Left overs.

We ate it. If truth be told since carnival season began on January 6, we ate three. Three king cakes.

During a normal Mardi Gras year we’d eat way more than that, but they’d be consumed at the brunch that we would have had yesterday.

The subject of this picture is what’s left after eating the cake. And, the baby. Tradition says that if you eat a slice of the cake with the baby hidden inside you are king for a day. But, you must buy the next king cake.

Those green and yellow things are granulated sugar. They fell off the cake. Did I mention that New Orleans is not the healthiest place during Mardi Gras, or ever?

Anyway.

Nature made her statement today. Texas is snowed and iced under. It’s very cold. Like 4 degrees. Many people have lost power. They are cold and miserable.

In New Orleans the weather isn’t quite so bad. When I left to run a few errands, my car’s thermometer registered at 29 degrees. It’s always 4 degrees high so the air temperature was really 25 degrees.

We’ve have spitting rain and ice on and off all day. But, we have power.

The dogs were not amused. They went out, did their “business,” and came right back into the house. They rolled around on the floor. I guess they were generating heat. Or, just having fun.

Nature. She made sure that if the pandemic didn’t keep people inside, the weather would. There were a lot of tourists who ignored our warnings. They came anyway. I’d feel sorry for them if I didn’t think they were so stupid. It’s one thing to not know and be ignorant. It’s another thing to be told and be arrogantly stupid.

Anyway.

This is still a holiday for us.

So, Happy Mardi Gras to all y’all.

Green, gold and purple. Mardi Gras colors. That’s how most king cakes look.

But, there are plenty of other versions including the true French brioch version which doesn’t have color at all and certainly no granulated sugar.

There is really no trick to this. I made the picture with my phone in the kitchen a few minutes ago.

I cleaned up the file. I made sure the white background was white. By doing that I toned down the baby who was too red. And, I added glow to the image to pull your eyes to the baby.

And, that’s it.

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Stay dry. Stay warm.

And, always have a Happy Mardi Gras.


USMC and the Flag.

Wow! What a busy weekend. For the of us who are in New Orleans we are think about the Mardi Gras parades that won’t happen. The celebrations in the quarter that will be muted.

But, wait.

There’s more. We are in the midst of the Lunar New Year. Or, as some say, the Chinese New Year. Gong Hei Fat Choi as they say in Hong Kong. Friday was the actual day, but like Carnival, CNY is celebrated for two weeks.

We are not done yet.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day to y’all. Lot of Valentines in this house.

Normally, on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday we have a big brunch. An open house. Not this year. Our pod is our pod. Our friends and family are not in our pod. Hopefully, on day we’ll all be together. In one extended pod.

In many ways, in New Orleans, this holiday is when the pandemic exploded and surged. I’m not celebrating that. Actually it was a week or two later because Carnival like The Lunar New Year follows the — wait for it — lunar calendar.

According to the traditions of Chinese New Year, you use this time to clean your house, make amends, pay your debits. Then you visit relatives and friends. The people you visit usually give your children Lai See, little red envelopes with money stuffed in them.

All of that sounds like a good idea. Except for the little red envelopes.

Many people use the calendar new year to reassess , make resolutions and set goals. Most of those good intentions are forgotten in about a month. This would be a good time to reassess your reassessments.

And, start again.

USMC. They carry the American flag and lead each parade group. It’s their honor to be there, and it’s our honor to have them.

Some are in dress blues, others are in camo BDUs.

The marines in their BDUs are on the street to help out if there is a problem. No, they are not armed.

I made this picture just as the lead marine was getting ready to unfurl the flag. This is truly photographer’s luck.

Since I don’t machine gun my exposures, and I wait for the decisive moment, I could have just as easily missed my picture.

For this series, I did all the things I do to tone the image down and add some extra artistic stuff to it.

Stuff is right. I don’t know that the work I did adds to the photograph.

You know that Storyteller is just a giant experiment.

For all you know, I’m just a giant experiment.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wear another mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Attempt a giant experiment.


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.


Mardi Gras 1 Krewe of Cleopatra

The picture is the thing. That’s what I say. No matter what happens make your picture.

A wise old professor used to say that sometimes the hardest part of making a picture is getting there. He’s right.

Even if you are working in your own city that is still true.

When I photograph a Mardi Gras parade, I leave home which is very close to the parade route, at least 90 minutes ahead of starting time.

If I wanted to work from St. Charles Avenue (Where the tree streetcars run.) I could simply walk a block and half and be there.

I don’t.

I like to work from the start of the parade where all the little pictures are. Krewes preparing. Marching bands rehearsing. Paraders hanging out. Everyone loves to be photographed and that’s what I do.

But, getting there is hard.

The backstreets are already being jammed up by buses carrying the parade participants.

So, I leave very early.

There is a natural parade line break point on my street. I drive through the crowd when the stoplight changes. I head upriver on St. Charles, I drop down to the parade starting point behind it.

