You know that they make me smile. After all, a pack of them allow us to live with them. They aren’t Beagles, but still.
After this miserable week, which isn’t over, I needed something to make me smile. So, I dipped into those lost archives and found something that would do the trick. The funny thing about this Krewe of Barkus was I don’t remember photographing it that year. Obviously, I did. And, I worked from an odd place for me, which makes me think that during Mardi Gras 2020, I should work from here again. Or, near this location.
That’s the thing about photographing something until you are bored with it. Review your archives. Find something you’ve done in the past, but have forgotten about, and think about doing something similar. But, better. Or, a little different.
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.
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.
This post is driven by a couple of comments I read on Facebook. It seems that a small city in Indiana might not be able to have Mardi Gras because a bar closed.
Is that what you think of Mardi Gras? Sure, we have big parades. The krewes toss beads and other stuff. You know, “Trow me sumptin’ mistah.” There is plenty of boozing and a little debauchery, usually on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. But, that’s not all.
At the heart of it, Mardi Gras season — Carnival — starts on the Twelfth Night after Christmas when the wise men journey to Bethlehem to bring the baby Jesus gifts. It lasts until midnight Mardi Gras Day when the police clear out the remaining revelers. Night turns into day. And, it’s Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent.
In other words, it’s a religious holiday. Imagine that.
It’s also a time when we locals celebrate quietly. It’s more-or-less like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. We visit with friends and family. We gather around meals. We bring little gifts. The more blue blood among us go to fancy balls and events that are by invitation only. The big krewes, like Muses, have balls, lunches and other events for their members and guests. It’s an honor to be invited.
For our part, we host a brunch on the Sunday before Mardi Gras Day. Our friends and family mingle, eat, have a drink or two. If they want, they can walk up a couple blocks and see the parades on St. Charles Avenue. We are also lucky enough to be invited to two balls. We aren’t blue bloods. Imagine me in evening wear with a little mask. That’s what I do. That’s what they do.
There is a lot of symbolism. Mardi Gras Day is the day when the Indians reveal their new suits for the first time. For some, a year’s worth of work comes down to this one day. For others, they’ll show their new suits throughout the year. It’s a day when Zulu leads the parades. They mask in blackface. It harkens back to a time when they couldn’t afford masking materials. The so-called Take It Down movement wants them to stop. The Zulus just laughed and started dancing. As far as I’m concerned, the Zulus can do whatever they want. They are the soul of Mardi Gras. Maybe of the entire city.
The million or so tourists who flood our streets, drink way too much, and fight for beads and other “throws” don’t know any of this. It’s all a giant party to them. One day of being stupid. Some try to arrive on the day, itself. With blocked streets, heavy traffic and the parades they are lucky to get anywhere near in time for… what?
I’m not attacking the partiers. Sheesh. We need the money. I’m explaining what those Mardi Gras partiers in other cities don’t understand.
When I was exiled to the desert after Hurricane Katrina, I went to Mardi Gras in Old Town Albuquerque. Make no mistake, Christmas there is breathtaking. The onset of fall is wonderful. But, Mardi Gras? Not so much. It made my very sad. I think we went during our first year there. It was on a Saturday. Sheesh. Whatever happened to Fat Tuesday? I was so homesick that we flew back to New Orleans for a cobbled together Mardi Gras, because 80% of the city was still broken. It’s when I saw Zulu warriors — the real ones from Africa — walking in place of our Zulus because most of them couldn’t get home. If they could, they had no home to come back to.
That’s what Mardi Gras means.
The picture. This is the one I planned for yesterday. I intentionally made it contrasty. WordPress “helped me” by tuning it down. She walked by me while I was sitting on a wall getting ready for the next parade. I couldn’t catch up with her. That is, until we both walked into the local grocery store for lunch. I asked if I could photograph her. Even though anybody masking is fair game, it was our lunch break. Heh! I made some smiling portraits and I made this one. I like it best. My agencies will like the smiling pictures. They are trying to make money for us. Besides, you can see me working in the reflection in her sunglasses. Nice shorts, huh?
