Hard rain out on the road.

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

So wrote Bob Dylan.

Where is that shelter? Again, a year to the day of the Pittsburgh shooting, and not more than two weeks from the last mass shooting, a Jewish synagogue was attacked. Four wounded. One dead. A woman died attempting to protect her rabbi.

Christians say it’s a war against them. Jews say it’s an anti-semitic war against them. Muslims say it’s a war against them. None of them see the big picture, or, they are ignoring it. It’s a war against everybody who is different from some other guy. It’s a war against people who think differently from some other guy. For sure, the Catholic churches that were attacked in Sri Lanka were claimed by ISIS, but the shootings in The United States were allegedly done by deranged white guys.

It’s  a war fueled by pure hatred. And carried out at the point of a gun.  An AR-15. an A-R, that are the model letters for Assault Rifle. Think about that for a minute. The minute when you try to defend gun ownership in all cases.

When does this stuff stop? How does it stop?

It won’t.

We don’t have the leaders to stop it. You may have heard the speeches at the NRA convention. The convention that does not allow guns inside. That one.

The only way to stop it is to get angry. To get very angry. An anger that is sustained and will flow through the next general election in 2020. It’s not enough to vote out the punk president. Anybody who gets in the way of positive change must go. We must do this. We must organize. We must fight back. Legally.

It’s time.

There is so much to do. These guys are getting in the way. They have to go. It can be done. We saw a little of it during the mid-term elections. The House of Representatives was flipped. And, not just be a few representatives. We can do it in the Senate. We can do it in The White House. It’ll take hard work. But, as they say, anything good takes hard work.

I promised you that I would keep Storyteller politics free. And, I will. This is a place for art, for photographs, for New Orleans. But, yesterday kind of broke me. I’m getting afraid to open any social media. I dislike reading newspapers — the job I liked best. In the early days. That’s all ridiculous. But, I just hate reading what I find. I should be reading about baseball, and Jazzfest, and general news, and news about New Orleans. Oh no.

Enough.

The picture. One stormy day on River Road. Camera on the dashboard and me stopping a little long, so that I can make the picture. It says a lot. About Southeast Louisiana rain storms. I don’t remember exactly, but I’ll bet that I either drove out of it, or it stopped not far away. That’s how it is. The storm doesn’t last for long. Unlike the state of my country. That storm shows no signs of breaking. Unless we break it.

Lori Gilbert Kaye.

Remember her name. That’s the least we can do.

 

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Way out on the road.

I haven’t been out this way in a long time. Usually, it’s for a vet trip. Or, to buy technology.

The weather has been incredible, so I thought that I would take a drive along River Road. I needed a little break from what has been mostly inside work, so off I went. It was peaceful enough. As you can see, there was no cars in either direction. There were no cars behind me, allowing me to make som drive by pictures.

This is one of them. Yep, there is serious post production going on here, but that helps you to feel what I felt with the sunroof open, the wind blowing through my hair and music playing on Spotify.

Yes. I still have hair. A lot of it.

Anyway.

I told you about my chef buddy’s situation. It’s a big enough deal that there are follow-up stories in both local newspapers. I wish he hadn’t said as much as he did. I hope he recovers.

That said, I hope we all recover from the issues ailing my country. There is a lot of hope riding on the year 2019. I truly think that things will get worse before they get better. That doesn’t mean we should pull apart. If anything, we should pull together closer. We need each other whether it’s just for advice, or to cry one each other’s shoulder, or for a helping hand. That’s one of the lessons of last year. It’s something we have to learn and remember.

Make America Great Again has a lot of meanings. I don’t like what the red hat means. I do like the thought of the potential of communities springing up that can help one another. In Hong Kong and, I think, in Great Britain, there are transportation octopus cards. It means you can use the subway, the bus, the tram and trolley systems with one card. You pay to fill the card up and off you go. I like the thought of octopus communities. We aren’t all allied closely, but certain strands link us from one community to the next, allowing a free flow of aid, defense and communication. Hopefully, that could be free of internal politics.

Of course, I’m dreaming.

