Darkness at the edge of town.

O

bviously, I made this picture a while ago, like in winter. I tucked it away and you’ve never seen it. I’m starting to work through that collection now.

Unfortunately for me, these pictures are scattered throughout the last few months which means that I have to find them. Hard to do when you’ve forgotten about them. That’s how the infamous lost files are found.

This is a prime example of me seeing a scene for what it could be and making that happen in post production. It’s very likely the sky was pale winter blue and the foreground in good light.

That’s fine.

But, it doesn’t always fulfill my photographic needs. In fact, the deeper my journey becomes the more I want to make pictures that express my vision.

Usually, that doesn’t mean making a documentary style photograph. Nor, does it mean just throwing a couple of filters on a picture and calling it done.

The best of my work is brought about by thinking about, and then working, on the picture.

That doesn’t always happen.

I get rushed. I don’t think clearly. Even worse, I don’t feel clearly. I believe that you, the viewer or reader, can tell that. You see right through me.

At least that’s what I think.

N

ow, here are some technical issues to overcome.

First, as I wrote on the other side, the picture was made in color.

As I also wrote, the image was made in pale winter light. It was pretty enough, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I thought about it and decided it might look like winter feels. Brooding. Moody. Even scary.

I took out as much color as I could. But, if you notice, not all.

Then I softened the sky and enhanced the silhouetted subjects.

I blurred everything to soften the feel.

That’s it. That’s enough.

How about those of you who are photographers? How do you achieve your vision?


Not late for the sky.

Sometimes this picture is all you need. Sometimes nature fixes everything. Sometimes nature settles everything. Often as not, it’s not what you were hoping for.

We’ve had an awful lot of rain this spring. Something like 40 inches during a time when the normal rainfall is less than 20 inches. I don’t know what that means for our rainy seasons which is summer.

I do know that in six days hurricane season starts, with a heavier than normal year predicted. According to those folks whose job it is to know, there will be three major hurricanes to hit our shores this year. All the storm names will be used.

Oh joy.

Even when storms turn out to be nothing, there is anticipation. There is a fear rising from deep inside. A remembrance of storms past.

Or, just the big one.

When I see clouds like this I’m amazed. Look at them. Wow! They seem to be boiling up from somewhere unknown.

The unknown. That’s where I’d like to go. Today

And, you?

Point and shoot. F8 and be there. See it, shoot it.

That’s all this was. I wish I could tell you about some secret, but this is just literally walk out of the door and take a picture.

Post production was nothing too. I think I darkened the picture a little to help it be what I saw and felt.

That’s the thing. Feeling. That’s what matters. Today, we seem to be wrapped around taking pictures that show our technical prowess. Sharpness matters. Content matters. Pixels matter.

That all fails when you look at a bazillion pictures on Instagram or Facebook. Most of the pictures you see there are shallow and derivative. I find myself getting bored looking at them.

I’ve said I was leaving social media. I can’t seem to do that. As a working photographer I need it. But, I find myself liking less and less work as the weeks roll on.


On a better day.

Yesterday was interesting to say the least.

Apparently, every software company released updates this week. Three hours. That’s how long it took me to get to here. I still don’t think that I’m done because I see that I have six Apple upgrades. I won’t do it if it requires a reboot. That takes forever and I’d actually like to get some work done.

Teacherland

In the schools, it appears that there are already seven new cases of the virus. The students haven’t even returned yet. This is among the teachers, staff and administrators. The school board won’t even tell anyone from which schools they came. That means they are offering the teachers no means of safety. No way of knowing if they need testing.

Oh, if I were a lawyer.

I thought the school boards were bad around here. Ha! In Georgia a student posted pictures of the very crowded school hallway. Very few students were wearing masks. She was suspended for a week. The principal said that he couldn’t make the students wear masks because of their Constitutional rights.

Huh?

Sometimes we have to over ride certain institutions and beliefs. Make no mistake, I believe strongly in our Constitution. If we make a move we have to be careful because legal overrides lead to dictatorship or anarchy. But, this is one of those times when we must think about taking extraordinary measures.

See how I’m tip toeing around this? I’ll stop that, now.

Make the kids wear masks.

