New Mexican Transportation.

W

hen I was a young child my family used to travel from Long Beach, California to Brooklyn, New York. In those days we either took Santa Fe’s El Capitain or Super Chief.

Those were the days. The food was great. The cars were luxurious. The staff was helpful and friendly. Though the ride was very long, it was enjoyable. Four nights total. We were traveling coast to coast.

Usually, the train was at least three hours late. Once your train got late, it kept getting later because we’d pull over for passing freight trains. We didn’t know it at the time but passenger trains lost money, while freight trains were big earners.

That caused real problems for us.

If our late arriving train was any later than three hours, we’d have to stay over night in Chicago.

If we got a little lucky we could travel across the city to another train station to catch a New York Central System — later a Penn/Central — train to New York City called The Broadway Limited. That train was usually late too.

That didn’t matter because all we did was catch a taxi from Grand Central Station to 16th Street in Brooklyn.

Amtrak is a ghost of those days. In 1971 all but one of the legacy railroad companies joined a national system called Amtrak in an effort to staunch the flow of red ink. It’s never worked. One by one, routes were closed.

Coastal trains still flourish, sort of. Long distance coast to coast trains are not so great even with fairly new equipment.

Until this year.

President Biden is a big fan of Amtrak. He famously used to work in Washington D.C. and return home each night to Delaware. He supports Amtrak and is looking to fund it as part of the infrastructure bill.

Amtrak immediately started to plan new routes and restore older routes. Cities and towns are clamoring for new or restored service.

We’ll see.

T

rain time. That’s a song. I cannot count how many train songs have been written.

There’s a reason for that.

At the very least, riding the rails is romantic. At it’s best, it is wonderful way to relax while still moving toward your destination.

This photograph is part of my Picture A Day project. I’m fairly fearless when I approach people. I asked if I could take their picture and they were happy to pose. But, they’re used to it. Train riders take pictures of them all the time.

All I did to the picture is darken it, which seems to be a trend for me these days.

Oh, and the headline?

This is post number two. I was trying to multi-task and forgot to schedule it.

So, you received two posts yesterday. Storyteller Squared.

Sorry about that.


It’s green.

Sometimes, there’s no winning. I couldn’t do it yesterday so I shut the conversation down. I couldn’t get through. Everything was an excuse. Or, a weird kind of arrogance. I have no use for that.

Oh well. Another war lost. One I shouldn’t have fought.

These two pictures are of the same location. They were made from a parking lot in Jefferson Parish. If I’m not mistaken, they are the same frame. They are just reworked in two different ways.

I did this to teach myself something about processing because there is a lot of things I have yet to learn, especially in the digital world, which is often an enigma to me.

No matter what happens, learning is paramount. If you aren’t a life long learner in at least one thing, I’m pretty sure that early onset dementia sets in.

Oh, it’s not that extreme. But, you know what I mean.

You learn. The first thing is technique. Then, come a lot of things. Feeling. The ability to leave spaces for the work to breath. And, then to be able to strip the work down to its barest essentials without losing the feeling and intent.

That’s the key to knowing.

Two photographs. Two photographs processed in very different ways.

The first way was to just make a kind of art. Or, to make the sky look like it did in Los Angeles when I was growing up. Green.

The second image looks like night even though I made it at about 11am. The film industry calls their technique “Day for Night.”

I didn’t use that. Instead, I removed the color until it was black and white and I darkened it until night came to the picture.

That’s it. The take away is simple. You don’t always need filters. You can do it yourself.

You can.

Like night.


Train under a fluid sky.

On a Sunday morning. I realized I haven’t published multiple pictures in some time. I’ve been photographing bits and piece of trains forever because I like them. I grew up riding the Super Chief and the El Capitan and eventually The City of Los Angeles from Los Angeles to New York City via Chicago.

Of course passenger service isn’t what it was. Amtrak is always broke because Congress won’t fund it properly. When they do money is poured into the Eastern Corridor which is mostly a long distance commuter line The runs from Boston through New York City and into Washington D.C.

The trains there are already pretty good. Soon that line will be getting trains that are capable of European fast speeds. Of course, timing is everything. How many people are commuting anywhere in the age of the pandemic?

It’s the long haul trains that are getting worse by the minute. Amtrak markets them as being great. Read the comments on Facebook to find out they aren’t. I rode trains at the end of their glory years. They weren’t good then and they are worse now.

The last time that I travelled on a train from the West Coast to the East Coast was in 1969. In 1970, amid massive losses in profit, passenger service was nationalized into Amtrak.

