At night in the French Quarter.

I

‘ve made a change. You’ll figure it out. It comes under the heading of who was I really hurting?

In these pandemic days when many people aren’t able to travel, it’s possible to get a European fix right here in New Orleans. After all, we are a French, Spanish and American place. Much of the Quarter was rebuilt after a massive fire and is really Spanish-influenced even though we call it the French Quarter,

But, this place. It looks and feels like it belongs in Paris. It was an old run down apartment building. If you’ve walked on Royal Street, you’ve probably seen it. It is catty corner from Rouses, the only real grocery store in the Quarter.

if you noticed I used the word, “was.”

No worries. It was run down. Now it’s restored. It still exists. Thankfully.

It’s very hard to demo any building in the Quarter. They are all historical. When a building comes down it usually fell down on its own accord. Sometimes, it’s not really on its own. Sometimes, the owner didn’t take very good care of it and it rotted from the inside out.

Anyway, I’ve always liked this building. If there is any kind of pretty light, I usually head over there to make a few pictures, meaning that I’ve got a pretty good archive of this building. Besides, if it’s a hot and humid day, the grocery store is a great place to buy water at normal prices.

And, speaking of normal, nothing is normal in New Orleans as much as we try to pretend it is. We lead the nation in new CoVid-19 infections. Florida is a close second. The rate of infection upriver and in Baton Rouge is so bad that Our lady of The Lake — a major hospital — has no beds for anybody. All of their vents are in use. They were forced to hire traveling nurses to augment their staff.

The entire state is under a governor’s mandate to wear masks inside and outside, if it’s necessary. Many clubs want a proof of vaccination or tests results no older than 72 hours and you still have to wear a mask.

It’s bad and getting worse.

If you are a tourist and you love our city please don’t come.

L

et’s talk about this photograph.

The first thing you should know is that I cropped it out of a horizontal picture because I wanted more detail than a horizontal picture could show on this page.

I followed the crop with what I consider to be normal improvements. I darkened it a little, added some color to it, and sharpened it.

Then…

I went a little crazy. I added glow and softness. I made the picture moody, maybe even spooky.

Finally, I had to repair what normally is a radius issue, meaning that little rim of light you see around subjects, sometimes. This time it was thick and only in one place. It looked like somebody tried to erase the sky. Normally, it is repaired by lowering the radius or “structure.”

Not this time.

I had to fiddle and tinker and fiddle some more. Finally, I found a solution hiding in a vibrance feature. Make the top more colorful and the problem vanished.

I don’t know why.


The start of the holiday season.

This one.

This is the picture I mentioned in yesterday’s Storyteller.

The Christmas wish of “peace y’all” has been around for as long as I can remember. Except for some slight rewiring, the lights never change. This picture is probably four or five years old. But, I could wander down to Royal Street today and make the same one.

I dressed this version up in some new bobbles from OnOne. It’s warmer. It has little globe-like things around, which are OnOne’s version of in-computer created bokeh. I’ve opened the shadows some. But, that’s about it.

As I wrote yesterday, I was thinking that I might not even try to photograph this decoration again. Then the light bulb went off. I found an idea. I’lll either show it to you if it works. Or, tell you about it if it doesn’t.

I’d like one thing from all of you who are photographers. I’d love to see where you live dressed up in its Christmas or holiday best. Whaddya think?

 


Motion on Royal Street.

All motion.

For years I made a career out of pictures like this one. Motion. Movement. Energy. It wasn’t hard to do. About 1/4 second at f/5.6 and I’d make a picture likes this one. But, that was the film days.

When digital photography came into being sharpness was everything. That’s why mega pixels became a big marking tool. That’s why faster and bigger lenses became a thing. That trend continues today. I switched to mirrorless cameras because I liked their small size. The first lenses were small too.

Today? Not so much.

Lenses are huge. They are fast. They are sharp. But, they defeat my purpose for switching to mirrorless bodies. I want small. I want unobtrusiveness. I want to blend in with the people around me. For me, bigger is not better.

Anyway.

It’s been a long week. I’ll leave you with that.


