Light, time and space.

This is what I saw. Just before dusk.

The football team — The Saints — were in the middle of a playoff game. The dog who sees things doesn’t care about football. She only knows what she knows. Like, “I need to go outside and you’d better take me.”

Not being the greatest football fan, I agreed with her and out we went.

Good thing too.

The light was glowing. Glistening  off wet trees. It was turning. Orange. Red. The colors were bright. Almost too bright. They weren’t believable on computer screen. I tuned them down. Very rare for me.

The making of the picture was simple. See it. Photograph it. It just had to pick and choose a little. This picture was an accident. I couldn’t figure out how to frame this scene.

So, I didn’t.

Normally, the subject might be in the center of the picture where those white puffy clouds are located. You might position it according to the rule of thirds, which young new photographers hate. “There are no rules, man.” Uh, tweetberries, it’s a mathematical expression used to describe what occurs in nature.

Naturally.

This brings me to my learned lesson. Or, at least a reminder of one.

There is an old Italian saying. “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer” Same thing with most things in the arts.

There are all sorts of “rules.” Most of them are just guidance. One that comes to mind in “rules for photography” when you expose film (it also applies to digital capture) is, “if you must err, err on the side of warmth.” This especially applies to photographing people. Unless it is a picture intended to be very cold, most viewers respond favorably to a warmer picture than a colder one. I was taught that as a rule. I didn’t discount it out of hand. I listened, I tested and found that it was correct.

Stop rejecting things that your elders say about rules, just because you don’t like them. That’s the rules. And, the elders. I got into that this weekend with a newly elected Congresswoman from the Bronx. You know who I mean. She’s gotten as bad as the guy who lives in the “empty” White House. I like her. But, her tweets have become unbearable. All noise. No signal. I told her that. She didn’t like it. Now I’m part of the great white old class. Right. I’ll forget more than she’ll ever know if she keeps this up. She earned a good education. She’s smart. She’s says that she was a bartender so she’s heard everything. Wow. Who does that sound like?

Just sayin’.

It’s not the political thing that I’m talking about. It’s the unwillingness to listen. To learn.

To that end, I ordered a new t-shirt. It says, “Everybody is a photographer until they get to this.” There is a red line pointing to the “M” setting. The manual setting. I’ll wear it to the next second line. That’ll make a statement.

Good luck this week. We are gonna need it.

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Looking, searching, learning.

Always learning.

That’s what Storyteller is about. That’s what I try to do. It ain’t always easy. You can rile up some people along the way. You ask questions that can’t be answered. I ran into that yesterday.

It was that music thing. The blogger thought that I was offended. I have no idea how he got that idea. Nothing I wrote indicated that. I still don’t understand what he’s doing. The worst thing you can do with certain kinds of interactive events is to impose too many rules. I never really received an answer. I guess I won’t be trying to play along. Oh well. I’m not very good at games anyway.

If I’m writing about it, I guess it bothers me. It does, because the whole idea behind making pictures or blogging is to communicate something to somebody in an understandable fashion. At least, that’s what it means to me. But, I come from a journalism background. Whether you tell a story in words, or in pictures, the basic premise never changes. Tell a story. Clearly.

I fail at doing that as much as the next guy.

Musician Stephen Stills once said that in his early days, when many of his best songs were written, he just wrote them. They sort of came to him. He said that later, he got too cute. He started analyzing his writing as he wrote. We haven’t seen a new, great song for him in years.

That happens to all of us. If you are of a certain age you might think that the late 1960s and 70s were popular and rock music’s best era. You might even listen to those musicians today. They might even be writing new music. Unfortunately, their peak creative time has passed. Very few continue to write as well or easily as they did in their youth.

That also happens to all of us. After working in my archives, I’m convinced that although I’m a much smoother photographer than I was, most of my best work lies behind me. I’m not complaining. It’s the truth. I’m glad I had a time of “best work.” Some never do.

Anyway, I’ll play along with the single word thing since one of you was clear in why she does it. It’s a pretty fair assessment of herself even though I only know her online. My word is learning. I realized that when I started thinking about how and when I stop reading certain blogs. I hope to learn something from everything. Even if it’s only to help me remember what I forgot. When I don’t learn, I move away.

