It’s October. Still hot. Still humid. Still staying inside too much because of it.
When I do go out I find strange stuff. I found something that I wanted to use a component background. The round shapes in this picture are made of sunlight passing through a frame and illuminating the darkness.
The minute that I processed it, I knew I had a picture to layer into it. So I used it. The image came together so quickly that I knew I was on the right track. That’s how it works. At least it does for me. I suspect it does for most people. Artists are all really just vessels. Our work isn’t really ours. It belongs to something bigger than us. To the cosmos? To a power higher than us? To nature?
I don’t really know.
Before you think that I’ve lost my mind, I’m not the only one to say this. Musicians like Dylan, Jones, and Young say it too. There are days when they write two, three or four songs without even trying. They don’t know how they did it. And, the songs are great.
On more thing about this way of working. It doesn’t happen often. Many days are a struggle. There are dry days. There are days when I swear that I’m blind. There are days when I can’t see a picture to save my soul. And, there are days when I can’t write on Storyteller.
But, not today.
The picture just came. The words just came. Thanks, whoever you are that gave them to me.
Do you really want to know more about the picture? Make pictures. Every day. Everywhere. You’ll build enough of an archive that you can layer images when you want to. Maybe inspiration will come to you. Or, not.
I got a little bored last night so I started playing with another human being in post production. This time, it was a Mardi Gras Indian Wildman who I photographed on the Westbank for their Super Sunday.
As I recall, it was a busy Sunday. There were two second lines on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. One was Uptown, the other downtown. There was also the big Westbank Super Sunday.
The picture is a couple of years old. At least, the base picture of the Wildman is that old. In those days I had more energy. I photographed both second lines and drove across the Crescent City Connection and found the parade route at just about the right moment.
Finding anything on the Westbank is a big deal for me. I get lost the moment I cross the river. And yet, there is a wonderful New Orleans neighborhood called Algiers Point that I just love visiting. It looks like Uptown New Orleans, but it isn’t. There is also a great Asian grocery store called Hong Kong. I’ve been there many times. I count my blessings if it doesn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to find after I’ve gotten lost and driven around in circles.
The picture. The base image is the Wildman — the guy with the giant bones and skull in his hair.– who protects the Big Chief. The rest of the pictures that make up the background are images that I’ve made along the way.
Pro tip number one. Never delete anything. You just never know. There are backgrounds hiding in your archives. Besides you can study the out takes to learn something about your mistakes.
Pro tip number two. Make sure whatever background image you choose stays in the background. With most editing software, you can move the second image forward and back.
Once you positioned the two or more images, then go back into the editing software to smooth out the look and finish the image.
I have no idea how long it will take you. But, you shouldn’t rush it, While downloading, backing up, adding meta data and developing images can be a chore, this process should be fun.
As I once wrote, I gave up video games to learn how to do this. This had better be fun.
Just call me Mister Lizard. Oops. I meant wizard. The work really isn’t so wizardly. It’s just a matter of seeing in the field, knowing what you want to do in post production and executing.
I wish it was just that easy building websites, or adding on to a WordPress blog site. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
I spent a good part of yesterday fiddling around. First, I tried an outside template company. All was fine except that they wanted too many changes. Some changes that I’m unwilling to do.
I thought that I could just do the same thing using WordPress. After a couple of hours I learned why normal coders pull their hair out when they try to use WordPress. It is so hard that very few people understand it. Those that do, specialize in just a few templates and know the inner workings inside and out.
I’m not one of them. I don’t code at all.
It came to me. I have a website that I’ve sort of just let languish. The templates there are very easy to use. No coding needed. I decided to refresh and rebuild. It even has a blog component. You can see it as it stands today at http://www.laskowitzpictures.com. For sure, it’s changing.
I just can’t import all of you. I’m not sure that’s necessary. I have around 15,000 followers. About 90% of those are ghost followers. Maybe more. I have no idea why they followed me. Many of them don’t exist except in my numbers.
For those of you who really do follow me and comment, I can easily send you all an email telling you how to follow me again. You’ll get emails just like you did in the past. And, Storyteller on WordPress? I have a business account that I pay for. I’ll downgrade to a free account and post from time to time.
How’s that sound?
The picture. No real wizardry. Just some layering and tinkering. And, adding a little color and brightness. Not wizardry, but a little white magic.
Oh, one more thing.
I want the renewed website to be simple. I don’t want to post everything I’ve ever photographed. If you were me, and having seen my work for a bit, what direction would you go? There are no wrong answers.
That’s probably what this image is about. It’s really just my old layering technique from a couple of years ago. But, better. Better because I’ve had years to play with it. Just like all of us, using certain tools, I hope to improve. Experience matters.
My learning isn’t limited to photographs and art.