Music everywhere.

Music takes me everywhere.

I live in a city made of music. I live in a city made of ancient culture. I live in a city full of food. They all seem to be struggling.

Musicians can barely earn a living. You see some amazing musicians playing on the street. Some are in between gigs. Others are scraping by.

The folks who are the culture believe the city makes about $900,000,000 a year off of their cultural pursuits, which is killing them. That’s a lot of money. But, tourism is our only real business.

And, food. Our food is great. But, at our current rate of restaurant expansion there seems to be one restaurant for every 300 of us.

Something has to give. Or, not.

The biggest issue might be the newest of comers. The ones who want to gentrify everything. The ones who don’t like second lines on Sunday because they create a racket. The ones who came here for all the stuff I’ve written about… for years. But, when they get here they want the city to be just like the place they came from.

Of course, the newcomers have added a lot of stress to the housing situation. Many of the culture bearers rent, they don’t own, their homes. Their landlords see big money and sell their homes out from under them. They leave the old neighborhoods. They usually head upriver. They come home for whatever their festivals happen to be. They don’t admit this of course. One Baby Doll lives in Natchez, Mississippi. That’s a long drive for one event. Yet, she does it.

So.

There was a meeting between a lot of the culture bearers and the city this week. The city claims that they want to protect them. Losing this ancient culture means significant tourism losses. I missed the first meeting. I’ll make sure I’m there for the next one. Based on newspaper reports, a lot of issues got side tracked. I’ll see what I can do to address some of those issues. Unfortunately, for me, this might be a case of good intentions being the road to hell.

The picture. Music really is everywhere around here. I passed these buskers on the way to someplace else, as I do with a lot of my subjects. I made some clean shots of them playing, but the guy passing by seems to add something to the picture.

 


In the night, The French Quarter of New Orleans with a little artistic help.

I admit it.

I haven’t been to the French Quarter at night in a long while. Truth be told, I’m a little fearful. Carrying cameras and sort of hobbling around on a repaired hip makes me an easy target at a time in the city where it seems crime is everywhere.

Yeah, New Orleans has always been a little rough. What do you expect? It’s a port city. Port cities are traditionally tough. But, crime was fairly predictable. Even when I arrived on the scene. I was told stay out of here, here and there at certain times of day and I’d be good. Not so much anymore. More randomness has set in. Oddly, those places I was advised to stay away from have become fairly safe in my eyes. Yeah, stuff happens. But, I know what to look for and I know the good guys, which is most of them.

So.

That’s not really what this post is about. It’s just what came to mind. The thing that I’m trying to talk myself out of doing, or not doing. You know how that goes.

The post is about a great night in The French Quarter. A night when everything sparkles, shimmers and shines. When the Quarter is magical. The place that, when tourists go home, they can’t stop talking about, resolving to come back again. One day. Soon. I’ve met a bunch of you on Storyteller. I try really hard to see my city — my home — through your eyes.

That’s what this image is about.

The picture. Night time on Royal Street. When I pushed the shutter release button it was at the end of a lot of walking. I thought the image was a throw away. Then I looked at it on a large monitor. My first impression was the wrong impression. It’s a pretty nice picture. For my current project I added the usual. Bits and pieces that I found along my walks. I wanted the final picture to glow. To feel explosive, but in a fireworks sort of way.

I think it works. You tell me.


A walk along Royal Street.
A walk along Royal Street.

Christmas.

A couple of days away. Time to show you New Orleans during the season. We don’t have snow. But, we have something else. Something special that I can’t really name. The Christmas season is my favorite time of year in the city.

I’ll return to photo tutorials in the new year. And, “what the dog saw.” Besides publishing New Orleans Christmas pictures, there is a lot to do on Storyteller in the next few days. The close of the year means showing you what I consider to be my best pictures of the year. Many of you will have seen these somewhere along the line in 2016. Some of you have not. It’s a good way for me to review my own work.

The picture. The usual thing. See it. Frame it. Photograph it. I didn’t shoot with a very high ISO because I wanted a little blurred motion in the picture. I made it on Royal Street. In the French Quarter. Towards the end of the blue hour.


