Everything in one picture.

Hong Kong.

Not this picture. This is near home in New Orleans.

I was watching the last season of Anthony Bourdain. The show made me nostalgic. It made me a little sad. Not for Tony. We know his end.

It made me miss some of the things that I had. That I did. I thought about living there. I liked it. A lot. Maybe more than I like living in New Orleans.

I think, even after my paid expat time was up, I should have stayed. Yes. It’s expensive. Yes. It’s crowded. For certain I was in the minority. But, there’s a lot to be said for that. It changes your thinking. Your viewpoint changes. You learn a lot. About people who are different from you. About yourself.

If my word for the year is learning, the Lunar New Year brings us to the Year of the Pig. I’m not exactly sure who those two intersect, but it’s worth a thought. Or, two.

Bourdain met up with a cinematographer who worked a lot with Wong Kar-wei. He made those dreamy introspective scenes. He led Bourdain on a merry chase throughout the city. To places I loved and frequented. Some of it changed. Hong Kong never stands still. Others have not. They didn’t hit all of my spots. But, they hit enough.

I haven’t been to Hong Kong in 11 years. I’ve grown older. Slower. A little broken. I’m not even sure if I could walk many of the city’s streets. I could try. I could take breaks. I would probably see more.  You know. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

I should go. This year. Before it slips my mind.

When is a very obvious question. Between my two lives, I’m booked until at least September. That could work. The weather there is about like it is here. The temperatures would start dropping. It would be cool, but not cold. We’ll see.

See what’s happening here? It’s like a journey through the past. Only it’s headed toward the future. There are a lot of places I’d like to visit. Before I can’t.

Oh yeah. The picture. The dog who sees stuff was groomed. She got a haircut. The groomer shaved her down to her body. She needed it. Between rain, and falling leaves and the wetness on the ground, she was matted. Sure, I brushed her. I combed her. But, when her fur is long, she picks up everything. Funny thing about her fur is that it weighs a lot. She started out her day weighing 24.5 pounds. Just under the maximum cocker weight of 25 pounds. Off came her fur. We weighed her again. Twenty three pounds. That’s a helluva diet. She lost 1.5 pounds in three hours.

This is the long way of saying that she was in a great mood. She was ripping around on our walk until she lead me to this. She stopped. I photographed. I made two good pictures. Off we went. There’s really not much to this picture. Winter silhouetted trees and a sunset. What could be easier?

They say that anything worth doing is worth working hard to achieve. Sometimes. Other times, the best thing is the easiest thing. It just sort of flows. As I wrote yesterday, I am just the conduit.

Be the conduit.

 

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Creativity.

Creativity.

I was reading something about that this morning. In The New York Times. It was a piece about “The Artist’s Way.” A book which is 25 years old. A book that all of us who claim to be creative, want to be creative or, who are creative, should read.

I’ve only read a chapter or two. I borrowed it from a friend who needed it back well before I was done. It’s full of philosophy and exercises and thoughts that will help. You not be doing anything creative yet, but want to. You may be a working creative and are stuck. You may want to change genres. There is something for all of us.

Oddly, since I didn’t read much of the book but have a very good idea of what the author says, I found that say about the same things.

Things like.

Photography block? Go outside and photograph the first things that you see. In a new city? Photograph “what is it like to be…” Need inspiration? Talk to your friends and colleagues. They don’t have to be photographers. Need to fill your head with creativity? Head to your nearest museum or art gallery.  Practice, practice, practice.

And, so on.

One thing caught my attention 25 years ago. Neil Young says it. Bob Dylan says it. Van Gogh said it. “Let the higher power speak through your work.” Whoever and whatever that is. That’s a version of my, “the work is the prayer.”

It took me many years to learn this. From all sorts of sources.

There is one more thing. You can’t hurry it. You can’t hurry the process. You can’t hurry the technology. You can’t hurry your own learning.

As a friend if mine once said early in my learning, “the river flows in its own time.”


In between light and dark.

In between.

At the edges. Where the good stuff lurks. Where our imaginations create stuff. Where our dreams arise. Where nightmares come into being.

That’s why I like making pictures like this one. At night. Or, dusk. Things are lurking in the darkness. In the shadows. You can see some of it, but not all. You have to guess. Use your senses. Interpret. What you see is not what someone else sees. What they see may not be there at all.

Pictures like this one are scary. Or, not. They are moody. Or, not. They might even be artistic. Or, not.

Most of the time, their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

All of this is why I look at paintings rather than photographs for inspiration. It’s why I read rather than look at pictures if I am traveling to a place. I’d like my imagination to kick in, rather than look at what’s already been done. I think that I can get closer to the edge that way. As musician Neil Young once said, “whenever I find myself in the middle of the road, I head straight to the gutter where things are more interesting .”

Me too. Not all of the time. But a lot of it.

