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.

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Music everywhere.

Music.

I said it before. I’ll say it again.

New Orleans is a musical place. It’s often likely that you can hear music as you are passing by a street corner, as I was when I made this picture, that is equal to the sounds you hear in many clubs.

Sometimes, the guys on the street are warming up for their club appearance. Sometimes, they don’t have a gig, but they just feel like playing. They want a little audience and whatever you toss in their tip cup might pay for a meal or a couple of beers. Doesn’t matter to them. They are going to work eventually.

On the other hand, some of the street musicians really are paying their bills by playing on the street. Many of them are quite good. They could play on paying gigs, but they make a lot of money on the streets. One makes enough money to buy a house and car. You know, the markers of a successful life. Or, not.

Anyway.

As you know, I haven’t been in the mood to work much.  Part of it is caused by my health issues. Part of it is just kind of being bored with what and where I work. But, I’ve got a couple of ideas now. Let’s see what I make of them.

One more thing. I owe a couple of you some well thought out replies. I’m a little upside down in time, but I promise I’ll get to them.


Motion on Royal Street.

All motion.

For years I made a career out of pictures like this one. Motion. Movement. Energy. It wasn’t hard to do. About 1/4 second at f/5.6 and I’d make a picture likes this one. But, that was the film days.

When digital photography came into being sharpness was everything. That’s why mega pixels became a big marking tool. That’s why faster and bigger lenses became a thing. That trend continues today. I switched to mirrorless cameras because I liked their small size. The first lenses were small too.

Today? Not so much.

Lenses are huge. They are fast. They are sharp. But, they defeat my purpose for switching to mirrorless bodies. I want small. I want unobtrusiveness. I want to blend in with the people around me. For me, bigger is not better.

Anyway.

It’s been a long week. I’ll leave you with that.


Seeing everything.

Reflections.

Sometimes they are simply a technique. Sometimes you see them. Sometimes you use them. Like I did here.

I like the picture in the mirror just fine. But, that’s not why I was looking at it. There’s a car coming. In front of that, there is a mule drawn carriage. I didn’t want to hit either of them. I also want to know if anybody is walking on that side. Good guy or bad guy, I want to know how to react.

Good guy because people walk all over the streets of the French Quarter. Bad guy because there are all sorts of car thefts, high jackings and robbery, done in the streets. Forewarned is forearmed.

Anyway.

All was clear except for the car and the carriage, so I waited by photographing what I saw. Since I mostly use wide angle lenses I kept the background and foreground scenes in the picture. A little context for you and me.

And, that’s the story.


Once upon a French Quarter parade.

This isn’t that.

I was going to talk about New Orleans culture, but a fire got in the way. You know where. In Paris. France. Notre Dame burned. Early on, it looked like it might be a total loss. Now, we know it’s not. Already 400,000,000 Euros have been pledged to its rebuilding.

Just as important, after reading a long comment from a researcher who studies Notre Dame as well as other Gothic structures throughout Europe, I know that there is a cycle of boom and bust for the cathedral. For instance, the steeple that fell was built in the 19th Century. At one point, it was derelict and restored. Of course, the medieval wood is mostly gone, and the roof is cinders, but most of the art is safe. The walls are safe. And, the bell towers are intact.

It likely will be rebuilt again. In 100 years, people will be talking about the fire of 2019 while they are looking at it.

However, yesterday’s sadness was about more than the burning of what amounts to a Catholic Church. 856 year years of history was being stripped away. The heart of a city was burning. Art that should never die, was thought to be dying.

The core of the matter was something was burning. In many ways, the fire was a symbol for the past few years of upheaval and violence. For, the nasty turn to the right-wing. For the hatred of people not like ourselves. And, something even more than that. I cannot put my finger on it. But, it hurt. And, it scared me.

It may be because I live in a French city. After all, New Orleans was founded by the French. True. The French Quarter actually looks Spanish. That’s because when the city burned for the last time, it was the property of the Spanish who rebuilt it in their architectural style. But they city was split, for a time between The French and The Americans. That’s what Canal Street is about. The middle of the neutral ground was the boundary between the two countries.

Never-the-less, I feel better today knowing what’s left and what’s to come. What’s to come is elastic and flexible. Something we all need to be if we are going to make our way through the challenges of the future.

The picture. That’s what you really came for, yes? It’s a parade through the French Quarter. I chose to leave it even after the terrible news of yesterday. After all, that’s what we in New Orleans are about. This is one of those F8 and be there pictures. Except it was more like f 2.8 and I almost got run over. More than once or twice. Oh well. Whatever it takes, right?

 


Leading the band.

Knowing everything about Mardi Gras.

Impossible.

I explained to you that Mardi Gras is layered. Most people who come to town for the parades and Mardi Gras Day don’t really know how much is going on beyond what they see in the streets.

