Looking forward.

New Orleans.

You don’t think of my city this way. It’s true. We are funky. We are old. We have many buildings that are well over 100 years old. Houses in the Garden District are 150 years old. My first house in the 7th Ward was built in 1837. It was the second common house that was built on a plantation that grew indigo. You know. The stuff that makes your blue jeans, blue.

First and foremost for most of our history, New Orleans is a port city. A business hub. People worked here to sell cotton, sugar, rice. They imported coffee and vegetables from South America. The Bywater, which has become gentrified and a place to go for dinner and to stay in Air BnB lodging, was the country’s chief importer and processor of coffee. And, bananas.

That’s all changed. But, we still have a pretty good-sized business district. These days a lot of former office spaces have been converted into condo and high-end apartments.

After all, our biggest business is tourism.

That’s kind of too bad. We’ve gone from making, and doing, to serving. That happened long before my time. I have no issue with that except… the local newspaper just published a study on salaries in the service industry.

Unless you have a name as a chef or something equivalent, the highest pay you’ll make is around $14.85 per hour. It goes down from there. That’s not good. Not in a city that has rapidly gentrified. Not in a city where most of the folks who are part of the culture that tourists come here to see can’t afford to live here. In a city where most of the folks working in the service industry have to have more than one job to afford the rent.

I know. I know. That isn’t limited to New Orleans. Some places have it worse. Much worse. Think about San Francisco or Los Angeles. I grew up in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. If we sold everything, I’m not sure we could go back to my home even if we wanted to. I’m not sure that I do. I think it’s crowded and traffic is terrible here. Think about the Los Angeles region. Sheesh. It would drive me crazy.

The picture. Not a drive by. But, a drive through. I was waiting for the light to turn green. The light you see towards the bottom of the picture. I decided that I liked what I saw so I made the picture. I’ve done that in the past as I passed through the French Quarter on the way to some place else.  I actually proved a point with this picture. An editor with whom I work wants me to photograph something specific. It needs a city-like background. She thinks of NOLA in the same way that so many people do. The funky, old French Quarter. I emailed her this picture. Now, she thinks differently. The funny thing is, if you are walking up Bourbon or Royal streets, you can see this if you just look up. Too many people are looking down into their hurricanes and wondering where the time went.


Uptown Church
Uptown Church

Sunday reflections.

Pretty clever, eh?

You know. Sunday. A day of rest. A day of prayer. A day of meditation. A day to reflect.

Okay, okay. Not so clever, but…

That marvelous sunset that I chased the other night IS reflecting in the church window. I think that it is more dramatic being captured in the dark glass of the church window. I think the reflection looks as good as it does because the window is very new, very dark glass, sealed and installed properly… because on a day like today — when the heat index is 115F — it takes an enormous amount of air conditioning to keep the church somewhat cool. You don’t want the cold air leaking into the street where it will not cool anyone down. BTW, the church is located across the street from Saturday’s picture of the “Sears” house.

The picture. Yes. I did some work in post production. I wanted to make the image dreamy and a little moody. I made a second picture, photographed from the other direction that is far more moody and almost magical. But, the sunset doesn’t reflect in the window as well as this does. If you’d like to see it, post in comments. I’ll make it the Monday post. I normally don’t do that. Less is more. And, I do try to stick close to the picture’s intent.

There used to be a building on this site. It liked it. Now it "ain't der no mo'."
There used to be a building on this site. It liked it. Now it “ain’t der no mo’.”

Neil Young was right. Rust never sleeps.

You know this place.

I’ve shown it to you a few times. Well, not this scene. There are broken bricks and bits of glass in this picture. There used to be a graffiti covered building here; made of concrete, brick and iron. Homeless people took shelter here. Sometimes they lived here. They even cooked here. One of them offered me a meal. How’s that for irony? Me? I have stuff. A house. A car. A computer. Money to spend. That guy apparently had nothing, but a little bit of food. He wanted to share it with me.

That’s a whole other line of thought. Not for today.

There used to be a building here. As we say down in New Orleans, “It ain’t der no mo’.”

When I got to this location I was confused. I usually find my way around by local landmarks. Like buildings. When I realized where I was, I got a little bit angry. Then, I got a little bit sad. I liked that building. It could have been restored. Gentrified. Sheesh, hipsters could have turned it into expensive condos. Or, it could have be repurposed to give people living on the street a home.

But, no.

It’s gone.

Upstairs at Rum Boogie located on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.

You know that I like color. Bright, bold color. So when I climbed the circular stairs to the second floor of a music club called Rum Boogie, I was ecstatic. Not only was there an opening where I could look down and photograph the stage, but there are large windows where I could photograph the street and the action outside. I made a lot of pictures looking outside, but I like this one. A lot. I like the compression of all of the neon lights. I like their brightness. And, I like all the red and orange. As for the area where I could photograph the stage? It wasn’t all that great. The general composition of musicians on stage looked odd to my eye. After all, I mostly saw the tops of their heads and their instruments. I guess I really like to work as close to the stage, on the stage or side stage. That puts me in the middle of things and since I like to engage the subject, those locations work for me. I also like to work with shorter, wider lenses which help set the scene. Some times, I get lucky enough to sort of give a musician instructions with my eyes. You know. Sort of like, “look this way” or “raise or lower your head.” They generally do what I suggest. They want to get rid of me.

