Daybreaks.

S

ometimes it pays to cover old ground. One day I drove out to an odd section of the Ninth Ward.

I parked as close to the levee as i could get and walked into the neighborhood which is known as Holy Cross. I saw the wonderful light and stopped.

I made about three frames and moved on.

Then, I stopped for coffee at a favorite place that was just coming back after a lot of years following Hurricane Katrina.

Sure enough, I ran into a couple of folks that I know. We started talking. We mostly talked about what happened in the years following the storm.

Then, nothing.

Our lives had changed so much that we had nothing to say. How could we relate to each other’s stories?

We tried.

One of us suggested that we meet for a meal soon. I mumbled something about we’ll see and I will be out of town from September though mid-December.

The last part is true. Maybe. If the virus doesn’t do what a lot of scientists and doctors said it will, which is to explode into the worst surge yet with some 300,000 people getting sick per day.

Most of them doubt that we can stop this by getting vaccinated late in the game. I guess that’s another we’ll see.

It may be worse for me and mine. We live in a blue city that lies within a red state. Apparently, New Orleans has reached very near to the 70% threshold. The rest of the state is down in the low to mid-thirties.

Most of Louisiana follows the rest of the south. Mississippi and Alabama have even lower numbers than we do. As I recall, only Virginia has anywhere near the numbers we need to manage the virus.

I suspect that Virginia’s numbers are good because of the Beltway and all the people in the northern region of the state.

My very elderly neighbors may be proven right. There is no lost cause. There is just a continuation of the Civil War and the South shall rise — or sink — again.

T

he technique is simple. Wait for the right light. Be patient and wait.

Or, you can be like me and just get lucky.

That’s photographer’s luck. Luck that you make just by going out and roaming around.

I have a friend who is very frustrated. He lives near Tampa, a place where is so much to photograph. He mostly makes pictures of sunsets.

I don’t know why he limits himself. He doesn’t either.

That’s not the frustrating part for him. He and his wife are cruisers. Most countries aren’t allowing people from certain other countries in their borders.

That means no, or very limited, cruise ships.

He thinks he has to sail to Italy, spend a few days photographing whatever else does and move on to — oh, I don’t know — Spain and do the same thing.

That would be great if he found the places that tourists don’t go, but he doesn’t.

What’s the point?

Sheesh.

In Tampa there’s Ybor City. It isn’t as funky as it used to be, but there’s still good stuff to photograph.

Photograph it. Dammit.

That’s my technical discussion for today. Go take a picture of some stuff. Good stuff.


New Mexican delight.

D

ream or nightmare, you tell me. I’m going with nightmare and I’ll tell you why. You know that I post most of my tales the afternoon before the publishing date.

I sat down at 1 pm to start editing the picture. It is now 5:43 pm. The computer just gave me hell when the night previous, it was smooth and fast. It wouldn’t load. Every app gave me a hard time.

I finally rebooted the computer and that took three tries. OnOne took four tries to load. WordPress, for once, worked as as expected.

I don’t understand what happened. Apple suggests that you put the computer to sleep for extended periods of non use. I did that.

Apple says this because it takes a good 30 minutes to reboot from a cold start. Even when it is finished, apps don’t respond very quickly.

It could be the age of the computer. But, I’ll tell you this. We bought a refurbed Hewlett Packard Windows 10 computer just as a test. It runs smoother and faster than my main machine ever ran.

Here’s what happened. While Apple was making smartphones and watches, they weren’t paying attention to what should be their core product, computers. They made tiny, incremental changes while Windows products were getting better by leaps and bounds.

The latest iMacs reflect that trend. There is a new chip. But, the really big deal, apparently, is now they come in about five colors. Like that’ll help.

There is a new iMac coming out sometime soon. That’s supposed to have the big upgrades. We’ll see. It probably means five more colors.

Along with my change of blogging location I might as well just switch to a Windows product. After all, Windows 11 is supposed to look like an Apple desktop.

I probably won’t notice the difference except it’ll be much faster.

T

here is a lot of manipulating and technical work that went into this photographic piece of art.

The original picture is simple. It’s an old blue Chevy pickup truck parked in front of an abode building.

I started tinkering with it. Slowly at first, then I went a little crazy.

