In the air.

A

brand new picture. Imagine that. I went for a walk when the light was right and I started having fun. I just kept making pictures until I was finished, which took a while. I think that I wanted to take the long way home as they say.

The funny thing was that the more I saw, the more I saw.

I think my problem isn’t not being able to see. It’s feeling trapped in place by the current circumstances. I don’t like to be stuck anywhere unless I want to be. It’s one thing being stuck in New Orleans. It’s another to be stuck on St. Barts.

It’s also one thing to know that almost everybody thinks that the pandemic is over when it has years to go and that too many of them aren’t taking any kind of precautions thinking that they are protected by the vaccinations. To a certain extent they are, but there are enough breakthrough infections to make me wonder a little bit

In my case, that doesn’t matter. I isolate myself or I run the risk of dying. So, as I write I’m talking to the Shipt buyer. Because of me, everybody in the house likes not having to go grocery shopping. Don’t get me wrong, they like buying specialty items at a farmers market or a fruit stand. They like going to Hong Kong, the Asian grocery store, not the city.

One of the things that I’ve come to understand is that the pandemic made a lot of us think about how we do things. We don’t always have to be some place to work. We don’t have to travel across the country to have an hour meeting. We’ve managed to find and cut out a lot of BS factors.

On the other hand, shopping from home for bigger products has put a huge stress on the logistics chains, to which most people never gave a second thought. There are ships and containers stacked up at every major port city. In China, or other ports in Asia, there aren’t enough containers or ships to move new product.

This is a pandemic which keeps on giving in ways that never occurred to us. I’m sure that there will be more.

A quick change. When it comes to photo technique I keep writing the same things. Unless I do something out of the ordinary, I’m not going to divide the columns.


Emerging from the foggy bottom.

L

et’s see if this thing works today. In many ways, I’m becoming afraid to post. It’s become what bad thing is WordPress going to do to me today.

I don’t know why I care. It’s not the most important thing do on any given day.

I read an op-ed column in which the writer tries to understand what is causing so many massive protests. He suggests a couple of potential reasons; the pandemic and the failure for government to take care of us.

Let’s talk about the last one and then get a little more granular. See, I know contemporary buzzwords.

Hurricane Ida left us with a lot of damage. I applied to FEMA for grants. We received the emergency grant of $500. That’s for food and hotel rooms. But, I didn’t receive the business grant of $1,500.

Almost immediately I received an email from the SBA who wanted me to apply for a low interest loan. I ignored it. I received another the next day, and the next day and the next day.

It seems the U.S. government wants me to take out a loan. I finally called someone at FEMA who apparently was used to dealing with brain dead monkeys. Every time that I need to make notes she asked me very carefully if I had a piece of paper and something to write with. After the third time, I asked her why she would think that if had those things the first time why I wouldn’t have them now.

That’s what she is trained to do.

She told me that I had to be apply for a SBA loan in order to qualify for more FEMA aid. Oh, okay.

In order to do that you join a general government aid website. Then, you join the FEMA website, and finally the SBA website.

If that doesn’t make sense, in order to read an email that FEMA sent you have go the general website. No email can come directly to me at my personal/business email address which is Ray@Laskowitzpictures.com.

I gave up.

Just last week I received an email from a human at SBA, wanting to know why I hadn’t applied for a loan yet. I told him in no uncertain terms why I hadn’t.

I’ve been dealing with federal crap since 1970. I’ve had enough.

I think I’ll start a protest march against FEMA. I know plenty of locals who would join me.

Then just because I can, I think I’ll start another march… against WordPress.

Are you reading automattician?

R

ound two. In which the idiot (me) thinks he can get through writing this blog unscathed.

While I was editing the other side, it came to me that I am going to fight my way through governmental interference and apply for an SBA loan.

Yep. With interest below one percent I’m going to apply for the full monty. $40,000.

I need it to buy a computer. That’s gonna be some computer.

I also wanna buy a hat. And, socks.

S

o, the picture.

I started with the background. It’s a bush full of pink flowers. I made it as over processed as I could. Then, I layered another flower over that.

When that was sufficiently mixed up, I added the trees to that.

I wasn’t sure at first. But when I tinkered with it, I was.

That’s why you get to see it.