The picture. It is about learning. Learning to use my not so new smart phone. Learning what it can do at night, in the dark. Learning my own limits. Learning what kinds of post production I can do with an image like this one without going too far.

The truth is, I saw the scene and I pushed the button. It took me a while to realize that the design element that helps make the picture for me is two overhead wires.

Post production is minimal. Mostly, I darkened the original picture in order to bring up the details. Sometimes, you do that to hide the noise because the camera’s sensor can’t handle a picture like this. In computational photography, it seems that there is no noise.


Count the cameras.

See what I mean?

Look at all those people taking pictures. There are six smartphones that I can count and I think a see a seventh hiding behind the blue umbrella. That’s a lot of pictures made in just a few minutes. That’s a lot of uploads to these folks’ favorite social media. That explains why various social media talk about such high numbers of uploads.

It’s also a lot of noise. Not a lot of signal.

I mentioned to a Storyteller friend that the marginal to good pictures posted online was at least 80 to 20%, which is an old business ratio. Truth be told, it’s probably about 97% of posted pictures that make up the marginal side. There are so many pictures being posted each day that it is almost impossible for the good ones to be seen.

What to do? What to do? What’s a wise man to do?

If you are trying to build a career these days it’s tough. You can use various tags as a couple of friends of mine do to alert the gatekeepers to your new work. With luck, they’ll see it.

You can build a community, like many book authors do. Hopefully, enough people will see your work and may want to do a project with you.

You can work at your photography in such a way that it becomes unique and go old school by sending emails and other reminders like postcards to your selected gatekeepers. The warning here is simple. Don’t do it too often or you become a pest.

You can buy mailing lists. That’ll get you breadth but they may not be current. It’s a shotgun approach.

You can do what I do. Target about ten companies with whom you really want to work. Combine everything above and try to develop conversations with them. Don’t be pushy. Be yourself and show them work that fits their needs. Of those ten — remember the 80-20 rule — you’ll be lucky if two of them want to work with you. And, that might be in the year after you started your campaign. The cool thing about this form of relationship building is that visual gatekeepers will take you with them since they change jobs frequently.

A couple of other issues.

Don’t be competitive with photographers on the scene. Help them out. Good street cred is as important as anything. Besides, the only person to compete with is you.

Understand that even if you take a mind-blowing picture, there might be 20 other pictures that are just as good, or good enough. And, it’s likely that you’ll never know it. Don’t worry about it. I go out there because I enjoy it. The work that puts kibbles in the dogs’ bowls isn’t anything like this. Even if you do something else to pay the bills, come out because you have a real passion for it. That means all the subjects you enjoy photographing.

This picture. This was as intentional as it comes. I’ve been talking about pictures, picture quality and the numbers of people producing pictures for a while now. And, how people take them. I started looking for pictures on the street that could illustrate my words.

I suppose I found it. I knew that I wanted to have some subject in the foreground. The two women fit that nicely. The rest came from keeping my head on a swivel. Like a bobble head.

Yep. A bobble head. That’s me.


All dressed up.

More dogs. I bet you thought that I ran out. Nooooooo….

I photographed lotsa dogs. Dogs doing all sorts of things. But, given the circumstances, the thing they did best was be patient. It amazes me, sometimes, when dogs just completely roll with everything and turn very Zen. The humans among us could learn some lessons from this. Bigly lessons.

Hey! What about me?
Mister, mister, mister.

So. Today.

The krewes of Druid and Nyx roll at about 6pm in Uptown. According to Alexa, there is a 62% chance of rain at parade time. We can expect about 0.25 inches of rain. That isn’t terrible. That won’t cause flooding.

But, we will get wet.

The weather will get worse as we get closer to the weekend and Mardi Gras. The city has already said that all parades will roll on their day as scheduled. They have no choice. Aside from creating chaos within the krewes themselves, the NOPD is so short-staffed that they might not be able to keep us safe if parades were moved around by more than a couple of hours.

For those of us who have been around for a while, this is no big deal. We live in Southeastern Louisiana. We are approaching spring. The weather changes from hour to hour and we get a lot of rain.

