I Tried Going West


It came out of the sky.

Running on empty. I don’t know if it is the pandemic, the political situation or just 2020 — where anything where happens — or something else.

I usually take some time to think about my last year. Some of it, in 2019, was pretty good. The rest not so much.

I could have done better.

Yeah, sure. Nine months of my year was impacted by the pandemic. There were shutdowns, lockdowns, no touring and no traveling.

I could have done a lot more with my time. I had grand plans of really cleaning up my archive. That didn’t get done. I started in the wrong place. My earliest black and white work is not a good starting point even though it seems logical to do so.

Ha!

I store my black and white negatives in strips of five. What do I do with the rest of a strip if only one picture is relevant? I should have started backwards with my latest work. Digital images do not need to be stored that way. Keep the best picture and toss the rest.

Or, something like that. Often when I re-cull my work I come to an image that clearly espouses the “what was I thinking” theory.

I was going to move from here to my website. I haven’t yet.

I never documented New Orleans during the pandemic. For many of you that means The French Quarter. I haven’t been there since last Mardi Gras in February. Since there was nobody there that wouldn’t have been an illness spreading job.

Unfortunately, we have moved into stage red — a new way of classifying virus spread in Louisiana. I may get my chance.

I better get moving.

On all of those projects. Don’t you think?

I cropped this deep vertical picture out of a horizontal image. I did that because horizontal pictures are tiny on this new template. A free template. I told you that I was moving on. I have until December 18th to renew the paid version of Storyteller. I’m not doing it. It isn’t worth it. Luckily, I already removed my payment method so there will be no surprises.

Look at the picture. There ain’t much to it. It’s a crop of a picture I might not publish. But, I needed something. It’s not to say that I haven’t been making pictures on my walks. I have. They all look the same to me. There isn’t much that I like. I am a harsh critic of my own work, but not now. Anything’ll do.

That’s my life these days.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Look after others. Enjoy every sandwich.

Wild Tales


And, then the light went crazy.

Exploded. The light exploded. The developed and processed image actually caught me by surprise. It did everything I didn’t think that it would.

Which brings me to this.

“Everything that I didn’t think it would.” Sounds just about life. I got caught out this morning. I was listening to a song from home, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew the singer when she was young, and yet we didn’t know each other.

She was singing about a specific kind of “girl.” They are the ones who stay in the corners, who are shy but have the same desires that everyone else does. They love you from afar but if you love them back, they run away.

Damn.

This singer has been nailing me every few weeks. Her song, “Asking for a Friend,” brought back so many bad memories that I haven’t listened to it since. I talk a good game, but I’d rather run than fight.

These feelings are from the past. The distant past. My life is good. All the rest is fine. Although I’m worried about a few things on the world’s stage, I’m happy.

But.

I’ve been digging in my past when it comes to learning about my family. These songs are either killing me, or are a very big help.

As I’ve written a few weeks ago, I’ve come to learn that everything we were told as children is a lie. Why would my parents lie to us about how my paternal grandfather made it to these shores?

They said that he sailed on a tramp steamer, eating kasha and apples for two weeks. They said he arrived at Ellis Island where the kind folks at immigration couldn’t spell our last name so they made us Laskowitzes.

No. No. No. And, no.

My grandfather didn’t sail from Hamburg. He made is way to London from Russia, where he worked for a couple of years. He learned some English. He saved his money. He sailed from Liverpool in cabin class, which is equivalent to first class on other ships.

I think that I told you that. Since then I’ve seen pictures of how he traveled. He spent 12 days in a suite of rooms. He ate very well on board. He lacked for nothing.

He didn’t arrive at Ellis Island. He arrived in Philadelphia. The immigration folks didn’t mangle our family name. They handled it just fine. I know this because I saw his immigration document. He signed it “L-A-S-K-O-W-I-T-Z. In English letters, not Cyrillic.

What the hell?

Why were we lied to? Why didn’t any family member tell us about my dad’s sister, Olga? Apparently, she followed my family west. She lived in Los Angeles in 1953. She returned to the East, got married in 1962 and returned to the West where she lived and died not five miles from where I grew up. I had an aunt that I never knew existed. I have cousins that I never met.

Oh, that’s not all.

