Down to the start of the parade.

The trolls are coming out of the woodwork the closer we get to Fat Tuesday.

One guy said that he had just arrived in New Orleans. He asked what there was to do. Many, many, many people replied sincerely.

Something felt off so I went to his Facebook page. He lives in Chalmette, a whole 12 miles away from the French Quarter. Or, about three miles from the Orleans Parish border.

I called him out. Normally, I wouldn’t be bothered. But, all these well meaning folks were answering him and they needed to know.

Worse?

He’s a Mormon from Utah. He moved here to do church service.

This is a daily occurrence.

Here’s one more. This will make you laugh.

A young woman posted in comments asking why many sports teams are changing their names and logos.

In baseball, the Cleveland Indians already removed their logo, Chief Wahoo, and are changing their name. In football, The Washington Redskins are changing their name. They had temporary name last season. They were called The Washington Football Team.

In Atlanta, The Braves are talking to tribal leaders. I don’t know about The Kansas City Chiefs.

Anyway.

She wanted to know why all these teams were destroying history. To give credence to her question she claimed to be a “Native American.” She has a name similar to mine.

Oh no you don’t.

The first telling clue is that Indians do not want to be called Native Americans. They prefer to be called American Indians. That name is more accurate and they believe that true natives are likely not Indians at all.

We tend to worry about the big liars. Trump. Bannon. Robert Kennedy Jr.

But, what about the little liars who do it everyday as easy as they breath?

What do we do? Banning people from social media really is a slippery slope. For sure, because social media companies are private there is no First Amendment protection. But, when do they become dictatorial enforcers?

Nobody, not me, not you, has the time to read comments and correct them. Besides, nobody reads or cares anyway.

Still, the misinformation percolates to the surface.

When marching bands get ready to roll in a parade they have to come from wherever they were rehearsing.

If you’ve been out on the parade route in the past you know ever these places are.

I sat on a porch making pictures and talking to the kind folks who let me sit there.

I made this during my time of extreme pain. I barely could walk for more than a few minutes. Luckily, that issue was repaired.

When I started working on this project I selected this picture almost immediately. I wanted to really rework it. I guess I did that.

I started in Snapseed and finished in OnOne. Actually, most of the work was done in OnOne. I need some applications that only they provide.

Keeping at least some of the band from becoming a solid mass of shadow was challenging.

That’s it.

There are five more parade days during which no parades will roll.

Just as well, the weather is changing from mild to frozen in just a few days. If the weather folks are right, the temeprature on Fat Tuesday will be around 20 degrees with rain, sleet and a possibility of snow.

I’m leaving. If I could, I would.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Get your vaccine, and still… Stay safe. Stay strong. Yada, yada, yada.


The waiting…

Everyone knows that it’s the high school bands that I like best when they roll during a Mardi Gras parade. The floats are fine. The Rolling Elvi are fun. The motorcycle riders are fun.

But, the marching bands. That’s the thing for me. They combine three wonderful elements. Music. Energy, And, color.

If there was going to be a Mardi Gras parade season this year my plan was to focus on just high school marching bands. I was actually going to reach out to some of the schools so that I could have a little more leeway on the streets.

As always, my trade would be my pictures. Since mostly high school students and parents are their photographers I’m guessing mine would be a few notches above the usual work. Who knows? One of the parents could be a retired National Geographic photographer.

That said, it’s a good thing most of the public versions of Mardi Gras have been shut down. A scientific analysis was released today. It looks like one carrier infected 50,000 people during Mardi Gras 2020. Not directly, but one person infected another and so on.

We were blamed for the surge last March even though we didn’t even know there was a virus. While it seems extreme, I’m glad the mayor is taking such a hard line this year.

Yesterday, she had a group of Big Chiefs on the podium with her. Each one of them implored the Indian community not to come out so that they would be alive to roll next year.

It’s serious.

So.

Tourists stay home. There won’t be much for you to do anyway. You won’t be allowed on the famous Bourbon Street unless you live there. If you gather illegally you could be fined or you could serve jail time. You don’t want that. We don’t want that.

There is the Jefferson Parish issue. I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Semi-monochrome. That’s what I’ll call this picture. As I said a few days ago, I let the picture guide me in post production. All I want to do is print them down a bit.

As I wrote on the left side, I like high school marching bands.

I work hard to photograph them. One year, two high schools were rehearsing ten feet from each other. A battle of the bands broke out. The drum majors were prancing in each other’s faces. They gave no ground. They held no quarter.

But, just like a good sporting match, when they were done they broke apart and shook hands.

I’ll look in my daybooks and find the year. If I can, I’ll publish some of the files from that night. I won’t tone them down. I’ll light up the page with them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Listen to all the high school marching band music.


The marching band arrived late.

This Mardi Gras parade season seems doomed.

Last night we had tropical storm level winds, the gusts were around 40 mph. So the parades were postponed. Two will roll tonight minus all the walking groups. The third will roll on Sunday. That means 164 floats will be on the streets tonight. At least one of the most powerful krewes in the city — The Muses — will roll during daylight, when their floats are meant for night time. At least they get to roll.

