In the winter.

We had snow. It melted. We had rain. The water stuck around long enough to freeze. We had snow on top of that.

I ran some errands a few miles from home. I came to this street and thought, “Oh oh.” I had no idea if it was just wet or icy. It was wet turning to ice as the day got colder.

Even though I like to say that I enjoy bad weather, mostly because you can make pictures like this one, driving in it doesn’t make me happy.

Even though it’s been a while, I’m fairly comfortable driving on snow. Ice is another story. You have no control. The car slides whichever way it wants to go unless you have studded tires or chains.

And, then there’s getting trapped in icy and snow conditions. With my car if you turn on the anti skid settings, you cannot drive out of a snow drift or ice. If you turn it off, out you go. I’m sure my friends in northern climes have something to say about this.

I’ll tell you an ice story.

My newspaper career started in Virginia. I was married to a woman who is not my wife now. She was a great reporter. As I understand it, she’s retired now. I have nothing bad to say about her. Not ever.

Anyway.

We spent the weekend in Washington D.C. We were headed home on Sunday racing a big snow storm coming from the East behind us. We got to a really steep drop on I-81. At the bottom were two state trooper cars. One trooper had a flashlight and was slowing everybody down.

No problem.

My wife was driving. She applied the brakes slowly. Nothing. Finally a little grab. She managed to slow down to about 1 mph or so. She really had no control. We were right upon the trooper when he stepped slightly to the side and she hit him. At less than 1 mph.

He wasn’t hurt but he was angry. He got to our and started yelling, when he saw my arm holding her back and a terrified look on our faces. When he saw that his anger faded. He understood what happened. He saw us sliding down the highway.

We talked for a few minutes and he told us to be safe.

As I recall that happened somewhere between Roanoke and Christiansburg, where we lived. My then wife drove home. We brought the luggage in. We were exhausted. We went to bed.

When we awoke there was eight feet of snow on the ground. No way to get out until the snow plows arrived sometime in the afternoon.

We should have just stayed in the District

A friend of mine complimented me on a picture that I made in Southeastern Louisiana that looked something like this one.

No, not the scene. The light.

I told her that it is a very hard picture to make because of the light. I also said that the last time I made a picture like it was in about 1978.

It turns out I was wrong.

I made this picture about 12 for 13 years ago.

It has the same quality of cold, silvery backlighting that makes the road sort of shine and drops the edges into a bit of shadow.

Oh okay. I’ve been at this a long time. I’ve been at this since about 1972. Next year makes 50 years.

You can’t expect me to remember everything.

If you ever come to light that looks like this, stop your car, get out of it and make a few pictures. That’s all there is to it.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient.


The streets were wet.

One of my road trips during the PAD days was to Reno, Nevada. There is a story behind this adventure which I’ll tell in a bit.

I drove from Albuquerque through Las Vegas and north on state route 95. I stopped along the way. I turned a two day trip into three.

I made a huge amount of signature pictures. Most of that was just due to timing. Arrive at a place that you want to photograph in good light and guess what happens.

When I arrived, I was tired, grumpy and wet. The grumpiness was at myself. Nobody else. I checked into the hotel at time when nobody was traveling. The hotel was a pretty good one, but my room cost ten dollars.

The front desk manager took one look at me and upgraded my room without asking.

What a room.

It was one of those high roller suites. It was located on a very high floor so I could see the city. It had a huge bigger than kingsize bed, a 60 inch television right in front of the bed. If you didn’t want to watch anything you could lower it and see the rest of the room.¬†There were sitting areas with couches and deep, plush chairs.

There was a heart shaped couples bathtub in the room. There was a shower for two. There was a wet and dry sauna. And, get this, the minibar was free.

I stayed three for three days. Thirty dollars for all of that.

Anyway.

My parents retired to Reno. They also passed in Reno. They are buried at the veteran’s cemetery in Fernley about 15 miles away. That’s really why I came. When my dad passed I promised myself I’d come every two years.

I’m sorry to say that I was last there in 2007. Fourteen years. That’s too long. Maybe when I feel like it’s safe to travel I’ll go there. It’s gonna be a long road trip.

I like road trips.

If the weather is my kind of weather, it’ll take me a week to get there even though from New Orleans I’ve only added an extra days driving time.

Maybe the fall.

Picturing things, I walked out on the street into the pouring rain.

I din’t care. I was wearing rain gear, my cameras were protected and I felt like making pictures. After all, that was the secondary reason for this trip.

