Morning sun, part two.

Just Dandy. See what I did there?

Spring arrived. The time of allergies. The time of sneezing. Not from this little guy, but from Live Oaks. So much pollen. More pollen in years. At least, that’s what the weather person said who comes on at six.

Everybody is sneezing around here. Even the dogs. None of us are amused. Especially in this season of the witch. If we are walking somewhere and sneeze, people glare at us. No. We don’t have “THE VIRUS.” We have allergies. That what our docs told us. We have some kind of steroidal stuff that we spray up our noses.

It’s really not a big deal. It’s just a season in the swamp. I’d say that we get used to it. But, we never do. Just like we don’t get used to Carnival Season. When you think about it, even with a change of costumes, so much of Mardi Gras looks about the same. That’s a little comforting.

The picture. I think smartphones are amazing. The sharpness of the dandelion is something. I didn’t have to do anything magical, or technical. I just pointed the lens and waited until it found its focus point. And, check out the background bokeh. All those little circles pinwheeling around make the picture a little more interesting.

Just like everything seems a bit surreal right now, it’s even more so in my photographic world. Nobody is working. Most events have been cancelled. Travel photographers can’t travel. Music photographers have no music to shoot. Commercial photographers assignments have been cancelled.

When they can, I know a bunch of professional travel photographers who use the newest, most high end smartphone to do their jobs. Some of them don’t even bother to bring their DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. I don’t have that many guts. But, one of my agencies asked me to work using my smartphone in order to produce a different kind of photograph.

Different photographs. For sure. Because phones are so ubiquitous nobody pays attention if you make pictures in their presence. Sometimes I don’t even focus. The camera does. I just stick my hand into the middle of something and push the button. That creates another kind of energy and sensibility.

I didn’t take smartphone photography very seriously. But, lately I’ve seen some stunning work in print and on walls. This has been going on for awhile. I just never noticed it. Now that I have, I’m eager to test it. Not just with my version of nature pictures, but with real people, maybe at a second line or Indian event… if they ever happen again.

When we come out of the season of the virus, most everything will have changed. That’ll be the time to fix things. To make things better.

Even though I was pretty bleak yesterday, I still have a kind of hope. But, you can’t eat hope.

Instead of laying back and waiting, I think we ought to prepare, sharpen ourselves, train, get stronger and spring into action as soon as we can. I certainly don’t want to go back to the way things were with everybody screaming at each other, with intense polarization, with true greed showing at every turn.

I want things to be better. Much better. We can do this. I know we can.

Stay safe. Look after each other. Enjoy every sandwich.


A little rain must fall.

Winter.

The first day was stormy. It wasn’t a heavy rain. But, it lasted all day and night. The dog who sees stuff wouldn’t go out except to do what she needed to do. The rest of the dogs acted about the same way.

If I wasn’t so lazy I would have gone to the Quarter and made some nice reflection pictures. My agencies would like that. Of course, they way they license images these days it doesn’t really matter. Some agencies are going to a modified royalty free system. Royalty free is a misnomer. It doesn’t mean a client can use a picture for free. It means that they don’t have to negotiate.

Here’s the problem for photographers.

That generally means that we earn less per image. Agency managers say that we’ll make it up on volume. That sounds like the old joke that goes something like this, “A small business loses money on every item they sell. That’s okay, they’ll make it up in volume.” What that really means is that they’ll just lose more money faster.

That’s happening across the arts.

Unless you are well known, or have a long career, or are a shining star, arts like writing, photography and music are so oversaturated that most people can’t support themselves working at their art. This has occurred for three reasons. Disruption. Democracy. Recession.

Disruption and Democracy go hand in hand.

Digital nerds decided they could do things better and cheaper. Sometimes it works. Mostly it doesn’t. Disruptions generally means the products, whatever they are, don’t get better. They get cheaper and worse. Democracy means that the tools to make something are easy to use partially removing the gatekeepers. Once again the the quality declines and the products get cheaper.

Recession.

