Despite the heat of summer, I actually like the season. I like the rich greens. I like the cooling shade. I even like the torrential rains that cool the air and knock down the humidity temporarily. Of course, in the heat of summer, what falls down must rise up… in the form of ground humidity.
At a glance that sounds terrible.
In Southeast Louisiana, folks live in a natural greenhouse. Everything grows. And, it grows well. In little home gardens, you need only care for the plants. No watering necessary. There was one year, before the storm, that I grew something like 500 large tomatoes. I kept the plants neat and pruned. I removed tomato worms and that was about it. I rarely watered them. I never misted them. The yield was a little problem. Normally, I give away what I can’t use. Usually to neighbors. Not that year. Everybody had too many tomatoes.
It’s about the same thing with every vegetable or fruit. I planted a little basil bush that I bought at a grocery store. It stood about three inches tall. It was a skinny little thing. Today, it’s at least four feet tall. And, four feet around.
The picture. A tree that I saw on a walk. I liked the backlighted look. I turned it into a painting in post production. I also used a stretched paper look for the shape. Fairly easy to do. If you like experimenting.
These flowers are for all the children who have been harmed in any way from this almost constant spate of mass shootings. They are for those who died in their places of worship. Two safe places that are no longer safe.
Seeing the pictures of the children coming out of their school with their arms raised yesterday, just about broke me. It’s true. We are seeing this on an almost weekly basis. My prayer for myself is that I don’t become jaded. That I don’t get so much into myself that I don’t see the pain in others. And, that once in a while, I see the joy in others.
These days it seems like seeing joy is getting harder and harder to find. That isn’t right. Children should be nothing but joy. Oh sure, they have their meltdowns. Even that is a kind of joy. It’s part of their growth. However, when I talk to little ones, they seem to have a kind of resignation in their voice. They talk about their active shooter drills. They know that, not that it might come, but that it will come.
That’s horrible. It makes me so sad. My eyes are wet as I write.
I know that we can’t go back in time. But, the worst thing I feared when I was growing up was my parents wrath for doing something I shouldn’t. Even that was gentle.
I don’t know what to do. It’s well above my pay grade. I know that we can “vote the bastards out,” but can we change the trajectory that we seem to be headed on? I think that comes in small steps. Maybe be running for office in some teeny tiny election. Fix what we can fix. Hope that it moves upward.
An old friend of mine tweeted yesterday about wanting some big things to be fixed. Now. I replied, “run for office.” She thinks I’m kidding. I’m not. She’s smart, talented, a life long learner. No. She won’t fix the issues she wants fixed. But, she can fix something.
I’m really sorry about this. It seems like one long rant or vent. It’s not. It’s my thoughts after a really bad day. I thought I had problems. Nah. Mine didn’t even register on any scale.
The picture. Dog walk. She found this place. I just did what I always do. No lesson to share except keep your eyes open.
And, the fine folks at WordPress removed the spell check function. Yeah. We are all perfect writers.
The start of the start. Little seeds. Little seeds that eventually become little red berries. They don’t seem to grow based on seasons. Usually, I’m not wide-eyed enough to see them at this point.
The point of the point is that they usually show up in harsh light. The whole scene looks a little ugly. I likely ignore them as much as not see them. This time they were in my face. So I did what I do.
I made a picture.
I was right the first time. The scene, and the berries, was ugly.
I did what I do. Sometimes.
I tinkered in post production. I did it very heavily. Pretty soon, the scene took on a look of its own. I’m not exactly sure what it looks like now. But, it looks. It looks different. It looks however you want it to look.
That’s the thing about art. Or, semi-art.
You, the viewer, makes most of the meaning from whatever you are looking at. You bring your experience, your life, your soul into the picture. You make the meaning. I doesn’t matter what I intended.
It’s come to this. The dog who sees things wants to write this post. But, she doesn’t have opposable thumbs. So, it’s up to me.
This is what happens when you really need to make some pictures, but the color is gone, everything is green and you are bored out of your mind. It forces creativity. It forces you out of your comfort zone. And, it forced me to look down and work on the ground.
Not quite. But, almost.
