The swamp and the tree.

There is one corner where the land looks like this. It looks and feels what it must have been like 25,000 years ago.

I don’t really know. I’m not that old. I swear.

All I know is that it’s green and can get kind of noisy when squirrels talk and birds chirp.

Sometimes wilder animals than those make their way through the foliage. I’ve seen raccoon and possums pass by. I rarely see snakes, but they are there too. Nothing poisonous, just the usual black snake or two.

Scrape away 160 years and this neighborhood is wild and swampy. Well, not that wet. This is ridge land. Kind of. It’s six feet above sea level when so much of the city land is below sea level.

But, that’s enough.

It survived the big hurricane in my memory — Katrina — without getting flooded. That’s one of the reasons we live where we live.

It’s not the oldest neighborhood in the city, with much of being built in the 1850s. It was annexed to be part of New Orleans a little before that. People built here for three reasons. The land was fairly inexpensive. The area was a little cooler which kept the viral outbreaks down. And, it isn’t near the French Quarter and “those people.”

That doesn’t mean what you think. It really means a wilder, rowdier bunch.

Even now, it’s removed enough that if I want to go to the Quarter, I can hop on the streetcar and be there is 10-15 minutes. And, that’s a two block walk from the house. I can watch the craziness and come home to quiet.

Sometimes living here is easy.

Jungle land. The hardest part of making this photograph is the light.

Most of it is dark. That’s easy to expose for. But, look at the highlights. They are way blown out.

The way to account for that is to expose for the shadows and add a little flash. Not much, just something we used to call a kick light.

I could have done that but didn’t. Remember, I make these pictures on dog walks or going from one place to another.

The result is slightly gray highlights caused by the processing that takes a RAW file to a JPEG. It crunches some of the highlights to make them fit within the JPEG gamut.

Never the less, I think this is a fairly striking representation of my neighborhood.


Almost like summer.

The long way home, that’s what we took. Really, really, the long way home. I’m not sure we found what we were looking for, but we found other things. We found the peace that comes with sitting under big trees. We found quiet. We found comforting greens.

After the long year that we all had, I’m happier finding these things than I am for finding a favorite restaurant is open or knowing that live music is coming back.

Those things matter, but in order to enjoy them you’d better be fairly whole emotionally and physically. Luckily, throughout the lockdown we did walk the dogs. Granted, they were exactly speed walking but we were walking.

We also ate fairly well. There wasn’t much eating of junk, nor did we eat easily accessible fast food. We actually cooked at home. We do normally, but we made a point of it.

That point was driven home today, when I saw a photographer whom I don’t know all that well walking ahead of us. From behind, it looked like there were two and a half of him. I’m not being mean. It’s just what I saw.

So, now that hope is back and some people think we are turning the corner we probably should take care of what we didn’t do while we were sitting around.

More importantly, we shouldn’t be stupid. Now that the CDC finally said that six feet really wasn’t enough and that the virus lingers in the air inside or out, we probably should take a few precautions.

Yes. I know that most of us who have been vaccinated probably stand a very good chance of not catching the virus. And, if we do it will likely be a mild case. But, what about those who for some reason or another — about 70% of the population currently — come in contact with us? Was if we pass it to them and make them deathly ill?

How would you feel knowing you accidentally did that?

Give me the greens of summer sang Paul Simon. It’s still spring, but close enough.

I like the way greens look in spring or in early summer. Down in Southeastern Louisiana, by mid-August the greens look washed out. By September they are limp. That lasts until fall which starts late.

So, pictures like this delight me. They are magic, not taking away from someone in this house who thinks music is magic.

Making this picture was easy but…

You really need back lighting to make it work. See all those light green leaves in the background? Without them this picture would be dark and foreboding.

I’ll leave that for Halloween.

After making the picture, a little work was needed in post production and viola, I was done.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Use your brain. Look after each other. Enjoy all the peaceful greens.


Like a fence.

Seems a bit like summer. At least in this picture. Of course, it’s spring. Sometimes one fills in for the other.

Often in picture making or film making one thing approximates another. There are filters that the movie business uses called “Day for Night.”

I’ve used it on some photographs. It may work when the image is moving, but for still images the effect is just too blue. Every time that I forget and use it I spend a lot of time working on the image to bring it back to something that looks like night time.

