I was told just the other day that our light is special because of the humidity. Supposedly, it is more creamy. I’m not sure about that. Humidity is caused by airborne water droplets. They reflect red light, making blue skies muddy. Sort of gray.
That’s just science. Optics.
I suppose if you aren’t looking at the sky and are focused on ground bound subjects that the light could seem creamy. Or, at least, heavy. That’s not a bad quality.
The picture. I made it yesterday. I was running errands. The kind of stuff that you do on your first day home. I parked the car, looked up and thought, “oh wow.” I made the picture. I made a couple of them. Once again, not much post production. Nature’s handiwork again.
This is a summer project picture. This is a southern summer sky. A classic.
I made it only a block or two away from the “boy riding his bike next to the train” picture. Another summer picture. Maybe I should hang out there. Maybe not. That could be strangling the golden goose.
We’ve had cool and dry weather. The best kind. Now, we have moist and warm weather. The worst kind, this early in the season. The weather blabbers on the local television stations are already talking about hurricane season. Settle down. That’s just under two months away.
I get to make different kinds of pictures without traveling far and wide to do it.
Lately, I’ve had two problems. You know that I don’t feel like photographing much. I also don’t feel like traveling much. Too bad for me. I have to do both in a little bit. Money beckons.
It’s not that I don’t like photography or traveling. I love both. I just don’t like what it takes to do them.
Since everybody is a photographer, I have to figure out a way to make a picture that is different, but not necessarily better.
Since everybody wants to travel, the actual act of doing it has become crowded and hellish with so many inexperienced travelers not knowing what they are doing. I like to be comfortable when I’m flying somewhere. But, I don’t wear my pajamas and flip-flops onboard a plane.
I’m not whining or ranting. It’s life in the real world. If you were able to plop me down in my destination I’d have a great time. Despite all this new technology, that hasn’t happened yet.
I have no doubt that it will. At least that’s what they say on all the science fiction that I watch.
One more thing about traveling to photograph. Since everybody is a photographer, the classic locations are crowded with people trying to make the very same picture the first 2,745,981 photographers did. I jokingly say that there are tripod holes at prime locations.
That leaves me with a lot of choices. Let’s say I’ve gone to New Mexico. Let’s say I’m staying in Santa Fe. I could get very lazy and photograph the city. Or, I could move on and work outside of the city, coming back at night. That’s what I would likely do. That works for me because I do like to explore.
That’s how I think. These days. Going to a place isn’t enough. Not any more.
The picture. Just about everything has bloomed and has settled into summer’s green. Except for here and there. This tree is an example of here. Or, there. As the storm clouds started to blow in, I started making a few pictures. This is one of them. Since the light was low at around dusk, there is some nice highlight on one side of the tree. That’s also what’s causing the clouds to be yellowish.
This about New Orleans. This is about the New Orleans that makes national news. This is about the city in the throes of summer. This is about murder. Mayhem. Mass shootings. Rolling shootings. This is about at least 11 people shot, leaving three dead. This is about the first shooting that looks like some kind of hit. Ten shot, three dead. About a woman who was shot somewhere near the entrance to I-10, but was part of a rolling gun battle that ended up in Metairie, some five miles away.
That’s what this post is about.
This is about the New Orleans that tourists ignore, forgetting that there was a double shooting on Bourbon Street on Friday night.
I’m not sure which is worse. A city that is so violent that the local police seem to be powerless. A city that is so broken that the water system doesn’t work. A city that can’t pump water out of its streets fast enough that even a hard rain causes heavy flooding. Or, a city that can’t fix its streets within any sort of reasonable time frame.
I don’t know. You pick.
We have a new mayor. The jury is still out on her. Way, way out on her. We are trying to rebuild a broken police force. Yet, two new officers were just fired because they beat an unarmed man while they were off duty. They beat him because he was wearing camo clothing and he didn’t look right to them. He looked Hispanic to them.
I know the country is angry. Polarized. It ain’t getting any better at the national level. It’s getting worse.
That said, New Orleans survives on tourism. It is really the city’s only form of major income. Yeah, yeah. There are some technical companies moving in. But, that money isn’t for the people who live in the city.
I just have to wonder what happens when the tourists get scared enough not to come to New Orleans. When a mass shooting directly involves some people from California. Or, Philadelphia. Or, Seattle. When it really become national news. On CNN. In the New York Times.
The picture. Hot summer nights. Kind of mysterious. Kind of funky. A little bit scary. I pretty much left this picture alone in post production. Mostly, I darkened it. And, added a little haze.
More of a graphic shape than a documentary picture. At least that’s how I see it. The silhouetted train car shape makes it so.
It was just something I saw one late afternoon in the swamp. The swamp that has become really swampy.
And, not to be forgotten, June 1 is the official start of hurricane season. Even though Alberto missed us and made land fall close to the Alabama — Florida border, he just arrived early. Besides, he was a subtropical storm. Whatever that is. Too much slicing and dicing of data for me.
Luckily, the folks who predict such seasonal events are saying this year is a normal hurricane season. So was last year. So was 2005 when Hurricane Katrina blew us to New Mexico. How did those years turn out? Just ask the folks in Puerto Rico who still have no electrical power. And, whose death toll from last year just increased yesterday by some 4,000 souls.