It may seem like I did everything possible to it. I stopped just before that. But, honestly, I do not remember adding that film strip to the bottom of it.

I must have been in a fine frenzy.

Whatever happened, is the result of going out of my mind. But, not knowing it at the time.

And, here’s more technical nonsense just in case you haven’t had enough.

We’ve decided to not pay so much to cool the house during a normal Southeast Louisiana summer.

The electric bills can be outrageous.

So, we set the thermostat to 75 degrees.

I’m freezing.

Maybe my thermostat is broken.

Sheesh. It’s always something.


Sandias in autumn.

The changes started with the album, “Dirt and the Stars.” The entire thing hung me up, but the closing song of the same title got me digging around in my past, coming to a kind of reckoning.

That’s not done yet.

Then, we watched “Solos” on Amazon Prime. As I wrote to a friend of mine, “If you do nothing else, watch this.” I say that to you as well.

It’s a short series of solo actors, although there may be a little helper to guide them through their thoughts. The actors are some of the best working today.

The first episode is a little weird, but catchy.

The second episode took me apart piece by piece. Finally, now comes Morgan Freeman. Not only was I taken apart, but the parts were left in puddles.

That’s all I’m saying. I hope you watch it. If you do, I don’t want to spoil any part of it for you.

I know I said I was done with posting older pictures, but this one surfaced at about the same time as all this reckoning is going on.

This is the very first picture that I ever took with a cellphone. It was an Apple iPhone 5. It must have been because the pixel count is so low.

Even though I claim to always carry a camera, there are times when I’m charging batteries and I just need to run a couple of errands.

Then this happens. The Sandias blew up in color as dusk fell on the high desert.

The rest is on the other side.

There is really no technical achievement here even though it is my first smart phone photograph.

I did beef everything up because the little file is pretty wimpy.

I know what you are thinking. You are incorrect. This intense color was what inspired me to think, “Oh yeah, I have a smart phone in my pocket.”

Truth be told about the location… I’m in a Whole Foods parking lot in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

There are pictures everywhere, we just have to open our eyes and not make them so precious.


Too early for me.

The thing about going to bed early means that I awake too early. I mostly sleep around six hours a night. You can do the math. If I go to bed around 11 pm, well, you know.

It’s a little maddening. It means that I haven’t gotten quite enough sleep. It also means that I usually need a nap. In the morning.

Of course, the dogs hear me moving around even if everybody else doesn’t. They want to go out. That would be fine if all they wanted to do was empty themselves, but oh no, they want to go for a walk.

Today it was just the all seeing dog. Big dreamer. We walked about a third of our usual walk and she turned around and headed for home. She drank some water and went back to bed.

Uh huh.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Large venues are starting to open to full capacity. Don’t go to them. I predict another surge. Many of the newly sick will be Texas Ranger or Atlanta Braves fans.

I’m not a big sunset or sunrise photographer. I know that each one is a little different, but they all look the same to me.

I’d rather photograph what they illuminate, or at least stick something in the foreground. That’s what I did here.

Of course, looking into the sun I couldn’t quite see what I was photographing.

There was a bunch of junk in the bottom area. I cropped that out.

I also added some bokeh mostly because I could and to hide a couple of imperfections that came from looking into the sun.

It might not sound like it, but there are a lot of tricks to the trade buried in those few paragraphs.


Narrow way.

Dusk is one of my favorite working hours. The blues are powerful yet quiet. Other colors just seem to pop in the sky. Whatever light left in the sky glows.

It’s nature at her best. It’s a time in the day when the worries and stress of the daylight hours seem to melt away. In addition to being a time when I like to work, it is a favorite of many photographers.

Most of us start our end of the day work during early golden hour and continue on into the night, stopping when there is no reflective light in the sky. When the sky is black, unless you are in a pre-planned location with a tripod, the scene is usually too dark.

Working during the blue hour helps out in other ways. It adds mystery. It adds subtleness. It hides location problems that couldn’t be solved by moving to another shooting spot.

There was a time in my career that I made my living with blue hour pictures, with or without motion. Those days seem so long ago and far away that I wonder if I’ll ever get back to them.