But, this picture. It fell right in to the right color palette. Unfortunately, I used my smart phone. Look at the picture carefully. What is the only thing that is sharp?

The fence in the far background.

That’s where the phone focused. I have no idea why. It’s back focused as it could be. If I’m basically working in auto everything I have no idea how to tell the phone what’s important to me. There is a patch that you can place over a section of the scene as you see it in the LCD. I put the patch where I wanted it.

No joy. If anything, that patch made it harder to focus on anything.

Did I mention that I really hate the whole idea of digital capture? Not only does it make actually photographing a little harder, but it’s bringing up a second generation of young photographers who think “spray and pray” is the thing to do when they are photographing anything including a rock.

That’s not where I intended to go with this. I wanted to talk about figuring out how to use a phone in auto everything mode and get the results that I want.

Yes, I know that there are ways of using a smartphone’s camera manually. Have you ever tried that? You better be photographing a rock. In the time that it takes to do the manual settings, the subject could have moved ten times.

Anyway.

Grumble, grumble, grumble. Toil and trouble.

I just about said everything I could say about the failings of this picture in the left hand column.

On the other hand, it is an interesting scene. Maybe when I return I can re-photograph it with a real camera.

We’ll see.

I dislike visiting the same scene twice. I’d like to believe that, but as I’ve mentioned in the past I’ve photographed some of these places at least 20 time, four times during each season and over the past five years that we’ve lived here.

You’d thing with that repetition the pictures would get better.

Oh nooooo.

They are technically worse. Much worse. I’ve changed cameras three times during that time. I’ve used one DLSR and two phones that followed.

What am I doing? A this late stage in my photographic career technological issues should be a thing of the past. The way past.

This means only one thing. War. Back to the mirrorless bodies that don’t even have shutter slap.

I’ll see you then.


One sunset in the cold weather.

This doesn’t happen very often, but when the sky lights up like this it’s usually in winter, with nice low, golden light.

Because I know that some of you may be wondering, I had my “procedure” yesterday. It lasted for less than two hours, which includes a mountain of paperwork and a billion questions.

The actual time between prepping me and making me comfortable — Fentanyl and Valium — took less than 30 minutes. After 30 minutes in recovery I was wheeled down to the car, where musical miss was waiting. They said the driver used to sit in the office, but in these pandemic days, the driver sits in the car.

Somewhere in the recovery instructions I read that I couldn’t drive for 24 hours and that I shouldn’t make any big decisions. The second one was funny.

I learned about the first one when I tried to help cook dinner. I’m a very efficient cook. I forgot stuff. My timing was off. I got in the way.

So much for that.

Now, into my second day of recovery I’m fine with all that weird stuff. Although an epidural is just steroids on steroids and can take up to about two weeks to take effect, my back feels lighter.

Today is dog food cooking day. Usually, I cannot make it through prep before my legs start feeling lighter than air and buzzy. No problem. Worked through everything and still had plenty more where that came from.

That’s a huge change.

On to the right hand column.

The right hand column.

You know that I’m not a big sunset photographer. I’d rather turn around and see what the golden light is illuminating.

Sometimes, if you are lucky a good subject appears before you. That usually means something in silhouette.

That’s what I had. Trees and buildings. That combined with the wonderful light and the sun made for a better picture.

I typically try to expose for the sun which pretty my assures me that I’ll have good silhouettes.

There is little to no work in post production unless I went to clean up the shadows which I did.

And, that’s it.

Stay safe. You know the rest. Enjoy every sunset.


The weirds.

The scene. Bare trees lined up in an interesting shape with blue sky directly about and storm clods moving into thelocation.

You’d think that would be an easy picture to make. You’d be wrong. This picture took an act of God in post production which I’ll get to in the right hand column.

I want to talk about something a friend of mine wrote in a newsletter that he only shares with his closest friends. 2,000,000 of his closest friends.

It’s called The Lefstetz Letter. Bob, because that’s his name, used to actually work in the music industry. Now he is set of a super gadfly, reporter, op-ed page writer. He’s very well connected.

For the most part his letters are on target. But, when he is wrong, man is he wrong. As anybody does with that kind of readership, he gets attacked. But, he is praised more than vilified.

Anyway.