I’m learning this through Ancestory.com. They found documents that I could read. They kept asking me if I want to add another family to my tree. Why? I’ve never heard of them.

Silly me. I followed one of my cousins on my mom’s side of the family. That mysterious family is linked to my mom’s side. Who the hell are they?

And, you wonder why I never share much personal stuff. Go ahead. Ask away. Apparently, it doesn’t matter anyway.

I’ll likely never know any of this.

I’m pretty sure that you want to know about this picture. After all, it looks like an explosion on the page. Or, worse.

You know I love autumn light. I was walking toward the sun when it poked through the trees. Ah, that light. I broke the biggest rule in the book.I photographed right into it.

It didn’t look like so much in my LCD. But, when I developed and processed it, the picture exploded.

I took the picture a little further because I always do, and this is what you get.

When I uploaded it into OnOne, I had to tune it back some. It was too vibrant and to sharply defined.

As it is, it looks like a version of heaven. Or, hell. You can pick.

A technical comment. A couple of my younger friends love AI. I can’t stand it. When I copy edit these posts I find words that I would never in a million years use.

Automated Intelligence is anticipating my words incorrectly. I realize that in theory it learns from me, but I think it’s learning from someone else.

I just wasn’t meant for these times.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Vote.

Changing In Mid-Stream


Just when I said…

Never fails. Just when I said that the sky was clear, blue and bright, this happens. It didn’t last long. The clouds just blew in another cold front. I could wear long pants all day, yesterday. That’s something. I think.

I’ve been doing some cogitating. I’m having trouble moving forward creatively. I read something a friend of mine wrote about how every digital thing we use today is frictionless. And, that we’ve been trying for the last two decade to get to this point.

Friction.

Ah ha. Artists need friction to develop, to grow to make new art. What friction have we had lately? The only thing that could marginally be called friction is whether I use a new or old mask when we go grocery shopping. Oh, and if I forgot gloves to pump gas for the first time in three months. I used a paper towel instead.

No wonder I’m repeating myself. I can’t tell one years take from another. I’m frictionless. The only thing that comes near is determining which way to walk is the all seeing spaniel. And, she picks the route.

Dogs don’t really have the kind of recall that humans have, but somehow she remembers that yesterday we went this way and that way, so today we are going this other way. I don’t care. It’s all the same to me.

So. Friction. It doesn’t need to be any terrible thing. It could just mean stepping ousted of my comfort zone. Like going to a different grocery store.

Nooooooooooooo… that’s not what I mean.

Here’s what I mean. I use Google Maps to guide me to places that I’ve never been, or to find a more efficient way of getting someplace.

I really started trusting it when I got outside of “the box” two Mardi Gras ago. The box is an Uptown area that is bounded by parades on all four sides of the map. I kept trying and failing to penetrate a gap in the parades. Google Maps somehow realized what I was doing and found a way in for me.

Onething it does if you leave it on is track where you’ve been on how many miles you’ve driven in a month. It sends you an audit at the end of the month.

Before you start in on privacy issues, I don’t go anywhere that I want to hide from anyone’s eyes. I’ve yet to see any targeted advertising and I reckon privacy has been blown long ago.

So.

In the month of September I drove 5 miles. That’s right. Five miles.

I can start adding friction by driving to other places so that I can make a few pictures.

What about you? Is creativity a non-starter right now? What can you do to jump start it?

The picture. The picture. The plane. The plane. Nah. Not the plane. Some of you might remember that from an old television show called “Fantasy Island.”

As I said, I’ve been repeating myself for the past few years. Few either means three or four.

Sure. The clouds are different because they are. But, the picture framing is my standard go to thing.

Time to move on.

Time not to make many pictures on a dog walk. Time to get out there, burn some gas, and go looking.

I don’t really have a project in mind so I’ll just see what I can find as long as it isn’t sky, trees or flowers.

This things can be in the picture, but they shouldn’t be the picture.

We’ll just see how this goes.

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

Inspiration


Bare trees in Autumn.

It comes when it comes. Inspiration. I was talking with a friend a couple of nights ago when she said that inspiration is everywhere. I know that. But, I forgot that I did.

So.

Here’s the best possible example. We had a big day out. We went places. Well, two places. The gasoline store and the grocery store. It was the first time I put gas in my car in three months. While we were making groceries as they used to say down here, I kept seeing things. No, not like that. I saw pictures.