Autographs in Strange Places
Whiskey River
Salty Rooster

The devil is in the details. They say. So. No matter what project I happen to be photographing, I always try very hard to see the details. Sometimes, they really amount to very little. Sometimes, they become an icon for the entire project. Sometimes, if the picture is part of a long story, it adds just the right amount of spice to the stew. These pictures were made in bars, clubs and restaurants all over Beale Street in Memphis. With the exception of the rooster, most of the pictures are pretty much self-explanatory. The rooster is really part of a salt and pepper set. Oh, the light. For some unknown reason the probably has something to do with alcohol, people autograph the light fixtures at The Beale Street Cafe. I dunno.

The pictures. Point and shoot. Mostly with a 16mm f2.8 lens. The rooster was made with an 18-200mm set to about 180mm. That’s it.

I like the boots. Maybe I should buy a pair.

Oh. A little housekeeping. Even though I have some 5,200 pictures that I made in Memphis, it’s time to shift gears a little. So. We go back to New Orleans. We celebrate Mardi Gras.

The Sandpiper Music Club
Music. They say.

So. I went to an event in Central City early this evening. It in response to the shooting there yesterday. Mostly people were milling around at the shooting site. I made a few pictures. But, they are mostly for my project. I’m not so sure that they work on Storyteller. So, I’ll show you the sign that caught my attention and into the Sandpiper music club. I’ve been calling it a bar. But, I was wrong. It’s a music club. The second image was made from the inside out as I was walking out of the door. The door that is normally locked. The one that I was buzzed through.

The pictures were fairly simple to make. The painted sign on the door was one of those kind of “see the picture, take the picture” sorts of things. The outdoor neon light was a little more complicated. I balanced the sky, the neon and the unlighted sign. After looking at it, I decided to darken the sign during post production and that blew all my exposure work. Ah…


Sometimes on my back road drives, I find stuff. Well, not exactly that. I’m sure the stuff that I find isn’t lost. It is more like dumped. Sometimes it’s interesting stuff. You know what they say. “If you want to take better pictures, stand in front of better stuff.” Sometimes, even better stuff doesn’t help. Anyway, the thing about the high desert is its dryness. Very dryness. While we have humidity in New Orleans that ranges in 70 and 80 percent range, New Mexicans complain when humidity is like 12 percent. All that dry air prevents rust. Or at least inhibits it. While you may see old, dumped cars and trucks that look rusty, upon closer inspection you find that they are not. They are wind-blown and sand blasted. They are faded by the strong sun light. The sun tends to magnify in intensity when you are a mile up. At least you aren’t eight miles high. And, waiting to touch down. Did you catch that?

So. This truck. It’s an ancient GMC truck that I found “parked” in a field. I doubt that it ran or even could be started. It’s tires looked firm but dry rotted. Obviously, the windshield needs a little work. Other than that, it looked intact. Unfortunately, I stopped to make the picture at exactly the wrong time of day. High Noon. Flat. Chalky light. Ugly. Still I made the picture. It was a record shot. One that I would keep in the back of my mind for when I was in the “neighborhood” again. Something to be reworked at a more appropriate time of day. But, I “found” image file when I was looking for those act of traveling pictures that I mentioned. I decided to play with it. I added a little color. I added a little contrast. I sharpened some of the details. Then I added some “glow” to it. That did it. The image is somewhat presentable. Here it is. 

Here’s another picture from what has become an occasional series. I guess I’ll call it “Looking in Windows.” I do this when I’m going from one place to another and I’m just sort of poking around. Generally these kinds of pictures are made with one of my Sony NEX cameras since they are tiny, but use the same sensors that certain Nikons use. For instance, the sensor used in a NEX5n is the same sensor that a Nikon D7000 uses. In fact, it is probably slightly better since it is newer. In all things technology, newer is better. They say. And, since the NEX cameras are mirrorless, they are much smaller and lighter than their Nikon cousins. So. Why not switch to all mirrorless NEX-sized cameras? Simple. I photograph a lot of things that move. The Nikons are just much more responsive. But, they are heavier.

Anyway. I saw this in a window. I placed the lens directly on the window’s glass and pushed the button. Why did I do it that way? No reflections and the camera is held pretty steady against the glass so no movement. I told you. I’m a simple photographer. If I were a painter I wouldn’t even be discussing this stuff. 

First. In the interest of transparency, that title is an old song title, written by Hazel Dickens and popularized by the late Jerry Garcia. That’s a digression. I’m trying to think…

I’ve been working on a project in the Central City of New Orleans. It’s taking a lot of my free time. At one point I traveled many miles to get back for an event that is somewhat important to the collection of pictures. Every now and then I find a picture that sort of fits in the group of pictures, but can stand alone as a sort of kind of art. This is one of those pictures. The funny thing about this one is that I did a lot of post production using Snapseed. But, it came out looking about the same as it did when I started. I guess my first instinct was the best one. I should know that by now. That’s usually what happens.

So the title? And how does it tie to the picture? Central City is old and, sort of, in the way. It’s crime ridden. Only one in seven structures is habitable. Parts of it flooded during Hurricane Katrina and those areas still haven’t been rebuilt.  But, after that storm many people learned two things. It is the only affordable land left in the city that is not below sea level. How affordable? You can probably buy a run down house for around US$20,000-40,000. By contrast, that same house in the Uptown area near the park would cost you about US$250,000. It would still cost about the same amount of money to restore it, but buying in is so much less expensive.

On the other hand, you can walk to The Superdome in about ten minutes. That puts you within minutes of the business district. So. The movers and shakers and the powers that be — you know, “them” — are making a big push to redevelop Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. They think that if they put money into what was a business and one time shopping district in the area, the money will trickle down to the people who actually have lived there for most of their lives. But, we all know how that works, eh?