One thing New Orleans people do very well is to mask. Sometimes, the masks are best seen from behind. Like this one. Although this young woman looked fine from the front, it was the back view that was really special.
I photographed her both ways. This is the picture.
I talk about looking in every direction when I talk about sunsets. Many sunsets are very beautiful. Some are spectacular. That light. The light you are staring at, with a big round ball in the middle of it. You know what? It’s lighting something behind you. It’s painting the scene with golden, orange and maybe, even red light.
Make that picture. Find a setting in which there is something behind you to photograph.
After all, even the greatest sunsets are a dime a dozen. Everybody photographs them because that’s the first thing they see. Try Googling sunsets. I’m will to bet that there are 100 million pictures of them. Maybe more. Certainly not less. It’s the one picture that photo and stock agencies never want. Their files are full of them. But look behind you, photograph what you see and they may want that.
So too, with pictures like this.
Normally, I say that the face matters. But, not always. The mask mattered more. This time.
I do have a question about this picture. Something that I noticed while I was working on it. Look at the bottom of her head. There is a small plastic piece with two plastic ribbons streaming from it. What is it? And what is it attached to? I thought, for a minute, that it was attached to her mask. It may be, but if there’s a little plastic bit that does the job, it is sure hidden.
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.
Relax! Let you eyes wonder and quiet your mind with some visual therapy. A picture is always more than you can see. You will also find my own illustrations about things I find funny and interesting. Have some fun, life is short!