A deep blue sky at just around dusk. I was lucky to make the picture. This is one of those times when a tripod might come in handy. In my own defense, I wasn’t expecting to see such a sight. So, I did what I could.
Dan Rather tweets and posts on Facebook. Yesterday, he said that the points of light in this dark time, are the arts. He talked about any of us who keep going. To keep making work. To continue to grow. I guess that I’m one of those artists to whom he was referring.
I never really think of myself that way. I suppose that you never do when you are in the midst of your work.
Speaking of photographer’s work, I’m in mourning today. Photographer and videographer Robert Frank passed yesterday at 94. Without him there would be no me. Without him, there would be none of the guys and ladies I came up with. Without him there would be no photojournalism as we know it today.
He turned the photography world on its head when he released his seminal work, “The Americans.” The self-congratulatory photographers, and a lot of photography critics at the time, thought his work was terrible. It was grainy, sometimes the horizons tilted, he made statements about America that weren’t so pretty. He told the story of the underclass.
Basically, his work was honest but it wasn’t pretty.
That’s what opened the door for a lot of us.
You know what Neil Young would say about that. He once famously said that, “when he was in the middle of the road he headed towards the gutter where things were a lot more interesting.”
This weekend and week is about as rough as it gets. First came Peter Fonda. I didn’t know him, but his work influenced me. Then came Nancy Parker. I met her once at the Krewe of Zulu on Mardi Gras Day. A true sweetheart. Next comes Governor Kathleen Blanco. I met her at some event. She helped rebuilt the city after the destruction caused Hurricane Katrina. She stood down the president when he wanted to nationalize the state in the aftermath of the storm. She was the aunt to a very good friend of mine.
It didn’t stop there.
My oldest friend in New Orleans died on Sunday. She had breast cancer. It was in remission until it wasn’t. She was 48 years old. She leaves a husband and a 12 year old son. They both adored her.
Today, I hurt.
I suppose that I’ll go to the celebration of her life on Sunday. From there I’ll go to the first second line of the 2019 – 2020 season. I wasn’t sure if I’d photograph that. I suppose the decision was made for me. My vision was clarified in no uncertain terms. You know, the people in the Mardi Gras culture call this, “home going.” I guess. It doesn’t hurt any less.
The picture. It’s old. Most of you haven’t seen it. It’s me. Today.
You know what I say. The work is the prayer. It had better be.
Yesterday, I wrote about murky dreams. Dreams of the past. Dreams of people long forgotten. Of a time in the dim recesses of my mind.
Between online conversations and some in real life, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one. People of a certain age are going through this strange little time too. Before, we get all spooky and weird, it probably means nothing.
On the other hand.
What if we are marshalling our past resources for something to come? I’m not one who believes in all seeing third eyes, or understands why the hell WordPress doesn’t like marshalling in this usage, but something is brewing.
Since the usage of marshalling in this case, means ordering things in preparation for battle, what battle am I, are we, getting ready for? As much as I dislike the current United States President — and, all that he stands for — and want him imprisoned, it’s not something as mundane as that. I think it’s bigger. I don’t know what it is. But, it’s coming.
As I used to say in the bad old helicopter days, “I got a bad feeling about this.” The last time I thought and felt that, a storm called Hurricane Katrina just about wiped New Orleans off the face of the earth. It’s a powerful feeling.
The picture. My apologies. I went a little too far in post production. I should have reworked this picture. But, today is very, very busy. So, I moved it from my phone to OnOne and tried to make a few little repairs there. The mistakes were too imbedded for that.
I saw these blossoms and did the only thing that I could do. I photographed them. Then, I messed with them. I made the picture a little spooky. Then, as I wrote, I went too far. I tend to do that. I should have taken things a step or two backward. I’ll get back to it. I’ll fix it. I promise. I might even show you the revised picture.
