In the dark night.

I saw it. I photographed it. I added to it.

That’s the story of this picture. But, what’s the story behind it? Taking chances.

I could say that a lot of my career was based on taking chances. I could say that I photographed on the edge.

The edge of what?

The edge of technical limitations. The edge of the city. Or, is it really the edge of madness?

I’m not mad. Or, crazy. Or, lacking in certain cautions. But, I do take chances. I didn’t always. I  was photojournalist. Pure and simple. My pictures were clean, sharp and well made. They had to be. That served those years of my career well.

After I moved on I found other mentors. Other photographic friends. They talked. I listened. With any luck at all, I grew.

One night, while walking in New York City, a friend and mentor, showed me how to expose for the night light and subjects. I made a picture that was just dripping with motion and energy. His exposure became my base exposure. Two Seconds at F5.6. Over the years, I modified that according to the scene and what I hoped to achieve.

That got easier in the digital age because F stops turned weird. Traditional numbers meant nothing. Gone were the days of, F2, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8, F11, F16 and F22. Instead using the camera’s light meter and histogram, often you saw numbers like F9, F7.2 and so on. Precise light measurements. Checking the histogram told you if the exposure was correct from a light to dark balance.

That made pushing the edge easier. It also made it more time consuming. Photographers, still unused to digital capture, started checking the LCD on the back of their cameras. Not only did they check the exposure, but they check the subject for sharpness, contrast, and composition.

Experienced photographers who trusted their instincts didn’t look at the LCD, instead they created a term for it. Chimping. You can figure out why.

A curious thing happened with many of these chimping photographers. You’d think that the volume of their shoots would drop. Instead it rose. These guys still had no confidence in their work. They would shoot a non-moving subject that they could control, holding down the shutter release button, while making 500 pictures of the same thing.

That’s a big mistake.

There are a few ways to learn not to make that mistake.

Photograph a lot comes to mind. No. That doesn’t mean holding down the button. It means look for many subjects. If you want to play this game, limit yourself to only five images per scene. I know a photographer who limited himself to one image.

Create a way of working. One way is to make a picture per day. Do that for a year. I did that for a while. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about light. You learn a lot about subject matter. I liked it so much that my one year turned into two, then three. I stopped after my fifth year.

Find a mentor. I did that in my early newspaper years. I found a guy who was brutal. His first critiques could make a grown man cry. Little by little as I learned and grew, his critiques turned positive. When it was time move to a bigger newspaper, he recommended me for a job at a newspaper that was the sister paper to his paper.

There are other things you can do as well. Ask your mentor. That’s what I did.

Still, at 45 years on I still ask for advice.

Try it.

 


Maybe too far.

Did I? Or, didn’t I?

Go too far.

This image started out as one of my night time blue sky pictures. I thought the foreground subject matter was a little boring, so I set out to change that.  After adding and subtracting for a little while, I almost gave up.

Then.

I started piling up various actions. The picture started getting weird. I kept going. And going. Things got even weirder. I kept going. And, here I am.

If I could tell you all the steps, I would tell you. But, once I get going in some direction I move pretty quickly without too much thought. That’s the only way to create something that even approximates art.. You know me. I try not to think when I’m out making pictures.

Because.

You know what the legendary New York Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra, said to his manager while he was trying to work out of a hitting slump. His manager said, “Think Yogi, think.” Yogi replied, “You want me to hit the baseball and think?”

Some things are better done without too much thought while you follow your instincts.


Night work on the street.

Night time, not in the switching yard.

Things change at night. Things look a little mysterious. Things look a little spooky. And, night photography can hide a multitude of sins.

I wasn’t hiding anything this time. It was mostly just timing because guess who wanted to go for a walk at night time. We normally don’t do that because with my hurting parts I don’t want to make them worse by tripping over some unseen pot hole.

Anyway.

We were walking along a street when a thought came to me. I had no idea how a smart phone would respond to a situation like this one. My first two test shots were sharp as a tack. My phone can approximate a DSLR by changing the settings to manual. I did that and this is the result.

