In the air.

A

brand new picture. Imagine that. I went for a walk when the light was right and I started having fun. I just kept making pictures until I was finished, which took a while. I think that I wanted to take the long way home as they say.

The funny thing was that the more I saw, the more I saw.

I think my problem isn’t not being able to see. It’s feeling trapped in place by the current circumstances. I don’t like to be stuck anywhere unless I want to be. It’s one thing being stuck in New Orleans. It’s another to be stuck on St. Barts.

It’s also one thing to know that almost everybody thinks that the pandemic is over when it has years to go and that too many of them aren’t taking any kind of precautions thinking that they are protected by the vaccinations. To a certain extent they are, but there are enough breakthrough infections to make me wonder a little bit

In my case, that doesn’t matter. I isolate myself or I run the risk of dying. So, as I write I’m talking to the Shipt buyer. Because of me, everybody in the house likes not having to go grocery shopping. Don’t get me wrong, they like buying specialty items at a farmers market or a fruit stand. They like going to Hong Kong, the Asian grocery store, not the city.

One of the things that I’ve come to understand is that the pandemic made a lot of us think about how we do things. We don’t always have to be some place to work. We don’t have to travel across the country to have an hour meeting. We’ve managed to find and cut out a lot of BS factors.

On the other hand, shopping from home for bigger products has put a huge stress on the logistics chains, to which most people never gave a second thought. There are ships and containers stacked up at every major port city. In China, or other ports in Asia, there aren’t enough containers or ships to move new product.

This is a pandemic which keeps on giving in ways that never occurred to us. I’m sure that there will be more.

A quick change. When it comes to photo technique I keep writing the same things. Unless I do something out of the ordinary, I’m not going to divide the columns.


Evening glow.

T

his post was inspired by a band called Ranky Tanky. They are a Gullah band from the Lowcountry area of South Carolina.

They play a kind of country jazz. I’m always amazed at how many of their songs I know. Songs that were covered by The Rolling Stones and Little Feat. The good news is that both bands always acknowledged their musical roots.

Roots. I think that knowing who’s shoulders you are standing on. That’s another little piece of Storyteller. I haven’t talked about my inspirations in a good long while. (Let’s see if I can write that anymore Southern.)

Maybe I should start doing that again. Whaddya think? I can write about particular artists, or photographers or musicians to authors.

Let me just say that there are only a few photographers who inspire me. Most of them are old now. But, artists and musicians? You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting them. (Southernism number two.)

I wonder why that is.

S

ometimes things that look easy to do are a lot harder than we think.

This picture is an example of that.

It’s a time exposure made on my smart phone. Easy enough, right?

Sure. If you don’t care about the highlights or the deep shadows.

I did everything I could to keep those areas intact. I failed. Either one or the other had to go.

So, I kept the highlights and let the shadows go dark. I tried to hold the shadows, but they lost way too much contrast.

I did the best that I could, which wasn’t enough.

That’ll happen sometimes.


All of the mysteries.

T

iming. It’s everything. Look in one direction and you see nothing. Turn around and there’s the picture. Make some great music and nobody hears it unless the timing is right. Play sports, maybe baseball. The difference between striking out and hitting a home run is timing.

You get the point.

This picture is a great example of timing. I was trying every which way to get under the wires to get some of the orange cloud into the picture. I couldn’t do it.

I turned to the side and thought, “There is a picture here after all.” This one. The one you are looking at.

Here’s an extreme example of timing. As you know, I can’t be in crowds. That means I can’t photograph second lines. Normally. I start at the beginning, walk a good bit with the parade. Then, I get back to my car and jump to the end.

If I had been out on Sunday, I could have been way too near a shooting that left one dead and one critically injured. I’m pretty sure it was gang related. For sure, it was Black on Black.

That, alone, makes me sad.

But, a misfired bullet in the air doesn’t see color. It just zooms through the air hitting whatever it comes in contact with. It would be one thing if these boneheads could actually shoot. But, they can’t. They spray bullets everywhere trying to hit the one poor guy they are after.

Think about it.

I was on the corner of St. Bernard Avenue and St. Claude on one Mother’s Day a few years back when two fools started shooting into the crowd in order to hit their target. They didn’t hit him, but they did hit a lot of innocent people.

They hit my friend, and just about everybody’s friend, “Big Red” Deb Cotton in the stomach. That may be the worst survivable wound. She survived, but after years of painful surgeries, she died.

Murders are up by 24% in New Orleans. Gun deaths are the highest they’ve ever been in the city.

A

fter I saw the picture I did everything I could to avoid those power lines, but I couldn’t.

It’s ironic. If I photographed this scene about a month earlier those lines wouldn’t have been in the way. They’d have been in the street.

My biggest trick was to darken the entire picture to bring the color out. I did add some soft glow because I like it.

If I left the picture horizontal there would have been way too much black. The color would have receded into the scene. So, I cropped it.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of square pictures. Obviously, I use them when the situation calls for it.

Nothing is set in cement. Photographic rules should be learned and understood so that you can break them when your work calls for it.

I suppose that’s the same with most rules. Live by them until something goes way south. Then, do what you have to do.

Hopefully, it will be subtle and peaceful.

Unlike this photograph.


In the air tonight.

W

ell, maybe. I’m referring to the title. After I made yesterday’s picture I got excited and went back out to see what I could see.

