All the air.

T

his picture was made of a little of this and a little of that. I mean it. There are three pictures in there lurking somewhere. None of them were made at the same time. One was made in New Mexico. One was made in New Orleans. And, one was made in Shrewsbury. The last two locations are found in Louisiana. Heh.

I’m at a place in my life were experimentation and rebirth are the most important things. As much as I complain about not being able to photograph second lines, Mardi Gras and Indian events, I’m not sure that I want to do that.

I want to move forward. I once asked a well respected art photographer how he knew when a project was complete. He said when he started repeating himself. I asked how long it usually took for him to get to that point. As usual, it all depends. But, after four or five years he knew that he was done.

I photographed New Orleans culture for a decade. The pictures are repeating themselves. I think that I’m done. For sure, there are a couple of pictures I’d still like to make but I’d have to earn my drone pilot’s license. I really don’t have any interest in that.

So.

I’m working with older pictures in an attempt to add something to them. I’ve done layering for years, but in most cases the images were similar. Now, I’m combining images that have no real relationship to each other.

Let’s see where this takes me.


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?


Free falling.

T

oday got rolling just about the time I got up. I told you that I was going to get busy. I didn’t think that I meant right this second.

I thought I could cruise into the work a little bit at a time. Silly me.

I made my first mistake when I started listening to music. I started with something soft, slow and nostalgic. I almost couldn’t get started. I switched things up. I started Playing a playlist called “Ray’s Mix.”

Yeah. That’s me. I made it when I thought making play lists on Spotify was important. It’s loud. It’s s noisy. And, I know all the words.

Anyway.

This one will keep me working for hours.

I’ll keep this short. Work awaits.

Darn.

D

o you want technique? This one should fill you up. To the top.

The picture really is about nothing. Since all art is autobiographical what does that say about me?

That aside, this was a picture made from desperation. Or, it was an attempt to come back from wandering in the wilderness.

I made the picture, developed it and thought, “Now what?”

I removed a lot of color and muted it. Then, I tinkered around with different modification filters until I came to this place.

The picture highlights something I’ve been saying, and saying, and saying…

Go outside and take a picture. You’ll find one, or it will find you.


It is gonna be bad.

You could see it coming from miles away. The storm. The cold. The wind. Luckily, we didn’t have heavy rainfall. Maybe a couple of inches. But, we are having a cold spell that is as cold and long as anything in recent memory.

I’ll tell you more about this picture in the right hand column.

For now it’s enough to say that it was made in the parking lot of a grocery store that we went to after running errands in Jefferson Parish.

We didn’t want to load and unload groceries in the cold rain.

It’s called Postcard Blues for two reasons. It’s mostly blue and because of that McDonald’s sign in the background. It struck me how many people photograph something in the foreground and forget to look in the background.

No. That didn’t happened to me. I saw it as a little point scene to all the rest of the picture.

A way station, if you will, in that dense dark air. A place that you can call home if you like that sort of thing. I’m not big on their food, but for an emergency cup of coffee it’s pretty good.

As they say, anyplace in a storm.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wear two masks. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy every McDonald’s coffee.

Anyplace in a storm, but not standing in the middle of a parking lot.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Pictures are everywhere. Just look and see. They’ll reach out and grab you.

When I made this picture the sky was dark and gray. I decided to just enhance how the picture looked.

I made it moody and, maybe even scary.

I could have moved my location or removed that McDonald’s sign in the middle of the picture. I didn’t want to. It makes a good focal point for the entire picture. I did brighten it up a bit, but not so much that would be a glaring beacon.

The more that I look at the picture, it looks like something from the dinosaur era. With a McDonald’s sign.


Mardi Gras 1 Krewe of Cleopatra

Light and color. Rather the lack of color. I always say that when you have to explain the picture that you didn’t do a good job.

I guess I didn’t.

It’s two members of the Krewe of Cleopatra dancing in the street. I guess what I really like is the movement passing through the very muted color.

That brings me to this little nugget.

We have reached a point where many artists of all stripes are not doing the work for the works sake. They are doing it to breakout, to make a lot of money, to attract a crowd.

