While I was poking around in The Lower Ninth Ward and I found that odd little house displaying The American Flag, I also made pictures of broken glass, broken windows and rusty walls. I just sort of photographed whatever I saw. When I was editing my take — no, make that curating my take — I sort of watched a little collection of pictures come together without my help. Yep. They did it by themselves. That’s probably just as well. Pictures are better at doing that than I am.
Anyway. It’s just a little exercise in seeing details.
But, it seems to be a really good metaphor for the entire Lower Ninth Ward. Everything is broken. Even the newly repaired stuff.
Seeing the picture is just a matter of looking. And reacting. Post production is simple. Mostly, I just made sure the details are as sharp as they can be without looking overdone.
Rain. And, more rain. Accompanied by a fairly cold wind. Apparently the wind picked up fast enough to hit Gulf Coast Alabama with hurricane force winds. In fact, it blew a stranded Carnival cruise ship that was in for repairs free from its moorings. This knocked the guard shack into the water. Last month the ship was stuck out to sea for days. Talk about a bad luck boat.
But, none of that is in this picture. This picture is just rain drops and lights reflected on my car’s windshield. Very simple. This is just point and shoot when I came to a stop light. I focused on the windshield rather than the street. I made art. Well. A kind of art. Or, something.
We are a messy bunch in New Orleans. And, we like parades. Mardi Gras. St. Patrick’s Day. Super Sunday. Easter. Second Line. Jazz Funerals. And, probably a lot more that I haven’t of. When we parade, we party. We make a mess. We don’t mean to. But, we do. Think of us as three year old children. This is what it looks like afterward. But, not to worry. With so many parades spanning so many years, the city has figured out way to clean up our mess. I made this picture about 45 minutes after the last float passed by. About 45 minutes later, this street — St. Charles Avenue — was cleaned up. I’d say as good as new. But, very little is new in New Orleans. Oh, and by the way. I should clarify something. Most people in New Orleans party when they attend a parade. But, not me. Usually, I work. Yes. I’m pretty boring.
The picture. Very simple. I put the camera down on the street. Yes. Right on the street. I turned the LCD up so I could see what I was doing and made a bunch of pictures. That car in picture? That’s a police car. He officer saw what I was doing and he pulled his car up blocking the street. I guess he thought that he didn’t want the street cleaners picking me up in addition to the trash. That was very nice of him.
The toothbrush? I have no idea. It is a throw from a float rider. But, I don’t know why.
What a look. Wow. I’m not sure what else I can say. She’s either focused on me or getting mentally prepared for the walk ahead of her. I know it was okay for me to photograph her, because I asked her. And, I asked her dad for his permission. I introduced myself to both of them. I always ask the parents when it comes to making pictures of children. Usually, it’s just fine. If they say no, then it’s no. Anyway. I think it’s just great that so many children participated in Super Sunday parade. As long as that keeps happening, this bit of culture will never pass.
The picture. I stood as close to her as I could and shot with a 200mm lens and focused on her eyes. I guess her eyes caught my attention, just as I caught her attention. After I made the final picture of her, I thanked her. And, she answered very sweetly “You’re welcome Mr. Ray.”
A little one. A little indian. A very cute indian. Mardi Gras Indian are a kind of cultural folk art. Despite its rougher origins, it really is family oriented. Traditions, customs and routines are passed down from generation to generation. You see an example of that here. She can’t be more than four or five years old. And yet, look at her. Her costume as just as detailed as the other indians in her tribe. That bead work you see on her chest was done by hand. Each individual reflecting bead is hand sewn. Maybe even more importantly, look at her face. She’s focused. She knows what she’s doing. With luck and some work, she’ll have whatever her dreams are, but she’ll always come back to this tradition.
The picture. Get in close and press the button. Smile and be respectful. Ask about their costumes and their tribe. That will make them smile because they know that I care about their traditions and their hard work.
St. Joseph’s Day. Yes. March 17th is also St. Patrick’s Day. In New Orleans, we celebrate both. On Saturday, there was a huge St. Patrick’s Day parade that wound around Uptown on Magazine Street and St. Charles Avenue. I photographed that some. It’s a really big deal. Instead of all the traditional Mardi Gras type throws, the float riders also toss cabbages and potatoes. Stuff like that. They also throw beads. That wasn’t my big day. I enjoy being out in Central City celebrating St. Joseph’s Day on what the Mardi Gras Indians call Super Sunday. It really is super. It’s a day when the Uptown and Downtown tribes meet and parade fully masked. It’s a great event. In many ways, it’s New Orleans at its best. It’s serious culture. It’s great music. It’s street food. And, you know how much I like street food. It’s a day when everybody gets along. And the weather? Mid to low 70s. No humidity. Clouds drifting by. All in all, a wonderful day.
The pictures. They dovetail very nicely with my Central City project since the parade takes place within the boundaries of Central City. You also get to compare my most dominant style of shooting… all in one post. The “Inside” picture is a good example of my blurred, more painterly look. Slow shutter speeds and a pretty good depth of field. And, as you know, I like to get in the middle of things. The Wild Tchoupitoulas invited me to be in their section of the parade. In bigger news, because I “presented myself” to them which means I introduced myself and asked if I could photograph them, they invited me to document their creating their costumes for 2014. That’s a year-long project and quite an honor. I am very humbled.
“Waiting” is an example of my own decisive moment. In case you are wondering, I asked their parents permission if I could photograph these two girls as they waited their turn to walk in the parade. After that, it’s just hang out for a few minutes and wait until something happens.
