All A Dream


Like a painting

All the news that fits. But, first the picture. It’s actually a layered picture containing a scene on a New Mexican highway and a Jefferson Parish expressway. Mostly, it’s the New Mexican photograph that rose to the top of the layer. Obviously, it’s heavily worked over in post production.

I wasn’t sure how far to take it, but the further I went the more I liked what I was doing. That’s important. If you don’t like your work, stop doing it.

Eventually, two photographs became one and became a watercolor painting. Or, something like that. It also became mostly about the gentle color since the main subjects are almost blurred beyond recognition.

That’s the picture. The painting.The watercolor. Here comes the big news of the day. I’ve been struggling for the last few years to decide the viability of having two sites. Storyteller, a blog site. Or, Laskowitzpictures, a website that contains a blog.

WordPress made the decision for me. I received an email saying that they couldn’t bill me for next year, starting on November 18th. They also commented saying almost the same thing except my new year started on December 18th.

They can’t bill me because I intentionally disconnected the link to my credit card because I wanted to know when my billing date was due. In the past they’d bill me and then tell me that done that. Of course, I could dispute it but that’s a PIA. Or, they’d tell me way in advance and I’d forget about it.

I need the Website more than I need the blog site, so I won’t be paying for what you see currently. I think what I’ll do is downgrade to a free version of Storyteller, post less, maybe three times a week and remove my images from the WordPress archive. That’s not a big deal because every picture I publish here goes into a file on my desktop.

Once I can figure out how to link you to Laskowitzpictures.com then I’ll let this version of Storyteller drift away into the clouds. That may take a while. Or not, since my energy will only be focused on one site.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after each other. VOTE.

Sometimes Just The Sky


Dawn balloon lift off from 4th Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This one. This picture. The best picture that I’ve ever made of the balloon fiesta. It’s the one I told you about. I was late to the liftoff because of accidents on I-25, so I worked my way through the backstreets and came to this place on 4th Street.

I thought I was in the worst possible place. Shows you what I know.

I had to pass through a gate that lead me to a bunch of transmission towers. Once I got clear of them this was my view.

There is a giant take away from this. Never, ever give up. It would have been easy to go back home, have another cup of coffee, some breakfast and go back to bed.

What would be the fun in that?

Once I recovered from the emotional high of finding this scene and making the picture, I started thinking clearly and started chasing individual balloons as they split off from the main group.

Eventually, I made my way home where i did have that cup of coffee, had some breakfast and started working on my new pictures.

Stay Safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy every donut.

Some technical picture stuff. A number of you have asked in the past, and again on other social media for technical tips.

I’m not the biggest photo tech guy in the world. But, I can tell you what went into individual pictures.

The first thing to talk about is ISO. I usually work at the lowest native ISO, which means for this picture ISO 100.

Next we come to aperture and shutter speed. I cheat a little here especially with lighting like this.

I set the aperture, usually to f5.6 and let the shutter speed fall where it may. But, knowing I wanted front to back sharpness, I set the aperture at f16. Normally, the shutter speed would be way too slow. But, not when you are shooting pretty much directly into the sun.

When I’m chasing around like I was, I usually use an all purpose travel lens which is a 28-200mm/ f4 / f5.6 piece of glass.

I had the time to switch to a 20mm lens, while I was walking through the field. That’s why the picture has such an all encompassing feel.

A 20mm lens set at f16 and everything is a sharp as it can be.

Very little post production was needed. I’d have to look at the RAW file, but I’m willing to bet I just lightened the shadows a bit.

Where The Beauty Is


Golden flight.

This is another event that the pandemic killed for this year. The Albuquerque Balloon Festa was supposed to fly for its 49th year. You might think that being out on a cold and windy balloon field would be safe enough, but people come from all over the world. They need places to stay, places to eat and places to recreate.

So.

No go for 2020.

When we were living there, attending was no big deal. I would ask any one of a number of picture editors to write me a letter of assignment. I would go the day before the event began and secure my credentials, which included the all important parking pass. I could also book a flight if I wanted, but I don’t like to get trapped anywhere when I’m working. By the third year, my face was enough for credentials.

The really good thing was the commute time. Fifteen minutes from door to parking lot, except for the time I made my best picture ever of a balloon lift off. I would generally roll up I-25. Usually, timing wasn’t an issue. On one particular morning there was a string of traffic accidents on the interstate which slowed traffic to a crawl.