Now, I’m approaching the parade from downriver. I get as close as I can and start looking for parking. Because I arrive early, I usually find a space just about where I thought it was be.

I walk to CC’s coffee house, order and sit. Because I’m usually by myself a group of NOPD sits at my table. I ask them questions about the parade and they ask me questions about cameras.

Knowing them helps on the parade route.

Keep in mind, I do all of this so…

I can find a parking space.

There was a year when I worked eight parades at night. I parked in the same space for eight nights.

Day parades are different. If you are photographing a big one, you might have to arrive at 8am for a noon start.

It’s a lot of work.

Compression. A lot of photographers use telephoto lenses to get closer. I work closer and use them to produce compressed images or graphic shapes.

That’s what I did this time. I crowded as much as I could into one picture.

Working at night both helps and hinders. It forces you to shoot wide open at your widest F-stop. That’s good in this case.

It hinders you because you can’t always get a high enough shutter speed to protect the image from motion blur.

Sometimes that’s a good thing.

If the subject is in sharp focus while everything is moving around them that’s a pretty good picture.

Usually, the whole thing is a crap shoot.

It helps if you’ve been doing it most of your career and know how to compensate for some of it.

The biggest trick is to always shoot about three frames. Bam. Bam. Bam.

The first and third frames are usually out of focus or have too much motion blur, but the middle frame will be sharp and the image you hope for.

That all has to do with the body’s natural motion. Tense. Relax, Relax too much.

Stay safe, Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Stay relaxed.


Mardi Gras 1 Krewe of Cleopatra

Light and color. Rather the lack of color. I always say that when you have to explain the picture that you didn’t do a good job.

I guess I didn’t.

It’s two members of the Krewe of Cleopatra dancing in the street. I guess what I really like is the movement passing through the very muted color.

That brings me to this little nugget.

We have reached a point where many artists of all stripes are not doing the work for the works sake. They are doing it to breakout, to make a lot of money, to attract a crowd.

I saw that during the half time show during the Super Bowl. The Weeknd might as well phoned it in from home. Oh, wait, what? He didn’t?

He’s a good musician. His music isn’t exactly my style, but it’s good. It does remind of the old days, when Smokey, The Temps, and the Supremes (Yes, I know. We lost one today.) ruled the air waves.

You wouldn’t have known that on Sunday night. It may have been technical issues, but that gets no pass from me. When touring musicians can get the sound right on the same day they go on stage, surely the Super Bowl techs can get it right in a week.

I heard a very weak and flat singer. For many younger musicians the Super Bowl halftime show is a chance to break out into audiences they might not normally access. He didn’t do that.

I was excited. For years the half time shows were performed by the ancients of the music industry. I suppose after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, they planners wanted to play it safe. After all, who wants to see a half naked Paul McCartney?

This all dovetails into my original premise. Doing it for the money doesn’t really get you there. Doing it for your art leads to edgy work, breakthroughs and — wait for it — big money.

That just wasn’t the intent. Expressing yourself honestly and authentically was. That’s one of the reasons that I intentionally stay away from gear reviews. There are websites that began as blogs that talk about gear. They have company sponsorships, they receive gear to review, they get paid for promotions.

I’d like all that stuff too. But, I’d rather stay close to my vision.

Besides, I’m not a gear head.

The right hand column. It’s the technical column. I suppose today’s will be fairly short.

There just isn’t much to what I did. Come to think of it, there rarely is much to my work.

I’m a fairly simple photographer. Even when I use assistants and lights and remotes, my pictures are simple.

So.

I found the picture in my archives. It was made in my usual style. It was bright. The motion was fairly defined.

When I removed the color the edges blurred to become unrecognizable.

When I finished the work I thought, wow, that really works.

On here, not so much.

There’s a technical reason for that. Just like Facebook, WordPress squeezes the hell out of the highlights and shadows. That’s what we are seeing here.

I usually do work arounds to account for that. I thought that I did. Apparently, it isn’t enough.

Oh well. It’s that perfection thing again.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Don’t squeeze your highlights.


Scary face, without development.

This mask was scary before I worked on it in post production. It got scarier after I was done. To me, this looks like some underground subway creature who lives in the lost subway tunnels and tracks of New York City.

I have a big imagination.

Imagination will get you places, either to the top or in deep trouble. Mine is usually the latter.

Seriously, ideas and imagination are what art is about. That’s one of the reasons I’m not a big fan of Instagram, although I do play there.

Instagram is the worst of all possible photographic worlds. If some photographer posts an interesting picture, his followers copy him. Their followers copy them. And, so on.

That’s what make so much popular work so derivative.

It got so bad a week or so ago that I couldn’t stand it. So, I said something. It seems whenever a dusk or night picture needs a little something extra, some shooters drop in a person holding an umbrella. I don’t literally mean drop in. They usually have a friend hold an umbrella.

