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.


Not late for the sky.

Sometimes this picture is all you need. Sometimes nature fixes everything. Sometimes nature settles everything. Often as not, it’s not what you were hoping for.

We’ve had an awful lot of rain this spring. Something like 40 inches during a time when the normal rainfall is less than 20 inches. I don’t know what that means for our rainy seasons which is summer.

I do know that in six days hurricane season starts, with a heavier than normal year predicted. According to those folks whose job it is to know, there will be three major hurricanes to hit our shores this year. All the storm names will be used.

Oh joy.

Even when storms turn out to be nothing, there is anticipation. There is a fear rising from deep inside. A remembrance of storms past.

Or, just the big one.

When I see clouds like this I’m amazed. Look at them. Wow! They seem to be boiling up from somewhere unknown.

The unknown. That’s where I’d like to go. Today

And, you?

Point and shoot. F8 and be there. See it, shoot it.

That’s all this was. I wish I could tell you about some secret, but this is just literally walk out of the door and take a picture.

Post production was nothing too. I think I darkened the picture a little to help it be what I saw and felt.

That’s the thing. Feeling. That’s what matters. Today, we seem to be wrapped around taking pictures that show our technical prowess. Sharpness matters. Content matters. Pixels matter.

That all fails when you look at a bazillion pictures on Instagram or Facebook. Most of the pictures you see there are shallow and derivative. I find myself getting bored looking at them.

I’ve said I was leaving social media. I can’t seem to do that. As a working photographer I need it. But, I find myself liking less and less work as the weeks roll on.


Nature’s best.

Lately, I’ve been waking up way too early. That would be fine, but the all seeing dog is ready to go. I haven’t even had a coffee and she’s waiting by the door. Since she’s usually right, out we go.

Sometimes, but not always, pictures like this result from our early morning walks. This picture was made on our return route so the sun is a little higher in the sky than something like a dawn picture.

I would have preferred not to have the power pole in the picture. I’ve pretty much given up on that idea because in New Orleans power lines are above ground. Most of the city is built on elastic soil of the swamps below. That’s why we lost power seemingly forever after Hurricane Katrina. Above ground power lines.

Now do you see my problem?

My ground is elastic. Time is elastic. My clothes aren’t.

No matter, only the ground’s flexibility matters to this picture.

Morning light. Normally, I mostly work with late afternoon light. That’s because I’m lazy and don’t want to get up early.

For some reason, that’s changed. Of course, because I haven’t gotten enough sleep I take a nap… at 9am.

Who does that?

There really is no secret technique to making a picture like this. See it, click the shutter, do it a couple more times to be sure and you’re done.

Studio time is minimal too. Finish your picture and live your life.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Don’t be stupid. Enjoy all the early morning light.


Out on a Sunday.

“Life doesn’t wave as it’s speeding by. Better grab on fast and hold on tight. And don’t ever forget to fight this good fight. Here I am.”

It’s a calling.

I make pictures for myself first, and then for everybody else. I’m there for myself but being there for everybody else comes in a close second.

I read something about a woman who was scheduled to get her first vaccination when she learned of a man scheduled for open heart surgery, but he needed to be vaccinated. Try as he might he could not find an appointment. So, she gave her appointment to him. A stranger.

After three miserable years and one horrific year, stories like this are starting to pop up. Don’t pass them by. Just know that’s it’s worth helping each other out.

Besides, what did the late Leon Russell say? Don’t pass by a stranger needing help. It just might be the prince of peace returning.

It’s the first meteorological day of spring. I’d say yippee, but we’ve spring-like weather for a few weeks with a hard freeze in between. The weather yesterday was in the upper 70s or lower 80s.

People were out and about.

Making this picture then and publishing it today seems like a good way to kick off my Jefferson Highway/Levee project.

This is the levee. At dusk during a very nice day. I’m lucky to have been there, sorta.

Opening text by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

This picture is the result of photographer’s luck and good driving. But, not by me.

My driver who says she must not be named, saw what I saw, turned the corner in second gear, double clutched into first gear, turned another corner and came to a stop right in front of the picture.

After that it was easy. Point the camera and press the button. Yes, a real camera. A Leica camera.

This is my yearlong project that started two months late. I can’t be messing around with smartphones and computational images. I want and need a big beefy file.

I have one more picture for tomorrow and then I’m out making pictures again. It feels sort of good after year on the sidelines.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know all the rest. Enjoy all the spring light and air.


Painted sky.

Pastel Sky, looking like a water color. That wasn’t my intention, but that’s what happened.

In this day of all things digital photographers are trying to make their work look like anything but photography. I understand the need to take things to the next level. I do it myself more times than not.

Just don’t force it.

It’s more of a Zen-like approach for me. I try to let the scene teach me how to take the picture and the picture try to show me how it should look.

It works most of the time.

That’s why my work looks all over the place sometimes. In fact, I think as I build new portfolio pages for Storyteller I’m going to group images by color and hue rather than by subject matter.

I saw a friend’s bookshelves organized that way and I thought it was just the coolest thing. I don’t imagine that you could organize a public library that way because you’d never find anything. But, for home or office… why not?

Yeah.

Why not?

The cold is the cold. Managing to make a picture look that way is something else.

This picture was mostly the result of seeing rather than developing.

The picture looks cold because it was cold when I made it.

I didn’t have to do that much to it to make it feel that way.

I used only one technique. I minimized the structure and just barely sharpened anything. That brings a water color look to the finished image. It also plugs up the shadows which makes them look a little moody.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know the rest. Enjoy all the color.


