All of the mysteries.

T

iming. It’s everything. Look in one direction and you see nothing. Turn around and there’s the picture. Make some great music and nobody hears it unless the timing is right. Play sports, maybe baseball. The difference between striking out and hitting a home run is timing.

You get the point.

This picture is a great example of timing. I was trying every which way to get under the wires to get some of the orange cloud into the picture. I couldn’t do it.

I turned to the side and thought, “There is a picture here after all.” This one. The one you are looking at.

Here’s an extreme example of timing. As you know, I can’t be in crowds. That means I can’t photograph second lines. Normally. I start at the beginning, walk a good bit with the parade. Then, I get back to my car and jump to the end.

If I had been out on Sunday, I could have been way too near a shooting that left one dead and one critically injured. I’m pretty sure it was gang related. For sure, it was Black on Black.

That, alone, makes me sad.

But, a misfired bullet in the air doesn’t see color. It just zooms through the air hitting whatever it comes in contact with. It would be one thing if these boneheads could actually shoot. But, they can’t. They spray bullets everywhere trying to hit the one poor guy they are after.

Think about it.

I was on the corner of St. Bernard Avenue and St. Claude on one Mother’s Day a few years back when two fools started shooting into the crowd in order to hit their target. They didn’t hit him, but they did hit a lot of innocent people.

They hit my friend, and just about everybody’s friend, “Big Red” Deb Cotton in the stomach. That may be the worst survivable wound. She survived, but after years of painful surgeries, she died.

Murders are up by 24% in New Orleans. Gun deaths are the highest they’ve ever been in the city.

A

fter I saw the picture I did everything I could to avoid those power lines, but I couldn’t.

It’s ironic. If I photographed this scene about a month earlier those lines wouldn’t have been in the way. They’d have been in the street.

My biggest trick was to darken the entire picture to bring the color out. I did add some soft glow because I like it.

If I left the picture horizontal there would have been way too much black. The color would have receded into the scene. So, I cropped it.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of square pictures. Obviously, I use them when the situation calls for it.

Nothing is set in cement. Photographic rules should be learned and understood so that you can break them when your work calls for it.

I suppose that’s the same with most rules. Live by them until something goes way south. Then, do what you have to do.

Hopefully, it will be subtle and peaceful.

Unlike this photograph.


Weirdness.

M

y thinking changes a little bit every day depending what I read or see or do. I made this photograph a couple for days ago. I started playing with it last night. The picture lead me to the way it looks. Look at the next column for that.

I generally listen to music when I work, especially when I write. Today’s first selection is a new live album, from a very old band. Steely Dan. The album is called, “Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live”

For me, it is really about memories because most of the tunes are their signature songs.

In a way that’s too bad. I’m someone who really wants to hear new music. I don’t get fixated on the past music.

Today is a very good day, although it started late. For some reason even though we went to bed early, for us. I slept until 11:49 am. I had over ten hours of sleep. I rarely need that much. I guess I needed it.

Sleeping so long sure cleared my head of the accumulation of stress that had been building over the past month.

Maybe it’s going to be a much better ride over the next few months. I sure hope so because if it’s good for me, it might be better for a whole lot of people.

H

ere’s what happened.

A lot of trees have been left bare branched after the winds of Hurricane Ida blew through.

This is one of those trees.

Oddly, other trees that had their leaves blown off are starting to regrow them. They look like springtime.

How’s that? Spring and fall at the same time. In the same place.

Anyway.

I started tinkering with this picture and it lead me to this version. When I let the picture lead me I rarely go too far unlike the times I try to impose my will on it.

I wish I could tell you what I did, but I was on auto pilot. And, we were watching a movie. That may be the best way for me to work.


Darkness at the edge of town.

O

bviously, I made this picture a while ago, like in winter. I tucked it away and you’ve never seen it. I’m starting to work through that collection now.

