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.


Craziness

Cold front coming. We had a weird — not this weird — sky this morning. Then came the thunder and lightening followed by rain. When we got up this morning the temperatures dropped by about 20 degrees. This won’t last, but it feels so good.

I am experimenting with free design templates. Since most of my work is moving, but I still want to keep all y’all I have to learn a new template. I found one that I like a lot. I think I’ll try to make it look more like a website than blog site with a static font page and posts just behind that. You’ll still get the same emails and reader posts.

This could put me in a good position. If I can never move you over to my website than I can just come back here with no interruptions. Or, something like that.

If you believe in such things as astrology this should be my power month being a full bodied Scorpio.

So far during my month my modem and router gave up the ghost. A day went by before I could get back up and running. And, that big storm and all that rain? The dogs refuse to go out in it. That means I have to get wet.

My month, indeed.

I can hardly wait until my birthday week. That ought to be a hoot.

What a morning. Even though the sky wasn’t quite this yellow, there were tinges of bright yellow and green. Tornado skies. Never a good thing.

I didn’t hear of any water spouts touching down so maybe we are good.

I made this photograph while the all seeing dog was sniffing around for, well you know.

She likes to go places that aren’t in our neighborhood, so we did that. Our slight return probably put us in a better place to photograph the light.

Normally I say something like see it, photograph it. Not this time. I had to figure out where to put that tree in the foreground. It took longer than you think.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after each other.


A summer look and feel.

Summer.

The calendar may say that we’ve got almost a month to summer, but the heat, humidity and rain have given us a summer-like feel for the past couple of days. I’m not really ready for it, especially since we planned on not being here for a couple of months, but a virus took that from us.

Speaking of that virus, I spent some time consoling a friend of mine who managed to keep busy for a good part of lockdown number one. Today is a quiet day for her. She realized what was lost and really started feeling blue.

I listened for a long time because I’ve learned a while back that when somebody reaches out and asks for help they really don’t want help. They want a friendly ear. They want something who will just listen.

That’s what I did.

When she was done, she asked what I thought. Her world is upended and may never come back. I said some of the things that I write here. That the “new normal” should not be a return to the old normal. Instead, we were all given a task. Make our lives better. Make our city better. Make our world better.

Those are quite some tasks.

It will take us a long time to even come close to getting the stuff done in those three simple sentences. Sometimes simpler is harder.

Photography, design and stuff

I’ve been talking way too much about the block system and design. I haven’t been talking about the theory of photography enough. Or, the concept of artistic thinking.

So.

I’ll let this new block stuff simmer on the backburner where I can play with it and not worry about what you actually see. I learned today that my picture captions may not be where they should be. I learned it depends on how you are looking at them and what OS and browser you use. I also learned that some things just don’t scale. Remember that music video? There is a place for it on my phone. No video.

I’ll work on that in the deep background. Instead, I’ll talk about the emotional and personally historical issues that come into play when you are trying to make and view art. What resonates? What doesn’t? What do you do or not do with either feeling?

You know. The important stuff.

I won’t take about cameras, lenses, or f stops or shutter speeds. You can find all of that on YouTube, which is why I laugh when somebody wants to sell me a workshop about that technical stuff. On the other hand, it’s also why I cry when I see good information on YouTube. Somebody just gave it away. That’s nice. It’s kind. But, we’ve learned in the past three months that we have to do something to earn a living.

You know the rest. I know that you know.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


Summer picture number four.

Painted sky.

A particular kind of summer sky. If you aren’t looking up, it’s likely that you’ll miss it. If you don’t see light, and color, it’s like that you won’t get it.

I was talking to a somebody that I know a little. I was describing what I saw. She looked at me with a quizzical look on her face. It came down to, “Oh yeah. you’re a photographer.” But, she didn’t see it. No dramatic light. No golden color.

I did.

That’s what separates us for so many others. Us? Visual artists. We see a little differently. We feel a little differently. We see and feel with more than our eyes. We see with our brains. We feel with our hearts. With our souls.

With any luck this picture is good enough to capture what I saw. What I felt.

I feel good about this picture. It’s simple. It might be good enough to be part of my summer series.  Then again…


Chugging through the clouds.

Sky train number two.

One of the benefits of staying in one place is that you get to see some of the same subjects in a different light. Yes. That means the physical and the metaphysical. The old Robert Capa saying, “if the picture isn’t good enough then you weren’t close enough,” really has two meanings. The first is obvious and I clung to that for years. Work closer. Make a better picture. The second isn’t so obvious. A good friend of mine mentioned it to me.  You have to be close to your subject in order to understand your subject. From that springs a better picture.