The picture. The usual thing. See it. Photograph it. Make it what I saw while I was working in the field. I do that in post production if the camera’s technology can’t keep up with my mind. The computer’s can.

Happy Sunday.


At the end of day.

Quietly.

As the day comes to a close. I looked through the silhouetted trees, mostly bare from cold winter days and saw that faintest gleam of an orange sunset.

I decide to try to make a picture. This isn’t me trying to be cute by dropping the main subject into a tiny area of the picture. This was literally all I could see of what was a wonderful sunset.

I suppose if I had been some place with a long clean view I could have done something a little better. But, I wasn’t. I certainly couldn’t get there in the few seconds that this light was settling into the horizon.

Lately, that seems to be me. I’m out-of-place for almost every picture. Oh sure. I make the best image that I can. But, my work could be so much better. I’m not sure if it’s laziness or old age setting in. All these book projects that I have to do will be the test.

Anyway.

After I wrote about Pegi Young, we went grocery shopping. We like the middle of the week because every store is much less crowded. We went to Wal-Mart because we needed all kinds of stuff besides food. It used to be that we’d hit four or five stores, but this is easier. Besides, some of those stores don’t exist anymore. I suppose that’s Wal-Mart’s fault or Amazon’s.

I’m pretty sure the gods were following us. All of them. First, over the speaker system came, John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Then, Bowie’s, “Heroes.” At just that moment we ran into a group of people who are learning disabled. They are being taught how to shop and to take care of themselves. They are all friendly and kind. One shook my hand, gave me a fist bump and a high-five. When one did that, others followed. One of them hugged musical miss. Of course, she hugged him back. When we turned the corner and headed towards another aisle, she grabbed my hand. I looked into her eyes. Both of us had diamonds coming from the corners. So strange. Yet, so perfect. We just lived what I wrote about.

Listen, kids.

Don’t make me write about you. It just could come true.


Light, time and space.

This is what I saw. Just before dusk.

The football team — The Saints — were in the middle of a playoff game. The dog who sees things doesn’t care about football. She only knows what she knows. Like, “I need to go outside and you’d better take me.”

Not being the greatest football fan, I agreed with her and out we went.

Good thing too.

The light was glowing. Glistening  off wet trees. It was turning. Orange. Red. The colors were bright. Almost too bright. They weren’t believable on computer screen. I tuned them down. Very rare for me.

The making of the picture was simple. See it. Photograph it. It just had to pick and choose a little. This picture was an accident. I couldn’t figure out how to frame this scene.

So, I didn’t.

Normally, the subject might be in the center of the picture where those white puffy clouds are located. You might position it according to the rule of thirds, which young new photographers hate. “There are no rules, man.” Uh, tweetberries, it’s a mathematical expression used to describe what occurs in nature.

Naturally.

This brings me to my learned lesson. Or, at least a reminder of one.

There is an old Italian saying. “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer” Same thing with most things in the arts.

There are all sorts of “rules.” Most of them are just guidance. One that comes to mind in “rules for photography” when you expose film (it also applies to digital capture) is, “if you must err, err on the side of warmth.” This especially applies to photographing people. Unless it is a picture intended to be very cold, most viewers respond favorably to a warmer picture than a colder one. I was taught that as a rule. I didn’t discount it out of hand. I listened, I tested and found that it was correct.

Stop rejecting things that your elders say about rules, just because you don’t like them. That’s the rules. And, the elders. I got into that this weekend with a newly elected Congresswoman from the Bronx. You know who I mean. She’s gotten as bad as the guy who lives in the “empty” White House. I like her. But, her tweets have become unbearable. All noise. No signal. I told her that. She didn’t like it. Now I’m part of the great white old class. Right. I’ll forget more than she’ll ever know if she keeps this up. She earned a good education. She’s smart. She’s says that she was a bartender so she’s heard everything. Wow. Who does that sound like?

Just sayin’.

It’s not the political thing that I’m talking about. It’s the unwillingness to listen. To learn.

To that end, I ordered a new t-shirt. It says, “Everybody is a photographer until they get to this.” There is a red line pointing to the “M” setting. The manual setting. I’ll wear it to the next second line. That’ll make a statement.

Good luck this week. We are gonna need it.


Fall colors.

The gap. The gap between all of the trees in which the sky shows in what is normally a dead space.

If you’ve spent any time at all in British Commonwealth countries you’ve heard that phrase. “Mind the gap.” It refers to the gap between a station platform and the train or subway. It’s a way of telling passengers to be careful. I first heard it in Hong Kong. It became so common that I tuned it out. I’m pretty sure most people do that.

Tuned out. Just like so many people do to their surroundings. Even I do that. If I’m in a hurry, or thinking about something, I often fail to see. That’s terrible if you are somebody like me. A guy who makes his living with his eyes. I shouldn’t discount my brain, heart and soul. But, the very first input is through my eyes.