History shows us that passenger trains were never money makers, except for the years during World War II. Even in the days of fast steam engines and streamlined cars freight subsidized passenger revenue.

There’s some history for you.

That’s the long way of saying that I still like trains and I’ll photograph them where I find them. If you like them too, type #trains into the search box in Facebook and watch the fun.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. And, always take a ride on the Reading Railroad. If you pass go collect $200.

Pictures, pictures, everywhere. I’ve been just making railroad pictures whenever I see something that catches my eye.

I try very hard to let the picture guide me in post production. That’s why each picture has its own look.

Unfortunately, the picture in the middle of three wanted to go off into outer space. I tried to guide it back but it liked it out there so I left it alone.

GT. What is GT? Not only did the government scoop up all the passenger lines, but they bought most of he freight lines on the east coast and called it ConRail. Eventually, the government got out of the freight transportation business and sold ConRail to different carriers. Canadian National came along later and started buying up railroad companies east of the Mississippi River. Grand Trunk was one of them even though they weren’t much of a company by then.

Most engines were branded CN. Sometimes, they just left them in their original livery. Those are the ones I like. They are beat up, rusty and look their age, which is this case is 40 years old.


A little heavy.

The minute I said that I was a little blocked a picture came running up to me. That’s how it goes sometimes. Say it and claim it. The problem evaporates.

I suppose that we are all in a state of suspended animation waiting for the results of the presidential election. Some media like Fox — Trump’s favorite loudspeaker — called Arizona for Biden. So did the AP.

Trump blew up at both of them. I generally read The New York Times or Washington Post. I trust them. Trust the AP too. I do not trust Fox, but because they are such a conservative loudspeaker I suppose that I do in this case.

None of that matters.

Trump is going to sue everybody that he can. Unnamed sources say that he is in a horrible mood and seems resigned to losing.

We’ll see.

Most of my friends are just plain upset. We all fear for our country. What does it mean that 60% of all white men voted for Trump? What does it mean when he gained Hispanic and Black votes?

What does that say about The United States?

A friend of mine says that he wants to move to a foreign country. Maybe California. God, I grew up there. Why did I ever leave?

And, so it goes.

Railroads. I love them. When I was growing up, my parents thought it was good idea to pack up for part of the summer, take the train, and go to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn rivals New Orleans for heat and humidity during the summer.

Of course we had a few ways of cooling down. Most of them were illegal. Getting a big wrench from the basement and opening up the fire plugs was just one of them.

But, this is about the picture. It came running at me so I stood my ground and pushed the button.

Simple as that.

Then I went crazy in post production and made sure that you knew it was dusk when the engines found me.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Be patient.


Seeing reflections.

My eyes.

I see things that others might not. I think this is the part of photography that can’t be taught. This is where talent comes into play. It’s not artistic talent. It’s not like being able to paint. Or, play music. That’s talent.

Seeing is something else entirely. It’s something given to those of us who have it. I could look at something and see maybe five pictures. Someone else might just pass it by.

I suppose it’s like singing. Some people were born with a thick set of vocal cords, which are really flaps. They can sing from the moment they open their mouth. Other singers are trained. They do good work with what they have.

I see photography and music in the same way. Both industries have been blown apart, and I’m not talking about the results of the pandemic. Even before that, it was getting harder and harder to earn a living.

The onrush of the digital world hurt us both. Photography has gotten to the point that anyone can take a picture. With a little more effort, almost anyone can record a song and upload it to any number of streaming platforms.

Are the pictures good? Is the song good? That’s a matter of taste.

But, the marginal songs and pictures get in the way of the good work. It becomes mostly noise and very little signal. You have to fight your way through all of the pictures and songs to find the good stuff. The one big difference between the two art forms is that a musician with a record deal has his or her record label to do the heavy lifting of promoting, distributing and marketing the song.

That’s partially why photographers blog, and post to all manner of social media platforms. We hope someone will see us. Again, there are so many pictures floating around that it’s very hard to find us.

I believe that the one way to find us is with proper meta tagging or key wording. Folks searching for a particular image might find it by just typing a few words. The process of tagging takes time and effort. It’s probably the most time consuming phase of posting to Storyteller. You can’t see them, but every picture I post here has 15 tags embedded in the file. That’s done at the final stage of post production.

How are you enabling people to find your work when they’d start with a Google search?

