My version of winter.

I’m listening to an interesting YouTube video as I write.

It’s about “work that matters.”  The visual podcast is called The Art of Photography.

As the speaker talks, he reminds me of me. He says that a picture should strive for something, that it ought to push the boundaries, that it shows artist growth, and it goes beyond gear.

You know me.

I rarely if ever talk about gear. I always talk about subject matter, content and why the picture matters to me. I suppose if I did talk about gear I could monetize Storyteller with corporate sponsorships. But, that isn’t me. Of course I would like some help paying for this blog. But, I want it on my terms.

That’s important.

It’s also why I don’t take numbers very seriously. Sure, the more people who see my work, the more people who could possible know me and become some kind of client. But, as I’ve said to some of you by sharing a Neil Young quote, “Numbers add up to nothing.” Getting a lot of likes on Instagram or Facebook really just means that your picture happens to fit into the flavor of the hour. That is transitory at best.

I want my work to be long lasting and possible have some influence on a few people’s work. I do that now. Sometimes people talk to me about it. Often they don’t. I look at their work and I see my own work in their pictures.

Case in point. Since I’ve been making pictures of winters bare trees around sunset, I’m seeing all sorts of similar — but not the same — pictures that show up on Facebook friend’s feeds.

That’s all good.

It’s good because it means that I matter to somebody. I don’t need the validation because I believe in my own path. I like to know that somebody is watching… and reading.

The picture. I made a really heavily blurred image of some wild flowers a few days ago. By itself it was unrecognizable no matter what I did to it. It was mostly a yellow, green and black blob. I saved it and added some recognizable yellow flowers to it. That’s what you are looking at now.

Happy day.

 


A little weird.

Weirdness.

I made it that way. Unlike the speeding picture which happened in camera, this image was made after the fact in post production. By me. The original photograph showed a bright and sunny winters day.

I had a vision. I knew my final intent. I wanted to make what I kiddingly call a “Halloween Picture.” So I went to work. I removed most of the color, When I added black, I removed just enough of it to make the silhouette of the tree brown. You can see it mostly in the branches.

I knew when I was finished. That’s the thing about using vision to guide you. You know when you know.

That’s it for today.

If you are in the United States have a good Martin Luther King Day. If you are anywhere else in the world have a good Monday. Or, Tuesday.


Chance.

Art.

All art is autobiographical. But, the reader makes his or her own meaning.

Sometimes, it seems that art being autobiographical is a stretch. How is making pictures of Mardi Gras Indians about me or my life? Or, second lines? Or, about broken and abandoned buildings? I’m drawn to those things, especially living in New Orleans, but what do they say about me?

Or, are those subjects art at all? Am I stepping back into my old roll as photojournalist? Even my faux nature pictures like this one is stretching the boundaries of my life. I make these pictures because I live in a swamp. They are local and easy to make. They may be more about my skills than they are about me. They are more about my seeing and organizing than they are about who I am.

This picture, for instance , is a combination of two other pictures.The base are pavers and fresh growth near me. The flower-shaped objects are just that. Flowers. I worked very hard to make the new image in the studio. On the computer. What does this image say about me other than I see tiny details, have a few computer skills and I have an imagination? Yet, it’s art. My kind of art. Or, not.

 

 

 

 


Magic sky.

Still waiting.

Seems like that’s what we do. Even though we said that 2020 would be good. That the year would be positive. The first ten days have been anything but that. I’m sensing a very palpable uneasiness. It’s not just me. A lot of people feel it too.

It’s not politics. It’s not just the impeachment, or the failure of government to do their constitutional duties. It’s something else. It’s bigger than that. Something’s coming. And, as I used to say many years ago, “I got a bad feeling about this.” The last time I said that was after looking at the hurricane maps for Katrina.

I have a nightmare feeling about Mardi Gras. I’m not going to tell you. But, I don’t think the Iranians are done yet.

Just sayin.’

That feeling is reflected in my work. The pictures are getting darker. If I photograph something bright and shining I leave it in my archives. I look for scenes that reflect my thinking. After all, they say that artists make images that are autobiographical. The rest of you make your own meaning. Success means that you see and feel things the way that I see them.

Some 2020, eh? Still I’ll hold onto my word for the year.

Anyway.

This picture was bleak. Too bleak. So I added a little color and some strange shapes to it in post production. The picture has a little smile to it now. I think.

The only thing I know to do these days is just to keep going. Art harder as a friend who lives in Memphis says. Play harder. Work harder. Whatever you do, keep doing it. Harder.

There. Is that positive enough?


Sparkling in the sunlight.

They seem early. Spring buds.

In fact, the first Japonica buds were early. They arrived in early December. A couple bloomed, another cold spell arrived, and they died. The buds in this picture are right on time. They’ll grow, bloom and fully open towards the middle of carnival.

I know this because I’m a creature of habit. When I photograph the parades at the start of Mardi Gras I park in the same approximate place. There is a pretty white center hall house located on the street where I park. The owners have two Japonica trees in their front yard. They are in full bloom around the first parade. By the end, the petals are on the ground.

I was sitting outside while waiting for the dog in question. I looked up and there were little bitty buds, back and side lighted by the early morning sun. I made a compression picture and stacked an early version on top of a final version to give the image a little movement. You are looking at the result.

I’m really having an internal debate concerning Mardi Gras. Part of me thinks that I’ve photographed it enough. The other part of me thinks that’s nonsense and that’s why I’m here. We’ll see.

My apologies for being late. The all seeing dog went to the vet today. She had her annual physical. She’s fine. I found a little lump when I was petting her. It felt to me just like one that the late Debbie had. I was right. A fatty Lympoma, not to be confused with Lymphoma which is cancerous. I have long thought that medicine in any form is a combination of science, art and experience. Two out of three for me ain’t bad. And, I rarely make diagnoses because I don’t even play a doctor on television.