I saw that during the half time show during the Super Bowl. The Weeknd might as well phoned it in from home. Oh, wait, what? He didn’t?

He’s a good musician. His music isn’t exactly my style, but it’s good. It does remind of the old days, when Smokey, The Temps, and the Supremes (Yes, I know. We lost one today.) ruled the air waves.

You wouldn’t have known that on Sunday night. It may have been technical issues, but that gets no pass from me. When touring musicians can get the sound right on the same day they go on stage, surely the Super Bowl techs can get it right in a week.

I heard a very weak and flat singer. For many younger musicians the Super Bowl halftime show is a chance to break out into audiences they might not normally access. He didn’t do that.

I was excited. For years the half time shows were performed by the ancients of the music industry. I suppose after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, they planners wanted to play it safe. After all, who wants to see a half naked Paul McCartney?

This all dovetails into my original premise. Doing it for the money doesn’t really get you there. Doing it for your art leads to edgy work, breakthroughs and — wait for it — big money.

That just wasn’t the intent. Expressing yourself honestly and authentically was. That’s one of the reasons that I intentionally stay away from gear reviews. There are websites that began as blogs that talk about gear. They have company sponsorships, they receive gear to review, they get paid for promotions.

I’d like all that stuff too. But, I’d rather stay close to my vision.

Besides, I’m not a gear head.

The right hand column. It’s the technical column. I suppose today’s will be fairly short.

There just isn’t much to what I did. Come to think of it, there rarely is much to my work.

I’m a fairly simple photographer. Even when I use assistants and lights and remotes, my pictures are simple.

So.

I found the picture in my archives. It was made in my usual style. It was bright. The motion was fairly defined.

When I removed the color the edges blurred to become unrecognizable.

When I finished the work I thought, wow, that really works.

On here, not so much.

There’s a technical reason for that. Just like Facebook, WordPress squeezes the hell out of the highlights and shadows. That’s what we are seeing here.

I usually do work arounds to account for that. I thought that I did. Apparently, it isn’t enough.

Oh well. It’s that perfection thing again.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Don’t squeeze your highlights.


Like an antique.

An accidental picture.

I wasn’t even thinking about pictures when I looked up and saw this scene. The gray sky was softly illuminating it which gave the trees a sort of old fashioned glow. In fact, in one version of this, I didn’t care about keeping the color true. It looked like something from the late 19th Century. When I restored the color I thought that the picture still looks kind of classic.

Yesterday, I wrote about photographers luck. Today, my photographers luck was determined by always carrying some kind of camera with me everyday and everywhere. You can’t make a picture without a camera, even if it is your smartphone.

Here’s the deal about my use of smartphones. I use to think of them as sort of a sketchpad used to remind me of scenes that I should return to when I am more fully geared up. These days I’m not so sure about that.

Currently my phone is a Samsung Galaxy 9. It was the best phone available when I bought it discounted because I’m old. It’s coming up to two years since I bought it. I like to refresh my phones every three years. This one may last longer.

The phone is almost too much for me, but by using its forward lens I can make files that are 36.6 megapixels. That’s a huge file. Through the magic of computer math these files are technically equal to files made on a DSLR. I tested that. I had some big prints made. The look fine to my eye and I’m pretty picky.

I suppose that we have finally come to a place where smartphones can replace a lot of point and shoot cameras for folks who just want to document their friends and events of their lives. The point and shoot market has been dropping steadily for the past few years. Now, I think it is finally dead.

For those of us who make a living from pictures, so much of our market has shifted online. Paper products are dropping like files. Even the venerable PDN ceased paper production two days ago. If all we are doing is publishing pictures online, a smartphone can produce perfectly good files. If we are, like me, more focused on books and selling prints for your wall, DSLRs and shutterless cameras are still important.

Those are my Thursday musings. Have a great day or night, wherever you happen to be.


Driving in the rain, which really wasn’t a storm.

The rain.

Running errands is a good time for to make pictures in the rain. I just have to be a little careful, and be considerate of other drivers who are probably grumbling at the rain… and me.

