Way inside.

Memorial Day. If you’ve been around for a while you know what I think. There is no “Happy” to Memorial Day. There are only thoughts of those who never made it home. Those who paid the ultimate price. For freedom. For your hot dog. For your hamburg.

Generally, I feel guilty.

Instead of a flag or cemetery picture I thought that I would post a picture of pure light, pure color. A picture once made in New Mexico.

It’s the food stands at one of the International Balloon Fiestas. In Albuquerque. New Mexico.

That’s not what this post is about. It’s about going deep inside. Finally. Ironically, on a day the we mourn our war dead. My war dead. Your’s too.

It started as a dream. A dream that won’t let go. A dream that’s come back to me four times on two different nights and mornings.

The dream that began in New York. I was returning from a trip with a bunch of other people. The vehicle was so filled up with stuff that I had to stand outside and hang on to he back end.

That was just as well. When we got into the city traffic was so backed up that I just jumped off and walked faster than the cars were going. I needed a way out. I came to a hole and I jumped into it.

No comes the wired part.

I started walking down, down, down. I walked past piles of junk. I walked past abandoned vehicles. I walked until I came to the bottom where everything was just a brownish-gray mud.

I made my way to the surface slowly. Very slowly. There were broken down and used up military vehicles. Some people were working on them. They ignored me. I watched them. The tanks and cannons weren’t blown up. They were used up. They no longer ran because they couldn’t be repaired.

I eventually came to the surface. I was covered in mud. I was gray. I was brown. I went to a locker and changed into newly washed clothes. They were old fashioned dungarees. I had to pass through a sort of check out where I was sent onto the street… in Los Angeles.

I started walking. I knew where I wanted to go. Home. Home was in Long Beach. I started walking in that direction. I passed through all sorts of neighborhoods, all of them run down and broken. The people looked mean but ignored me as I walked.

Eventually, I came to a river…

I awoke.

Making this picture was easy. Maybe, too easy.

Slow the shutter speed down. Set the aperture for F 5.6. Stand tall so that everything doesn’t move. Hit the button.

Done.

Keep things clean in post production and everything is golden.

What I can’t figure out is how my dream lead me to this picture. Or, was it the other way around?

I think the grays and browns lead me here. No matter. There is more of the dream to come. Maybe you’ll find out. I’m still not sure that I did.

Maybe it’s just my reaction to so much drab color. After all, this picture is the antithesis of that. It’s all color.

And, it’s simple. As simple as gray and brown, but the other way around.

There is one thing I sort of understand about my dream. The worn out tanks and cannons come from reality.

The Nazi Germans built a couple of huge tanks. The Tiger and the King Tiger. Allied armament couldn’t penetrate them yet they were defeated.

There were three reasons.

The US armed forces sent five smaller M4 Shermans to attack them. Four were blown up. The fifth got through and was close enough to destroy them.

The Tigers were gas guzzlers. Something like eight gallons to the mile is what it took to move them.

Worse. After about 10 miles they needed an overhaul. They broke down in the field of combat and needed to be repaired.

They were used up.


Colors of Fall

Color. Pure color. Colors of Autumn. Changing leaves. Faded greens. Falling leaves. Eventually, bare trees. That’s the season. Fall. That’s where we are today. This photograph might be a Sunday picture. But, I like it a lot and wanted you to see it. Today.

I’ll get into it’s construction in the right hand column. It’s enough to say that this picture has crossed the line from photograph into something else. May art? Maybe not?

I made this picture late Wednesday night after the debate between Kamala, Mike and the fly. The fly seemed to be as important as the two humans if you watched the socials and read news.

Who cares?

Who won? I could answer it with the last line that I wrote above. In this case it matters. With two almost ready to walk off their mortal coils because they are old. Old, not by a presidential standard, but old as human beings, Vice Presidents matter. A lot.

What I saw was a man who took too much time, tried to talk over a woman and mostly spouted talking points with little or no flexibility. I saw a woman who was agile minded, strong and was able to overcome the twists and turns of the debate.

She used her face to convey her emotions. If you live in a place like New Orleans, like I do, you know those looks. If you are smart, you say “Yes Ma’am, no ma’am” and walk quickly away.

