Clean these drains out or your house will get flooded.

I’m not kidding.

If you don’t keep the drains cleaned near your house, your street will flood. If your street floods, your house will flood. And, so will your car.

You won’t be happy. Neither will your insurance agent. And, your insurance company will probably drop you for making a claim, leaving you to ask “what’s insurance for if I can’t use it?”

That’s a story that never ends.

Here’s my last insurance company story.

About nine years ago my car was parked in a shopping center lot.  I was still inside. The ignition was turned off. I was unstrapping my seat harness when some guy backed into my car. We did all the right stuff. We exchanged licenses and insurance information. His car was fine. Mine was dented. I filed a claim with my insurance company who collected from his insurance company. Everybody agreed that it was the other guy’s fault. Including him. He tried to get out of it, but his wife gave him “the look.”

What do you think happened?

If you guess that my insurance company raised my rates because of a no fault accident, you would be right. WTH?

I want a business like insurance companies have. If you drive a car, most or all states, require you carry insurance. You are smart if you carry far more than the minimum. You pay monthly, or as frequently as you can over a years time to keep the rate down. You pay for years. In my case, I hadn’t been involved in anything for at least a decade. Until that little fender bender.

Okay.

Let’s keep the numbers simple. Let’s say I pay $100 per month. Over a years time that is $1,200. Over ten years time that is $12,000. I have a minor fender bender that cost the insurance company maybe $1,500. I’d say that their ROI was pretty good.

The insurance company will either raise my rate or drop me.

The insurance company’s gross return is at least $10,500 over ten years time. I’m sure their are some administrative costs incurred by them. Those are offset by investment packages that my money finances. At worst, it’s a push. At best, they are making money on administrative costs.

I want that kind of return on my investments. On my business.

No. I didn’t get in an accident. I was looking at the last quarter of the year. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

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More fun with layers.

It must have been the heat.

That’s why I got crazy. And, made this picture. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It starts with a deck umbrella and goes on from there. I know. Find the umbrella. I added a couple of layers to this one. Layering, refining, rinsing and repeating. Don’t ask me to tell you exactly what I did. I don’t remember. I was working in a heat crazed frenzy.

Seriously.

New Orleans is not alone in its heat induced craziness. This “warm” spell stretches west to Arizona, north to the plains states and east to the Atlantic Ocean. Even Washington D.C. is not immune. Apparently, yesterday they had temperatures in the high 90s, with a heat index making it feel like it was over 100 degrees. Of course, that may just becoming from the White House.

Black humor is a New Orleans thing. You need it in order to survive in the swamp. Somebody wrote “isn’t this brisk 90 degree fall weather much better than the 95 degree heat of summer?”

Heh.

I am so tired of it. The dogs and I go out by around 7:30 am. Sure. It’s a little cooler. But, it’s very humid. We all come home with our tongues hanging out of our mouths. We all run into the kitchen for drinks of water.  They drink from their bowls. I use a glass. Maybe, it’s the other way around.

One of these days I’ll actually be able to wear long pants. I feel like one of those old retired guys in Florida. Shorts. T-shirts. Grumbling about those kids these days.

Sheesh.


Fallen leaves drifting in a swimming pool.

Summertime and the living is easy.

In this picture, even nature is taking a break. Or, so it seems. It’s likely that either a storm or a big wind blew through, knocking leaves to the ground. If there is a pool nearby, into the water the leaves go.

Somebody better than me has to come along a skim the water. I just take pictures. If this was my pool, it would be another story. In New Orleans, even if the work is zen-like, it’s hot work. A lot of rehydration is necessary. Maybe some sun screen at about a PF rating of 90. And, a hat. Maybe even long sleeves, which makes it feel even hotter.

This picture was made just passing by, like so much of my work. I was exploring a little. You know me. I never self-edit in the field. I see it. If it’s remotely interesting, I photograph it. I can delete the files later.

Which brings me to Sony’s latest and greatest camera. It’s a A 7 IV. It makes a 61mp file. That’s about a 183 mb working file. Add a few layers to that and you are well over a 200 mb file, even with compression. That sounds interesting, yes?

No.