I can stand and look down at what the lens sees. I can push the button from there. That’s a good thing. If I actually sat on the ground, that would be fine. But with my leg, hip and back issues, getting up is a whole other story. I can do it. But, the action is not fit for public consumption. It’s sort of like a crab trying to right itself.
Enough about me.
I have some questions. About Storyteller. For many of you, when you open an email you come straight to this page. Not really a problem. For others, you come to what amounts to a home page. The more that I look at it, the more overbearing and oppressive it becomes. Sure, there are a lot of pictures in a tiny bit of real estate. But…
What do you all think? Please don’t do the usual WordPress/Facebook thing and say it’s great, for fear of hurting my feelings. Fire away. Do you like the home page? Do you hate it? What about the rest?
The more I think about design and blogs like this one, it’s about you — the reader and viewer — more than it is about me. Hurting my feelings by being honest should be the least of your worries. Making Storyteller and easy to access place that’s fun to read should be the most important issue.
A Swamp Lilly. As a friend calls them. That could be the correct name. Or, it could be a regional name.
They are hard to photograph. They are found in places where the backgrounds — mostly grasses — are dark. The flower is very light yellow. Balancing the two in any kind of light besides overcast and flat light is almost impossible.
You could use a flash, but I usually make pictures of this type on a dog walk.
The magic smart phone has a flash feature, but little dog miss is trying to go in one direction, me in another and… you get it. Time is of the essence.
I make the best picture that I can. Quickly. And, do the rest in post production. Sometimes, even that isn’t enough so I pull and push the picture in different direction. Hopefully, I make something a little unique and different.
Maybe if I went on dog walks with a real camera that might help. You know garbage in, garbage out. With a camera the inbound garbage could be better.
For the most part, our spring color has come and gone. It came early. It left early. Luckily, the wildflowers, er weeds, started making their appearances.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Color. Bright color.
Yesterday was a bad day. It shouldn’t have been. It was my birthday. Not my natal birthday, but my other one. I made it to 27 years of constant sobriety. It means a lot to me. Without that, I wouldn’t have the things I have today.
My neighbor gave me the best birthday present she could have. She’s been sick. She’s had every kind of sinus and lung issue you could have. I had the same, but it came and went. Her’s has been going on for at least a month, always getting worse.
She’s also a smoker.
Instead of fighting it, she took her illness as a sign. A sign for clean up time. She’s quitting smoking. She’s not a heavy drinker — a glass of wine a day — but, she’s giving that up. And, she’s going to eat better.
We’ll see how far she gets, but everybody in this house supports her fully. I even get to be the cigarette nazi, just in case. Oh boy. Oh boy. Said with a very evil grin.
The rest of the day? In a word? Sucked.
I spent a good part of the day arguing in public about the legal ramifications of copyright, a subject which I’ve been forced to know well. The person with whom I was arguing was a friend. I respected him for his work in the community and his work in his profession.
When he started getting personal, I did what I always do. I slowed down and I started digging around. He hasn’t worked in his field in a year or two. He really never had the national honors that goes with his work.
This makes me sad. I haven’t confronted him and probably never will. I’ll do the other thing I always do. I’ll stay away. Probably for good.
This entire argument taught me one more thing. A lesson in how fake news builds and is spread. The folks who believe in him starting posting things that had nothing to do with the subject at hand. They were so out of line that I became a MAGA and POTUS supporter. WTH? Y’all know my feelings about that and him.
Yes. It bothers me. And, it will for a long time.
The picture. Another experiment in how I see things. This actually took some doing. My shadow kept getting in the way. And, when I contorted myself in a way to stay out of the picture, I started falling over for no other reason than even at my healthiest, I’m not built to stand that way.
It’s always something.
Today started much better. Although the sky is dark and rain is falling in buckets, I have no computer issues — that’s how my day started yesterday — and my housekeeping tasks are going along pretty easily. Of course, it’s more quiet than usual. When it’s dark and rainy, the dogs like to sleep in. Lazy dogs.
In the last 24 hours, one person passed. Another is having a birthday. A big one. And, the all-seeing dog found these flowers on a route we rarely take.
Obviously, the birthday was expected.
The dog did her usual thing. She turned a fifteen minute walk in a 60 minute walk because, well you know, all things must be explored.