But, now we live in the age of social media. Rumours and truth spread like wildfire. Well, mostly rumours and unsubstantiated news. Finding the truth is rare.

Here’s my suggestion for the rest of Mardi Gras parade season.

Decide if catching beads and trinkets is worth standing in the rain. If not, stay home or go to your favorite bar. Do whatever you normally do there. If you have come from far away to see our legendary Mardi Gras, by all means hit the streets. Locals too. Wear some kind of rain covering. Nothing heavy. The temperatures are starting to warm up. Even then, know you are going to get wet. Embrace it. That’s part of the fun.

You know. We do it for the stories we can tell. At least that’s what Jimmy Buffett says.

The pictures. You know. F8 and be there. Some small adjustments in post production. In terms of tactics for tonight. One camera. One lens. Not changing lenses protects the inside from rain. It protects me if a camera gets waterlogged. I have a couple of backups that don’t need to be on the street until they do.

One more thing. Spellcheck hates “Bigly.” But, but, but… Tweasel said.

Oh yeah, Tweasel is code for treasonous weasel. That is code for the orange man in The White House.


After the rain stops.

Seeing.

Pictures are everywhere. Just look around. These are dog walking pictures. They are fine. Seeing is seeing. And, I don’t seem to do much else these days. So, I might as well do the best with what I have. The dogs are pretty good about it. When they see me stop to take a picture they wait patiently. They know these walks are their walks. They know it won’t take long once I see something.

I’m happy with both of the pictures. They come from the influence of Ernst Haas, one of the fathers of modern color photography. He passed away too early, at 58 from a stroke. I had the honor of being a lab tech at one of his workshops. I learned more from him in four days than all the time in the rest of my career.

That’s not really what I want to talk about.

Today’s real topic is fake news. Or worse, trying to be the first person to pop the fake news bubble, now that it’s thing.

Here’s what happened.

I awoke this morning to news of Walter Becker’s passing. For those of you too young to remember, he was a founding member of a 1970s band called Steely Dan. They were more jazz, than rock or pop, oriented. They were different and they were very, very good. Their first two albums were the soundtrack of my little sister, Annie, and my life. They are still working today.

I went to Facebook to look for more information. I knew that, according his musical partner, Daniel Fagen, he had a surgical procedure that prevented him from playing in the big East-West Classic tour. I have no idea what was being repaired, removed or replaced.

Going to Facebook was, as usual, a big mistake. A young woman was already trying to debunk his passing, using something she found on Mediamass — a huge site dedicated to creating fake news by attacking real news.

When I commented that Becker’s website announced his passing, she replied that it could have been hacked and it was some kind of conspiracy. Eventually, his death started showing up pretty much everywhere.

My last comment was something along the lines of, “I’m not sure which is worse, fake news or the attempt to debunk it without really knowing.” She liked that, even though it was really addressed to her. It was about her.

Huh?

My point is fairly simple. Fake news has become a thing. There are good and bad ways to counter it. Not the least is simply going to trusted news sources. They might make mistakes, but I can assure you that it’s not intentional or click bait. Sometimes, it’s just a mistake.

I come from old school journalism. Confirm news with at least two sources. Two independent sources. If you are Googling, look at the websites that you find. Check their reputations. It’s not hard to do. If they typically show up as “sponsored” news, they are distributing fake news in search of clicks and ad dollars.

Most importantly, slow down. Way down. Most of us aren’t reporters so why do we have to be first on the scene? As any good journalist knows, give the newly broken story a little time to develop so that you can find the truth. Why spread rumours when you don’t know fact from fiction?

That’s it. And, I thought August sucked.

Thank you, Walter Becker. RIP, Ray & Annie.

About rebirth.


Among the Notes.

I need to get out more.

I made the portrait before I returned to New Orleans. I was back for a visit when I ran into this guy on the street in The French Quarter. He’s an old friend. We had a coffee and went our own ways. I thought, at the time, that it was very cool and I could have my old friends back if I just returned. So, I did.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Many old friends were leaving. Even the man in the picture. He moved to Breaux Bridge. A place that’s become home to all sorts of musicians. Famous ones. regional players. Local players. This guy has a pretty good statewide reputation as a fiddle and accordion player. He is also a pretty good Cajun singer.