“U

nderneath the heavens above.” That’s a line from a Bob Dylan song. I heard it just as I started writing. So, I thought, “Why not?”

Y’all know that I listen to music while I write, yes? I’m playing a Spotify play list called Summer Rewind. I’m trying to think about what summer this particular list comes from. It is certainly eclectic mix of songs.

I’ve been chatting with a friend of mine who lives in Philadelphia, who rents a small apartment in The French Quarter. She and her husband are coming down in a few weeks. It’s hard to beat the weather then. But, I was surprised because we’ve been talking about the crime and how it’s become very hard to take pictures.

I’ll see them while they are here. I’m pretty sure we’ll stay in the Quarter. During the day it may be one of the safest places in the city. As night rolls into early morning all bets are off, especially near upper Bourbon Street where it meets Canal Street.

My city. It’s really something these days. I keep trying to talk myself into staying. That’s getting harder every day.

Like everything, it depends.

T

his picture was easy to make. Just look up and try to put the moon and a subject on the ground to line up in some way.

Then, push the button.

The exposure was pretty close except for the center of the picture where the high mid-tones were too light, and they always will be. It seems to be a quirk of all smart phone cameras.

Maybe I should go hunting with a real camera.


All of the mysteries.

T

iming. It’s everything. Look in one direction and you see nothing. Turn around and there’s the picture. Make some great music and nobody hears it unless the timing is right. Play sports, maybe baseball. The difference between striking out and hitting a home run is timing.

You get the point.

This picture is a great example of timing. I was trying every which way to get under the wires to get some of the orange cloud into the picture. I couldn’t do it.

I turned to the side and thought, “There is a picture here after all.” This one. The one you are looking at.

Here’s an extreme example of timing. As you know, I can’t be in crowds. That means I can’t photograph second lines. Normally. I start at the beginning, walk a good bit with the parade. Then, I get back to my car and jump to the end.

If I had been out on Sunday, I could have been way too near a shooting that left one dead and one critically injured. I’m pretty sure it was gang related. For sure, it was Black on Black.

That, alone, makes me sad.

But, a misfired bullet in the air doesn’t see color. It just zooms through the air hitting whatever it comes in contact with. It would be one thing if these boneheads could actually shoot. But, they can’t. They spray bullets everywhere trying to hit the one poor guy they are after.

Think about it.

I was on the corner of St. Bernard Avenue and St. Claude on one Mother’s Day a few years back when two fools started shooting into the crowd in order to hit their target. They didn’t hit him, but they did hit a lot of innocent people.

They hit my friend, and just about everybody’s friend, “Big Red” Deb Cotton in the stomach. That may be the worst survivable wound. She survived, but after years of painful surgeries, she died.

Murders are up by 24% in New Orleans. Gun deaths are the highest they’ve ever been in the city.

A

fter I saw the picture I did everything I could to avoid those power lines, but I couldn’t.

It’s ironic. If I photographed this scene about a month earlier those lines wouldn’t have been in the way. They’d have been in the street.

My biggest trick was to darken the entire picture to bring the color out. I did add some soft glow because I like it.

If I left the picture horizontal there would have been way too much black. The color would have receded into the scene. So, I cropped it.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of square pictures. Obviously, I use them when the situation calls for it.

Nothing is set in cement. Photographic rules should be learned and understood so that you can break them when your work calls for it.

I suppose that’s the same with most rules. Live by them until something goes way south. Then, do what you have to do.

Hopefully, it will be subtle and peaceful.

Unlike this photograph.


Weirdness.

M

y thinking changes a little bit every day depending what I read or see or do. I made this photograph a couple for days ago. I started playing with it last night. The picture lead me to the way it looks. Look at the next column for that.

I generally listen to music when I work, especially when I write. Today’s first selection is a new live album, from a very old band. Steely Dan. The album is called, “Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live”

For me, it is really about memories because most of the tunes are their signature songs.

In a way that’s too bad. I’m someone who really wants to hear new music. I don’t get fixated on the past music.

Today is a very good day, although it started late. For some reason even though we went to bed early, for us. I slept until 11:49 am. I had over ten hours of sleep. I rarely need that much. I guess I needed it.

Sleeping so long sure cleared my head of the accumulation of stress that had been building over the past month.

Maybe it’s going to be a much better ride over the next few months. I sure hope so because if it’s good for me, it might be better for a whole lot of people.

