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.


At night in the French Quarter.

I

‘ve made a change. You’ll figure it out. It comes under the heading of who was I really hurting?

In these pandemic days when many people aren’t able to travel, it’s possible to get a European fix right here in New Orleans. After all, we are a French, Spanish and American place. Much of the Quarter was rebuilt after a massive fire and is really Spanish-influenced even though we call it the French Quarter,

But, this place. It looks and feels like it belongs in Paris. It was an old run down apartment building. If you’ve walked on Royal Street, you’ve probably seen it. It is catty corner from Rouses, the only real grocery store in the Quarter.

if you noticed I used the word, “was.”

No worries. It was run down. Now it’s restored. It still exists. Thankfully.

It’s very hard to demo any building in the Quarter. They are all historical. When a building comes down it usually fell down on its own accord. Sometimes, it’s not really on its own. Sometimes, the owner didn’t take very good care of it and it rotted from the inside out.

Anyway, I’ve always liked this building. If there is any kind of pretty light, I usually head over there to make a few pictures, meaning that I’ve got a pretty good archive of this building. Besides, if it’s a hot and humid day, the grocery store is a great place to buy water at normal prices.

And, speaking of normal, nothing is normal in New Orleans as much as we try to pretend it is. We lead the nation in new CoVid-19 infections. Florida is a close second. The rate of infection upriver and in Baton Rouge is so bad that Our lady of The Lake — a major hospital — has no beds for anybody. All of their vents are in use. They were forced to hire traveling nurses to augment their staff.

The entire state is under a governor’s mandate to wear masks inside and outside, if it’s necessary. Many clubs want a proof of vaccination or tests results no older than 72 hours and you still have to wear a mask.

It’s bad and getting worse.

If you are a tourist and you love our city please don’t come.

L

et’s talk about this photograph.

The first thing you should know is that I cropped it out of a horizontal picture because I wanted more detail than a horizontal picture could show on this page.

I followed the crop with what I consider to be normal improvements. I darkened it a little, added some color to it, and sharpened it.

Then…

I went a little crazy. I added glow and softness. I made the picture moody, maybe even spooky.

Finally, I had to repair what normally is a radius issue, meaning that little rim of light you see around subjects, sometimes. This time it was thick and only in one place. It looked like somebody tried to erase the sky. Normally, it is repaired by lowering the radius or “structure.”

Not this time.

I had to fiddle and tinker and fiddle some more. Finally, I found a solution hiding in a vibrance feature. Make the top more colorful and the problem vanished.

I don’t know why.


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.


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.


A mystery wrapped inside a riddle/

All patience is gone. I’ve had nothing but technical problems here. I spoke to the minions — oh wait, I meant automattitions — at WordPress. They say that I don’t understand the block system. Really? Nobody understands the block system. The only people who really do are the coders who work for their VIP clients. Brands like The New York Times, Federal Express, UPS and so on. Clients with entire technical staffs, a few of which are dedicated to their websites.

Well, I’m just me.

I don’t have a staff. I have about a thousand things a day to do. None of those are about photography. Photography? Sheesh. No wonder I think that I have a shooting block. I don’t have a block. I just have no time. If I had a client of course I would have time. These days clients are far and few between. That’s in both industries.

So, I work to improve things within my own realm and that goes bonkers. We decided to change checking accounts because our bank has no branches in Louisiana. It’s a quirk of state law. We open a new checking account, while leaving the old account open.

I should have known better.

The first thing to know is that we keep a solid balance in our working accounts. We also have credit cards with that new bank. Had them for years. I paid one of those credit cards from the new checking account.

A few days after I tried to pay the credit card bill, I received an email saying the money was returned because of some refusal to pay.

WTF?

I contacted the bank. Three agents later the problem is declared repaired even though they can’t say what the problem was.Of course, during that time, the entire bank’s computer system went down. Thisn’t some small commercial bank. This is a major institutional bank.

Guess what?

Yesterday I received the same notice about the same payment. And, today I received the same notice about another payment.

I give up. I should have known better.

So, on Monday, I get to start all over again. For the third time.

Art. Before I get started, I’m still unhappy here. I tried to tell those minions about the drop cap problem. If you flip the little switch to start a paragraph with a drop cap, the software moves the drop capped letter to the end of the word. No. It should be at the beginning of the word.

I guess what it really comes to, after reading both main subjects, is that technology is not my friend. It never has been. It’s just that I’ve learned enough out of pure self defense that I’ve fooled myself into thinking I know something.

Anyway.

The picture is layered. Two pictures create a third new one. It’s about a little vision and a lot of tinkering. It’s time consuming. Even though few people aren’t working, and time doesn’t really matter, based on the number of emails and PMs I receive, it seems like many people still want a shortcut to doing what it’s taken me close to 50 years to learn. Either I’m stupid or they are lazy. I pick the second one.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your gloves. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after each other.


Morning art.

The business week begins. The most important week. We vote for the president. Many frame it as a vote for Democracy. Many see it as a choice between good and evil. No matter how you see it this election is as an important an election as I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

We also vote for down ballet candidates. This, too, is very important because that can change the complexion of the country.

I have never done what I’m about to say, because I’ve always voted person, not party. Not this time. Straight ticket. All blue.

The current president keeps saying that he wants to make America great. He seems to forget that he is the president. That he can make America great. He hasn’t. He won’t. He can’t.

He made America worse. Way worst.

At best, he’s incompetent. At worst, he is the most evil creature ever to walk on this planet.

I have a couple of friends who will jump right in here and tell me that I’m drinking the kool aid. Since this is a family storyteller, I’m gonna say screw ’em. If I said to their face, I’d use another word.

There. That’s where I stand.

I’m too old to put up with this nonsense. It’s time to start rebuilding my country and rebuild trust throughout the world.

