You might be lucky enough to sunlight sparkle. To see shadows dance. To see nature glow. You might even be lucky enough to carry a camera. You might have the vision to see what is. To see what might be.
With luck, the beauty will find you. You’ll be amazed. You’ll stand in wonder.
You’ll decide to make a picture. You won’t work very hard. Because. The picture will take you. You’ll know that’s the one. There won’t be a discussion. It just shall be.
If the picture says hot, or early morning heat, then I made another summer project picture. If it doesn’t, that’s okay. I made a picture that I like. A lot.
My pal on the internet scene, Montana Rose, posted a picture yesterday that she said she made by accident. I was going to comment on her site that all of my pictures are made by accident. I might be exaggerating. Still, I do make a lot of pictures on the way to some place else.
This time, I saw some shadows dancing on a wall . I turned around to see what was causing that. I saw this scene. I couldn’t frame. I couldn’t compose. Sheesh, I pretty much couldn’t see. I just turned around and pushed the button a couple of times. I knew I made some kind of picture. I didn’t know what.
It wasn’t until I arrived in a darker place that I tool a look at the LCD, “Whew,” I thought. “Ain’t that something?”
For at least the last five years, I’ve been trying to make at least ten very good pictures that are about summer.
I haven’t succeeded yet.
I probably won’t again this summer.
I know, I know. With that attitude I have assured myself of failure.
It’s just a realistic statement that takes into account how difficult it is to make ten good pictures about anything over the course of a year. Sheesh. I’ve been at this for just under fifty years. I’ve made a lot of good pictures. I don’t make bad pictures.
If you were to ask me about my great pictures, only three come to mind. Fifty years. Three great pictures. That ain’t a great ratio. I’m sure there are a lot of better shooters than I am, who have made far more memorable pictures that I have, but, if you ask them, they’ll say about the same thing.
As I’ve been putting older work, mostly from Asia on NGS’ “Your Shot.” I’ve been thinking, “Me?” “I took that picture?” “It must have been a better photographer” I’m not being overly humble. I’m just surprising myself by looking at old, almost forgotten work.” Still, those images don’t crack into my “excellent category.”
That’s one of the great things about getting older — among damn few good things — you have the wisdom of perspective. You understand that most pictures shared on Instagram are nonsense, especially when they are posted as professional work.
The picture. Make no mistake. This isn’t one of the ten great summer images. This is just a tree that I photographed in early morning light. It was backlighted so it caught my attention. It reminded me to start looking right now. Right this minute. For summertime pictures.
Man. I’ve got a lot to do in the next twelve weeks or so.
A classic dive in the French Quarter. The food is good. Hamburgers are cooked under a hubcap. You probably can’t finish a side order of french fries. And, you’ll never know who or what you’ll see.
Go there late at night and the trannies will perform for you. Especially if they think they can get a rise out of you. I can use that name in this era of no fun, no fools, because that’s what they tell you to use. It’s all good fun. They laugh. You laugh. If you’ve brought an out of town quest, they sit there stunned, until they realize it’s better to join in. And, the pictures? Sheesh. They pose. The waiters pose. The cooks pose.
I tell you. It’s a kind of street theater.
I made this picture on an early Sunday morning walk. That’s why there is condensation on the window. Cold, dry air up against a window that has moist, warm air pressing against it, and guess what happens. The picture was easy. See it. Photograph it. That’s how I work when I’m wandering around.
I haven’t been doing that lately. There are a lot of reasons for that. But, it’s coming to an end. I miss working this way. I miss exploring. Photographing whatever happens in front of me. Whatever comes to me.
This is it. The very first picture I made in New Orleans.
Unlike some of the others in this series, it wasn’t exactly lost. I just hadn’t seen the original scan in a long time. Yes. Scan. This image was made on film. In 1999. In June, if my mind isn’t playing tricks on me. It’s very likely, the image was made on Fuji Velvia, which is a bright, high color, high contrast film. It’s mostly what I used almost 20 years ago. It still exists today.
This working style isn’t what I was known for, but my editors loved it. They wanted me to do more. Hmmmm. That reminded of what I always knew. If any editor is not a photographer, they have no idea of reality on the street. This picture was made by happenstance and luck. I can’t will nature to drop some fog wherever I want it. I could if I was making a movie with a big budget, a huge crew and a bunch of tools. I’m usually one guy with a couple of cameras. I work by discovery and a little bit of foreknowledge.
That said, this is a very nice Sunday picture. It’s quiet. Peaceful and subdued.
