That’s art. Once you make it, the art lasts. It will out live you and me. I suppose that’s one reason to make pictures. To make paintings. To make music. Or, to make just about anything else that you can think of.
It’s a legacy.
I suppose that’s one reason to keep pushing. To keep plugging away. To experiment. To grow.
At least it is for me.
Oh sure, I can make pictures for clients and friends. I can do the expected because that’s what I’m expected to do. That pays the bills. Feeds everyone. Puts better kibbles in the dogs’ bowls. Note: They don’t eat kibbles. They eat homemade dog food. Food that is better than some humans eat. That’s sort of weird, but they are all healthy. That matters.
The picture. The original picture was pretty cool on its own. I just had to experiment. I had to tinker. And, play. I tell you, I want to be a painter. But…
The air was lighter. The sun was clearer. The shadows were longer. That’s what I felt and saw. That’s the picture that I made just a few hours ago. Today.
I made it at the end of a walk. The light wasn’t great until the moment I saw this scene. I tried a couple of different compositions, but this one did it for me. I saw it as a painting the from minute I pushed the button. So, that’s how I treated it in development and post production. It’s a little magical, but it hasn’t crossed the line.
Now, as I often do.
The rest of the post isn’t about the picture.
When I was a young guy I started my musical journey by listening to the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other bands of those early times. Along came Cream. Wow. I never heard anything like them. Apparently, I was hip for a 14 year old. I bought their first album and kept building from there.
Cream was Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton. Three super stars in their own right. Jack Bruce passed a few years ago. Eric Clapton will turn 75 next March. He’s planning some extensive touring next year after a couple of years of relative inactivity because of physical issues. Ginger Baker was 80. Earlier last week, his family said that he was in critical condition in the hospital. They asked for our prayers.
I knew right then that the outcome wouldn’t be good. When you are 80, have a number of physical ailments, being in critical condition isn’t a good thing.
Ginger Baker passed yesterday morning.
His drumming was inspiring to a couple of generations of rock drummers. Yet, at his essence he was a jazz drummer. He explored African poly rhythms. He could play with anyone, yet he made his name with Cream and the very short lived super group, Blind Faith.
Ginger Baker was also outspoken. He was cantankerous. He could get angry at the drop of a hat. Clapton once said that when Cream was playing their best live music, it seemed like a musical fist fight between Baker and Bruce. It often scared him because of its violence. And, he was life long heroin user. That may have contributed to his death. But, I don’t know. He was 80 and sick. But, never frail.
Once there was three. Now there is one.
Yesterday was hard. These guys are aging before our eyes. Most of my musical heroes are in their late 60s or 70s. They made the music of my life’s soundtrack. You know the rest.
I was building my new and improved website and I was uploading a lot of pictures. That took some time. To help pass it, I started playing with older pictures. You might not recognize it, but you’ve seen this picture in the past, when it was bright magenta.
I started in one direction and realized I hadn’t used a couple of photo editing tools in some time, (time is a reoccurring theme today) so I started tinkering with them. Eventually, after many, many attempts, I arrived here. I added the frame and that’s how you see it.
Uploading and downloading large batches of RAW or Tiff imagery, does take a little time (There I go again) no matter how new and powerful your machine may happen to be. I like to fill it, (time) by doing something else. In this case, I was more-or-less practicing and experimenting with image modification software.
But, once upon a time…
I used to play a lot of computer games. I wouldn’t call myself a gamer, but I wasted a lot of time. One day the lightbulb went off. “Why not do something more meaningful,” I thought.
So, I did.
I started teaching myself Photoshop. It has a really steep learning curve. Some say it takes about five years to learn completely. Once I started I realized it wouldn’t take five years because there are some things that I’ll never do. It did take a while.
Doing that gave me the basics and a little more to understand what I was doing. Eventually, I started using a new software package called OnOne. It couldn’t develop RAW images back then, but that was one the company’s big goals.
Once OnOne became a potential RAW developer I left Photoshop and Lightroom behind. Who wants to pay $9.95 per month for the rest of your life?
Today, my workflow is simple. I download and cull in Photo Mechanic and finish in OnOne. You can use both of them forever unless you want to upgrade. Actually, Photo Mechanic upgrades are free.
Oh, Photo Mechanic is software that a lot of photojournalists use. It’s fast, easy to use and you can edit a big take in probably less than 30 minutes. I lot of my friends suggested that I try it. I kept putting it off, until one day…
Yesterday, I wrote about murky dreams. Dreams of the past. Dreams of people long forgotten. Of a time in the dim recesses of my mind.
Between online conversations and some in real life, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one. People of a certain age are going through this strange little time too. Before, we get all spooky and weird, it probably means nothing.