That file is way too big and bulky for most of us. With that camera, not only would I need to upgrade every lens I own because the lenses must have proper resolving power. I’d need increased storage. Given that I save final files in three places, that’s a lot of storage. Then, there’s computing power.  A new computer with about 64 mb of RAM is needed, along with a very fast video card and a lot of onboard hard drive space.

Whew.

See where I’m headed with this? For most of us it’s overkill. Way overkill. For sure, there are working photographers who could use the equivalent of medium format film. Small product photographers need files of this size. Fine art and landscape photographers could use these huge images. Exposed properly, files of this size could make great 16×20 prints. That’s in feet, not inches.

For the rest of us?

This means we can pick up the last year’s latest and greatest camera for pennies on the dollar. I’m already starting to see the “gear head” photographers on social media selling their year old cameras. These are great deals. This group of photographers use their camera to take pictures of their gear. Maybe they take a few pictures to prove how good the camera performs. They rarely use their cameras as I would. As a tool to make pictures. For them, collecting gear is deal.

Boy, oh boy.

New to me gear.

 


Fallen.

Things fall down.

Like this flower. It fell from a tree. I don’t know its name. That’s rare. While I readily admit that I don’t know flower names, I do know tree names.

It starts blooming in late spring and continues until early summer. Streets, cars, sidewalks are cover in tiny pink flowers. I like photographing them after a rain. They glisten and glow. They stick to everything. But, they aren’t damaging. They are just pretty. Just pretty. Funny, that. If every thing was “just” pretty  we’d be far better off.

Anyway.

We had some rain.

The rain knocked a lot of these little flowers off of the trees. The walkway was glistening. Sparkling. The light was getting low so it backlighted this one little flower. I got down as low as I could go and pushed the button a couple of times. I selected another version of this picture. I struggled very hard to make it work. It really didn’t work.

I took another look. This image took about a two minutes in post production. It just sort of “was.” This is the right picture. Work is hard. The process should be easy.

The picture can never be made again. Yes. It was a moment in time. A brief flash. That’s not it.

Nah.

The dog who sees things stepped on it and crushed it.

Sometimes, that’s how it goes.

 

 


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?”


It’s the light.

It’s the light.

Light is one of the most important component of every photograph. As well it should be, since the root word comes from the Greek for “writing with light.” Without light, found or created, you would make no picture.

This picture is really all about the light, but it needed something to help us to understand it. That’s where the power pole and tree come into play.

You remember a picture I made last Sunday, while our football team was on the field in the dome? This was one of the first pictures I made. It is sort of a backup. I hoped to find something a little fuller and richer. In case I didn’t, I knew I had this one. That’s a thing that most working photographers do. At least the ones who work by discovery.

That should give you some insight into my thought process. Such as it is. Or, something like that.

All the rest. Well, it’s all the rest.

One of the things I don’t do on Storyteller is discuss gear. I’m thinking about that, as I try to grow this blog and website. I might change it.

I’m a big believer of gear doesn’t matter. Buy what you can afford, use it until you’ve outgrown it and either add to it with a purchase of a lens or some such. When your camera is no longer compatible with your work, replace it with something newer that helps you to grow.

But.

The photo blogs that really support themselves with advertising and sponsorships are gear-centric. That’s one reason to talk about gear. The other, more important reason, is to help you grow as photographers. I do field a lot of questions away from here about gear. I usually respond by asking a lot of questions. Questions like what do you like to photograph? If you travel, where do you go? Those questions raise other questions. They help me to narrow down your selections.

For the record, for digital work I use Sony mirrorless cameras. For film work — yes, I still shoot film — I use Leicas. I have a whole host of lenses to support each.

I have more camera bags than I could ever use. Most of my photographer friends and me are always searching for the “perfect” bag. There is no perfect bag. At best, there are situational bags. And, backpacks to carry your gear from one place to another. When, you arrive at your destination, you switch to a working bag.

Wanna buy a barely used camera bag, I ask in my best used car sellers voice.

Anyway. That’s it.

Would you like a couple of posts a week be devoted to gear and its practical applications to you, even if you aren’t a working photographer but enjoy take pictures?


Night motion study part deux.

The blue hour. In motion.