Those looks are Black women’s looks. The age of the woman doesn’t matter. I think grandmas are the toughest. They can shut down the toughest wannabe gang banger in about ten seconds. That’s just her grandson. Then, she’ll turn to his friends. They’ll run away.

That’s what Ms. Harris did during the debate. She toned it down some towards the end, but she made her point.

Of course, there was this.

I’M TALKING!

Funny. Nothing that I write works with the picture until we get over here to the right hand column.

I’d like to say, “That’s because…,” But, there is no reason. It’s just what I do.

Anyway.

The image is made of two different photographs. The main image is a picture that I made of a swimming pool with a few leaves in it. I turned the colors a little atomic and stopped.

The second image is a rose that I showed many moons ago. I layered that onto the main picture and fine tuned to the point where I was happy with it.

That’s what you are seeing.

I think it’s a fall picture. A happy fall picture.

What do you think?

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Look after others.


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.


There it was.

There it was.

The sun was peaking through a slight gap in the branches of a tree. There were little pink blossoms everywhere. What a morning scene.

I did what I do.

I started to make pictures. Auto focus was having a very tough time with such strong backlighting and direct sunlight into the lens. I held my finger on the button. Sometimes  it works. Sometimes the autofocus function says “oh, no you don’t.” This time I did. And, it did.

A mistake.

That’s what I made.

A completely out of focus picture. It just happened to be the best of my quick little take out of about ten pictures.

I worked on it a bit in post production. Mostly, I brought what wasn’t understandable back to my eye. That was it.

Today is a really fine day. The weather is wonderful. The pictures are coming. And, in a spring of a lot of brand new music, Bruce Springsteen released a new album. “Western Stars.” I’m often a little cautious when it comes to any big musician’s new work. Often, it isn’t all that.

Not this time.

This one is so good. It reaches into my soul. I know words that I’ve never heard as he sings them. I know the melody. A lot of his songs are what some folks call “high lonely.” It’s hard to write one song that carries that feeling.  The whole album carries is that.

Whew.

The record will arrive in this house soon. I want to get as close to the original master as I can.

A good day.


This and that.

I made this.

Well, I assembled it in post production from four individual pictures. One of the most dominating pictures is something that might not even occur to you. We use a Nespresso machine around this place. Some people think it’s a little pricey to use everyday. I don’t. We like good coffee. If we went out to drink it, we’d spend about $20.00 a day. And, there would be the sunk time. This costs about $1.80 a day because I don’t buy Nespresso-branded coffee. I buy better coffee for less money. I drink it at home and I keep working.

What does our coffee habit have to do with this picture?

Check out the picture carefully. You’ll see coffee pods throughout. When we get a new shipment of pods we just toss them into a bowl. I believe that no matter what the manufacturer says about the blend, they all taste about the same. But, they package them in different color pods.

I had no choice but to photograph them in the bowl.

That’s one. The other three pictures were made in nature. One is a magnolia bloom, another is a flower and deep inside you can find a leaf that looks like bamboo, but isn’t.

When I started stacking them, I started to see something emerge. Color. Pure color. Wonderful color. I thought, “why not?” I kept going.

That’s the take away. Experiment. Keep going until the natural forces bring you to something. That’s success. Or, it might just be a big mess. That’s failure. I reckon that I succeed less than 10% of the time.


Color in the Bywater.

Serve Somebody. That’s from an old Dylan song. I’m listening to the live version which was just released. Recorded in 1979. Released in 2017. It’s a long story. Let’s just say it was made during his “Born Again” period. A lot of people didn’t take him seriously. But, he was at his live musical peak. His voice was in great shape. His stage presence was amazing. He played Christian rock before it was a thing.

Anyway.

The picture was made on that day in The Bywater. Just like yesterday’s post. In fact, it was made about three minutes later. That should give you an idea of how I work the scene. When I’m on the scene. And, it isn’t moving. Like a second line. All I can say about this picture is find the pay phone. Heh!

The image works on almost pure color. Even before I tinkered with it, the thing that caught my eye is the contrast between the red car and the blue door. I made a couple of pictures without the car. Doesn’t come close. The picture needs the car. It needs the clutter of the stop scene.

That said.

Boy, I get so confused. The reaction on other social media to yesterday’s post — the one that focused on the pay phone and the building behind it — was wonderful. People who I respect as knowing something about art really like it. Thank you very much.