One more thing about this bad feeling. (See how haunted I am by it?) There’s an old infantry saying, “If you can see the enemy, the enemy can see you.” The reverse is also true. I can’t see the enemy. But, I know…
Cemeteries. A lot of people like to photograph them. I’m one of them. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I like to use them as a base photograph for something else. After all, where can you find a place that’s sacred, moody, mysterious and spooky? All in one? You just have to work at the right time of day.
Like anything photographic, I think that you just want to feel, and not think about the subject too much while you are making the pictures.
But, but, but…
I also believe that you have to make a loose plan that outlines your goals. Often times, I just sort of stumble onto pictures. That’s not always an effective way of working. If you are seeing well, you can make a bunch of good pictures in about a half hour. Or, you might spend all day looking, but not seeing. The result is predictable. No pictures. A tank of gas wasted. Time wasted.
My preferred way of working is by assignment, or self assignment. That doesn’t mean that every picture has to be planned. In fact, it shouldn’t mean that.
It should mean that you’ve picked a location based on your interest. Or, a subject that you enjoy exploring. It might mean that you’ve done a bit of research. You might know the area’s history. You might have talked to people who spend a lot of time at your soon-to-be-photographed location. And, who might understand the subject better than you do. They might even become part of your picture story.
From the technical side, you might have planned for the light and shadows. You know, the time of day in which natural light helps make the picture better. You might bring allied equipment like strobes and reflectors. If you want maximum sharpness and depth of field you might also bring a tripod.
Depending on your planned location, you might also bring other people. Maybe just a friend to watch your back. Maybe an assistant who understands photography and can make your life easier. And, maybe a fixer who takes care of everything needed to allow you to be in the place you want to work. This person, understands your photographic needs, speaks the local language and English and can deal with the proper paperwork.
Please don’t misunderstand. On most self-assignments, I’m just exploring. The only extra person I might bring is the one who watches my back. The other two assistants that I mentioned are really for a paid assignment work.
The one thing you don’t want is a map of tripod holes. That’s a joke. You know, that’s when you try to find the exact place where a great photograph was made so that you can copy it. Make your own pictures. Always.
This picture. I made it a few weeks ago on St. Joseph’s Night when the Mardi Gras Indians rolled through the streets of New Orleans. Even though I knew the kinds of pictures I hoped to make, I also knew from experience that if I parked my car on the street that divides the two sides of the cemetery I might get lucky and make a couple of unrelated, but good pictures.
I did make a few pictures worth looking at more than once.
This ought to help you understand the notion of “photographer’s luck,” which is really a mix of experience, talent and situational awareness. It paid off nicely. I made the “sunset, crosses and telephone poles” picture that many of you liked. I made this picture, along with another that I haven’t shown you yet. Unlike the first picture, this one took a lot of work in post production to make it look like my vision. The vision in my head.
That’s my story. I’m sticking to it. I’ll answer questions though. I’ll always answer questions.
Land of the weird. Mysterious. Moody. Almost evil.
A place that you would not go.
Often, I’m inspired by book covers, or Netflix thumbnails for direct to video scary movies. I think that’s what I was working to in post production, all of which was done on my smart phone, using Snapseed and Stackables. My working method is simple. I do the first development in Snapseed. where I set the basic color, sharpness and mood. I switch to Stackables to do the heavy artistic work. I make a couple of versions. I select one and finish it in Snapseed.
What is the image about? I don’t know. But, they say that all art is autobiographical. I certainly didn’t grow up in an evil-looking forest. I suppose that it reflects my mood. We are at a really pivotal point in my country. The more I learn, the more scary it becomes. I’m pretty sure that most systems are broken. As they say, “the center cannot hold.”
Here’s an example. There was an armed sheriff at Parkland. A good guy with a gun. He did nothing. When the police rolled in, they found him taking shelter behind a column. Yes. I know. It’s a horrible choice to engage the shooter. The sheriff might have been wounded or killed. That’s part of his job. The really big downside. He was suspended without pay. He resigned by retiring after 33 years on the job. I certainly hope he gets no retirement pay. I’m sure a deal was cut. Something like, “Resign right now and you’ll keep your retirement benefits.” His department is still investigating him.