When the country tanked in 2006-2007-2008 at lot of people lost their high paying jobs. Some lost their property and homes. Many of those  people decided that if they couldn’t make their usual wages, they might as well have fun. What emerged was a glut of wannabe writers, photographers and musicians of all stripes. Most had no idea what it means to be an artist. Even if some of them had the talent, they didn’t take the time to let it mature. They want tips and tricks.

That lead to our current state of affairs.

Too much of everything. Lesser and lesser high quality products being released. And, a general lowering of prices across the board. There is even an agency that doesn’t pay royalties. The photographers license pictures for exposure. WordPress recommends that writing bloggers use them.

This is the long way of explaining why I’m lazy. If I went to The French Quarter in the rain and worked, I’d get wet. I’d run the risk of hurting myself because of my “bad” left leg. I could damage my gear. And, with our great drivers, I could get in a car accident.

I’m willing to risk all of that if i could make some money with my pictures. But, I can’t say that I will. Sure, it’s still fun to do. But, slipping and falling scares me. Speaking of that, after the first of the year I’m going to have  “Come to Jesus” meeting with my doctors. My issues need to be repaired, not masked. I don’t want to live this way any longer.


Shimmering, sparkling, and glowing.

On this winter solstice I thought it would be a good idea to close out autumn on a high note. Or, a golden note if you prefer.

I made this picture a couple of days ago. Yeah. I know, I said the trees where bare. This is Southeastern Louisiana. We live in a semi-tropical and swampy place. Nothing ever really comes to an end in nature. The Japonica trees are already blooming. Normally, that happens in February. I know that because it’s a Mardi Gras thing.

I broke a big rule in photography. They say never to shoot directly into the sun. My response is why? They say that it will hurt the sensor. No, it won’t. The exposure isn’t for minutes or even seconds. This image was made at 1/1,250th of a second. Besides, the sun is just peaking through the tree. It’s right about at the red area sort of in the center of the tree.

The effect wasn’t done in the computer. I did a little finishing post production. That’s all. The rest was done in-camera. I intentionally moved the camera so that I could create this effect. I do this stuff intuitively. You can do it too. Just very slowly drag the camera or phone in the direction you want the blur.

I’d like to photograph something to honor the solstice. You need little light for that. The weather is cold, gray, overcast, and rainy.

And, so it goes.


New Orleans traffic.

Everybody is going somewhere.

This is Central Business District traffic at right about rush hour. There is rain falling in the light dusky shadows. Drivers are trying to dart in and out of traffic blockages.

I got bored. I did what any photographer would do. I made pictures. Before you think that I’m crazy, let me say that I was stopped for a red light. Cars were crawling through the cross street at about two per green traffic light. Most of us were stopped, foot on the brake, just waiting. I had about five minutes to make this picture.

I did this in the days when I used to explore the streets of New Orleans. I sought out situations like this one. I’d like think that I was the only driver who didn’t care if the traffic moved.

As I recall, this picture was made pre-storm. That makes it about 15 years old. This kind of work kept popping up as I was looking for the decade’s best ten. You might ask if this picture is 15 years old, how does it fit into the decade collection? It doesn’t. A version of it was simply misfiled. Actually, it was likely in one collection, was moved to a second collection and it followed along the unorganized pathways of my archive.

I gotta do something about that.


Bright yellow.

This is for you.

Sunflowers. Bright, yellow and happy.

I made this picture some years back when I lived in The Land of Enchantment, or New Mexico as some people call that fine state. I went there after Hurricane Katrina flooded my city. Well, only 80% of it.

Did you ever have that feeling of when I’m here I want to be there? And, visa versa? There is actually a fifty cent word for that, but I forgot it. I’m feeling that way just about now. I think that I’m really tired of New Orleans. I think that I don’t want to be in Brooklyn either. I think that would like to go back to the place that brought me so much peace and healing after I evacuated from New Orleans.

I know that it’s not perfect. Perfection is for angels. But, most of the streets work. The water systems work. I won’t get shot in some crossfire. And, I won’t get flooded unless I’m standing a dried arroyo or wash. Even then, it won’t take my house.