Unfortunately for me, these pictures are scattered throughout the last few months which means that I have to find them. Hard to do when you’ve forgotten about them. That’s how the infamous lost files are found.

This is a prime example of me seeing a scene for what it could be and making that happen in post production. It’s very likely the sky was pale winter blue and the foreground in good light.

That’s fine.

But, it doesn’t always fulfill my photographic needs. In fact, the deeper my journey becomes the more I want to make pictures that express my vision.

Usually, that doesn’t mean making a documentary style photograph. Nor, does it mean just throwing a couple of filters on a picture and calling it done.

The best of my work is brought about by thinking about, and then working, on the picture.

That doesn’t always happen.

I get rushed. I don’t think clearly. Even worse, I don’t feel clearly. I believe that you, the viewer or reader, can tell that. You see right through me.

At least that’s what I think.

N

ow, here are some technical issues to overcome.

First, as I wrote on the other side, the picture was made in color.

As I also wrote, the image was made in pale winter light. It was pretty enough, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I thought about it and decided it might look like winter feels. Brooding. Moody. Even scary.

I took out as much color as I could. But, if you notice, not all.

Then I softened the sky and enhanced the silhouetted subjects.

I blurred everything to soften the feel.

That’s it. That’s enough.

How about those of you who are photographers? How do you achieve your vision?


Deep and dark.

N

ot every street in The French Quarter is brightly lighted with shops, stores, clubs and bars beckoning to passersby.

A large part of the Quarter is residential or old work spaces converted into some kind of loft or apartments.

Unless you are very lucky you usually can’t park your car near your destination so you find parking space and walk. Or, you can take the streetcar from our neighborhood, ride it to Canal Street and walk.

One way or another you are going to pass through darkened neighborhoods so you might as well do something productive as you look over your shoulder or scan the shadows.

That’s what I did.

I made this picture on the way to someplace else. I pressed the button and keep going. A friend of mine calls this, “Shoot and scoot.” I’d prefer not to use the word, “Shoot,” during these very violent days.

One statistic that concerns me is that over a two year period dating back to 2019 is we are up by 54% just in shootings. That’s a huge number.

Anyway.

This picture is on the very edge of impossible. I’ll tell you more about on the other side.

Even though it’s hidden in shadows, I could see the there are a number of repairs using different techniques from different eras. That suggests that this building was never abandoned.

It may even be an original French built structure, which makes it very old since most of The French Quarter is Spanish, who rebuilt the Quarter after a massive fire.

That’s the story so far.

W

hen I wrote that this picture is on the edge of impossible, I meant it.

The original exposure was underexposed as you might guess.

Strangely, the image is very sharp and in focus.

Luckily, I was able to open up the image even beyond this point. I had to be careful because if I opened up the shadows the night sky became striated and noisy.

I could have made a faux HDR and tried to create what looks like different exposures and blended them together, but I thought this picture was on that edge.

Impossible.

So, I worked very carefully and came to this place.

If you noticed, I’ve been working more and more to the dark side of subjects.

That doesn’t mean anything about me on a personal level. I’m not feeling dark. I’m just intrigued with this color and light palette.


In City Park, New Orleans.

T

his is the backside of City Park in New Orleans. For the life of me I cannot remember why or when I made this picture.

It just turned up in my iPhotos files.

But, wow, do I like it.

The picture almost came out of the archives just about the way that you see it. Of course, I did a little work which I’ll discuss on the other side.

Apparently, the building was a maintenance shed. There were a few buildings a couple hundred yards away. I once used them as a location for a commissioned shoot. I’m glad that I did because the next time I went to the area they had been torn down.

That’s what’s happening in New Orleans these days. After Hurricane Katrina there were over 60,000 abandoned and destroyed buildings in the city. Between two mayors and their administrations about 30,000 buildings were torn down. There are a lot of buildings remaining.

The city government celebrates each building that is demolished, yet violent crime can’t be curbed. In fact, it’s getting worse to the point of breaking records. The potholes aren’t fixed. Parts of the city flood every time there is rain. The power goes out when two squirrels are on the line at the same time.