I had dinner in a Thai restaurant that I knew from past trips. I finished that and started walking.

I walked up behind this couple and started making pictures. I never look at my work even when I return to my hotel room. I had no idea what I had until I returned to New Mexico.

It may be superstitious of me, but I never look. Or, it just may be the realization that I can’t do anything about a blown set of pictures.

The take away is that this picture was made in the camera. The only change I made in post production was to sharpen the image a bit.

When the picture is right, it’s right.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient.


Let it rain.

More about the reckoning. I’m starting to poke around a little deeper. It started last night or early this morning when I awoke from a delicious dream.

It was about my newspaper days. For some reason the newspaper photo staff was made up of about everybody with whom I ever worked.

We were sidelined. The new, young staff was sent on assignment. They couldn’t complete it.

Some editor came back to the photo area to ask us to finish the assignment. Off we went, the pros from dover. The heavyweight veterans. Heh, heh.

Mostly, our hair was silver and our beards were white. Veterans, indeed.

It was some huge event, but I don’t remember what. I do remember that there was color exploding everywhere. It wasn’t violent. It was pretty and awe inspiring.

We divided up the coverage and came back with every possible picture. The young guys didn’t know what to think. We, the old guys, knew what to think.

All I can say is that it was very good seeing those guys again. Sheesh. Some of them had to come back from the grave. That was even better.

A few words about the picture since I completely ignored it in the left column.

I’m back to the project. I realized that I just couldn’t force it.

I always say to let the picture find you. I wasn’t doing that.

This time it did. It was so stealthy that I didn’t even realize that it did find me.

It took a review of work to actually see it.

When the picture really does find you, there is no need to overwork it.

It just is.

Even the little raindrops are nicely shaped.

Okay. Picture number three.


The sun, it exploded.

A light explosion. That’s how I was seeing things as we drove into the direct sun. This picture may not exactly be physically accurate, but it’s how we felt when sunglasses didn’t help.

I have no idea if this picture stays in the final project collection, but for now it’s in. After all, I only have three pictures. I always say that I try to make pictures that show you how the scene felt. Maybe, it’s the first two images that eventually are removed.

Who knows?

It’s way too early to start culling. And, I don’t have a project blue print. Some people say working this way doesn’t get you anywhere.

That’s one theory.

My theory is to learn everything I can about the project and let the pictures build upon themselves. With any luck, they get better and better. If that works out, this will be a helluva project considering the first picture is a show stopper.

It’s likely that the work will move backwards before I reach another peak. That’s okay. I’ll learn more that way.

There was a point in my thought process that I was going to move chronologically from New Orleans to the end of the road. I realized that I’ll learn things that may have me backtracking and side stepping.

On the other hand, the first picture that I showed you started at the very start so you never know.

That’s the best thing.

You never know.

The beginning of the end. Or, the end of the beginning.

Do you know?

I don’t.

This picture was made while we were cruising down the street. The file was completely blown out, mostly because it’s almost impossible to know the exposure while you are photographing the sun from a moving car.

I went to work in the studio. First, I brought back the details that were missing.

Next, I started adding to bring the picture closer to what I felt trying to make it.

Finally, I went a little crazy. I wanted the sun to explode because that’s what it did to me the minute I removed my sunglasses.

There you have it.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know the rest better than I do. Enjoy all the driving into the sun.


Down to the start of the parade.

The trolls are coming out of the woodwork the closer we get to Fat Tuesday.

One guy said that he had just arrived in New Orleans. He asked what there was to do. Many, many, many people replied sincerely.

Something felt off so I went to his Facebook page. He lives in Chalmette, a whole 12 miles away from the French Quarter. Or, about three miles from the Orleans Parish border.

I called him out. Normally, I wouldn’t be bothered. But, all these well meaning folks were answering him and they needed to know.

Worse?

He’s a Mormon from Utah. He moved here to do church service.

This is a daily occurrence.

Here’s one more. This will make you laugh.

A young woman posted in comments asking why many sports teams are changing their names and logos.

In baseball, the Cleveland Indians already removed their logo, Chief Wahoo, and are changing their name. In football, The Washington Redskins are changing their name. They had temporary name last season. They were called The Washington Football Team.

In Atlanta, The Braves are talking to tribal leaders. I don’t know about The Kansas City Chiefs.

Anyway.

She wanted to know why all these teams were destroying history. To give credence to her question she claimed to be a “Native American.” She has a name similar to mine.