I did the only thing that I could. I started making pictures. As we were headed out into the parking lot my seeing didn’t stop. I made a couple more photographs. This is one of them.

I have questions.

Questions like how did this tree get so bare when most of the trees are just beginning to change colors. I don’t need an answer because this is another favorite look of mine.

The tree was planted in the middle of the parking lot along with others in hopes of eventually having shade in a bare parking lot. Define eventually as in about 20 years.

It’s a start and that’s important.

One more little thing. We are into the last three weeks of the race for the direction of our country. Most of us know what we are going to do.

We did an accidental test today. The only news that I read was baseball and the arts. We listened to the Senate hearings for the next Supreme Court Justice while we were running errands. They were polite and as you think that they should be.

But, again, no news.

Our day was so good. I encourage all of you to turn off the news unless something major happens and it can’t be avoided. We didn’t intentionally do it, but it made a world of difference.

Seeing pictures. My friend is right. Inspiration really is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes, your ears, your nose and your heart and you’ll see and feel amazing things.

That is easier than it sounds. For me, something has to cue it up. The conversation last night did it.

It could be something else. Something I hear in a song. Something I smelled that brought back a memory. Something I saw that lead to something else.

When this happens, let your creativity out. Don’t try to edit it on site.

I’m pretty sure people were wondering why I was taking pictures.

Unless they ask, let them wonder.

If they ask, tell them you are a photograph and you just saw something that needed photographing. If they want to see don’t hesitate to show them your LCD. Especially an inquisitive store manger. That didn’t happen today, but it could have.

Making the picture was easy. Remember, expose for the highlights, especially if you want a silhouette.

That’s it.

Stay safe. Stay mighty, Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after others.

Sunrise, Sunrise, I Can See It


In the morning when we rise.

Sometimes it’s all light and color with just a hint of subject matter. Sometimes it’s more. This picture straddles both, leaning to the previous. It’s sort of musical.

That’s just as well. It’s been a musical sort of day. The musicians in my life have been playing sort of tag with me and I with them. We’ve been liking each others’ work on the socials.

We are supposed to be secret keepers. That’s a title of a song, but it isn’t quite so positive. Google it, listen to it and maybe you’ll figure to out.

See what I mean? We are all playing with fire.

Anyway.

All music, all day.

We started with something on the quiet side. A morning mix made by a friend of mine. It only got louder and more energetic from there. Remember Cream’s live version of “Crossroads?” Like that.

I don’t know what we were thinking. The neighbors wondered if we were thinking.

I don’t believe we were. After so many months in lockdown, it was time to feel, not think.

That was Sunday. Today is Monday. Either we get back to thinking or just keep going. I vote for the latter.

You?

Bokeh. The Japanese word that means the quality of the background in a photograph. Somebody started using the word and it became a thing. It’s not really a thing. Japanese people don’t even use it.

The bokeh in this picture is fake. It was created by software on OnOne. Real bokeh is creamy and is created by the quality of the lens used to make the picture.

I used it to hide a billion imperfections, which is just about the only time that I use it.

The rest of the photograph is real. So there.

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

Follow The Sun


Light from behind.

Nature. She never sleeps nor, does she stop. She’ll take away and add all in the search for stasis. That’s why I’m pretty sure CoVid19 os nature’s way of telling us something’s wrong. If only we’d listen.

Fighting nature is the wrong war. We’d be better off if we do like I do with the all seeing cocker spaniel. When she shows me something I stop and look. She’s mostly right.

Some people get confused. They say that they pray. To God. But, they don’t heed nature.

Now wait a minute.

Think about this. What if nature is God’s tool to make things happen? If you don’t believe in God, there is still nature and all her calming or violent ways.

Heed that.

We talk about the consequences of the general election that is a month away. We talk about democracy being at stake. I believe that. But, what’s more at stake is something even more basic. Mother Earth. Save democracy but loose our planet, our home, and what have you got?

Not much.

The pictures. I was lucky. I made two pictures that work except for one small thing.

Contrast.

Photographer’s luck came into play. These two pictures found me.

Luck cuts both ways.

I saw the pictures. That’s good luck. I was using my smartphone. That’s bad luck.

Bad luck because there is no way to control contrast. So I present you with circus pictures.

