The swamp and the tree.

There is one corner where the land looks like this. It looks and feels what it must have been like 25,000 years ago.

I don’t really know. I’m not that old. I swear.

All I know is that it’s green and can get kind of noisy when squirrels talk and birds chirp.

Sometimes wilder animals than those make their way through the foliage. I’ve seen raccoon and possums pass by. I rarely see snakes, but they are there too. Nothing poisonous, just the usual black snake or two.

Scrape away 160 years and this neighborhood is wild and swampy. Well, not that wet. This is ridge land. Kind of. It’s six feet above sea level when so much of the city land is below sea level.

But, that’s enough.

It survived the big hurricane in my memory — Katrina — without getting flooded. That’s one of the reasons we live where we live.

It’s not the oldest neighborhood in the city, with much of being built in the 1850s. It was annexed to be part of New Orleans a little before that. People built here for three reasons. The land was fairly inexpensive. The area was a little cooler which kept the viral outbreaks down. And, it isn’t near the French Quarter and “those people.”

That doesn’t mean what you think. It really means a wilder, rowdier bunch.

Even now, it’s removed enough that if I want to go to the Quarter, I can hop on the streetcar and be there is 10-15 minutes. And, that’s a two block walk from the house. I can watch the craziness and come home to quiet.

Sometimes living here is easy.

Jungle land. The hardest part of making this photograph is the light.

Most of it is dark. That’s easy to expose for. But, look at the highlights. They are way blown out.

The way to account for that is to expose for the shadows and add a little flash. Not much, just something we used to call a kick light.

I could have done that but didn’t. Remember, I make these pictures on dog walks or going from one place to another.

The result is slightly gray highlights caused by the processing that takes a RAW file to a JPEG. It crunches some of the highlights to make them fit within the JPEG gamut.

Never the less, I think this is a fairly striking representation of my neighborhood.


The weirds.

The scene. Bare trees lined up in an interesting shape with blue sky directly about and storm clods moving into thelocation.

You’d think that would be an easy picture to make. You’d be wrong. This picture took an act of God in post production which I’ll get to in the right hand column.

I want to talk about something a friend of mine wrote in a newsletter that he only shares with his closest friends. 2,000,000 of his closest friends.

It’s called The Lefstetz Letter. Bob, because that’s his name, used to actually work in the music industry. Now he is set of a super gadfly, reporter, op-ed page writer. He’s very well connected.

For the most part his letters are on target. But, when he is wrong, man is he wrong. As anybody does with that kind of readership, he gets attacked. But, he is praised more than vilified.

Anyway.

In his last letter he was talking about Biden and the Democrats. Let’s be clear, Bob is a hardcore lefty. He did not want Biden in the drivers seat. Many of us replied that even though Biden wouldn’t do what you (Bob) wanted him to do, he was the right guy because he knows how to move the levers of power. He knows how to repair all the damage done by the previous administration.

Yesterday he finally agreed. Biden moved so fast in his first week in office that it was hard for him not to agree. And, then he wrote this. The Democrats are finally acting like they won the election.

Yes. They are.

They pushed through the Biden relief bill while giving a nod to the Republicans by having a long and productive meeting. They tossed Twittled Dee from Georgia off of the Congressional Committees after the minority leader wanted to have a chat with her and hide behind the word unity.

This made me smile.

Being a bully isn’t needed right now. We just finished with four years of that nonsense. Being strong is needed now especially after four years of obstruction. Watch the chief instructor — McConnell — dance to another tune.

Right now his instincts are right. But, he’s still fearful of the pumpkin man. He’ll learn. There is a breath of fresh air in the halls of power. He’ll get used to it.

A funny thing happened on the way to this picture.

I couldn’t figure out the exposure. I suppose that I made it for the bluish-green light sky in the center of the picture.

That was a mistake.

It was also a driving force.

