Another look at wonderful fall light.

I don’t usually post a picture from the same take two days in a row unless it’s from an event like a second line.

I sort of feel like I’m either cheating or not doing my work very well. But, an old friend of mine who is rarely on Facebook commented about yesterday’s work. She liked it.

She suffered a terrible loss about a decade ago. Even though the shock and the trauma have been dulled, she still isn’t over it. Nor, should she be.

She was awfully kind to me when we first met on a plane, We talked for a while and then when she saw my walking to a taxi stand, she gave me a ride to my hotel. We had a quick meal and a better dinner the next night. Mostly, we talked about what happened. Today, we keep in touch.

I think about that time now and again. I was there on business. My friend lives there. When I wonder about myself sometimes, I think maybe that’s why I’m here. Like the old James Taylor song says.

There’s a whole bunch of lyrics to the song, but I like this set the best.

“Fortune and fame’s
Such a curious game
Perfect strangers
Can call you by name

Pay good money
To hear Fire and Rain
Again and again
And again

Some are like summer
Coming back every year
Got your baby
Got your blanket
Got your bucket of beer

I break into a grin
From ear to ear
And suddenly
It’s perfectly clear

That’s why I’m here (that’s why I’m here)
Sing it tonight, tomorrow and everyday
That’s why I’m standing (that’s why I’m here)
Oh that’s why I’m here”

We talk about this very subject at home. Often.

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This is what I saw.

In the morning.

When you rise. Do you think of me?

From an old Crosby, Stills and Nash song. Without Young. The band that will never play together. That’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell it some day. At least, as I know it. Let’s just say that there are too many old resentments and jealousies. At this point in their checkered past, the only thing that will bring them together again is a huge payday. And, that means Young has to play in the band… which he won’t.

Such good music. At an end. At least we can listen to their old songs. And, some new music. Later this month Young releases an album called “Colorado.” Crosby has released three new albums in four years, matching Young’s production. Nash? Nada. Stills? He would if he could. But, he’s stone deaf. He can play live music as long as he follows other band members and can feel the bass rumbling through his feet. Still, his guitar solos come in odd places and timings.

Oh well.

As Neil Young once said, “The thing that makes you who you are will kill you in the end.”

And, so it does.

I made this picture working in extreme pain. There are days when my poor old back sends signals to my legs that say, “Your muscles are so tight that they cause agonizing pain.”  Of course, the dogs don’t understand this and so I walk with them when I should really be sitting in one particular chair that seems to straighten my back which tells my legs they aren’t hurting.

Yes. I do. I take a light weight muscle relaxer. I’m not sure it does anything, because my muscles aren’t really tight. It’s just that the nerves think they are.

Oh well.

I work as much as I can when I can. I have a real heavy shooting month with all sorts of events coming up that I’ve agreed to photograph. We’ll just see if I can live up to my plans and contract. if I plan it right, I’ll be able to do just that.

The picture. It’s what I saw enhanced just a bit. It was luck that we even walked in that direction. Photographers luck. The more I think about those two words, I think that for veteran photographers it really just means get outside, stand in front of better stuff in the best light that you can find. Press the button. Work the scene. Walk away once you know that you have it. That’s where the magic is. That’s where whatever it is — a spirit, nature, a higher power — lives.

Because.

As the old biblical saying goes, “Faith without work is dead.”


As the sun lowers near dusk.

Today.

Today is a sacred day. On a bright fall morning in 2001 our world changed. Terrorists crashed two airliners into the Twin Towers in the city of my birth, New York. They crashed a third plane into the Pentagon, the hub of our military in Washington D.C. They tried to steer a fourth plane back to the district, when very brave passengers, knowing they would lose their lives, forced that plane to crash into a field in Pennsylvania.

If you ask me about my personal opinion, I’ll say this. Of course, I’m sad. I was even scared at the time. But, I believe the bad guys achieved their purpose. They changed the world. As one false step lead to another, we ended up — for now — in hateful place.  A polarized place where seemingly everybody is against somebody who is even remotely different from them.

I’m happy to report that I’m not that way. I guess, for the most part, I’ve seen enough in my life to not really be afraid of much. Even death. I don’t want to die, but I’m not afraid of it. I don’t know when these changes came to me. They sort of just slid in there. In a way that also explains this picture.

For sure, we should stop, think and reflect on this day. We should make an extra effort to be kinder than we were yesterday. But, we also have to move on in our own ways. For me, that’s making pictures. It’s the only way that I can defeat the bad guys. A friend of mine who lives in Memphis say that as artists we need to “art harder.” I agree.

For those of you who do something different, keep doing it. Do more of it.

That’s how we win.

So.

This picture hasn’t got anything to do with my thoughts for today. Sometimes that happens. I’m just chasing the wonderful autumn light these days. Someday, the weather will actually change and the temperatures will match the light. #nolaheat is relentless.

Peace, prayers and love.


Sometimes, I see things that can be changed.

Lessons learned. Learned well.

They come to mind without really coming to mind. They are just there. They are a kind of koan. You see something. You react. You stop thinking about your approach. To paraphrase and old Nike tagline, “You just do it.”

