Red, and fading.

Southeastern Louisiana is an outdoor hothouse.

Heat, humidity and rainfall make it so.  We have weird growth. Until I moved here I never saw a red mushroom. I see them towards the end of summer. There are also white ones. Brown ones. Huge misshapen ones. I’ve lived in a lot of places. Louisiana is the most primal place I’ve ever lived. If you removed all the man-made things, you might think you lived in the age of dinosaurs.

It makes you think.

It makes me think about going forward. Life for our children. And, their children. And, on and on. I’m trying to leave something behind. Or, at least not take anything away.

The picture. Another dog walk picture. Good thing that dog has me. I might never explore these kind of places. She sniffed this mushroom and immediately turned away. She knows. I know too. Anything red through purple is a no go. Eat it and die. Or, at least, get really sick.

It’s really just a simple see  it and push the button kind of picture. I worked hard in post production to not turn it into a flourescent nightmare.

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Reflections.

A story. My story.

Something happened yesterday that really dug into me. Into my heart. My soul. My physical being.

First, I have to tell you the back story. Where I come from they say to tell another living person. It shouldn’t be somebody who is close to you. It shouldn’t be somebody who supports you unconditionally.

So.

I’m telling you.

Before I do, I want to tell you not to worry. The words my be scary. The illness isn’t and likely will never be.

In 2015 my primary care doctor noticed that my white blood cell count had been high for a year. He was running a blood test as part of my normal annual physical. He referred me to another doctor. A blood specialist. After more blood work and specialized research, I was diagnosed with CLL. A kind of leukemia. After assuring me that it wouldn’t kill me, and that it probably would never become symptomatic, he sent me home with a lot of research — online and in hard copy. I found out that he was right.

But, still…

It’s an emotional upheaval. It wasn’t until musical miss’ mom, a retired surgical nurse, said that once we got over the shock, I should just go on living my life. Three years later, and probably four, I’m fine. I am asymptomatic. I have my blood checked regularly. If anything my numbers are getting better. I do take care of myself and that matters. It will likely never emerge. The odds are great 98% of newly diagnosed patients never have it emerge. That’s why you shouldn’t worry.

Flash forward to yesterday.

I was at my oncologist’s office (how weird is that to say out loud) waiting my turn. I was talking to a family. Their little boy liked me, so he and I played iPhone games.  They were waiting for their daughter who was helped into the office by a nurse. She was barely hanging on to a walker. She was wearing a tank top. She had two chemo port holes in her upper chest. The family helped her put on a t-shirt. The nurse was talking about the next treatment plan. The current plan was not having the desired effect. I guess there must have been a lot of pain in my eyes. This young girl’s dad put his hand on my shoulder and said, quietly “I’ll be alright.”

My turn in the office.

I have a great doctor. While he’s looking me over and explaining my numbers we talk about everything. Since we are close to another Katrina anniversary we talked about that. Because he is a good doctor, he noticed that I was a little sad. When he asked why, I told him. He replied that he really couldn’t say anything. I just said that it didn’t look good. He looked me in the eye and said that it wouldn’t be good.

The young girl is 13 years old.

She will never be able to live her life. Please understand that I have no desire to die. No death wish. Nothing like it. I hope to be old and feisty when I go. But, in that one moment I thought that if I could change places with her I would not hesitate. I’ve lived most of my life. She’s just getting started. It doesn’t seem fair. But, who said life was fair?

Please have a good thought for her. You may not know her. But, she is universal. You do know her.

The picture. Oh. Yeah. I saw a bunch of leaves reflecting off the back of a sign. A handicapped sign. I guess that was meant to be. I just darkened it a bit.


Almost like fire.

On a late afternoon walk.

I saw the backlight on this group of leaves and I couldn’t resist. Could you?

Yes. It took some work in post production to help it be the picture that I saw in my mind’s eye. But, it was straight, normal work. I darkened the over all image, added contrast and leaf detail. That was it. Nothing that couldn’t be done in an old school wet darkroom.

I suppose this brings me to seeing a scene and understanding it for what it could be. I suppose that it’s a kind of expanded thinking.

There are a couple of blogs that I read whenever they are posted. These bloggers travel to some great locations. I want to write in the comments section, why don’t you just stop and hang out for a bit and wait until the light is low and magical?

It seems that they have deadlines to keep. On their vacation.

I understand the sometimes need to get from point A to point B, but if you claim photography as your passion don’t you think you could let the light in a special place drive you?

Sometimes. Once in a while.