You won’t be happy if half of them get sick. You’ll be even more unhappy if 5% of them die. Sheesh. A little bit of courage is all we ask.

The Picture

I said that my pictures would be lighter. This picture is lighter. It’s what I could do yesterday. It’s not what I want. I’ll get there. My excuse is always the weather. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too wet. This porridge is too…

Yes. It’s hot. It’s hot down here from April to Christmas. It’s very wet during the summer. It’s cold for like three days.

I have some ideas for subjects. One is coming up in about three weeks. The 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I’m not obsessing about it. I just want to see how far we’ve come. How we are doing. If certain neighborhoods have been rebuilt.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every bit of summer.


The transportation situation.

More of a graphic shape than a documentary picture. At least that’s how I see it. The silhouetted train car shape makes it so.

It was just something I saw one late afternoon in the swamp. The swamp that has become really swampy.

And, not to be forgotten, June 1 is the official start of hurricane season. Even though Alberto missed us and made land fall close to the Alabama — Florida border, he just arrived early.  Besides, he was a subtropical storm. Whatever that is. Too much slicing and dicing of data for me.

Luckily, the folks who predict such seasonal events are saying this year is a normal hurricane season. So was last year. So was 2005 when Hurricane Katrina blew us to New Mexico. How did those years turn out? Just ask the folks in Puerto Rico who still have no electrical power. And, whose death toll from last year just increased yesterday by some 4,000 souls.

Numbers add up to nothing. Neil Young wrote that in a song. I believe him. No data can teach you what it feels like to live through a big storm. A hurricane. A tornado.

I could tell you how that feels. But, I won’t. No sense in dredging that up again. I pretty much put it to bed on Hurricane Katrina’s tenth anniversary. Most of us did. Every now and then something turns up to remind me of it. Like the start of every year’s hurricane season.

Anyway.

A little housekeeping. I’m getting the feeling that some of you can’t wait to get rid of me once Storyteller moves from WordPress to Laskowitzpictures.com. If you subscribe to Storyteller via email, you’ll still receive it. If you only see me on your reader that will be a problem. I suggest that if you like reading and seeing what I offer that you subscribe via email. Once I work out the kinks and find a distribution service, you’ll still receive Storyteller.

Of course, the kinks come in the strangest way.

Lemme tell ya a story. I’ve been testing Storyteller from my new website. Some of you could see the writing, but not the pictures. Even after watching a couple of blogging videos on Square space — the host site — I couldn’t do it. Keep in mind that I’ve been working on the new website — on and off — since January. While I was struggling with it last night, a passing toddler walks by and asks, “Does it know your email address?”

Huh?

As I said, I’ve been working on my site since January.

So I opened my personal information window, thinking that you never know. Sure enough. in order to blog, which also allows me to license images directly from Getty Images (one of my representatives) I have to verify my email address. Once I did that it appears to be smooth sailing.

We’ll see.

When I asked the toddler in question how she knew, she replied, “I know stuff.” Sort of like a dog, I thought. That’s my lesson for the week. Toddlers and dogs. Both of them know more than me.

 

 


An experimental scene.

I always say that Storyteller is a place for experiments.

This is a big one. Yes. Sure. You know this place. You know the subject matter. My go to place when the sky does something interesting.  That’s why I selected the original base image.

I used a new app. One that was recommended to me by a guy that does most of his image processing on a smart phone. Since this app is only available to iOS users, I assume that he’s using an iPhone, as I do.

It’s called Stackable. I’m still learning how to use it. It has a lot of interesting editing tools. One is the cropping templates. They allow the user to make really extreme crops, like this one. Or, long panoramas.

Another is the control over adding texture. It’s very fine tuned and allows you to make gentle edits. It’s more than just filtration.

Finally, there is the export function. You can send this picture to just about anywhere directly from the app’s software, including Snapseed, which is how I finished this picture.

Happy Solar Eclipse Day.

When I walked the dogs, the day was bright and sunny. Now, there is fairly heavy cloud cover. We have about a 50% chance of not being able to see the eclipse. You know how that goes. Especially in New Orleans, where it can rain on one city block and be dry on the next.