Oh no you don’t.

The first telling clue is that Indians do not want to be called Native Americans. They prefer to be called American Indians. That name is more accurate and they believe that true natives are likely not Indians at all.

We tend to worry about the big liars. Trump. Bannon. Robert Kennedy Jr.

But, what about the little liars who do it everyday as easy as they breath?

What do we do? Banning people from social media really is a slippery slope. For sure, because social media companies are private there is no First Amendment protection. But, when do they become dictatorial enforcers?

Nobody, not me, not you, has the time to read comments and correct them. Besides, nobody reads or cares anyway.

Still, the misinformation percolates to the surface.

When marching bands get ready to roll in a parade they have to come from wherever they were rehearsing.

If you’ve been out on the parade route in the past you know ever these places are.

I sat on a porch making pictures and talking to the kind folks who let me sit there.

I made this during my time of extreme pain. I barely could walk for more than a few minutes. Luckily, that issue was repaired.

When I started working on this project I selected this picture almost immediately. I wanted to really rework it. I guess I did that.

I started in Snapseed and finished in OnOne. Actually, most of the work was done in OnOne. I need some applications that only they provide.

Keeping at least some of the band from becoming a solid mass of shadow was challenging.

That’s it.

There are five more parade days during which no parades will roll.

Just as well, the weather is changing from mild to frozen in just a few days. If the weather folks are right, the temeprature on Fat Tuesday will be around 20 degrees with rain, sleet and a possibility of snow.

I’m leaving. If I could, I would.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Get your vaccine, and still… Stay safe. Stay strong. Yada, yada, yada.


Mardi Gras beads in the gutter.

New Orleans is in mourning.

The worst possible thing happened last night. A woman was crossing the street in between floats. Or, so she thought. She actually was trying to cross between two connected floats. She tripped or fell. The second float hit her and killed her.

The Krewe of Nix came to a halt. The walking members of the parade — the bands and such — were rerouted down a side street, but it was too narrow for the floats to proceed. The last twenty floats were stopped and the back end of the parade was cancelled.

The mood of the parade changed for celebratory to sober within about 15 minutes.

I am so sorry for the woman who died. I am sorry for the Krewe of Nix members who travelled from far and wide. I am sorry for all of us. I am sorry for our city.

I don’t know what this means for me. I have to let it roll around in my brain. It certainly took all the wind out of my sails. I didn’t even process my images. Normally, I do that when I get home so that I have something to show you the next day.

I really haven’t been feeling this years Mardi Gras. If I decided not to keep working on it, is it an excuse or a reason?


Sometimes you just feel like it.

Because… why not?

I was working on the original version of this picture in color. A light bulb went off. Experiment in black and white, I thought. So, I did. I liked it. I smoothed it out a bit. I helped you to see some of the rain drops and that was it.

I’ve been reading about pictures. They seem to be flooding everywhere and everything. Apparently, about 30,000,000 pictures are uploaded to somewhere every single day. That’s amazing to me. I suppose, in one way, that’s a good thing. In theory we should all be speaking the same language. Unfortunately, we aren’t. Most of the pictures are made by people with phones who really don’t know the first thing about photography. That’s okay. They mostly take pictures of their friends and family. And food.

What it does mean is that pictures aren’t worth much these days. Maybe ten years ago, Bob Dylan said “music ain’t worth nothin’. ” I’m sure that except for the very elite most art isn’t worth much.

There’s just too much of it.

The best thing I can suggest is to find your niche and build your community. That’s a big reason I don’t shut down Storyteller. I’d love to move it to my more commercial site, but I lose all of you. There seems to be no way to convert you to Laskowitzpictures.com. I’d have to do it by hand. Email address by email address. Some of them are imbedded when you comment. Some are not.

It cuts both ways.

Some of you rarely comment and I can’t really see who stops by just to visit or hit the like button. But, I enjoy visiting your blog. I’d lose that. I don’t want to lose that.

One more thing. There seems to be a move towards making slim volume photo books on very short press runs. I feel about that just about the same way I do discussing the release a music album and spending a lot of time promoting and supporting it. It doesn’t work anymore. Marketing music is best done one song at a time on some streaming platform. That keeps your name out there, driving publicity. And, you are making new music every month.

Writing that just cleared my head. How would you feel about subscribing to something like one picture per month?

Instead of a book, you get a portfolio of 12 pictures over the course of a year.

