Sitting and playing.

T

he next day. We needed coffee. Good coffee. It turned out that a coffee house was less than two short blocks from our hotel.

Even better were the people who worked there. The were friendly and energetic. One of them took us to this place, an empty club.

Apparently, it was fully functioning until a movie production company used it to make a James Brown biopic. When they tore the set down, they gutted the building.

Those are the kinds of stories that you won’t hear if you just pass through a town, keeping to yourself. I suppose you could look around and never say a word to anybody, but what would be the fun in that?

Anyway.

This little bar or club or cafe is now being rebuilt back, good as it ever was.

One of these days we’ll pass through Natchez again and see it for ourselves. But, not this year.

T

here is some post production technique to discuss.

As you know, I’m about feeling more than seeing.

The picture was easy to make, especially if I didn’t want to show you the guitar player beyond what I did.

The club felt smokey, with a little bit of mist drifting in and out. I could see people standing around listening to the band, drinking beer and hanging out.

But, the club was empty. There wasn’t a finished wall in sight.

So, I softened everything. I made the scene glow a little bit.

The rest is in my imagination. Or, yours.


Graphic Bucket List Picture

Changing attitudes, changing altitudes.

Sometimes I get bored with my own work. The trick is to keep making pictures. Eventually, the pictures evolve into something different. I get lucky sometimes and options appear while I’m in the field working.

That’s the case with this picture.

A brass band was playing in Woldenberg Park, which is a location in The French Quarter that is a few yards from the river. They were playing just beyond a bridge.

I started trying to make a graphic image. It didn’t work for most of the musicians. The overhead shape, just wasn’t there. It worked for the guy playing the tuba, which is really a sousaphone.

In the streets it’s a tuba. Call it a sousaphone and you’ll get a lot of blank stares, even from the guy playing it.

In many ways I made the picture of my dreams. I wish I could do that at neighborhood second lines. They don’t come close enough to buildings. There are a couple of second lines that cross a bridge. They are walking over it, not underneath it.

If we ever get back to the streets, I’ll get back out there. I’ll shoot a lot less while looking for angles from which to make unique pictures. I hope.

Stay safe. Enjoy every po’ boy.


Child 1
A child’s view.

Sometimes a walk is just the thing that you need.

Children need more than that. They need to be outdoors. They need fresh air. They need to play. They need to learn.

We are locked down. Most people thought they would live, work and play in the digital world. Sure, that’s occured. The use of Zoom shows us that potential. But, people have returned to old school pleasures. People are playing board games. They are actually talking to each other rather than looking at an itty bitty screen.

And, Children. When they are outside and keeping their distance, they are playing games with which I grew up. A big one is hopscotch. I’ve seen pictures of this around my social media feeds. I hadn’t come across one in real life. Until I did.

If this is part of the future — the better future — I’m good with it. No. Make that, I’m very happy with it.

The picture. See it. Photograph it. Develop it. Share it. The blue color comes from the deep shade in which I walked through. It looks blue on film or with a digital capture. Some hate it and do everything they can to make a “clean” image. I figure why fight it and do what I can to enhance it.

Stay safe. Care for others. Care for yourself. Keep your distance. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Play, play, play. Enjoy every bit of Chinese food.

Child 2
I’ll paint rainbows all over your blues.


Music everywhere.

Music.

I said it before. I’ll say it again.

New Orleans is a musical place. It’s often likely that you can hear music as you are passing by a street corner, as I was when I made this picture, that is equal to the sounds you hear in many clubs.

Sometimes, the guys on the street are warming up for their club appearance. Sometimes, they don’t have a gig, but they just feel like playing. They want a little audience and whatever you toss in their tip cup might pay for a meal or a couple of beers. Doesn’t matter to them. They are going to work eventually.

On the other hand, some of the street musicians really are paying their bills by playing on the street. Many of them are quite good. They could play on paying gigs, but they make a lot of money on the streets. One makes enough money to buy a house and car. You know, the markers of a successful life. Or, not.

Anyway.

As you know, I haven’t been in the mood to work much.  Part of it is caused by my health issues. Part of it is just kind of being bored with what and where I work. But, I’ve got a couple of ideas now. Let’s see what I make of them.

One more thing. I owe a couple of you some well thought out replies. I’m a little upside down in time, but I promise I’ll get to them.


Street musician.

The first picture.

No. Not the first picture that I ever made. If you’ve been around Storyteller long enough, you’ve seen my first picture when I published a black and white portfolio of my earliest work. The work was maybe 45 years old. I published the portfolio a few years ago.

This is the first picture that I made when I switched from DSLR cameras to mirrorless cameras back in the summer of 2012. I wasn’t so sure about these new fangled cameras so I bought a Sony NEX 5 and a kit lens. I loved it from the minute I started making pictures with it. I loved it so much that a week or two later I sent musical miss to Adorama in New York to pick up an NEX 7 (the top of the line back then) and a couple of lenses.

Lenses. They were an issue in 2012. Sony hadn’t made many of them. And, adaptors were pretty much useless. Flash forward to 2019 and there are plenty of native lenses produced by both Sony and Zeiss. Lens adaptors are great, to the point that I use my Leica glass on Sony bodies. If you want a sharp file, an image made with that combination will peel your eyelids.

Even though I’ve invested in newer and better bodies, I still have the NEX 5 and the 7, which I fried in a driving rain and ice storm during Mardi Gras. Even though it was top of the line, it had no weather sealing.

I didn’t know that I had a problem until maybe six months later when the moisture finally worked its way to the motherboard. That was exciting.  No big event like an explosion. The camera functions just slowly stopped working, until one day I couldn’t turn it on. I sent it out for repairs. It was returned to me as being unrepairable. It could have been repaired, but the work and the parts would have cost more than a new camera. I loved that NEX 7. I may buy one again. They are so technologically old that they only cost about $300 for an excellent used one.

