Adding something colorful.


Bare trees of winter with a little help. I’ve been photographing bare trees for a long while now. At a certain point they all start looking the same. I suppose if you work in an area long enough you come to point where everything looks about the same.

That’s one reason that I have sort of retired from making pictures at cultural events in New Orleans. There are only so many second lines and Mardi Gras Indian events you can work. Even they start to repeat themselves.


I asked myself how I could make this silhouetted picture look like something else. I experimented with this technique a little last year. I didn’t go far enough. This time I did. I added the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn. If you think about it, that makes sense. We are still cruising around the autumn season, but we are three days away from the winter equinox and the shortest day of the year. I combined two seasons into one picture.

I’d like to thank a friend of mine for pushing me even though she didn’t know it. I saw some of her work on Instagram that looked like something I would do. If I’ve influenced her in any way, I’m flattered and humbled. That kind of thing used to bother me until I realized that’s why I’m here. She was also the one who pushed me into my one word koan — learning — for the year. The year is almost over. The koan worked.

I suppose I need one for next year.

The picture. I’ll tell you the basics. Keep in mind that I have a huge archive of pictures that I can use to blend into other pictures. I use Snapseed for most of this work.

  1. Photograph a subject that you can made into a silhouette. This one happened to have bare trees with a light blue sky with white puffy clouds as a background. On its own the picture looked fine.
  2. Edit the picture in your normal way. Then lighten the background until there isn’t one. The trees should be black. Use either the brightness slider or the ambience slider, shifting them until the black fades to sort of a golden brown.
  3. Look for a picture that you can mask over the trees. In my case I picked something from last month when we finally had weather that was fall-like. Use the double exposure tool to select the foreground image. Layer it and then use the pull down to decide which version looks best. Use the slider to distribute the overlay the way that you like it.
  4. Finish it as you normally would. I adjust color, ambience and brightness.

That’s it. You’re done. And, so am I.

One more flowery portrait.

And, one more.

This will be about it, for making experimental portraits. For now. I’m not giving up. Nor, am I abandoning the project. But, this work is fairly time-consuming. Stuff is piling up. Other kinds of pictures. Other kinds of projects. My half built new website. My never-ending archiving project. Other projects that are waiting in the wings.

Which brings me back to my never-ending archiving project. Again. And, again. And, again.

I’m at a crossroads. The one over which I continually trip. The overarching question.

What to keep of my digital archives? ┬áThe problem is really a good one. Kind of. I’ve always followed best practices when it comes to archiving my work. Without going into too much detail, that means I never delete images from anywhere. Good, bad, completely messed up. They all stay in my archives. In fact, in one form or another, they always stay there at least twice.


What do I throw away as I build my final archives? Do I keep one set of RAW files, the working images and the final images? Do I keep everything? Do I keep only the working and final images?

Old school photographers like me usually say to keep everything because you’ll never know when you might need an odd frame or two. We talk about the Monica Lewinsky – Bill Clinton relationship, when one photographer “happened” to remember that he might have taken a picture of them together at some speech, almost by accident. It took a huge amount of manpower to locate the image which sold for editorial rates. If have to wonder if the image sale even paid for the cost of research.

That said, it costs money to actually keep and maintain large archives. Either you buy hard drive space or cloud space. Even with good free unlimited file storage using some reputable company like Google or Amazon, storage is mostly compressed and limited to jpegs. Most of the pictures that I’ve been showing you that I located through Google Photos have been compressed. That’s fine if all you are doing is posting pictures online. But, I make large photographic prints. Most of my professional work is used in printed material. My archives must be able to store large photo files saved in the Tiff format. With that I can do whatever I need to do.

I’d love your suggestions, thoughts and ideas. Sometimes, a person (me) just needs a kind of permission to move forward.

Do keep in mind that I am not talking about a few pictures. I am talking about some 50 terabytes of photographs.

And then.

There are about 30 years worth of black and white negatives. Don’t get me started. They are stored properly in groups of 5 or 6 images to a strip. Some are stored in glassine sleeves, others in plastic pages. Once they are culled to a manageable amount of negatives, they have to be scanned and a digital master file made. Talk about time-consuming. Even though my negatives are in fine shape because that old plastic lasts forever as opposed to bits of digital data which need to be reviewed and renewed every couple of years, they still have a little dust, some scratches and so on. Each image needs to be inspected and retouched before the master digital file is made.

I told you. Don’t get me started.

This picture. Well, the base image of the woman smiling isn’t 40 years old this time. It’s two years old. The flowers and other layers are a few weeks old. Sometimes this layering process comes together fairly quickly. With “quickly” being a relative term. This particular image took bits and pieces of two days to show itself in this final form. Have fun if you want to try.