On the other hand.
What if we are marshalling our past resources for something to come? I’m not one who believes in all seeing third eyes, or understands why the hell WordPress doesn’t like marshalling in this usage, but something is brewing.
Since the usage of marshalling in this case, means ordering things in preparation for battle, what battle am I, are we, getting ready for? As much as I dislike the current United States President — and, all that he stands for — and want him imprisoned, it’s not something as mundane as that. I think it’s bigger. I don’t know what it is. But, it’s coming.
As I used to say in the bad old helicopter days, “I got a bad feeling about this.” The last time I thought and felt that, a storm called Hurricane Katrina just about wiped New Orleans off the face of the earth. It’s a powerful feeling.
The picture. My apologies. I went a little too far in post production. I should have reworked this picture. But, today is very, very busy. So, I moved it from my phone to OnOne and tried to make a few little repairs there. The mistakes were too imbedded for that.
I saw these blossoms and did the only thing that I could do. I photographed them. Then, I messed with them. I made the picture a little spooky. Then, as I wrote, I went too far. I tend to do that. I should have taken things a step or two backward. I’ll get back to it. I’ll fix it. I promise. I might even show you the revised picture.
One more thing about this bad feeling. (See how haunted I am by it?) There’s an old infantry saying, “If you can see the enemy, the enemy can see you.” The reverse is also true. I can’t see the enemy. But, I know…
I’ve said in the past that I wished that I could paint. Before you tell me that I should try, I have. I have paints. Brushes. Paper. I’ve taken classes. Workshops. One on one learning. I have good hand — eye — coordination. For whatever reason, I can’t paint.
My failure is simple. Like newbie photographers who want to learn to take pictures with “the ten tips that will make you a great photographer,” I want it now.
I want to reach the level of my photographic work.
I forget how many years and how much time I’ve spent being a photographer. They talk about the 10,000 meaningful hours that you put into a thing to get really good at it. For me, that’s just getting started. So too, with most of my brother and sister photographers.
Find your voice. You can get good at a thing from a technical standpoint. You can make pictures that can compete with anybody else’s from a technical and compositional standpoint.
That’s not enough.
There is the emotional and spiritual something that makes your pictures stand out from all the rest.
That’s not limited to photography, although that’s what I talk about.
Think about music. Think about guitarists. Think Eric Clapton and Joe Bonamassa. With all due respect to Bonamassa fans, he can’t hold a candle to Clapton. I’ve watched them play on the same stage. On “Further on up the Road.” Bonamassa is fine. He plays good lead guitar. He plays good fills. He is a technically excellent guitar player. Eric Clapton puts his heart and soul into his work. It shows. He plays lead. He plays fills. He inspires me in a way that Bonamassa can’t. Maybe it’s me. I’ve been a Clapton fan for 50 years. I barely know Bonamassa work. There’s a reason for that.
Back to my work. This work.
This is my attempt at making a painting, when I don’t have the technical skills. It’s my watercolor. The work is done on the computer. There are probably ten versions of it in my archive. This is the one I like best. It’s simple. It strikes my minimalistic chord. I tried other colors. Blue works best. It feels natural. There are trees added to the original image. They wrap themselves around the main tree. I could hang this picture on my walls. I like it just that much.
This is what I saw yesterday when I got home. I really mean home. Walk outside and this picture found me. I didn’t have to do anything. Just marvel at it and push the button.
Then, I worked my so-called magic. I post-produced the hell out of it. I made nature’s energy come back two or three fold. I reckon that’s okay because I too am part of nature.
Which brings me to another part of nature.
I swore I wouldn’t get political on Storyteller. But, the women around here are steaming. Big women. Little women. The female dogs. Okay. Not them. Also, those of us who love and care about them.
Ohio. Georgia. Alabama. Missouri. And, in a few weeks, Louisiana. The last begs a lot of questions. We have a Democratic governor. I thought that we might be safe. Oh no. He supports the bill.
I don’t care what you think about the rightness or wrongness of the issue. Or, when you think a human being begins, this isn’t about that. And, that’s your business. Not mine. Or, anybody else’s business. This is about controlling another human being. This about about the ultimate patriarchy. It could be called a war on women.
In theory, I’m sort of liberal. Nah. I’m more libertarian. I think most personal things are between you and your maker. Not the guy next door. Not the state. If you aren’t hurting anybody, what you do is your business. To me.
That’s my soapbox.
About that comment. “Begs a lot of questions.” We live in a very blue city surrounded by a red state. You know what I’m thinking. I won’t go to any of the states who have done this stupidity already. But, what do we do? Here in the swamp?
