About summer.
Looking toward the east.

For at least the last five years, I’ve been trying to make at least ten very good pictures that are about summer.

I haven’t succeeded yet.

I probably won’t again this summer.

I know, I know. With that attitude I have assured myself of failure.

Not really.

It’s just a realistic statement that takes into account how difficult it is to make ten good pictures about anything over the course of a year. Sheesh. I’ve been at this for just under fifty years. I’ve made a lot of good pictures. I don’t make bad pictures.

But.

If you were to ask me about my great pictures, only three come to mind. Fifty years. Three great pictures. That ain’t a great ratio. I’m sure there are a lot of better shooters than I am, who have made far more memorable pictures that I have, but, if you ask them, they’ll say about the same thing.

As I’ve been putting older work, mostly from Asia on NGS’ “Your Shot.” I’ve been thinking, “Me?” “I took that picture?” “It must have been a better photographer” I’m not being overly humble. I’m just surprising myself by looking at old, almost forgotten work.” Still, those images don’t crack into my “excellent category.”

That’s one of the great things about getting older — among damn few good things — you have the wisdom of perspective. You understand that most pictures shared on Instagram are nonsense, especially when they are posted as professional work.

The picture. Make no mistake. This isn’t one of the ten great summer images. This is just a tree that I photographed in early morning light. It was backlighted so it caught my attention. It reminded me to start looking right now. Right this minute. For summertime pictures.

Man. I’ve got a lot to do in the next twelve weeks or so.

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Black and white study.

As a young man I studied all of the classic black and white masters. Weston. I read his diaries. Adams. I learned his exposure system. Strand. I studied his composition. The list goes on.

That’s what we did back then. No. We didn’t copy them. Instead, we looked at their works in books. We went to museums. If we were lucky, one of their shows appeared at a local gallery. So, we went.

Today, it’s a little different. You can find everything you want online. That’s good. And, bad. It’s a great reference point, but you can’t see the texture of the print. You can’t see the depth of shades of gray from pure white to the deepest black.

For so many new photographers seeing the work online is good enough. Worse, they are told by a lot of online photo gurus to “fake it until you make it.” That would be fine, but what they are really saying is “find a picture that you like and copy it.”

That runs across the grain of everything I was ever taught. I was taught to learn from masters, apply it to your work, but make it YOUR WORK. I’m pretty sure that copying an exact work runs counter to copyright law as well. But, that would mean the image was fairly complex with clearly defined characteristics. Most of what new photographers are trying to copy is fairly simple. Work that anybody could do.

The picture. I saw the rock laying in between the roots of a Texas Live Oak. I never arrange subject matter. I’m fairly sure the rock didn’t just happen that way in nature. Somebody, likely a child, put it there.  No matter. That’s how I saw it.

I also saw it in black and white. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. I work in color. I see that way. Not this time.

I’ve long said that Storyteller is an experimental place. With its new redesign, two of the four days work has been in black and white. Hmmmmmm.


Painted flowers and stuff.

This morning.

I started by reading the last column from a young writer at NOLA.com/Times-Picyune who was terminated — a euphemism for fired — when the competition, The Advocate bought the newspaper and website. Because it was a purchase and take over the new owners had to give them sixty days notice. Today is the 30 day mark.

It is her last column because she and her husband, also a T-P reporter who covers the Saints, want to stay in New Orleans. They bought their first home in February. She is looking for work outside of journalism since there is really no place to look in the city. There is the potential of conflict of interest. She’ll still edit and report. Just no more columns which have her opinion sprinkled into them. For the record, her column caused a lot of eye leakage. But, it wasn’t sappy.

That got me thinking about my own life, my career and my changes. It’s long and winding. It would probably take a couple of months worth of posts to tell you all the stories.

Sometimes, I wonder how I got here.

In terms of places, I lived all over. I even lived in Asia. A lot of my adult life has been lived in the south. Aside from Louisiana, I’ve lived in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. All was career related. Sometimes, I wish that I didn’t let my work drive my life.

