One night, lonely.

S

ometimes the pictures are better along the way rather than at the event I was going to.

I was going to photograph Krewe du Vieux which is one of the earliest parades of Carnival. The parade was as I expected, too crowded and nowhere to do work arounds. Oh yeah, with the exception of a few pools of light, everything was in shadows.

I made some okay pictures at the parade, but this was the best picture of the night. It’s prime French Quarter. It’s got a food store that mostly sells alcohol, a bike and a guy in a hoody waiting to do God knows what.

I think this was the beginning of Mardi Gras 2020, which means two months before we were blamed for holding a massive super spreader event before anybody knew what CoVid 19 could do.

It was so weird back then. In many ways, I’m glad I stayed out of the crowds as best I could. Which brings me to…

We’ve been watching a Netflix produced three season show called “Formula 1-1, Drive to Survive.” It’s a deep story about the story of Grand Prix drivers and the teams behind them. It’s very, very good.

We are into the third season. 2020. It took us right back to the confusion of the early days of the pandemic.

The first event starts in Australia, where the drivers and teams have just started hear about this new virus. They had no idea what to do.

Quick backstory. The drivers are great athletes. The train in all sorts of ways to handle the stress of driving a car at 200 mph without dying. They are smart as hell. And, they are personable.

Back to the story. One driver finds out that the virus is called Corona Virus. He walks over to a hospitality tent, pulls out a bunch of beers, hands them all around and he kiddingly says, “This will take care of it.” Corona Beer.

Anyway.

The first five events are cancelled. Everybody goes home. The first Grand Prix is held in Austria. Everything has changed. The teams are wearing masks. The drivers, who normally sign autographs with whatever pen they are given, tell their fans they can’t use other people’s pens.

Keep in mind, this is real life. There are no actors.

One more story.

In 2019, there is a heartbreaking accident. It starts out with Lewis Hamilton (at the time he was four time world champion and the face of Formula 1 Motorsports. He’s now six time champion and still the face of the sport.) He’s casually talking to some media and looking up at a monitor. He says, “Oh wow,” and stops the interview. His eyes were wide open.

There was a horrible accident. When Netflix didn’t show it, I knew. There was a fatality. A young driver racing in the Formula 2 category was killed.

The next scenes are heart rending. Drivers, like anyone who does something dangerous, are brothers. It doesn’t matter if they are normally competitors. They gathered on the track, in circle. They prayed. They shared stories about the driver. His helmet was on a stand. One by one they put their hands on it as they left to go to their cars.

Then, they drove as hard as they could.

Y’

all know what I’m going to say about this picture. There’s nothing to it. Except that I can hand hold a camera in available darkness.

You probably can’t.

One day I won’t be able to hand hold a camera at night. That might be now since I haven’t tried in a long time.

We’ll have to test that out one night.

But, not tonight.

I have other work to do since I slept on and off until 2:39 pm.

That’s what watching Netflix will do.

It was some start to my very busy schedule. I’ll start tonight and work tomorrow and catch up.

I think.

Let’s get back to the picture for a minute.

One of the reasons I learned to hand hold a camera is because of a theory called, “Shoot and scoot.”

That means if I keep moving there is a lesser chance of being mugged or killed for my photo gear and my wallet.

Think about it. Using a tripod forces me to stay in one place, maybe for too long. On the other hand, it could be used as a weapon if the timing was right.

I’d rather not need to do that.

So, I make a few pictures and move on. I tuck my camera under my shoulder so that in low light it’s not easily seen.

It’s worked for a long time.

Then, there’s the swagger theory.

It works this way. Working photographers sometimes develop a pretty good way of walking, like a swagger, but not. It works best, when you’ve got about a third of cigar in your mouth and are surrounded by smoke.

Nobody messes with that.


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.


Flambeaux portrait.

Flambeaux. New Orleans is steeped in traditions. I could go on forever, but let’s limit it to the subject at hand.

Once up on a time in the last century twice removed, many streets were not lighted. Black men lit the streets with flaming torches. They worked for tips. They made enough money that there were waiting lists to join the groups. The money was a good part of their income.

Today, there are still sort of informal waiting lists because they still make reasonable money from the tips as they walk the parade route. Of course, the price of tips went up.