The last twenty or so floats of Nyx may never get to roll. Even if they did, they may not have many “throws” because they could mostly only take what they could carry after the tragic end to their parade The Nyx captain is is exploring joining the Krewe of Pandora, which rolls in Metairie on Sunday. The captain of the Krewe of Nix – Julie Lea — is also the captain of Pandora. They’ll know sometime today. There are two issues. Very few throws. And, they rent their floats. There may not be enough floats for them.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned a lot about the unfortunate woman who died on Wednesday night. She was 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche. She did not trip or fall. She was trying to pick up some beads.

She gave her life for maybe ten cents worth of Chinese manufactured beads.

She was born and raised here. Toddlers are taught from the moment they come to parades not to run out into the street for beads. Do no cross in front of moving floats or marching bands. When I arrived 20 years ago that’s the first thing I was told when I attended my first parade.

Reading comments on Facebook was sickening. Many attacked the victim. They accused her of being drunk, of having no responsibility. Apparently, they never heard the old saying, “Never speak ill of the dead.” I guess this the the world in which we live.

I’m not buying that. I think she had a kind of tunnel vision. I’ve seen it a lot on parade routes. Parade goers see nothing but throws. They are aggressive and they want them all. Even though she was well old enough to know better, and a local, I think that’s what happened to Ms. Carmouche.

Four more issues to discuss. I promise that I’ll keep it short.

The picture is a leftover. With no parades last night, I ran out of culled and processed images. I also decided that the images I made while the Krewe of Nix was rolling will forever be unprocessed and will not see the light of day.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed my policy of not publishing names. While Storyteller remains art driven, I can’t tell stories without names. Of course I’ll follow my own ethical rules which are informed by years of journalism at a time when we were respected.

I’ve long said that the work is the prayer. If I believe that, I must work tonight. There are enough people who could use a few prayers right about now. And, that’s just in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras parades are an interesting thing. Just about ever local who participates in them does it for the experience, for the fun.

Really?

I talked to enough people on Twitter to realize that they were overjoyed at not having to be anywhere near the parades last night. One woman on NOLATwitter said that she felt free.

If that’s the case, just what the hell are we doing?

Do we feel so obligated to “celebrate” that it’s become work?

Even me. I was preparing to go to the parade route when I checked social media one more time. Even though I’m not riding on floats, or marching in bands, or throwing beads, I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I didn’t have to go.

What am I thinking?

 


What catches my eye. 

Motion. Color.

Those are a couple of things that inform my photography. It doesn’t matter whether the subject is a Mardi Gras parade, as you see in this picture, or if it is some other subject like a city at night. Sure, making tack sharp pictures of a city is one thing, but showing the city alive is quite another.

Both have a place in my work. I’m a storyteller. A complete story has both kinds of imagery and everything else in between.

But.

Motion and color catch my eye first. In many ways, I should shoot video. Unfortunately, I’ve never been attracted to that process. Unfortunately? Yes, because that’s where the money lives. You don’t have to be a big time film maker to triple your income if you switch from stills to video.

I’ve thought about it. But, doing it in a way that actually is useful to somebody else  really is the word I just used — a process. More equipment. More investment. More editing. Much more time. In many ways it is the real life study of the phrase “you get what you pay for.”

Anyway.

I try to make still imagery in a way that gives you a taste of the color and motion that I saw. Yesterday I posted a picture that pretty much illustrates the decisive moment. Today, this picture shows you how I arrived there. What I saw. What I felt. Same subject, made in a very different way. I wonder which you like better. For me, it’s this picture. It’s the energy of Mardi Gras. The energy of a parade. And, the energy of young adults doing what they enjoy. Playing music while participating in a yearly event.

I’d like to tell you how I made this picture. But… the best I can do is to tell you to slow down the shutter speed to at least 1/8 of a second. Close down the f-stop to at least f8 or maybe even f11. Then work away. Don’t chimp — look at your camera’s monitor — and just keep looking, seeing, and photographing. When you get home you might have something that works. Something that you like. I’ll tell you one more technical thing. Working this way insures that your image won’t have noise in it.

 


Leading the band.

Knowing everything about Mardi Gras.

Impossible.

I explained to you that Mardi Gras is layered. Most people who come to town for the parades and Mardi Gras Day don’t really know how much is going on beyond what they see in the streets.

I tried telling a friend of mine that very thing on Facebook and he couldn’t understand. He’s a smart guy. A good journalist. He lives in Indiana, so maybe I should have known better.

Then comes today.

A friend of mine — a local who is very in tune with the city — sent me a text. Could he call me if we were awake? Sure. He wanted to know how he and his wife should dress for a ball tonight. They were invited at the last-minute. Aside from the big dances that are held after many parades, I didn’t even know that there were any balls this late in the season.

I asked him a few questions and I found that I really wasn’t sure how to advise him. Some krewes throw very formal balls. As I wrote earlier, I dress in evening wear. Sometimes. That means tuxedos are appropriate. Other balls require that you fully mask, but in something much better than you’d wear on the streets.

It just depends.