Make no mistake, along the way I’ve lived in some wonderful places, had some great adventures and met some amazing people. The trick for me today is to keep going. In theory, even at my age, I’m not that old. But, getting older is simply the body’s way of saying if you think that was bad, just wait. So, on I go.

That’s the story. So far.

The picture. When I changed my phone system I thought that I lost photo editing software called Stackable. That’s like Lunchables, only you can’t eat it. I realized, only last week, that it still exists on my iPad. So back to work I went. I made this picture, using flowers and vines and all the stuff the dog usually sees.

By the way, she was groomed two days ago. Man, is she a pretty girl. She’s always cute, but this cut. Oh wow!

I have only one question about the finish of this picture, which I do in OnOne. What the hell happened to my watermark? I went back to the TIFF. It’s there. I went back to the working JPEG. It’s there. Yet when I export it, part of it falls off. I don’t even know how to fix it since it’s correct everywhere. Oh well.


It doesn’t look like it.

It’s been a while.

I’ve been walking around this kind of scene. Passing it by. For some reason, I stopped. I made a picture. This picture. I guess something caught my eye.

I know what you are thinking. This is an autumn picture.

I promise. It’s not.

I made it yesterday. On a very short dog walk,

Short? Yes. It seems that the dog who sees stuff isn’t liking the heat. So, she cuts her walks short. After all, she’s an old girl. She’ll be eleven years old in July. On the Fourth of July to be exact. I see the signs. Her muzzle is turning white. She’s buff in color. That’s fading a little bit. When the weather turns wet, I see her arthritis kicking in a little.

No matter.

She takes care of us. We take care of her. She’s the boss of the other dogs. That’s funny to watch. She herds them by walking in circles around them until they move to the place that she thinks that they should be.

So.

The heat? She’s getting groomed as I write. She’s has a long relationship with her groomer. She’s getting a short summer cut. That should help a lot. When she’s done, she’ll have a short skirt, her legs will be fairly full, but her back and head will be very short. If you are doing this at home, remember that you can’t cut the dog’s hair too short. He or she will get sunburned.

Anyway.

The picture. Yes. It really is a spring picture. Around this place, leaves are always falling. Often, in fall-like colors. That’s due to the various species of trees that grow in what was a swamp.

If you ever saw the movie, “JFK,” there is a meeting in which one prosecutor says that the trees in front of the famed Texas Book Depository didn’t lose their leaves in November because they were Texas Live Oaks. They lose their leaves in April and May. That’s true.

As an aside, if you ever find yourself in Dallas, do yourself a favor. Go to the grassy knoll. Take the book depository tour. I did that years ago with a group of international staff. Nobody left the sixth floor with dry eyes. I don’t know what kind of president John Kennedy could have been if he hadn’t been killed because he was just getting started.  But, he stands for something bigger than that. Optimism. Hope. Dreams. All was lost on that November day.

We could use a little bit of that today.

Or, at least, leaders capable of leading.

 


Reflections.

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem.

See those little white dots? They are little flowers blown off of a bush. That’s what I set out to photograph. Rather than work tightly, I used what amounts to about a 28mm lens. It wasn’t until I started framing the picture in the LCD that I realized what I had.

I captured a late spring or early summer picture in blue. In my swimming pool. Nature was just floating around. I only made a couple of pictures. This one, another slightly tighter horizontal picture. And, a couple of vertical pictures which didn’t work at all.

The image took almost no post production. Mostly, I just tuned it up a bit.

How you see the picture is up to you. We all make meaning of art in different ways, based on our own personal experiences.

I wonder about the future. The future of photography.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed looking at the pictures other photographers posted. Before I get into this, please know that I don’t take the so-called wisdom of the crowd all that seriously.

What I found was interesting. The truly unique and challenging pictures had almost no likes. The derivative, technically current popular ways of working had many, many likes. This is partly due to the Instagram effect and young photographers trying to gain popularity so that the become influencers. That may have mattered once to image users and buyers, but that ship has sailed. They know that the waters were very shallow.