Back in 1974 when I was in photojournalism school at SJSU, we had a main photography professor. His name was Joe B. Swan. He was from West Texas. He moved slowly. He talked slowly. We called him “Slow Joe.” It was not out of snarkiness. It was out of affection.

In one of our beginning classes we learned about shadows and silhouettes. Except, Joe said it with his West Texas accent. He called them “shaders and silerettes.” I think that’s how you spell those words. Just say them out loud and you’ll understand.

He made a point to tell us that these tools are like spice on food. Don’t use them all the time, but when you do, they’ll make the rest of your take sparkle.

That was 45 years ago. I still hear those words today.

I could write a lot about Joe B. Swan, but it’s enough to say that he was one of the kindest human beings that I’ve ever met. You didn’t think that he was a great teacher until you thought about it. Here I am quoting him 45 years later.

Before I tell you about this picture, I have to tell you that I’m in a strange place. Remember that my word of the year is learning. The best time for me to learn is when I’m not trying to learn. Just like making a picture. If I don’t look, the picture will find me soon enough. Same with learning.

So here we are at the start of four months into 2019. The first three months have just blown by. Mostly good things have happened. But, there have been some bad. The best of those things is that I’m learning. I found out that my dad had a sister, making her my aunt. An aunt that we never knew about. I don’t know why that is, and we may never find out, but that’s something. Through that we found out we have some second and third cousins that we didn’t know about. I hope to learn more about them because they might be able to tell me about our aunt — their grandmother.

How’s that for learning?

Things like that have begun to take me on a journey through my past. I’ve said that before. But, this time it’s on steroids. I expect that’ll change the way I see photographs and the way that I make them. We’ll see.

Anyway.

This picture. I saw it while I was crossing the street. first I saw the bike and the wheel. I looked down. A “shader.” A “silerette.” I made the picture. I went to work in the darkroom in my computer. If I were to show you all the pictures, you’d see the progression. Both in the field and in the studio. This is the final version. And, the one that I like best. Which brings me to a topic for tomorrow. Let’s just call it, “So many pictures.”


Everything in one picture.

Hong Kong.

Not this picture. This is near home in New Orleans.

I was watching the last season of Anthony Bourdain. The show made me nostalgic. It made me a little sad. Not for Tony. We know his end.

It made me miss some of the things that I had. That I did. I thought about living there. I liked it. A lot. Maybe more than I like living in New Orleans.

I think, even after my paid expat time was up, I should have stayed. Yes. It’s expensive. Yes. It’s crowded. For certain I was in the minority. But, there’s a lot to be said for that. It changes your thinking. Your viewpoint changes. You learn a lot. About people who are different from you. About yourself.

If my word for the year is learning, the Lunar New Year brings us to the Year of the Pig. I’m not exactly sure who those two intersect, but it’s worth a thought. Or, two.

Bourdain met up with a cinematographer who worked a lot with Wong Kar-wei. He made those dreamy introspective scenes. He led Bourdain on a merry chase throughout the city. To places I loved and frequented. Some of it changed. Hong Kong never stands still. Others have not. They didn’t hit all of my spots. But, they hit enough.

I haven’t been to Hong Kong in 11 years. I’ve grown older. Slower. A little broken. I’m not even sure if I could walk many of the city’s streets. I could try. I could take breaks. I would probably see more.  You know. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

I should go. This year. Before it slips my mind.

When is a very obvious question. Between my two lives, I’m booked until at least September. That could work. The weather there is about like it is here. The temperatures would start dropping. It would be cool, but not cold. We’ll see.

See what’s happening here? It’s like a journey through the past. Only it’s headed toward the future. There are a lot of places I’d like to visit. Before I can’t.

Oh yeah. The picture. The dog who sees stuff was groomed. She got a haircut. The groomer shaved her down to her body. She needed it. Between rain, and falling leaves and the wetness on the ground, she was matted. Sure, I brushed her. I combed her. But, when her fur is long, she picks up everything. Funny thing about her fur is that it weighs a lot. She started out her day weighing 24.5 pounds. Just under the maximum cocker weight of 25 pounds. Off came her fur. We weighed her again. Twenty three pounds. That’s a helluva diet. She lost 1.5 pounds in three hours.

This is the long way of saying that she was in a great mood. She was ripping around on our walk until she lead me to this. She stopped. I photographed. I made two good pictures. Off we went. There’s really not much to this picture. Winter silhouetted trees and a sunset. What could be easier?

They say that anything worth doing is worth working hard to achieve. Sometimes. Other times, the best thing is the easiest thing. It just sort of flows. As I wrote yesterday, I am just the conduit.

Be the conduit.

 


A foggy morning in Jackson Square.

This is it. The very first picture I made in New Orleans.

Unlike some of the others in this series, it wasn’t exactly lost. I just hadn’t seen the original scan in a long time. Yes. Scan. This image was made on film. In 1999. In June, if my mind isn’t playing tricks on me. It’s very likely, the image was made on Fuji Velvia, which is a bright, high color, high contrast film. It’s mostly what I used almost 20 years ago. It still exists today.

