As the world turns

To everything there is a season.

We all know about our natural seasons. Arrange them in any order that you like. Winter. Spring. Summer. Autumn.

The transition from summer to fall is, to me, the most dramatic change. Leaves go from a bright, rich green, to a sort of faded green and finally they turn golden and fall. In most of the south, you almost don’t see that coming. When the leaves finally turn golden they linger on the trees and all seem to fall at once.

That, as they say, is the nature of things.

Today. I’m still wanting to photograph the second line that I mentioned yesterday. The high temperature is down. From 97 to 96 degrees. At 5pm, which is the start time, we usually lose a few degrees from the high. Although last night at around midnight, if you include the heat index measurement, the weather outside was frightful. 104 degrees.

I hate to make Storyteller about the weather, but down here is the swamp, that’s what is at the top of mind. For most of us.

It’s hard to do anything in this kind of heat. After a dog walk, they come inside and have a drink of water. Then, they adjourn to their places and sleep the sleep of the dead. I usually take a break from whatever I’m doing and relax a little before I get started. It is truly draining. After a little recovery, I think about my chores for the day and promptly forget them.

That’s life.

The picture. I was struck by the already golden leaves of this tree. They helped to make the branches of the tree almost look like something out of The Cat in the Hat.

And, that’s it for a hot Sunday morning.

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Shimmering tree.

Something like good vibrations.

The shimmering tree is an experiment that I’ve tried once or twice in the past. That’s about it. Point the lens at a tree and photograph it. Do some magic in post production and away we go.

That’s the picture.

The rest of today’s mumblings are about the weather situation.

We pretty much dried out after yesterday’s deluge. The city’s pumps actually worked about as well as they could. We got 9 inches of rain in in three hours. That overwhelmed them. There are two solutions going forward. Tear up every pipe in the city, install pipes that are about double in size and hope that works.

Or, we can adopt the Dutch system which means that we embrace water and build holding ponds, greenways and water features that actually do something with extra water. We had that option once in the years following Hurricane Katrina. We should revisit that kind of thinking.

And, speaking of hurricanes. Hurricane Barry is still not formed as I write. There should be a NOAA update in a little bit.

Currently, it’s projected to make landfall near Lafayette, Louisiana, which means that it has moved to the east. In New Orleans, we should get some rain and some wind. Our fear is still overtopping levees. It looks like there are two places where the levee is built only to 20 feet. They are not near us. One is at the Industrial Canal near the Upper Ninth Ward. The other is at the Jefferson-Orleans Parish border. The people there have a double problem. Not only will the levee overtop, but they’ve built homes in the battature, which is the ground between the river and the levee. It is almost certain that their homes will be flooded and destroyed.

The Army Core of Engineers said that there is no chance that overtopped levees will be broken. From the moment they said that, I revised my estimate from 50-50% that we’ll be okay, to 20-80%. I don’t trust them as far as I can throw this house.

That’s it.

The storm should make landfall on Saturday, sometime in the afternoon. Unless the power fails, I’ll just keep going. Everybody has been shipped to safety. I’m hanging out until the storm passes. Somebody has to close the storm shutters. Then, it’s on the road again.


Shimmering summer.

Sometimes, the light sparkles. After the rain. Even in summer.

Sometimes, I see it.

I saw it yesterday morning. We had a small cold front move in. Rain fell in the evening. By morning the water evaporated, leaving the air kind of cool and very bright. I looked up and wowie zowie.

I learned something about iPhone produced pictures. They look fine on the phone. But, when I open them on my iPad Pro the screen resolution is so sharp that images look very soft, almost out of focus. Now, I’m wondering…

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that I’ll revert back to a “real”camera, even on dog walks.

As far as things political go, unless orange man doesn’t make a move, I’ll be quiet. I’ll probably be talking a lot.


Forest during solstice.

The longest day. Summer solstice.

Hot. Humid. Wet. Green.