Living in a place that you are working has its perks. One is that I knew my way around. I picked my way through surface streets and came around behind the balloon field, looking directly into the sun.

This picture is not that. This is an unpublished photograph. I might post the “great” picture tomorrow. It’s just that I try to stay away from reposting, although it’s been awhile.

This is an image I made almost on top of our home during a morning lift off that went bad because there was too much wind. It broke down the “box” which is how the wind plays off of the Sandia Mountains and keeps the air fairly stable.

I just drove the streets, chasing balloons until I ran out of card space. I had more energy back then. I think I made too many exposures. But, you never know.

Stories about pictures are fun, yes? Some people like to read about me. That’s pretty cool. But, I’m mostly interested in pictures and how they came to be.

In the main story I told you how I chased around, which is mostly what making pictures takes. You can’t give up if you want something that you like.

This picture was likely made with a longer lens. I needed the compression and I wanted the graphic shapes. A friend of mine posted on Instagram that the best thing about a telephoto lens is that it gets you closer to the subject.

Nah.

That’s what legs and motors are for.

Long lenses help to make pictures like this one. For sure, it got me closer but that wasn’t my main intent.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy every enchilada.

The Blue Distance


Out on the road.

between travels. I’ve traveled since I was a little boy. Maybe five or six years old. We took the Santa Fe El Capitain to Chicago and from there the Broadway Limited to New York City. We did that almost every other summer until I was 15 years old. Trains started changing. The Broadway Limited was a New York Central System train. Sometime in the middle 1960s they merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both were losing money. Apparently, the owners thought that they could lose money together.

That lasted until 1970 when the federal government stepped in and created Amtrak. They never make money, but they weren’t created for that. In fact, since the end of World War II, passenger trains lost money. There just wasn’t a way to earn the money that freight trains do.

Enough about trains.

That’s not where this piece was going. It’s about me. Me. Me. Me.

I started traveling again after 1972. I took mostly road trips. I also commuted from San Jose to Long Beach, California. I went to college in San Jose.

My first real job in the long arc of my career was in southwestern Virginia. Once we got there, we didn’t travel much except to photograph sporting events and to visit friends who lived in Washington D.C. That was before I worked there.

Eventually. I worked at couple more newspapers. By then I was an editor. We never traveled. I join the staff of one of two picture agencies. I never traveled for the first one. I always traveled for the second one. That wore on me. Fly back to The United States from Hong Kong, overnight in Dallas where I supposedly lived and fly to New York the next day.

I kept doing that kind of work until the 2000s, when I began my second career. That one entails constant traveling especially in the summer. I set my alarm and wrote on a piece of paper, “You are in xyzzy city.”

Blammo. Then traveling stopped. Totally.

The summer of the great pandemic.

For the first month or so, being at home felt good. It was different. We got to be home. Even those of us in our households who didn’t travel liked us being home. Now, a little over six months in, our stirs are going crazy. I feel like I’m in a Jimmy Buffett song. “I just shot six holes in my freezer. I think I’ve got cabin fever. Somebody sound the alarm.”

Many of us have completed long postponed home projects. Obviously, if they were undone for so long, they didn’t need to be done. What the hell am I going to do with the five level bird house? There aren’t five levels of birds around here.

For some of us we know that we won’t really start traveling until spring of 2022. That’s right 2022. Not 2021. Not by the end of this year. 2022. I have no idea what trouble I will have gotten into by then.

The picture. We moved to New Mexico in late 2005 after Hurricane Katrina “wiped out region clean like the Bible said.” If memory serves we arrived in mid-November. We stayed until mid-2011. We took a lot of road trips. We flew for business. We flew for pleasure.

Even after we returned to New Orleans, the travel never slowed down.

Until March.

Even though I complain a lot about my ailments (That’s what old people do), I’m built to travel. I can drive 12 hours a day. I recover quickly from jet lag to major time zone crossings. I enjoy all sorts of food. I get along with all sorts of people.

But, here we all sit.

So.

I made this picture on a New Mexican road trip. I can’t remember where it was made. I suppose I could look at my daybook from the last year we were there. What caught my eye was the church. There are churches everywhere just like New Orleans. But, mostly the light got my attention.

