he next day. We needed coffee. Good coffee. It turned out that a coffee house was less than two short blocks from our hotel.
Even better were the people who worked there. The were friendly and energetic. One of them took us to this place, an empty club.
Apparently, it was fully functioning until a movie production company used it to make a James Brown biopic. When they tore the set down, they gutted the building.
Those are the kinds of stories that you won’t hear if you just pass through a town, keeping to yourself. I suppose you could look around and never say a word to anybody, but what would be the fun in that?
This little bar or club or cafe is now being rebuilt back, good as it ever was.
One of these days we’ll pass through Natchez again and see it for ourselves. But, not this year.
here is some post production technique to discuss.
As you know, I’m about feeling more than seeing.
The picture was easy to make, especially if I didn’t want to show you the guitar player beyond what I did.
The club felt smokey, with a little bit of mist drifting in and out. I could see people standing around listening to the band, drinking beer and hanging out.
But, the club was empty. There wasn’t a finished wall in sight.
So, I softened everything. I made the scene glow a little bit.
his is the kind of place that we saw on our drive to Natchez. That’s Mississippi, in case you were unclear on it.
Stopping at little places like this were one of the reasons the drive too so long. This place was closed. The drive would have taken longer if it had been open because the owner would talk to me and I would start a longer conversation.
If you want to take pictures in unfamiliar places that’s how you do it. Talk. Talk. Talk. Let them know that you aren’t a threat in any way.
Make your picture, thank them and move on.
Do that 15 or 20 times on a trip and it adds up to real time. On the other hand, it’s worth it. Meeting new people is always worth it. And, you may learn something about the place you are photographing.
It may not be historically accurate, but who cares? We do it for the stories we can tell. And, for this blog. Well, I do anyway.
And, then there was lunch.
We read about a legendary cafe tucked away between Highway 61 and the river. We knew the crossroad, but that’s all. It took some poking around and looking because the cafe was located in the middle of a trailer park.
That’s also the joy of this kind of travel. Even though the hangries were approaching, we had fun finding the place and eating. The food was really good. Sort of southern home style cooking.
Imagine that. Southern home cooking in the South. What’ll they think of next?
ince there is no technique to making a photograph like this one, other than what I wrote about talking to people, I thought that I would talk about yesterday.
I went to an appointment with a new oncologist. There was nothing wrong with the old one. I liked him a lot. But, he retired.
I kind of grilled him about the efficacy of my vaccinations as oppose to what my CLL did to them.
He looked very carefully at my blood work and saw something encouraging. My hemoglobin numbers look almost normal.
So, in the next week we are going to run a detailed panel just looking at that. If it is as we hope, there is a chance that I don’t have to stay locked down, or at least I don’t have to be quite so strict because if the hemoglobin is near normal then the vaccine will work to a point.
A little Christmas. A little southern. A little over done. A little winter. A little snow.
Obviously, I didn’t make this picture this year. It’s been too warm in the south.
I did what many visual people do. I photographed it when I could. I saved it. I published when it was appropriate. It’s that old timing thing again. The hardest part of taking pictures like this, aside from just getting there, is to remember to publish it later. Because I know that, I keep pretty good notes with long-term come up files. When I get to a certain date, I reminded to do certain things. Like publish this picture.
It also reminds me of other things. One’s that I’d rather forget. Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. He was killed later in tonight. December 8, 1980. Often I think it’s the 9th. I confuse myself because I learned of it the next day. A phone call came. I heard the words and couldn’t believe it. I never knew him. I knew his music. As a music writer buddy of mine wrote in his column, “It felt like a death in the family.” It’s been 36 years since that horrible day. It feels like yesterday.
One night I was talking to my friend, Chesley Thompson. She’s a Southerner. Born and raised. She has family all over the south, especially in Mississippi and Louisiana. She’s a school teacher. An incredible school teacher. Just ask her former students. I met her at UNO when we were both working on post-graduate classes. Among many other things, she is the mother of my god-daughter. She and her husband think I have some sort of magic about me. Or, at least I’m responsible. In some way. After all these years, they still haven’t learned. Heh!
She started telling me stories about her family and growing up in the south. They were really good. Not only did they help me to understand her a little more, but they helped me to understand the place that we mostly call home.
She’s a little nervous about publishing this. She doesn’t do this often. In fact, this is the first time she’s written this down on a piece of paper. Or, on a computer screen. She has a ton more stories to tell. I hope that I have the honor of sharing more of them with you. That’s her call.
It took me a little longer than normal to get this story together. She wrote it. I couldn’t photograph it. It was just hard making pictures that even came close. Sheesh, I’m really a city boy. I’ve never even seen a turtle in the wild. Watermelon patch? Don’t you go the grocery story and buy them? Then, I took a break from Storyteller. There were some family changes… all for the better. We grew. And, as John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”
But, here we are. Finally.
A watermelon story from Chesley…
Sometimes stories just need to be told. They swell up and pop in your mouth and the next thing you know, they are filling the room with bubbles.
My daddy was raised on a farm but as he was the baby of the family, he was often told to stay out of way so he wouldn’t be underfoot. All the time he was looking for something to do, he was really wishing he could be elbow deep in some greasing of tractor parts or some other integral part of really farming.
On the farm, my grandfather set aside a vegetable patch for anyone interested, primarily my green-thumbed grandmother, to grow food for eating. Nowadays we’d call this a collective garden but then it was just known as the Patch. Mrs. Galloway from the next farm over tended to the pole beans. Lucy Lacey planted marigolds all around the edges to keep the bugs away and because she loves all flowers. The tomatoes were pampered by everyone and Jesse grew the best, sweetest watermelon anyone had ever tasted.
One long, slow summer day when my daddy was once again shooed away from the real work, he decided that one of Jesse’s watermelon’s would be really refreshing after the sun went down and everyone was sitting on the back steps talking about what they would be doing in the morning. So, being the thinking kind of boy he was, Daddy decided that watermelon would be even better if it were cold. No large ice drifts being available in middle Mississippi in the heat of the summer, Daddy decides that cooling it down in the pond was the next best option.
However, there was a small problem. The pond was all the way at the other end of the gravel driveway from the Patch. But this didn’t deter Daddy one little bit. He picked the biggest melon he could find and just rolled it up the driveway to the pond. He sank that sucker in the deepest part of the pond where he knew the water was the coolest, buried it in the red Yazoo clay that constituted the bottom of that pond so it wouldn’t float to the top and proceeded to attempt to stay out the way for the rest of the day.
Quitting time rolls around and Daddy was in the orchard picking a boot box full of green plums—that’s another story for another day—- but he fails to see all the men walking up the path. He doesn’t get to see their faces and hear their amazement at the huge swath of gravel missing from the middle of the driveway. He completely misses all the talk of a giant turtle grading the way from the Patch to the grass near the pond; about how darned big this thing must be and about what a good dinner that will be when they catch it.
When he finally sees them and remembers his surprise for them, he scrambles down the trees, dives into the pond and rubs all the clay off this now very cool monster melon. Just about then, it dawns on him that this thing is too big to carry, even the 20 yards to the car port steps. So, doing what he knew worked for him, he put it down and rolled it.
After the men had picked out the gravel stuck in the rind, and laughed themselves to crying, they ate the best watermelon God ever put in the path of boy trying to show his worth.
Legend says there’s still a turtle crawling around out there, somewhere.
Well. Mostly I like to walk. Trains. Planes. And, automobiles. They are just for getting someplace quickly. To see. To really see, you have to walk. Walking gives you just enough time to see what’s coming and to react in order to make the picture. And, you can see the details. The devil is in the details, they say.
This picture was made on the same night I made the bonfire picture. In order to get to the bonfires you have to cross the road. Yeah, yeah. I know. Why does the photographer cross the road? To get to the picture. True, dat. I don’t care about getting to the other side. I care about getting to the picture. This is a relatively quiet time on River Road. Two minutes before I pushed the button, there was a line of traffic that stretched downriver for a few blocks. Fortunately, there are local parish sheriffs and State Troopers to direct traffic. This picture should give you an idea how close people sit to the to the main street, even though it is only a two lane road. The exposure for this is pretty easy. I try to shoot at F5.6 and let the shutter speed fall wherever it may. In that way, some motion is stopped, some is blurred and the light is fairly well-balanced.
And, that’s it for this picture.
But, wait. There’s more.
I few weeks ago I reconnected to an old high school friend via Facebook. His name is Craig Loe. Among other things, he writes stories for a travel blog called tripbucket. He asked me if I would help out and discuss travel photography for all levels of photographers. I think that I surprised him with my lengthy answers so tripbucket broke my story into two parts. The first part was published today. Words and pictures. I told him that part of my lengthy writing was due to my attempt to write to all levels of photographers. That’s very hard to do and keep it brief. Or, maybe I just felt like “talking.” Maybe you might learn a thing or two. I did. By organizing my thoughts I remembered a few things that I forgot.
Anyway, please have a look at my friend’s work, my writing and a few pictures which you may have already seen.
I was experimenting a little the other night. I wanted to see what my little Sony NEX could do at night. I should have known being that the sensor is the same as a Nikon D7000. But, even so, the processor is different. It is supposed to be better because it is newer. So. This is ISO 3200 in very, very dim light. There wasn’t even a lot of ambient street light to make this work. Yes. I did some post production tricks.
Where? Well. An odd little area in Jefferson Parish where Kenner stretches to the Mississippi River. Apparently, this is a very old area. So, the city leaders thought this would be a good place to create a historical district. For the most part, it never worked. There used to be a train museum, which might still be there for all I know. There used to be a Saints (the football team) historical museum here. Why here? I have no idea. But, it was moved to The Superdome. Where it should have been in the first place.