It was hidden in plain sight. So small that I had to look twice and break my cardinal rule of photography. I had to move some of the greenery around to photograph the flower. I try never to move or change anything when I make these kinds of semi-nature pictures. I had no choice. If I wanted to make the flower’s picture, I had to be able to see all of it.
Honesty. Full disclosure.
It’s a very peaceful picture. After another week of political craziness, more lies and memorial sadness, I think we could all use a picture that’s a little quiet. Besides, it’s Sunday in the U.S. It’s a Sunday kind of picture.
A real swamp would likely be very deep and wet this time of year. Most of the real swamps have been developed. Into concrete. But, here and there, you can find some little groves of what came before us. This one takes about ten minutes to walk through.
If I was really feeling my oats, I’d drive down to Barataria Preserve and walk along the wooden plank sidewalk through Jean Lafitte National Historical Park where alligators lurk underneath you, and snakes watch you from above. Jean Lafitte was a pirate. Not only did he serve with U.S. troops during the Battle of New Orleans, but he wasn’t afraid of alligators and snakes. Like I am.
You’d think getting to such a primitive place would take hours. Nah. Forty-five minutes to an hour and you are there. A lot of tourists visiting New Orleans take a tour of the swamp by boat, then drive upriver to plantation country. Between the two, it’s a nice day trip and not all that far from the “big” city. And, it’s really hard to get lost.
The picture. I didn’t have to do much to it. I made it in the early morning sun which gave it a nice yellow glow. But, not that early. In order for the light to penetrate the foliage, the sun had to get high enough to find the right angle to do its work for me. That’s it.
One more thing. If you take a swamp tour by boat, the guide usually has a couple of chickens that he or she bought at the local Wal-Mart. Cold. Not alive. The chickens are tossed into the water where gators are known to lurk. That creates a commotion so that pictures can be taken.
Today is a sacred day. On a bright fall morning in 2001 our world changed. Terrorists crashed two airliners into the Twin Towers in the city of my birth, New York. They crashed a third plane into the Pentagon, the hub of our military in Washington D.C. They tried to steer a fourth plane back to the district, when very brave passengers, knowing they would lose their lives, forced that plane to crash into a field in Pennsylvania.
If you ask me about my personal opinion, I’ll say this. Of course, I’m sad. I was even scared at the time. But, I believe the bad guys achieved their purpose. They changed the world. As one false step lead to another, we ended up — for now — in hateful place. A polarized place where seemingly everybody is against somebody who is even remotely different from them.
I’m happy to report that I’m not that way. I guess, for the most part, I’ve seen enough in my life to not really be afraid of much. Even death. I don’t want to die, but I’m not afraid of it. I don’t know when these changes came to me. They sort of just slid in there. In a way that also explains this picture.
For sure, we should stop, think and reflect on this day. We should make an extra effort to be kinder than we were yesterday. But, we also have to move on in our own ways. For me, that’s making pictures. It’s the only way that I can defeat the bad guys. A friend of mine who lives in Memphis say that as artists we need to “art harder.” I agree.
For those of you who do something different, keep doing it. Do more of it.
That’s how we win.
This picture hasn’t got anything to do with my thoughts for today. Sometimes that happens. I’m just chasing the wonderful autumn light these days. Someday, the weather will actually change and the temperatures will match the light. #nolaheat is relentless.
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.”
We all know about our natural seasons. Arrange them in any order that you like. Winter. Spring. Summer. Autumn.
The transition from summer to fall is, to me, the most dramatic change. Leaves go from a bright, rich green, to a sort of faded green and finally they turn golden and fall. In most of the south, you almost don’t see that coming. When the leaves finally turn golden they linger on the trees and all seem to fall at once.
That, as they say, is the nature of things.
Today. I’m still wanting to photograph the second line that I mentioned yesterday. The high temperature is down. From 97 to 96 degrees. At 5pm, which is the start time, we usually lose a few degrees from the high. Although last night at around midnight, if you include the heat index measurement, the weather outside was frightful. 104 degrees.
I hate to make Storyteller about the weather, but down here is the swamp, that’s what is at the top of mind. For most of us.
It’s hard to do anything in this kind of heat. After a dog walk, they come inside and have a drink of water. Then, they adjourn to their places and sleep the sleep of the dead. I usually take a break from whatever I’m doing and relax a little before I get started. It is truly draining. After a little recovery, I think about my chores for the day and promptly forget them.
The picture. I was struck by the already golden leaves of this tree. They helped to make the branches of the tree almost look like something out of The Cat in the Hat.
I wasn’t sure about this picture when I saw it. Then I saw nature’s perfect symmetry . I made sure to frame the picture as carefully as possible. This is the result. For sure, I tinkered a little bit in postproduction, mostly so you can see what I felt.
