I was very lucky.

Moonrise over New Orleans. I wasn’t going to publish this picture yet, but a friend of mine posted a moonrise over the Long Island Sound, so I thought I’d better do this today.

Moons seem to have a lot to do with 2021. If you believe in such things, we are entering the Age of Aquarius. You remember the last time we did that. Flower children. Hippies. Peace. Great music. Love-ins. Be-ins. Woodstock.

Oh yeah. And, the war in Vietnam. Let’s be careful out there. We’ve been fighting unending wars in too many places.

I think good things will happen this time around. There were too many creative approaches to just about everything when our hands were tied by lockdowns and quarantines.

Let me loose now and there’s no telling what I’ll make better. Or, worse if you are on the other side.

So.

Hope and faith in 2021.

I usually pick a word to use as sort of a koan for the year. This year and since I’m trying to be farther along and further in, I selected the word “truth.” Not as in me telling the truth. But, digging into myself and some outside influences to find the truth.

And, you?

The photograph. I made the picture on a dog walk. My hurting little cocker spaniel started feeling better so she lead me on a fairly long walk.

The moon popped up on the way back.

I was kind of blown away by the brightness of the moon and the sky. It’s not often the clouds appear so clearly at night.

I made the picture. I thought that I had it. Oh no. I had it alright, among tons of noise. It took some serious post production to clean it up.

But, here it is. Just as I’d hoped for.

You know what I said about hope and faith in the left hand column? Sometimes, it takes a lot of work to achieve them.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Enjoy all the pizza pie since sometimes it looks like the moon in the sky.

That’s amore.


The night sky.

It was early. The all seeing dog wanted to go out. She kept nagging me until I took her for a short walk. I did what she demanded. It was a good thing.

Because.

Look what I found. What a night. What a sky. What a moon. And, two long haul train engines. Sophie Rose knows what I don’t know. It would have never made this picture without her. Because we went out so early, we went out again close to midnight to just make sure. I hate waking up because she needs a quick pee at 4 am.

The moon was high. The engines were gone. The picture was gone.

Let this be lesson to us all. Listen to the animal who thinks she owns you, and always carry something with which to make pictures. Don’t hesitate.

That’s all I have. Today.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every bowl of Yakamein.


A force of nature.

To get here.

Even though we haven’t physically gone anywhere, it feels like we have traveled forever. We are burned out from exhaustion. We are tired of the trail. We miss our friends. Our family. We miss our colleagues. We miss our lives.

I’m not sure that we are ever going to get these things back.

A friend of mine attended a big wedding this weekend. There was hugging and kissing, singing and dancing. Not one mask in sight. Obviously, there was no social distancing. These people hadn’t seen each other in at least six months. What are they thinking? Better yet, were they thinking?

It’s depressing.

Meanwhile, the folks in Southwestern Louisiana are suffering. They likely won’t have power for a month, water for two weeks. Some are staying in hotels in New Orleans. That’s the least we could do. They took us in after Hurricane Katrina.

It’s depressing.

Meanwhile, there’s fighting in the streets. People are beating each other. People are getting shot. People are dying. Protests are turning into riots. Nobody is sure which side started the riots, the shooting, the burning.

It’s depressing.

Meanwhile, we have a president who lies as easy as he breathes. A president, who at best is incompetent. People are dying. Who at worst is a criminal. People are dying.

It’s depressing.

They tell you to vote. I don’t know if we can hang on that long. They say that if the president is re-elected democracy could come to an end. We are in the worst possible place that I’ve ever known us to be. I thought that I could continue working hard at what I do. I thought I could eventually leave this mortal coil peacefully. I doubt that is to be.

It’s depressing.

The Picture

I’ve been lucky with moon shots lately. I made this picture in the rain, under an awning and a bunch of tree branches. It’s a true Louisiana picture. The moon is shining. The rain is falling. That’s how it happens around here. That, or the rain follows you and only you.

