New Orleans from the Westbank.

I

‘ve had two useless days in a row. A friend of mine says there are no useless days. She’s wrong.

Let’s just start with today. We had a power failure before noon. The power companies estimate for restoring power was 4:20 pm today. To their credit they had us up and running around 1:15 pm.

When the computer shuts down like that it takes forever to get things running smoothly again. Apps are funky as well. It took me a good thirty minutes just to load this one. Even now I’m getting speed mystery type. That’s when you type, nothing shows up, and then a whole line of type appears.

At this rate, I’ll get about 15 minutes worth of work done in just four hours.

I decided to publish good pictures that you haven’t seen, no matter where I made them. We’ll start today with the City of New Orleans and our massive downtown. Massive if you live in some little place.

I’m not going to be photographing little pictures for a while. It’s just not the same without Sophie Rose.

You understand.

T

his picture is more about seeing than anything else. If you can’t see this you’d better quit photograph or else you are blind.

This is a fairly accurate representation of what I saw when I blindly stopped the car and made the photograph.

I did darken the picture which brought out more color. But, I didn’t add to the color. In fact, I scrubbed the mid-tones of the red on the ship to bring the color out.

That’s what I did, alright.

Oh yeah, the other useless day. Yesterday.

I awoke at about the normal time. I worked until about 10am when I started feeling groggy so I thought a little morning nap might be in order.

I awoke at just before 2:30pm.

Four hours.

I’ve been talking with some friends and they’ve been doing that too. We believe it’s our way of coping with extreme stress.

That’s better than a stroke or a heart attack.


Get out of the French Quarter, I tell visitors.

I don’t mean quite as far out as the locations in these pictures. Going to some of these places would mean really long days for some of them. But, I live here. I can pick them off one by one when the light and the heat suits me.

It’s an interesting thing about heat. It’s hot and very humid now. That will last until mid-October. Normally, I complain about it, but since I want you to be able to feel the picture I have to work in the heat. I reckon if I’m hot or cold, you’ll feel that way too.

Sometimes, my “method acting works,” many times it doesn’t. Same thing with writing. A friend of mine wrote about the passing of her dog. It broke our hearts. It took a couple of attempts to get through it. That worked. Man, did it work.

As I review this mini-portfolio I realize that I need to return to some of these places. I’m going to make a collection of Our Lady of Guadalupe photographs. I know where some are — obviously — but, I’ll have to just look around for others. I also want to return to the broken trees. I have some plans to use the pictures as components of other pictures.

Stay safe. Enjoy every fritter.


Out on the Westbank.

The long way home.

After a long day driving upriver towards Baton Rouge on the Westbank’s River Road, I came to this little spot in the road. Blue hour coming. Dusk coming. Trains on one side. Power lines on both sides making great leading lines. What could be better?

Actually, there are two River Roads. One on the east bank of The Mississippi River, where I live. And, one on the Westbank, which some people call “the best bank.” Maybe if you live there. I always get lost on there.

Anyway, it feels like you are way out there when you drive along the river, even if you are fifteen minutes from home. You are in the countryside. The southern countryside. There are still little tiny communities of former sharecroppers homes, that were slave quarters even earlier in history. Yes, descendants of both of those eras still live there.

Even though I always get lost, I like going there. I’ll be back once hell’s weather begins to cool down a bit. Air conditioning or no air conditioning, it’s no fun to get out of the car to make a picture and walk into a blast furnace.

The picture. After a long day of looking for pictures, I was vibrating. So was the camera. What you see here is the result of that.

 


Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River.
Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River.

I think this will be the last picture about light in this series and for this week. The picture is a combination of luck and a little bit of knowledge. I could see the light changing so I headed to the river. That’s the knowledge. I didn’t count on the light changing so much and so nicely. That’s luck.

The rest is really just being there and exposing properly for the light. I wish I could give you more precise tips. Just be aware. Of the light. Your situation. And, everything else.

There is one more thing. It’s about lens selection and cropping. Or, really framing. I like to work with wide lenses and usually pretty close. Even when I am not so close, I still like to work wide. I want you to see what I saw. And, how the subject lies within the context of the overall scene. Consider this, the picture was made with a 16mm lens. I’m a lot closer to the dock and boat than you think.


Springtime in New Orleans.
Springtime in New Orleans.

You really have to open this picture. It’s a little subtle.

It may be one of the best pictures that I’ve published this month. Whoops. Of course it might. There’s only been two days to March. Let’s say that despite all the pictures I made in February, with Mardi Gras and all that, this one brings something special to me. A sense of place. Maybe, a sense of time. Could be a little sense of peace.

I’m not sure.

The picture. I made it from Algiers Point, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. That sentence looks a little weird to me because Algiers Point is actually a ward located within The City of New Orleans. You have to cross one of a couple of bridges to get there. Or, take the ferry. The river looks so brown because it’s still dropping from our unseasonable high river a month or so ago. The fisherman and I got to this place along the river at about the same time. He had a little dog — a Shitzu — I think. He was barking like crazy at me. Luckily, I was standing on sort of a bridge between land and the ferry terminal. He had to jump about 25 feet to get to me. He couldn’t do that. And, I wasn’t jumping down to him. It all worked out.

Usually, it does.


Dusk levee walk.
Dusk levee walk.

The Mississippi River at New Orleans is reaching flood stage in the next couple of days. There is really not much to worry about. Despite my general feelings about the Army Corps of Engineers, they are on top of this one. As, they usually are with all things river.

