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.


All fall down.

A long December.

For me it’s a time of review. Not just for 2019, but for the decade since 2020 is the start of a decade. It’s also just not only about me. It’s about the state of the planet. The state of being. And, it’s about the people that I’ve lost. The people who are no longer on this planet. And, it’s about one more trip around the planet.

It started with sports. Not playing, but reading about sports. A lot of writers were doing best of the decade sporting stories. That gave me an idea. What if I did my best ten pictures of the decade?

On one hand, it was fairly easy to pick my ten best. They have been signature pictures since the day I made them. On the other hand, the exercise was miserable. I made a lot of pictures in the last ten years. My kind of pictures. The ones that were more like photojournalism than art or nature.

Why miserable?

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been very productive over the last two years. Yes, sure, I’ve made a huge amount of my faux nature pictures. To me, they don’t count. That’s not what I do. I could write that off to being in pain, to being afraid of falling down in the middle of a second line, to being fairly depressed because of the pain and feeling like my career is winding down.

That’s not me.

I’ve always played through the pain. This pain is for the rest of my lifetime. So? I’ve always lived by Neil Young’s song, “Don’t be Denied.” I’ve got a fairly high threshold for pain. I’m not the guy who thinks that he’s dying when I catch a cold.

So?

They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. I’m going to do my level best at finishing so strong, you’ll just think I took a few years off for some unknown reason. Besides, there is just too much to do. Too much that I don’t want to leave undone.

One more thing. This year was the year of learning. I didn’t learn that much externally. But, I did internally. I looked into my past. At my beginnings. How I got to this place. There are some bad memories. But, there were some awfully great times.

Here’s one of both.

You know that I spent six years in Hong Kong, more if you count China. I used to manufacture books. I would close the process by doing a press check. We’d work night and day. We’d look at color quality. I learned the subtle art of compromise. I learned that perfection is for angels. Especially when we were printing 8 or 16 pages at a time. The red you want on one page is the red you don’t want on another page. But, the pages are being printed together. I had to figure out the balance. The difference.

So.

I was in Hong Kong for ten months without coming home at all. At the end of my time there, I went to Singapore to print one more book. This book was a co-production with an unreasonable partner. The book was very late coming off the press. The partner wanted to review every running sheet. I was in Singapore. They were in New York City. That meant a delay of two days for every one we were on press. The whole thing devolved into a long distance three way screaming match between me, them and my bosses who were on my side.

Finally, I just said screw it. I said I would send them the running pages. I printed the entire book and sent them a loosely gathered set of pages. They hit the roof. They wanted to make changes, not just in book quality, but in content. I replied the book is in the bindery. It’s done. Dead silence from the other end. I hung up and went about my business.

I was exhausted.

Up all night. Up early in the morning. Up during the day. That’ll exhaust you. But, I wasn’t done yet.

From Singapore I flew to Copenhagen via Zurich. I didn’t have to change planes. I slept through the stop. I slept until we were about an hour out of Denmark. The flight attendant fed me after saying that she tried to wake me but couldn’t. Exhausted.

When we landed I went straight to my little house. One room, with a sleeping area, a kitchen, sitting area and a world class bathroom. Like an Air BnB, but 20 years early. I took a shower and turned on the television. I found VH-1, mostly since I couldn’t understand the Danish stations.

The first thing I see is this guy singing and dancing. He’s wearing long beaded dreadlocks. He looks very happy. Adam Durwitz. Counting Crows. Playing and singing Mr. Jones. Remember that song? From the early 1990’s?

Oh, man. Did that ever make me sing and… dance.

Music saved me.

Oh, Copenhagen? I loved it. I could walk from my place to work in a design studio on a cobblestoned walking street. I could stop for a great breakfast and even better coffee along the way. It was early June. It fairly cold so I bought a jacket. I photographed constantly. Three weeks later, I left for home.

Finally.

 

 


I found some colorful leaves.

Just when I thought I was out, I was pulled back in.

Actually, I went looking for these leaves. They are still hanging around on trees called Japanese Maples. They turn fall colors later in the season. And, the color lasts longer once the leaves do start to change.

I knew where I thought I saw them. I just haven’t walked in that direction in the past month or so, I headed there hoping against hope that I hadn’t missed them. I was lucky — that old photographers luck thing again  — and they were as I expected them to be. Whew.

I made all kinds of pictures of them. I processed a lot of them which is unusual for me. I couldn’t find quite what I wanted until I saw this image. It looks like an explosion of color so I made it look even more explosive. That’s what you are seeing here.

I’d like to say that there is a lesson here. Maybe one of persistence. But, I wasn’t very persistent. Instead, it’s more-or-less how my mind works. Some vision clicks in and I try to find it in real life.

Maybe the best lesson for me is not to self edit in the field. I said about a week ago that one of my pictures was the last of the fall color. If I stuck with that I wouldn’t have walked in a different direction. I wouldn’t have found the wonderful late fall colored  Japanese Maples.