Normally you could deal with this setting by panning. That would keep the car fairly sharp. I wanted to make amore artistic attempt at the picture. I think I succeeded. The strange thing is the color. This is the color as it came out of the phone. All I did was clean up the picture a little bit. I’m not sure why it is almost monochrome. Every other night picture is full color. I’m going to do a little research. It could just be that I was at the end of the phone’s capability.


Trains in the fog with help.

Foggy days. Foggy nights.

I took a little walk to a nearby train yard. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while. We’ve had a lot of fog so I wanted to photograph the fog at night. I found two engines with their motors warming up. I was astounded to see a caboose sitting between them. Of course, there is a fence between me and them. I heard them before I could see them.

I did the best that I could.

I made this picture and added some roundish highlights to the image. I really didn’t have to, but you know me. I also had help from some business behind this little group. They had their big lights turned on, which helped me to make perfect silhouettes up against a glowing foggy sky.

The caboose is another story all together. My amazement arose because no railroads use cabooses today. Congress changed a law that required them to be attached to freight trains. Once the law changed most cabooses were headed to the scrapyard or to your favorite park. This is a working caboose. It is not used for its intended purpose, but rather as a place for the train crew to rest on long haul rides.

One more thing about the picture. Notice the quality? It’s much better than many images that I post here. I used my baby Leica. It’s a great camera for pictures like this and for many of the subjects that I photograph. It’s not so good for second lines or Mardi Gras Indians. When I say baby I mean it. It has a fixed zoom lens. It’s range is from 24mm to 75mm. It’s also fast. very fast, since it has a large f stop at f1.7.

About walking. I didn’t take a dog. This was a little photo walk.I learned that if I walk at my normal pace, rather than stopping, and letting the dogs explore, my legs don’t hurt anywhere near as much as they normally do.

And, so it goes.


As night fell.

After celebrating enough Christmas I adjourned to the patio chairs. Some of the dogs had enough excitement and joined me. I was sitting and wondering about the trees and the night light. I made a few exposures. Sure enough the cloudy sky trapped the night glow which is caused by city lights.

The sky looked orange to the camera’s sensor. To the naked eye it looked sort of gray-black. If the night sky had been clear or maybe with a few fleeting clouds there would have been no color. The city lights color would have traveled to the heavens.

I know the theories. But, since I can’t really see the color I have to test the theory. That’s a little secret of photography. Aside from capturing the moment and preserving certain subjects so that  future generations can see them, there are a lot of optics, color and pure physics to test. Good photographers do that when they are playing. I wouldn’t want to test them when I am working for a client.

The week between Christmas and New Year is always calm. I do things to prepare for the next year, 2020. Can you imagine it? It sounds the like a title for some futuristic book and film. This year the dates of Christmas and New Year are putting my brain into a dizzy. A Wednesday holiday seems to make time seem either really short or very long. I woke up today thinking it was Saturday. I looked at my calendar and thought — or, rather, didn’t think — what is going on?

Then, I had a coffee.

How about you? What’s this week like for you? How do you feel about a Wednesday holiday?


New Orleans traffic.

Everybody is going somewhere.

This is Central Business District traffic at right about rush hour. There is rain falling in the light dusky shadows. Drivers are trying to dart in and out of traffic blockages.

I got bored. I did what any photographer would do. I made pictures. Before you think that I’m crazy, let me say that I was stopped for a red light. Cars were crawling through the cross street at about two per green traffic light. Most of us were stopped, foot on the brake, just waiting. I had about five minutes to make this picture.

I did this in the days when I used to explore the streets of New Orleans. I sought out situations like this one. I’d like think that I was the only driver who didn’t care if the traffic moved.

As I recall, this picture was made pre-storm. That makes it about 15 years old. This kind of work kept popping up as I was looking for the decade’s best ten. You might ask if this picture is 15 years old, how does it fit into the decade collection? It doesn’t. A version of it was simply misfiled. Actually, it was likely in one collection, was moved to a second collection and it followed along the unorganized pathways of my archive.

I gotta do something about that.


Orange Glow.

Drifting.