It’s a little tricky making a picture like this. The moon is spinning. The earth is spinning. The rain is falling. What do focus on? I more or less picked the rain. It’s almost impossible to make a round moon in those conditions. That also made the clouds look weird. Like splatters of paint.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Don’t be like those folks at the wedding. Enjoy every sandwich.


Look into the sky.

So it was.

It seems that my attitude has gotten worse towards opening schools too soon just because there’s a dangling carrot. They say follow the money and I did. Don’t fully open the schools and the state loses federal funding.

I have a couple of words about it. Two words. I won’t write them here. This is a family blog.

This really hit home this morning. I read a long piece written by a school administrator in southern Arizona. It was horrifying. He lost his most senior teacher to the virus. Three more got sick. Students have gotten sick. In every case, the school followed every possible protocol. When they didn’t receive plastic shields they cut and hung shower curtains.

Still, human beings died.

The headline says, “I’m sorry but it’s a fantasy.”

And, so it is. I can hardly wait until my teacher friends start getting sick. I can hardly wait until one of them passes. I don’t know what depths of hell their families and I will sink to.

Some say that’s negative. Nonsense. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Make plans even though they will change. There are no plans. Only hope.

All the Blue

Let’s do something more positive. Let’s talk about this picture. After all, artists gotta art harder if we want to be heard.

Normally, I don’t carry my phone when it’s the last trip outside. We don’t go far. For some reason I took with us. Good thing that I did. The moon was just shining away in a deep blue sky. Photographing the moon with a phone is a little sporty, especially since I wanted to frame it with something. Although my phone has a sort of internal zoom lens when you reach the outer edges of it, focusing takes a hope and a prayer.

I leaned up against the wall, took a deep breath and released it as I pressed the button. I did it three times in rapid succession. Wonder of wonders. All three frames were sharp. I made a few more different compositions. The dog was done and so was I.

Post production was mostly a matter of correcting the noise I see that I didn’t quite get, and to make sure the blues were the ones that I saw. I got that.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every night sky.


Summer’s moon.

Accidental moon.

If a couple of the dogs didn’t want me to go outside with them for their last needs until morning I wouldn’t have seen the moon.

Oh sure, I knew it was coming. Social media types love talking about natural events. This is the biggest moon of the summer. This is a wolf moon. This is a sight not to be missed because… the next one won’t be for seven years, eight years, no – make that a decade.

All of that went in one ear and out the other. This is the start of our rainy season. We’ve mostly had cloudy days for the last week or so. We had rain and overcast all day, yesterday.

When the dogs requested my presence I didn’t think anything of it. I took my phone because I always take my phone. We got to “their” place. I looked up and my oh my.

What a moon.

The sky was mostly clear except for a little local wisp of clouds. I braced myself and made about five images. I tried to include Mars, but that made the moon too small. I couldn’t crop because the exposure is right at the edge of the phone’s capabilities.

The sky is brown because I live in a city. The ambient light looks brownish to a camera sensor. I tried to correct it to something more bluish but that just displayed the camera’s limitations even more. Way too much pixelization.

By the way, all post production was done in the phone. I use, as I always use, Snapseed to make all corrections and improvements.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Enjoy every glass of homemade beer… but, not too many. I wouldn’t want you forgetting to do what you know you should do.


Full spring moon,

I went outside around midnight. This is what I saw.

What a sky. What a moon. What beauty. What luck. Yeah, photographer’s luck crept in the picture. If I hadn’t wanted the dog to go out, I wouldn’t have seen this. She did and I did.

A word or two about the making of this picture. I don’t know why, but I took my smart phone out. Normally, I just let her wander around and I just stand there waiting for her to finish. We are only outside for about ten minutes, if that. For some reason I grabbed my phone. That’s where photographer’s luck comes into play.

I looked up and just mumbled, “whoa.” I made four exposures, holding my finger on the button the whole time. That’s an old school trick. If you aren’t properly prepared — I wasn’t — you hold your finger down and made a few exposures knowing the the ones in the middle of the burst would be sharp enough.