In fact, I wonder if I’ll ever make much money from my photo career. The business isn’t on sound footing anymore. There are many reasons for this. Start with CoVid-19 and work back from there. Too many people are taking pictures for not enough money. I still have my corporate clients and once they are sure that advertising or marketing makes sense after this long layoff, I might find a little work. Who knows?

And, so it goes.

Orange and blue. Two very good contrasting colors that seem to always compliment each other. The colors of the New York Mets, which doesn’t matter to me because I follow the other New York baseball team.

Even though I was able to make this picture in the field, it needed some help in post production. Well, a lot of help. You can see that in he tree where the green bleeds into the blue of the sky.

Oh well. That’ll happen sometimes.

I mostly like the picture because it proves I can still see as the light gets lower and lower and…

You know what I wrote in the left hand column about low dusk light hiding imperfections? It also hides a lot of detail from me. Sometimes, I just make pictures because I think I know what’s there.

And, so that goes too.


Sometimes just the sky.

It’s a great day for experiments. Rainy. Kind of cold. We’ve had a lot of rain since yesterday. Supposedly, there are three or four more inches on the way.

So, I used a new app. I’ve used it once in the past. I’ll get into the technical aspects of that on the right hand column.

With all the rain, I needed something to counteract that on Storyteller. This picture just about does that. It’s bright. It’s gauzy. And, there’s a lot of yellow. The photograph, if that’s what this is, moves from darkness to light, at least for peoples who read from left to right.

Even thought there’s been a lot of stupidity as the pandemic seems to be getting managed, that’s what this picture might mean. We are headed into the light.

Or, if you are if you are cynical like me, moving into the light could mean the end. You know what people say when they have died and came back because it wasn’t their time yet.

I think I’ll choose the first option, mostly because I’m not ready to go just yet. There’s a lot of work to be done. And, I want to help.

I know that you want to help too.

Amiright?

So. The app. It turns the image into all sorts of colors. The original photograph was monochromatic, even with the golden arches in the background.

If that wasn’t enough, I added a setting from OnOne that made those globes, which are supposed to be bokeh.

It’s really not bokeh. Bokeh, an often misused Japanese word that Japanese people don’t use, refers to the quality of the out of focus parts of an image.

Usually, that’s found in the background. You want something that’s soft and creamy with some shape.

Once I completed that, added a border. I had something mid-way between a photograph and something else.


Seeing above.

Seeing. Sometimes you just have to be patient until the subject evolves and matches your intent. That could take a lot of time or just a few minutes.

Patience matters. I have a friend who says that her superpower is patience. She also said that it took her a long time to get there.

For me, a good picture is either the result of photographers luck, an all seeing dog or sitting and waiting.

This picture was born out of sitting and waiting. I sat by the pool looking at the tree thinking if only I had a better background. I could see clouds moving at a fairly brisk pace so I waited.

It wasn’t long before the clouds appeared in the frame, so I made a few pictures.

Then I continued to sit there free from the daily noise. I was hiding in plain site. I hid for a good long while. There are days when that kind of self care is important.

Unfortunately, like many other words and phrases, self care has become a buzzword. It’s become almost meaningless, because there really are no defined words.

Other words go through the same sort of dilution. Many of them are supposed to be business terms.

Did you ever notice that?

Stay safe. You know what to do. Sit under all the trees.

Looking up. First, no the photograph is not upside down. I was sitting under the tree. I was looking up.

Second, aside from a little sharpening and adding a border, the original image is as you see it.

Some people make a big deal out of not using filters. I don’t know why. Use whatever it takes to make the picture as you saw it.

Even Saint Ansel Adams did that in the darkroom. He created an entire system to make prints the way he saw them. He called it the Zone System.

There are plenty of books on this subject. While it looks complicated at first, it is really very simple.

Expose the negative. Develop the negative to enhance the exposure. Print the negative, manipulating it as needed.

The takeaway is that the picture rarely comes out of the camera the way you want it to look.

That’s the story.


All tree. No ground.

Trees. One of my favorite things in all of life. This one was remarkable because it just extended up and up and up. It is no optical trick.

A strange thing has happened to me on the way to pictures. And, other stuff.

I’m slowing down.

I don’t mean the speed at which I walk, which is slow enough these days. I do mean the speed at which I work. That could mean anything from making pictures, to writing Storyteller, to cooking a meal.