Numbers add up to nothing. Neil Young wrote that in a song. I believe him. No data can teach you what it feels like to live through a big storm. A hurricane. A tornado.
I could tell you how that feels. But, I won’t. No sense in dredging that up again. I pretty much put it to bed on Hurricane Katrina’s tenth anniversary. Most of us did. Every now and then something turns up to remind me of it. Like the start of every year’s hurricane season.
A little housekeeping. I’m getting the feeling that some of you can’t wait to get rid of me once Storyteller moves from WordPress to Laskowitzpictures.com. If you subscribe to Storyteller via email, you’ll still receive it. If you only see me on your reader that will be a problem. I suggest that if you like reading and seeing what I offer that you subscribe via email. Once I work out the kinks and find a distribution service, you’ll still receive Storyteller.
Of course, the kinks come in the strangest way.
Lemme tell ya a story. I’ve been testing Storyteller from my new website. Some of you could see the writing, but not the pictures. Even after watching a couple of blogging videos on Square space — the host site — I couldn’t do it. Keep in mind that I’ve been working on the new website — on and off — since January. While I was struggling with it last night, a passing toddler walks by and asks, “Does it know your email address?”
As I said, I’ve been working on my site since January.
So I opened my personal information window, thinking that you never know. Sure enough. in order to blog, which also allows me to license images directly from Getty Images (one of my representatives) I have to verify my email address. Once I did that it appears to be smooth sailing.
When I asked the toddler in question how she knew, she replied, “I know stuff.” Sort of like a dog, I thought. That’s my lesson for the week. Toddlers and dogs. Both of them know more than me.
Try your best to think. Try your best not to overreact.
We are in the middle of one our worst years ever. Between a pumpkin-headed president who hates anybody who isn’t like him and wants badly to fight a major war, all manner of anger, nature’s fury and just general stupidity, it’s bad.
Don’t make it worse.
I’ve read some of silliest comments on Facebook about how to prepare for a storm. Most people forget to ask the most basic question. Are you staying or are you going? A particular poster lists every possible step to prepare. That doubles the work. For no reason. It’s just panic. In one of the craziest posts, the writer suggests cleaning your bathroom tub and filling it with water so you can drink it. WHAAAAT? You fill your bathroom tub with water so you can have water to flush your toilet when the power fails. You don’t drink it. The same posters forget to say that if you staying that you need about a billion batteries, and battery-powered storm lanterns. And, cans of Spam. And, Vienna Sausages. And, canned pasta. There is nothing like cold pasta and potted meat to ruin your day.
There’s more, but…
This one is better.
There is a photographer who lives in New Orleans who’s like me. Great creds. Good shooting rep. He’s going to Cuba. Today. He isn’t going to photograph Hurricane Irma. He’s mostly going to produce art and stock imagery. Some people think he’s being brave. Other people — like me – think there is a fine line between being brave and stupidity. You pick.
He’s also like me, because at 67 years old, he’s got back problems that make mine look minor. Often he hires a fixer who carries his gear because he can’t. I’m not quite that old. Or, quite that broken down. But, you get the idea.
Think that’s crazy?
He doesn’t like converting digital captures from color to black and white. He’s old school. He wants to shoot Tri-x in his “antique cameras.” Okay. Fine. He gets to the airport and posts on Facebook. He wants to know if anyone is going to Havana with film. He packed his cameras, but forget to buy or pack film.
This is a working pro. A guy who knows better. Supposedly.
First, anybody actually going to Cuba to cover Hurricane Irma has deadlines and will not be working in film. Maybe one person might be. He ain’t sharing. Second, I can’t think of anybody who is flying directly into the storm. Including first responders. There’s a reason for that. You could get killed. Third, I’m willing to bet Cuba closes their airports to commercial traffic well before the hurricane arrives. Even if he manages to get in, getting out will take an act of God.
By the way, I’m not attacking him. Or, making fun of him. It could just as well be me. Sheesh. I could pack cameras and film and forget my clothes. You know…
It may be fire. Or, rain. Or, political stupidity and meanness with which you are dealing, just settle down. Nothing is ever achieved with a monkey mind. Focus on something and stay focused. If you need to survive nature, do that. If you are in a position to fight back against a mad leader, organize properly and do that. If corporations weren’t so focused on the bottom line, the ones who employ dreamers would shut down in protest of this latest outrage.
Oh. I almost forgot.
The picture. After the last storm. Our clouds typically light up once the sun breaks through because light refracts of the remaining clouds and the water droplets in the air. Luckily there was a brightly, and lowly lighted subject in the foreground. A train. I like trains. Woo, woo.
Sometimes this happens in between storms. Around dusk. When the air is heavy and still carries a lot of water droplets to reflect the low sunlight. Sunlight that bounces around like crazy and paints the sky with amazing colors.
Sometimes, I have a great foreground. Usually, I’m completely out-of-place and I have to go to where I know. At least I wasn’t in a Target parking lot like a friend of mine was. But, it wasn’t much different.