A wintery dusk.

Golden light. I love it. For sure, I enhanced it. How could I not? I want you to see what I felt, or to feel what I saw.

Works either way, doesn’t it?

I’m going to try to stay on track and discuss art stuff. That’s ambiguous enough. Art stuff.

First, the music. I felt like going back to Los Lobos first album, “How will the Wolf Survive?” Something has to wake me up.

I was up way too late last night and this morning. I’m having a new symptom of my back issues. My right leg becomes very tight, almost stiff. There is no stopping it until it wants to stop. It hurts like…

For the past few nights I haven’t been able to sleep until after 4am. I keep adding meds until it isn’t safe. Finally, sleep. Of course, I wake up in some kind of drug hangover. Usually, it’s about three hours later. My leg stops hurting by then. So, I take the courageous way out and go back to sleep.

What the hell does this have to do with art, you may be wondering .

Easy.

Lack of sleep drives me. Sometimes creatively. Mostly not. There are some artists who try to stay awake in that netherland between sleep and no sleep. They think that when they are in that state that they are at their most creative.

That’s just silly. They are punch drunk. Nothing flows.

Me? I think that I’m mostly just a conduit. The good stuff comes when I’m in a sort of zone. That usually means that I’m relaxed and fully present.

So. I’m a wimp. I need my sleep. Seven continuous hours is fine. I can function with less if need be. Just don’t ask my pipes to open up into creativity.

Dusk light. My favorite. I suppose it could also be dawn light, especially at the rate I’m going.

Actually dawn and dusk light are different. The light at dawn hasn’t gathered air born particulates. So, it’s purer light. Yellow light stays yellow as opposed to dusk light which turns orange.

The trick is to be outside in a place where you want to work. I usually can get myself outside. But, I’m never in a cool place.

I suppose that if I thought about it even an hour earlier I could be someplace where I could make better pictures.

Maybe I should try that.

This photograph was enhanced because the golden tones weren’t golden enough. Once I got there I started messing around with currently hip colors.

Note the use of the word currently. Maybe one day I’ll rework this one into next year’s hip color palette. Or not.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Try to get up at dawn. Or, dusk.


Train under a fluid sky.

On a Sunday morning. I realized I haven’t published multiple pictures in some time. I’ve been photographing bits and piece of trains forever because I like them. I grew up riding the Super Chief and the El Capitan and eventually The City of Los Angeles from Los Angeles to New York City via Chicago.

Of course passenger service isn’t what it was. Amtrak is always broke because Congress won’t fund it properly. When they do money is poured into the Eastern Corridor which is mostly a long distance commuter line The runs from Boston through New York City and into Washington D.C.

The trains there are already pretty good. Soon that line will be getting trains that are capable of European fast speeds. Of course, timing is everything. How many people are commuting anywhere in the age of the pandemic?

It’s the long haul trains that are getting worse by the minute. Amtrak markets them as being great. Read the comments on Facebook to find out they aren’t. I rode trains at the end of their glory years. They weren’t good then and they are worse now.

The last time that I travelled on a train from the West Coast to the East Coast was in 1969. In 1970, amid massive losses in profit, passenger service was nationalized into Amtrak.

History shows us that passenger trains were never money makers, except for the years during World War II. Even in the days of fast steam engines and streamlined cars freight subsidized passenger revenue.

There’s some history for you.

That’s the long way of saying that I still like trains and I’ll photograph them where I find them. If you like them too, type #trains into the search box in Facebook and watch the fun.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. And, always take a ride on the Reading Railroad. If you pass go collect $200.

Pictures, pictures, everywhere. I’ve been just making railroad pictures whenever I see something that catches my eye.

I try very hard to let the picture guide me in post production. That’s why each picture has its own look.

Unfortunately, the picture in the middle of three wanted to go off into outer space. I tried to guide it back but it liked it out there so I left it alone.

GT. What is GT? Not only did the government scoop up all the passenger lines, but they bought most of he freight lines on the east coast and called it ConRail. Eventually, the government got out of the freight transportation business and sold ConRail to different carriers. Canadian National came along later and started buying up railroad companies east of the Mississippi River. Grand Trunk was one of them even though they weren’t much of a company by then.

Most engines were branded CN. Sometimes, they just left them in their original livery. Those are the ones I like. They are beat up, rusty and look their age, which is this case is 40 years old.


In the morning, when you rise.

Walking and seeing. That’s what’s been happening lately. For some reason unknown to me, I seem to have recovered my ability to see.

It may have been my own doing. I started trying to make art that wasn’t me. I was trying to tailor my work to a certain gallery, rather than find a gallery that was tailored to my work.

Once I realized the difference it took me a couple of weeks to work through that, but eventually I came out on the other side where my process was my process, and my pictures were my pictures.

Muted art be damned.

So, now I’m back at it. I can see, feel and think again. I’m not sure if my work is good, but I’m sure that’s mine.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy your vision.

Processes are different for all of us. Lately, mine has changed. Since I’m not a photojournalist I can do whatever I like.

Lately, I look at a scene and see it for what it can be. That’s what happened when I saw the scene that eventually became this picture.

We were out about about 10am. Winter light is better than many other kinds of light. That was in my favor.

But, blue sky and a tree wasn’t much. It came to me that I could do something with this scene and make it a little special.

I framed the tree in the sky and went to work back home in the studio.

There was a lot of experimenting going on. After that came tinkering and finally some kind of success. I finished it in OnOne and it is as you see it.

I’d ask if you had questions. I can teach you the technique. But, your vision is your vision.