What the tuba saw.
What the tuba saw.

The tuba starts it.

When you hear the tuba honk, you know the second line is rolling. It’s starting. The thing the neighborhood came out to see. Even though second lines are spread throughout the city, they really are a neighborhood thing.


You see the same faces at many parades. People like me, who just like to be there. People who help run the parade. People who sell food and beverages of all kinds. Even the police who protect us.

For someone like me, seeing familiar faces, this really matters. I get a way with all sorts of stuff. I wander inside the clubhouses and bars to photograph the crews as they are preparing. I walk inside the ropes. I walk inside the band formation. Because they let me.

And, why not? I’ve always wanted to play in a brass band. I suppose it would help if I actually could play a brass instrument.

These pictures. Made with my new Sigma Art lens. It saved my behind. It’s fast focusing. It’s got a fairly wide aperture. And, it’s fairly small. Compared to a lot of the newest high-end lenses, it’s tiny. That’s what I like. Good on the street. And, nobody takes it all that seriously. Oh yeah, it’s 60mm. But, it “sees” like a 90mm lens because I use it on  a camera with an APS sized sensor.

I wish I could tell you something about technique. But, this is simply F8 and be there. See the picture and shoot it. Do not hesitate. It will never be there again. Sort of like all of you and me… don’t hesitate. We’ll never be this way again.

A quite bit of housekeeping. Between Storyteller and two business, I receive a lot of email. As of this morning, there are just a little bit over 500 emails in my mailbox. And, that’s after working through about 100 yesterday. If I don’t respond quickly, or thank you for following, or liking a post, don’t think evil of me. I will get to it. Eventually. I promise.

Make no mistake. I am so grateful to be this busy.

The watchful eyes.
The watchful eyes.

If I had a saxophone.
If I had a saxophone.

A little brass band music. On the streets. On a second line. Everybody whoopin’ and hollerin’. Singing and dancing.

Another neighborhood. Another Sunday. In New Orleans.

I’ve sort of taken a break from photographing these things every Sunday. There are 47 of them. Sometimes, other stuff gets in the way. Family things. Too many errands. Even the odd health issue. But, I’ve been away from the city for a bit. I need to go this Sunday. Not, want. Need. If you are in New Orleans, maybe I’ll see you out on the second line.

Happy Friday. Or, Saturday. Wherever you are.

I hear Joni Mitchell every time, I see street musicians.
I hear Joni Mitchell every time, I see street musicians.

“Nobody stopped to hear him, though he played so sweet and high.” I’m might be making a big mistake right now. I listening to Joni Mitchell as I write. Knowing how hard to make it in the music business or any of the arts and hearing her voice is making me a little sad. It takes a huge amount of work. It takes a huge amount of talent. Worse. It takes a lot of luck… and marketing and support. And, it ain’t getting easier. It’s getting harder. Like most arts, the music industry is fractured. So, is the photo industry. Book publishing too. I keep reading that movies and television are next. But, I’m not really complaining. I’ve been pretty lucky. I never, ever, thought I’d ever really retire. Besides, sitting around would make me crazy. Heh, heh.

The picture. Yes, yes. I made some pretty clean band pictures. They show just the band playing and interacting with me. But, I like this one best. It says everything you need to know about playing for pennies on the street. Most people just sort of pass right by. Some people stop for a few moments. Some people drop some change or a dollar bill into their tip basket. It is Christmastime, after all. I know. It’s not the sharpest picture in the world. I was just telling a friend of mine that sometimes certain kind of news coverages seem pretty flat to me because the pictures are too clean. Too sterile. Sometimes, I like the picture to be a little funky, like film. Besides, as they say, “sometimes your best picture is not your sharpest picture.”

One more thing. The picture was made on Royal Street, way downriver. Sort of a storage place for a band to be working.




Real Good
I slept last night in a good hotel… maybe, not her.

There is an old Joni Mitchell song called “Real Good For Free.”  The middle verse goes like this. “Now me I play for fortune, And those velvet curtain calls, I’ve got a black limousine, And two gentlemen, Escorting me to the halls, And I play if you have the money, Or if you’re a friend to me, But the one man band, By the quick lunch stand, He was playing real good, for free.”

We were walking through The French Quarter on our way to a good dinner. Probably an expensive one. We crossed Royal Street and saw this band playing for tips. They were beautiful musicians. They were playing for tips and with hope that somebody would buy one of their homemade CDS. In between songs they held out their merchandise — or merch as the bigger bands — say. We looked at each other and felt guilty. In some other post I’ll tell you more about it. But, Joni’s song about nails it. I don’t know her. But, I get her and that makes me feel like I do.

So. We did the only thing we really could do. We put a bunch of money in her tip basket. Thanked her and the band. And left. We don’t even know their names.

The picture. I did what I always do. Framed the scene, let whatever was going to happen, happen. And, I pushed the button.


For those of you who have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a big fan of street food. I especially like it in Asin countries where food courts are built around existing outdoor vendors. In the same vein, I also like street music. Today, in New Orleans, French Quarter Fest began on a very pleasantly warm and breezy day. Plenty of great music. Plenty of great food. Pick your music. Pick your food. It’s all good.

But, on this first day of the fest, I like walking down Royal Street and listening to the musicians who play for tips. There are some truly great players there who you’ve never heard of, and probably never will. Oh, and I always tip them if I photograph them. A pocket full of dollar bills makes a lot of friends.

Over the next few days, these musicians will be moved off of Royal Street as the smaller stages are added to the musical venues of the overall festival.

But, for today…