On a better day.

Yesterday was interesting to say the least.

Apparently, every software company released updates this week. Three hours. That’s how long it took me to get to here. I still don’t think that I’m done because I see that I have six Apple upgrades. I won’t do it if it requires a reboot. That takes forever and I’d actually like to get some work done.

Teacherland

In the schools, it appears that there are already seven new cases of the virus. The students haven’t even returned yet. This is among the teachers, staff and administrators. The school board won’t even tell anyone from which schools they came. That means they are offering the teachers no means of safety. No way of knowing if they need testing.

Oh, if I were a lawyer.

I thought the school boards were bad around here. Ha! In Georgia a student posted pictures of the very crowded school hallway. Very few students were wearing masks. She was suspended for a week. The principal said that he couldn’t make the students wear masks because of their Constitutional rights.

Huh?

Sometimes we have to over ride certain institutions and beliefs. Make no mistake, I believe strongly in our Constitution. If we make a move we have to be careful because legal overrides lead to dictatorship or anarchy. But, this is one of those times when we must think about taking extraordinary measures.

See how I’m tip toeing around this? I’ll stop that, now.

Make the kids wear masks.

You won’t be happy if half of them get sick. You’ll be even more unhappy if 5% of them die. Sheesh. A little bit of courage is all we ask.

The Picture

I said that my pictures would be lighter. This picture is lighter. It’s what I could do yesterday. It’s not what I want. I’ll get there. My excuse is always the weather. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too wet. This porridge is too…

Yes. It’s hot. It’s hot down here from April to Christmas. It’s very wet during the summer. It’s cold for like three days.

I have some ideas for subjects. One is coming up in about three weeks. The 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I’m not obsessing about it. I just want to see how far we’ve come. How we are doing. If certain neighborhoods have been rebuilt.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every bit of summer.


Look into the sky.

So it was.

It seems that my attitude has gotten worse towards opening schools too soon just because there’s a dangling carrot. They say follow the money and I did. Don’t fully open the schools and the state loses federal funding.

I have a couple of words about it. Two words. I won’t write them here. This is a family blog.

This really hit home this morning. I read a long piece written by a school administrator in southern Arizona. It was horrifying. He lost his most senior teacher to the virus. Three more got sick. Students have gotten sick. In every case, the school followed every possible protocol. When they didn’t receive plastic shields they cut and hung shower curtains.

Still, human beings died.

The headline says, “I’m sorry but it’s a fantasy.”

And, so it is. I can hardly wait until my teacher friends start getting sick. I can hardly wait until one of them passes. I don’t know what depths of hell their families and I will sink to.

Some say that’s negative. Nonsense. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Make plans even though they will change. There are no plans. Only hope.

All the Blue

Let’s do something more positive. Let’s talk about this picture. After all, artists gotta art harder if we want to be heard.

Normally, I don’t carry my phone when it’s the last trip outside. We don’t go far. For some reason I took with us. Good thing that I did. The moon was just shining away in a deep blue sky. Photographing the moon with a phone is a little sporty, especially since I wanted to frame it with something. Although my phone has a sort of internal zoom lens when you reach the outer edges of it, focusing takes a hope and a prayer.

I leaned up against the wall, took a deep breath and released it as I pressed the button. I did it three times in rapid succession. Wonder of wonders. All three frames were sharp. I made a few more different compositions. The dog was done and so was I.

Post production was mostly a matter of correcting the noise I see that I didn’t quite get, and to make sure the blues were the ones that I saw. I got that.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every night sky.


Like a starry night, man.

Blue seems about right.

It’s quiet. It’s comforting. It brings peace.

Just as I sat down to write I learned that Little Richard passed. One more death in a season of deaths. Last night I learned that a guy I knew in New Orleans passed. Another death in a season of death.

It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

No.

I’ll art my way through it. It helps me. A lot. It makes me happy to know that seeing new art everyday may help you too. It’s hard to keep going, especially now. It’s what I’ve been given to do. There are days when I don’t know if it’s a gift, or a curse. All I know is that I have to keep going.

Same thing with the musicians around me. Many are making music from their living rooms, their kitchens, their front steps. The music is great. They are taking chances. They are being very creative. And, they are letting you into their lives.

I’ve never listened enough to Mary Chapin Carpenter. She plays from her kitchen. Her dog and cat wander through from time to time. She talks a bit. Plays. And, talks a bit more. She’s consistent. She’s played every week since the lockdown began. She has emerged as another James Taylor for me. Taylor’s music always brings me peace. So does hers.

There are a lot of big organized shows from home. They seem to be a little too slick. But, the ones that are done kind of on the fly are much more homey and real.

That may be why my work in the last few weeks looks and feels different. More chances. More creativity. More fun. Whatever you are doing think about doing it differently. Think about taking chances. Think about accidently learning.