Today, I learned that one of my other venues for sharing pictures is moving to Instagram. I realize that once upon a time, Instagram was fairly powerful as a portfolio platform. Picture and assignment bookers could see a lot of work quickly. But, with changing software Instagram is harder to use for searches. I’ve noticed that my likes have been cut in a half lately. I never had that many, but still.
A few months ago, I started posting to NGS Your Shot. I’ve been fairly successful there. Not any more.
As you may or may not know, National Geographic sold themselves to Fox a couple of years ago. They, like so many others, were having financial problems. Fox brought a measure of stability to them, without messing around with the product too much.
A couple of months ago Disney bought Fox. We knew the other shoe might drop.
They terminated 70 staffers. They are closing the US version of NG Traveler. And, they are shifting NG Your shot to Instagram on October 31. Oh, and the yellow bordered magazine that you know as National Geographic Magazine is safe, “for now.”
My reaction? I lost a client in NG Traveller. And, when I saw the letter on my feed of NG Your Shot announcing the move to Instagram, I terminated my postings today. Why wait until tomorrow to do things that you can do today? In the near term, they will instruct us how to download our shared files. Even though I already have those files in my archives, I’ll download them from the soon to be defunct site. You know why.
That leaves me with only a few online platforms, and is partially the reason Storyteller continues to exist. Well, you too. But, I do have some small measure of control on WordPress. As far as other platforms go, if I want to broaden my picture sharing, I might just give up and post directly to Facebook and Twitter. knowing full well that the images might get poached. In many ways, it doesn’t matter anymore. Privacy is now a myth. And, as Bob Dylan once said about music, pictures ain’t worth nothin’.
The picture. It started with a red poolside umbrella and progressed from there. There are two additional layers tucked into the frame of the overall image. I did my usual playing around and there you have it. I do have to figure out what to do with this stuff. These pictures ARE worth something.
Memorial Sunday. In New Orleans, today is the day we memorialize our war dead. The guys who gave their fullest. The guys who never made it home. This is their day.
We have a ceremony. Their graves are covered with little American flags. There are speeches. We ring the bell. We pay them the highest honors that we can.
These spring flowers are for them.
I may go. I may not.
It’s a little hard.
If I go, and I go to the Money Waster’s second line, I’ll be hopping and bopping. It’s hot out there. I’ll need lots of water to stay hydrated. I’ll need to eat something somewhere along the line. Some kind of New Orleans food.
It’ll all be great fun.
Or, I could lounge by the pool. Take a dip. Work on my tan. Burn some meat on the grill. The American way.
I could photograph what needs photographing. And, do the lounging thing later in the day. That would work.
This wasn’t today’s picture. At least it’s not what I planned.
I thought that it was a little too bleak for a Sunday picture. I read a lot. Especially on Sunday morning when I have a little more time. I probably shouldn’t do that.
There was a story that appeared on Twitter with a link back to it. I know. I know. Twitter. It may be one of the meanest places on earth.
I followed the link.
What I found made me horribly sad. The story was about a ten-year old boy. A cute little guy. He had a butterfly bandage over his eye. His lips were swollen and cut up. He had been bullied in school.
That’s bad enough. What happened next was truly horrifying.
He killed himself by hanging.
Where does a ten-year old boy get the knowledge of how to hang himself? Sure. You might see it on the tube. But, you don’t see the technique.
A whole host of questions came to mind.
Where were his teachers? Where were his school caregivers? Where were his parents? How does this stuff happen?
I stopped reading Twitter. I stopped reading news stories for today.
We’ve got some errands to run. I’ll watch some baseball. Yankees baseball. Eventually, I’ll recover. For today. There’s always tomorrow. Hopefully, I won’t get stopped in my tracks again.
That’s why you came here. Even though we’ve had some glorious spring days, there are others that are cloudy and a little bleak. Today is one of those days. There is rain in the clouds. It’s about noon as I write, and the temperature is at its high of 49 degrees. No wonder the dogs are lazy. They don’t want to go outside. But, because I publish every day, I have to make a picture. In this case, I made the original picture. Then I removed the color and made it black and white. I layered it over the original color image. And shifted it slightly. You are looking at the result. A bleak picture. One that suits my mood. Today.
I think it’s easy to take a picture of flowers or whatever says spring. It’s much harder to express what you feel. This image says spring to me. It’s poppy. It has energy. It is very colorful.
I got lucky. Sorta.
I made the magenta portion of the image about a week ago. I made the yellow flowers a day or so ago. Both pictures stand on their own. I started tinkering. I do that at night when I’m not thinking about the business side of my world. It’s pure creation.
The magenta flower was complete right after I photographed it. I finished working on the yellow flower, saved it and thought… hmm.