Working in a coal mine. I don’t work in a coal mine. It’s just that on some days it feels that way. I shouldn’t complain. Making pictures and arguing with technology isn’t dirty work.
Here I am doing my job. Sorta. I couldn’t figure a way to keep myself out of the picture and still make the picture I saw, so I just left myself in. It’s kind of like power lines on a city street. If you can’t find a clean angle than just leave them alone. Make them a part of the scene.
There’s been a lot of big news this week. I like the news about finding a tribe in Brazil that have never seen modern man. Apparently, the government is actually doing the right thing by leaving them alone to just live their ancient lives.
You thought I was going to talk about something else didn’t you? Ha! I have one thing to say about that. MAGA. My Attorney Got Arrested.
We had a late night storm. Everything is clean. Glistening. Sparkling.
Because the rain fell at night, most of what fell down has already been drawn back up, meaning lighter humidity in the morning than usual. Because it started raining at about 11pm, there were no late dog walks. You know. No rain shall fall on a dog’s head. Not around here. That explains why I’m up early today. I’m sure you understand. Good dogs mean really full dogs.
Once we got that done, we walked. A long, long way. I wasn’t dripping when I got home. Sure, I needed a change. It wasn’t terrible. My t-shirt wasn’t glued to my body. That’s good. dancing around while trying to take off a soaked t-shirt is no fun.
I almost walked by this picture. The sunlight bounced off the tail light and caught my attention. That did it. I worked the scene a little and made a looser version of the image you see. I cropped it in post production, not to get closer, but to give the image some shape. I also toned down the highlights so that you could actually see the subject matter.
And, that’s it.
I could say something about yesterday’s news. A triple scoop. But, y’all know how I feel. Keep ’em coming.
I was emptying the little bin in the espresso maker when my phone pinged. The Associated Press was telling me that Aretha Franklin just passed.
I never knew her. I photographed her once. In the days of black and white film processed in a newspaper’s wet darkroom for publication the next day. I have the negatives. But, I’d have to root through a very rudimentary file system. Then, I’d have to scan them and retouch them and, and, and… you wouldn’t see them for weeks.
In that moment, I decided to make a new series of images that are completely controlled by external sources. For now, let’s just call them, “What were you doing when you heard?” Sure, this picture is also the third in a series of artistic coffee pods.
Aretha died of pancreatic cancer. Another one with the “Big C.” She was fairly private about it. I liked something Marianne Williamson, the spiritual guru and seller of motivational things, said about the first night that we heard Aretha was coming to the end of her road. She said something like, the whole world was praying and it was a sacred night.
It was. In the midst of all this disruption, meanness and polarization, people all around the world said a little prayer for her. You know that I’m not the most religious person on the planet, but I’m pretty sure we could use more prayers and less arguing.
The picture. It’s less than three hours old. I made it. I worked on it. It is here.
In New Orleans we would sing two songs for Aretha. “Golden Crown” which would open like this, “Aretha Franklin got a golden crown… And, “I’ll Fly Away.”
Fly away Aretha. Rest in peace. Say hello to all the rest of the musicians that I miss. Thanks for all of your music.
Something a little different. For me. More along the lines of what I actually do for money.
But, this time it was luck. I went to visit with a friend, parked the car, let the dog walk over me to jump out, looked up and saw this scene.
I made a lot of frames of the action. I worked it in the way that I normally would if there was cash on the barrelhead. Funny thing. Once I slipped into that mode, time flew, I was focused (no pun intended), and I could see. Really see.
Then. As quickly as I slipped into that mode, I was done. I slipped out of the mode. When I returned to the studio, I didn’t look at the pictures until I finally couldn’t stand not looking at them.
I found “the picture.” I worked on it. I worked on a couple of versions of it. The way that I usually do. Until I was finished. That’s what you are seeing here.
All the external noise? I stopped listening to it yesterday.
Except for baseball, which really matters to me. The teams are on a short break following the All Star game. But, their management is working. Trading players. Healing players. Getting ready for he second half of the season when the good teams are making a playoff run. And, the bad teams are wondering just what the hell happened? They’ll be trading and hoping for a better year in 2019.
I was raised in it. I went to baseball games when I was in my mom’s womb. Because the season is so long — March until maybe November — it feels a lot like life itself. There are successes and failures. Ups and downs. Good luck and bad. There is no time limit like most sports with quarters and halves during the game.
Think about it. If you’ve stopped listening to the news, how are you filling your time? Reading books? Watching daytime television? Watching movies or videos on Netflix or Amazon Prime? Actively listening to music? Listen to podcasts?