There are some logistics to think through, like the size of the print, the selection of the image and the cost. I have some ideas, but I want to mull them over.

There other questions like matting, glazing and framing. But that could drive the cost through roof. Besides, odd as it sounds, that’s more personal than liking the art. Ten people can agree that they like a picture, but each of them will have their own ideas about hanging it.

Hmmmm.


Working the street.

Busking.

A hard way to make a living. These days, in the music industry, distribution is king. Without that, you struggle with tours and merchandise sales. If you are working the street, you have none of that.

You have the music. You have a tip jar. And, maybe a few cheaply recorded CDs for sale.

Cheaply is an understatement. Just like digital photography, and auto photographers, everybody with a computer thinks that they can record and master music. Sure, there’s a few folks with passion and drive. For the most part, music recorded, mixed and mastered on a computer sounds like it. You really have to like the songs to listen to that poorly recorded sound.

Take a look at her. She’s got her violin. Her tip jar — well — wagon, and she’s waving a CD around. I admire her. That’s hard work.¬† It was cold that night. She’s wearing a glove on one hand. Yet, she’s smiling and chatting up anybody who’ll listen.

That’s what it takes.

Let’s bounce. Back to photography. You can have all the best gear. You can have all the learned technical skills. You can even make a good picture or two. Without that energy, passion and desire, you ain’t gonna make it.

Like a good musician, a photographer must woodshed. That means taking pictures when you aren’t traveling. When you aren’t getting paid. When you don’t feel like it. That’s how you get good. You work in all kinds of weather. You walk. You look. You make pictures. You work on them at home. You even keep the real losers so that you can learn from your mistakes.

Then, when you are traveling on your own. Or, when you have a paid assignment. The pictures come easily. They find you. You are ready. You’ve practiced. That’s one of the things “ten tips that will make you a great photographer,” never tell you. Work. Work. Work.

The picture. One of those French Quarter nights. Wandering around. Practicing. Looking for pictures. Not caring about showing them to anybody. Or, about money. Just working for the joy of it. Knowing me, I used a 16mm lens, set at f 4.0 and the shutter speed was maybe 1/30th of a second. Most is sharp, except for the CD she is waving around. That’s okay. Her face is sharp. That’s another thing. A picture like this one needs sharpness somewhere. It’s not like those whirly-burly things I photograph sometimes when everything is moving. That’s a whole other skill.

Questions? Please ask.


The quiet side.

The quiet side.

Most people think of the French Quarter as being loud. They think of people always partying. They think of the typical New Orleans craziness.

Let me tell you, we ain’t all that crazy.

We don’t spend much time in the Quarter. When we do, we rarely walk around on Bourbon Street. It’s usually too crowded. With partiers. And, bad guys. And, it stinks. Literally.

We do like walking in other parts of the Quarter. Like this place that I photographed. It’s way down river on Royal Street. People actually live here. People make their homes here. There are no bars. No clubs. Tourists rarely come down the street this far. It may actually be safer than the more heavily populated areas of the Quarter. There’s nobody to mug. Nobody to rob. Well, there are. But, they are very street smart.

If I ever lived in the Quarter, this is about where I’d do it. But, that’s not going to happen. But, it sure is nice to walk around this part of the Quarter. It’s also much harder to photograph. No matter. Making a successful picture when there isn’t a lot of action going on defines a “street” photographer. Or, it should.

One more thing.

I made this picture without a tripod. I rarely carry one when I work on the street. It’s too cumbersome. It takes too much time to set up. It attracts too much attention. That’s the last thing I want. You just have to learn your craft. The trick is to expose for some mid-tone. I used the street signs. It gave me enough detail in both the highlights and the shadows. I also knew that I was going to correct the exposure issues in post production. They say GIGO. But, not if you plan for it. I thought about what I was doing before I did it.

Housekeeping. I’m going to refocus Storyteller back to where it sort of began. About the photographs. A little bit about New Orleans stories.

Because.

I think some of the NOLA stories I tell you are confusing, especially to people who come here as tourists and mostly stay in The French Quarter. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, they usually stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. The chores of daily living are done for them. For the most part, they are protected from our random and violent crime. When it rains, they don’t have to deal with flooded streets.

They don’t know what it is to live in a city that is very hard on the people who live here. I suppose that can be true of any place. But, most places aren’t described in the loving terms that people use to describe New Orleans. Or, really the Quarter.

Anyway. Back to the basics.