This working style isn’t what I was known for, but my editors loved it. They wanted me to do more. Hmmmm. That reminded of what I always knew. If any editor is not a photographer, they have no idea of reality on the street. This picture was made by happenstance and luck. I can’t will nature to drop some fog wherever I want it. I could if I was making a movie with a big budget, a huge crew and a bunch of tools. I’m usually one guy with a couple of cameras. I work by discovery and a little bit of foreknowledge.

That said, this is a very nice Sunday picture. It’s quiet. Peaceful and subdued.

Enjoy.


Dark and glowing dusk.

Mysterious blue hour.

It happens like this sometimes. You look up and think, “whoa, what just happened?”

So. You take the picture. With your brand new smart phone. Amazing. The sensor seems to dig out everything. Color. Shadows. And, it holds the highlights without much work

Thank you for all of your good thoughts. As they say, no news is good news.

Update. I’m sorry to report that my friend passed last night in her sleep at 11:07 pm.


In the summer, after a storm.

Beneath summer skies.

With daily rain often comes drama. Usually, around dusk when the storm clouds are moving towards the west or upriver.

I can see some of it forming from my windows. But, I really see it on dogarito’s second — or sometimes — third walk of the day. Luckily, she’s pretty patient. So, I can make a picture or two.

This is one of the pictures. Not only do I see the sky and the framing silhouetted trees, but the image almost looks three-dimensional to my eye. There are natural layers upon layers hiding in this picture.

And, another word.

I see that our government has reached out to the DOD and are having immigrants discharged from the Army for no real reason except meanness.. Not only are they being taken out of their path to citizenship, but they are being classified as a security threat, which will get them a dishonorable discharge, hurting their lives going forward. In the ultimate Catch 22, anyone with dishonorable discharge cannot apply for citizenship.

Great.

This means a guy who wants to do the right thing, protect me and become a citizen can never do either. My God.

I don’t talk much about my life here. I see Storyteller as a place for pictures, art, discussion.

But, there’s this.

My paternal grandfather served in the Royal Russian Navy. In 1905, during the first Russian Revolution, his ship was ordered to fire on Russian people.  Rather than do that, the crew scuttled their ship and left the country. My grandfather made his way to Hamburg, Germany. He caught a tramp freighter and sailed for New York.

He passed through Ellis Island. He had no real papers since he had already jumped ship in Russia. He spoke no English, so my name became Laskowitz from whatever it really was. I still don’t really know. In 1917, when The United States entered World War I, he enlisted to serve his new country. His reward? Automatic citizenship. He died in 1949. I never met him. But, I am him. I’m the grandson of an immigrant.

Oh. About the family name. I’ve done a lot of research. The best I can come up with is that I am really Belorussian. I think our village was Horodak. In Russian that means little village. In Belorussia, it is a village. After that, I know nothing.

Oh. My family were sausage makers in the “old country.” This explains a lot. Like, why I can grind it out here. Heh!

 


In an eerie light.

A semi-tropical place.

Yep. That’s us. We look that way. The heat feels that way. The humidity feels that way. Essentially, we live in an outdoor hothouse. Even when the cooler air and lower sun of winter rolls around, we are still a hothouse. We just don’t feel it.

I was out wandering around with dogarito. Don’t ask. The name just came to me. I saw this little stand of leaves. They were nicely backlighted. I took my time photographing them. When I looked at them on a big monitor I was happily surprised. I worked on a bunch of them. How many pictures are in a bunch? Oh. I don’t know. It’s sort of like the weather guy on television the other night. Instead of saying something like 97 degrees, he just said it was going to be “dang hot.” Do you have any idea how much I appreciated that?

I did not appreciate that “dang hot” really meant 96 or 97 degrees with a “feels like” temperature of around 114 degrees.  Yep. That’s summer in the swamp. It’s “dang hot.”

Keep scrolling.

Hidden in the shadows.

You didn’t think that I’d leave out a little news commentary, did you?

This is not about the state of caged kids. Although that situation is still precarious.

This is about national discourse.

Of course the “Tweasel in Chief” is the prime driver of the rudeness and nastiness in public discourse today. I need not run down the list of his accomplishments, but it’s starting to affect everybody else.

Elizabeth Warren and the Tweasel got into an eight-hour Twitter fight yesterday. Eight hours? Really? Don’t either of them have something better to do with their time?

Then, his press secretary was asked to leave a restaurant because she works for the Tweasel.  She said it was more about the restaurant owner than her, forgetting that the newly appointed members of the Supreme Court made that behavior okay when they agreed that a baker could deny service to a gay couple.

Then the press secretary’s father got involved by tweeting a picture of tattooed Hispanics who might possibly look like gang members, comparing Nancy Pelosi’s campaign staff to MI-13 gang members. He’s a Southern Baptist minister. Praise God.

This list goes on and on and on.

Get a grip. Everybody.

Just because Tweasel is nuts, mean and stupid, doesn’t mean that we have to be.

Keep scrolling.

A still life.

The name Tweasel was created by a toddler after she heard me call the orange haired dufus in the White House a weasel and after she heard somebody else say that he is treasonous. She looked at me, smiled and said, “Oh, a Tweasel.”

Out of the mouth of babes.