The people with whom I travel like my way of traveling a lot. They get to see more. They get to stop more. They get to explore. They get to eat and drink while they are standing on solid ground. And, because we’ve already built that time into the very loose general plan, the trip becomes a journey. Sometimes an adventurous one.

As my mom used to say about different kinds of food, “Try it, you might like it.”


A pleasant surprise.

I’ve been thinking.

You know how dangerous that can be. These are pretty good thoughts about a man who has served my country for his entire adult life. He served in the military. In the House of Representatives. And, in the Senate.

Now, he is dying of brain cancer. A particularly virulent strain that also killed Ted Kennedy.

Senator John McCain is making peace in his last days by writing a book that he might not be alive to see published. He is making peace by visiting with his old friends and telling them what they mean to him. Because he is sick, they have to come to him. They journey hundreds of miles to do this. Despite the political implications of these visits, most of them come because as former Vice President Joe Biden said, “I just want to see my friend.”

Please make no mistake. I don’t agree with many of the things Senator McCain did or said. He is too quick to “put boots on the ground” rather than to settle something diplomatically. He was often an air cowboy as a pilot. Yet, when the USS Forrestal was on fire he landed his aircraft and rushed to the fire to help save the crew. He comported himself with great dignity after his capture and prison time as POW. He came home to serve his country.

Most importantly, I never for a minute believed that he advocated anything — even those things with which I disagreed — without my country’s best interests in mind.

I respect him.

Now, as his time approaches, he is taking care of unfinished business. He is planning his funeral. He’s asked two former presidents to speak. They are from both sides of the political spectrum. Former President George W. Bush and former President Barrack Obama. They said yes. He does not want the current president to attend. It would be easy to criticize him for that. It’s not revenge. The current president stands for nothing the senator believes in. I’m not sure he stands for anything.

Where did all this bring me to?

I’m somebody of thinks through complicated thoughts and distills them into something simple. Understandable. After all, complicated pictures are hard to view.

We don’t have to agreed with each other. But, we owe it to ourselves and to the people around us to listen and to compromise. We owe it to ourselves to speak out whether it be in words, our art, or just in our actions.

You know, like how hard is it to let another car pass in front of you when they need to be in another lane?

Yeah, like that.

The Rose?

Oh, I saw it yesterday. It was too pretty to pass up. To pretty to pass up in my search for junk. You know what I say. The work is the prayer. Call it a prayer for the senator.


New Orleans drivers; they’re the worst.

New Orleans drivers are the worst. The only thing we are good at is letting the other guy go first. That’s not just because we are laid back southerners. Sheesh. I’m not. I was born in Brooklyn. It’s because we don’t want to get shot.

Think I’m kidding?

Yesterday, a guy was shot and killed because he sprayed water on his neighbor’s car.  Of course, as the media starting reporting the facts, we found out that it was a ten-year old feud. These two guys argued over everything. And, anything.

Still.

Who, in their right mind, shoots and kills somebody because their car got wet? One guy is dead. The other will die in prison. All because of a few drops of water. I could go into a whole gun thing, but I won’t. It could also go into a whole stupidity thing, but I won’t. I am saying that most of the U.S. and maybe the world, is going crazy. Over reactions. Polarization. Tribalism. I used to see it and laugh at it. Now, it’s the order of the day. It scares me.

Oh, and many people seem to have lost their patience and ability to think reasonably, if at all.

That’s how the car I photographed got this tail light damage. One car was making a left hand turn. One car was approaching the intersection. The guy making the left just couldn’t wait for the other guy to pass. The guy passing just couldn’t slow down and let the guy turning left make his turn.

So.

Whammo. Blammo. A small accident.

That could have been avoided.

Everybody settle down. Oh well, at least I got some art out of it.

 

 


A little bit of something.

A little more experimentation. A little more trickery in post production. And, a lot of red.

Once again, I combined something man-made with something found in nature. The component that was found in nature is easy to identify. It’s a tree. I’ll let you guess about the man-made object. It’s fairly common. But, I doubt many people think about it.

I’ve been wondering about something lately. I was talking to a new follower in comments. She said something about when she was “into photography.” I asked her why she stopped. She replied with the usual reasons which came down to “life got in the way.” This started me thinking about bloggers I haven’t read or seen in a long time. I went to my follower list and sure enough… about half the people that I follow haven’t posted anything in a six months to a year. That likely means, that they won’t blog again. I’m on the fence about removing them. One one hand, what does it matter if they are there? On the other hand, if they aren’t posting at all why not do a little spring cleaning?

What do you think? Obviously if you are still reading and still posting, you haven’t dropped out. Fair enough. But, why do you think others do? Or, don’t?