By the way, I missed another way of ending gun violence. Yesterday, I suggested repealing the Second Amendment. That’s one way. It’s a long painful process.
A better, quicker way is to kill the NRA financially. They are the ones who are dancing with the Second Amendment and actively promoting more guns everywhere. Guns, guns, guns.
Already, the big car rental companies like Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise have ended any business relationships with the NRA. Banks and credit card companies are starting to refuse to do business or fund the NRA.
That’s why Wayne LaPierre, the president of the NRA, is screaming so loud. Their so-called Second Amendment rights are being attacked by kids armed with the First Amendment. He and is ilk are terrified. Their game might be over.
One more thing. Arming teachers is stupid. Since that idea is supported by the president who loves the NRA, that’s all I need write.
I’m sorry to have turned this into a political column. Aside from art being autobiographical, it is also influenced by current events, disruption and emotional distress. I’m not in distress. I typically get very cold-blooded and clear-headed when I have to deal with negative situations. I am very influenced by killing kids. Children who did nothing wrong. They went to school.
I was looking at my 2018 archives. I realized that aside from Mardi Gras and a few second lines, I’ve been doing the same thing over and over and over… and hoping for something different. For almost two months.
In some places that’s the classic definition of insanity.
I don’t think I’m a little crazy, but being a photographer… well, you know. Heh!
Even though this the same kind of wintry picture I’ve been making, I thought that I’d stretch myself out a little bit and get back to a little more artistic way of working.
Before you ask, don’t. I just kept adding and subtracting until I got to a place that expressed my mood at the time. A little deep. A little dark.
Did you happen to watch the Florida town hall yesterday? The senator — Marco Rubio — got hammered by the kids, by the parents, by the teachers. One parent flat-out told him that he was weak. Yet, he refuses to give up NRA funding because that represent another group. Gun advocates. The representative from the NRA, who shouldn’t have been there at all, doesn’t even want to make minor changes to the laws.
After sleeping on it. I’ve come to this. We need to flip the entire Congress in November. We need to take the power away from the usual suspects in the House and the Senate. Elect new blood that is not yet tainted.
Once that is done, we must repeal the Second Amendment.
That’s radical. It will take a lot of time. The process is long and usually nasty. Sorry, our children’s lives are at stake. Take away the law that the gun folks hide behind and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be safe. Maybe our future will be safe.
If Marco Rubio wants to keep earning the kind of money that he’s used to, about $172,000 a year, I’m sure there’s a management position for him at a hamburger chain out west. He can probably get pretty good health insurance too.
I’ll discuss that in a minute. But, first, let’s talk about the moon picture. It’s moody and mysterious. It’s probably better used as a Halloween picture. I made it yesterday. I wanted to show it to you today. I still have no idea what’s causing the reddish glow. Sunset is way over beyond the far right of this picture. There is really nothing to reflect that reddish light. Maybe the swamp is on fire. Or, the river. I’m pretty much looking towards the Mississippi River from this location.
The coolest thing about this picture is opening it up and staring into it. It appears to be translucent and layered. The trees seem to be way in a separate foreground. The moon is floating off somewhere way in the distance. I discovered that while I was working on it in post production.
I made the picture a few steps away from home. I mention this because a number of you still think you need to travel to take a picture. You don’t. You are better off making pictures around home. Practicing. Practicing. Practicing. When you do travel, your pictures will be so much the better.
That’s the picture.
That’s the number of shootings in New Orleans this past week. Of those, eight people died. This, combined with the killings of 17 young students in Florida and you have a pretty violent week. I have no idea what happened in the rest of the country. I’m pretty sure that Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore where pretty competitive with us in New Orleans. The list is longer than that. Bang, bang, bang. In too many places.
Before I write more, let me say this about that. Nixon used that phrasing. Heh.