H

ere’s what happened.

A lot of trees have been left bare branched after the winds of Hurricane Ida blew through.

This is one of those trees.

Oddly, other trees that had their leaves blown off are starting to regrow them. They look like springtime.

How’s that? Spring and fall at the same time. In the same place.

Anyway.

I started tinkering with this picture and it lead me to this version. When I let the picture lead me I rarely go too far unlike the times I try to impose my will on it.

I wish I could tell you what I did, but I was on auto pilot. And, we were watching a movie. That may be the best way for me to work.


Luna at dusk.

W

ordpress has beaten it out of me. After yesterday’s fiasco I think I’ll go back to simple things because WordPress really doesn’t like photographers.

Instead of fostering community growth and spirit by suggesting we work together on projects, they want writers to use Upsplash if they need photographs.

Upsplash is a portal. Photographers upload their work. If a user needs a picture, they find it, use it with no payment or credit line.

Even worse, if the user makes modification to the image, the copyright flows to them.

It’s licensed robbery.

Young photographers are so anxious to get noticed that they see this as a way to build up clients and tear sheets.

Hahahahahaha.

If your name isn’t seen, you don’t get noticed.

In fact, it would be very easy to go to Upsplash, cull the best pictures, download them, modify them ever so slightly and stick my copyright information on the images.

Hmmm…. I’d never have to leave my house again.

But, that would be boring.

T

hat little quarter moon is what caught my attention. It was really hard to photograph, which is why some of the trees look a little soft.

But, the moon is sharp and that’s what matters to me.

For sure, there was some editing going on here. I did what I often do. Instead of adding colors, I remove the mid tones to reveal the colors hiding in the gray fog.

That’s what you are looking at.

I

was done writing, thinking less is more.

Apparently, WordPress is watching or scanning Storyteller.

They fixed the problem of the jumping cursor.

I complained here, not directly to WordPress.


A cold wind blowing from the north.

A

nyone who has been around Storyteller for any length of time knows that there I are things I almost never do.

I rarely post twice in one day.

I rarely post another photographer’s work unless we are working on something together.

And, I never post a picture without a credit line.

All of those things happened yesterday day.

But, with the passing of Charlie Watts, and the musical world in tears, I thought it was the right thing to do.

In the words of Eric Clapton, goodnight sweet prince.

I

think I wrote that when something really big goes south, like the pandemic, it takes a lot of lesser things with it.

August has certainly proven that to me. The number of non-Covid deaths among people I care about in some way has risen to ten in twelve days.

I have no idea what to make of it except to say, “Yeah, I told you so.” But, what’s the point of that? You know it and I know it.

T

his is one of those pictures in which I try to make something from nothing.

It’s an almost bare tree in winter. The sky is pretty.

I photographed it, took the detail out of the sky.

Viola.

R

ather than be snarky with the “I told you so nonsense,” I thought I’d talk about an idea that came to me in a moment of day dreaming.

Many of you know that I don’t drink. I stopped over 28 years ago with a little help from my friends and hundreds of others who I didn’t know. At one point I even employed a psychiatrist to guide me. He discussed the notion of psychic energy.

It’s not what you are thinking. It’s not a spacey predictability idea. It’s not spooky. Instead, it refers to the amount of truly powerful energy we can put into a project. His point is that once you exhaust that you have to take some time to recharge.

I’ve talked about three hours being the length of time that I can photograph something before I start feeling like “I’ve left it all on the field.” That’s my psychic energy being depleted. If I take some time to rest, I can go back to work.

So, here’s my theory.

The New York Times talks about lethargy being introduced to us via the pandemic and accompanying lockdowns and worry.

What if, our (my) psychic energy has been drained and not been restored to a point that we start everyday full and ready to deal with the day’s issues?

What if we never fully recharge?

For me, I know that half the time I am walking around in a daze. When I do manage to work I complete my task and stop. That’s not me. I’m the Energizer Bunny. I go until there’s nothing more to do that day

You know how “you know what you know” sometimes? That’s how I feel right now. That’s great, but the question is what to do to recapture the energy.

I think routine is important. For almost 18 months I haven’t done what I normally do. I work from home in the studio most of the time unless we are traveling. My routine isn’t that of someone who goes to work everyday outside of the home. I’m either blessed or cursed.