It seems to me that the priorities are skewed.

My friend was murdered. Other people’s friends and families have been murdered or mugged or had their cars hijacked.

Apparently, those crimes are trending upward throughout the country. There are all kind of theories about why this is happening. I’d love to tell you what I think but that’s well above my pay grade.

Let’s just say that we are all lockdown addled.

My fear is that we are turning into the wild west. It’s already happened in The French Quarter. A drunk guy broke into a front door, walked into the house where the owner shot and killed him. The owner was exonerated.

That’s no way to live.

In Texas you can walk around with a gun without weapons training. In Florida you can shoot somebody if they threaten you. That’s called, “The stand your ground law.” It was tested a few years ago. The shooter was cleared of any crime.

Flash forward to a few years in the future. You already know what I could write.

This won’t end well.

H

ere’s the story. The picture came out of the camera just about the way you see it.

The image didn’t take much post production. I’m not sure why.

My little knowledge of color theory tells me that the almost blue hour gray skies reflected blue light every where, especially in shadows.

Or, I could have accidentally reset the camera.

It’s likely that’s what happened.

None of that matters.

The resulting picture is what matters. And, how you and I feel about it.

I really like this picture. It may end up being a hero picture on my website.

I’ve located a number of dark and mysterious pictures in my archives. A post a lot of them on my Instagram feed.

I think that I’ve built enough of an archive that I can build a portfolio page with them.

And, speaking of websites… I’ve wavered again. I work with a number of public relations and marketing people.

When I told them how many followers I have on Storyteller, they told me that I was crazy to leave my community behind even if there are a lot of ghost followers because you never know.

“You never know” became a reality when a blogger who follows Storyteller, but one that I don’t know, reblogged about five posts. I’ll have to look at his readership, but anything is good.

Right?


The swamp and the tree.

There is one corner where the land looks like this. It looks and feels what it must have been like 25,000 years ago.

I don’t really know. I’m not that old. I swear.

All I know is that it’s green and can get kind of noisy when squirrels talk and birds chirp.

Sometimes wilder animals than those make their way through the foliage. I’ve seen raccoon and possums pass by. I rarely see snakes, but they are there too. Nothing poisonous, just the usual black snake or two.

Scrape away 160 years and this neighborhood is wild and swampy. Well, not that wet. This is ridge land. Kind of. It’s six feet above sea level when so much of the city land is below sea level.

But, that’s enough.

It survived the big hurricane in my memory — Katrina — without getting flooded. That’s one of the reasons we live where we live.

It’s not the oldest neighborhood in the city, with much of being built in the 1850s. It was annexed to be part of New Orleans a little before that. People built here for three reasons. The land was fairly inexpensive. The area was a little cooler which kept the viral outbreaks down. And, it isn’t near the French Quarter and “those people.”

That doesn’t mean what you think. It really means a wilder, rowdier bunch.

Even now, it’s removed enough that if I want to go to the Quarter, I can hop on the streetcar and be there is 10-15 minutes. And, that’s a two block walk from the house. I can watch the craziness and come home to quiet.

Sometimes living here is easy.

Jungle land. The hardest part of making this photograph is the light.

Most of it is dark. That’s easy to expose for. But, look at the highlights. They are way blown out.

The way to account for that is to expose for the shadows and add a little flash. Not much, just something we used to call a kick light.

I could have done that but didn’t. Remember, I make these pictures on dog walks or going from one place to another.

The result is slightly gray highlights caused by the processing that takes a RAW file to a JPEG. It crunches some of the highlights to make them fit within the JPEG gamut.

Never the less, I think this is a fairly striking representation of my neighborhood.


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 weirds.

The scene. Bare trees lined up in an interesting shape with blue sky directly about and storm clods moving into thelocation.

You’d think that would be an easy picture to make. You’d be wrong. This picture took an act of God in post production which I’ll get to in the right hand column.