Summer in the swamp. It’s finally arrived even though it’s been hot since very early May, as it always is. It’s just official now. Oddly, from now on the days get shorter. And, hotter and wetter. Rain falls more often. Maybe there will be a big tropical storm or two. Maybe even a hurricane. We are due. Hurricanes danced all around us last year, but our last one hit in 2011. Seven years is a long time in the Gulf Coast states.

No worries. We aren’t worried. Prepared? Yes. Worried? Not so much.

The kids. The ones in cages.

Don’t blink twice.

The orange skinned liar in the White house signed a piece of paper. Essentially it says INS can imprison whole families now. And, they can be tried by U.S. Military J.A.G. lawyers which is illegal since immigrants — here legally or illegally — are not members of the U.S. military.

More importantly, is what it doesn’t say. For instance how are all of the 2000 plus children going to be reunited with their families? How about the ones that were flown from a border state to someplace further north? And, where are the infants, toddlers and girls?

And, while this bit of sleight of hand was happening what about Paul Ryan? The sleezebag speaker of the house. He wants to balance the budget — which he helped blow up — by reducing Social Security and Medicare. Of course, he forgets that’s my money, not the government’s money. I’ve paid for years into the system that he wants to break.

I’ve never ever wanted to turn Storyteller into a political blog. This is a place for art. And, my silly ramblings. But, I’ve had enough. I cannot stand by and watch my country, and some of yours’ too, get torn to pieces.

 


A walk in the forest. One.

Springtime. Er, summer down here in the swamp. Hot and humid. Wet and drippy. And, some of the trees look like they were photographed during the fall.

Trust me.

They were photographed in the last two days. On dog walks. Morning dog walks. She isn’t stupid. She likes going out early or late in the day, when things aren’t so hot.

Funny thing about living in the swamp. Different plants and trees shed their leaves at different times of year. The most colorful leaves in both pictures are those of Texas Live Oaks. They lose their leaves in late spring and early summer.

Making the pictures was the easy part. See them, photograph them, process them. Done. Before you say that you think pictures should come straight from the camera untouched, don’t. Don’t tell me that you work in .jpeg so pictures the come right out of the camera aren’t processed, they are. That’s what a camera does when you work in ,jpeg. It’s a little computer. It processes the latent image. It also drops out certain pixels of the image that the software deems as being unnecessary. It sort of “thins” out the image.

Think about this. Most of you will post your new picture on some kind of social media. You upload your newly created picture and guess what? Your platform of choice reprocesses the image so that it fits within their parameters. It further “thins” out the image. To you it probably looks really flat — lacking in contrast and blacks. To your viewer the picture just doesn’t look so good.

Better to work in RAW. Better to have the entire file. Better to make processing choices yourself. Better to make your picture, rather than some robo-picture. You can control the contrast. The size. The overall detail.  At the very least, your work stands on its own merit. The praise is yours. the criticism is also yours. Alone.

That’s why nothing I post on — for example, Facebook — is actually posted on Facebook. When you see a picture that you like and open it up, you are taken right back here. I am basically protecting my work from a legal and an artistic standpoint. And, even though Instagram is owned by Facebook, the same thing happens when you open an Instagram picture.

None of this is perfect. But, it’s better.

For now, that’s the best we can do. Besides. Perfection is for angels.

Shimmering leaves on a walk through the forest. Two.

 

 


Lost in the glow.

Summer pictures.

In many ways it’s the worst season in which to make pictures. The sun is always too high, even when it isn’t. The light color is too white. And, the shadows are too short.

In the digital world, internet photographers speak out of both sides of their mouths. First, they make a big deal of not doing most post production, or even using filters. Then, they say that it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. You should be able to deal with it.

Yeah. Sure. Using reflectors, scrims and fill flash means that you can make a portrait during high noon. But, why would you? Even with all the old school technology that I just mentioned, the light is bright white. There are no shadows to speak of it, and it takes a lot of work in post production. See what I’m saying? Too much work for a not great picture. And, they are breaking their first rule… not a lot of post production.

Instead, either get up early and work in morning light. Or, be patient and work in later afternoon to dusk light. In both cases, that light is so much prettier. Especially in the summertime, when a lot of people have more time to take pictures.

