Hanging around.

Despite whatever you are thinking, the picture is not upside down.

I know. I know. It looks upside down. I made the picture standing directly under the tree and looking up. It is the perfect symbol for our current times.

The world seems upside down.

If everybody isn’t busy hating people who are not like them, then they are busy being fearful of just about everything. In some places people are marching in the streets. In some of those places marches turn into riot. In my country, the president has turned our allies into foes, and his has turned dictators and despots into his friends. He thinks. They are playing him like a fiddle. I could go on. I won’t.

That’s not all.

There is a virus that the same president thinks is named after beer. Mexican beer. In less than a day, New Orleans grew for one infected person to six. This does not bode well. The City of New Orleans essentially closed the weekend. They cancelled two St. Patrick Day parades. The Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday and a second line.

I would have likely photographed Super Sunday and maybe the second line in normal times. Even if it wasn’t cancelled, I would not go to the Indians event in these times. Everybody is hacking and coughing and they might be standing six inches in front of you. That’s the last thing I need.

I have no idea what our future holds, both here in NOLA or in the rest of the world. That’s so far beneath my pay grade that I can’t even get close.

Anyway.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. And, keep your hands off of your face.


Another fine mess.

Testing technique.

Another dog and I headed to the airport. On the way we stopped to visit friends. As we were leaving I saw this scene. It really didn’t look much in camera and after basic development. So, I tinkered. And, tinkered. I arrived at the picture that you see before you. I’m still not entirely sure about this one. But, as I always say this is an experimental blog.

I’d like to think the a high percentage of pictures that I publish on Storyteller are pretty good. But, we all know the truth. I know the truth. Sometimes, after living with a picture on the digital page, I wonder what I was thinking. Likely, I wasn’t. Thinking.

I was reading a general purpose blog. The owner fancies himself to be a sort of deep thinking anti-mainstream kind of guy. In short, he is populaist conspiracist. Sorry — not sorry — if I offend anybody with that. He also attacks the so-called lamestream media. He follows to YouTube based commenters who discuss CoVid-19.

I decided to listen to one of his speakers, a supposed doctor. A doctor who wants me to believe he is well informed. That he knows the truth.  He went through his list of things that the “lamestream” media wasn’t telling us. I knew everything that he discussed. Care to guess where I learned it from? If you said the “lamestream media,” you win a taco.

Sheesh.

When does this basic kind of BS stop?

I read two-and-a-half online newspapers everyday. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The New Orleans Times Picayune/Advocate. I pay for two. I refuse to pay for the local half of a paper until they actually report the news, write it, and edit, properly. That’s where I learned everything this wannabe doctor was rattling on about.

I say all of this to warn you. Don’t be fooled. Between bots, Russians and people who think they are smarter than we are, there is more fake news than real news. If you read something that doesn’t ring quite true with you, check other publications. Check sources if you can. Check the person or group writing about the topic. Check Snopes.

You’ll find the truth. It’s out there.


Krewe of Cleopatra.

Waiting. The hardest part.

That’s what Tom Petty sang. That’s what true. We waited and waited and waited. Sometimes that happens, a tractor broke down on one of the earlier parades. The Krewe of Cleopatra could do nothing but wait.

Besides, it’s peak New Orleans.

This picture is sort of a placeholder. I’m jammed up. Night time parades followed by daytime parades will do that. I thought this was a great picture with which to start. I’d have used it in a grouping as well as this way even if I wasn’t too busy.

I don’t think that I have to explain anything to you, do I?

I’m off. I’ll be back.

Happy Mardi Gras, ya’ll.

 


The lone wintery tree.

Decadence.

I’m reading a rather long op-ed piece by The New York Times’ Ross Douthat. It is a take out of his upcoming book called, “The Decadent Society.”

The name is not what you are thinking.

He quotes Jacques Barzun, who says, “The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable . When people accept the futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”

I don’t know about you, but I keep saying that all systems are broken. They are broken to the point where I am thinking seriously about leaving the country in November if the worst possible thing happens.