This picture is one that I likely wouldn’t see. But, that sky. That’s what I saw. I started looking around for something to frame it. I saw all those trees and that was it. A very fall-like image. In my head. In my heart. In my soul. All that was left to do was push the button.

I did that.

It wasn’t enough. There was a disconnect between what I saw and what the camera’s sensor could handle.

Post production was a bit tricky. Most sensors cannot see what the eye sees. That means there always has to be some enhancements in post production. The question is always how much is too much? Or, what is the least amount that I can do to get the scene back to what I saw?

This picture is the result of about five tries. Most of them went too far. The reds were electric. The sky looked like a nuclear bomb exploded nearby.  Those weren’t right. I wasn’t aware of any explosions that day.

I backtracked.

I stripped the original file of a lot of its color. I built from there. That got me to the picture you see today.  Sometimes you have to do that. Take a step back to get to where you want to go today.

There’s a lesson in that. But, I forget what it is.

Maybe you know.


Late fall sky.

It’s the time of year.

In many ways, this is the prettiest time of year in Southeastern Louisiana. There are wonderful sunrises, except that I’m rarely awake to see them. I am awake to see the sunsets which have this exploding light sort of feeling.

Funny thing.

As much as I say I don’t photograph sunsets, I do. I suppose what I really mean is that I don’t chase after them. But, like all of my subjects, if I see it I photograph it. Sometimes that means putting a sort of funky subject in the picture in order to give it context. Telephone lines. Oh, come on. In my own defense, I’m often way out-of-place to make a pretty picture.

Now you know about the picture.

If you are in The United States, you are likely counting the hours until this day passes because you have a four-day weekend. It’s Thanksgiving. If you are brave enough to deal with the crowds, Friday is called “Black Friday,” because there are huge fake sales on all sorts of thing that you normally wouldn’t buy.

For me, and mine, the holiday starts today. It’s my birthday. I am 65 years old. In theory, it’s my retirement day. Have you ever heard of an artist or photographer ever really retiring?

Not me.


Into the sunset.

Moving. Changes. Life.

If you read Storyteller yesterday you know that changes are on my mind. Most for the better. Some not so much. Today, bright and early, I got a reminder of changes. My new phone shows me anything it thinks is important the minute that turn it on. Note that phrase, “anything it thinks is important.” AI has invaded my little home.

Anyway.

My neighbor and friend sent me a private message via FB in which she attached a long statement about my drugstore. They are closing. Today. My files and prescriptions are being sent to Walgreen, which I suppose is better than CVS, who I escaped from to go my little pharmacy. Apparently, the parent company — Fred’s — decided to close it.

That’s bad enough.

But, in talking with one of the women who was so helpful to me over the past couple of years, I learned how the staff found out.  When they arrived for work last Tuesday — not yesterday — there was a hand written note on the door from Fred’s management.  They had no other notice. No notice of how their salaries would be handled. No two weeks notice. No nothing.

Huh?

Is this what we’ve come to? No consideration for the employees. No consideration for the customers. No consideration for people. If that’s what corporations are doing these days, it’s time to take a big step back. I would suggest that we buy local. But, that’s what I thought I was doing.

Basta! (that’s Italian for enough.)

Ironically, yesterday, I received an email from Kamala Harris, the junior senator from California. You might know her from her very lawyerly-like grilling of Kavanaugh during his hearing. It was kind of a general email to those of us who interacted with her in some way over the past year. She wants me to run for something. It doesn’t matter what office as long we populate it with like-minded people.

Maybe I should.

Certainly it is time to take back my country from high dollar corporate interests. From the one percenters. From the people who are too big to fail, as they flail around looking for any penny that they can find. Your pennies. My pennies.

I keep hearing from my friends who say that 65 isn’t old. That I’m not over the hill because the minute I climb over it there is another hill in front of me. And, when you consider who runs the country, and their ages, I’m still young. That’s saying something. Maybe I am.

See what happens?

Take away my local pharmacy and I get angry. I’ve been angry since about 7:15 this morning. I’m calm. Anybody who really knows me knows that’s not a good thing. Never mistake my calmness for giving up. Instead, I get resolute and lethal.

Oh.

The picture. You want to know about the picture. How could I forget that? It is one of the many I made when I was driving and shooting. I made it before the one that I posted a few days ago. You can just see the clouds starting to come together. Again, I didn’t really do very much to it. Nature took care of my work. As usual.


A long way.

There are days and there are days.

I tried to photograph balloons. There were three. Not enough. There was wind. You’d think that balloons like wind. They do. But, not much more than 10 miles per hour. The wind was stronger than that. So no balloons in the air. No dusk balloon glow.

I gave up.

I started heading back. Then, this picture happened. At 60 miles per hour. Luckily, the magic smart phone came to the rescue. All I did was hold it on the dashboard with a finger. It did the rest and I slowed down.

I have one more day to make a balloon glow picture. We have cold and windy air. With only (more…)