Storm clouds over Louisiana.

It’s about the weather this time of year.

Come to think about it, in Louisiana it’s always about the weather. After all, we live with six months of hurricane season. In about a week, that season will finally be over for 2019. I’m pretty sure that I can say we were lucky this year. The only storm that disrupted anything was the non-storm that became a storm. It was nowhere near hurricane force. It was a light tropical storm.

The strangest thing about Autumn in the south is extreme weather changes. Yesterday, the thermometer topped 80 degrees. Today, we’ll be lucky to reach a high of 65 degrees. This will go on until after Christmas. We’ve had Christmas days when we wore shorts and t-shirts. We’ve had other Christmases when we had snow that actually stuck. I went racing around photographing places with snow covering them.

I suppose I like changing seasons and weather because it is a very measurable way to look at life. Seasons come and go. Life moves on. But, as I get older and older, I am able to more clearly see the relationship between the two. Add to that, my birthday and I sort of want to plan the next year. What to leave in? What to take out?

I know one thing for sure. For a long while, maybe a year or two, I was cutting back. I was thinking that I was old now, and I shouldn’t start this or that. Nonsense. It’s true. Some avenues have closed. But, not because of my age. Instead they are closed by natural occurring changes in technology, in distribution, in usage. Not just in my world, but across the board.

What’s the saying?

“Change or die.”

I’m far from death. Think about that. I’m willing to bet most of you near aren’t death either.

What are you going to do in 2020?


Driving in the rain, which really wasn’t a storm.

The rain.

Running errands is a good time for to make pictures in the rain. I just have to be a little careful, and be considerate of other drivers who are probably grumbling at the rain… and me.

I’m not sure how well you can see it, but there is a pickup truck in front of me. It looks like we are about to collide, but no worries. I’m stopped at a traffic light as the truck crosses in front of me. That’s why other drivers were grumbling at me. I was in the right hand turn lane and not making a move.

Oh well.

Grumble, grumble, toil and trouble.

There are a couple of different events that I want to photograph this week. There is second line in celebration of the late Dr. John’s birthday. We were born on the same day, 13 years apart. I’m going to pretend that the second line is for me. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t.

Then, on Saturday, the children’s parade is being held in Treme. That’s always fun, except when one of the kid’s mothers gets overly protective. They are tough. I don’t want one of them being angry with me. I wouldn’t stand a chance.

In between, I’m going to commute to Brooklyn. But, that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say that there is music to be made.

On Sunday, I may photograph the Men and Women’s Original Buckjumpers second line. I keep saying that I’m done with this project, but you know me. I can turn on a dime.  Besides, that’s a really fun and colorful group.

This should be a good week of photographs. I’m excited.

What are y’all photographing or writing about this week?


The pool umbrella returns.

Changes.

First, the pool umbrella. Back from its watery grave. No worse for wear. These kinds of pictures are easy to make. Easy to take. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

But, first.

My new watermark. I don’t think watermarks have to be flashy or over designed. It’s the content that matters. I was reading a new book — new to me — about more contemporary photographers. One of them used a copyright/credit line that had his last name and his location. I thought that was pretty cool, so I just stole it lock, stock and barrel.

From that same book, I was reading about Todd Hido. I’ve liked his work from the first time I saw it. This guy produces single themed books and exhibitions. He takes his time finding and photographing  his subjects. One of the questions he was asked is concerned with knowing when a project is done. When do you stop making pictures and started culling and organizing?

Hido said that he knows that he’s done when it is not worth the trouble to stop, get out of his car and set up. He also cautions that you shouldn’t pull the trigger too early especially in today’s sped up culture. A project could last for many years. He weaves projects around each other, pretty much like I do.

“Not worth the trouble…”

That phrase says a lot. It explains why I am having such a hard time photographing second lines and Mardi Gras Indian events. I’ve been doing that for seven years. It’s not just that I’m in pain, or that I’m afraid of falling down in the street. It’s that I’ve finished my project and it’s time to move on. I know this to be true because if I really want to do something I’ll deal with the pain. That won’t stop me.

So. I’m free. Time to move on. Time to finish other projects.

It’s also time to look at the work of photographers who are younger than me. Hido is 12 years younger. His work is great. His thinking got me going enough to gain some clarity. As much as I always return to the work of Jay Maisel, Ernst Haas and Robert Frank, two of them are gone and one is 88 years old.

The world turns. It changes. Change or die… they keep telling me.


Crossing a railroad overpass.

Once again. A road and sky picture.

It’s not really what it seems. It looks like I am out on some distant road. Not really. I was running errands. I drove out to Jefferson Parish. I was getting ready to drive home. I realized that I was driving up and over a railroad bridge, which made a good picture. So, I sort of did a drive through.

I learned something.