I made this picture on the edge of dusk. The dark edge.

There was almost no luck involved.  But, there was a little skill. I know how and where to brace myself when I try to make a picture like this one. I probably should use a tripod more because that’s the way to take a picture in available darkness. But, I wasn’t ready. So, I did what I could.

Sometimes, that’s all you can do. And, that just has to be enough.

For me, the problem with making a picture like this, is that I’m successful holding the camera steady more than I’m not. That’s really not helpful in the long term because I’ve developed the habit of not doing what I should.

One day I’ll learn.

 


Out of the blue and into the black.

A calming effect.

Looking at the moon on a night like this one is sublime. For me, it’s calming. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. It’s certainly early enough in the night sky that even the witches aren’t around since witching hour is nearer to midnight.

Technically speaking, this is an interesting picture. I made it with my smart phone. The phone’s sensor over exposed the scene, so the only real work that I did in post production was to darken it. That bought out the color and  gave shape to the moon. One point to note, the moon wasn’t full. It’s moving just enough to make it look that way.

The more that I look at it, the more I think we have come to a point were “computational photography” is catching up to the DSLR, Mirrorless and Rangefinder cameras. For sure, it isn’t as technically perfect as it could be, but the technology is moving in leaps and bounds. My phone is last year’s model. I wonder what improvements have been made to the latest version. Of course, I won’t know that unless I borrow a phone. We try to keep our phones for at least three years.

In case you’re wondering, my semi-rant of yesterday did bring about some interesting reactions, both here and on various social media. Some were worried that we are further fracturing. I agree. Most were favorable to my point of view. One person wrote that she’d read that millennials lack of serious work ethic comes from knowing that they have a big pay day when we pass. I’ve never read that, but it’s worth investigating.

Me? I’m taking my cash with me. I’ll need it to pay the Devil to turn on the air conditioning. Heh!

For my part, I probably shouldn’t have verbally slapped those kids around so much. On the other hand, as long as a Boomer said it, they didn’t want to listen to reason. Hopefully, they’ll learn. We need each other.


Working the street.

Busking.

A hard way to make a living. These days, in the music industry, distribution is king. Without that, you struggle with tours and merchandise sales. If you are working the street, you have none of that.

You have the music. You have a tip jar. And, maybe a few cheaply recorded CDs for sale.

Cheaply is an understatement. Just like digital photography, and auto photographers, everybody with a computer thinks that they can record and master music. Sure, there’s a few folks with passion and drive. For the most part, music recorded, mixed and mastered on a computer sounds like it. You really have to like the songs to listen to that poorly recorded sound.

Take a look at her. She’s got her violin. Her tip jar — well — wagon, and she’s waving a CD around. I admire her. That’s hard work.  It was cold that night. She’s wearing a glove on one hand. Yet, she’s smiling and chatting up anybody who’ll listen.

That’s what it takes.

Let’s bounce. Back to photography. You can have all the best gear. You can have all the learned technical skills. You can even make a good picture or two. Without that energy, passion and desire, you ain’t gonna make it.

Like a good musician, a photographer must woodshed. That means taking pictures when you aren’t traveling. When you aren’t getting paid. When you don’t feel like it. That’s how you get good. You work in all kinds of weather. You walk. You look. You make pictures. You work on them at home. You even keep the real losers so that you can learn from your mistakes.

Then, when you are traveling on your own. Or, when you have a paid assignment. The pictures come easily. They find you. You are ready. You’ve practiced. That’s one of the things “ten tips that will make you a great photographer,” never tell you. Work. Work. Work.

The picture. One of those French Quarter nights. Wandering around. Practicing. Looking for pictures. Not caring about showing them to anybody. Or, about money. Just working for the joy of it. Knowing me, I used a 16mm lens, set at f 4.0 and the shutter speed was maybe 1/30th of a second. Most is sharp, except for the CD she is waving around. That’s okay. Her face is sharp. That’s another thing. A picture like this one needs sharpness somewhere. It’s not like those whirly-burly things I photograph sometimes when everything is moving. That’s a whole other skill.

Questions? Please ask.