When more than two people are gathered together politics raises its ugly head. But, you know what they say. “Go big or go home.” Besides, we need this now. The current administration seems hellbent on leaving us on our own at almost every level for stupid reasons. Think about it. Stupid financial management cost many of us at least 12% of our retirement funds. Now, there is a move to reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits to make up for the debt caused by lowering taxes on the rich. In one way or another, this current government thinks it’s a good idea to steal my money. Okay. Fine. Let’s take care of ourselves. It’s either that or buy a lot of bullets and start a revolution. Except, I don’t believe in violent governmental overthrow. I’m like John Lennon. Give peace a chance. Or, at least give a peach a chance. And, eat it.

Oh never mind. I’m just having fun with words.

Oh. Redesign part two. I make things to hard sometimes. I tried to build a page using the newer WordPress software. I’ve never liked that. I use the old version. Sure enough, all I have to do is enter from the administration panel and I can work in the same way I did pre-redesign. Press the preview button, or the schedule button and the software does the rest. Learning. See? I’m learning.

 


It’s the clouds.

The third time is a charm. They say.

Maybe.

It does help to return to the scene of the crime, er, picture. Eventually, I’ll get it right. This may be the best of the skytrain pictures, mostly because of the clouds, the light and the golden color. Also, because I finally found the right angle to capture what a train and the bridge looks like.

If you see a little bow in the middle of the bridge, that’s real. It’s not a lens flaw. The bridge, both the ones for trains and cars has dips and rises in it. It feels a little sporty when you cross the bridge for cars. It was built in the 1930s when cars weren’t so big. It was renovated and widened a few years ago. There’s only so much you can do with a fairly fixed space without messing with the integrity of the original structure.

Anyway.

The only better view would be from the left, but much further down the tracks where the trains make a turn towards New Orleans.  Even then, line of sight is limited. The only way to really show the view would be from the air, which means using a drone. However, most railroad property falls under Federal jurisdiction which means you’d need permission from the rail company who owns the track. That either means Canadian National or New Orleans Beltline. I’d prefer that latter. I own a tiny piece of it, as we all do. And, their offices are local. I could actually talk to somebody there.

So.

There’s some history and a little bit about railroad companies. I didn’t intend to go that far and yet, here we are.

The picture was easy to make, as most of mine are. See it. Photograph it. Clean up a bit in post production and viola, done. It’s a good example of why you always keep some kind of camera with you. You just never know what you are going to see.

While you are running errands.

 

 


A little rain won’t stop us.

Another storm picture. Rain never stops us. I think a lot of us were fooled because we weren’t ready for the intensity of the rainfall. Never trust the weather people on your local news. They mean well, but if I got about 90% of what I said wrong, I’d fire myself.

I’ll talk about this picture. That’s it for today.

I made it with my new magic smart phone. This is the one that makes a 12 megapixel file. Usually, I process in the phone with Snapseed. I started thinking that I didn’t really like the final product, so I started experimenting by downloading the file to my main machine and using onOne to develop it and do the finishing post production.

What a difference.

The newest version, OnOne Photo RAW 2019, even has a template for making words. At this point, I cull in Photo Mechanic and Edit in OnOne and that’s it.

Goodbye Adobe. Again.

Finally. I don’t have to pay $9.99 a month forever.

Keeping today photographic, more about this picture. The first thing to know is that I made it through the windshield in between wiper swipes. This was another time that my phone thought I had a dirty sensor.

I made a lot of pictures this way.

All I knew was that my umbrella changed hands and I wasn’t going out in the pouring rain. I sat on the car and made pictures. Either I’m smart or just lazy. A betting person would take the latter.

That explains the softness in my subject’s face. We know that she likes bottled Coca-Cola, which is sort of ironic because the bottling plant for Louisiana is less than a half mile away.

That’s the story.

 


Chugging through the clouds.

Sky train number two.

One of the benefits of staying in one place is that you get to see some of the same subjects in a different light. Yes. That means the physical and the metaphysical. The old Robert Capa saying, “if the picture isn’t good enough then you weren’t close enough,” really has two meanings. The first is obvious and I clung to that for years. Work closer. Make a better picture. The second isn’t so obvious. A good friend of mine mentioned it to me.  You have to be close to your subject in order to understand your subject. From that springs a better picture.

Think of it this way. Maybe you are one of my writer friends who reads Storyteller. You ask me to photograph your family because you think all you take is snapshots. While my pictures of your family might be better technically than anything you shot, I can pretty much assure you that your pictures will be better than mine from a content point of view. You know your family far better than I do.