In his last letter he was talking about Biden and the Democrats. Let’s be clear, Bob is a hardcore lefty. He did not want Biden in the drivers seat. Many of us replied that even though Biden wouldn’t do what you (Bob) wanted him to do, he was the right guy because he knows how to move the levers of power. He knows how to repair all the damage done by the previous administration.

Yesterday he finally agreed. Biden moved so fast in his first week in office that it was hard for him not to agree. And, then he wrote this. The Democrats are finally acting like they won the election.

Yes. They are.

They pushed through the Biden relief bill while giving a nod to the Republicans by having a long and productive meeting. They tossed Twittled Dee from Georgia off of the Congressional Committees after the minority leader wanted to have a chat with her and hide behind the word unity.

This made me smile.

Being a bully isn’t needed right now. We just finished with four years of that nonsense. Being strong is needed now especially after four years of obstruction. Watch the chief instructor — McConnell — dance to another tune.

Right now his instincts are right. But, he’s still fearful of the pumpkin man. He’ll learn. There is a breath of fresh air in the halls of power. He’ll get used to it.

A funny thing happened on the way to this picture.

I couldn’t figure out the exposure. I suppose that I made it for the bluish-green light sky in the center of the picture.

That was a mistake.

It was also a driving force.

Once I developed the original file it looked terrible. The storm clouds weren’t dark enough. There was noise the size of golf balls. Try as I might I couldn’t fix this picture.

A lightbulb went off.

Why fix it when you can enhance it. Or, in this case, make it weird.

That’s what I did.

Once I got the basic file about the best that I could make it, then I went to work.

I removed the noise with a filter. I added odd tornado-looking like color to the sky. I added a glow filter twice to the overall picture. I let the trees fall into silhouette.

I was done.

A side note. This was not done in Snapseed. It’s a great app, but I needed industrial strength editing so I did everything in OnOne. It worked after four different tries and deletions.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Stay strong. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Use all the editing tools available to you.


A wintery dusk.

Golden light. I love it. For sure, I enhanced it. How could I not? I want you to see what I felt, or to feel what I saw.

Works either way, doesn’t it?

I’m going to try to stay on track and discuss art stuff. That’s ambiguous enough. Art stuff.

First, the music. I felt like going back to Los Lobos first album, “How will the Wolf Survive?” Something has to wake me up.

I was up way too late last night and this morning. I’m having a new symptom of my back issues. My right leg becomes very tight, almost stiff. There is no stopping it until it wants to stop. It hurts like…

For the past few nights I haven’t been able to sleep until after 4am. I keep adding meds until it isn’t safe. Finally, sleep. Of course, I wake up in some kind of drug hangover. Usually, it’s about three hours later. My leg stops hurting by then. So, I take the courageous way out and go back to sleep.

What the hell does this have to do with art, you may be wondering .

Easy.

Lack of sleep drives me. Sometimes creatively. Mostly not. There are some artists who try to stay awake in that netherland between sleep and no sleep. They think that when they are in that state that they are at their most creative.

That’s just silly. They are punch drunk. Nothing flows.

Me? I think that I’m mostly just a conduit. The good stuff comes when I’m in a sort of zone. That usually means that I’m relaxed and fully present.

So. I’m a wimp. I need my sleep. Seven continuous hours is fine. I can function with less if need be. Just don’t ask my pipes to open up into creativity.

Dusk light. My favorite. I suppose it could also be dawn light, especially at the rate I’m going.

Actually dawn and dusk light are different. The light at dawn hasn’t gathered air born particulates. So, it’s purer light. Yellow light stays yellow as opposed to dusk light which turns orange.

The trick is to be outside in a place where you want to work. I usually can get myself outside. But, I’m never in a cool place.

I suppose that if I thought about it even an hour earlier I could be someplace where I could make better pictures.

Maybe I should try that.

This photograph was enhanced because the golden tones weren’t golden enough. Once I got there I started messing around with currently hip colors.

Note the use of the word currently. Maybe one day I’ll rework this one into next year’s hip color palette. Or not.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Try to get up at dawn. Or, dusk.


Winters day in the swamp.

The wars I lost I shouldn’t have fought. That little phrase has more than one meaning. It could mean a literal war. It doesn’t. It could mean some kind of power struggle. That could be, but not. It could mean an internal war, the worst kind. It does.

I’m not really talking about career issues. There are those for sure, considering I have no career in either of my industries. Hopefully they’ll come back. Before I’m 90.

