Spring like.

I’d write about winter. But. it seems aside from a cold front moving in yesterday, our winter looks like most people’s spring.

I was surprised to see these little guys in full bloom.  When I say little I mean it. Through the magic of a macro lens I was able to make the flowers look silver dollar sized, when in reality they are smaller than the size of a dime.

Of course, since I can no longer get down on my hands and knees to make pictures like this one I let the auto focus do its thing. Fortunately, it latched onto the bloom.

That reminds me of my first mirrorless camera experience.

My Sony NEX-7 arrived along with its kit lense. I decided to go for a drive in the rain, because that’s what I do. I needed gas, so I stopped to fill ‘er up. I sat in the car while the gas pumped. I started to make test pictures through the rainy windows. I looked at the enlarged images on my monitor and thought that the camera had a problem. Every image appeared out of focus

Grrrrrrrr.

I looked at them again at a slightly less magnification.

Every image was in sharp focus. Huh? The autofocus module picked the rain drops on the windshield as the subject. They were as sharp as they could be while the background was well out of focus creating a little mystery.

That was in 2012, well before the mirrorless camera market was developed to the point that it is today. There is something fun about being an early adopter.

Unfortunately, for me, the development has gone in the wrong direction. Lenses are getting much bigger. Camera bodies are growing too.

One of the main attractions for me was that the gear is small. My first lens purchase was a 16mm/f 2.8 wide angle lens. According to the pixel peepers it was no good. It’s a great little lense. It’s also a pancake model which means that is less than 1/2 inch long. It weighed almost nothing. That’s what I was after.

If I wanted to buy a better 16mm lens, I could do that today. There is one that is an f-stop faster. It meets the pixel peepers approval. But, it is about four inches long and weighs around a pound.

Sheesh.

If i wanted that I could have stayed with DSLRs.

And, so it goes.


The birth of yellow.

New blooms. In winter.

I’ve never seen this plant in the time that I’ve moved here. I’ll have to wait until these blooms open. I think I know what they might be, but I won’t know until I see them.

Sorta like life.

Make all the plans that you want. The minute you put them into action everything changes. Wise generals know you can plan and plan a battle, but the minute you step on the field everything changes. Former boxer Mike Tyson once said that you can make all the plans you want for a match, but the minute you get punched in the face those plans go out the window. That’s why I say to empty your mind and not to take the picture. Let the picture take you.

But, what do I know?

I’m still feeling my way as I go. Just like all the rest of us. I may know a lot about photography and some visual stuff, but what I don’t know about most of life could fill up the worlds largest land mass.

That said, this years single word koan is “learn.” I did learn. I learned mostly about me. That’s always good.  I learned a tiny bit about the world around me. Not enough. What should next years word be, do you think?

I’m all ears.


So green.

I’m sort of running out of pictures.

That’s mostly because I’m living my other life for the next week or so. No worries. I have plenty of pictures stashed away that you haven’t seen. For that matter, they are pictures that I’ve sort of forgotten about.

Pictures like this one, a nice bucolic meadow picture. Pretty, isn’t it?

Or, not.

This is the Lower 9th Ward, maybe ten years after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees and flooded what was once a vibrant community.

Sure, some people have returned. Some people rebuilt on their own. Some people returned to buy and live in Brad Pitt’s Make-It-Right homes. That’s the very corporate foundation that is being sued because many of the homes are falling apart. It appears that the all-star architects who designed them had no clue about our extreme weather. Mr. Pitt tried to decouple himself from the lawsuit, but the judge basically said that he couldn’t have it both ways.

That’s not the point of this picture. I’ve long said the people shouldn’t live here. The area is so far below sea level that cracks and potholes in the streets, leak. Apparently, nature agrees with me. Most of the land has returned to what it once was. Even wild animals have returned. I’ve seen feral pigs, snakes and turtles. A friend of mine said that he saw an alligator.

This picture is an example of nature seeking stasis.

