The picture is the thing. That’s what I say. No matter what happens make your picture.
A wise old professor used to say that sometimes the hardest part of making a picture is getting there. He’s right.
Even if you are working in your own city that is still true.
When I photograph a Mardi Gras parade, I leave home which is very close to the parade route, at least 90 minutes ahead of starting time.
If I wanted to work from St. Charles Avenue (Where the tree streetcars run.) I could simply walk a block and half and be there.
I like to work from the start of the parade where all the little pictures are. Krewes preparing. Marching bands rehearsing. Paraders hanging out. Everyone loves to be photographed and that’s what I do.
But, getting there is hard.
The backstreets are already being jammed up by buses carrying the parade participants.
So, I leave very early.
There is a natural parade line break point on my street. I drive through the crowd when the stoplight changes. I head upriver on St. Charles, I drop down to the parade starting point behind it.
Now, I’m approaching the parade from downriver. I get as close as I can and start looking for parking. Because I arrive early, I usually find a space just about where I thought it was be.
I walk to CC’s coffee house, order and sit. Because I’m usually by myself a group of NOPD sits at my table. I ask them questions about the parade and they ask me questions about cameras.
Knowing them helps on the parade route.
Keep in mind, I do all of this so…
I can find a parking space.
There was a year when I worked eight parades at night. I parked in the same space for eight nights.
Day parades are different. If you are photographing a big one, you might have to arrive at 8am for a noon start.
It’s a lot of work.
Compression. A lot of photographers use telephoto lenses to get closer. I work closer and use them to produce compressed images or graphic shapes.
That’s what I did this time. I crowded as much as I could into one picture.
Working at night both helps and hinders. It forces you to shoot wide open at your widest F-stop. That’s good in this case.
It hinders you because you can’t always get a high enough shutter speed to protect the image from motion blur.
Sometimes that’s a good thing.
If the subject is in sharp focus while everything is moving around them that’s a pretty good picture.
Usually, the whole thing is a crap shoot.
It helps if you’ve been doing it most of your career and know how to compensate for some of it.
The biggest trick is to always shoot about three frames. Bam. Bam. Bam.
The first and third frames are usually out of focus or have too much motion blur, but the middle frame will be sharp and the image you hope for.
That all has to do with the body’s natural motion. Tense. Relax, Relax too much.
Stay safe, Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Stay relaxed.
I said that I would experiment with Mardi Gras pictures rather than publish images that are documentary in nature. That turned out to be harder than I thought. It’s tough turning a clean, sharp image of somebody doing something into a kind of art. For the most part, it feels forced. And, it looks odd.
Finally, after an even more careful culling of my images I found this one. I knew that I could experiment and likely come away with my original intent.
Intention is everything when you make a cinematic image. Fiddling around with it shows.
So, what do we have here?
The subject is a St. Augustines Marching 100 drum major. He was in the lowest of light. I helped it by using a smaller f stop, which meant the shutter speed was very slow, probably around 1 second, hand held. The blur was intention. It was also helped because the picture was made at night. I could make a motion blurred image during the day, but it loses its mystery and mood.
That’s what Tom Petty sang. That’s what true. We waited and waited and waited. Sometimes that happens, a tractor broke down on one of the earlier parades. The Krewe of Cleopatra could do nothing but wait.
Besides, it’s peak New Orleans.
This picture is sort of a placeholder. I’m jammed up. Night time parades followed by daytime parades will do that. I thought this was a great picture with which to start. I’d have used it in a grouping as well as this way even if I wasn’t too busy.
I don’t think that I have to explain anything to you, do I?
Often, it’s hard to show that. Motion is thought of being better portrayed on video. I don’t make videos. I do it using still cameras. I’ve done that since the days of film. For a time, I made my career on that.
The trick is to find something that’s recognizable and keep that somewhat sharp. Like a face. With a big smile. With laughing eyes.
I don’t do it as much because in the digital age, everybody thinks the picture should be sharp from front to back. That’s too bad. I find intentional motion blur to be one of the most interesting parts of a photograph. There’s many ways to do that. One, easy way, is to focus on something that doesn’t move, use a slow shutter speed and let things in motion pass through the picture.
That’s not what I did.
I allowed the subject’s natural motion meet my natural motion and create another kind of painterly motion to take place. Because the picture was made at night, all I did was stop down and let the shutter speed take care of itself.
As far as presenting pictures from Mardi Gras goes, I’m not going to try to show them in chronological order. Instead, I’m grouping them by photographic subject matter. I’ve been lucky to have made really good shoots. There is too much material to present the pictures by parade. Yesterday’s post of ten pictures was way too much. It was hard on me to do the prep work. It was hard on you to work your way through so many images. There is one blogger who posts a lot of pictures. He or she is proud of themselves when they write something like there are 42 pictures in this post. I usually just trash the blog. I don’t know about you, but 42 pictures is way too many to view. Especially, when it looks like the photographer stepped two steps to the left or right. Sheesh. Cull your work.