“On The Parade Route” is simple documentation. I made the picture first and asked their names and tribe later. I earn great street cred doing that. I see people from different parades and second lines, and we know each other and are happy to see each other. My world grows.
“Big Chief” is my idea of a portrait. This is a version of what some people call an environmental portrait. I guess his environment is his costume. Obviously, we worked together on this one. However, when I wrote down his tribe I got it very wrong, It took a little googling to get the spelling correct. Squatoulas. How hard can that be? Well.
Oh yeah. I made lots of pictures. Over the next week, I’ll publish more of them. Stay tuned for a lot of colorful pictures.
As the title suggests, one thing really does lead to another. I was only going to publish one Hong Kong picture and go back to showing you more New Orleans. But. Then I thought… I’d like to mess around with some newer pictures. So. More Hong Kong. What started as a whim has become something kin to an OCD condition. That’s just one of the things that drives me. Fear is the other. Now you know.
One of the things that I try to do with travel pictures is capture a sense of “what is it like to…?” I wrote about this in more detail on my other blog on the Hub. So. The answer to that question could be, “what is like to walk through a Hong Kong wet market?” The answer comes from what I think about Hong Kong. I love the city. I’ve spent about six years there, sometimes commuting back and forth to The United States. For me, it’s action-packed. It’s about motion, movement and color. It’s a very powerful place. That goes on almost day and night. It’s a place in which I can make “my” pictures very easily. Unfortunately, all this energy takes its toll. When I was there for long periods of time without a break, I’d find myself taking the ferry to Lantau Island to spend the weekend with my friends in what was then a bucolic backwater just 45 minutes from Hong Kong Island. It’s not such a backwater today as that’s where the semi-new international airport is located.
This picture. Since know you what I think about Hong Kong, this picture makes sense. It doesn’t always make sense to picture editors. In fact, I have another picture of this scene that is a best seller. It’s well framed. The color is a little more realistic. It was made closer to dusk. And, it is in sharp focus except where the image is compressed because I used a long lens with that intent. On the other hand, this picture is jarring. It jangles. It’s all motion. Everything moves. That is intentional just as sharpness was in the more popular image. How did I do it? First, you should know that the picture was made in early evening, which is why it is so busy. People are buying fixings for dinner. In Hong Kong many meals are cooked from raw ingredients that are fresh and local. Or, as local as possible. Second, for the more posed and sharp pictures I used a tripod. For this picture I didn’t. I hand-held the camera and let two things happen. I let the motion in the scene do whatever it was going to do. I also let my jet-lagged body do whatever it was going to do… which was vibrate a little. I set the aperture at f 5.6 and let that be my guide. I started exposing at 1/15th of second and keep slowing things down to about two seconds. This image was in the one or two second range. It was actually quite over exposed. I brought back the richness in post production. That’s it.
Well. You know I like color. Bright, energetic , bold color. These pictures are certainly colorful and bright. While I was exploring the ruins of the power plant, I took the time to explore some other abandoned buildings near by. The whole area was once devoted to heavy manufacturing. There were railroad sidings that ran through cobblestone streets. Many of the buildings were of pre-Civil War design and construction. Others were built in the late 1800s. Today, they are in various stages of decay. Some have been repurposed as design firms and different kinds of studios. So have been torn down. The building in which I found this very colorful graffiti was a medical supply manufacturing company. It’s pretty much abandoned today. I say pretty much abandoned because it is being used. If you wander into the deepest regions of the ground floor or climb the rickety old stairs you’ll find plenty of evidence of people living there. I suppose you could call them homeless. But, they’ve dug themselves in pretty well. They have tents, beds, cooking areas, coolers, chairs. All that kind of stuff. I didn’t see any people who might live there. I suppose they hit the street corners by day. They probably return at night to hide among the ruins. I did see three other people while I was there. A photographer, and assistant and a model. We talked for a moment but stayed out of each other’s way.
The pictures. Most tagging is purely destructive. But, I do like graffiti when it is bright, colorful and artistic. This work fills that bill. But, in order to get to it I had to wander deep into the bowels of this building. That’s how I know there were what could be called semi-permanent residents lurking around somewhere. Piles of stuff everywhere. Most of these pictures are just time exposures deep in the dark. I intentionally underexposed them since I know that my post production software — Lightroom and Photoshop — likes to see images lighter and more over exposed then I like. I added a lot of post production manipulations in OnOne and I made the pictures are as you see them. I suppose you could say the taggers and I are co-conspirators in this work. I’d really like to photograph them at work. But, that’s not going to happen. Even if I could convince them that I mean no harm, they wouldn’t want to let me see them work. You know why. If you know a tagger or two, please have them call, email or text me. Really.
Sometimes, it’s in the details. Sometimes, your eyes just have to be a little more open than normal. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than luck and timing. This picture is a result of all four. The details are found in the one thing that makes this picture. The woman’s face in the bottom left of the picture. She pretty much completes it. The combination of seeing better, timing and luck are all combined into one almost holistic action. The luck is simply that I changed my normal direction of approach. Normally, I walk along Royal Street where the lighting store is located. Usually downriver to upriver. This time I approached it from a side street, almost straight on. The warmth of the lights are what caught my eye, and the approach allowed me to see the reflection of the old buildings that are located across the street from the store. Everything came together. Sorta.
The picture. Itself. It was a funny act when it came to making the picture. The woman who completes the picture kept trying to get out of my way. She was being very kind to me. And, I kept saying to her, “It’s okay, you’re good, you’re good.” I suppose that’s also a bit of luck. She kept moving and I managed to press the button before she moved out of the picture. That’s what street photography is about. Sometimes.