I get it.

This is kind of hard work. As much as I’ve streamlined the process, it’s still hard to post every day. This post is a little late today — my self-imposed deadline, not yours — not because I was busy with something else, but because I just didn’t feeling like doing the work today.

That’s happening more and more.


Night time on Washington Avenue.

Street portraits made easy.

When you have help. My buddy, Pableaux Johnson was working with a new video light on a still camera. It is flat panelled and a continuous light source. He thought it would help illuminate the Mardi Gras Indians as they walked while they showed off their suits. After all, on St. Joseph’s Night we work in available darkness. He turned it on to take a picture of this guy. He couldn’t quite get what he wanted. But, standing to the side of him, I did. I just didn’t know it at the time.

I’m not sure I would use that light. It was a little cumbersome for him. It also seems to provide a very flat — meaning not enough contrast — light. And, I could see him from a block away. My whole way of working on the street is to blend in, and not be seen.

Anyway.

I made a pretty good portrait, mostly just by standing there and pointing the camera.

Of course, the original file didn’t look anything like this. Yes, the red color was there. It just wasn’t so enhanced. And, I buried a lot of noise with darkness. Even with the external light, I really was pushing the camera’s limits since we were standing in the darkest possible location. That took some doing because the picture — his face — needed some sharpening because the focal plane is centered on his hands and the sugar skull button. Even with masking, I ran the risk of sharpening the noise. I made it work. Just.

But.

It came together. I’m really anxious to run a test print. After all, it’s not really a photograph unless it’s printed on paper. With all the technical issues I had to overcome, I’m wondering if the image will just fall apart on when I print it.

Questions? Ask away. Answers? I’m all ears. Like the picture? Buy it. Papa needs a new large format printer to crowd an already crowded studio.

 


Looking Southwestern.

This one fooled me.

While I was developing and tinkering with this photograph, I had the strangest sensation. The picture looks like it was made in some other place. It almost looks southwestern. Like I made it in New Mexico. The Christmas colored trees almost look like the high desert. So does the sky.

Note, the word “almost.”

There is a kind of light in New Mexico that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. It’s the reason that some many visual artists make their home in the state.  At it’s best the light is sharp, angular, powerful and turns golden well before the golden hour. The skies are a particular shade of blue. There is sunshine most of the year. When the skies get cloudy and rain or snow falls, photographers run around like mad trying use that different kind of light.  I miss it.

Anyway.

I saw this scene and I knew that I had to step back. Many of my semi-nature images are made very tightly. That’s kind of my style. I did make many of those kinds of pictures when I took this one. You saw one yesterday. It was made a few steps away from this photograph. I have another one that I may show you at a later date.

I do think this particular frame does highlight our Southeastern Louisiana spring. One tree looks like fall. The other looks like very early summer, with its green all nice and bright.

Oh. One more thing.

My Christmas color comment. It’s a New Mexican way of saying red and green. It usually applies to food. Anybody who has visited or lived there knows what I’m saying. For the rest of you, you’ll just have to ask. Heh, heh, heh.


In black and white.

Slowly.

Ever so slowly. Because, I’m still recovering from a long and gruelling weekend.

The story so far. I’ve managed to download, backup and curate the images from four events. But, I seem to run out of steam early in the afternoon. So I cherry pick for you. At other times I sleep. I did way too much of that yesterday. I have a couple of big projects that need doing. They are going to need doing for the rest of the week.

Of course, my images must come first. So, today I think it’s this work. Walking the dogs. And, hitting the gym. That may not sound like much. But developing and fine tuning this work is very time-consuming. At least ten hours. Dog walks take about an hour and there are at least two. The gym also takes about an hour. Obviously, I won’t complete the photo work today.

That said, here’s my Super Sunday picture for today. I like it because of the black and white, highlighted by the touches of red. I think this guy is a Wildman. But, he turned away from me so quickly and got lost in the crowd that I couldn’t talk to him. Or, he could be repping something else. He comes very close to being masked as a skull and bones member. That’s sort of a violation of street code. Know who you photograph. Since Storyteller is distributed to Facebook and Twitter, maybe somebody will jump in and tell me. Please.

Anyway.

I’m sort of struggling with next steps. A lot of you here and on Facebook really liked my Sunday art work. I think that’s my direction forward. But, I’m a photojournalist at heart. And, the crosses at sunset seemed to confirm that with a lot of you. What do y’all think?

Trust me. I do listen. Tim suggested that I photograph the funeral first and I did. He helped me gain clarity. Sometimes, you just need to listen to somebody outside of your family.