The same thing happens with travel pictures. If you go on some sort of tour, whether it’s a cruise that stops in certain places, or a guided tour through some country, your pictures will be fairly common and will reflect the fact that you don’t know the location well.

I never take those kinds of tours. I learn as much as I can about a place and schedule enough time so that I can just hangout and learn the flow of it. I also don’t try to cover too much. I really and truly dislike packing and unpacking and packing… you get the idea. That’s for my photographic work. My other life is different. But, I’m not trying to learn about a place.

That said…

The same thing happens when you live in a place. You can return repeatedly to places you find interesting. In theory, your pictures should improve. I’m lucky (or not). I live in a very popular place that tourists and travelers just love. The best travel destination in the country. So the travel magazine and guidebooks say.

After all, how many of you can walk out the door around golden and blue hours and say, “I’ll be back. I’m going to the French Quarter to take pictures.” I may grumble about the city, but most of the time it’s giant set waiting to be photographed… and eaten. Yeah. Lots of world-class restaurants. Even on the greasy spoon end.

One more thing. No. Not every place is New Orleans. But every place has great pictures lurking in the corners. You just have to leave your Barcalounger and your 92 inch television and go outside and look for them. Do this for a couple of days in a row and the pictures will find you. I promise.

The picture. I photographed this bridge a few weeks ago in bright sunlight. I happened to be nearby yesterday so I had another look. The dark clouds were the remainders of a big northerly storm. No more 80 degree days. I awoke to 36 degrees today. The same people who were complaining about the heat are now complaining about the cold. I am not one of them. I like the cold. The dog who sees things loves the cold. For the past couple of days she’s come hauling ass out of the house and dancing around in the cold air.

Anyway.

I must feel like writing.

Back to the picture. Not only was there clouds in the sky, but there were diesel engines on the bridge. That bright orange is the BNSF paint scheme. It just jumped out of the overall darkness. I made some closer pictures too. You can see the graffiti covered billboard. I like it well enough, but this picture speaks to the long distance nature of rail travel. In music this might be called the high lonely. The train is eastbound. I don’t know where it originated. Many trains crossing here have traveled from the West Coast, usually Los Angeles. But, the hopper cars aren’t covered in graffiti. They didn’t start in LA. The other LA. Movie stars, palm trees, swimming pools.

Enjoy my tales. I’m finally enjoying writing them.


Freight train high above me.

On some days it looks like trains are flying.

They’re not.

They are crossing The Mississippi River over the railroad bridge that ties into the Huey P. Long bridge originally built in the 1930s. It was renovated and widened a few years ago. For trains it is the gateway to all points west. Or, to every traveler’s dreams.

Once a train crosses the river it passes through a little town called Westwego. Legend has it that the town was named by train conductors calling out, “West we go.” I suppose it could be true.

The picture. New smart phone. New techniques. The color rendition is nothing like my mirrorless cameras or my old iPhone. It’s taking some getting used to.

I made the picture after looking at this bridge for years. You may know it from a news story a couple of years ago. A strong storm blew in from seemingly nowhere and knocked about ten freight cars off the bridge. They crashed down to the ground below, making a giant racket. Luckily, nobody was hurt. A chain link fence was destroyed.

A few changes around this place.

Aside from haringing you to vote, I’m going to stay away from politics as much as humanly possible. I don’t just mean here, but on social network sites and even on traditional news sites like The New York Times. It’s all day, every day. And, that’s too much. The country isn’t just polarized. It’s pushed, pulled and torn in every direction. It’s as if instead of messing with our elections, the Russians dumped something in our water and made us all crazy.

That’s enough.

Vote.

 


Out on River Road.

River Road.

With a few breaks here and there, you can travel almost to Baton Ridge from New Orleans on a seemingly country road that runs along both the East and West banks of the Mississippi River. If you are a bicyclist you can ride most of that distance on the top of the levee that borders the river.

After my fun of a couple of nights ago, I realized that I hadn’t driven this way for a long time. So, I drove it. Well, a short portion of it. Maybe 12 miles. I picked a time when it wouldn’t be too crowded with traffic and the light would be good. I didn’t expect it to be this good. You know. Photographer’s luck.