The passing was not expected. He was a member of my krewe.
The Krewe of Backsteppers, which is not to be confused with backsliders. Backsteppers are the third line, but we walk before the first and second lines. We are the photographers who document second lines, Indian events and all sorts of Mardi Gras cultural events.
As I wrote to a friend of mine, it’s never good when there is a second line during the week. It almost always means some has died. And, so it did. Randolph “Mookie” Square was so well-known in the Treme community that the mayor issued a proclamation upon notification of his death. May he rest in peace. Or, as we say around here. RIH. Rest in Heaven.
Even though I didn’t know it when I made this picture. The flowers are for Mookie. And, the birthday girl.
I’m pretty sure that there will be a jazz funeral. Usually, for well-known community members it’s a really big deal. When Uncle Lionel Batiste passed (You know his nephew if you watch Late Night with Stephen Colbert), it took a while because there were a lot of very violent rainstorms, but when his second line finally got going it was huge.
So huge that the Louisiana State Troopers closed two exits on the interstate where it passes over Claiborne because people were on the off ramp dancing and photographing. Yes. I was one of them.
I expect about the same thing this time.
I’m not sure I have the energy I had back then. That was a long time gone. But, I’ll do my best. You know why.
Sometimes, in New Orleans, it’s about learning. It’s about learning how to deal with death. Of course we mourn. The first steps in a jazz funeral are a dirge. But, we know that all things must pass. That dying is part of living. So, when the dirge is over the music soars. People dance. In the streets. We send the one who just passed, out in a blaze of glory.
Of course, we’ll miss them. But, we’ll always remember them. And, the good times we passed with them.
For me that means on the parade routes. Mookie had a habit of finding the picture at the last-minute and jumping right in front of you. After a couple of times of “WTH?”, you realized that he was no better or worse than you are. I can’t begin to tell you how many how many times I did that to other photographers. I won’t even apologize for it. It is what it is.
It struck me that with the Mardi Gras Indians showing of their new suits around the first day of spring, this whole thing is about rebirth. Shedding old skins — their 2018 suits — and showing their new finery, just like a butterfly bursts from its cocoon.
It’s also about the joy of reunions. Even though New Orleans is a fairly small city, we don’t see each other all that often. We are busy. We are working. We are doing family things. We are running errands.
Sometimes we run into each other. If we are part of a group who photographs every second line we might see each other weekly.
As I back away from weekly second line coverage, that is the one thing I loath to give up. The camaraderie. As a friend of mine says, “it’s like going to church.” In many ways it isn’t. But, in most ways it is. Going to church on Sunday has many components. One is community. Another is prayer. What do I say about working? “The work is the prayer.”
I think I’m done with Super Sunday for this year, except for some oddities.
My season seems to by learning in some of its purest forms. I could also curse this thing. It’s really opened me up. That’s a good thing. It’s helping me to see with different eyes. It’s helping me feel with a different heart.
It’s also bringing up emotions at inopportune times.
After all, who wants to start leaking when you are grocery shopping? That almost happened, as I watched a daughter about my age help her dad with his shopping. Her tenderness towards him was amazing. He was ancient and wearing a World War II service cap. Pinned to it were a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Thanks for your service. You helped save the world.
On balance, I suppose that it’s a good thing. We’ll see where I come out. Next year.
This picture is also about learning. In a different way. It is about experimenting with my smart phone’s camera. Once again, this picture was made in manual, in the so-called pro setting. I did a tiny bit of post production, but the picture is as I saw it on the monitor.
One more thing. If you are so inclined, please go to http://www.laskowitzpictures.com. Take a look around. For sure, there are lots more to be done. But, it’s my new website. It has a blog called Storyteller. Imagine that. There is one post. There is also a store. You can buy photographs there. Currently you can only download files. By the end of the week, it’ll be linked to a printer called The darkroom. They’ve been around for 40 plus years. You can select a picture, select the size, and the finish and it’ll be shipped directly to your address.
Please tell me what you’d like to see in the store. You aren’t committing to anything. I’m just very interested in what might sell. Be patient with that. It’ll take a while to upload masses of pictures from which to select.