A smart phone is much harder to brace and trigger than a more normal DSLR or Mirrorless DSLR. In an effort not to drive off the road or run into another car, most of the pictures are cockeyed, pointed to the wrong place, or have my fingers in them. Even this picture required a heavy crop because too much of my car was in it. If I knew how to do a one time bit of coding, I would have made this a panorama stretching across the top of the page.

Alas, along with my inability to paint, I also barely know the basics of coding. I know just enough to do more harm than good. I did make another version of the scene, with the car hood in the picture. But, it’s too psychedelic for even me.

The good news is that in the past few days of low autumn light and cooler weather, I’ve made a lot of interesting pictures. That’s how it goes. On some days you can’t see. On other days, you see everything.

The weather is even cooler today. But, I’m not around to make pictures.

That’s also how it goes.


Storms come, storms go.

We had a storm.

Storms aren’t unusual this time of year. We are in the rainy and hurricane season. Lately, our storms are overwhelming all of our drains, canals and pumping systems.

We accumulated five inches of rain in about 90 minutes. Everywhere Uptown was flooded. I don’t mean with a few inches of water. It was more like two to three feet. I had to walk through it. The water is dark, muddy and who knows what’s in it. I was marking potholes so young drivers wouldn’t break their car axles not being able to see where they were. I made one picture. I showed it to a friend of mine who liked it. I’m not so sure.

Once things started drying out, I made a few more snaps. I had some intent in making these three pictures. I had to wait until the sun popped out after a big storm because I knew what to do.

Here’s the deal.

The picture I showed my buddy is documentary. It’s just fine as far as it goes. But, I’m really trying to reinvent myself into some kind of artist.

Make no mistake. I’m not a photographer who takes normal pictures and labels my work as fine art photography. What so fine art about pictures that look like normal photographs showing no intent?

Fine art photography to me is like the early work of the late Robert Mapplethorpe. His work hangs in museums. I don’t believe photographers like Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel or any of my heroes call themselves fine art photographers.

This isn’t that.

This is my attempt to be a painter. Maybe a water colorist. At least that’s what this work looks like to me. I’d actually paint these if I could. Years of attempts have taught me one irrefutable  fact. I have no painting skills at all. Except to paint a wall.

So, I modify photographs to the point where they don’t really look like something made with a camera. I was lucky that these three pictures could take almost the same style of post-production. Often, a series takes a huge amount of work to make them look like sisters.

Enjoy them. Please let me know what you think.

Skies after the storm.
Through the trees.


A summer storm came blowing in.

The sky turned really dark.

Even the dog who shows me stuff didn’t want to be out. She did her “business” and headed for home. She’s no fool. She doesn’t like water falling on her from above.

For most of us, this is nothing unusual. Summer rain. It blows in from the Gulf of Mexico. Rain falls for an hour or so and normally it’s all good. But, we are spooked. Our streets seemingly flood with almost any hard rain.

The people in charge have taken care of the pumps. They are working as well as can be expected. Maybe we need new pipes. The mayor said that we just live in a place that floods. Accept that.

Until.

A car was found in a covered drainage ditch. Actually, there might be three or more. But, one was pulled out yesterday. It was pancaked. It’s brake tag was dated 2007. It was the remains of a Mazda 626. Mardi Gras beads fell out of the trunk.

Only in New Orleans.

There was a lot of discussion about it on social media. Given that we can buy our brake tags every two years, it was likely licensed in 2005. This could be a Katrina car. There could be human remains in that tunnel. Or, it could be something entirely different.

This is a mystery. Everybody loves a mystery. We all wanna know.

But, get this.

The water bosses admitted that the underground canal hadn’t been inspected for at least 14 years. Huh? Do you people ever do your jobs?

The same thing happened with the levees pre-storm. The Army Corps of Engineers and the local levee people met on the top of the levee, looked around and said let’s go to lunch.  They didn’t do their jobs and look what happened.

This explains a lot.

The picture. Saw it. Made it. You know the rest.


Abstract French Quarter.

Rain. Motion Blur. And, a strange crop of a woman standing next to me.

It seems that there is a kind of finality to this picture. That’s a good thing. This is the last of this series. I reckon that you’ve had enough. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday. The first day of the week. The first day of a new thing.  Don’t ask me what.  I haven’t thought that far in the future. Yeah. I know. That’s just tomorrow. It’ll come to me sometime before that.

As you already know, sometimes I don’t talk about the picture. I veer off in some other direction. This is one of those times.

Yesterday evening was just terrible.

Peter Fonda died. He’s a big part of my youth. Movies like Easy Rider helped to form me. The music of that time was the soundtrack to my life. It really hit me when Roger McGuinn — the founder of The Byrds — tweeted, “I just lost a dear friend.”

Not ten minutes later I learned that Nancy Parker, a journalist and anchor person for local television channel FOX 8, died in an airplane crash while she was working on a story about Franklin Augustus, a local a licensed stunt pilot. He was also killed. Nancy Parker had been with the station for 23 years. It seems that everybody knew her or watched her. To a person everybody talked about her kindness and caring. I met her very briefly prior to the Zulus starting Mardi Gras Day one very cold year. We talked for a few minutes as people do. She made sure to stand behind me, so as not to get in the way of my lens.