I made the picture through my windshield. But, as I’ve said 100 times before, I let the camera do its thing, braced it on the dashboard and pushed the button. My eyes never came off the road. I’m also willing to just let the camera drop if something pops up. That’s the difference between me and some of the Sony folks I read on Facebook. My cameras are tools. They aren’t precious.

I think the picture is a nice Labor Day Weekend picture if you live in The United States. If you don’t, it is a nice Sunday picture. Either way, enjoy yourselves. You never know.


I’m lovin’ it.

I thought that I was finished with this series.

Then, I saw it. One more picture. The one with the golden arches tucked neatly into the bottom right hand corner. I composed it that way. But, it was hidden in the funk of low-lying clouds. Even though it doesn’t look like it, this picture took a lot of post production work.

It was tricky. How do you pop the little McDonald’s sign out of the darkness without making it too bright?

Very carefully.

I used some OnOne tools that allowed me to work in teeny-tiny increments. It reminded me of the days in the darkroom when we used potassium ferricyanide to open the shadows slightly. The difference? Not only was that chemical dangerous, but one wrong move and the print was ruined. You started over with a new print. Made in the dark. It was tedious work.

Today, of course, we do it digitally. We can save an image as we go. Make a mistake, and take a step back.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning the “old school” ways prepared me for the future. When somebody complains that they don’t have the patience to do a little digital retouching, I mostly just think it’s a good thing they were born after than me. It’s likely that a lot of today’s “internet photographers” would be working underneath that sign making Quarter Pounders With Cheese. Oops. Did I write that?

Make no mistake. I’m not talking about people with phones or cameras who are just documenting their lives, their children and their travels. They are having fun.

No.

I’m talking about the photographers who want to make money from their pictures. Photography, like any art, takes time to learn. Often, it’s painful. Just as importantly, if you want to make money, take the time to learn the business of photography. Too many new photographers under charge for their work. If you start out low balling it’s very hard to raise your prices, If you give your work away on the new stock websites that don’t charge people who need pictures, you are just strangling yourself in the name of “getting known.” WordPress is doing a deal with one of them now. Just sayin’.

Why am I talking about this now?

I always do.

But, I was listening to something the late Anthony Bourdain said about getting older and mature in your work, whatever it is. We are bound to teach those coming up. We are bound to be generous with our time.

So.

I think that about once a week, I’ll teach. Right here on Storyteller. For free.  That’s the other thing. We shouldn’t be making money from other photographers no matter how much we need it for our cash flow.

What would you like to learn?

Ask away.


People out to have some fun.

“Successful hills are here to stay, Everything must be this way, Gentle streets where people play

Welcome to the Soft Parade,  All our lives we sweat and save, Building for a shallow grave,

Must be something else we say, Somehow to defend this place, Everything must be this way

Everything must be this way, yeah, The Soft Parade has now begun, Listen to the engines hum

People out to have some fun, A cobra on my left, Leopard on my right, yeah.”

—  Soft Parade lyrics © Doors Music.

I made the picture. Then, I found the lyrics. The song starts with this, “When I was back there in seminary school.” That’s how I replied to a friend of mine who was discussing the road and sky picture that I posted the other day.

That got me started.

I listened to the song. I used to love The Doors. I worked on the picture. I found the lyrics. Here we are. The start of the work week for some people. You can find a line in the lyrics about just that. I guess I still love The Doors. Their music is still relevant after 50 years. It also sounds very contemporary. And, seeing the “© Doors” tells me that the surviving members of the band managed to recover all the rights to their songs. Good. Never lose the rights to your art, whatever it may be.

The picture. The last of the images that I made on that wonderful cloudy day. WordPress’ compression software stepped on it a bit. The chrome and backlighted cars glistened. It added balance to the picture. I can hardly wait to see what Facebook will do to it. Aaaargh.

I don’t know what it is about me. I really like power and telephone lines in my work. I was taught (back there in seminary school) to do whatever it took to avoid them. A few years back I realized that they are just part of the scene. If I’m being honest with my work they should remain. On the other hand… this may be a little over kill.

One more thing. It’s another drive by picture. Notice, the red stoplight. It’s looking right at me. This is also one of those corners where you can’t turn right on red. See? I’m obeyed the rules. I don’t think the rules say anything about taking pictures, but that’s got to be better than texting. Right?