On Saturday, the ACOE  are opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway to relieve the water flow into the city. I had to laugh because they are planning this so well, that they even have a figure for the number of people that they anticipate coming to view the opening. Watching the water flow from the river out into open land is very impressive. You begin to understand the power of nature. By doing this, the biggest temporary loss is the closing of a two lane mostly dirt road that is a cut through from River Road to Highway 61 (Airline Highway) near La Place. I think the road was first cut by engineers shaping the spillway, and then by off-roaders and finally by people looking for a short cut. But, this happens every couple of years, usually in Summer, so it’s not the big deal that some more national media make into be.

As far as shipping goes, the US Coast Guard have long-standing protocols to deal with a very high river.  At worst, freighters will be stacked up in a line, waiting their turn. And, some ships will have a few issues docking. But, that’s under the guidance of river boat pilots who are very, very good and very, very experienced.

For a while I wasn’t sure that I could document any of this. There was an early issue of levee path closures to bikers and walkers. The leaders on both sides of the river thought better of that and basically just said, “Use your head and don’t fall in.” Oh, “And do report anything you see like a sand boil.” That’s sand rising up through the levee which may indicate that it’s leaking.

All of that said, this is another thing you could do when you visit my fair city. No, not report sand boils. Take a walk along the river. If you are just hanging out in the French Quarter, you could walk along the river for just long enough to get some understanding of how it affects the city. You could walk from the Aquarium of the Americas to the Bywater. That’s a nice easy walk. You’ll see a lot and you’ll meet some interesting people. Just remember if anybody wants to bet you that they know where you got your shoes, the answer is “On my feet.”

For those of you who really like to walk, you could take the streetcar to Audubon Park, walk through the park to the river and walk upriver for as long as you’d like. Just remember that if you walk in one direction, you have to walk back. Or, have someone meet you because you could walk to well outside of the city. Or, you could ride a bike. It’s a great walk or ride and you’ll get out of the city and into the country. You’ll learn just how quickly New Orleans changes  from the third world Caribbean country to the Deep South. If you are visiting in the summer take plenty of water. And, a hat. And, sunscreen. Don’t walk in the mid-day sun. Only mad dogs and Englishmen do that.

Going forward. I’ve been casting about for new ideas for Storyteller. I didn’t realize how many of you actually read it to learn about the city in preparation for your first visit, next visit, or something more. That gave me an idea. It’s your idea.


Algiers Point Flyer.
Algiers Point Flyer.

I found this little ditty. It’s a Randy Newman song about his mom. Written about a time during WWII, when he and his mom were living in Los Angeles while his dad was fighting in the war. The chorus goes something like this:

“Got on the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans
Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams
On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans
Back to her friends and her family in the land of dreams”

The picture. As you can probably tell if you saw yesterday’s post, I sort of chased this train around. Wasn’t all that hard to do. The train was racing along at about 2 mph. In fact, I took this picture, drove to the levee, walked along the levee, took more pictures and then took the one you saw yesterday. I love it when a big, powerful machine is slower than me.

I think you already know this place. That is, if you’ve seen my other Algiers Point pictures. The train is running on the  street that parallels the levee. The levee is behind it. The Mississippi River is behind it. And, above is the Crescent City Connection. Or, The Greater New Orleans Bridge. Whichever you like.

Oh. Little Red Caboose up next.


The end of River Road
The end of River Road

This is truly the end of the road. Well. Sorta. I always thought that River Road stuck close to the banks of the Mississippi River. I doesn’t. In some places it sort of peels away and becomes another name, all the while still running parallel to the river. Then at a place called the Bonnet Carre Spillway, it just stops. At least it does if you drive straight ahead. This picture is what you see. But, if you follow the road to the right and make a hard left hand turn you are back on it. Of course this little bit is either dirt, mud or under water if the river is too high and it needs to be drained off into Lake Ponchartrain. That last thing only happens about once a year when the river gets very high with snowmelt from the north.

Usually.

I use that word with caution, you can drive around on dirt roads. You can actually drive all the way to Interstate 10 if you wish. People hunt down there. They fish. They do off roading. Maybe other stuff that I don’t want to know about. Or, you can make that hard left, drive through the dirt or mud and eventually reconnect to the paved portion of River Road and continue on your journey upriver. Or, downriver.

I didn’t know that.

For a long time I’ve been using Apple Maps. They still aren’t very accurate. But, Google Maps. That’s the one to use.

Anyway.

The picture. I made this picture just as that big huge storm was rolling in. No rain was falling when I arrived. By the time I left, buckets were pouring from the sky. At that time this place looked mysterious. Weird, Creepy. Like the start of some horror movie. At least, it felt that way to me. Feel, that’s what making pictures is all about for me these days. So, that’s how I made it in post production. I want you to feel what I felt.

I hope you feel something — anything — when you look at this picture.


Moonrise over The Mississippi River.
Moonrise over The Mississippi River.

Moonrise over The Mississippi River. An accidental picture. The “needs gas” light came on about a mile from home. I made a turn to get to a gas station and saw this scene. Sometimes when I work on just “finding stuff,” I use one lens and one camera body. Yep. That’s what I had. The lens was a 16mm. Very wide. Usually, too wide for a full moon shot. I had to try. This is the result.

New Orleans. Late Winter 2015.