As I said, my intent is to photograph everything around the actual event. The social interaction. Landmarks. The odd day into night light. My lenses don’t have the reach to reach into the sky and pluck down the moon and sun.

Besides, as a friend of mine said, “I’m going to stay off social media until Wednesday because I don’t want to see 10,000 pictures of a black dot surrounded by a little glowing light.” My picture of the eclipse would just had to that. 10,001.

Heh, heh, heh!

Don’t mistake my approach for a lack of enthusiasm. I think nature, and especially these special events, is just amazing. But, for me, I try to think of others ways to approach the documentation of them. The lack of the proper tools — long, long lenses and that heavy — minus 64 stops of light filter — is the spark of creativity.


Telephone Pole
Telephone Poles

This started with a conversation with a fellow blogger. She responded to something I wrote about removing power lines from certain pictures. Sometimes, as in pictures made in the country, I think they should be removed. Sometimes, usually in a more urban setting, I think they are a big part of the composition.

Like this picture.

In fact, the telephone poles, power poles and power lines are the picture.

It ended, at least for yesterday, by reading a story in Rolling Stone Magazine. It was illustrated by a painter/illustrator/photographer/video maker called Matt Mahurin. I’ve followed his work for years. Sometimes I forget to revisit some of my favorite artists. I went to his website. It was all that I remembered. Looking at his work spoke to me. It convinced me that I’m on the right track. Make no mistake. I’m not an artist in the sense that he is. He sees things in complete pictures. He paints. He draws. He makes video.

I see things like a photojournalist. I have to find the picture. Discover the picture. I can’t paint, no matter how hard I try. My idea of making a video is strapping a GoPro to one of the dogs, pushing the button and letting her wander around. That can get pretty boring when she lies down and goes to sleep.

Being on the right track, for me, means taking the picture well beyond what I saw with my eyes when I pushed the button.  It means getting to the things I saw in my mind. What I felt in my heart. In my soul. That’s a little harder. Well, a lot harder.

It’s not all technique.

It’s a space that I fall into when I’m working. It doesn’t happen often. When it does, I don’t really know it until I see the pictures for the first time on the computer screen. Remember, I don’t chimp in the field.

This picture. This is a great example of seeing and feeling. The picture represents something that is very old school. In some cities — those that aren’t built on constantly shifting swamps or sand — all of those poles are gone and lines are buried. Not in New Orleans. This picture takes me back to something I used to see when I was a young boy.

This image also requires a little technology. Not just in post-production. But, in the field. It takes a longer lens to compress the poles into something that helps to illustrate what I felt. Once, the original picture is made then it’s time to tinker. I wanted the picture to feel old. Worn out. Beat up.

I think I got there. What do you think?

One more thing. That dog? She snores. When I played the audio portion back so she could hear it, she started barking at that other dog. Herself.


An American flat poking through the summer growth.
An American flag poking through the summer growth.

I got out of the car. I took the American flag picture. I didn’t like the framing so I got back into the car and changed lenses. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have looked in the right hand side mirror at an odd angle. I would not have seen the reflection picture.

So many times, it’s just a matter of luck. Timing. Looking in another direction. Turning your head. Standing up. Sitting down.

Often, when I see another photographer shooting a sunset, I suggest that they turn around.  If  it is one of those amazing, glorious events, then that light is falling on something behind you. Lighting it up. Even if you are determined to photograph the sunset, you might be amazed to see the “other” subject. It might have even been a little boring in high, white light. But, with that golden sunset light falling on it… well, you just never know.

Same thing with this.

I was focused on that flag through the foliage. I didn’t even look around… except to see that I was safe in what is a somewhat sporty neighborhood. I headed straight to my intended subject. Yes. I do that too.

These are still “extras” from fifteen days of post storm coverage. The flag picture meant more at the time than it does right now. Paring both pictures seems to help both of them. You know. 1 + 1 = 3. It’s also a lesson. For you. For me.

Looking back.
Looking back.


A piece of paper... or so it seems.
A piece of paper… or so it seems.

I found this crumpled piece of paper in my computer. No, no, no… that’s not it. I made this picture look this way. There is no crumpled picture. It’s all digital now. Zeros and ones. Data. But, you know that.