Since I didn’t know the group hosting the ball I was fairly useless. But, I told him that my feeling for most balls is that you can’t be overdressed. On the other hand, if he needs a tux this morning for tonight, good luck.

Because.

Around here, once we get into a holiday bubble this close to the big day, you may or may not even have a phone call returned. At this point, if I’m working with an out of town client, I tell them to consider me on holiday until Wednesday. They remind me that in other parts of the country and world Mardi Gras Tuesday is just another business day called Tuesday. And, I reply, “lucky me.”

The picture. Marching bands and me. I really like them. They make a parade wonderful. The drum major is warming up the tuba section prior to rolling. They were about ten minutes from start time so he had to keep them warmed up and in focus without harming their energy. It’s amazing how well a young teenage man knows how to do it. It’s instinctual and yet, it’s well-practiced. These young men and women work as hard as any athlete. Many are in better shape than their sporting brothers and sisters. Often they are working towards college scholarships, just like a sporting competitor.


Reflections.

Too much.

Either I’m working much slower, or I’m working much more. Or, both. Either way, I can’t seem to keep up on my posts. While I’ve edited and processed my raw files, I’ve got a long way to go until they are ready to be seen.

So.

This is an image that I made on my phone, with the intent of posting it to Instagram. I like the picture just fine. In fact, I like it a lot. It just wasn’t my thinking to post something on Storyteller that I captured quickly via phone.

No worries.

One parade today. The Krewe of Barkus. The dog parade. Yes. The hounds in this house like to go even though we are no longer krewe members. I like to photograph dogs and their people so it works out just fine. I’m not sure how far we’ll walk with the parade as it winds through the French Quarter. Wall to wall people, except the center of the street where the dogs and their people walk.

You know what I wrote about crowds. And, me.

No matter. There is plenty to see and photograph without getting squashed in the Quarter.

My plan — yes, I have one — is to finish the edit of about 900 pictures and get them ready for you and my agencies, who need a specific kind of picture. I’ll do this tomorrow after the dogs on parade.

Anyway.

This picture was easy. See it. Check its reflection. Try to stay out of the picture. (I didn’t succeed.) Push the button. It’s almost like two pictures for the price of one. It helps to have multiple tuba players with well polished instruments.

Happy Mardi Gras.

 


Tuba player waiting.

The first one. The first Uptown Mardi Gras parade.

Normally on the first night shoot during Mardi Gras, I’m trying to knock off the rust. Not this time. I had an almost perfect shoot. Not only that, but getting there and parking was easy. I parked as close to the parade route as I could. I returned home easily. All of this matters.

The pictures. Let’s put it this way. I could see. I could see as the pictures revealed themselves to me. I suppose that put me in a good mood and place. It seemed like everybody I photographed was happy and having fun. Or, it may have been me.

That shows in the work.

You know me. I like to work at the start of a parade so I can make more than just the usual, “float rolls down the street” picture. I made a lot of good pictures. You’ll see them eventually. For today, you are seeing only one. I’m a bit late and should be on my way to some day parades. Their time has been moved up since we are expecting pretty violent storms.

Anyway the lead tuba player was looking over my head into the crowd for somebody or something. I managed to make the picture in poor light. But, not as poor as this picture indicates. WordPress got me again. Their compression software about killed the image quality. When I look at it on my monitor via OnOne, the image looks great. Not so much here.

Oh well. It’ll get better in the new building.


French horns and helmets.

Once upon a time I posted a brass bands’ instruments at rest. The were lying on the street, on a curb or something like that. A number of you commented. You wondered how anybody could just lay their instruments on the ground.

Here’s your answer. They learned how to do it in high school. These pictures are from a couple of different bands. Mostly they came from the St. Augustine Marching 100. This is a big time band. They’ve played The Rose Bowl. They’ve played during half times at NFL football. The travel all over the country.

And, they leave their gear on the street. Especially when they have a long break between arrival to a parade and actually marching. After all, this gear is heavy. They march 12 miles for the length of the parade. Then, they turn around and do it the next day. Every minute that you can stay lighter matters. Just like me. Less gear means more pictures.

It matters to me in other ways. I can make some nice artistic pictures with their gear. They don’t care. They just don’t want me messing with it. That’s fine. I’m more of a photojournalist than a studio guy. But, if I did want to turn a piece of gear I’d ask a band member for help. They are happy to do it.

The pictures. The usual. F8 and be there. Or, in the case of the low light and rain, f 4.0 and be there. The rest is simple. Leave the picture as you found it. No tinkering unless it is to adjust lightness, contrast and general color.

Cymbal as art.


Trumpet reflections.
Trumpet reflections.

Some how. Some way. This post, originally scheduled  for noon my time, was posted into a sub category under the heading of “New Orleans, but where do I go?” That was going to be a more touristy sub site of Storyteller. I’ve never actually developed it. I did nothing different from my usual routine.

If you click on one of the title next to my name, you can read what I originally wrote. I’m not going to do it twice and WordPress won’t let me copy and paste.

Sorry about that.

Light through the bass drum.
Light through the bass drum.