That’s not a rant. It’s a pro tip.
New Mardi Gras parades resume on Wednesday. You’ll probably see the work in a week. Heh!
Either I’m working much slower, or I’m working much more. Or, both. Either way, I can’t seem to keep up on my posts. While I’ve edited and processed my raw files, I’ve got a long way to go until they are ready to be seen.
This is an image that I made on my phone, with the intent of posting it to Instagram. I like the picture just fine. In fact, I like it a lot. It just wasn’t my thinking to post something on Storyteller that I captured quickly via phone.
One parade today. The Krewe of Barkus. The dog parade. Yes. The hounds in this house like to go even though we are no longer krewe members. I like to photograph dogs and their people so it works out just fine. I’m not sure how far we’ll walk with the parade as it winds through the French Quarter. Wall to wall people, except the center of the street where the dogs and their people walk.
You know what I wrote about crowds. And, me.
No matter. There is plenty to see and photograph without getting squashed in the Quarter.
My plan — yes, I have one — is to finish the edit of about 900 pictures and get them ready for you and my agencies, who need a specific kind of picture. I’ll do this tomorrow after the dogs on parade.
This picture was easy. See it. Check its reflection. Try to stay out of the picture. (I didn’t succeed.) Push the button. It’s almost like two pictures for the price of one. It helps to have multiple tuba players with well polished instruments.
The first one. The first Uptown Mardi Gras parade.
Normally on the first night shoot during Mardi Gras, I’m trying to knock off the rust. Not this time. I had an almost perfect shoot. Not only that, but getting there and parking was easy. I parked as close to the parade route as I could. I returned home easily. All of this matters.
The pictures. Let’s put it this way. I could see. I could see as the pictures revealed themselves to me. I suppose that put me in a good mood and place. It seemed like everybody I photographed was happy and having fun. Or, it may have been me.
That shows in the work.
You know me. I like to work at the start of a parade so I can make more than just the usual, “float rolls down the street” picture. I made a lot of good pictures. You’ll see them eventually. For today, you are seeing only one. I’m a bit late and should be on my way to some day parades. Their time has been moved up since we are expecting pretty violent storms.
Anyway the lead tuba player was looking over my head into the crowd for somebody or something. I managed to make the picture in poor light. But, not as poor as this picture indicates. WordPress got me again. Their compression software about killed the image quality. When I look at it on my monitor via OnOne, the image looks great. Not so much here.
So. It begins. The Uptown parades began to roll on Friday night.
As you already know, I like to work the margins. The edges. Along the gutters. There’s a good reason for that. I cannot compete on a timely basis with about 10,000 people armed with smart phones, and news media outlets who all immediately post via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. In many ways, I don’t want to. I looked at my feeds. Just about every picture of this parade looked alike. A couple of floats, with the crowd surging around raising their hands begging for beads. The pictures I saw last night looked about the same as they did last year. The year before that. And, ten years ago before the storm.
So. I have to do my thing. I work the edges. I look for a moment in time. I actively engage the people I photograph. I try not to make many “scene setters.” The work you are seeing today, are the scenes I saw last night. Not everybody saw this. I’m fairly certain these pictures are very different from anybody else’s pictures. My vision. My intent. That’s kind of the only way I can do it. Otherwise, I’d get bored. So would you.
The only picture that needs explanation is “Cotton Candy Sky.” The rest are fairly self-explanatory. We had a wonderful first night. Temperatures were in the low 60s or upper 50s. When the sun started to set and dusk rolled in, a cotton candy sky is what we got. What I saw. What I had to show you.
Sorry. I’m a little late. Well, a lot late. About ten hours late. But, I have a good excuse. Or, maybe the best excuse. I was working. I worked from 2pm through midnight. Yes. I stopped for coffee. A lot of coffee. I had dinner. But, I just kept taking pictures. Once I get settled into the Mardi Gras routine I should get back on my usual schedule. I hope.
These are just a few pictures from the first heavy day of parades. Three parades. As you have come to know, I try very hard to give you look at the little details, rather than an overall scene. I do this for two reasons. I hope to show you what most people normally don’t get a chance to see. And, since everybody is carrying some sort of camera these days, I have to stretch at public events. That’s good for all of us.
You are looking at one picture from three parades. The Krewe of Oshun. The Krewe of Cleopatra and the Krewe of Cork. Yes. Our names get a little tricky, but they honor all sorts of people, things and places. Except for one. The Krewe of Cork. Cork does not refer to a place in Ireland. It refers to the stopper in a bottle of wine. And, it shows a little.