As night fell.

After celebrating enough Christmas I adjourned to the patio chairs. Some of the dogs had enough excitement and joined me. I was sitting and wondering about the trees and the night light. I made a few exposures. Sure enough the cloudy sky trapped the night glow which is caused by city lights.

The sky looked orange to the camera’s sensor. To the naked eye it looked sort of gray-black. If the night sky had been clear or maybe with a few fleeting clouds there would have been no color. The city lights color would have traveled to the heavens.

I know the theories. But, since I can’t really see the color I have to test the theory. That’s a little secret of photography. Aside from capturing the moment and preserving certain subjects so that  future generations can see them, there are a lot of optics, color and pure physics to test. Good photographers do that when they are playing. I wouldn’t want to test them when I am working for a client.

The week between Christmas and New Year is always calm. I do things to prepare for the next year, 2020. Can you imagine it? It sounds the like a title for some futuristic book and film. This year the dates of Christmas and New Year are putting my brain into a dizzy. A Wednesday holiday seems to make time seem either really short or very long. I woke up today thinking it was Saturday. I looked at my calendar and thought — or, rather, didn’t think — what is going on?

Then, I had a coffee.

How about you? What’s this week like for you? How do you feel about a Wednesday holiday?


Not a Christmas picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

عيد ميلاد مجيد

З Калядамі

圣诞快乐

聖誕快樂

Čestit Božić

Veselé Vánoce

Glædelig Jul

Prettige Kerstdagen

Häid jõule

Hauskaa joulua

Joyeux Noël

Frohe Weihnachten

Χαρούμενα Χριστούγεννα

Buon Natale

メリークリスマス

메리 크리스마스

Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus

Linksmų šv. Kalėdų

Среќен Божиќ

God jul

Wesołych Świąt!

Feliz Natal

Crăciun fericit

Счастливого Рождества!

Srećan Božić

Kirismas Wanaagsan

Feliz Navidad

Heri ya krismas

God jul

Веселого Різдва

It may not look like a Christmas picture, but it’s a picture the I saw today. So, in a way, it’s a Christmas picture. A real Christmas Day picture.

From all of us to all of you, Merry Christmas.


Adding something colorful.

Minimalist.

Bare trees of winter with a little help. I’ve been photographing bare trees for a long while now. At a certain point they all start looking the same. I suppose if you work in an area long enough you come to point where everything looks about the same.

That’s one reason that I have sort of retired from making pictures at cultural events in New Orleans. There are only so many second lines and Mardi Gras Indian events you can work. Even they start to repeat themselves.

So.

I asked myself how I could make this silhouetted picture look like something else. I experimented with this technique a little last year. I didn’t go far enough. This time I did. I added the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn. If you think about it, that makes sense. We are still cruising around the autumn season, but we are three days away from the winter equinox and the shortest day of the year. I combined two seasons into one picture.

I’d like to thank a friend of mine for pushing me even though she didn’t know it. I saw some of her work on Instagram that looked like something I would do. If I’ve influenced her in any way, I’m flattered and humbled. That kind of thing used to bother me until I realized that’s why I’m here. She was also the one who pushed me into my one word koan — learning — for the year. The year is almost over. The koan worked.

I suppose I need one for next year.

The picture. I’ll tell you the basics. Keep in mind that I have a huge archive of pictures that I can use to blend into other pictures. I use Snapseed for most of this work.

  1. Photograph a subject that you can made into a silhouette. This one happened to have bare trees with a light blue sky with white puffy clouds as a background. On its own the picture looked fine.
  2. Edit the picture in your normal way. Then lighten the background until there isn’t one. The trees should be black. Use either the brightness slider or the ambience slider, shifting them until the black fades to sort of a golden brown.
  3. Look for a picture that you can mask over the trees. In my case I picked something from last month when we finally had weather that was fall-like. Use the double exposure tool to select the foreground image. Layer it and then use the pull down to decide which version looks best. Use the slider to distribute the overlay the way that you like it.
  4. Finish it as you normally would. I adjust color, ambience and brightness.

That’s it. You’re done. And, so am I.


In another neighborhood of the 9th Ward.

This time I wanted to feel it.

So, I played with everything that I could in post production without going too far. I suppose this is a kind of art, but I’m not sure. It could just be a mess. Ironically, in my world of typos I originally wrote that, “I could just be a mess.” That’s probably closer to the real story.

These two houses are located very near to the one in yesterday’s post. The neighborhood wasn’t in the best shape when the storm arrived. When Katrina blew through it sort of dealt a death blow to the area. Houses stood. Brick buildings remained. The streets were still there. But, for the first couple of years of recovery this area was a ghost town. People didn’t start returning until at least 2012, seven years after the big event.

That’s how it went. Many people were forced to take the long way home either by lack of funds, or by FEMA, or by the passing of a loved one either during or after the storm. Some people never came back.

This is an odd subject to write about during the holiday season. Once our holidays are upon us they don’t stop. Christmas, followed by New Year, followed by The Twelfth Night, followed by Carnival and Mardi Gras, followed by the Lenten season. And, finally Easter.

I suppose that I want to remember my thoughts as they come to me. It’s the end of the year. The end of the decade. These little histories matter to me, if nobody else.

After all, somebody might ask me how I spent my decade. Probably not.

I have a question.

I’m going to publish my ten best pictures of the decade right here on Storyteller. The editing wasn’t as hard as I imagined. Storyteller is ten years old. The decade is ten years old. My signature pictures — the ones that I didn’t make on assignment — are all right here in my archive.

So.

The question.

When do you think I should publish them? All the big publications have already published their “best lists.” I could do it next week, or I could do it the week in between Christmas and New Year. What’s your pleasure?