That said, let’s limit this to what we do. Most of us either write, or make pictures.

There is no new or newly broken ground. There hasn’t been for a long time. In the book world, I have to ask how many new vampire books do we need? Seems like Anne Rice broke the mold on that one. Or, how many historical fictional novels do we need that feature a good looking bare chested guy squeezing the hell out of a beautiful woman?

It doesn’t get any better in the photo world. Sunsets, sunset and more sunsets. There are so many that they are loaded to Upsplash, the site that doesn’t pay photographers. Or, night photography featuring star fields? Or, slow motion water so that the water looks smooth?

I’m guilty of it too.

All these faux nature picture that I produce. are not new. I made the same thing eight years ago. And seven years ago. And, six and five and four and so on.

This work is easy to make. This work breaks no new ground. It doesn’t move my art forward. I’m not certain that I can move it forward, but I’d like to try. Realizing this is hard. Even though I love photographing Mardi Gras, I’ve been fighting to get myself to go.

Yes. The floats and themes change. So do the people. But, I’ve done it for how many years? A lot. This year I’m getting paid by one of my clients to set them up for next year. I’m incentivised. I’ll go. Once I get there I’ll have fun. It’ll turn magical. But, they are paying me for work that is yesterday’s. That’s the funny thing about showing portfolios. If the client likes your work, they want more of the same.

Ouch.

Think about this. How does it apply, or, not?

For sure, don’t confuse yourself with all the things you did to get to the picture. Often times the hardest thing about taking a picture is getting there. But, that ain’t the picture. The picture is the picture.

 


Looking into the light.

Looking into the light.

No. Not heading toward the light. That’s something else.

This means breaking one of the rules of photography, and in particular when you are using a digital camera. They tell you not to photograph directly into the sun. They also tell you that doing that with a digital camera will destroy the sensor. I suppose it might, if you left the shutter open for an hour or so. Who’s going to do that?

Besides, who is they?

For the 1/2000th of a second or so that it took to make this picture nothing bad will happen to the camera. But, something good will happen to the picture that you just made. Not only will you make a strong silhouette, but you’ll get some flare and even a bit of sun streaks into the sky.

All of that makes for a more interesting picture than a normal exposure would do. If you are like me, you aren’t done. You’ll also work on the picture a lot in post production to help make the finished image what you really want it to be.

This picture is a great example of how I see these days.


Trains in the fog with help.

Foggy days. Foggy nights.

I took a little walk to a nearby train yard. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while. We’ve had a lot of fog so I wanted to photograph the fog at night. I found two engines with their motors warming up. I was astounded to see a caboose sitting between them. Of course, there is a fence between me and them. I heard them before I could see them.

I did the best that I could.

I made this picture and added some roundish highlights to the image. I really didn’t have to, but you know me. I also had help from some business behind this little group. They had their big lights turned on, which helped me to make perfect silhouettes up against a glowing foggy sky.

The caboose is another story all together. My amazement arose because no railroads use cabooses today. Congress changed a law that required them to be attached to freight trains. Once the law changed most cabooses were headed to the scrapyard or to your favorite park. This is a working caboose. It is not used for its intended purpose, but rather as a place for the train crew to rest on long haul rides.

One more thing about the picture. Notice the quality? It’s much better than many images that I post here. I used my baby Leica. It’s a great camera for pictures like this and for many of the subjects that I photograph. It’s not so good for second lines or Mardi Gras Indians. When I say baby I mean it. It has a fixed zoom lens. It’s range is from 24mm to 75mm. It’s also fast. very fast, since it has a large f stop at f1.7.

About walking. I didn’t take a dog. This was a little photo walk.I learned that if I walk at my normal pace, rather than stopping, and letting the dogs explore, my legs don’t hurt anywhere near as much as they normally do.

And, so it goes.


Toward the end of the year. Toward the end the day.

A little obsession goes a long way.