I tried telling a friend of mine that very thing on Facebook and he couldn’t understand. He’s a smart guy. A good journalist. He lives in Indiana, so maybe I should have known better.

Then comes today.

A friend of mine — a local who is very in tune with the city — sent me a text. Could he call me if we were awake? Sure. He wanted to know how he and his wife should dress for a ball tonight. They were invited at the last-minute. Aside from the big dances that are held after many parades, I didn’t even know that there were any balls this late in the season.

I asked him a few questions and I found that I really wasn’t sure how to advise him. Some krewes throw very formal balls. As I wrote earlier, I dress in evening wear. Sometimes. That means tuxedos are appropriate. Other balls require that you fully mask, but in something much better than you’d wear on the streets.

It just depends.

Since I didn’t know the group hosting the ball I was fairly useless. But, I told him that my feeling for most balls is that you can’t be overdressed. On the other hand, if he needs a tux this morning for tonight, good luck.

Because.

Around here, once we get into a holiday bubble this close to the big day, you may or may not even have a phone call returned. At this point, if I’m working with an out of town client, I tell them to consider me on holiday until Wednesday. They remind me that in other parts of the country and world Mardi Gras Tuesday is just another business day called Tuesday. And, I reply, “lucky me.”

The picture. Marching bands and me. I really like them. They make a parade wonderful. The drum major is warming up the tuba section prior to rolling. They were about ten minutes from start time so he had to keep them warmed up and in focus without harming their energy. It’s amazing how well a young teenage man knows how to do it. It’s instinctual and yet, it’s well-practiced. These young men and women work as hard as any athlete. Many are in better shape than their sporting brothers and sisters. Often they are working towards college scholarships, just like a sporting competitor.


Into the night

Another super moon.

I thought these things only happened every so many years. We seem to be having them every few months these days. I’m sure it has to do with the angle of the earth’s rotation, but still.

Not everything has to be super. To me, this is just a big clear moon. I’ve been tracking its rise for a week or so. I’m lucky that I did. Full clouds tonight, from any number of locations. That, and big winds and storms. Another storm blanketing more snow on most of the northern states.

So.

We seem to live in the age of big descriptive adjectives. Everything is bigger and better. I read something about a band. Apparently, their P.R. folks wrote it. By the time I was done reading I was convinced they were bigger and better than The Beatles.

I never heard of them until I read that copy.

Granted, I’m old school, but tell me about them in simple terms, post a link to some of their music and let me decide. Maybe they are the best thing since The Beatles.

Speaking of music, I suppose letting me hear new music (to me) is one reason that I like Spotify. They release something called Discover Weekly. No comments. Just about twenty or so songs. Save what you like. Explore the band’s music. Forget the rest.

And speaking of technology, why oh why does this happen? It’s only Google. One day, I’m humming along. Everything opens and closes fine. Everything is fast. Everything works. At night I put my machine to sleep. All good.

The next day.

Nothing wants to open. Google freezes. Rebooting Google won’t help. By then, it’s starting to affect the computer because it’s slowing everything down. That requires a computer reboot. Apple computers take forever to do that. That lengthens my work day. Oh, and it drops my homepage layover.

It’s always something.

The picture. As I mentioned, I’ve been following this moon for at least a week. It’s fairly simple. See it. Frame it with something that gives it context. Make as many pictures as you need to find the right balance of sharpness. A shutter speed of about 500th/sec and about an f-stop of about f8 does it for me. Somewhere in there. Because. You want to freeze the moon’s motion. And, you want some depth of field. That’s hand-held (in a pinch) or on a tripod (ideal). I’m always working in a pinch.

There is some post production going on. Mostly to bring you to what I saw at the time, with the sun just below the horizon line.

That’s it.

If you’re in a place to chase the moon tonight, have fun.

 

 

 


They said it would come.

The big, huge moon.

I made the picture earlier in the night because I knew that I would have no position to make it when it turned red and wolfish. I usually don’t chase these events down, but I had to. I needed to cheer myself up.

Because. The NFL playoffs were yesterday. If you recall, I said that it didn’t matter who won. I was raised in Los Angeles and live in New Orleans. Those two teams were playing.

Man. Was I wrong.

I started watching the pregame ceremony. I watched Jimmy Buffett sing The National Anthem. Memories started flooding into my head, my heart, my soul.

I remembered moving here. I thought about how I left with Hurricane Katrina hot on our heels. And, how we came back year after year for various events. I finally couldn’t stand it. It took awhile, but we finally returned. That was hard work. We’ve been back for seven years. I may complain about the swamp, but for better or worse, this place is home. We have another house in the north. We go there to work. That’s about it.

I began to root for the Saints. It was a back and forth game towards the end, when they mounted a drive. A Ram defender committed two major penalties — pass interference and helmet to helmet contact — which would have put the Saints in scoring position. The referee didn’t see it. He claimed. That ended the drive. The game went into overtime. The Saints lost.