The Picture

I was walking by a car when I saw a leaf perched on the metal of the window frame. I worked the image until I was mostly not in the photograph. I’m still there. Find the photographer.

The picture is a great example of seeing. My seeing. This picture is not obvious. I think most people would walk by and not see it. Others might see it and not react.

No post production was needed other than to crop and make it a little darker. It was easy work.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your damn masks — don’t make me come in there. Enjoy every leaf.


Take a look around.

I want to make a point.

A friend of mine published his blog last week. It was a recap of a recap because he hadn’t finished working on pictures that he took while he was traveling via a cruise. That’s what he usually posts.

He listened to me when I suggested that he work a little more freely by using smaller more hand holdable cameras. He may have gone too far because all he uses is one of the smallest Sony fixed lens cameras. That’s another story.

The real story is this. He very rarely works around home. To me, that’s death for a number of reasons.

First, and most importantly, photographers always think about pictures and work everywhere. I make some of my best work a few minutes out of my door.

Two, I can’t ever work cold. I must practice. I must rehearse. When I walk onto the stage of an assignment my chops are elevated. I’m ready to work. I don’t need to shoot until I feel comfortable because I am already comfortable.

Three, the world is a big place. Going to photographable locations generally means that you’ll make derivative pictures. You’ll be copying someone else’s work. Or, as we used to say you’ll be looking for tripod holes. As the very well known photographer, Sam Abell once said, “take YOUR picture.”

So.

I made this picture. I don’t know how good the picture is, but it’s about as good as the umbrella in the pool picture that I published yesterday. You know exactly what it is. You walk by, over and around, yellow parking lot stripes maybe every day. I did find two cars to frame it. And, I did a little magic in post production.

My point is fairly simple. Take, make or think pictures all the time. Don’t wait to travel. Don’t go out specifically go out to look for “photo ops,” a term that I dislike. For me there are no photo ops. There is only the world. The big world. A smaller world. And, my world.

Think about that.

 


Way Out West.

Morning fingers.

Hopefully, I stopped the first post before WordPress posted it. We’ll see.

I’ve been rooting around in my files, looking for unseen pictures. You know, lost pictures. Same thing happens in music except now original masters are lost forever because a UMG (Universal Music Group) storage facility burned to the ground. The list of musician losses is heartbreaking. This happened almost ten years ago. The facts are just emerging now.

Same thing happens with photography. I lost just about all my slide film archives to Hurricane Katrina. Even the few images that were salvageable stank from that murky flood water. Luckily, the good material had already been scanned and traveled with me. Still…

The work that I am starting to post now, is from portable hard drives that also traveled with me. I haven’t seen it in a long time. You’ve never seen it. I started digging around in the old archive for images that will be used in a couple of projects. And, started finding some pretty interesting pictures.

This picture is not one of them.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t like it.

I did what I call contemporary post production on a RAW file. This picture is very salable. Since I’m trying to build passive sales for me, and eventually for my estate, this is just one more thing to stack upon my pile of stuff to do. This won’t get done in a summer. If I can market about 20 of these old — but classic works — every month, I’ll build a nice collection of revenue producing images.

This picture. I-25. Near Santa Fe, New Mexico. I saw a little exit with a slight grade so I got off the interstate and found a good vantage point. I waited for the right trucks to pass by. That contemporary post production that I mentioned? The finishing touch is to use a setting called glow and bring the radius back to almost zero. The sky turned all soft while the subject remained sharp and silhouetted.


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.


Purple skies and the future.

It’s not a Sunday picture,

Well.

It is. Sorta.

A long time back I use to publish “Experimental Sunday.” It was a sort of predictable Sunday feature when I posted images that I was tinkering with, or worse, making unrecognizable. Like this one.

I call it this picture, “Lonely Future.” It’s about all the constant regulatory roll backs of the current United States leadership. No people. No cars. Just weirdly colored skies.

This image didn’t start out this way. I wasn’t intending to make a political statement. I just kept starting. Stopping. Starting again. Pretty soon. The starts took over the stops. And, here we are.

Sort of like real life.

I suppose you could call it an accidental picture. People talk about an intentional life. Heh! Good luck with that. After all, “they” say the history is just a collection of accidents. “They” might be right. Think about that.

This picture might be a collection of mistakes. I followed it wherever the colors and applications took me. I always do that. I want the picture to teach me about it. I don’t want to exert my influence. That’s just about the same way that I make my best pictures in the field. You know. The old saying.

“Don’t take the picture. Let the picture take you.”

And, that’s the trick.