Once, on this bit of property there were at least two or three houses. If you return to it in winter when everything is dead or dormant, you can see the foundations, water pipes, and the most spooky thing, porches to nowhere. Oh, and renegade toilets.

I’m thinking that when I get back, I should go back to the scene of the crime. I used to go about four times a year to chart the progress. I haven’t been back in a long while. I’ll add that to my list.


A brand new tree.

It’s got to start somewhere.

I thought.

The change has to come. Maybe from a little seed. Maybe from a terrible tragedy. Like gun violence. Like the three mass shootings that we had last week. Like the horrific number of shootings in Chicago. Like the never ending gun violence in my home city. New Orleans.

When I made this picture, I knew what it was about. This is a little bitty baby tree, growing from seeds after a storm.

We’ve had the storm. The storm clouds haven’t broken. The man in charge won’t do anything. I watched his speech. Did you? He looked drugged. He mumbled. He thought one of the shootings took place in Toledo. No, Mr. President. That’s was Dayton. Dayton, Ohio. In a state that you need to carry if you have a hope of being re-elected.

I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Aside from his hate filled racist rhetoric, he killed my retirement fund yesterday, with his “easy to win trade wars.” The Chinese reacted in the only ways they could. They stopped buying grain and soy beans from American farmers. And, they let the Renminbi (Yuan) drop to a conversion rate that is higher than it was when I used to roam around Asia.

I can afford to travel to China since goods, services and lodging are much cheaper for me. But, after the stock market reacted, my retirement fund tanked. Now I might not have the money to travel.

So.

What to do?

Since our government leaders seem to be stuck in place, it’s up to us. It is always up to us.

Look around the world.

Puerto Rican citizens forced a corrupt leader out of power.

Hong Kong people are striking in every possible way. On Monday, they shut the whole city down. By forcing the MTR (subway) to stop, the Hong International Airport was forced to cancel 200 flights.  My fear is that with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army — Chinese Army) mounting up in Shenzhen, just across the border, they may enter the city. There will be serious bloodshed. I lived in Hong Kong for a long time. Those are my people.

All of that said, maybe it’s time for us to strike. To shut everything down. To force our politicians to act. To act now, because waiting 18 months to vote is too long. People are dying. People are afraid to go shopping, to go school, to go hear a concert, to gather in a crowded place.

One of my jobs in my other career is to predict the future. I think about our local events.

What about Mardi Gras?

What about French Quarter Fest?

What about Jazzfest?

A guy with a gun could kill hundreds before he could be stopped. I’m having second thoughts about making pictures during those events.

Even neighborhood second lines — the thing that is near and dear to me — could be compromised. If a deranged white power dude wanted to take out Black People that would be the place to do it.

The whole thing sucks.

That’s why we have to step up. Somehow. Some way.

Because.

Doing nothing will kill more of us.

A few notes.

I promised that Storyteller would be a politics free zone. It would be a place to talk about art. About photography. About seeing. And, about some technology.

I’ve broken my promise to you. I’m so sorry.

But, if I say nothing I’m as culpable as the people doing us harm. So, you see, I have no other choice. I’ve got to speak. I fear that in the future — I don’t know when — Storyteller may publish pictures of events I don’t really want to photograph. But, my journalistic roots won’t let me ignore the events of change.

I’m sorry about that too.

That was never my intent.

Peace.

 


Cool shade.

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.

It isn’t.

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.


Flowers for the children.

These flowers.

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.

Now?

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.

Peace.

And, the fine folks at WordPress removed the spell check function. Yeah. We are all perfect writers.


The next season.

The start.

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.

But.

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.

So.

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.

I live with it my way. You live with it yours.


Dog’s eye view.

Woof.

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?

Because.

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.

Have fun.


Sunday flowers.

A Sunday picture.

Something pretty and light-hearted.

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.

Yes.

You could use a flash, but I usually make pictures of this type on a dog walk.

Yes.

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.

So.

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.

Or not.

Happy Sunday.