If anything, Instagram and Facebook have hurt photography. If you follow the crowd and play for likes and reposts, you’ll never break out. You’ll never really find your own style. You’ll just be copying some other photographer, who copied some other photographer and… you get it. Out of that comes a new photo philosophy. “Fake it until you make it.”

Copy other photographers work until you learn enough technique to start trying to make your own pictures. I don’t know when or how that came to be. It’s the worst possible thing to do. I was taught about 150 years ago to photograph my world as I saw it. Sure. Some of my early work wasn’t all that great, but it taught me to think for myself.

Certainly, some photographers influenced me. They still do, today. But, I didn’t copy them. I learned a lot from how they thought. I learned a lot from how they worked. But, I never set out to make a particular picture like one of them did.

That’s it.

As Sam Abell said, “Take YOUR picture.”


Car reflections.

After not making pictures for a couple of weeks, they all came tumbling out.

I had an Ernst Haas moment. I had a Jay Maisel moment. I had a David Allen Harvey moment. I had my own moment.

Best of all I photographed what I saw. I saw a lot.

This picture is not what you think it is. I’m willing to bet that you think this is one of my layered pictures. It isn’t. Or, it is water. It’s not that, either.

It’s a reflection of trees on a car trunk, or boot as they say in England. There are a few leaves sort of pasted to the car’s surface. Those were left after the rain storm.  Needless to say, it’s all real.

Sure.

There is some post production going on. It’s mostly to darken highlights, open up shadows and sharpen little bits of the picture. There is no heavy post or editing going on. The picture is pretty much how I saw it.

The image was made on my phone. A little work was done in Snapseed. Most of it was done after a saved it as a Tiff, sent it to my main machine and finished it using OnOne.

Now, you know some of my new tricks. Most of them revolve around letting the picture tell me what to do.

The notion of letting something tell me how to work with it could be my sub-topic for today. I truly believe that, especially in creative fields. As I cruise through various social media, I see way too many people trying to control the process. I think it’s because they are still insecure with their genre. Pictures, Painting, Making music, Writing.

One guy, on Facebook, made a lot of pictures at Jazzfest. Most of what he was posting were pictures of Mardi Gras Indians and various second lines. To me, those are bright, vibrant and colorful scenes. He was torn between posting them in black and white or color. In the spirit of letting the picture tell you what to do, I suggested that they should be made in color for the very reason I just mentioned. There were a lot of folks who got excited by black and white because that gave the picture some kind of gravitas. He went in their direction. Oh well. You can lead a horse to water…

It’s not a question of being wrong or right. It can never be. It’s a question of subject matter. It’s also a question of making the very best picture that you can in the field. If you do that, you don’t have to worry about technique. The picture “just is.”  I think I know what he is trying to do by making black and white files. As I’ve said in the past just about everybody photographs New Orleans events. Making black and white pictures is a way of separating yourself from the pack. If you are trying that and have any guts at all, turn the camera sensor to JPEG and turn off the color capture. Make the pictures in black and white right from the start. No going back.

What do you think?


About Spring
Colors of springtime.

Weird.

In a way, spring in Southeast is weird. You can see that in this picture. Green leaves of rebirth. A spring thing. Orange leaves of passing. Usually, in most places, an autumn thing.

Not here.

Obviously, the leaves are confused. Is it spring? is it autumn?

Yes. Those orange leaves will turn brown and fall to the ground. But, not today. It is true that certain trees lose their leaves in March or April, like Texas Live Oaks. Most do not.

I’d just say that it’s a quirk of nature.

That little quirk makes a good Sunday picture. Something interesting, but peaceful. A picture that could be hung on your wall. With a little careful editing, I could make this file big enough to print on wallpaper size paper. For your wall. Your wall. Think about that. You come home from a hard day in the coal mine, you walk in your door. There staring at you is a gorgeous nature picture. All that coal dust falls right off.

In fact, I could do that with most of my semi-nature pictures. I could also print them fairly large and frame them. Remember for me, a small picture is around 16×20 inches.