The last red tree. I promise.

I know what I said.

I was wrong. I found this tree a day or two after I said that all the leaves were down. However, I walked by it this morning thinking I’d add to the red collection. Now, I can safely say that all the leaves are down. The street was covered in the red leaves you see in this picture. I took a picture to prove it. I might post it next week. Or, tomorrow.

I guess this picture proves what I’ve long believed. Don’t mess with mother nature. Or, her trees.

Today is Black Friday in The United States. It’s a silly day created to drum up business. Prices are supposedly deep discounted. People used to line up at malls and big box stores at something like two o’clock. In the morning.  Some stores are open on Thanksgiving Day.

According to some news reports that I read, it’s becoming a thing of the past. And, hopefully buyers are realizing that the deepest discounts are made on old stock, specially wholesaled stock, and stuff nobody needs. The good stuff may or may not be discounted. And, there may not be much of it. A lot of people have also discovered the joys of shopping online.

We don’t go to stores to celebrate overbuying. And overspending, which stretches out your Christmas giving for the rest of the new year.

Even when we do look at Black Friday prices, we actually don’t buy any goods. We might buy services. For instance, last year we subscribed to Hulu for 99 cents a month. This year, I’ll likely buy some photo software at a discount with a bunch of other goodies included. I may also subscribe to The Athletic, a very well reported and written sports website. It’s worth the normal price, but today it’s half price for a year.

What do you, in The United States, do on the busiest shopping day of the year?

Hopefully, like us, you mostly ignore it. Even the two items that I might download and subscribe to for the next year, came to me because I already use those services. I wouldn’t know about them if I didn’t. And, I wouldn’t care.


As the leaves come tumbling down.

Things change.

Life changes. Seasons change, but they are cyclical. For sure, there are four seasons. Our winter usually isn’t very cold. Our summers are unbearably hot. The transition seasons, spring and fall, do what they are supposed to do. They just come earlier and later than most places.

Once you understand that, things get easier. I suppose that’s about like other of life’s changes. Trying to act and do things you did them when you were young often doesn’t work out so well. You adjust. You carry on. Supposedly, as you get older wisdom overtakes knowledge. I haven’t seen that yet. With me.

Of course, we live in dangerous times. What was wise once doesn’t hold now. Maybe things will revert closer to normal, but we all know that even if a sense of calm returns, it will be different than it was in the past. That’s okay. We made a lot of mistakes getting here. If we learn from those mistakes we’ll come out a little ahead.

The picture. The coolest thing about the digital world of photography are the LCDs. You can rotate them. You can turn them. You can use them to see what you couldn’t see in the past when you just pushed the shutter release button hoping for a good outcome.

That’s how I made this picture. The camera was almost on the ground. But, I could see what I was doing.

The post production was interesting. I worked the picture for longer than normal. It got brighter and the color was turning electric. That wasn’t what I wanted. I used another approach and almost flipped the color over making the picture look like a negative.  I brought back some of the color and made sure that everything was in sharp focus.

Viola!

No, no, no. Not walla.

 


Mostly red.

Bright red.

What a color in nature. It was calling out to me. It said roll in Dr. John’s birthday second line next year. A couple of you on various social media wanted to see more of this. What could I do? I aims to please.

From a technical standpoint, this picture is very good. There is almost no post production. Nature took care of that. When I saw those trunks reflecting glowing golden light, I knew what I had found.

You know me. I’m lazy. I thought about traveling to New Mexico or Vermont, or Virginia. Based on weather reports and the lack of fall pictures on various social media, I’m glad that I didn’t travel.

This was a five minute walk from the house. I didn’t need to go to the airport, find parking, pass through TSA, check luggage, board the plane and wish I was somewhere else. I’ll have to do that soon enough.

Anyway.

This is a short post. I’m beginning another trip around the sun today. Maybe there will be cake, party favors and presents.


Gleaming behind the sun.

Morning. Low Sun.

This. You get this. If you look at the light as it falls behind new blooms and old leaves. This is what you get.

I’d like to say this was an accident. It wasn’t. Even though I let the all-seeing dog lead me, I gently directed her to where I hoped to find light like this.

The first place in which I looked, I found that the sun was too low in the sky. But, the next place bore fruit. Or, flowers. I carefully exposed the picture as best I could. And snapped away. Post production work was mostly about darkening the image and making sure the background was obscured.

That’s it. I cropped it as usual, to give it shape.

A word about the weather. When I awoke the temperature dropped from a high of 79 degrees yesterday to just about 40 degrees. That’s nothing. On Wednesday, we are predicted to have low temperatures in the mid 20s.

Whaaaat…?

It’ll be windy on both days so the “feels like” temperature will be 8 to 10 degrees less than the predicted temperatures.

First, it’s too hot. Now, it’s too cold. When is this porridge going to be just right?

Er, something like that.