That’s his story. And, the base portrait is his picture. He’s used to being photographed so taking a picture of him in a coffee shop is no big deal. Actually, if you’re around me for any length of time, you get used to being photographed.

The picture. You know about the portrait. The rest is my usual odd bits and pieces of information. I did do a lot of work in OnOne. The picture as it emerged from Snapseed was just too raw and kind of glaring. So, I needed to finish it and help the color to settle down some.


After the storm.
After the storm.

Look up. Look down. Look all around.

Or, as some people call it… being situationally aware. Every one of these pictures was made within a few days of each other. Usually after a storm rolled through. I probably could have made these with my smart phone since that always goes everywhere. But, I’ve been a little old school these past couple of weeks. I’ve been carrying a DSLR — mirrorless — just about everywhere. I think I make some people nervous because they aren’t used to seeing that these days. If they ever where. Doesn’t matter. Currently, I still think a camera’s larger sensor makes better files than a phone’s itty bitty sensor does. That’s not to say some good images can’t be made with a phone. They can be. And, they are. It’s really just my preference. And, really. It’s only a matter if time.

Enough of that. It’s a never-ending discussion. At the end of the day, use what you got. What makes you happy.

But.

These pictures. I was just walking or running errands and they sort of found me. The bottom right picture — reflections — is what caught my eye when I took yesterday’s summer picture. Of the tree. I don’t know if it works or not. But, I thought that you should see it. It is part of my work for the week. If you open it, you can see a lot more detail.


Legs.
Legs.

You need a break. Constant second line pictures isn’t good for anybody. Besides. I’ll start up with them again on Monday.

I made this picture on my last stroll through The French Quarter. A while back. I haven’t gone there in a couple of months because, well, I don’t want to deal with the so-called bad element. I guess it’s time to go again. The poodle needs to go for a walk in his favorite neighborhood. Safety shouldn’t be an issue. I’m taking a dog with me.  Who is going to defend him? I’m not sure there is a really safe place in the city. The latest trend seems to be armed robberies of mid-to-high end restaurants. During business hours. The patrons got to lie face down while the robbers emptied out their pockets and purses. This is happening in our neighborhood. Sort of. Uptown, at least. Combine that with two days of a boil order on our drinking water, the regular murder rate, the potholes, the broken streets, the streetcars that don’t run and the usual other issues and New Orleans is becoming an awfully hard place in which to live.

Why stay?

That’s a good question. I suppose I’m trying to figure that out. I talk a lot about the music, the second lines, even about a little magic of New Orleans. But, when a great day is when I don’t have to leave my property and hang out by the back of the house, I have to wonder. Used to be that I liked to explore. That’s how I make all these pictures. But, lately…

And, it’s not me. I’m not having a shooting block. Or, a writer’s block. It’s that I don’t want to deal with the usual “stuff” anymore. I don’t want to dodge a pot hole, only to hit another — deeper — one. I don’t want to worry about taking a shower without getting unsafe water in my mouth. Or, stopping to take a picture without wondering what those two dudes walking towards me are thinking. Or, even finishing this post without the power failing. Twice.

Nice little rant, eh?

I didn’t mean for that to happen. I guess, I just read too much local news today. I know what it’s like in other places. And, I know it’s not as third world out there as it is around these parts. Drinking water? Come on….  I posted something on Facebook that I read on NOLA.com. It appears that two of the big water purifying boilers were built in 1927. You have to use broom straws to light them. Oh really?

Anyway…

The picture. Wait until the light is a little golden and walk around. Photograph what you see. Try not to get in the reflection too much.


A little moment.
A little moment.

We talked about moments yesterday.

Here’s another one. This one doesn’t have as much to do with the second line, as it does with the people who come out for the parades. Or, in this case, was taken to the parade. I doubt that he brought himself, especially since I know that his mama was standing right next to him. And, he seems a little young to be hanging out by himself.

What more can I say? A child and a red balloon. That’s pretty good, right?

The picture. F8 and get in everybody else’s way to take the picture. Actually, that dark shape behind this little guy is another photographer. I suppose it could be said that he was in my way. Or not. These things are free for alls. We are used to it.