I didn’t do much to it. I didn’t have to. Nature did it.
I’ve been thinking. About the next six months. The rest of the year. What do I want to do? What don’t I want to do?
I think I’m going to be a little busy. I’ll tell you about it in a bit. But, one thing that I did do was apply for a media credential as Storyteller. We’ll see if they bite. I realized that I have far more of you than the circulation of my first group of newspapers. That amazes me.
That’s what I wanted to do. Of my three greatest influences, two are painters. Only one is a photographer. Ernst Haas. The painters are pretty well-known. Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe are known even among folks who don’t have much interest in art. Haas is well-known to the older photography community. The younger photographers don’t seem to know or care about the history that brought us to this time.
I started thinking about this as I was reading the catalogue for the exhibition, “Van Gogh & Japan,” being shown now in Amsterdam.
To my eye, what looks complex is very simple. The complexity is built in layers. That’s painting.
I’m a photographer.
Try as I might, I have no talent for actually putting the brush to paper, or canvas. So, I studied Ernst Haas as much as my painting muses. He was a photographer who was represented by Magnum. He worked for Life Magazine. He had advertising clients. He was a “special photographer” on movie sets. That meant that he made a lot of pictures that are not what he would call portfolio work. We all do that in order to pay the bills. Even the great ones.
Haas also published books. Not the self-published, self edited, self designed silliness that seems to be clogging up reader lists. No. Books that were edited and published by professionals. The book that first caught my eye was, “The Creation.” It caught a lot of people’s’ eyes. It showed me what photography could be. It taught me that photography could stand next to the painted works of Van Gogh and O’Keeffe. Those of us who work with cameras, lens and all sorts of mechanical devices didn’t have to be second or third class citizens. I’d just wish that we’d learn to raise our prices like painters do.
More importantly, all of this work taught me that we didn’t have to be documentarians. That we could make images that stood on their own, without an event to back them up. For as long as I’ve known this, I’m finally just starting to understand it.
That is one reason that my “New Orleans culture” productivity has been down. Pictures that more-or-less look the same from year-to-year aren’t fulfilling to me anymore. I come out for those events because I like being with the people. I like talking to my brother and sister photographers. I like talking to the Indians and social clubs. Most of all the rhythm of the music and the street seems to make my hip and back feel much better. If I could figure out a way to make a picture that was more art than documentary I’d stay on the streets for as long as they’ll have me.
This picture. For a distance, this picture looks fairly simple. Just like my three muses work does. Move in closer. The photograph starts looking more complex. More complicated. Very detailed. That’s the positive side of it. There are many negatives. Not the least being the basic subject matter. I made this picture this morning. Because I had to. I’m running out of new work. I don’t seem to be inspired to make new, meaningful work.
I don’t know why.
It’s not a block.A block usually means that you try and can’t. I haven’t really been trying. I can’t find a subject or project that excites me.
Oh well. I know this one truth. Don’t force it. It will come.
I was looking through my archives. Again. Because I’m trying very hard not to repeat myself. And, because I realized that some artistic experiments have been going on for eight or nine years. In a couple of cities. Two states. And, on about four continents.
I’m fascinated by nature. By the yearly spring rebirth of seemingly dead stuff. Especially this year when we the temperature nose-dived for three or four days. When the highs were in the low twenties. Our semi-tropical ecosystem is not used to that. Plants died. Fruit trees took a beating throughout the region.
As I look at the brown sticks that were all that was left over after the freeze and see brand new ferns showing their leaves, I’ve come to understand the cycles of nature a little better. I’ve long known that nature always seeks stasis. I didn’t realize that she could bring some things back from the dead.
Of course, the more we beat her up. The more we pollute our home — the planet — the harder it is for nature to recover. I was just reading about this winter near and around the North Pole. Normally, the water there is frozen solid. Long sheets of ice. Not this winter. There is plenty of clear water to sail through.
Think about it.
There was enough flowing water to make this picture. But, photographing it using my normal approach would be confusing. You wouldn’t know if I made the picture in 2016, 2017 or a few hours ago.
I made it a few hours ago.
I decided to use a lot of editing tools to make it look like a painting. An abstract painting. If that wasn’t enough, I turned it on its side because it looked better to my eye. That long red line on the right was trapped in the horizontal version of this.
If there is anything to be learned from this, we in the digital age have amazing freedom. We can leave things alone and make pictures that completely approximate reality. Or, we can take them someplace else.
It’s up to us.
One more thing. Don’t steal. I’ve banged this drum for forever. Just because you see a picture on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free to use. It’s somebody else’s work. Ask permission. Even though the artist really should be paid, at least give them a credit. Acknowledge their hard work as you would like your own work acknowledged.