Think of it this way. Maybe you are one of my writer friends who reads Storyteller. You ask me to photograph your family because you think all you take is snapshots. While my pictures of your family might be better technically than anything you shot, I can pretty much assure you that your pictures will be better than mine from a content point of view. You know your family far better than I do.

The same thing happens with travel pictures. If you go on some sort of tour, whether it’s a cruise that stops in certain places, or a guided tour through some country, your pictures will be fairly common and will reflect the fact that you don’t know the location well.

I never take those kinds of tours. I learn as much as I can about a place and schedule enough time so that I can just hangout and learn the flow of it. I also don’t try to cover too much. I really and truly dislike packing and unpacking and packing… you get the idea. That’s for my photographic work. My other life is different. But, I’m not trying to learn about a place.

That said…

The same thing happens when you live in a place. You can return repeatedly to places you find interesting. In theory, your pictures should improve. I’m lucky (or not). I live in a very popular place that tourists and travelers just love. The best travel destination in the country. So the travel magazine and guidebooks say.

After all, how many of you can walk out the door around golden and blue hours and say, “I’ll be back. I’m going to the French Quarter to take pictures.” I may grumble about the city, but most of the time it’s giant set waiting to be photographed… and eaten. Yeah. Lots of world-class restaurants. Even on the greasy spoon end.

One more thing. No. Not every place is New Orleans. But every place has great pictures lurking in the corners. You just have to leave your Barcalounger and your 92 inch television and go outside and look for them. Do this for a couple of days in a row and the pictures will find you. I promise.

The picture. I photographed this bridge a few weeks ago in bright sunlight. I happened to be nearby yesterday so I had another look. The dark clouds were the remainders of a big northerly storm. No more 80 degree days. I awoke to 36 degrees today. The same people who were complaining about the heat are now complaining about the cold. I am not one of them. I like the cold. The dog who sees things loves the cold. For the past couple of days she’s come hauling ass out of the house and dancing around in the cold air.

Anyway.

I must feel like writing.

Back to the picture. Not only was there clouds in the sky, but there were diesel engines on the bridge. That bright orange is the BNSF paint scheme. It just jumped out of the overall darkness. I made some closer pictures too. You can see the graffiti covered billboard. I like it well enough, but this picture speaks to the long distance nature of rail travel. In music this might be called the high lonely. The train is eastbound. I don’t know where it originated. Many trains crossing here have traveled from the West Coast, usually Los Angeles. But, the hopper cars aren’t covered in graffiti. They didn’t start in LA. The other LA. Movie stars, palm trees, swimming pools.

Enjoy my tales. I’m finally enjoying writing them.


I’m lovin’ it.

I thought that I was finished with this series.

Then, I saw it. One more picture. The one with the golden arches tucked neatly into the bottom right hand corner. I composed it that way. But, it was hidden in the funk of low-lying clouds. Even though it doesn’t look like it, this picture took a lot of post production work.

It was tricky. How do you pop the little McDonald’s sign out of the darkness without making it too bright?

Very carefully.

I used some OnOne tools that allowed me to work in teeny-tiny increments. It reminded me of the days in the darkroom when we used potassium ferricyanide to open the shadows slightly. The difference? Not only was that chemical dangerous, but one wrong move and the print was ruined. You started over with a new print. Made in the dark. It was tedious work.

Today, of course, we do it digitally. We can save an image as we go. Make a mistake, and take a step back.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning the “old school” ways prepared me for the future. When somebody complains that they don’t have the patience to do a little digital retouching, I mostly just think it’s a good thing they were born after than me. It’s likely that a lot of today’s “internet photographers” would be working underneath that sign making Quarter Pounders With Cheese. Oops. Did I write that?

Make no mistake. I’m not talking about people with phones or cameras who are just documenting their lives, their children and their travels. They are having fun.

No.

I’m talking about the photographers who want to make money from their pictures. Photography, like any art, takes time to learn. Often, it’s painful. Just as importantly, if you want to make money, take the time to learn the business of photography. Too many new photographers under charge for their work. If you start out low balling it’s very hard to raise your prices, If you give your work away on the new stock websites that don’t charge people who need pictures, you are just strangling yourself in the name of “getting known.” WordPress is doing a deal with one of them now. Just sayin’.