Often when you try layering, there are a few false starts. Not this time. The two pictures looked great together. It was a matter of adjusting the intensity of both pictures and fine tuning.
In case you are wondering, there isn’t a lot of hardware involved. the work was done on my smart phone. I could have created this post from there, but I like working on a big monitor for that. I usually can find and correct my mistakes easier on a large screen. Or not.
Even though you might not be interested in layering, there are a lot of little photographic tips throughout this post. They may help you. Or not.
It’s brand new. Like, really brand new. Like, hours old. But, here’s thing. I didn’t do much post production to it at all. The cedar leaf looks like it is layered into the bigger leaf. It isn’t. In the old days, we’d call it shutter drag. If we used a flash to help it, we’d use rear curtain synch. With an iPhone? I have no idea. I’m going to figure out how I fooled the camera’s processor so that I can do this again. Doing it again is a useful technique. Doing it once is just an accident.
It’s about the kids in cages. I’m sure you all know their story. It’s indefensible. Something happened yesterday that scared me. I received an email from a friend of mine. It was a group email so it wasn’t written just to me. He was mostly talking about the passing of his tribe… the people with whom he grew up. He mentioned that one of his grade school friends names popped into his head. He Googled her and found that she died in 2016. Where did the time go? This happens to all of us at a certain age. After all, our time on earth isn’t unlimited. That doesn’t meaning our leaving isn’t sad for those who remain.
What he wrote at the end terrified me. He acknowledged that Trump and his administration had truly crossed any line of human decency by putting children in cages. Then he said it… He didn’t write more because he was tired. He was beaten down by the daily onslaught of Trump and his minions. He has about given up.
No. No. No.
That’s why we are a team. We all get tired. We all hand off to the next person while we rest. And, so and so on and so on.
Talk to me if you are tired. There might not be much that I can do. But, I can listen. Where I come from we say to “tell another human being.” It makes our burdens easier to know that we are not alone.
“There must be some way out of this said the joker to the king.” Bob Dylan wrote that. Jimi Hendrix made it famous.
Seems like we are back there. In time.
With a president who want to be a dictator. One who is mean-spirited. One who dislikes the democratic structure of my country. One who wants to punish people. People who aren’t like him. People who make a mistake. Luckily, for the rest of us, he is the weakest president of all time. He can’t get anything done. His staff ignores him. Or, hides from him. “His” generals, nod their heads, and go about their merry ways. He has no power in the Senate. Or, in the House. He has weakened our international position.
Of course, we are being nickeled and dimed. With executive orders that may never be enforced. With different department heads rolling things back. Good things that were moving us forward. Instead, they are pushing forward old technology. Like coal. Like oil for power. And forwarding bad things. Like rolling back health insurance notifications and subsidies. Cutting environmental protection. And, on and on and on.
Now he’s in Asia. He’ll get nothing done. He has no carrots. No sticks. He can’t even persuade China to shut down supplying North Korea with goods and money. The Japanese don’t trust him. The rest of the Asian nations laugh because he walked away from a trade agreement that would have given the U.S. some say in what happens with goods produced in Asia.
Back in the USA, the president and his people are trying to derail the inevitable march of Mueller and his team who are searching for the truth. The truth about whether the president and his minions tried to work with the Russians to tilt the election. As Mueller comes closer, they scream louder. They throw up the silliest of ideas. They throw up a defeated Democratic presidential candidate. You know. “But, the emails.” The president says he has “one of the great memories,” but can’t remember the guy sitting next to him in pictures.
That’s what I meant by the title. “This May Be.” This may be one of those times when the picture stands on its own and has nothing to do with the writing. Once again, the events of this week and the constant whine of the president on Twitter drove me to it. One of you wrote that having the president’s twitter account shut down for 11 minutes and being discussed by traditional media is an example of needing to fill constant news cycles. That, it is an example of fake news.
When you have a guy who tweets policy before anybody know about it, when you have a guy who regularly attacks everybody and anybody via Twitter, when you have a guy who says twitter is the only sure way to his base… well, 11 minutes of enforced silence is news. Big news. Quite frankly, with all his bullying and threatening on Twitter I don’t know how he isn’t shut down for a TOS violation. Oh yeah. President. I remember. If I said some of the things he says on Twitter, I’d be removed so quickly that… oh yeah. President.
I do tweet back to him sometimes. Always with these words, “Donnie John, what are you so afraid of?” He won’t reply. I’m nobody.
I’m about to prepare yet another gallery show. It’s about my layered work of a few months ago. A lot of my friends like that work. I always thought it was experimental at best. Even though my stock in trade is bright, energetic pictures, I thought those were too bright. Almost glaring. So, I thought I do some more layering with a little different color palette. Let’s see what happens.
See? I eventually got back to the picture at hand.