Or, not.

I suppose it’s just another way of saying that I’m feeling a little restless as the decade speeds to a close. I know that I may not have many decades left. I don’t want to waste time and I don’t want to spend time in a place in which I don’t want to be. Besides, things come to an end. I think my time in New Orleans is coming to a close.

We’ll see.

The picture. I made it toward the end of summer a few years back. That’s when sunflowers reach their peak. I was just driving around looking for them. I photographed them every way that I could think of except for a very long shot because I couldn’t find a high enough elevation to do it. The entire take came out of the camera looking as you see this picture. You know. Nature, the final frontier.


Looking at the sky.

Look up.

Sometimes, that’s where the picture lies. I did that the other night at around dusk. I was housebound and I need to get outside for a few minutes. I made the picture about ten steps from the door.

Is there a lesson in there someplace? Nah. I’ve preached enough about going outside when you are in a photographer’s block. You don’t need to read it again. Oh wait. You already did just read it. No matter. If  you’re like me, a little brain pounding is needed. If not, sorry.

I’m going to post another reworked picture tomorrow. It’s about something that is seen yearly in the French Quarter. I was going to write something about not having to work the scene again because it’s always the same. While I was thinking that, an idea came to me. It’s an early evening shot, so I’ll go very soon to see if it works. At least, my brain is starting to work.

It hasn’t been working for most of the week. But, that’s another story, for another time. I’ll eventually discuss it, but not now.

The picture. It’s a kind of F8 and be there thing. But first, you have to find the framing.The picture is cropped into a square because I didn’t exactly find the right frame. I cropped it into the right frame. And, that little dot way up there? That’s the moon.

Enjoy.


Into the light.

Finally. Fall.

A look at morning image made as the sun peeks through the golden leaves of Autumn. As a wise man once said, “If you want better pictures, stand in front of better stuff.” That is so true. I would add to that, have some patience. Wait for the light you want, no matter how long it takes.

I once worked with a former National Geographic Society photographer who was known for his desert work. His trick was to get to the place where he wanted to work. And wait. And wait. And wait. For days. Sometimes weeks. For the light he wanted. He reckoned that since you can’t control nature, you might as well control yourself.

There is another approach. Know the place in which you are working. Make yourself available for the light and whatever else you want in the picture. The first time I thought about that was during my days in Hong Kong. At the time, as a western expat, I made one of the best collections of pictures in a foreign place. It wasn’t due to extraordinary skill. It was due to just being there. When I think back to that time, I realize that I wasted a lot of precious moments.

I try not to be so wasteful now. Even when I’m not working for a client I try to be photographically productive. Hopefully it shows in the work that you see.

The picture. You know what I did. F8 and be there. I didn’t do so much in post production because I made most of the picture in camera. I darken, sharpened, and brought the color out a little. Nature did the rest.

One more thing. I posted the black and white version of this picture on Instagram. If you want to see that version, please follow me there.


A little confusion.

No matter what you think.

The picture isn’t it. Unless you look at the curve at the top, which is really the bottom.

Yeah. Sure. This is one of those scenes that I return to when I can’t find a subject to suit a great sky. But, it’s different. It’s a reflection made by pointing the lens into a car’s hood. A black car. A black, dirty car.

I’ll tell you why dirty matters in a minute.

I made the picture on another walk. I was trying to figure out how I could do something a little differently because the clouds were so intense. They needed to be photographed. I happened to look towards my right. There it was. An almost perfect reflection of the scene above. I didn’t even bother with the real sky. I found what I liked.

Ten exposures later and I was done. I did not over shoot. I worked the angles and the length of the lens a little.

Dirty? Oh, that matters because the little star field you think you see in the bottom of the picture is really just little bitty bits of dirt.

I suppose if I flipped this picture around so the up is down, you might think I made the picture at night and somehow managed to get the stars in the picture even though we live in a place where there is nothing but light pollution. You could never really photograph star in New Orleans.

Aren’t I clever? or not.