Weirdness on Royal Street.
Weirdness on Royal Street.

Another night in The French Quarter.

This is what happens when you break the rules. You know. Don’t shoot into the light. Keep the light behind you. Use a flash at night. Why? Why? Why? Yeah. You’ll get a picture. It’ll likely be boring. If you take a chance something good might happen. Sort of like life. I suppose.

Anyway.

I made this picture at the end of a night in the French Quarter. Taking pictures. I was walking back to my car, down the middle of Royal Street, when a mule drawn carriage was headed straight for me.  I had some distance between the driver and me, so I stood there and took a couple of pictures. Then I did some post production and added some more evilness to the image.

There you have it.

I owe my thinking to a colleague and friend of mine. She is putting the finishing touches and a French Quarter inspired book. I’ve read a bit of it. If her book had end plates, this is the picture. Even though this is just a mule drawn carriage that appeals to the tourist trade, in this picture it looks like an old school hearse. The ones you see at jazz funerals.


The player.
The player.

Back to human subjects for a while.

When people come to New Orleans for the first time they immediately head to The French Quarter. And, more specifically, to Bourbon Street. That’s fine. Everybody should do it once. Then, expand your view. Walk around the entire Quarter. It’s roughly 16 blocks. You can see just about everything in a day. Maybe, two. Then, as I always say, get out the Quarter. It’s just one neighborhood in a city of 13 wards that are divided up in local neighborhoods. Even if you like the Quarter enough to want to visit again and again, make it your base. It’s a good one. Hotels are plentiful. There are all sorts of restaurants. There are things to see without making a big adventure out of it.

But, use our transportation system. Get on the streetcars and explore the city. It’s a pretty cool place. If you do this right, the only time you ever need to be in a car is to get from the airport to the city. Even for us, who live here, if we want to go to the Quarter or Treme, we walk a couple of block and catch the St. Charles Streetcar and take it to St. Charles and Canal Street. Done. No looking for parking. No fear of a parking ticket. We are just there.

Why am I’m writing this post? Now?

Any day now — or month, heh, heh, heh — the summer heat and humidity will break. The temperature will drop into the high 70s during the day and low 60s or even 50s at night. The humidity will be low. It will be our version of autumn. It is a perfect time to visit. With luck, it will last until to around Christmas time.

The picture. Oh, I made this on Royal Street. In the Quarter. There are about four places to hear music on the street. Bourbon Street. But, that’s music played in the bars and clubs and drifts out on the street. Jackson Square, where you never know who will turn up just wanting to play a little. Frenchman Street, which used to be cool. Now, it’s Bourbon Street downriver and finally, Royal Street. A lot of pretty good musicians gather on street corners and play for tips. For me, that’s the best place. At least, these days.


French Quarter street lights.
French Quarter street lights.

A funny thing happened. One of my agencies asked me to photograph some of the top ten tourist locations in New Orleans. So, I Googled around. In general, most of the top ten lists of places to go in New Orleans are located in The French Quarter. Maybe eight out of the top ten.  I know it’s a chicken and egg deal. The tourism board markets the French Quarter very heavily, so the tourists go to the French Quarter. They tell their friends and they go to the French Quarter. So it goes. As I’ve written in the past, many of them don’t even realize that there’s a pretty big city outside of the Quarter.

As a resident, I think that’s too bad. There are a lot of wonderful places to visit is the city. You’ve seen a lot of them here. But, I earn my living this way so if an agency asks, I’ll do what I can. I will drag it out a bit. Not intentionally. Or out of protest. If I’m going to photograph the same old tourist locations, at least I want the pictures to be a little different from most. That difference is found in the light. I think. And, really great light doesn’t appear just because I want it to. I have to wait for it.

Here’s an example. The bottom picture. You’ve probably seen the location on Storyteller maybe ten times. It’s the falling down apartment on Royal Street. Everybody who passes by it photographs it. Me too. But, every now and then the light gets really good. And, I get really lucky.

You've seen this before.
You’ve seen this before.