The picture. Two layered pictures. It helps if they are of same general subject. Once that was done, I played. I tinkered. I manipulated. I arrived at what you see before you. I don’t know if it’s any good. I don’t really care. I had fun. That’s what really mattered.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


Magic in storm clouds.

We could all use a little more magic right about now.

So.

I photographed storm clouds right before they dumped rain upon us. I added some post production. Well, a lot of post production. Eventually, I made this picture. I can smile at this picture. Maybe you can too.

The weekend.

I mostly stayed away from the news. I worked on the house and in the house. The weather was warm, but dry. Dog walks became longer than they had in awhile. The all seeing dog is feeling much better. Towards the end of her last walk she began to stop for no reason. That’s indicative of pain. It wasn’t as bad as it was a couple of weeks ago.

When we returned home, I gave her half of a pain med. She slept for awhile. I called the dogs to dinner. She got up and was racing around. Obviously, my pain diagnosis was correct.

All good stuff.

Let’s be positive, but wary this week. This is no time to take our feet off the gas. In the swamp, our numbers are getting better. Slightly. That’s a start. I’m glad for that. Since nobody wants a second stronger surge, let’s not turn stupid. I’ve seen enough of that when I run errands, which have become fewer and fewer.

What’s going on in your corner of the world?

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


No longer Gray.

Surreal?

That’s probably the least of things around here. It really comes down to people, who as Jerry Seinfeld once said, are the worst.

Even though all St. Patrick’s Day parades were cancelled. And, even though the governor put a limitation on crowd sizes, some people just had to gather on Magazine and Bourbon Streets to get drunk and celebrate the holiday. Mostly, they got drunk.

The police broke up the gathering on Magazine Street, while some of them were shouting about their right to assemble peacefully, forgetting that the rule concerns protests. The police did not disperse the crowds on Bourbon Street. I suspect locally owned club and bar owners’ money came into play.

Of course, there are all the airport disruption issues that were created by the Federal Government when they imposed virus tests for incoming passengers without thinking the process through.

I saw pictures some of the 13 approved airports. Crowds and crowds and crowds. In most cases, it took 6 hours to retrieve luggage and at least four hours to make it to customs and immigration. The travelers were packed about six inches apart. Forget about the six feet of separation.

Sheesh.

When did my country become a banana republic? Never mind, I know. When did people become so selfish and show such disregard for other people’s welfare? When did people panic at every little comment? In most of New Orleans not only did toilet paper and hand sanitizer become rare, so did chicken. WTF? Chicken? Who started the rumor that drove people to buy all the chicken in Greater New Orleans?

Nothing good is going to come from any of this.

The picture. That’s really what you want to know about, isn’t it? This is the gray picture. I liked the picture well enough that I set out to make it prettier in post production. Oh yeah. I posted it to notches unknown. There’s a little gray, but mostly it’s orange. Much brighter. Much prettier.

Stay safe. Take care of each other. Enjoy every sandwich. And, for God’s sake, stay out of Wal-Mart.


Clouds in another place.

Another time. Another place.

Did you ever wonder how you got here? I don’t mean here as in location. I mean the twists and turns that your life took to get you to your place right now. Right this minute.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been doing.

It started with the koan, “learning.” That is my word for the year. I wasn’t sure exactly how that word would work since I’m a lifetime learner. I try to learn just a bit from everything and everyone. It might be just one teeny tiny thing. That adds to my body of knowledge.

Then it came to me.

Learning meant from the inside out.

That’s fine as far as it goes. And, it goes on forever.

Then, something started to change. I started wondering how my life got to the place where it is today. Everything seemed to be a cue. Music. A bit of an old television show. A movie clip. An old photograph. A smell. A road less traveled.

So far, not so good.

Oh sure. I’ve had a great career. But, not the best. My personal life has been okay, but it could have been better. And, so on and so on. I’ve let too many opportunities pass by. Even those that were a sure thing. We all do it. I did it.

It’s easy to get worried or even depressed using this line of thinking. I’m not that guy. I know that the past is the past. I can’t do very much about it. Nobody can. I can really only live in the present. But, I can be my best self in the future. The question isn’t why. It’s how. It’s where. And, it’s when.

After all, no one person can do everything.

I think you make life choices based on priorities. I can work those as far as they go because there aren’t many. Likely, they mostly flow from one or two very important cares or concerns. Working with those takes time, effort, focus and maybe even a little money. It may take a plan. How do you get from point “A” to point “B?”

That’s where I am right now.

My thinking may be easier than other people’s.

Because.

I reckon, even in this age of high end medicine, medications and procedures, I’ve got about 15 years or so. That’s not discouraging to me. We all pass off this mortal coil.

The question is how well do we live out our time.

I do not want to do what my dad did. After he retired, he and my mom moved from Long Beach, California to Reno, Nevada. There is so much to see and explore in, and around, Reno. My dad mostly stayed at home. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. For what?

