photographing four big balloon happenings. They are great fun. And, they are a great challenge. After photographing one or two of these events, the pictures start looking the same. So, I have to start seeing a little differently. For me, that means seeing graphics rather than seeing the event itself. In Southeast Louisiana, the scenery is very different so that helped a lot. Even so, I still worked on shapes rather than capture the event. This is one of those pictures. It’s sort of a classic. Balloon. Sunset. A little bit of scenery as a base. I normally don’t suggest this, but open this one up. It’s worth it for the details.