The guy in the photograph pretty much posed for me. I gave him five dollars. He expected a good tip and I didn’t think twice.

Make no mistake, this is hot dirty work. Even though the torches have changed a lot and the fires are controlled and inspected by the fire department, the oil which a sort of a jelly, pops and crackles. It drips on the carrier.

Most people hand the tips directly to them, but some just toss coins on the street. Imagine holding the torch and stopping to pick up the money.

Then, there is the route. It’s about twelve miles long. Do you think that you could carry a hot, heavy torch for twelve miles? I’m pretty sure that I can’t carry it twelve feet.

Of course, this is a no parade year. These guys, along with many, many others, are losing a lot of money. Sometimes, there are different online events held to raise money for unemployed workers.

I doubt anybody thinks about these guys. Or, just about anybody who helps the parades roll. Hourly workers and contract workers don’t get paid.

Despite the creativity of many New Orleans people, somethings just won’t get done. This is one of them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Eat your spinach.

Night photography. I say that I made my career doing it.

After years of practicing night work I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

It’s really a matter of doing it over and over until the technique becomes second nature.

If you struggle to make picture, guys like this know it and walk away.

They would rather make money than stand around waiting for some photographer to figure out to take the picture.

These days, because of digital photography, night photography has gotten easier.

I usually set the ISO at auto because the camera’s light meter is far more accurate than the photographer picking an ISO.

My goal is to work at a shutter speed of 1/250th or higher. I don’t care about the f stop as long as I can make a good exposure.

Of course, the flames of the torches light up the immediate area so that proper exposures are easy to make.

The rest was done in post production. A strange thing happened to the subject.

The subject’s eyes are tack sharp. By the time WordPress compressed the image his eyes were made a little soft.

Aaarrrggg.


Late for the date.

Ten days on. If this were a sensible year we’d be off to see the Krewe of Barkus today. Sometimes the dogs come along. Sometimes they’d actually be entered officially.

But, there is no Krewe of Barkus this year. There are no Mardi Gras parades. Bourbon Street will be closed. Bars will be closed. They’ll be no fun on Mardi Gras Day this year.

There are the Yardi Gras houses, all dressed up like the floats we’ll be missing. There are things to see Uptown. There just won’t be any official Mardi Gras anything.

Some misguided posters on facebook — that is to say 95% of them — are saying there is no Mardi Gras this year.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Mardi Gras is the bridge between two Catholic holidays and it cannot be shut down. The popular celebrations can, as will the less popular costume balls. If you’ve got no floats that you’ve got no reason to hold a ball. Oh, yeah. There are indoor population and distancing limits as well.

I thought that I might chase Indians. According the ones that I know, they aren’t not even coming out in last years suits. I suppose that some will be around, but I’m not risking my health to find them.

Besides, according to an old friend of mine, we are the old wolfs now. We can sit back and let the puppies chase around.

Anyway, for the next ten days Ill be posting of Mardi Gras that you’ve never seen. I’ll tell you about the processing in the right hand column.

One more thing about tourists coming for Mardi Gras, we’ve been telling them not to come. Their general response has been, “But, there will still be fun things to do, right?”

There will be, but I’m not inviting you to my house.

I’m going to miss photographing Mardi Gras this year, especially since most of the pain I felt last year has come to a halt.

Before you ask, no I didn’t have my procedure on Thursday. There was a CoVid-19 scare at my hospital. I’ve been rescheduled for a couple of weeks from now.

No matter. I’ve got all these pictures from previous years to show you.

I did change my basic processing. I decided that if Mardi Gras was muted the least I could do was mute my color palette.

I also put frames around the pictures because this is supposed to be some kind of art statement, or something.

Anyway.

These band members were running a late for the parade. Their bus got hung up in traffic or in our narrow side streets. This happens every year. It’s part of the ritual.

And, speaking of rituals.

Stay Safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy Mardi Gras wherever you are.


Night ride home.

Night time is the right time. So, they say. I like working at night because of the mystery that is often added to the picture. I like it because I can hide imperfections in the scene or the picture. I also like it because I can make the scene more blue.

The color blue adds depth to blacks when you are using a commercial printing press like the ones that I used in Hong Kong and Singapore.