It’s not a bad thing since I realized when this started occurring. Right around January 20. You know. The arrival of a new president.

I guess that I started relaxing. I don’t feel frantic now. Time is still short. We have a lot to do. I have a lot to do. But, it seems that I’m living an old Chinese saying. “Work slower, go farther.”

I seem to be doing more work in four hours than I was doing in 10 hours because I’m not having to fix my Speed induced mistakes because there aren’t very many. I’d like to say that I’m making no mistakes, but you know. That perfection thing and angels.

I still haven’t made time to start the Jefferson project, but I will. I can tell. I’m getting antsy. I may postpone it a little because I want to do some Mardi Gras work even though we aren’t parading.

We are, however, Yardi Grasing. That means we are decorating our houses to look like floats. People will drive by throughout the next two weeks. If we are home and outside we’ll toss them beads even if it means having to dig up the potholes that I filled with them.

Meanwhile, in downtown selfishness reigns. People who aren’t from here head to Bourbon Street. They drink. They don’t mask. And, social distancing is a foreign concept.

That mayor is at wits end. The city council is talking about closing The French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

The mayor isn’t much help. A lot of the city sees her as a hypocrite. There are plenty of pictures of her at various events not wearing a mask and standing way too close to other people. She isn’t taken seriously.

If I had my way the city council and the police department would take the lead. They would aggressively enforce the CoVid-19 rules. They would arrest people and put them in jail over a weekend when the courts aren’t in session. They’d fine them.

I’m not trying to hurt anybody, but I reckon that if people knew this was happening they’d think twice. This might help.

On the other hand, so many people still partying are tourists. They might not even know. When people return home from New Orleans they usually rave about the city to anyone who will listen.

Imagine this. A friend asks how was New Orleans and the wannabe partier says, “They put me in jail.”

That would work.

Winter is ending. Everything is starting to bloom.

I know. If you live in the east, southeast or midwest you are buried under tons of snow. More is coming.

That rodent in Pennsylvania predicts six more weeks of cold stuff.

He doesn’t live down here.

The nights, early mornings and after dusk are cold. The rest of the day is pleasant.

So, things are starting to grow. Gardens will go into the ground in the next two weeks. Summer crops will be plentiful.

Hopefully, we’ll actually get to eat some strawberries this year. Oh, they grow just fine but those little jerks we call dogs smell them ripening and eat them off the bush.

I hate to say this, but it may be time for barbed wire.

So.

The picture. You thought that I forgot. I didn’t.

The all seeing dog and I were sitting on a park bench when I happened to look up and saw a picture.

So, I made it.

Even though I said that the height of the tree was not an optical illusion, I did crop it in a way that it made the tree look like is was reaching for the stars.

Welcome to Ray’s technical tricks that do not require editing.

This trick is more about leading your eye to a place where I want it to go. That’s why I often crop vertical pictures so long and deep.

It’s just another way to help you see what I saw, to feel what I felt.

Stay safe. Stay powerful. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Look at all the new blooms. (If you live in the south.)


Souther winter tree.

Down in the swamp. No restaurants. No bars. No Mardi Gras parades. No fools. No fun. No matter. We have nature. We have a mild climate during the winter months.

So.

We have scenes like this in January. Even if the trees look like they do in your neighborhood durning autumn, I assure you that I made this photograph a few days ago.

A big bright, colorful, happy picture. One that you can hang on your wall. One that makes you smile. Something to hold onto when life gets a little tough.

Here’s the thing. This week has already turned weird. The president thinks he’s the godfather of a crime family. He’s deranged. The vote in Georgia could change the complexion of the government. Accept or celebrate. The official congressional counting of the electoral votes follows that. I think those congressional people who are trying to delay the count are fools. No matter. Look at this photograph during the week and have some fun.

Remember. No fools. No fun.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy all the color.

Red, orange, yellow. That’s what caught my eye. The scene was slightly backlighted. Not enough to change the light dramatically, but enough to make the photography bright and energetic.

The rest, as you know, is always easy. As a wise man once said, “The hardest part about making a picture is getting there.

Remember that.

It has existential properties. It could mean distance, or it could mean the time it took you to learn to make pictures.

You know.

The first 10,000 marginal pictures that you took before you learned to make a picture. One picture.

I wish you peace.