I’m not a fan of circuses.

Anywhere.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Prepare to vote.

Sometimes Just The Sky


Dawn balloon lift off from 4th Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This one. This picture. The best picture that I’ve ever made of the balloon fiesta. It’s the one I told you about. I was late to the liftoff because of accidents on I-25, so I worked my way through the backstreets and came to this place on 4th Street.

I thought I was in the worst possible place. Shows you what I know.

I had to pass through a gate that lead me to a bunch of transmission towers. Once I got clear of them this was my view.

There is a giant take away from this. Never, ever give up. It would have been easy to go back home, have another cup of coffee, some breakfast and go back to bed.

What would be the fun in that?

Once I recovered from the emotional high of finding this scene and making the picture, I started thinking clearly and started chasing individual balloons as they split off from the main group.

Eventually, I made my way home where i did have that cup of coffee, had some breakfast and started working on my new pictures.

Stay Safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy every donut.

Some technical picture stuff. A number of you have asked in the past, and again on other social media for technical tips.

I’m not the biggest photo tech guy in the world. But, I can tell you what went into individual pictures.

The first thing to talk about is ISO. I usually work at the lowest native ISO, which means for this picture ISO 100.

Next we come to aperture and shutter speed. I cheat a little here especially with lighting like this.

I set the aperture, usually to f5.6 and let the shutter speed fall where it may. But, knowing I wanted front to back sharpness, I set the aperture at f16. Normally, the shutter speed would be way too slow. But, not when you are shooting pretty much directly into the sun.

When I’m chasing around like I was, I usually use an all purpose travel lens which is a 28-200mm/ f4 / f5.6 piece of glass.

I had the time to switch to a 20mm lens, while I was walking through the field. That’s why the picture has such an all encompassing feel.

A 20mm lens set at f16 and everything is a sharp as it can be.

Very little post production was needed. I’d have to look at the RAW file, but I’m willing to bet I just lightened the shadows a bit.

One Drop


Golden motion.

One drop.

Of sunlight.

The all seeing dog and I finally got outside around dusk. She won’t go out if rain is falling on her. The rain gave up earlier in the afternoon but she was doing the other thing she does best. Sleeping.

We walked the long way and saw these last few flowers of summer glistening in the sun. That wonderful all seeing dog kept tugging at me so she could go to her favorite place. I accidentally made this picture. Then I made the correct ones. I like this one better so there you have it. The dog was right again.

Sheesh.

My life is run by a dog.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every tuna sandwich.

7:04 AM


In the morning, when you rise.

Early in the morning, when the sun comes up.

Yes. 7:04 am. That’s when the all seeing dog just had to go for a walk. I think she knew something that I didn’t. She used her ESP to know that the sky with this wonderfully backlighted cloud would be one of the first things that we would see.

In the “industry,” this cloud would almost be called a “god ray.” But, not quite. A true god ray would have streaks of light reaching to the heavens.

It’s nature in all her glowing wonder.

Speaking of nature.

She’s on her 2020 roll.

We have not one, but two, major storms heading towards us. If the predictions are correct, they will make landfall as Category 1 hurricanes. At this point, NOAA predicts that one will graze Florida and make landfall in Alabama. The second will head for Texas and eventually hit Houston.

It’s early.

Both storms could change course. They could head for us. They could roll around each other and become one big storm. Or, they could change direction entirely.

The mayor says that if we are given an evacuation order we have to go. Go to where? CoVide19 has already got us pinned down. I say, screw that, and we are staying. We are prepared. We have generators, a BBQ for cooking, bottled water, storm lights and storm shutters.

Or, we might just get outer band winds and some rain.

Or, nothing.

I probably shouldn’t get political but I will. No matter who gets hit this will just be another thing that the soon-to-be ousted president will fail at fixing. There. I said it.

The Picture

You know how I made this picture. I got up at a little before 7am. What? There’s a seven in the morning now? When did they start that?

Sophie got me out early this morning too. There was another cloud drifting by. It was almost like this one, but not as powerful. The light was sparkly and pretty. It’s also fairly cool for August. I suppose that I should go to bed earlier, or just stay up, and get outside before 6am. The light is wonderful.

All I need is a double shot of caffeine, a camera and a dog.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Look after each other. Enjoy every dressed roast beef po’boy.