Rain. Motion Blur. And, a strange crop of a woman standing next to me.
It seems that there is a kind of finality to this picture. That’s a good thing. This is the last of this series. I reckon that you’ve had enough. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday. The first day of the week. The first day of a new thing. Don’t ask me what. I haven’t thought that far in the future. Yeah. I know. That’s just tomorrow. It’ll come to me sometime before that.
As you already know, sometimes I don’t talk about the picture. I veer off in some other direction. This is one of those times.
Yesterday evening was just terrible.
Peter Fonda died. He’s a big part of my youth. Movies like Easy Rider helped to form me. The music of that time was the soundtrack to my life. It really hit me when Roger McGuinn — the founder of The Byrds — tweeted, “I just lost a dear friend.”
Not ten minutes later I learned that Nancy Parker, a journalist and anchor person for local television channel FOX 8, died in an airplane crash while she was working on a story about Franklin Augustus, a local a licensed stunt pilot. He was also killed. Nancy Parker had been with the station for 23 years. It seems that everybody knew her or watched her. To a person everybody talked about her kindness and caring. I met her very briefly prior to the Zulus starting Mardi Gras Day one very cold year. We talked for a few minutes as people do. She made sure to stand behind me, so as not to get in the way of my lens.
My city is in mourning.
You know what I always say. The work is the prayer. That’s what I’m doing. I’m listening to Byrds music. A little of it was used in Easy Rider.
It’s hot. It’s humid. It rains almost very afternoon.
It takes a while to get used to it. If you’ve moved from some other place, you’ll think that you died and went to hell. But, slowly if you stop staying indoors and spend some time in the heat, you’ll come to like it. Sure, you’ll gripe about it. You’ll pass the time talking to neighbors about it. You’ll try not to work in the noonday sun, because after all, only mad dogs and Englishman do that. But, you’ll get used to it.
And, those afternoon storms. They only last a while. The suck up the humidity. They cool things down for just a bit.
The picture. Honestly, I saw it. I made it. I positioned the lens so that the clouds are as important as the trees. I took some time getting the colors right. Some sensors have a little trouble being too red. Those trees could have looked like they were on fire if I let the image have its way.
That’s what they say. What’s your picture? If it’s a particular project, you may have set boundaries. In general? No boundaries. Photograph what you see. Don’t edit your process before it’s time to edit.
I made this picture somewhere along the line, in the past three weeks. The minute I saw that red pool umbrella, I knew I had to do something. So I sat in the chair nearest to the umbrella. I looked up. I knew the picture. I knew what I would do with it in post production. I think I made three or four frames. Done. At the scene. A little work in post production to make the picture creamy and dreamy and I was done.
In better news.
A new more complete version of The Beatles’ Abbey Road is being released. It contains out takes and conversation. It shows The Beatles at their best. They knew the album was their last. They worked with intent. The sessions were smooth, unlike the Let It Be sessions, where they were at each other’s throats.
I watched a little preview. A little marketing piece. I was amazed to see John Lennon talking to the rest of the band. As he’s talking, the song pops out and he is singing. The band falls in without even thinking about it. That’s magic.
That, y’all, is what you want. When you just feel it. And, do it. Without thought.
I need a little break from political commentary. You do too. It’s like a horrible wall of sound. I had to laugh when one of the late night televisions hosts said that he was running for president. He had only two planks in his platform. We’d only hear from him once a month. And, we’d all get bored with politics.
Sounds right to me.
Now what are we gonna do with all those children in the state to the right of mine? The ones who were left with out families after the “Great Chicken Plant Raid?”
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.
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.
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.
The day looks good. My country doesn’t look so good. Normally, we’d have a leader who would guide us through mass murders. In my lifetime, every president has spoken to calm the country. To bring us together. To let us know that he has our backs.
Typically, they travel to the scene and talk to us from there.
Not this president. He tweeted a couple of general thoughts. He didn’t stop playing golf. He went dark. His supporters are trying to spread the blame. They said just about everything but the truth.
Here’s the truth.
Guns are too easy to obtain. That’s legally. They are even easier to obtain on the streets. Illegally. There are more guns than people in The United States.
The President of The United States is a racist. He’s hateful. He’s bitter. He seeks to polarize my country. His speeches and tweets are designed to denigrate “others.” People who aren’t White. People who are immigrated from someplace else. With brown skin. With black skin.
He’s given unspoken permission for every white power extremest to come out of the sewers where they’ve been hiding. The two mass killings on Saturday and Sunday are examples of that.
Our Congress isn’t helping. They are too fearful. Bought and paid for. Too compromised. The Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will not let bipartisan legislation come to the floor to be voted on if it affects positive change. His new nickname is Moscow Mitch. He blocked legislation to prevent the Russians from interfering with our elections.
With Karma being the bitch it is, he fell at home yesterday. He broke his shoulder. Knowing what I know about joint breaks, he’ll live the rest of his life in pain. Damn.
The only option is to vote all of these people out of power. Vote POTUS out of power and then send him to prison.
If I sound angry. You’re damn right I am.
It’s bad enough that this president is trying to bring down democracy. But, too many people are dying because of his words. Because of his racism. Because of his corruption. This must change.