I like big pictures. I’m old school that way. As more of everything moves online, I still think there is a place for paper. I can download a photo book from Amazon to my i-Pad. Unless it’s a teaching book of some kind, who wants that? I want to hold the book and look at the work. nd, really, really take my time.

I also like my pictures in books.

This year may be the first time that I think about the Christmas season during summer, and actually create a couple of stocking stuffer sized books. As long as I can recover cost, I’d price them very reasonably. I might even try to market and sell them through Amazon, rather than a one-off printer like Blurb.

What do you think about that?

At the very least, that would help me fill a gap. My contracted books really aren’t slated to hit the streets until mid-2020. But, I could get things rolling with a self published project or two. At best, you could hold my work in your hands. And, smile.

Busy. Busy. Busy.

Happy Sunday.


Not often.

It’s been a while.

I can’t remember the last time I photographed yellow stripes in a parking lot. I’ve actually been watching this one for a while. I started with the striping effort that city contractors did a few months back.

I knew it wouldn’t last long.

Nature always seeks stasis. Mankind wins. Only for a short while. Then, nature’s campaign begins. Rain. Wind. A Slight Flood. Rebirth. Heat. Cold. Drivers parking their cars on the line.

Eventually, the painter’s work begins to wear away.

You can see that in this place, mankind has lost the battle numerous times. It looks like at one time, this place was even a handicapped parking area. That’s the blue and bit of white at the bottom of the picture.

What can we do about this? Nothing. Accept that nature will always win. She doesn’t care. She just wants stasis. See that green growth? Stasis. It’s nature’s way of starting the process of cracking the pavement.

Same thing with climate change. Nature seeks stasis. She’s fighting back. I’ve said this in the past, but we, humankind is just a flea on her back. Be nice and we continue to exist. Keep on our greedy ways, and well you get it. My city, New Orleans, could cease to exist in less than fifty years. So will most of the Gulf Coast. So will most of Florida. Work your way up to most of the big coastal cities and you know the rest. On both coasts.

Me? I’ve retired from street photography. At least from photographing Mardi Gras culture. I’ll still come out now and then for something big.

I’ve got other things to worry about and photograph. You know about the book projects. You know about agency projects. Those are all very important to me.

But, water. In Louisiana we have too much of it. In other states there is too little of it. That’s my next big self assigned project. Gulf Coast water. For me, the trick is how to do it in a way that makes good sense. There are plenty of great photographers starting to do just what I’ve proposed to myself. But, we really aren’t competing. We are building something together. I just have to figure out how I fit in.

What do y’all think?

Wow! “The painter’s work begins to wear away.” I was copy editing this piece. I came to something I just wrote quickly, without thinking about it. “The painter’s work begins to wear away.”

Who’s the painter? What work? “Where?”


What I saw one day.

Everything you could want.

All in one picture. Water. Leaves. Grass. Rocks.

During spring. In nature.

I suppose that there’s more. But, I don’t need much. This just about does it for me. In case you’re wondering, this is a little water feature in a pocket park near to where we live. The idea is to keep the water moving which should eliminate mosquitos, one of our summer scourges. It works to a point. At least they don’t appear to be able to lay eggs.

I don’t really know.

I do know that it works as a subject of a picture when I can’t seem to find anything better. I’ll try to do better next time. Posting a picture a day is hard work. Especially when I’m not motivated to really work at making pictures. That’ll happen. It happens all the time.

The picture. A walk. A dog walk. I saw a little different look and shape to something we walk by at least twice a week. I made a few pictures. We kept going. I tinkered with it in post production. I gave it some shape by taking away other shapes.

That’s it.

Over and out.

One more thing. I seem to be in one of those phases. I’m gathering new followers at the rate of about 25 a day. They follow, but leave nothing else. No way to contact them. No real blog. And, no way to thank them for following Storyteller. I have no idea why this happens. The only thing that comes to mind is that my new followers are taking a class or some kind of workshop. They may be instructed to follow blogs that they like. If you Google photography blogs, Storyteller rises to near the top. Most folks like photography, so they follow me.

That’s just a theory. I wish one of them would stick around long enough for me to chat with them and prove or disprove my theory.