This is Florida Street. It’s located in the Lower 9th Ward. When you get to those two towers, which is really a kind of draw bridge, the street is closed. Water is seeping through the street and flooding it. Not over the street. Or around the street. Literally, through it. In a city that is mostly under sea level, this is probably the lowest neighborhood anywhere. It is a mix of Mississippi River water, which seeps in through the canals, and lake water which seeps in from the other direction that keeps the street wet.

Low Land.

And, the area is nasty. There used to be an old project there. You know. One of those places that housed a mass of human beings, supposedly for a short time. But, usually for generations. Most of that is gone now. Really gone. As in doesn’t exist. The rest is semi-fenced and abandoned. You can see part of the fence on the right. Barbed wire. Yes. We take our abandoned land seriously down here. The neighborhood got about 15 feet of water from Hurricane Katrina. When I say 15 feet of water. I mean 15 feet deep. Standing. Not surging. I have no idea how high the storm surge was. I suppose that I could Google that. But, I really don’t want to know.

Sunken Lands.

This is also very near to where I made the picture, “I’m getting paid regardless.” The neighborhood looks like that. Some houses have come back. Most have not. The further you get towards I-10, the more recovery you see. But, there are still things abandoned everywhere. Small businesses. Houses. Even a McDonald’s. The usual stuff. Have it your way. Indeed.

The picture. This is one of my drive-bys. Or, to be more accurate, drive through. I took it through the windshield of my very slowly moving car. If you see  two white spots below the bridge, those are headlights from a car coming toward me. I’m sure the driver was wondering what I was doing. Me too. What was I doing? Better yet, what was I thinking?

The rest is all post production. The sky was a light brighter and more happy. But, that’s not what I saw. This sunken land is very strange to me. I wanted to make the picture feel that way. It’s really just a world of strange design. Maybe you see that too.

 


On the other side of the tracks.
On the other side of the tracks.

So. Number two in a series of I’m not sure how many. Often times the folks who come to visit us only see our tourist side. That’s good. They like our French Quarter. They might get over to the warehouse district to look at art. They might get to Magazine Street and wander around eating and shopping as they go. But, they don’t get over to the 9th Ward and Holy Cross. In a way, that’s too bad. They might learn, as anybody who has studied some of our history knows, New Orleans was — and still is in some ways —  a blue-collar, industrial city. We are a port city. We are a major railroad hub, with trains rolling through that connect us to the rest of the nation in every direction. And, yes. We still roast and make coffee. For big national companies like Folgers. But, I know this. I’m not alone or all that smart. The people who have lived here for many generations love to tell stories. Like all people who are really “from here” they’ll keep you captivated with their tales. Once, at Lindy Boggs’ funeral, I met a guy who told me about the Quarter in the 1940s. He knew about it because he was born there. He was in his eighties. He was worth listening to. So, I did. That drives me. It drives me explore places like these. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t on any tour map. But, they exist. They are important.

So pictures. And, art. One of my fans — I think I have three — complimented me. My work is arty. Hmmm. For people like me, the word is artistic. I think. Even that makes me cringe. Artists are people who actually make something. Like a painting and creating a picture  out of whole clothe. Or, a sculpture. Or, a piece of pottery. Me? I just see things and take a picture. Sometimes I add a little “zotch,” something an old professor used to say when he saw a little sparkle in a photograph. Even that is a digital affectation that I can add by using software. I suppose that it helps me to fulfill my vision. But, it’s not much. Anybody can do it. Just buy a software suite called OnOne and have at it. Before you think that I’m slagging OnOne, I’m not. It’s brilliant software. But, if you master it or even just experiment with it, you can make pictures that look like mine too. The difference between me and somebody else is that I work hard. My work ethic is huge. I make pictures almost every day. And, if I don’t I get a little crazy. I practice a lot. I try to simplify my work. I try to simply my working methods. Some call that Zen. Others call it being lazy. All I know is that it helps me to see. Oh yeah. I’m also a bit of a magpie. I pick things up here and there, in piecemeal fashion.

And, that’s the story. The whole story. My rant for the day. Now, I think I’ll go take a picture. After I clean this studio.