A photographer or designer can add blue to prints make them look cold as in a snow scene, to make skies look a perfect blue or to make a bloody red print lose its flatness and gain some contour and curve.

From a slightly scientific point of view blue was the last color to be found or created. In fact, it was last year — I think — when an entirely new shade of blue was discovered. That made the folks who make Crayons crazy.

As I recall, when Crayon made room for the new shade of blue, they removed two colors. The new shade of blue was added along with another color that was more modern.

That begs the question about color changes in the Crayon world. I wonder just how many versions of the box of 64 did the company made over the years.

Remember my friend who wants nothing to change once the virus is finally managed? I tried to tell him that the only constant is change.

Even the box of 64 Crayons changes over the years.

Deep blue. The color that I like. The color that I made. I should say the color that I enhanced.

When I made the picture, the sky was turning into dusk. That’s what the original frame looks like.

I helped it in post production. I made an already blue sky really blue, almost black.

That’s how I saw it in my mind’s eye when I pushed the button. The sky was darkening and the bare tree was illuminated from a low winter sun.

I cropped the picture into a square because there was just too much black dead space.

That’s what you are looking at.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look at all the blue.


Deep and dark.

Night. Moody, deep and dark. Sometimes scary. Always interesting. That’s one of my favorite times of day to work aside from the ends of the day.

Working at night means that you can hide some imperfections. You can build in the shadows. Pools of light become subjects in themselves. Trees often become silvery in the winter.

On the other hand, daytime photography assures you of a good exposure, especially if the light falls on the front of the subject. But, to my way of thinking, high noon daylight images are boring.

There I said it. Boring.

I started thinking about this when a friend said, in the comments, that my pictures are different. My writing above sort of explains why.

For many photographers my ways of working are just suggestions. For me, they are rules. I try to live by them religiously. That’s why some of you like what you see.

Sometimes this is an issue. I miss dinners, at least at traditional times. I get up too early, which means that I need a nap. Sometimes, I stay up too late chasing the night.

That’s all in a day’s work. I suppose. Everyone here is used to it, so it’s not a big deal. I’ll hear about it in no uncertain terms if it is.

I’ll explain how I made this image in the other column, where that stuff belongs.

Heh!

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your vaccine. Look after each other. Look up from the dirt to the stars.

Mystical trees. Or, something like that. The bigger this picture gets, the worse the trees look.

Oh well.

Perfection is for angels.

This is a layered picture. But all three scenes were made at the same time of day.

Trust me. I tried to cheat. It wouldn’t work.

So.

There is a base picture that doesn’t show up to your eye. It gives the sky depth. There is the sky and there are the trees. I think I reduced the mid-tones a little too much. If you are wondering, the mid-tones are in the trees.

Once the layers were assembled, I set to work tinkering. In this case tinkering means to balance out the layers so they don’t look like layers.

I added a touch of color, but that was it. Too much color and the picture turned atomic. Not enough and the picture became monochromatic.

Anyway.

That’s what I did.


Cold, cold heart.

Cold. Cold. Cold sky. It looks like a winter sky. It is a winter sky. I suppose that’s because it’s winter. I like winter. The air feels good to me. My energy rises as opposed to summer when I slink about in the shadows.

It looks we have another week of interesting events. Never in history has a president been impeached twice. Never has one been convicted in the Senate. It could happen if the House waits until we have a new president, and senate majority.

I think that enough Republicans have had enough that they will cross the aisle. Somewhere I read that they would not delay the House’s one day proceeding. We’ll see.

I know. I promised no more politics. But, a friend asked how are artists supposed to tune this stuff out and “stay in their lanes?” I dislike that phrase. Trust me. If you tell me to stay in my lane the first person I’m coming for is you. I’d rather not, but that’s up to you.

Besides, this is history. Once upon a time I documented its first draft. I may again.

The domestic terrorists are headed to each state capital. They’ve put the fear of God into New Orleans City Council. They are making plans if they come here even though we aren’t the state capital. Baton Rouge is.

All I have to say is don’t come to a blue city in the middle of a red state. Don’t do it. As Bob Dylan wrote, “I’m armed to the teeth and you won’t get out of here unscathed.”