I’m not sure how well you can see it, but there is a pickup truck in front of me. It looks like we are about to collide, but no worries. I’m stopped at a traffic light as the truck crosses in front of me. That’s why other drivers were grumbling at me. I was in the right hand turn lane and not making a move.

Oh well.

Grumble, grumble, toil and trouble.

There are a couple of different events that I want to photograph this week. There is second line in celebration of the late Dr. John’s birthday. We were born on the same day, 13 years apart. I’m going to pretend that the second line is for me. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t.

Then, on Saturday, the children’s parade is being held in Treme. That’s always fun, except when one of the kid’s mothers gets overly protective. They are tough. I don’t want one of them being angry with me. I wouldn’t stand a chance.

In between, I’m going to commute to Brooklyn. But, that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say that there is music to be made.

On Sunday, I may photograph the Men and Women’s Original Buckjumpers second line. I keep saying that I’m done with this project, but you know me. I can turn on a dime.¬† Besides, that’s a really fun and colorful group.

This should be a good week of photographs. I’m excited.

What are y’all photographing or writing about this week?


Leaf as a still life.

I saw a leaf.

My normal instinct would be to photograph it in situ. Instead, I brought it home. I worked on it in the studio. I simplified the picture by photographing the leaf by itself, on a light table. The result was pretty good.

That was just a start.

I knew it would be post production time. Usually, I have a clear vision. Not this time. I tinkered and tinkered. There must be twenty versions of the image at which you are viewing. Once I saw them all together I picked this one. I wasn’t done yet. I gave the image a little more energy by sharpening everything. I added the frame.

Now, I was done.

That’s my working method unless I’m making some kind of documentary picture, like second line participants or Mardi Gras, itself. I don’t treat those like art except when I experiment a little. That’s just me. But, I came from a pure photojournalism background. That means change nothing except to fix the flaws and maybe adjust the contrast and color.

Housekeeping.

In the next week, starting on October 15th, I’ll do my Halloween thing. Last year I didn’t photograph enough. This year I will. Stay tuned for new Halloween material.

My new and improved website is in its last stages of completion. I want to add some more pictures. I need to add a lot of captions and fine tune the SEO.

But, it’s truly ready for prime time.

My biggest problem is that I have not found a way to let you know when a new Storyteller story is online. For right now, the best I can do is email you all individually. That’s hard, and one of the biggest pluses of a WordPress blog. Create a new post, hit the button and away it goes. I’ll do some research and figure it out. Soon.

Enjoy the season.


Storms come, storms go.

We had a storm.

Storms aren’t unusual this time of year. We are in the rainy and hurricane season. Lately, our storms are overwhelming all of our drains, canals and pumping systems.

We accumulated five inches of rain in about 90 minutes. Everywhere Uptown was flooded. I don’t mean with a few inches of water. It was more like two to three feet. I had to walk through it. The water is dark, muddy and who knows what’s in it. I was marking potholes so young drivers wouldn’t break their car axles not being able to see where they were. I made one picture. I showed it to a friend of mine who liked it. I’m not so sure.

Once things started drying out, I made a few more snaps. I had some intent in making these three pictures. I had to wait until the sun popped out after a big storm because I knew what to do.

Here’s the deal.

The picture I showed my buddy is documentary. It’s just fine as far as it goes. But, I’m really trying to reinvent myself into some kind of artist.

Make no mistake. I’m not a photographer who takes normal pictures and labels my work as fine art photography. What so fine art about pictures that look like normal photographs showing no intent?

Fine art photography to me is like the early work of the late Robert Mapplethorpe. His work hangs in museums. I don’t believe photographers like Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel or any of my heroes call themselves fine art photographers.

This isn’t that.

This is my attempt to be a painter. Maybe a water colorist. At least that’s what this work looks like to me. I’d actually paint these if I could. Years of attempts have taught me one irrefutable¬† fact. I have no painting skills at all. Except to paint a wall.

So, I modify photographs to the point where they don’t really look like something made with a camera. I was lucky that these three pictures could take almost the same style of post-production. Often, a series takes a huge amount of work to make them look like sisters.

Enjoy them. Please let me know what you think.

Skies after the storm.

Through the trees.