Why?

I’ve learned that the first exposure has a lot of motion blur in it because my body is a little excited by seeing the scene. The next one or two pictures are good because I’ve stabilized myself. The last picture loses sharpness because my body and mind are done. As they relax so do my hand muscles.

That’s how I made this picture.

I try very hard to keep Storyteller free of typos and such. I’m human. They creep into the picture. Today, I was reading the New York Times. They have plenty of copy editors and fact checkers. They did a piece on more CoVid 19 deaths than those are reported as such. That usually happens when bodies are discovered outside of the normal treatment facilities, like at home.

The published some very good graphs showing the suspected rise of deaths as opposed to normal deaths.

I looked and I looked because I am interested in my state, Louisiana. No joy. The highly thought of New York Times left Louisiana out of the data. That ain’t a typo. That’s a big mistake. That’s as bad as having a typo in a headline. Or, worse.

Of course, you cannot email the reporters, so I went one better. I tweeted to Dean Baquet, the editor of the entire paper.

Mr. Baquet is a New Orleanian. His family has been here for generations. They are mostly food people. They own a great Creole-Soul Food restaurant on Esplanade Avenue. One of their restaurants was the inspiration for “Frank’s Place,” a shortly lived sitcom. The chef at the time was Austin Leslie, who probably made the best fried chicken in the world.

We’ll see what happens.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


In the New Orleans Sky.

I know one thing as we head into a very different time and space.

Enjoy every sandwich.

The late Warren Zevon said that on the old version of David Letterman’s show. He said that knowing he had less than six months to live. He was dying from lung cancer. When Letterman asked him what he learned from this,  Zevon responded with, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

He played a couple of songs in what turned out to be his very last live performance. And, he left us with his best album. He didn’t live to find out that his album won a Grammy for best album of the year.

I’ve been thinking about that as I watched everything around me be cancelled or postponed because of the escalating numbers of CoVid-19. Most musical tours are postponed or cancelled. Every major sport, the same. Even local events like the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday.

I watched a video clip of the New York Yankees (I was born and raised to be a fan) and last year’s World Series champs, the Washington Nationals play a spring training baseball game. They are practice games. They really don’t count. The help to get the players in “baseball” shape.

The Yankees bat boy came out of the dugout and handed the home plate umpire a note. The umpire read it, called the two team managers out, who waved all of the players off the field. The game ended in the middle of the fourth inning.

Major League Baseball cancelled the rest of spring training and postponed the start of the season by at least two weeks, effectively making the start of the season an unknown. That same umpire who called the game said to the reporters as he walked out of the clubhouse, “Guys, I’ll see you in June.”

This is how it’s been going everywhere with almost every kind of non-essential event. Even Broadway went dark, prompting the late night shows to work without an audience.

But, the worst information of all came locally. Yes, our confirmed patients are growing exponentially. Yesterday there were 17 known cases of the virus. Today there are 31.

That’s still not the worst news.

Four people went home after visiting my swampy, potholed city. They are now ill with the virus. They caught it during Mardi Gras. Apparently, it’s been floating around New Orleans since at least early February.

Remember when I was in too much pain to work for the last couple of days of Mardi Gras, including Mardi Gras Days? I was miserable from both the physical and emotional sides of me.

Say what you will. Talk about it being a God deal. Call it divine intervention. Call it anything. But, without my pain, I could be sick right now because I work in the heart of the crowds. Isn’t that something? I’m humbled and filled with gratitude.

Anyway. We are just about that point when our lives will change forever.

Enjoy every sandwich.


In the dark night.

I saw it. I photographed it. I added to it.

That’s the story of this picture. But, what’s the story behind it? Taking chances.

I could say that a lot of my career was based on taking chances. I could say that I photographed on the edge.

The edge of what?

The edge of technical limitations. The edge of the city. Or, is it really the edge of madness?

I’m not mad. Or, crazy. Or, lacking in certain cautions. But, I do take chances. I didn’t always. I  was photojournalist. Pure and simple. My pictures were clean, sharp and well made. They had to be. That served those years of my career well.