This is the hottest couple of days of the summer. A weekend when nobody wants to go outside.
I am going to try to photograph a second line. The YMO Benevolent Society and Social Club is walking on Sunday. It’s a huge parade, with six divisions. That means six individual units, each with their own brass bands. This BS&SC is the oldest club in the city. This is their 130th year. In an effort to deal with the oppressive heat and humidity, the second line starts at 5pm. I’m not sure that really helps. I was outside yesterday at that time, it was hot as hell.
We’ll see about me going. A few years back I was minutes from heat stroke. I don’t take this kind of weather lightly. Even though it might not seem very physical, it is. We — the photographers — walk with the parade. As I’ve said in the past, it’s like being in a rugby scrum. The parade route is about four miles long.
Yes. It’s Autumn. Everything in nature is changing. But, not the heat.
The jewels of nature. Sparkling like they have their own light source. Laying on wet pavement for all to see.
We are at that weird point of summer merging into autumn. It is very hot. The light is getting low and golden. Leaves are starting to fall. A leaf fell on the all seeing dog. She shook it off and barked at it. How dare that leaf invade her space.
You see pretty little scenes like this one. Wet pavement. Wet bits of flowers. Wet leaves. The scene turns sort of magical. If you have eyes that see. Really see. Or, if you have an imagination to take you away from the mundane.
The picture. Wet pavement and brightly colored bits of nature make for a very nice picture. A little work in post production to tune things up a bit and away you go.
I spent the better part of yesterday working on my new and improved website. There were a number of technical difficulties that were mostly caused by unique terminology. The basic format is done and there are some pictures, mostly older ones. I invite you to come see for your self at http://www.laskowitzpictures.com
Everything is crisp, bright, colorful. Even the moss is emerald green. This doesn’t last for long. What falls down must rise up in our heat and humidity. An hour or two after I made this picture everything calmed down. The brightness was mundane again. An hour or two after that someone came along and cleared their drain. That’s a big issue around the swamp.
Because we flood so much, the city — meaning we, the people — do whatever we can to keep rainfall from pool and building until we are underwater. To be sure, the city government is complicit in this too. After finding that car in a storm drain, and determining that it was a Katrina car, we know the city hasn’t even inspected that drainage system in fourteen years.
Now that the city has been busted, they are looking at all the main drains. As they worked through the drain where the car was found, the pulled out some 470 tons of stuff including shopping carts, the remains of two more cars, a huge amount of Mardi Gras beads and so on. This must be an ongoing program. The city is trying to find the money to pay for it. Not only have our property values been increased by big percentages — our went up by 65% — but now the city is talking about increasing the property tax. This amounts to a tax on top of another tax.
The funny thing about this is that the financial people I trust say that unless we made capital improvements on the house, the increase in property values is unknowable until we sell the it. Houses in our neighborhood have not turned over, so there is no comparable real estate values. Anything is a shot in the dark estimate.
That said, if our property value has increased by 65% and the city raise the property tax, I guess will find out what our house is really worth.
The picture. It’s the damnedest thing. I had another picture planned, but every time I tried to download it from the picture editing software something happened. The picture went from bright and colorful, to something muddy and flat.
So, I used a backup picture that I made last week when there was a lot of rain. You know, on a dog walk.
I’ll have to figure out what’s going on. I have to know if it was just that one picture, or if the picture editing software having a problem. I’ll start with the original image and work backward.
I don’t usually photograph them, but I happened to look up and saw the most wonderful shapes. So, I did what I usually do and made a few pictures. I liked how fast they were moving across the sky. That’s hard to show using a still camera, so I just mostly concentrated on what I originally attracted me to them and to their layers.
The way that I’m working these days is almost a picture a day. I make the picture one day and publish it the next. That was never my intent. It just seems to be working out that way.
That brings me to this.
I’m about to turn Storyteller into a full blown website with my blog incorporated into that. I’m going to use an outside template designed to replace WordPress template, which should give me more ability to do what I’d like. I found one company that I like a lot. I have a number of questions for them. If they are answered to my satisfaction, I’ll start on the project. There are two big questions. One is about coding. The other is about building the site and how I lay it over Storyteller. It’s possible I could be out of service for a couple of days. I’ll let you know.
And, speaking of being out of service, I’m thinking of working on a picture per week schedule. In reviewing my work, I am repeating myself. And, I’m not making very substantial work. That isn’t to say I’ll only post once a week because I can share my out takes as well as the very best picture. I have to think that through. I’ll let you know about that too.
If all goes as planned, there will be a direct purchasing tab, leading the buyer to a place where images can be bought or licensed by size, with options for paper type, canvases and framing.
All of this will take some work, but I am free for awhile.