Remember, I said that there is a magical quality to New Mexican light? I didn’t do anything to the light and sky of this photograph. That’s what I saw. That’s what you see.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy all the American Indian fry bread.

What Does It Mean To Travel ?


Interstate 25 northbound.

Travel. What does it mean? How do we do it? Normally it means going to a place other than your home. For some of us it feels like we move when we are done with a location.

We moved to New Mexico after Hurricane Katrina. It was a good move. I always wanted to live there. I was creatively productive.

But, the New Orleans culture kept calling us, so we moved back. Looking back that may have been a mistake.

We are now talking about moving to New Mexico. Yeah, I know you can never go home again. It was never home. Home is Long Beach, California. That state costs too much money. But, it is home.

If we actually do it, we won’t return to Albuquerque. We’ll either move to Santa Fe or Taos. Of course, Taos is really at the end of the road, even though it is beautiful.

4th Street.

Of course, there is the light. It’s is so hard to put into words. It’s just different. It’s one of the biggest reasons that visual artists move there.

The pictures. They were all made in New Mexico at different times. They are all about roads. They are about travel. They are about moving, and moving on. During those days I literally made a picture a day unless I was working on assignment.

That didn’t mean I only took one frame. I worked on a scene until I was done with it, unless it was a drive by or drive through.

It’s a great exercise. You learn a lot about photography. You learn even more about yourself. I suggest that everybody who is a photographer at any level do this exercise for a year. Photograph your world. Your life. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Route 66, Central Avenue, Albuquerque

All of these images were made during my picture a day adventures. Two of the three pictures were accidental and driven by the quality of the light. The third picture, called 4th Street was just learning where a major street ended.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy all the green Jello.

A Decade


A decade. Ten years. 3,650 days.

A lot happened. A lot didn’t happen. I can’t remember half of it. That’s probably for the best. But, this is what I know. A made a helluva (that’s a technical term) lot of pictures in ten years.

Some were really good. Some were good. And, a lot of them fall under the heading of “what was I thinking? ”  I spent way too much time photographing my version of faux nature. As I reviewed that work I realized that no matter how I try to see things differently, I keep repeating just about everything. That’s bad news for a guy like me who wants to move forward.

I spent two years of the decade in New Mexico, so that is reflected here. Luckily, I do like the two New Mexican pictures a lot. There are eight New Orleans pictures. Culling them was hard. There are at least six others that could have made the cut. I opted to go with pictures that I really like rather than some signature images.

The pictures are organized in no particular order. The best pictures come to me whenever they do. You know. “Don’t take the picture, let the picture take you.” I’m certain that these pictures are not chronological, but they are an honest representation of what I believe are my ten best pictures of this closing decade.

I hope that you enjoy them. I enjoyed making them.

Out West


Way Out West.

Morning fingers.

Hopefully, I stopped the first post before WordPress posted it. We’ll see.

I’ve been rooting around in my files, looking for unseen pictures. You know, lost pictures. Same thing happens in music except now original masters are lost forever because a UMG (Universal Music Group) storage facility burned to the ground. The list of musician losses is heartbreaking. This happened almost ten years ago. The facts are just emerging now.

Same thing happens with photography. I lost just about all my slide film archives to Hurricane Katrina. Even the few images that were salvageable stank from that murky flood water. Luckily, the good material had already been scanned and traveled with me. Still…

The work that I am starting to post now, is from portable hard drives that also traveled with me. I haven’t seen it in a long time. You’ve never seen it. I started digging around in the old archive for images that will be used in a couple of projects. And, started finding some pretty interesting pictures.

This picture is not one of them.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t like it.

I did what I call contemporary post production on a RAW file. This picture is very salable. Since I’m trying to build passive sales for me, and eventually for my estate, this is just one more thing to stack upon my pile of stuff to do. This won’t get done in a summer. If I can market about 20 of these old — but classic works — every month, I’ll build a nice collection of revenue producing images.

This picture. I-25. Near Santa Fe, New Mexico. I saw a little exit with a slight grade so I got off the interstate and found a good vantage point. I waited for the right trucks to pass by. That contemporary post production that I mentioned? The finishing touch is to use a setting called glow and bring the radius back to almost zero. The sky turned all soft while the subject remained sharp and silhouetted.

One of Those Days


Reworked ornamental cabbage.