Once I developed the original file it looked terrible. The storm clouds weren’t dark enough. There was noise the size of golf balls. Try as I might I couldn’t fix this picture.

A lightbulb went off.

Why fix it when you can enhance it. Or, in this case, make it weird.

That’s what I did.

Once I got the basic file about the best that I could make it, then I went to work.

I removed the noise with a filter. I added odd tornado-looking like color to the sky. I added a glow filter twice to the overall picture. I let the trees fall into silhouette.

I was done.

A side note. This was not done in Snapseed. It’s a great app, but I needed industrial strength editing so I did everything in OnOne. It worked after four different tries and deletions.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Stay strong. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Use all the editing tools available to you.


Deep and dark.

Night. Moody, deep and dark. Sometimes scary. Always interesting. That’s one of my favorite times of day to work aside from the ends of the day.

Working at night means that you can hide some imperfections. You can build in the shadows. Pools of light become subjects in themselves. Trees often become silvery in the winter.

On the other hand, daytime photography assures you of a good exposure, especially if the light falls on the front of the subject. But, to my way of thinking, high noon daylight images are boring.

There I said it. Boring.

I started thinking about this when a friend said, in the comments, that my pictures are different. My writing above sort of explains why.

For many photographers my ways of working are just suggestions. For me, they are rules. I try to live by them religiously. That’s why some of you like what you see.

Sometimes this is an issue. I miss dinners, at least at traditional times. I get up too early, which means that I need a nap. Sometimes, I stay up too late chasing the night.

That’s all in a day’s work. I suppose. Everyone here is used to it, so it’s not a big deal. I’ll hear about it in no uncertain terms if it is.

I’ll explain how I made this image in the other column, where that stuff belongs.

Heh!

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your vaccine. Look after each other. Look up from the dirt to the stars.

Mystical trees. Or, something like that. The bigger this picture gets, the worse the trees look.

Oh well.

Perfection is for angels.

This is a layered picture. But all three scenes were made at the same time of day.

Trust me. I tried to cheat. It wouldn’t work.

So.

There is a base picture that doesn’t show up to your eye. It gives the sky depth. There is the sky and there are the trees. I think I reduced the mid-tones a little too much. If you are wondering, the mid-tones are in the trees.

Once the layers were assembled, I set to work tinkering. In this case tinkering means to balance out the layers so they don’t look like layers.

I added a touch of color, but that was it. Too much color and the picture turned atomic. Not enough and the picture became monochromatic.

Anyway.

That’s what I did.


Ghostly .

The time of year. Spooky. Ghostly. A good time of year when things aren’t what they seem.

This is another short post. We have power, but no internet. Our gear is new and works fine. It turns out that our internet provider took some heavy hits. They are working to repair the damage but who knows when.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Two days… vote.


The scary Quarter.

Spooky. Scary. That’s the season. The season of the witch. It’s really scary around swampville today. Sometime early in the morning my phone went crazy with a 36 hour hurricane warning. You have no idea how it feels when you get any kind of notification like that. Your heart pounds. You are wide awake. Your brain is moving too fast. And, then they say that we may have to evacuate.

Hahahaha.

Evacuate to where? In the season of the other witch — CoVid-19 — where do we go? Anyway, this storm has moved slightly to the east, but we will get hit pretty hard. We have no idea about is strength. Yet. It has to pass over the gulf, which is still very hot with summer’s heat. That charges it.

I already know the answer to my next question. And, I don’t like it.

I have a 505 area code. New Orleans has a 504 area code. My code is from our sojourn to the high desert in New Mexico after Hurricane Katrina did its thing. How did I receive an alert that is relevant to the 504 area code?

That’s easy. The least invasive is Google. I use Google Maps and their direction service. Google knows where I am. So does Apple and Samsung. I don’t like it, but that’s on me. Telling them where I’m located makes life easier.