I want to talk about something a friend of mine wrote in a newsletter that he only shares with his closest friends. 2,000,000 of his closest friends.

It’s called The Lefstetz Letter. Bob, because that’s his name, used to actually work in the music industry. Now he is set of a super gadfly, reporter, op-ed page writer. He’s very well connected.

For the most part his letters are on target. But, when he is wrong, man is he wrong. As anybody does with that kind of readership, he gets attacked. But, he is praised more than vilified.

Anyway.

In his last letter he was talking about Biden and the Democrats. Let’s be clear, Bob is a hardcore lefty. He did not want Biden in the drivers seat. Many of us replied that even though Biden wouldn’t do what you (Bob) wanted him to do, he was the right guy because he knows how to move the levers of power. He knows how to repair all the damage done by the previous administration.

Yesterday he finally agreed. Biden moved so fast in his first week in office that it was hard for him not to agree. And, then he wrote this. The Democrats are finally acting like they won the election.

Yes. They are.

They pushed through the Biden relief bill while giving a nod to the Republicans by having a long and productive meeting. They tossed Twittled Dee from Georgia off of the Congressional Committees after the minority leader wanted to have a chat with her and hide behind the word unity.

This made me smile.

Being a bully isn’t needed right now. We just finished with four years of that nonsense. Being strong is needed now especially after four years of obstruction. Watch the chief instructor — McConnell — dance to another tune.

Right now his instincts are right. But, he’s still fearful of the pumpkin man. He’ll learn. There is a breath of fresh air in the halls of power. He’ll get used to it.

A funny thing happened on the way to this picture.

I couldn’t figure out the exposure. I suppose that I made it for the bluish-green light sky in the center of the picture.

That was a mistake.

It was also a driving force.

Once I developed the original file it looked terrible. The storm clouds weren’t dark enough. There was noise the size of golf balls. Try as I might I couldn’t fix this picture.

A lightbulb went off.

Why fix it when you can enhance it. Or, in this case, make it weird.

That’s what I did.

Once I got the basic file about the best that I could make it, then I went to work.

I removed the noise with a filter. I added odd tornado-looking like color to the sky. I added a glow filter twice to the overall picture. I let the trees fall into silhouette.

I was done.

A side note. This was not done in Snapseed. It’s a great app, but I needed industrial strength editing so I did everything in OnOne. It worked after four different tries and deletions.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Stay strong. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Use all the editing tools available to you.


Night ride home.

Night time is the right time. So, they say. I like working at night because of the mystery that is often added to the picture. I like it because I can hide imperfections in the scene or the picture. I also like it because I can make the scene more blue.

The color blue adds depth to blacks when you are using a commercial printing press like the ones that I used in Hong Kong and Singapore.

A photographer or designer can add blue to prints make them look cold as in a snow scene, to make skies look a perfect blue or to make a bloody red print lose its flatness and gain some contour and curve.

From a slightly scientific point of view blue was the last color to be found or created. In fact, it was last year — I think — when an entirely new shade of blue was discovered. That made the folks who make Crayons crazy.

As I recall, when Crayon made room for the new shade of blue, they removed two colors. The new shade of blue was added along with another color that was more modern.

That begs the question about color changes in the Crayon world. I wonder just how many versions of the box of 64 did the company made over the years.

Remember my friend who wants nothing to change once the virus is finally managed? I tried to tell him that the only constant is change.

Even the box of 64 Crayons changes over the years.

Deep blue. The color that I like. The color that I made. I should say the color that I enhanced.

When I made the picture, the sky was turning into dusk. That’s what the original frame looks like.

I helped it in post production. I made an already blue sky really blue, almost black.

That’s how I saw it in my mind’s eye when I pushed the button. The sky was darkening and the bare tree was illuminated from a low winter sun.

I cropped the picture into a square because there was just too much black dead space.

That’s what you are looking at.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look at all the blue.