I made this picture some years back when I lived in The Land of Enchantment, or New Mexico as some people call that fine state. I went there after Hurricane Katrina flooded my city. Well, only 80% of it.
Did you ever have that feeling of when I’m here I want to be there? And, visa versa? There is actually a fifty cent word for that, but I forgot it. I’m feeling that way just about now. I think that I’m really tired of New Orleans. I think that I don’t want to be in Brooklyn either. I think that would like to go back to the place that brought me so much peace and healing after I evacuated from New Orleans.
I know that it’s not perfect. Perfection is for angels. But, most of the streets work. The water systems work. I won’t get shot in some crossfire. And, I won’t get flooded unless I’m standing a dried arroyo or wash. Even then, it won’t take my house.
I suppose it’s just another way of saying that I’m feeling a little restless as the decade speeds to a close. I know that I may not have many decades left. I don’t want to waste time and I don’t want to spend time in a place in which I don’t want to be. Besides, things come to an end. I think my time in New Orleans is coming to a close.
The picture. I made it toward the end of summer a few years back. That’s when sunflowers reach their peak. I was just driving around looking for them. I photographed them every way that I could think of except for a very long shot because I couldn’t find a high enough elevation to do it. The entire take came out of the camera looking as you see this picture. You know. Nature, the final frontier.
But, this is Southeastern Louisiana. Even though today marks the end of summer according to the calendar, it’s still very hot. This week promises highs in the low 90s.
I call this the weird time of year. It looks like Autumn but it isn’t. Our actual fall will come in another two months. Some leaves will turn colors. Some leaves will fall. Others won’t.
We were doing a Labor Day BBQ thing over in another parish. I looked up and saw some cool light, so I followed it a little bit. I needed a subject so the dusk light could be shown off. I found some nice graphic shapes. I made a few frames. I fine tuned the picture in post production using a combination of Snapseed and OnOne. And, that was it.
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.
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.
It’s hot. It’s humid. It rains almost very afternoon.
It takes a while to get used to it. If you’ve moved from some other place, you’ll think that you died and went to hell. But, slowly if you stop staying indoors and spend some time in the heat, you’ll come to like it. Sure, you’ll gripe about it. You’ll pass the time talking to neighbors about it. You’ll try not to work in the noonday sun, because after all, only mad dogs and Englishman do that. But, you’ll get used to it.
And, those afternoon storms. They only last a while. The suck up the humidity. They cool things down for just a bit.
The picture. Honestly, I saw it. I made it. I positioned the lens so that the clouds are as important as the trees. I took some time getting the colors right. Some sensors have a little trouble being too red. Those trees could have looked like they were on fire if I let the image have its way.
That’s what they say. What’s your picture? If it’s a particular project, you may have set boundaries. In general? No boundaries. Photograph what you see. Don’t edit your process before it’s time to edit.
I made this picture somewhere along the line, in the past three weeks. The minute I saw that red pool umbrella, I knew I had to do something. So I sat in the chair nearest to the umbrella. I looked up. I knew the picture. I knew what I would do with it in post production. I think I made three or four frames. Done. At the scene. A little work in post production to make the picture creamy and dreamy and I was done.
In better news.
A new more complete version of The Beatles’ Abbey Road is being released. It contains out takes and conversation. It shows The Beatles at their best. They knew the album was their last. They worked with intent. The sessions were smooth, unlike the Let It Be sessions, where they were at each other’s throats.
I watched a little preview. A little marketing piece. I was amazed to see John Lennon talking to the rest of the band. As he’s talking, the song pops out and he is singing. The band falls in without even thinking about it. That’s magic.
That, y’all, is what you want. When you just feel it. And, do it. Without thought.
I need a little break from political commentary. You do too. It’s like a horrible wall of sound. I had to laugh when one of the late night televisions hosts said that he was running for president. He had only two planks in his platform. We’d only hear from him once a month. And, we’d all get bored with politics.
Sounds right to me.
Now what are we gonna do with all those children in the state to the right of mine? The ones who were left with out families after the “Great Chicken Plant Raid?”
The change has to come. Maybe from a little seed. Maybe from a terrible tragedy. Like gun violence. Like the three mass shootings that we had last week. Like the horrific number of shootings in Chicago. Like the never ending gun violence in my home city. New Orleans.
When I made this picture, I knew what it was about. This is a little bitty baby tree, growing from seeds after a storm.
We’ve had the storm. The storm clouds haven’t broken. The man in charge won’t do anything. I watched his speech. Did you? He looked drugged. He mumbled. He thought one of the shootings took place in Toledo. No, Mr. President. That’s was Dayton. Dayton, Ohio. In a state that you need to carry if you have a hope of being re-elected.