It’s time to get back to the good work of rebuilding and repairing.

And, you thought after looking at the picture that this was going to be a nice little candy cotton wrapped post.

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

Picture, picture on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Might as well be you, because I’m sure it isn’t me.

But, first a little housekeeping.

We got power back about 10am yesterday. That was something worthy of hoots and hollers.

But, no internet. I talked to Linksys. I talked to Arris, the folks who make my router and modem. We did everything we could. At one point, they asked if we could have a three way conversation. We did.

No joy.

They believed that I wasn’t receiving signal from my internet service provider. So, I called them. Cox. They were their usual helpful selves. They wanted to run through their checklist to find the issue.

I said, “Whoa, slow down little buddy.” I’ve already done two versions of that.” He asked what then, did I want him to do.

I asked him if there was a work group or news bulletin board that he could talk to. I wanted him to see what kind of damage their towers and system received in New Orleans during Hurricane Zeta.

A few minutes later… joy. Sorta. They were down and rapidly rebuilding and restoring. I asked him when we might expect a return of signal. He replied sometime tomorrow (Sunday).

Fair enough.

I checked my phone at about 9am, and, sure enough. Internet signal.

I wrote in an email to a friend of mine that 25 years ago having the internet wouldn’t have seemed vital. I used it, but it was accessed through telephone lines. It was slow and there wasn’t much that interested me. And, I got tired of receiving CDs from AOL.

Today?

Well, that’s another story.

Why is it important to this picture?

The picture lives on my phone. In order to get it here I need the webinet (If G.W. Bush can say the interwebs and it becomes a thing, I can make up webinet.

It needed work on the big machine. Can’t do that without the webinet.

The picture is art, much in the same vein as that speeding truck. It takes some time and a lot of adjustments, but I got it to what I wanted. It might not be what you want, but enjoy it anyway.


Creativity. That’s what we all want. We want to be able to make a good picture, whether we use a camera, paint, charcoal, pencils or crayons. And, that’s just a few visual media.

If you are a musician, you seek other techniques and outlets because your finished product is not captured on paper.

And, so it goes.

Creativity isn’t something that comes on demand. It just sort of shows up from someplace else. Musicians like Bob Dylan and Neil Young say that they are just conduits.

My best pictures tend to come when I’ve emptied my head of everything and just make pictures. A friend of mine used to call me a Zen photographer. I don’t know about that, but when I am back in the studio the best thing that I can think while I’m looking at, and culling, my pictures is “who the hell shot that?”

Hopefully, I say that a lot if it’s a good picture, and very little if it’s a bad picture.

How do I, and they, get to this place? That’s a topic for another time. Maybe tomorrow. Let’s just say that a pre-work routine is a good idea.

Inside a flower.

The picture. I saw it and I stuck my lens as close as I could get to the center. I intentionally metered the scene so that only the highlights were exposed properly. I’m not sure that you can do this on a smartphone unless you have a professional function that allows you to use manual settings. I think most new phones do.

With the highlight exposed properly, the rest of the flower went dark. But, not so dark that you can’t see a little red in the background.

That’s it.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy every po’boy.


Another fine mess.

Testing technique.

Another dog and I headed to the airport. On the way we stopped to visit friends. As we were leaving I saw this scene. It really didn’t look much in camera and after basic development. So, I tinkered. And, tinkered. I arrived at the picture that you see before you. I’m still not entirely sure about this one. But, as I always say this is an experimental blog.

I’d like to think the a high percentage of pictures that I publish on Storyteller are pretty good. But, we all know the truth. I know the truth. Sometimes, after living with a picture on the digital page, I wonder what I was thinking. Likely, I wasn’t. Thinking.

I was reading a general purpose blog. The owner fancies himself to be a sort of deep thinking anti-mainstream kind of guy. In short, he is populaist conspiracist. Sorry — not sorry — if I offend anybody with that. He also attacks the so-called lamestream media. He follows to YouTube based commenters who discuss CoVid-19.

I decided to listen to one of his speakers, a supposed doctor. A doctor who wants me to believe he is well informed. That he knows the truth.  He went through his list of things that the “lamestream” media wasn’t telling us. I knew everything that he discussed. Care to guess where I learned it from? If you said the “lamestream media,” you win a taco.

Sheesh.

When does this basic kind of BS stop?

I read two-and-a-half online newspapers everyday. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The New Orleans Times Picayune/Advocate. I pay for two. I refuse to pay for the local half of a paper until they actually report the news, write it, and edit, properly. That’s where I learned everything this wannabe doctor was rattling on about.

I say all of this to warn you. Don’t be fooled. Between bots, Russians and people who think they are smarter than we are, there is more fake news than real news. If you read something that doesn’t ring quite true with you, check other publications. Check sources if you can. Check the person or group writing about the topic. Check Snopes.

You’ll find the truth. It’s out there.


The long night.

A little more magic.

That’s what I saw when I was developing this picture. I didn’t quite know what I had when I pressed the button. But, after… wow!

In many ways, This image reverts back to a style I used in the late 1990’s. Tilted. Skewed. A little motion. And, very bold colors. I kept my sense of color and moved on from the other stuff as times changed.

But, every now and then…

So.

The corticosteroid injection that I had on Wednesday seems to be working. While I was walking the dog who sees stuff, I experienced something strange. Something I hadn’t felt in a while.

No pain.

Instead, there was an emptiness (if that’s the right word) where there was always something buzzing in the background. We walked, and stood and walked a little more. No pain. For the first time in months.

If my doctors are right, and if what I read about this is correct, I might actually be pain free from this particular issue for the next six months, when it might be time for another injection. I am not sure how this relates to my stenosis issues. It could be that relieving the inflammation in one area of the leg reduces the it down the line. I guess that I’ll find out.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am.