I’m not talking about the perfume. I’m  talking about a mental and emotional obsession. I’m talking about the one that I have when it comes the closing of 2019. Normally, I don’t really care. It’s just the pages of the calendar turning. Not this time. I can hardly wait. Even though a lot of people have said the same things about other years in this decade, 2019 seems worse.

Many people who I know feel the same way. They are worn out. They are tired. They are depressed. They feel beaten down. A writer who I read religiously said, that in this year of truth being turned upside down, she’s gotten to the point where she’s not sure she can trust herself.

I fear that in 2020, in a general election year, it might only get worse. I really fear that the worse possible thing can happen. I am scared that a re-elected president who is unhinged and free to do whatever he wants will finally blow up the country. Not physically, but at least existentially.

Enough of that because there are ways to combat the fear and loathing that so many people are feeling right about now.

Go outside. Leave your house. Life will immediately become unpredictable. It will become, well, life. To be lived in. You can work. You can play. You can meet new people. It’ll will also take the daily pressures off of your soul.

If you are an artist or creator, art harder.

A friend of mine said that at the beginning of this year. It helped her. It helped me. Sink your teeth in to a couple of long term projects. You’ll think more about that and less about the state the world.

See the good in everything and everybody who you meet on your journeys outside. Smile at people. Greet them with a friendly face. Ask for help when you need it. Eat well. Sleep well. Play well. Take care of yourself. Whatever you do spiritually, do it more.

Pick a one word koan to keep in your heart and soul. Trust me, it helps. It becomes the guiding principle for your year. Because of all the bad things that might happen in 2020, I’ve chosen my word for the year. “Positive.”

Stay positive.

That drives everything else.

 


Looking toward the sky.

The headline say it all.

Reaching.

Bare trees look like they are reaching toward each other. It’s not a compositional trick. It’s not a camera trick. It’s not an accident. It’s just what I saw.

I think it’s a giant irony. As trees reach toward other, humans are fracturing more and more. Further polarization is in the air. Just read about the NATO 70th Anniversary meeting. Read the continuing silly attacks on the impeachment process. Red states v blue states. Ignoring the science of climate change for short term profits. And, on it goes.

But, nature knows.

Nature will probably have to destroy us to get us to listen. Maybe with the extreme weather of climate change, maybe with more people dying because of it, our leaders will take notice and listen. Maybe, hope against hope will prevail. Maybe nature will once again unite us.

Probably not. Likely it’ll further polarize the haves against have nots.

Who knows? It’s above my pay grade.

The picture. It was easy. I didn’t do much to it. Nature did all of the work.

There’s that nature thing again.

 


Storm clouds over Louisiana.

It’s about the weather this time of year.

Come to think about it, in Louisiana it’s always about the weather. After all, we live with six months of hurricane season. In about a week, that season will finally be over for 2019. I’m pretty sure that I can say we were lucky this year. The only storm that disrupted anything was the non-storm that became a storm. It was nowhere near hurricane force. It was a light tropical storm.

The strangest thing about Autumn in the south is extreme weather changes. Yesterday, the thermometer topped 80 degrees. Today, we’ll be lucky to reach a high of 65 degrees. This will go on until after Christmas. We’ve had Christmas days when we wore shorts and t-shirts. We’ve had other Christmases when we had snow that actually stuck. I went racing around photographing places with snow covering them.

I suppose I like changing seasons and weather because it is a very measurable way to look at life. Seasons come and go. Life moves on. But, as I get older and older, I am able to more clearly see the relationship between the two. Add to that, my birthday and I sort of want to plan the next year. What to leave in? What to take out?

I know one thing for sure. For a long while, maybe a year or two, I was cutting back. I was thinking that I was old now, and I shouldn’t start this or that. Nonsense. It’s true. Some avenues have closed. But, not because of my age. Instead they are closed by natural occurring changes in technology, in distribution, in usage. Not just in my world, but across the board.

What’s the saying?

“Change or die.”

I’m far from death. Think about that. I’m willing to bet most of you near aren’t death either.

What are you going to do in 2020?