Me? I prefer late afternoon. First you get long shadows, then the light turns golden, then comes blue hour and finally that very short time between blue hour and night. Of course you can reverse this in the morning — and the quality of light is a little different — but who wants to get up at 4am?

Or, you can work smarter.

This picture was made in mid-morning. The summer light was already blaaaah. So, I turned things around. I photographed into the sun. I over exposed slightly and made the interior of the flower more pastel. I let the rest of the light fall where it may.  That actually turned some of the white flowers into a kind of purple.

That, is the story. And, one solution.


Backlight and weeds

Just another day. In nature.

These pictures are more about mood than documentation. Today’s light is drifting in and out. Sometime the light is and powerful. And, sometimes it looks about like it does as I am writing this. Soft and shadowless.

I there a political comment for today? Not really, except to say that I guess it would take a fake president to create the word fake. That’s what he’s claiming. He invented the word fake because he never heard it before. That’s what you get when you aren’t intellectually curious.

The pictures. Really just scenes that I saw as I was passing from one place to the next. I helped them some. But, not much. Nature did most of the work. It’s better that way.

Morning glow.


Shimmering Tree.
Shimmering Tree.

You know that I experiment a lot. I change exposures. I slow down shutter speeds. I pan the camera. That’s just when I’m making the picture. There is the stuff I do in post production. Sometimes I do it. Sometimes I don’t. I try very hard to let the picture teach me what I should do. that takes time. Or not. When you are in the groove it just happens. When you are struggling it doesn’t. Yesterday, I showed you a very sharp picture. Today, the picture is wind-blown and filled with motion.

One important thing to note.

It is the same tree.

I suppose I could just do a study of that tree. I could walk out into the yard and photograph it about a million times. You’d get bored. So would I. I’ll move on today and look for something else. I’d say better. But, really the word is different. As they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

The picture. Not much work. Most of the work was done in the field. Or yard. Slow the shutter speed down and make the aperture smaller. Let nature’s motion take over. Much better that way.

 


Late afternoon light makes French Quarter houses just pop.
Late afternoon light makes French Quarter houses just pop.

It’s the light. For me, it’s always the light. After all, what is the literal meaning of photography? It’s Greek. It means “drawing with light.” But, that is about making any picture. You need some kind of light. For me, it means something else.  It means using the light to achieve my vision. Yeah. My vision. There are a number of ways to do that. But, let’s limit it to my kind of work. After all, I rarely work in a studio. I work on location, whether it’s photographing the things you see here, on Storyteller, or photographing something or someone on assignment. For those kinds of pictures, I might have to work at times of day that are not optimal for sunlight, so certainly, I use light enhancers and modifiers. You know. Strobes. reflectors of all sorts. And, little scrims that shape the light that comes from a strobe. Those kinds of tools.

But, for the work that pleases me most, I usually just wait. I wait for the light to be right. For me, that means working at the ends of the day. I work in the “golden hour” and in “the blue hour” which occurs after the sun sets.  There are two other times when this kind of light occurs during the day. But, usually I’m sleeping. I work later at night and don’t like to get up for dawn, That’s just me.  Am I missing something? Yeah. The dawn light is purer because there are fewer particulates in the air. That also means, that likely, it isn’t as dramatic. But, you never know. Nature isn’t all that predictable. Just think about your television weather people. They are wrong 90% of the time. Yet, nobody complains.

So.

Waiting for light. What does it get you? It can move the picture from the mundane to something pretty and eye-catching. This picture is nothing more than a French Quarter row of houses. If you passed by it at noon, you might not even look twice. But, with the sun settling low on the horizon magical light appears and the scene takes on a shimmering quality. All I have to do is be there. Nature takes care of the rest. There is one telling detail about the time of year. The window is open. A couple of weeks ago and it would be closed because the weather was too hot and too humid. We all live in air-conditioned houses. The weather has gotten cooler and a little dryer and so we all rush to our windows and throw them open. This will go on until late November or early December when the heaters come on. And, make the house smell. We are lucky. We also have fireplaces. They make the house smell too. But, in a good way.