I saw the picture you are seeing. Unfortunately, I mostly made vertical images. When I finally saw the totality of the photograph I realized a radical crop was in order.

That’s the version you are seeing.

I just like it’s depth and it feels like I am looking up towards infinity. And, if this pandemic keeps surging it could be a place that a lot of us see for ourselves. Hopefully not.

Which brings me to this. Turn off the news,, all of it. Well, except for sports where I want watch baseball and Formula One racing.

If we continue watching the news at this time in history we will go off the deepest end. There is too much going on, most of it really bad.

This may mean that you ditch social media because everybody and their brother just has to comment on some news item and 2,870,145 other people pile on.

You can’t even get into a discussion about nature without some bonehead jumping in. It goes like this. Comment: “The sky is blue.” Reply: “Well, Biden sucks.”

Enough.

Go hide out for the weekend. Everything will feel better next week.

P

retty soon you are going to give up on me. I keep making pictures that do not require tricky postproduction unless you are feeling particularly crafty.

Once again, all I really did was see it, shoot it.

Expose for the lightest part of the scene and the darkest part will get even darker.

Make it darker in post if you need to. But, it would be better to learn how to make a proper exposure and not need to.

In order to do that, you might want to turn off every automatic function on your camera. Learn how to set the controls after taking just a light reading.

Because.

I have a t-shirt that says, “Everybody is a photographer until…” and an arrow points to the control setting for aperture and shutter speed.

Don’t be one of those everybodies.


Sunset in New Mexico.

T

his testing isn’t easy. There are tricks and traps everywhere. I found a way to change type color.

“Ah ha!,” I thought.

Wrong again. Even though WordPress says it’s block, Tag Clouds are not. You can’t anything to them except remove them once they are applied. I suppose there is a way to change color, but pretty soon I’ll do what I always do and give up.

There are general settings, but I’m pretty sure that if a change one color of type I’ll change them all. That’s not a solution.

There is good news with tag clouds. Just as I suspected, if you press a tag you are taken to similar pages.

Of course, the one I tried took me to a page that is at least nine years old. That would be good for some of you who have just joined Storyteller.

It’s a start, I suppose.

A few other posts that you might enjoy.

Why Would You Wait?


A brand new picture. Imagine that. I went for a walk when the light was right and I started having fun. I just kept making pictures until I was finished, which took a while. I think that I wanted to take the long way home as they say. The funny thing was that the more […]

Anyway The Wind Blows


T ransitions between dark and light, the end of the day and daylight is what I look for. Sometimes I’ll wait for that time rather than burn myself out shooting daylight pictures which I’ll never even look at after the fact. It’s the light. It always the light. For me transitional light is the best […]

Been In The Storm


T his post was inspired by a band called Ranky Tanky. They are a Gullah band from the Lowcountry area of South Carolina. They play a kind of country jazz. I’m always amazed at how many of their songs I know. Songs that were covered by The Rolling Stones and Little Feat. The good news […]

L

ost in New Mexico. Not really, those mountains are the Sandias and I’m in Albuquerque.

I made two good pictures while I was on I-25. For some reason — likely my normal lazy state — I never did anything with this one.

So, y’all are seeing it first.

The other one.

Above is the other good picture I made while I was driving in my car.

Photographer’s luck, that I even made these two pictures, but also that I didn’t die in a fiery crash.


One night, long ago.

M

y thoughts brought me to a couple of places. As events start to close down I’ve been thinking about anniversaries.

This picture of a flambeaux during Mardi Gras is a great example of that.

It’s just a picture, right?

Maybe.

To me it means a lot. I was suffering during Mardi Gras 2020. I was at the peak of my back pain which was transmitting even more pain to my right knee. I walked up Jefferson Street to my usual pre-parade stop, CC’s.

The flambeaux were lining up. I stuck my camera through the line and made this picture.

I gave up. Thee pain was too much. I limped back to my car with a couple of stops along the way.

This picture is important. It was my last serious photograph before the pandemic forced the lockdown.

For sure, I’ve been making little pictures on dog walks and my own walks. But, I haven’t made a serious picture since February, 2020.

My doctor thought I was depressed. Well, gee…

I

have a theory. When something goes south, just about everything else goes to hell.

I knew it a long time ago. I know it now.

This week is four days old.

We lost Jazzfest. We lost the red dress run. We lost Action Jackson. We lost Rosy Guste.

All of that happened during our fourth CoVid-19 surge. The national infections are now just about 130,000 infections a day. Our hospitals are jammed. The two big hospitals in Baton Rouge are filled. They literally cannot take more patients.

Louisiana and the rest of the country are headed south. All manner of smaller bad things are starting to happen. What’s next?

Y

ou just never know. That’s what Action Jackson said to me when we first met.

He was right. Maybe more than he knew.

When you photograph second lines every Sunday to get to know many people.

Photographers cluster together and chat. We get to know each other. We are happy to see each other.

One photographer was Roy Guste. I knew him as a photographer. Once, when his car was broken down I gave him a ride.

There was more to him.

He studied cooking at Cordon Bleu. He was the proprietor of one of our famous old restaurants as his dad was before him. He wrote ten books about our food, traditions and cooking.

He was very well known to the food culture of New Orleans.

I never knew. I wonder how many of the photographers on the line knew.

Roy Guste died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

RIP.


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.