I look back at my career. In the middle past. It was a time when I used film to do this kind of work. It was a time when sometimes I had no other choice. Film had a slow ISO. You had to adjust or light for it. I loved it then. I love what I do now, except that it often takes me time and thought to get back to what was once easy.

Forgive me for constantly dipping into the past. I firmly believe that if you don’t understand where you came from, you’ll never have a path to get to where you are going.

This picture certainly wasn’t made 20 years ago. It was made last night when I was waddling around full of too much turkey and the fixin’s. It’s an example of what you can do if you take your mind out of it.  Or, if you can barely stand up because you ate really well. Too well.

I’ve often found that when I am at my worst physically, I make some of my best pictures.

I discovered that in about 1990, when Kodak gave a number of us a new film emulsion to test. As I recall it was some kind of beefed up Kodachrome.

I caught the flu.

We had deadlines.

I worked with a heavy and spinning head. My brain was turned off.

I worked in all sorts of light. I exposed four rolls of film. I thought, well this is gonna suck. I didn’t see the results until well after the technicians at Kodak did. I wondered, whatever they are the going to think of me. When I saw the film, I was amazed. It was as good a shoot as I was doing back in those days.

Today I say, turn your brain off when you are out making pictures. Don’t think. React.

There is a huge qualifier to that. It is about the same as the Boy Scouts motto. Be prepared. For the most part, if you work like I do you are always prepared to make a picture. If you are working in a new place, read about it. Study it. Listen to the music found in the region. There is so much information to be found online. Find it. Use it.

That’s the same with a portrait or some kind of people shoot. Learn about the person before you make their picture. That works especially well with famous people. Do a little research about them. If you have something to talk to them about, they’ll relax. You’ll make a much better picture.

Don’t look at other photographs pictures of it or them. You’ll only make the same ones. Or, frustrate yourself trying. Make your own pictures.

This picture was made with a simple upward movement when I pressed the button. You can do it. Practice doing it. Don’t do it when you are out there working unless the picture calls for it. No need to duplicate what’s already been done.

That brings me to social media, especially Instagram.

That’s for tomorrow. I promise.


Summer leaf.

The end of summer.

Little details. Seeing. Looking. Feeling.

That’s all this picture really is about. I saw the leaf on an outdoor table. I framed it in a way that you could see the leaf and see the table. Then I went to work on it. That’s it.

Old business.

You’re gonna laugh. Remember Tropical Storm Gordon? The storm that did nothing? It broke apart over Northern Mississippi and Arkansas. The last of the winds pushed it back this way and we got soaked yesterday. As they say, “If the lightning don’t get you, the thunder will.”

The rain is pouring down as I write. This rain has nothing to do with Gordon. It’s just that time of year. There are three storms forming in the Atlantic. I’ll worry about them later.

Google issues. A lot of people are complaining about it. I didn’t know that until I Googled it. How’s that for irony? There is no real work around yet unless I want to go back to a very early desktop from about 2012. That really won’t work.

So, I did a better thing. I saved the WordPress dashboard page as a bookmarked website and placed it on my bookmarks bar. One click and I’m here. This is better than it was on the Google desktop.

See?

I can be creative when I’m forced into it.


Pure color after the rain.

Pure color.

We had a late night storm. Everything is clean. Glistening. Sparkling.

Because the rain fell at night, most of what fell down has already been drawn back up, meaning lighter humidity in the morning than usual. Because it started raining at about 11pm, there were no late dog walks. You know. No rain shall fall on a dog’s head. Not around here. That explains why I’m up early today. I’m sure you understand. Good dogs mean really full dogs.

Once we got that done, we walked. A long, long way. I wasn’t dripping when I got home. Sure, I needed a change. It wasn’t terrible. My t-shirt wasn’t glued to my body. That’s good. dancing around while trying to take off a soaked t-shirt is no fun.

Anyway.

I almost walked by this picture. The sunlight bounced off the tail light and caught my attention. That did it. I worked the scene a little and made a looser version of the image you see. I cropped it in post production, not to get closer, but to give the image some shape. I also toned down the highlights so that you could actually see the subject matter.

And, that’s it.

I could say something about yesterday’s news. A triple scoop. But, y’all know how I feel. Keep ’em coming.