It really was just point and shoot. And, hope for the best.
The pictures. Funny. Normally, I tune my pictures up. I want to bring out the color. The contrast. And, the shape.
Not this time.
The natural color was so bright and contrasty that I found myself working backwards. I removed contrast. I took the saturation down because everything looked garish even with just a tiny hint of extra color.
This is a perfect symbol. An icon. Of the state that I call home.
Oil. Religion. All in one picture. Well, the oil “bidness” is tanking and the state is broke. That’s not the only reason. But, it certainly doesn’t help. The state is in a deep recession of its own making. And, religion? Well, I’m not going there. I never do. That’s a great way to start a really big argument. Let’s just say, that I’ve never seen so many churches in one place.
I’m thinking it’s time for a change. It’s been rumbling around inside me for a while. The first thing to know, is that I haven’t been working very much. Oh, not in that way. I take plenty of pictures when I’m supposed to. You know, as in being paid to do it. I do my management thing. I rarely have the time to take pictures when I travel because of that management thing, so you think I only work in New Orleans.
I seem to have run into some sort of major block. A good friend of mine says that I may be coming to phase when the place is dead to me. How the hell could New Orleans be dead to anyone? Likely, it’s the other way around. Likely, it’s because I worked everything about three or four times over. This place just isn’t that big. The other day, I had to a file search for a client. You know, stock pictures. But, not the usual stuff. Pictures made my way. He wanted something that comes down to “The Best of New Orleans.” My way.
I searched my deeper files. I decided to go back to where I hadn’t been in a while. I dipped back to the year when I first returned. And, then I went forward from there. What I found sort of amazed me. Even though my technique, my style and my post production has certainly improved — practice, practice, practice — the subject matter remains about the same. As Led Zeppelin once sang, “The Song Remains The Same.”
I believe that every artist has to grow and change. Maybe it’s the subject matter. Maybe it’s the place. Sometimes, it’s the style itself. Or, maybe I just need to travel a little bit for myself. I keep talking about road trips, but I have never time to take the ones that I really want to do.
So. We’ll see. I’ll sort it out. I always do. It comes to me in a dream. Or, in the verse of some song. Or, from some other unexpected place. Or, maybe from just writing this. Where I come from, they say to always tell another human being. I just told all of you.
They say if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. A lot of people in a lot of places say this. Of all the places I’ve been — and, that’s a lot — I’ve never seen the weather change as often and as frequently as it does in Southeast Louisiana. All these colorful clouds are an example of that. The clouds are moving from one place to another. Sometimes they bring rain. Sometimes they don’t. But, they add a lot of character to the sky. That makes my job easier.
A little explanation will help.
The top picture was taken in a little Westbank city called Westwego. Legend has it that it got its name from railroad men, who assembled westbound trains there and would yell out, “west we go” when they were ready to leave. So… that sign doesn’t mean what you think it does. Sure, it’s located at the edge of a big, almost abandoned, shopping center. At one time, the whole sign said, “Westwego Shopping Center,” not “We Go Shopping.” Some storm got the top and right side of the sign. Rather than tearing it down, some resourceful person just finished the top, trimmed the right side and let it be.
The middle picture. Two things. That’s the Huey P. Long bridge. It spans the Mississippi River and leads to — wait for it — Westwego. It also heads west. If you are going to Los Angeles, this is part of the route that Amtrak uses to get there. This is also the bridge from which last week’s storm blew the freight cars into the ground.
Finally. Sometimes clouds, or sunsets, or sunrise, or rain or, or, or… just need a subject. I was reaching a bit. But, I like telephone poles. I used to think, like so many photographers do, that I had to avoid them at any cost. Now I just see them as part of the general scene. Especially in urban or near urban environments. They add a nice graphic element.
New Orleans. Lafayette Square at dusk. You would think the statue is of La Fayette. (That’s the proper spelling.) But, it’s not. It’s Henry Clay. It was created on 1863, placed across the street and moved to its current location at the center of the square in 1900 to make way for the “new” streetcars on St. Charles as well as more general traffic which was mostly of the horse and buggy type. The square itself was named after Lafayette in 1825, after first being called Place Gravier in 1788. Did I mention that New Orleans is an old place? Lafayette Square was the center of the American area with the French Quarter being more-or-less its mirror just down river across the neutral ground on Canal Street. The phrase “neutral ground” is a whole other story. Remind me to tell it someday. But, it pretty much means just about what you might think.
Since I don’t normally make pictures of statues, you might wonder I made this picture. Well. I was there for something else, but the sky was just killer. I decided to make as much of the foreground, and even part of the background, in silhouette so that I could emphasize the wonderful clouds, color and sky. The one thing I know about making pictures of stationary things is that they look best at the ends of the day when the rising or setting sun colors everything, adds contrast, long shadows and makes everything pretty and dramatic. Morning light looks different from dusk light, since the morning light general has less particulate matter in the air. Now you know.
My question? A number of you answered with your opinions. Thank you very much. I think that I have a direction. I’ll work on it in the next few days when I get a little time. This touring stuff is killing me. Arrrrrgh.