Don’t try to start a civil war. As they say, “War is hell.”

Me? I prefer peace in all cases. Swear in a new president and let him do what he can to unify this country.

Doesn’t that sound like a better idea?

Well, doesn’t it?

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy the night.

Night time is the right time. Once upon a time I made my career working at night.

Now, not so much.

There is something about working at night that just makes pictures so much more interesting.

Night hides things. Night makes the scene so much more mysterious. Colors shift. Things turn spooky. If you like motion, subjects can streak, shimmer and shine.

And, so much more.

Ask if you want to know more. Ask if you want to learn some techniques of night photography.

They say you need a tripod if you work at night. They are probably right. But, because I work in some funky places, I have to shoot and scoot.

Or.

I could have ended up in the hospital or dead while my gear ended up in a pawn brokers shop.

You can hand hold your camera at night if you learn some bracing and steadying techniques. Once again, please ask if you want to know more.

This picture is hand held. The exposure is a little weird, but that’s because I was also holding the leash of a straining cocker spaniel.

Yes. The moon was very yellow that night.

Oh, I made this picture on the first or second night of my holiday hiatus. For what that’s worth.


All night.

Happy Thanksgiving. May y’all be blessed with the riches of the day whether you are lucky enough to be with family or happen to be alone.

During this weird pandemic year of 2020, some celebrations must be put aside so that we can celebrate in the future.

The word today on the socials is #gratitude. It’s a great word.

Think about what is good in your life. Simple things are often the best. For me, The words to an old Traveling Wilburys song popped into my head. “I’m just happy to be alive…” That line was sang by the late Tom Petty.

That was true for me in the late 1980s and early 1990s as it is today.

There are plenty of other things to be grateful for, but that is the most basic need.

And, you? What are you grateful for?

Don’t ask me. I have no idea why when I add certain borders to a picture it goes crazy.

This started out as a simple night photograph. Then, blammo.

There is no technique that I can tell you about. There is no trick to this. I just added a border.

I’ve been looking for a little magic. I guess I got some.

Happy Thanksgiving. Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Stay home. Enjoy all the cranberry sauce.


No choice.

There was no choice. If I was going to continue to photograph trees I had to do something different. So I went out at night. More about technique in the right hand column.

Let’s talk about the Coronavirus. We who live in Louisiana are in a hot spot. Luckily, New Orleans is will under the minimal acceptable percentage of Infected people v total population.

That number is 0.05%. We are at 0.015% That’s the good news. The bad news is that infections per capita are rising in NOLA.

The governor closed a lot of service businesses, or at least returned to the old phase two numbers. If we are forced to do this in New Orleans it may just about kill the city.

We are a city of small businesses. When I first arrived here, there were mom and pop grocery stores seemingly on every other corner. That’s changed. I’m not sure how many are left. Very few, I think.

New Orleans always recovers. For the most part we came back from the damage caused by Hurricane. I say for the most part because the poorest areas of town, like the Lower 9th Ward are still in shambles.

We’ve come back from other hurricanes, fires that burned most of The French Quarter when it was the city.

We’ve come back from other pandemics.

But, this one could hurt us. I wonder how the new gentrifiers are going to react. They don’t have the stubbornness and creativity of people who are from here, or have been here for a long while.

When the pandemic is finally managed to a point where we can live with it will they say the hell with it and just leave?

I have no idea.

I wouldn’t leave. Where are you going to go? While it’s true that we are seriously talking about leaving it has nothing to do with fleeing.

It may just be time.

Night time is the right time, so the song goes. I’ve made a big part of my career by working at night.

I’m in a photographic draught. My normal routines and techniques for breaking that don’t work.

A friend of mine said in an email that we are in a general malaise because of the virus, the politics of the country and maybe even fear of climate change.

I’m fairly sure that normally he is a Republican and is certainly more conservative than I. Even he is happy with the presidential change.

That may help free me.

But, I have to do something. So I took a short walk in the early evening.

I made this picture of a tree at night. It is illuminated by a streetlight.

It wasn’t hard to do. I sat on a park bench and hand held the phone. I’ve been getting away with that for years.

So. Nighttime in New Orleans.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy every bit of turkey.