The alert didn’t come from any of them. It came from the feds, through NOAA. They track my movements too. I read a piece in the New York Times, by Kara Swisher, who has been doing heavy digital studies for twenty years. She said that the government knows where we are every moment of every day. Mostly, they just collect the data. Sometimes they use what they’ve collected. This was one of those times. At least it’s for good.

But, what if it’s not? People were fighting against leaving their contact information at restaurants in case someone got sick and they needed to do some contact tracing. Who cares, we already are known to the people that matter.

Ms. Swisher said the only way to beat what amounts to a huge invasion of privacy is to buy a “burner” phone and only use it to make calls. You should also use an alias. After a few calls, dump it and start again. If you buy a smartphone and use it to check your email, or go to social sites you are immediately known.

Some life, eh?

Halloween and the picture. I haven’t been photographing a lot of holiday stuff lately so this is a retread. But, I’ve always really liked this picture. I made it the Quarter. Originally, it was in glorious color. But, when I experimented with it, I found that I liked this version a whole lot better.

Normally, I would photograph the Krewe of Boo. That’s cancelled this year for obvious reasons. Assuming we don’t take to big of a hit from the storm, I may wander around the Quarter looking for new and even more scary pictures on Halloween. We’ll see.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance.


Way beyond me.

2020.

That’s all I know.

If it can happen, it will happen. Apparently this guy was sitting in a car in the Louisiana heat and he died. I was so hot that his skin seared off and we are left with bones.

Dem bones.

That’s the best I can come up with on short notice.

What really happened was this. We went to visit some friends at a place where we could socially distance ourselves. We were walking between two parked cars and I happened to glance to my right.

Wait. What?

A skeleton.

I thought I’d better take some pictures of this. So I did.

Before you ask, I haven’t a clue. Probably, just as well.

If you look closely you can see me. Or, is it me? I wasn’t wearing sunglasses. My hair isn’t that short. My fingers aren’t that long. Spooky.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy all the fried soft shell crabs.


Seriously spooky.

All in my head.

I saw one scene. I photographed it. I saw another scene. I photographed it. When the time came I combined them.

Oooh. Spooky.

The picture does have an eerie feeling to it. Like something out of H.P. Lovecraft. Can’t you just see Cthulhu lurking back in those trees? Lovecraft wrote in a number of themes. Threat to civilization was one. Another was fear of science. A third was the subject of race. And, finally religion and superstition.

Mix all of those together in a toxic stew and what do you get?

2020.

If we distill some of that into the “Era of the Rona,” as I heard a young guy call it, you start observing more than you did in the early days of sickness and death.

I think we are getting too comfortable with the virus. While we all seem to be following the rules of masking, at least in my limited world, we aren’t keeping our distances and I saw one guy shake another’s hand. I miss that too.

But…

We can’t do that right now.

On the other hand, we are wearing our masks. We went to make groceries — a New Orleans way of staying I’m going grocery shopping — I noticed that everyone was masked except for one guy. About four or five people ganged up on him and told him to get out. He didn’t know what to do. He knew that four or five is more than one so he left.

That’s good. We have to take care of each other. Making that guy leave was taking care of him. Think about it.

This is all hard to do.

I photographed Big Queens Kim’s funeral procession. Before I write further, everyone was masked. Our great NOPD street cops had cloth bags tied at their wastes. If they came upon somebody without a mask they reached into their bag and gave them one. They were new and sealed in plastic. Nothing else was said.

One of the hardest things about going was saying hello to other photographers. We are sort of tight knit. We haven’t seen each other in about six months. Normally, there would be hugs and talking closely. We couldn’t do that. We couldn’t shake hands. We tried elbow bumps, but that felt stupid.

I think I’ve also said about our cops, that if they were in any of the cities were protests turned to riots, the riots would never have happened. They know how to handle crowds. Down here, when one group was determined to destroy things, the cops isolated and arrested them. Everyone who came to protest, protested.