The city is angry, disgusted and sad. Probably about half the city was drunk. And, not in a good way.

It gets worse. It always does.

The NFL headquarters called Saints head coach Sean Payton to tell him that the referees blew it. They knew it. The twitterverse exploded. People who don’t normally watch football were howling. A NOLA.com writer who I like reading said that her feed was covered in “f-bombs.” Her husband is one of the lead sports writers who covered the game. He was angry.

Maybe officiating will change. It’s been marginal all year. We’ll see.

I needed to take a walk. Clear my head. The all-seeing dog came with me. A guy wearing a Saints jersey said hi and growled at me. He wasn’t happy. I decided to try to stay away from people. The all-seeing dog is very cute. She can’t go anywhere without somebody wanting to pet her. She was fine just walking with me. Mr. Grumpy. I didn’t want to run into other grumpies.

We turned a corner. Oh my God. That big, giant moon was staring right at me. I made pictures. I did some post production, mostly to clean up the file. This is it.

Seeing the moon and being able to photograph it, helped a lot. Seeing nature like that was stunning. Making a picture is always good medicine. I’m still not exactly happy about the game. But, I’m much better.

It’s hard to explain the team’s relationship with the city. It’s not like most other cities. The Saints were terrible for about 40 years of their existence. They were nicknamed, “The Aints.” People went to games wearing paper bags over their heads. Still, they went.

Along came Hurricane Katrina. The first year during the city’s recovery, they played all road games. Sure, they had home field designations, but they played at LSU, they played a bunch of games in San Antonio, Texas. Sometimes they played at another team’s stadium, but played as the home team.

They didn’t do well.

They started rebuilding. They hired Coach Payton. The signed quarterback Drew Brees. In 2006, they opened the newly rebuilt Superdome against their arch enemies, the Atlanta Falcons. They won. In dramatic fashion with a blocked punt and a score. I remember sitting on our couch in New Mexico, with tears streaming down my face. I didn’t think I would get to see that. When they won the Superbowl in 2009, the same thing happened.

The football team is so wrapped around the city’s recovery that I doubt the two could be separated. New Orleans people are that way. That loyal. Recovery and the Saints go hand in hand.

That’s why today was so painful. The team is great. The players are generous to each other and to the city. We didn’t deserve this.

One more thing. I not a sour grapes guy. If I play hard and win, great. If I lose, I learn and move on. I don’t blame others. This time it’s different. Luckily, the moon was there to help me through it.


Natural experiment.

A natural mood.

An attempt by me to do two things. Or, three.

It’s cold in the swamp today. It was cold and extremely windy last night. That’s what this art is about. You’ve got the bare tree. The kind you see in winter. You’ve got a monochromatic picture because yesterday everything was gray and muddy. Finally, the post production brings you to ice. It covers everything.

No.

We don’t have ice. It is a symbol for winter. The winter that many of you are digging through right now.

I’m trying to stay away from weather pictures. Unless you are very lucky and in the right place, at the right time, weather pictures start looking the same. I wasn’t even going to make pictures yesterday, but I felt the calling. Still, without a lot of help, they looked the same as pictures I made last year. They year before that and…

That’s where all the heavy post production came in.

When I do this sort of stuff, I work until I’ve gone too far, saving versions along the way. When my brain clicks in and I realize that I’ve gone over the top, I save the picture. I go back one version and there it is. The picture of my senses.

That’s the story.

I have a comment about yesterday’s news and those “good” Catholic school boys doing their best to intimidate a Native American Vietnam Vet. I don’t know if it’s because our so-called president has made it okay to be as nasty as you want to be to people who aren’t like you, or if it’s something else. When did it become okay to do something like that? I assume because they attend a Catholic school that they have learned a simple question. “What would Jesus do?” They should think about that and do it.

My take is simple. First transparency. I’m Catholic. I’m not much of one these days. I attended Catholic school from the first grade until I graduated from high school. We were taught by nuns, brothers and priests. I’m pretty sure that if I was in those pictures and videos, the nuns would have cracked my knuckles with a yardstick until they bled. I’m not much for corporal punishment. Even the dogs don’t get yelled at around here. In this case, let me hit them with a yardstick.

That said, I stand with my Native American brother. Yes. I know his name. But, it’s policy of Storyteller not to publish names unless I have permission. I believe that everybody in the pictures and videos should be expelled. That’ll about kill their chances of ever getting into a good university or college. Good. Their lives should be spent saying, “would you like fries with that?” Once that is done, the entire staff of the school should resign. Obviously, they haven’t done their jobs. They can join the boys at the hamburger factory.

Yes. I believe in second chances. I believe in redemption.  After a suitable time, they all should be welcomed back. Maybe fifteen or twenty years.

I never get this angry. This kind of anger isn’t good for anyone. Me. The person with whom I’m angry. The world. But, this was just too much.

Sorry if I offended anybody. At least I didn’t curse a blue streak.