That’s good enough for me. Especially since I rarely know the names of flowers beyond, red flower, yellow flower, pink flower. I have the same problem with birds. A real nature photographer knows the common and Latin names for everything that he or she photographs.
That’s why I’m not really a nature photographer. Because of my early photojournalism training, I am kind of a generalist. I photograph what I see. Sometimes, because of time constraints, I tend to make pictures of a little bit of nothing. I’m in that cycle right now. That should come to an end by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest.
Then, we’ll learn just how motivated I really am to produce something more meaningful than a picture of a flower. Let’s put it this way. I darn well better be. Ha!
The picture. See it. Photograph it. Process it to death to get all the little details in the flower to show up. That’s it.
Sometimes, the living is easy. This was one of those times. I was sitting by a pool when the clouds started dancing around as a seasonal storm was getting ready to pass through.
I couldn’t even see to focus because the light was so strong. I just pointed my smart phone, hoped for the best and pressed the button. Most of my pictures where about what I wanted. Some are just funny.
I cleaned up the picture in post production because there was a lot of debris floating on the surface of the water. I left the yellow leaf to show a sense of scale.
It’s not a rant. It’s funny. Well, not so much if you are a working photographer or serious about the art and craft of making pictures. Yet, it may amuse you.
A young woman decided that she is a photographer and was going to open a business. She asked for monetary donations as well as a camera, a photo editing computer and other associated gear. Oh, and she’s never taken a picture.
Apparently, she was turned down by the usual crowd funding sources, and Facebook removed her advertising. So, she went directly to the crowd.
The internet was as mean as only people hiding behind a monitor can be. Petapixel — a super blog — published a long snarky story about it. That was mostly a waste of time.
Most working photographers, like me, didn’t say too much. I must confess that I was laughing so hard at her request and the responses that I almost came to tears. I did not reply. I have better things to do.
I’ve seen people ask for funding so that they can travel. So that they can take a vacation. I’ve even seen people as for help with a down payment for a car or a home. To my way of thinking, if you don’t have the money you shouldn’t be doing these things and asking me to pay for it.
On the other hand, I’ve donated to people who are very sick, have insurance, but the co-pay is huge. Or, to a family whose bread winner was killed in an accident. I’ve even helped to bury somebody.
But, start a career? No. I don’t think so. You can do what I did. Study, practice, work and buy gear as needed. That’s what most of us did. Sometimes we incurred debt, but we paid it off. Sometimes if we had a big assignment which left us with unplanned money, we reinvested it our business. In ourselves.
Granted, I would not want to be starting a photo career now. There is way too much competition, especially at the entry level. New photographers are cutting their rates to get a job to the point where they actually lose money.
They are underselling everybody.
Not only does it kill their nascent businesses, but it hurts old pros like me. My stock sales are lower even though my volume is higher than it’s ever been.
I won’t lower my creative fees because I sell myself as you get what you pay for — you know, my clients get what they want and beyond. Sometimes, I get called in towards the end of the creative cycle to fix what a low priced photographer broke.
As much as dislike cleaning up a mess, my pay is very good because the creative team is now getting desperate. No worries. I never overcharge. I do make a point to tell them that if they’d worked with me in the first place, the job would be done and for less money.
Guess what happens next time? Either I get the job or I lose it to another veteran professional who I know will do a good job. That’s okay with me. We established a beach head and took back the bidding process.
To wrap this up. Could you imagine hiring the photographer who is asking for gear? What could she bring to the table? Sheesh, she thinks that there are photo editing computers. I don’t know about you, but I use my main machine for everything.
That’s the story of the day. I hope it got you thinking. No. No. No. Don’t even think a bout donations so you can buy gear.
Every now and then, I get away just a little. I find places like this one, which fit nicely into my never ending water project. This particular picture seems to speak to purity. That’s probably why I like it.
I realized yesterday that so much of my computer work and online presence is a time sink. I thought about that last night as I didn’t watch the presidential debates. I opened Twitter and I might as well have been watching the debate. I switched to Facebook, mostly to respond to people who liked my pictures. They usual political folks were at it again. I switched it all off. I read. Much better.
I am getting to the point where I might just ghost.
Only time will tell.
I used to like working in Asia. In the beginning. The old days. Back then you had to call an operator to connect you to your home country. Work arrived at my office via courier with notes written to me. You couldn’t be found if you didn’t want to be found.
The internet intervened. But, it wasn’t any everyday thing. We talked by email. There was no social media. There was no internet within the internet like Facebook.
Now? Sheesh. You can’t burp online without everybody knowing about it. And, screaming about it. Piling on is the norm. Following people that you don’t like is the norm. It’s all so tiresome. I haven’t made my mind up about anything.
It’s hard just to check out.
After all, I haven’t shipped a package of pictures to anybody in at least two years. Everything is sent online. Maybe via Dropbox or something like that. Sometimes using a secure file transfer system. If it’s just a picture or two, by email.
Sheesh, I haven’t even met newish clients face to face. If we actually talk, we use something like Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Apple Facetime. It used to be that we’d travel to have important meetings. That was expensive if people were coming from around the world. Now, we just meet via one of the video apps that I just mentioned.
Sure. It’s less costly. But, not meeting in real life leaves a lot out. A lot is missing. You really don’t get to know your colleagues. There is nothing hands on. And, it’s a lot less fun. Fun matters.