That’s fine, if the streets are wet or if there is falling rain or snow. But, the picture that broke my camel’s back was a picture of some guy holding an umbrella at night. The streets were dry. There was nothing in the air. The people in the background were’t even wearing coats.

Oh, Moses smell the roses.

I replied. The photographer replied to me in a snarky way to which I said, “Well, you must not be a very good photographer if all you do is copy others work.”

Silence.

Crickets.

Solitude.

I must have made a point to someone. Since that day, there have been far fewer umbrella pictures. Those that are still being shared make sense in their context. Or, they become art in themselves.

Imagination.

We all have it. Use it, or lose it.

Masking. In New Orleans it shouldn’t be a big deal. We mask for every damn thing that comes along. What’s the big deal about masking to protect ourselves or others?

That’s not what the right column is about, but I had to say it.

This is a daytime picture of all things. I was waiting to meet a friend when this guy happened to hop on a horse and rode towards me. What could I do?

You know what I could do. I did it. I made tight portraits. I made loser frames. My friend stumbled along and she made pictures too. It looked like a press conference.

I published one picture and left this one behind. This is the week to share it.

This is all post production. Nothing looks even remotely the same as the original file. I went darker rather than lighter because of the context. This dude looks evil.

He isn’t.

We talked while I, and then we, were making pictures. he’s a nice guy. He let us take our time while he was getting ready to lead his krewe.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Eat all the king cake.


Late for the date.

Ten days on. If this were a sensible year we’d be off to see the Krewe of Barkus today. Sometimes the dogs come along. Sometimes they’d actually be entered officially.

But, there is no Krewe of Barkus this year. There are no Mardi Gras parades. Bourbon Street will be closed. Bars will be closed. They’ll be no fun on Mardi Gras Day this year.

There are the Yardi Gras houses, all dressed up like the floats we’ll be missing. There are things to see Uptown. There just won’t be any official Mardi Gras anything.

Some misguided posters on facebook — that is to say 95% of them — are saying there is no Mardi Gras this year.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Mardi Gras is the bridge between two Catholic holidays and it cannot be shut down. The popular celebrations can, as will the less popular costume balls. If you’ve got no floats that you’ve got no reason to hold a ball. Oh, yeah. There are indoor population and distancing limits as well.

I thought that I might chase Indians. According the ones that I know, they aren’t not even coming out in last years suits. I suppose that some will be around, but I’m not risking my health to find them.

Besides, according to an old friend of mine, we are the old wolfs now. We can sit back and let the puppies chase around.

Anyway, for the next ten days Ill be posting of Mardi Gras that you’ve never seen. I’ll tell you about the processing in the right hand column.

One more thing about tourists coming for Mardi Gras, we’ve been telling them not to come. Their general response has been, “But, there will still be fun things to do, right?”

There will be, but I’m not inviting you to my house.

I’m going to miss photographing Mardi Gras this year, especially since most of the pain I felt last year has come to a halt.

Before you ask, no I didn’t have my procedure on Thursday. There was a CoVid-19 scare at my hospital. I’ve been rescheduled for a couple of weeks from now.

No matter. I’ve got all these pictures from previous years to show you.

I did change my basic processing. I decided that if Mardi Gras was muted the least I could do was mute my color palette.

I also put frames around the pictures because this is supposed to be some kind of art statement, or something.

Anyway.

These band members were running a late for the parade. Their bus got hung up in traffic or in our narrow side streets. This happens every year. It’s part of the ritual.

And, speaking of rituals.

Stay Safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy Mardi Gras wherever you are.


Deep, dark and rich.

Pictures. You know that I’ve been working in my archives looking for pictures for a project. I’ve found some, but not all. I did find this picture. A photograph.

It is so appropriate because. I have been thinking lately about my past. You know, getting deep inside. I won’t write much about the picture on this side of the page except to say that the beads are old and faded. Like me. Or, not.

Going inside to look around at what you did wrong and what or right isn’t easy. I wonder, even though there can be no regrets or late happiness.

“Years will pass before we turn to face the place where we come from, years will pass before we learn what time denies to everyone. ” — MCC

Finding her, finding her music seems to have come a perfect time. Or, maybe not.

I guess that I’ll see soon enough.

I left out a line. At first it was intentional. Now, I think it matters.

“If we are lucky ghosts and prayers are company, not enemies.”

This line gives me hope. When I see the ghosts in my dreams, I am happy to see them. I want to know what happened to them between then and now.

Maybe you do too.

Old pictures. Are the just souvenirs? Or, are they something more? You know that I’ve been digging around in my archives. Sometimes I find what I am seeking. Sometimes, I find the unexpected, like this picture.

I’m not sure how i lost this picture. It’s a gem.

The beads are a little faded from our extreme weather. They are slightly overgrown. The fence looks a little worse for wear.

I made this photograph with some kind of longer lens because everything is compressed. It makes the picture a little more powerful.

This is a portfolio picture that fits into a group of images about Mardi Gras and what it means to the city, especially now that we are considering not have carnival in 2021.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask.