In the wind.

You’d think this is one of my layered pictures. It’s not. I just happened to line myself up with multiple bare trees. I did make a bunch of exposures because I didn’t believe it myself.

A painter followed me here in WordPressland. I followed her back. Her work is good as it is, but she seems to want to define art and artists. She thinks that she isn’t artist because she never had formal training. And, a few other things.

Musical Miss would say that she thinks too much. And, to just do the art. After all, the only way to get good at something is to keep doing it.

Ansel Adams said that your first 10,000 pictures are your worst ones. That seems to be true of almost anything that can happen fairly rapidly.

During that long time of what amounts practice you learn a few things. The two most important are learning not to think. And, to learn your gear so well that it as an extension of yourself.

There was a book called something like Zen and the Art of Archery. It illustrates both ideas.

A young student wants to learn to shoot with a bow and arrow. The master tells him to shoot at a target. The student does this for years. He never hits the target.

He tells the master that he can’t do it. The master asks him to try it one more time. The student pulls an arrow out of the quiver, mounts it on the bow without a thought.

He hits the target in the center. Amazed, he tries again and again, all with the same result.

That’s how you get good at anything.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Seeing is a technique that I rarely talk about. I should because it is as important as any editing trick.

There are a couple of ways to look at it.

The first is to set out to make pictures. Your senses are on high alert. You see because you force yourself to see.

I do that all the time. Photographing for clients, photographing for myself at events like second lines.

I also have learned over many years to keep my eyes open. When I walk the all seeing dog I’m not out looking for something in particular.

I just look here, there and everywhere. I don’t stare at anything. I just look.

I’m not sure how to teach you to do this except to start by going on an intentional photo walk with your eyes wide open. Once again, practice, practice, practice.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Be patient. Enjoy all the seeing.


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.


Deep, dark at dusk.

They said that we were going to have snow. Yep. That’s what they said. We may still see some, but the national weather maps have snow as a possibility in northern Louisiana. Not down here in the swamp.

The temperature is cold for us. We had a high of 40 degrees. We had cold rain. We had miserable dogs. They don’t like going out in rain. They really hated cold rain.

For me, a guy who dislikes summer’s heat and likes cold weather, this is a dream.

However spring flowers are already blooming. The Japonica tree has quarter-size buds on it. Sheesh. It’s mid-January. And, barely that.

Maybe that’s a sign. A sign of things to come. On the other hand, I’m about ready to toast 2022.

2021 already seems to be saying to 2020, “Hold my beer.” Maybe things will get better. I do worry about the next nine days.

Maybe I’m worrying for nothing.

I hope so.

This is what I saw before the cold rain came pouring down.

I normally don’t make a cloud picture without some kind of anchor — a tree, a building, the ubiquitous telephone poles — but theses were just to powerful to ignore.

You know the next step. And, the step after that.

This image took almost no work in post because I exposed for that highlight — the bit of sky that is bright white and blown out.

I usually do that by accident.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy the cold weather.


It was a dark and cloudy day.

Everything changes. I had some lessons in that today. I wasn’t going to renew my premium membership with WordPress. It’s digital dump day, or whatever today is called. You know the equivalent of Black Friday. For electronic stuff.

I ended my premium plan yesterday. I received an email from WordPress today. 40% off for the next two days. I’m nothing if if not opportunistic. So, I renewed.

Don’t judge me.

While I have some complaints, especially with the Block System, I like it here. I have a community here.

I’ll still rebuild and redesign my website. That’s still the plan and the project. But, now I have a little more time. Like a year. That’s good because along with being opportunistic I’m lazy.

There is another important change too. You remember how I said that the all seeing dog was showing her age?

Wrong.

I noticed that when she stretched her jaw after waking up she would yelp in pain. I couldn’t find the problem until I put her leash on her. I happened to touch the back of her jaw. A little yelp.

Uh oh.

Another jaw infection. I called her vet and he prescribe the same antibiotics that he did when she lost a few teeth.

A week later and I let her out about 7am. The weather has turned cold here in the swamp. Luckily I had the presence of mind to dress properly even though I thought we’d be back inside in a few minutes.

Wrong again.

We went on the longest walk we’ve been on in the past few weeks.

Yippeeeeeeee.

Clouds. Both sides now. Joni is 77 and Judy is almost 80. My musical heroes may not be with us much longer. We’d better enjoy them while we can.

These are the first clouds of what turned out to be a three day storm and a cold front.

I made the file in color. I started messing with it and thought it looked better in black and white.

For sure, it brought out some things I didn’t see when I made the picture.

You can see the storm front as it moves. And, if I’m not mistaken, I can see a water spout. I didn’t hear any reports of a tornado, so maybe it broke apart.

No telling what a little post production will do.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy every snow flake.


Autumn air.

I started tinkering last night. I made this artwork. It was accidental, like so many things in life.

Even the title of today’s Storyteller is an accident. I asked Alexa to make a playlist of Mary Chapin Carpenter songs. I think she liked doing that. When I asked, her response was “Hmmm.”

“I Feel Lucky” was playing when I wrote the title. Accidental.

That’s a thing that I know about. Accidents. Happy or other wise. They happen the minute you put your well thought out plan into action.

As retired boxer Mike Tyson says, “Your plan changes the minute that you get punched in the face.”

The same thing happens in photography especially if you work with people. The minute that you show up with a camera everything changes. You don’t even have to point it at anyone. They just know that you are there.

That leads to another question. Can any picture really be spontaneous?

Sure.

That’s why NGS photographers have 16 week assignments. It’s why I suggest photographing your world when you start out. The people in your life will ignore you, mostly because they always do.

No. I’m not being snarky,

They are used to you. That’s why I try to stay around for a long time. I hope people will get used to me.

But, they never do.

It’s the camera.

Sometimes working with a phone is a better idea. First, they produce pretty technically good pictures. Second, everybody is taking pictures of everything. Nobody notices.

That’s the goal.

About this MCC thing. Somehow I managed to miss 30 years of her music. When I first saw her play her songs from home. I was enchanted by the peaceful feeling that she brought to me, just like listening to James Taylor does.

I watched some more and thought where have I been all your life?

I know now what happened. I relocated to Hong Kong in 1993. Until Virgin records came along, we were lucky to find western music, especially country.

So, now I’m a little obsessed. I just wish that Alexa would have made a playlist that had some of her new music on it.

It’s always something.

Trees. I like trees. They are symbolic of a lot of things. One of my favorites, rebirth, is among them.

As I said, I was tinkering last night. Even though you can barely see it, this image is made from two layered pictures.

I worked to create the color palette that I though suit the picture.

That took some doing. Balancing the lights and darks was a project in itself.

For those of you who are wondering, I started Snapseed and finished in OnOne. I have other editing software, but why confuse myself?

Stay safe. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy every sandwich.


The start of something.

The idea started yesterday. But, between then and now I fell asleep three times. I don’t know why. I’m not tired. I’m not sick. I don’t feel stressed. At least not any more so than any other day this year.

The idea was flowers for friend. A friend who was there at the start of my career and who passed yesterday. He was a few years older than me. I have no idea what took him. I believe he lived in Tucson. In Arizona. In normal times, I’d go to his funeral.

While there are a lot of deaths this year, there aren’t many funerals that anyone other than close family can attend. Sometimes the rules get broken slightly, like when there was a second line for a former Zulu king. In that case, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

You know, the old risk v reward thing.

All I know, in New Orleans at least, is that if we ever make it through the pandemic and when the vaccine works at a very high rate, there will be God’s own second line/jazz funeral. Too many people have passed without any kind of commemoration. We need to do it. It’ll be good for them. Good for their family and close friends. And, good for us.

What I did. To the picture. I saw these little blooms. The all seeing dog paused during her walk and I framed what I saw and pushed the button. I let the file sit and marinate. When I learned that my colleague passed, I knew what to do.

Blue.

The picture needed to be blue with some colorful highlights. I did the work, first using Snapseed and finishing it using OnOne. You are looking at the result. What do you think?

Is it good enough? Is it tribute enough?

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after others. Enjoy every sandwich.


The scary Quarter.

Spooky. Scary. That’s the season. The season of the witch. It’s really scary around swampville today. Sometime early in the morning my phone went crazy with a 36 hour hurricane warning. You have no idea how it feels when you get any kind of notification like that. Your heart pounds. You are wide awake. Your brain is moving too fast. And, then they say that we may have to evacuate.

Hahahaha.

Evacuate to where? In the season of the other witch — CoVid-19 — where do we go? Anyway, this storm has moved slightly to the east, but we will get hit pretty hard. We have no idea about is strength. Yet. It has to pass over the gulf, which is still very hot with summer’s heat. That charges it.

I already know the answer to my next question. And, I don’t like it.

I have a 505 area code. New Orleans has a 504 area code. My code is from our sojourn to the high desert in New Mexico after Hurricane Katrina did its thing. How did I receive an alert that is relevant to the 504 area code?

That’s easy. The least invasive is Google. I use Google Maps and their direction service. Google knows where I am. So does Apple and Samsung. I don’t like it, but that’s on me. Telling them where I’m located makes life easier.

The alert didn’t come from any of them. It came from the feds, through NOAA. They track my movements too. I read a piece in the New York Times, by Kara Swisher, who has been doing heavy digital studies for twenty years. She said that the government knows where we are every moment of every day. Mostly, they just collect the data. Sometimes they use what they’ve collected. This was one of those times. At least it’s for good.

But, what if it’s not? People were fighting against leaving their contact information at restaurants in case someone got sick and they needed to do some contact tracing. Who cares, we already are known to the people that matter.

Ms. Swisher said the only way to beat what amounts to a huge invasion of privacy is to buy a “burner” phone and only use it to make calls. You should also use an alias. After a few calls, dump it and start again. If you buy a smartphone and use it to check your email, or go to social sites you are immediately known.

Some life, eh?

Halloween and the picture. I haven’t been photographing a lot of holiday stuff lately so this is a retread. But, I’ve always really liked this picture. I made it the Quarter. Originally, it was in glorious color. But, when I experimented with it, I found that I liked this version a whole lot better.

Normally, I would photograph the Krewe of Boo. That’s cancelled this year for obvious reasons. Assuming we don’t take to big of a hit from the storm, I may wander around the Quarter looking for new and even more scary pictures on Halloween. We’ll see.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance.


Louisiana Sky

Time. I’ve been saying that it’s lost its meaning. That it just seems to flow. That its numbers are meaningless. That the only way to mark time is by listening to nature. I still believe that.

In my heart, I know time is getting short. We are a little over four weeks to an election that may very well determine our democracy. That will change the course of the entire world.

It’s time. To dig in. To work.

For me it is also time to call the ghosts, the long gone gurus and the long passed masters. We need the cavalry. The ancestors need to come riding into the fray and change the balance.

For me, it started yesterday.

Here’s what happened. We were walking the dogs. Not just the all seeing dog, but all of her brothers and sisters. We arrived at a little pocket park. They like going there mid-walk because they can sit on the grass, roll around and play. They can do this at home, but this is a new place.

There are two benches there. We sat on one. On the other bench were three youngish women, maybe in their late twenties or early thirties. On white, one brown, one black. The future. The future that is now.

We said hello, and I realized it was time for “Songs From Home,” Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Sunday morning mini-mini-concert. We played it on my phone.

I think that MCC is feeling the way I am. She called on a living master, calling his song one of the best songs that had ever been written. She played Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing.”

Covers are covers. She played this one straight. Her voice was clear and powerful.

Listening on it on my phone meant that it was loudish. The three young women stopped talking and started listening. I held my phone so they could see too.

Afterward, they asked who the singer was, and what was the name of the song. I told them the backstory. About a time of change that began in the early 60s and lasted for almost a decade. I also added that we blew it. We had a chance and we dropped the ball.

We all introduced ourselves. As the old one, they asked me what I thought.

I said, “I’m old now. I may have one more fight in me. But, it’s your world now. Make it a good one.”

Art. I’m not really sure there is a real definition of it. The closest I can come is what John Lennon said about his songs. When he was asked what his songs meant, he said, “whatever you want them to mean.”

I think that applies to whatever we classify as art. Art is whatever you want it to be. You don’t have to be what we commonly call an artist.

You could be a mechanic who feels the car. Or, a baker who feels the flour.

You can’t say that these people aren’t artists. Convince me otherwise.

Many people call me artist. It’s a mantle that I’ve long resisted. I take pictures of whatever I see. I do that when I have a job. That’s what I get paid to do.

In order to test the theory of my artistry, every once in a while I experiment with a photograph.

I made this picture while we were on a test road trip. I pointed my camera out of the passenger side window. Passenger side window. Note that. I wasn’t driving. We were just rolling along River Road on the Westbank.

I liked what I saw. So I pressed the button. When we returned home I let the take marinate. When I started culling my work, this picture popped out at me, not for what it was but for what it could be.

I started tinkering. I tinkered some more. I kept going on two software programs. Out came this picture.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Stay healthy. Enjoy your time, it’s shorter than you know.