We don’t fear our cops. During Mardi Gras my routine is to find parking early, walk over to C.C’s. (Community Coffee) and have a cup before I go out to make pictures. I need the caffeine boost. Usually that means that I’m sitting at a four top — ooh, restaurant talk — by myself.

Often I’m joined by two or three NOPD. We talk about this and that as you do. After sitting with the same group on a couple of occasions, I asked them why they are so good at crowd control. They said, they try never to overreact, they talk with the citizens around them and they never ever draw their weapons unless a citizen’s life is in peril. Not their’s. One of them said that he thinks there is too much tactical gear on the streets which implies an aggressive approach.

There you have it.

We might not have Mardi Gras next year. It depends. Obviously, on this day of reflection about Hurricane Katrina, other traditions come into play. Mardi Gras was blamed for the rapid spread of the virus in early March. I’m not sure that’s fair. Unless, we do everything we can as a city to calm down the virus there is no way Carnival should happen.

That’ll be a horrible shame.

Aside from the long term planning and energy that everyone puts into the production, and all of us who celebrate it as something more than partying, the city needs the money. We’ve been shut down for so long that the tax base is almost non-existent.

The Picture

Wow! See what you get from one spooky looking picture? You get to see my mind wandering around through so bad neighborhoods. I told you about the picture, so…

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Keep your distance. Enjoy every po’boy.


Breaking the bonds of earth.

Have you seen me lately?

The light at the end of the tunnel is about to come. Not for the United States, which is shredded beyond recognition. Today that isn’t at top of mind.

The all seeing dog, Sophie Rose, is in my head. She had her dental appointment today. Oh boy. The right side of her jaw has a very bad infection. She had four teeth pulled, kinda. When the vet started to pull them, they just sort of popped out. The bone was infected and some was a little crumbly.

Sounds terrible, yes?

It isn’t. The holes where the teeth were are already healing, because the teeth were so loose. She’s going to be in a lot of pain for the next couple of days. She is getting a high end narcotic, that I apply with a syringe, without a needle. She’s getting an injection and more antibiotics. She’ll be hurting for a day or two. She should be looking pretty good in about ten days when she returns to her vet.

There’s one more thing. Jaw infections can be indicative of something worse. Cancer. Her vet says he 80% sure that it isn’t going to be cancer. .

I just hate this. Not that Sophie is sick. That happens to all of us. But, the pain. I can’t stand it. You know the pain that I had been suffering through. Forget that. If I could carry her pain I would. She’s such a sweet, loyal and happy dog, that she doesn’t deserve this.

You know my next request.

Have a good thought for her. Pray to whoever your higher power happens to be. Oh, yeah. You might think about us too.

In case you are wondering, she comes home tonight.

The picture.

Storyteller is supposed to be about photography. About art. Throw in a little design, and you’ve got it.

So.

The picture. It was a normal end of the day thing. It wasn’t very special. I started playing with it. First, I made the perfect picture. Meh. It met all the so called technical standards. Meh. I tweaked it a lot. Meh.

Then.

I was using one group of settings. I accidently pulled the slider too far. Ah Ha! Something interesting. I worked on it from there. This is what I made. Something a little different. Some dark and brooding. Something that is almost evil.

It’s not.

It may be about my day. It’ll get better. I am sure of that.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


A little weird.

Weirdness.

I made it that way. Unlike the speeding picture which happened in camera, this image was made after the fact in post production. By me. The original photograph showed a bright and sunny winters day.

I had a vision. I knew my final intent. I wanted to make what I kiddingly call a “Halloween Picture.” So I went to work. I removed most of the color, When I added black, I removed just enough of it to make the silhouette of the tree brown. You can see it mostly in the branches.

I knew when I was finished. That’s the thing about using vision to guide you. You know when you know.

That’s it for today.

If you are in the United States have a good Martin Luther King Day. If you are anywhere else in the world have a good Monday. Or, Tuesday.