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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether they are in a marching band, a krewe member riding a float, somebody riding a horse or even the people waving for beads or throws, Mardi Gras parades are about the people. It’s really just that simple.
The pictures. F something and be there. That’s also simple. Oh yeah, if you interact with the folks on the floats, they’ll wave at you. Some of them will even give you beads or some other throw. I never really ask. But, if they hand them to me I always say thank you.
I haven’t been working on the streets in a while. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. After missing a few events that I should have photographed, I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to work this second line. Ironically, we got the high-water. We had one of those biblical storms that dropped somewhere around four inches of rain in an hour. Streets flooded. Cars sank. People paddled around some streets in kayaks.
This parade passed by before that happened.
I decided not to be quite as aggressive as I normally am when I photograph these parades. That worked out fine. I could actually see pictures happening in front of me. Sometimes, it’s like being a batter in baseball. I press the button on anticipation of the moment. That’s hard enough to do when you are swinging at a baseball. But, it’s really hard to do when people are singing and dancing. On Sunday, I could see really well. Everything slowed down. I was in the zone.
Of course, that meant that somehow I joined the band rather than stay ahead of it. That was fun. Normally, I work very hard to let the band come to me. That means I’m running to stay out ahead of them. I switched gears. Rather than focus on faces, I just walked with the musicians just as if I was playing an instrument. I started seeing graphic shapes and reflections.
You’re looking at the result. What do y’all think?
A neighborhood parade called ‘tit Rex. No. Not what you are thinking. ‘tit is a shortened form of petite. Rex is one of the largest Mardi Gras krewes, rolling on Fat Tuesday. This is the snarky version of that. Little Rex. Take a look at the middle picture. That’s yer typical float.
Like almost every smaller parade, it’s grown to an almost unmanageable size. Oh well.