I’m talking about understanding my life and how I got here. It’s a reckoning of sorts. It started with dreams. Dreams about my dad. My mom. My ex-wife, who I called because sometimes I get these weird feelings when I dream about somebody that I haven’t talked to in a long while. I would have called my parents, but that’s a really long distance call. I probably should go visit their gravesites, which are far away enough.

That’s not all.

I dream about high school friends who I haven’t found on Facebook. I dream about old friends and girlfriends. I dream about old neighbors.

My nights have been pretty active. Sometimes I awake in a good mood. Sometimes I wake up in a bad mood because the dreams weren’t particularly good.

On balance, I’d say that the good ghosts far outweigh the bad. But who knows what’s coming.

This should help to explain yesterday. I really don’t care who acknowledges me. I care about you, the readers of Storyteller. I care about trying to make a good innovative photograph. Someday, when I’m 91, I hope to get paid again.

At least I’m hoping for a nice long life.

Nature. I’m not really a nature photographer. I don’t make grand and glorious pictures of the work of ma nature.

Lots of people do. I’m just not one of them. I suppose I’m disqualified because I rarely photograph sunsets.

I do photograph scenes in my neighborhood, like this picture. The difference between me and a nature photographer is that they may travel hundreds of miles to get to their location. I walk out my front door.

It’s a stand of trees that I compressed to give them density. There is no layering. This is just one picture.

Most of my studio work was done in Snapseed and finished in OnOne. Those two combined with Photo Mechanic are my go to editing apps.

Questions? Concerns?

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Always look after each other. Enjoy nature.


Souther winter tree.

Down in the swamp. No restaurants. No bars. No Mardi Gras parades. No fools. No fun. No matter. We have nature. We have a mild climate during the winter months.

So.

We have scenes like this in January. Even if the trees look like they do in your neighborhood durning autumn, I assure you that I made this photograph a few days ago.

A big bright, colorful, happy picture. One that you can hang on your wall. One that makes you smile. Something to hold onto when life gets a little tough.

Here’s the thing. This week has already turned weird. The president thinks he’s the godfather of a crime family. He’s deranged. The vote in Georgia could change the complexion of the government. Accept or celebrate. The official congressional counting of the electoral votes follows that. I think those congressional people who are trying to delay the count are fools. No matter. Look at this photograph during the week and have some fun.

Remember. No fools. No fun.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy all the color.

Red, orange, yellow. That’s what caught my eye. The scene was slightly backlighted. Not enough to change the light dramatically, but enough to make the photography bright and energetic.

The rest, as you know, is always easy. As a wise man once said, “The hardest part about making a picture is getting there.

Remember that.

It has existential properties. It could mean distance, or it could mean the time it took you to learn to make pictures.

You know.

The first 10,000 marginal pictures that you took before you learned to make a picture. One picture.

I wish you peace.


Left Behind.

Remnants. Left overs of the summer just past. Leaves, grass, pine droppings. A lot of nature on a forest floor. Or, what passes for a forest in the city. Of course, this isn’t all one picture. More layering came into play. But, it speaks to the detritus that everything leaves behind.

Nature’s leavings are fine. They build for the future. Many of mankind’s leavings are not fine. Think plastic. We make a big deal out of recycling. So, we put glass in one bin, metal in another, plastic in a third. What do you think happens to the plastic?

It like gets sold to some far away country where some of the plastic is saved. Some is buried. And, some is burnt. Very little plastic is turned into anything useful even though many people make that claim.

A lot of plastic finds its way into the oceans. There it collects and collects until beaches are covered in leftover plastic. Fish die. Birds get trapped in it. Bigger water mammals ingest it until they die. It is only when an autopsy is performed by a suspicious wild animal management type, that the animal’s belly is found to be filled with indigestible plastic.

Where am I going with this?

We are in terrible shape. Politics, pandemic and social reckoning aside, our home is flooding, burning and being buried in plastic.

Once this next general election is over we’d better get to it. If the worst possible thing happens and I have to flee the country, I’ll start working from wherever I am.

What about you?

The picture. It’s really just three pictures layered on top of each other and adjusted to get the effect that I was looking for. I wanted the picture to feel like a forest floor. That’s hard to do when you live in a city so I faked it.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after each other.