My city is in mourning.

You know what I always say. The work is the prayer. That’s what I’m doing. I’m listening to Byrds music. A little of it was used in Easy Rider.

RIP Peter Fonda

RIP Nancy Parker

RIP Franklin Augustus

 


Clouds in another place.

Another time. Another place.

Did you ever wonder how you got here? I don’t mean here as in location. I mean the twists and turns that your life took to get you to your place right now. Right this minute.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been doing.

It started with the koan, “learning.” That is my word for the year. I wasn’t sure exactly how that word would work since I’m a lifetime learner. I try to learn just a bit from everything and everyone. It might be just one teeny tiny thing. That adds to my body of knowledge.

Then it came to me.

Learning meant from the inside out.

That’s fine as far as it goes. And, it goes on forever.

Then, something started to change. I started wondering how my life got to the place where it is today. Everything seemed to be a cue. Music. A bit of an old television show. A movie clip. An old photograph. A smell. A road less traveled.

So far, not so good.

Oh sure. I’ve had a great career. But, not the best. My personal life has been okay, but it could have been better. And, so on and so on. I’ve let too many opportunities pass by. Even those that were a sure thing. We all do it. I did it.

It’s easy to get worried or even depressed using this line of thinking. I’m not that guy. I know that the past is the past. I can’t do very much about it. Nobody can. I can really only live in the present. But, I can be my best self in the future. The question isn’t why. It’s how. It’s where. And, it’s when.

After all, no one person can do everything.

I think you make life choices based on priorities. I can work those as far as they go because there aren’t many. Likely, they mostly flow from one or two very important cares or concerns. Working with those takes time, effort, focus and maybe even a little money. It may take a plan. How do you get from point “A” to point “B?”

That’s where I am right now.

My thinking may be easier than other people’s.

Because.

I reckon, even in this age of high end medicine, medications and procedures, I’ve got about 15 years or so. That’s not discouraging to me. We all pass off this mortal coil.

The question is how well do we live out our time.

I do not want to do what my dad did. After he retired, he and my mom moved from Long Beach, California to Reno, Nevada. There is so much to see and explore in, and around, Reno. My dad mostly stayed at home. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. For what?

You know for what.

I’m not doing that. Not now. Not ever.

That’s another way of learning. Sometimes you learn what you don’t want. What you don’t want to do.

Anyway.

The picture. You can learn a lot about light if you look closely. You see that big power pole? You see what’s next to it in the sky? Do you see what happens to the white clouds directly next to that? It’s all about sunlight bouncing off of the whiter clouds, hitting that the clouds around it and reflecting and refracting its own light.

That is a great example of one thing I usually say. When you are looking at the great sunset that you want to photograph, you should turn around and see what that wonderful light does to the scenery behind you. For sure, photograph the sunset if that’s your thing. But, look around as well. You may be surprised. Pleasantly surprised.

 


Leftovers.

I was going to close out the “big storm” series. I even made a new picture. It combines the extent of the damage around this place with water.

But.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr. Martin Luther King

I’ve promised you this space would not be political. I believe we all need a break from the daily madness. I want this space to be about art in all its forms. But, art is driven by circumstances. By daily life. By our own histories.

When the president who shall not be named tweeted his racist bullshit yesterday. I was stunned. Most of the country responded righteously. Twitter lit up like a pinball machine. Facebook wasn’t much quieter. His ploy to drive a wedge between Speaker Pelosi and the women that he told to go back where they came from, failed.

It gets worse. He doubled down. Senator Graham defended him. The rest of the Republican Party was silent.

Now we know.

The President of The United States is an out and out racist. Oh, we knew it. We knew his red lining record as a real estate owner. We heard him defend white power groups after the violence at Charlottesville, Virginia. But, yesterday he said it. He said what racists have said to people of color for years and years. He confirmed it.

Enough.

Not only does Donald J. Trump (there, I said his name) have to go, but the Republican senators and representatives have to be voted out en masse. Gone. All gone.

I urge you in my country to run for something. Anything. It starts from the ground up. And, you must vote. We have to get these racist, mean, scared old white men out of power. I said it before Trump was elected, that we would leave the country if he won. We decided to stay and fight back. To resist. I can assure that that if he is re-elected, I won’t know my country, and we will leave. Even if we are strangers in a strange land it will be better than living in the country of my birth. That’s terribly sad.

One more note.

Before you think that everything was bad on Sunday, it wasn’t. Thanks to YouTube, I got to see Sir Paul McCartney play with Ringo Starr from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The last time that happened was when The Beatles played there over 50 years ago. Then, I got to see Neil Young sing with Bob Dylan for the first time since 1994. They played an old traditional tune. “Will the Circle Be Broken?’

Answer.

No. It won’t.

Peace.