But.

I never saw that image as being very good. So, either I’ve managed to get so good that I just burp out good pictures and don’t know it, which is as likely as me living to 300 years. Or, I have no idea what I’m doing and just get lucky sometimes. That’s more like it.

I’ve been thinking about it some. That’s always a bad idea. I think it harkens back to my photojournalism days. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you kind of know what I mean. All those black and white pictures really make me smile. They are of people. They are of the places in which those people live. They are comfortable to me.

This new work — all of it — is experimental. I have no idea if it matters. To me. Or, to anybody else. It isn’t very comfortable. I suppose that’s okay. It’s in that little zone where growth comes. Based on comments going back to may layer experiments of a few months ago, you like them. And, that matters. Some people say to do whatever you want without any concern about what others think.

Or.

That title? Serve Somebody. We all gotta serve somebody.

 


The view from above.
The view from above.

How?

That’s the question. As I mentioned yesterday, a fellow blogger asked how I come up with my ideas. If you read some of the comments for yesterday’s post, especially those between Michelle and I, you know my answer.

I don’t know.

I’m not putting anybody off. Or, being secretive. All I know is that I always saw and thought in the way that I do. It wasn’t always as clear to me as it is today. But, clarity came with time, experience and practice.

Besides, telling you how I come up with something is assuming that my something is the same as yours. That can’t be correct. We are all different.

So.

Instead, I’m going to talk about my rules. The ones inside of me.

I’m hesitant to do that because a year or so ago, WordPress asked new photographers to shoot a picture following The Rule of Thirds in one of their challenges. The response was loud and very noisy. “I’m not following any damn rules.” “I can do anything that I want.” “Who needs rules?”

Uh. Wait a minute. The Rule of Thirds is a mathematical concept based on some laws of nature. Human beings are more or less built in thirds. So are trees. Flowers. Bushes.

Lighten up. Read the concept. Learn the rule. Then break it.

Anyway.

My first rule is Robert Capa’s old saying. Capa was a famous war photographer who photographed World War II’s D-Day and managed to step on a land mine in the earliest days of the Vietnam War and blow himself up. He said, “If the picture isn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough.” Think about that. It doesn’t just mean physical distance. It means an emotional distance. Spiritual distance. It implies closeness with the subject.

My second rule. “Don’t take the picture. Let the picture take you.” I’ve heard that from a number of sources. Think about that. Wait, wait, wait. The picture will appear if you just work with the subject and take your time with it. Sometimes it’s a look. Or motion. Or light.

My third rule comes from National Geographic Society’s William Allard. I never look at pictures of a place to which I’m traveling. I research it. I read about it from a historical perspective and from a semi-fictional point of view. I prefer to find my own pictures. I do not want to duplicate somebody else’s work. I don’t want to find the place where 100,000 other photographers worked. I don’t want my tripod to be in their tripod holes.

My fourth rule comes from Jay Maisel. If you aren’t impressed with your own picture, how do you expect me to be impressed by it?

My last two rules also come from Mr. Maisel. Leave everything and everybody better off than when you found them. Make your subjects smile. Talk to them. Remember that your picture is their story. Tell it. With honor and dignity. That applies to scenics as well. Take nothing but pictures.

And finally, always carry a camera. You can’t take a picture without one. It is certain that the moment will not ever be the same. It’s not very hard these days to carry something with which to make a picture.

Which ones do I follow regularly?

All of them. They are deeply ingrained inside of me.

I’m going to add one more. My own rule. I’m old enough now that I can create rules too. Heh!

Don’t make every picture you take precious. You don’t have to go on some big trip to take pictures. Take pictures. At home. In your yard. While you are out and about. As a friend of mine says, some of the best pictures are the ones that you make photographing your world. Show us your world. You’ll be far better off for it. So will we.

These pictures. My world. My way. Christmas lights. Decorations. And, a bit of the tree. Why this way? I started out by shooting family pictures and the usual documentary things. Pretty soon I got bored and started looking at shape. And color. And light. I controlled everything. But, the ISO. I let that fall into auto because photographing directly into lights can get tricky. You can end up with a bunch of bright point of light and a bunch of silhouettes. And… I’m lazy.

Nah.

Stars and lights.
Stars and lights.