I’m pretty much in the middle of the road politically. I’m a registered independent. As they used to say, I vote for the person, not the party.” I’m not particularly anti-this-or-that. I think that the federal government should stay out of certain things, not making those things legal or illegal. I think they should take care of us in ways that no smaller entity can.
You know where this is headed.
I know the arguments, both pro and con. And, I don’t care about them.
What I know is that there are too many guns. Everywhere. I have no idea why any civilian needs an AR-15. I feel about them just about the same way I feel about people holding the shutter button down on a camera, hoping to “get” a good picture. Spray and pray never works. The difference — and it’s a big one — is that with a semi-automatic weapon you can hurt a whole lot of people in a couple of minutes. But, that’s just one aspect. There are guns everywhere.
The ONLY reason that there are guns everywhere is money. People all up and down the line make a whole lot of money on guns, bullets and accessories. The people screaming about 2nd Amendment gun rights, don’t have a clue. They are at the bottom of a long cash chain. And, they are spending their cash. Making everybody up the line rich. Very rich.
Break the chain, and the problem starts to wither. Death by gun starts to slow down. Not having a weapon that fires lethal projections from any distance changes the violent dynamics. There’s no argument. It just does.
If there’s not a gun in your hand you won’t pull the trigger. You won’t, in a moment of anger, shoot somebody. You might get into a physical thing. You might yell and scream at each other, but you’ll both be alive in the end.
Am I a flaming anti-gun liberal? No. I already told you that I wasn’t. I’m just appalled at so much needless violent death. I’d like to see everybody’s children grow up. I’d like to see people not be afraid to go to school, to a concert, to a Mardi Gras parade. I’d like to see people walk the city streets — my city streets — and not have to look over their shoulder. And, not practice “situational awareness.” That phrase is for people who are in combat. Not for people outside watching a Mardi Gras parade and raising their hands for beads.
I know what I think and what I’m going to do. You can decide for yourself.
There are three student strikes planned over the next couple of months. Some are short. One is very long. Support them. They may be the only people who can lead us out of our violent ways.
I suggest this.
Clear the way for them. Have their backs. But stand aside and let them do what they must. Big changes are often led by young people. Let them lead.
Remember how happy we were when 2017 came to an end. 2018 was going to be great. It was going to be grand. Wonderful. We were all starting over.
Has it been?
I’m not going to run through the litany of bad things that has happened so far. You know how this week went. Geeze. Seventeen people killed for no reason. Most of them were children. In New Orleans, we couldn’t get through Carnival without eight people getting shot, and three of those dying. On Mardi Gras Day.
So. I saw this weird scene as I was walking. I photographed it. Then, I made it weirder in post production. While I was working on it, it came to me that today is Chinese New Year. A whole new lunar year. Starting today.
I lived in Asia long enough to celebrate the lunar new year. I was in Hong Kong for many celebrations. So I reset my calendar. Today is the start of my new year. All that came in the first six months of 2018 are last year’s news. I’m starting over. You can too. You probably should.
This picture. Moody. Mysterious. Maybe even a little evil.
I didn’t see it quite that way when I made the picture. But, once I started working on it. Tinkering with it. Pushing it. That’s when I started to see it. The picture became something else. I would say that I did it. No. The picture lead me. I just followed along. When I tried to lead, it didn’t work. Sometimes I went too far. The look changed.
That’s what kept me on track. Part of my post production workflow is that I save every step. Even though my editing is non destructive, I don’t want to have to go back to the start of the process. I want to be able to get back to where the picture took a left turn, headed south, went wrong. I want to work from there. Only in the most drastic situations do I think that I’d better go back to the RAW file. And, try again.
Kind of like life. In theory, we learn as we go. It would follow that unless there is a serious problem, we should be able to go back to where we went wrong. And, rebuild. Start again. Do whatever it takes to get back on track. Maybe it’s a huge effort. Maybe it’s just setting my ego aside. Walking in another cat’s shoes, as they say.
I told you that after a horrible 2017, that 2018 would be clean up time.