Think about what you do before you go to work. Even though you normally don’t think about it, it tells your body and mind that you are leaving for work. And, to get ready.

Right now my psychic energy is at an all time low, if it exists at all. It’s time to restore that. At least, I’ll be a little more focused. But first, the routine.


Darkness at the edge of town.

O

bviously, I made this picture a while ago, like in winter. I tucked it away and you’ve never seen it. I’m starting to work through that collection now.

Unfortunately for me, these pictures are scattered throughout the last few months which means that I have to find them. Hard to do when you’ve forgotten about them. That’s how the infamous lost files are found.

This is a prime example of me seeing a scene for what it could be and making that happen in post production. It’s very likely the sky was pale winter blue and the foreground in good light.

That’s fine.

But, it doesn’t always fulfill my photographic needs. In fact, the deeper my journey becomes the more I want to make pictures that express my vision.

Usually, that doesn’t mean making a documentary style photograph. Nor, does it mean just throwing a couple of filters on a picture and calling it done.

The best of my work is brought about by thinking about, and then working, on the picture.

That doesn’t always happen.

I get rushed. I don’t think clearly. Even worse, I don’t feel clearly. I believe that you, the viewer or reader, can tell that. You see right through me.

At least that’s what I think.

N

ow, here are some technical issues to overcome.

First, as I wrote on the other side, the picture was made in color.

As I also wrote, the image was made in pale winter light. It was pretty enough, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I thought about it and decided it might look like winter feels. Brooding. Moody. Even scary.

I took out as much color as I could. But, if you notice, not all.

Then I softened the sky and enhanced the silhouetted subjects.

I blurred everything to soften the feel.

That’s it. That’s enough.

How about those of you who are photographers? How do you achieve your vision?


Daybreaks.

S

ometimes it pays to cover old ground. One day I drove out to an odd section of the Ninth Ward.

I parked as close to the levee as i could get and walked into the neighborhood which is known as Holy Cross. I saw the wonderful light and stopped.

I made about three frames and moved on.

Then, I stopped for coffee at a favorite place that was just coming back after a lot of years following Hurricane Katrina.

Sure enough, I ran into a couple of folks that I know. We started talking. We mostly talked about what happened in the years following the storm.

Then, nothing.

Our lives had changed so much that we had nothing to say. How could we relate to each other’s stories?

We tried.

One of us suggested that we meet for a meal soon. I mumbled something about we’ll see and I will be out of town from September though mid-December.

The last part is true. Maybe. If the virus doesn’t do what a lot of scientists and doctors said it will, which is to explode into the worst surge yet with some 300,000 people getting sick per day.

Most of them doubt that we can stop this by getting vaccinated late in the game. I guess that’s another we’ll see.

It may be worse for me and mine. We live in a blue city that lies within a red state. Apparently, New Orleans has reached very near to the 70% threshold. The rest of the state is down in the low to mid-thirties.

Most of Louisiana follows the rest of the south. Mississippi and Alabama have even lower numbers than we do. As I recall, only Virginia has anywhere near the numbers we need to manage the virus.

I suspect that Virginia’s numbers are good because of the Beltway and all the people in the northern region of the state.

My very elderly neighbors may be proven right. There is no lost cause. There is just a continuation of the Civil War and the South shall rise — or sink — again.

T

he technique is simple. Wait for the right light. Be patient and wait.

Or, you can be like me and just get lucky.

That’s photographer’s luck. Luck that you make just by going out and roaming around.

I have a friend who is very frustrated. He lives near Tampa, a place where is so much to photograph. He mostly makes pictures of sunsets.

I don’t know why he limits himself. He doesn’t either.

That’s not the frustrating part for him. He and his wife are cruisers. Most countries aren’t allowing people from certain other countries in their borders.

That means no, or very limited, cruise ships.

He thinks he has to sail to Italy, spend a few days photographing whatever else does and move on to — oh, I don’t know — Spain and do the same thing.

That would be great if he found the places that tourists don’t go, but he doesn’t.

What’s the point?

Sheesh.

In Tampa there’s Ybor City. It isn’t as funky as it used to be, but there’s still good stuff to photograph.

Photograph it. Dammit.

That’s my technical discussion for today. Go take a picture of some stuff. Good stuff.