Often, it’s hard to show that. Motion is thought of being better portrayed on video. I don’t make videos. I do it using still cameras. I’ve done that since the days of film. For a time, I made my career on that.
The trick is to find something that’s recognizable and keep that somewhat sharp. Like a face. With a big smile. With laughing eyes.
I don’t do it as much because in the digital age, everybody thinks the picture should be sharp from front to back. That’s too bad. I find intentional motion blur to be one of the most interesting parts of a photograph. There’s many ways to do that. One, easy way, is to focus on something that doesn’t move, use a slow shutter speed and let things in motion pass through the picture.
That’s not what I did.
I allowed the subject’s natural motion meet my natural motion and create another kind of painterly motion to take place. Because the picture was made at night, all I did was stop down and let the shutter speed take care of itself.
As far as presenting pictures from Mardi Gras goes, I’m not going to try to show them in chronological order. Instead, I’m grouping them by photographic subject matter. I’ve been lucky to have made really good shoots. There is too much material to present the pictures by parade. Yesterday’s post of ten pictures was way too much. It was hard on me to do the prep work. It was hard on you to work your way through so many images. There is one blogger who posts a lot of pictures. He or she is proud of themselves when they write something like there are 42 pictures in this post. I usually just trash the blog. I don’t know about you, but 42 pictures is way too many to view. Especially, when it looks like the photographer stepped two steps to the left or right. Sheesh. Cull your work.
That’s not a rant. It’s a pro tip.
New Mardi Gras parades resume on Wednesday. You’ll probably see the work in a week. Heh!
Either I’m working much slower, or I’m working much more. Or, both. Either way, I can’t seem to keep up on my posts. While I’ve edited and processed my raw files, I’ve got a long way to go until they are ready to be seen.
This is an image that I made on my phone, with the intent of posting it to Instagram. I like the picture just fine. In fact, I like it a lot. It just wasn’t my thinking to post something on Storyteller that I captured quickly via phone.
One parade today. The Krewe of Barkus. The dog parade. Yes. The hounds in this house like to go even though we are no longer krewe members. I like to photograph dogs and their people so it works out just fine. I’m not sure how far we’ll walk with the parade as it winds through the French Quarter. Wall to wall people, except the center of the street where the dogs and their people walk.
You know what I wrote about crowds. And, me.
No matter. There is plenty to see and photograph without getting squashed in the Quarter.
My plan — yes, I have one — is to finish the edit of about 900 pictures and get them ready for you and my agencies, who need a specific kind of picture. I’ll do this tomorrow after the dogs on parade.
This picture was easy. See it. Check its reflection. Try to stay out of the picture. (I didn’t succeed.) Push the button. It’s almost like two pictures for the price of one. It helps to have multiple tuba players with well polished instruments.
The queen and her court roll by at the head of the Treme Sidewalk Steppers second line. This was a big deal since it is their 25th Anniversary.
Unfortunately, they start on Rampart Street across from the Quarter. A few years ago, they started putting up police barricades and hiring security guards. You know the ones. The ones who wear badges that say the word security. The kind you can buy online for ten dollars.
I dealt with it that year, didn’t go last year and decided to get as far away from that silliness as I could this year. I went into what was just about my old neighborhood. The same so-called company was still working the ropes. I just walked around them.
I actually don’t like to photograph the floats since I normally can’t get a good angle on them. I did this time. I sort of had to make a picture like this because the actual second line was chaotic. The brass band was scattered amongst the walkers. The walkers were all over the place. The guys with the ropes couldn’t control anything. Everybody walked around them.
I let the second line come to me. That was the best thing that I could have done. I stood on my little patch of ground and made pictures.
That’s the story of the picture.
I have another story. It deals with wondering what we why we are on the planet. A friend of mine sent me an email about that. I don’t know why people come to me. I’m no guru. I barely understand what I do, let alone what others do. I have to process his words before I reply to him. Then, I may talk about it here. In general terms. No sense in embarrassing anybody when they are reaching out. Or, ever, really.
When I smell the food smoking away. Street food. BBQ working away. Grilling big sausages. Often with the cooks hidden in a cloud of pungent smoke.