Why am I talking about this now?

I always do.

But, I was listening to something the late Anthony Bourdain said about getting older and mature in your work, whatever it is. We are bound to teach those coming up. We are bound to be generous with our time.

So.

I think that about once a week, I’ll teach. Right here on Storyteller. For free.  That’s the other thing. We shouldn’t be making money from other photographers no matter how much we need it for our cash flow.

What would you like to learn?

Ask away.


People out to have some fun.

“Successful hills are here to stay, Everything must be this way, Gentle streets where people play

Welcome to the Soft Parade,  All our lives we sweat and save, Building for a shallow grave,

Must be something else we say, Somehow to defend this place, Everything must be this way

Everything must be this way, yeah, The Soft Parade has now begun, Listen to the engines hum

People out to have some fun, A cobra on my left, Leopard on my right, yeah.”

—  Soft Parade lyrics © Doors Music.

I made the picture. Then, I found the lyrics. The song starts with this, “When I was back there in seminary school.” That’s how I replied to a friend of mine who was discussing the road and sky picture that I posted the other day.

That got me started.

I listened to the song. I used to love The Doors. I worked on the picture. I found the lyrics. Here we are. The start of the work week for some people. You can find a line in the lyrics about just that. I guess I still love The Doors. Their music is still relevant after 50 years. It also sounds very contemporary. And, seeing the “© Doors” tells me that the surviving members of the band managed to recover all the rights to their songs. Good. Never lose the rights to your art, whatever it may be.

The picture. The last of the images that I made on that wonderful cloudy day. WordPress’ compression software stepped on it a bit. The chrome and backlighted cars glistened. It added balance to the picture. I can hardly wait to see what Facebook will do to it. Aaaargh.

I don’t know what it is about me. I really like power and telephone lines in my work. I was taught (back there in seminary school) to do whatever it took to avoid them. A few years back I realized that they are just part of the scene. If I’m being honest with my work they should remain. On the other hand… this may be a little over kill.

One more thing. It’s another drive by picture. Notice, the red stoplight. It’s looking right at me. This is also one of those corners where you can’t turn right on red. See? I’m obeyed the rules. I don’t think the rules say anything about taking pictures, but that’s got to be better than texting. Right?


A threatening storm.

A few clouds as dusk comes. It’s sort of a gulf coast thing. But, no rain. Just a little wind. And, some theatrical color making for some good photographs.

I’d call this photographer’s luck. But, the clouds were dancing around all day. I just had to pick my moment. That’s a little lesson for today. Make pictures whenever you want, whenever you can, but be patient. The color will come if you just let it. So will the pictures.

There is something very cool about this post. WordPress, in their wisdom, now allows us to open and post on a page that looks like the one on a big machine while using something more portable like my iPad Pro. This changes things. A lot of things. Everything. The timing is especially good since my magic keyboard for my iMac is starting to fail. I have another, but it’s lost in the digital closet from hell.

The pictures. Lots of post to bring out what inspired me to make them. All of the work was done using Snapseed on this very iPad. I’ve also downloaded Affinity, which replaces all Adobe software including Photoshop and Lightroom. The businessman in me likes that. Pay for it once and updates are free, unlike Adobe who forces you to pay monthly… forever.

Darker clouds.


Late spring in New Mexico.

New Mexican light. There is nothing like it.

I miss it a lot. There are days when I wonder what I did. I wonder why I came back. But, that’s pretty much another story. It has to do with the romance of place. The swamp. A lot of culture that I’d grown used to in New Orleans. And, the food.

However.

The place is falling apart. The swamp smells. I’m kind of over the culture. And, I’m bored with “New Orleans” food. Besides, as I try to get healthier and healthier, New Orleans food is the last thing that I need.

I’m not complaining. I was happy to come back. I’m glad that I did. And, I sure made a lot of cool New Orleans pictures. I even got to know a lot of the players in the Mardi Gras Culture. And, then there’s Mardi Gras itself. People pay a lot of money to travel to New Orleans to see the Mardi Gras. I walked out my front door and up two blocks. Same thing with The French Quarter. People travel from miles around. I drive five minutes.

Anyway.

This is a New Mexican picture. It has the kind of light that artists of all genres revere. At the time, I was comparing man to wide open spaces. Those big, huge electrical power poles feed the west. They sure don’t look so big in this picture. It makes the statement that no matter what man does, nature is always bigger and grander. You’d think we learn that during Hurricane Season. I guess you have to be there.