After I moved on I found other mentors. Other photographic friends. They talked. I listened. With any luck at all, I grew.

One night, while walking in New York City, a friend and mentor, showed me how to expose for the night light and subjects. I made a picture that was just dripping with motion and energy. His exposure became my base exposure. Two Seconds at F5.6. Over the years, I modified that according to the scene and what I hoped to achieve.

That got easier in the digital age because F stops turned weird. Traditional numbers meant nothing. Gone were the days of, F2, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8, F11, F16 and F22. Instead using the camera’s light meter and histogram, often you saw numbers like F9, F7.2 and so on. Precise light measurements. Checking the histogram told you if the exposure was correct from a light to dark balance.

That made pushing the edge easier. It also made it more time consuming. Photographers, still unused to digital capture, started checking the LCD on the back of their cameras. Not only did they check the exposure, but they check the subject for sharpness, contrast, and composition.

Experienced photographers who trusted their instincts didn’t look at the LCD, instead they created a term for it. Chimping. You can figure out why.

A curious thing happened with many of these chimping photographers. You’d think that the volume of their shoots would drop. Instead it rose. These guys still had no confidence in their work. They would shoot a non-moving subject that they could control, holding down the shutter release button, while making 500 pictures of the same thing.

That’s a big mistake.

There are a few ways to learn not to make that mistake.

Photograph a lot comes to mind. No. That doesn’t mean holding down the button. It means look for many subjects. If you want to play this game, limit yourself to only five images per scene. I know a photographer who limited himself to one image.

Create a way of working. One way is to make a picture per day. Do that for a year. I did that for a while. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about light. You learn a lot about subject matter. I liked it so much that my one year turned into two, then three. I stopped after my fifth year.

Find a mentor. I did that in my early newspaper years. I found a guy who was brutal. His first critiques could make a grown man cry. Little by little as I learned and grew, his critiques turned positive. When it was time move to a bigger newspaper, he recommended me for a job at a newspaper that was the sister paper to his paper.

There are other things you can do as well. Ask your mentor. That’s what I did.

Still, at 45 years on I still ask for advice.

Try it.

 


A simple view of the moon and what is called Ray’s blue.

Oh, so blue.

That’s what I saw on an early evening walk. I was mostly looking at the bare trees when the moon came into view. “Oh, man,” I thought. I stopped, braced myself, and made four exposures. This, obviously, is one of them.

This color, or one just slightly lighter, used to be called “Ray’s Blue” by some my former editors. Certainly, other photographers made pictures with this shade of blue in the sky, but I worked very hard to get it. That was in the days of film. It’s easier now. Get close enough and fix it in post production. That’s not what I did here. I made the color in camera.

News.

The election season is now truly upon us. A friend of mine who lives in Memphis is sort of upset with me because I’m pretty sure that the current president will win a second term. I think this because he always slides and slimes his way through everything. Almost four years ago I said that if he won we’d leave the country. We didn’t. Instead we watched him and his minions in congress destroy most everything that makes America good. Now, he’s unfettered.

I held a little hope out in front of me like a beacon. Last night Iowa dashed my little bit of hope. The fine folks who are running the caucus tabulation can’t seem to tabulate anything. They blame it on an app. It was apparently designed in secret by some off the wall company.

Of course, it was downloaded last night. It wasn’t tested prior to the the big event.

Who does that?

We all know that technology is tricky. Early versions of software typically house bugs. For example, the new Mac operating system has two updates, or, patches as we used to call them. There is a third one waiting for me. That’s fairly normal these days.

I’m a photographer. When I’m working I have redundant systems. If I’m working with the client and something fails, I kind of joke around and pick up the next tool as if nothing happened. And, that’s after I tested everything a couple of times at home.

All I know is that this is going to be a long campaign season. It’ll be like the Baatan Death March of World War II fame. Worrisome at best.

Sheesh.