You know for what.

I’m not doing that. Not now. Not ever.

That’s another way of learning. Sometimes you learn what you don’t want. What you don’t want to do.

Anyway.

The picture. You can learn a lot about light if you look closely. You see that big power pole? You see what’s next to it in the sky? Do you see what happens to the white clouds directly next to that? It’s all about sunlight bouncing off of the whiter clouds, hitting that the clouds around it and reflecting and refracting its own light.

That is a great example of one thing I usually say. When you are looking at the great sunset that you want to photograph, you should turn around and see what that wonderful light does to the scenery behind you. For sure, photograph the sunset if that’s your thing. But, look around as well. You may be surprised. Pleasantly surprised.

 


Scary looking.

This is an accidental picture.

I wasn’t even thinking about looking for a picture. I looked up and thought “this doesn’t look good.” I did what I could to stop it. I froze time. That’s my magic power. That lasted all of the 1/500th of a second. The clouds kept moving. So did I.

I’ve been having a discussion with another photographer about image making and photography in her comments. I’m not sure we are n the right track. What really matters is vision. I doesn’t really matter how you get there. I try very hard to make a statement about my vision in a particular picture. Today’s picture is meant to inspire awe in nature. Maybe even a little fear. I could have gone an entirely different direction and turned the picture into something light and frothy. That wouldn’t be what I felt when I looked up and saw giant storm clouds rolling in over the horizon.

Even with my post production, which is a huge part of image making, you might not see the scene as I saw it. After all, we all make our own meaning from art.

This is all part of a much longer discussion for another time.

The picture. I looked up and saw those massive clouds. I made a good base exposure knowing full well that the result was headed for post production. I experimented a lot with different approaches and settled on one that approximates real life. It’s a little bluer than real life. That helps you to understand how I saw things at the time.


I’m lovin’ it.

I thought that I was finished with this series.

Then, I saw it. One more picture. The one with the golden arches tucked neatly into the bottom right hand corner. I composed it that way. But, it was hidden in the funk of low-lying clouds. Even though it doesn’t look like it, this picture took a lot of post production work.

It was tricky. How do you pop the little McDonald’s sign out of the darkness without making it too bright?

Very carefully.

I used some OnOne tools that allowed me to work in teeny-tiny increments. It reminded me of the days in the darkroom when we used potassium ferricyanide to open the shadows slightly. The difference? Not only was that chemical dangerous, but one wrong move and the print was ruined. You started over with a new print. Made in the dark. It was tedious work.

Today, of course, we do it digitally. We can save an image as we go. Make a mistake, and take a step back.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning the “old school” ways prepared me for the future. When somebody complains that they don’t have the patience to do a little digital retouching, I mostly just think it’s a good thing they were born after than me. It’s likely that a lot of today’s “internet photographers” would be working underneath that sign making Quarter Pounders With Cheese. Oops. Did I write that?

Make no mistake. I’m not talking about people with phones or cameras who are just documenting their lives, their children and their travels. They are having fun.

No.

I’m talking about the photographers who want to make money from their pictures. Photography, like any art, takes time to learn. Often, it’s painful. Just as importantly, if you want to make money, take the time to learn the business of photography. Too many new photographers under charge for their work. If you start out low balling it’s very hard to raise your prices, If you give your work away on the new stock websites that don’t charge people who need pictures, you are just strangling yourself in the name of “getting known.” WordPress is doing a deal with one of them now. Just sayin’.

Why am I talking about this now?

I always do.

But, I was listening to something the late Anthony Bourdain said about getting older and mature in your work, whatever it is. We are bound to teach those coming up. We are bound to be generous with our time.

So.

I think that about once a week, I’ll teach. Right here on Storyteller. For free.¬† That’s the other thing. We shouldn’t be making money from other photographers no matter how much we need it for our cash flow.

What would you like to learn?

Ask away.


Looks like that place again…

It’s not that place. It’s a different one.

It appears to be lost in time. As do I. Because, I’m not making very many new pictures these days. Except for this one. I saw it. I pushed the button. On my iPhone. The sky was sort of milky just before it turned colorful. I took the colorful pictures also. But, from the minute I saw the quieter version, I knew what I was going to in post production.

I did this. A painting. Without using painting software. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

That’s the first time for that sort of continuous thought. Usually, I make the picture and tinker around. There was no tinkering this time. I knew exactly where to go. I suppose there was a little experimentation on my way to creating¬†my vision. But, the steps were intentional.

About painting software. I don’t use it. I’ve tested it. I think it is trying too hard. You know. Push a button for watercolor. Or, push a button for Van Gogh. I don’t think creativity is enhanced. Or, works that way. It’s sort of like using a paint by numbers kit to make something to hang on the wall. It might like okay. But, it’s not from the inside. Where art is created.

And, that’s it.