It’s one of those things. It was inspired by the local newspaper, which I rarely read. And, by their website, which I read daily. There was a piece about “seeing food differently” in their food section. It was about a photographer who takes close up pictures of fresh food. He is, apparently, making a splash in New Orleans. It’s big time art.

Oh boy. Wow.

I did the same thing about a decade ago when I lived in New Mexico. I stuck some lights on the end of a macro lens and made close up pictures of fresh food for a stock photography request. They weren’t licensed for much money per picture, but they did sell in volume. You can find pictures similar to them in every stock photography library around the world. Just Google them. You’ll find thousands of them.

Either those of us who took them were well ahead of our time. Or, the young millennial reporters don’t know very much. And, these kinds of pictures are art to them. I’ll go with the later since I’m pretty sure they haven’t studied enough about the history of anything to realize that there is very little new under the sun.

One would think that this would give artists of my era a head start. You’d think that. But, no. Many millennials are also ageist as hell. It’s like the work we did years ago never even existed.

Oh well.

Speaking of age. I’ve just gotten older. Today. On November 21st. Yep. My birthday. For a while, birthdays didn’t matter. This is not one of those big years. But, for some reason this one seems to matter. I have an idea why…

The pictures. The bottom one is very close to the original take. It didn’t need much help because I lit it properly in my studio/kitchen. The top picture is one of my current experimental approaches to making photographs worse. It’s more-or-less how I see things now.

Oh yeah. In case you are wondering. You can’t eat this cabbage. It’s called an ornamental cabbage. No matter what you do, it is as bitter as can be. But, it is very pretty. After I photographed it, I planted it in the ground. It looked great. It probably still does.

As it really was.

Looking Back


Drifting in the wind.

I made the original image a while back. I reworked it last night.

But, that’s not what I’m going to talk about. You knew that, right?

I want to talk about Dan Dasilva. Who? What? Where?

He came to light via a photojournalist group that I’m part of on Facebook. Apparently, he lost a copyright lawsuit because he thought it was a good idea to scoop up pictures from the internet and resell them. Usually on t-shirts. Apparently, there is a big business using Shopify, to buy, sell and trade whole online stores of nothing. Some do on demand printing — so my picture could end up on your t-shirt without me knowing. Others do little more than make instructional videos about how to make money on resellers platforms like Shopify. These guys make some pretty good money not really doing or selling anything of their own. Can you say “two-bit grifter?”

Anyway.

Danny boy got sued. For $150,000. He settled for $27,000 and court and legal costs on both sides. He took to YouTube to complain about the malicious copyright holders who put pictures on the internet so they could entrap thieves like him. Like me. I make my living creating pictures. Yeah. That’s exactly what I do. Sure. I also have to watch my back because of criminals like him.

He was nailed on Reddit to the tune of about 40,000 posters. He tried to defend himself. His word salad video made it worse. His lawyer told him not to post either video. But, he did it anyway.

Stupidity and arrogance is a deadly mix.

I live with this everyday. I have an agency who looks for what they think might be unauthorized use. Sometimes, I even check Google Images by searching for one of my pictures. Usually, a picture that I think of as one of my signature images. To be sure, I make too many pictures and am too busy to do this regularly, but when I do it’s enlightening. Once I found an entire website using my work as their work. Google was very helpful taking them down. They were based in South America somewhere, so seeking injunctive relief would have taken some doing.

Sometimes, I get a little snippy when I ask somebody who posts pictures on their WordPress blog and I call them on it. I know the pictures aren’t theirs.  They tell me they can do what they want. I didn’t make any threats. I just complain to WordPress about them. WordPress wants “original content.” That’s the theory under which I make my complaints. I haven’t seen either poster in a long time. I doubt WordPress shut them down. After all, WordPress sells advertising based on what we do. What I think really happened is these two bloggers had nothing to say visually, or in the written word, so they just faded to black.

Bottom line.

Protect your work. No matter what form your art takes, it’s yours. It is your legacy. It doesn’t matter if it is a large selling work or something more personal. Unless you want to share it, it shouldn’t be taken from you. The underlying theory is simple. When you create it, it is copyrighted. Posting it here on WordPress and having it make its way to the internet doesn’t change that.

Oh Yeah.

The picture. I made it in the hot New Mexican sun. I helped it along. This time. Anybody knows that New Mexican skies are not green. Except in Roswell. Ha!