I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
Aside from his hate filled racist rhetoric, he killed my retirement fund yesterday, with his “easy to win trade wars.” The Chinese reacted in the only ways they could. They stopped buying grain and soy beans from American farmers. And, they let the Renminbi (Yuan) drop to a conversion rate that is higher than it was when I used to roam around Asia.
I can afford to travel to China since goods, services and lodging are much cheaper for me. But, after the stock market reacted, my retirement fund tanked. Now I might not have the money to travel.
What to do?
Since our government leaders seem to be stuck in place, it’s up to us. It is always up to us.
Look around the world.
Puerto Rican citizens forced a corrupt leader out of power.
Hong Kong people are striking in every possible way. On Monday, they shut the whole city down. By forcing the MTR (subway) to stop, the Hong International Airport was forced to cancel 200 flights. My fear is that with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army — Chinese Army) mounting up in Shenzhen, just across the border, they may enter the city. There will be serious bloodshed. I lived in Hong Kong for a long time. Those are my people.
All of that said, maybe it’s time for us to strike. To shut everything down. To force our politicians to act. To act now, because waiting 18 months to vote is too long. People are dying. People are afraid to go shopping, to go school, to go hear a concert, to gather in a crowded place.
One of my jobs in my other career is to predict the future. I think about our local events.
What about Mardi Gras?
What about French Quarter Fest?
What about Jazzfest?
A guy with a gun could kill hundreds before he could be stopped. I’m having second thoughts about making pictures during those events.
Even neighborhood second lines — the thing that is near and dear to me — could be compromised. If a deranged white power dude wanted to take out Black People that would be the place to do it.
The whole thing sucks.
That’s why we have to step up. Somehow. Some way.
Doing nothing will kill more of us.
A few notes.
I promised that Storyteller would be a politics free zone. It would be a place to talk about art. About photography. About seeing. And, about some technology.
I’ve broken my promise to you. I’m so sorry.
But, if I say nothing I’m as culpable as the people doing us harm. So, you see, I have no other choice. I’ve got to speak. I fear that in the future — I don’t know when — Storyteller may publish pictures of events I don’t really want to photograph. But, my journalistic roots won’t let me ignore the events of change.
The day looks good. My country doesn’t look so good. Normally, we’d have a leader who would guide us through mass murders. In my lifetime, every president has spoken to calm the country. To bring us together. To let us know that he has our backs.
Typically, they travel to the scene and talk to us from there.
Not this president. He tweeted a couple of general thoughts. He didn’t stop playing golf. He went dark. His supporters are trying to spread the blame. They said just about everything but the truth.
Here’s the truth.
Guns are too easy to obtain. That’s legally. They are even easier to obtain on the streets. Illegally. There are more guns than people in The United States.
The President of The United States is a racist. He’s hateful. He’s bitter. He seeks to polarize my country. His speeches and tweets are designed to denigrate “others.” People who aren’t White. People who are immigrated from someplace else. With brown skin. With black skin.
He’s given unspoken permission for every white power extremest to come out of the sewers where they’ve been hiding. The two mass killings on Saturday and Sunday are examples of that.
Our Congress isn’t helping. They are too fearful. Bought and paid for. Too compromised. The Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will not let bipartisan legislation come to the floor to be voted on if it affects positive change. His new nickname is Moscow Mitch. He blocked legislation to prevent the Russians from interfering with our elections.
With Karma being the bitch it is, he fell at home yesterday. He broke his shoulder. Knowing what I know about joint breaks, he’ll live the rest of his life in pain. Damn.
The only option is to vote all of these people out of power. Vote POTUS out of power and then send him to prison.
If I sound angry. You’re damn right I am.
It’s bad enough that this president is trying to bring down democracy. But, too many people are dying because of his words. Because of his racism. Because of his corruption. This must change.
That’s good enough for me. Especially since I rarely know the names of flowers beyond, red flower, yellow flower, pink flower. I have the same problem with birds. A real nature photographer knows the common and Latin names for everything that he or she photographs.
That’s why I’m not really a nature photographer. Because of my early photojournalism training, I am kind of a generalist. I photograph what I see. Sometimes, because of time constraints, I tend to make pictures of a little bit of nothing. I’m in that cycle right now. That should come to an end by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest.
Then, we’ll learn just how motivated I really am to produce something more meaningful than a picture of a flower. Let’s put it this way. I darn well better be. Ha!
The picture. See it. Photograph it. Process it to death to get all the little details in the flower to show up. That’s it.