You know how I feel about street food. I love it. In any place. In any city. On any continent. I know that it’s freshly cooked. I know that it’s safe since it prepared over an open and hot flame. And, it’s inexpensive. A good sausage with all the fixings costs $5.00. No. There aren’t any sides. This is street food. Handed to you by a guy who is wearing black rubber gloves. Mechanic’s gloves.
If you want a drink of anything, you’ll have to go find another vendor. If it’s the hard stuff your after, it’s $5.00. That’s for two unmeasured shots over ice, or not, in a plastic cup. There are free mixers. They are very plain. Coca Cola. Royal Crown Cola. Orange Juice. Ginger Ale.
There ain’t no craft cocktails here. No Cosmopolitans.
I drink water. That’s a dollar a bottle.
The picture. I’ve been waiting for this picture a long time. It’s hard to find. The scene was damn near perfect. A lot of light gray smoke. It was backlighted to illuminate the smoke. The light also gave the leaves in the background a sparkling quality. The cook was built well and made a good silhouette.
And, I was talking to a videographer friend of mine who shoots tape for a radio station. Yeah. I know. This is New Orleans that we are talking about. He helped me by blocking passersby from getting in between me and the scene. He really didn’t have to do much. He mostly just stood there.
All I did was pick my moment and press the button. The exposure, which I pre-set, was dead on. I only had to clean up a little bit in post production. This is what I did instead of watching “The Lame Bowl.” Then we paraded all around the city. We had a lot more fun than the fine folks of Atlanta. The general consensus around the country was that New Orleans did much better than the two teams who played. I forget who they are. Maybe you can help? Our music was certainly better than the half time entertainment.
For the coincidence seekers among you, here’s one. The New Orleans Saints record during the 2018 season was 13 – 3. That’s 13 wins and two loses. The game score was 13 – 3. The winning team scored thirteen points, whoever they were. The losers scored three. That made it the lowest scoring lame bowl in history. It was beyond boring, so they say. Even the announcers couldn’t resist tearing the game down.
A place that I enjoy working. I like to make pictures that are a slice of time. Photographs that are a glance. On the street.
Pictures that are an image of an idea.
Pictures that take you there.
Pictures that let you feel.
Pictures from the inside.
Pictures that are from my insides. From my eyes. From my brain. From my soul. From my heart.
That’s the deal. My deal.
Sometimes it works. Often, it doesn’t. It worked a lot this past Sunday. You’ll see over the next few days.
The picture. I got stuck in the middle of the band. That happens when you work closely. Those out of focus areas in front of the tuba player are other band members. I was working on the inside. Just that close. The tuba player’s reflective sunglasses are what caught my eye. Even though we were in constant motion, I managed to make three good frames of him. Photographer’s luck. And, my ability to walk sideways and forward at the same time. The development and post production was easy after that.
Sometimes I like to shoot into the crowd. Wait, wait. That’s not what I meant. I’m not that guy. The crazy guy. With too many guns. Let’s try this. Sometimes I like to photograph into the crowd.
There. That’s better.
I like to do that with a long lens. It compresses the subject matter. And, used properly long lenses can help me to make a more graphic statement. I rarely use a long lens to get close. I have feet for that. And, knees. And, one good hip.
While I was working the Dumaine Street Gang second line, I realized that just about everything I wanted to photograph would be impacted by the crowd, which was pretty good-sized with our nice day and their reputation.
So, I played to that. Yesterday’s picture was one way of handling it. Today’s picture is another. Today’s is a harder picture to make, because compression images depend a lot on luck. After all, I couldn’t see what was happening on the sides of this picture. People could be moving into the frame and I might not see them until they mostly fill it. In fact, you can see that almost happening.
The rest is fairly simple. A good exposure means a lot less work in post production on a documentary type picture.
Today is a quiet day.
It is The United States official day of mourning for the late President George H.W. Bush. Federal offices are closed. Most businesses are open, but I have seen a lot of flags flying at half-mast. As I wrote earlier, I’m not that much in mourning. The man was 94 years old. He lived a very full life. He lived many people’s’ dreams. For me, it is a day to think and to say goodbye in my own way. As you know, that means something to do with pictures.