So.

This picture. I made a couple of pictures before this one. Just test shots. I couldn’t figure out why the subject was out of focus. When I opened up the file on my big machine I could see why. The image wasn’t out of focus. The auto focus was so sharp that it picked a place that didn’t matter to me. Once I learned how to control that, all was good. Then there were ISO issues. Over the years of digital capture I’ve learned that you can’t really crank up the ISO without creating noise. So, I didn’t. That gave me motion blur all over the place on this picture. But, you know me. That’s one of my signatures. Of course, that’s changed too. Today, you can raise the ISO without doing very much damage. At least, a little bit.

Looking at this picture makes me think that I really ought to be prowling The French Quarter at night a little more. Maybe I will. Next week.


Music everywhere.

Music takes me everywhere.

I live in a city made of music. I live in a city made of ancient culture. I live in a city full of food. They all seem to be struggling.

Musicians can barely earn a living. You see some amazing musicians playing on the street. Some are in between gigs. Others are scraping by.

The folks who are the culture believe the city makes about $900,000,000 a year off of their cultural pursuits, which is killing them. That’s a lot of money. But, tourism is our only real business.

And, food. Our food is great. But, at our current rate of restaurant expansion there seems to be one restaurant for every 300 of us.

Something has to give. Or, not.

The biggest issue might be the newest of comers. The ones who want to gentrify everything. The ones who don’t like second lines on Sunday because they create a racket. The ones who came here for all the stuff I’ve written about… for years. But, when they get here they want the city to be just like the place they came from.

Of course, the newcomers have added a lot of stress to the housing situation. Many of the culture bearers rent, they don’t own, their homes. Their landlords see big money and sell their homes out from under them. They leave the old neighborhoods. They usually head upriver. They come home for whatever their festivals happen to be. They don’t admit this of course. One Baby Doll lives in Natchez, Mississippi. That’s a long drive for one event. Yet, she does it.

So.

There was a meeting between a lot of the culture bearers and the city this week. The city claims that they want to protect them. Losing this ancient culture means significant tourism losses. I missed the first meeting. I’ll make sure I’m there for the next one. Based on newspaper reports, a lot of issues got side tracked. I’ll see what I can do to address some of those issues. Unfortunately, for me, this might be a case of good intentions being the road to hell.

The picture. Music really is everywhere around here. I passed these buskers on the way to someplace else, as I do with a lot of my subjects. I made some clean shots of them playing, but the guy passing by seems to add something to the picture.

 


Flying.

So.

I stole the title from a brand new song by Doyle Bramhall II, featuring Eric Clapton. It was released yesterday. I heard it first, on my iPad Pro. That’s normally pretty good. It sounded tinny. So, I opened it up on the real gear.

That did it.

I used it as the background music while I processed this picture.

Funny thing. I’ve been making a lot of pictures while I was walking around with my dog. Nature-like sorts of pictures. I think that I’ve photographed the seasons. That bored me. Eventually. I felt a little disconnected. Then, I took to the streets. People. Music. Indians. Baby Dolls.

That broke me loose.

I started looking for pictures. Like I used to do. On my way from one place to another. With the music turned up. Not so loud. But, loud enough.

That’s the other thing. Photography. Music. They are mixed together for me. When I lived in Dallas, I read that the new director of The Dallas Philharmonic Orchestra saw pictures when the music was just right. That made me smile. I hear music when the pictures are just right. That’s probably why I like brass bands on the street when I photograph second lines. The music is right. The pictures are too.

Anyway.

This picture. I made it at just about noon. Yeah, yeah. I know. I don’t work at noon. Usually. That changes a little with the kinds of clouds we’ve been having. It also changes by time of year or location. This time it was about the clouds. And, an idea that I had rambling around in the back of my mind.

I knew with a little luck that I could make the base picture into something else. So, that’s what I did. I made the original picture on the scene at about 30 miles per hour. I did the rest in the studio. At about 90 miles per hour. One the computer, using mostly OnOne. I used Affinity to make the watermark since OnOne doesn’t do that.

That’s the story. See if you can catch the little trick.


In the middle of things.

In the middle of things. That’s how I like to work. Sheesh. I’m in the middle of the band. I’m making pictures with a 10mm lens. That means I’m close. Real close. I might even be in trouble. Check out the saxophone player. He doesn’t look too happy. He might be looking past me. Or, he’s shooting daggers at me.

Oh well. He’ll get over it.

This is what I like to do. Standing on the sidelines taking pictures isn’t me. Those pictures pretty much look the same to my eye. Mixing in. Working with a wide lens. Those pictures look different. Feel different. That makes me smile.

Of course. I haven’t been able to do that very much over the past six months. Pain and fear of falling in the middle of the street created a lingering, limiting self-doubt.  I’m not used to feeling that way. So back at it I go. I recovered pretty quickly this weekend. That’s a good thing.

Funny thing. When the brass bands started playing, I started swaying. I realized that I didn’t feel the usual back and leg pain. Maybe that’s it. Not only do I need to listen to more music. But, I need to listen to brass band street music. A little loud. A little chaotic. And, a whole lot of fun.


Blowing the trombone.

I used to say that when I was working really well that I could hear music in my head. Musicians that I know say that when they are playing really well, they see color and images in their head.

I suppose that this image is the combination of both. And, my attempt to get music and vision out of my head and into a format that you could see it.

That’s probably what all art is, except I don’t know that for a fact.

The picture. Three images; layered, adjusted and enhanced. That part of the process has become fairly simple. It’s the selection and culling process that keeps it very interesting. For me. Hopefully, for you.