If I was any closer.

I got a little too close.

I was working with a 10mm lens. That’s how close I was. I could have helped the musician in front play his tuba. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But, once I broke through the rope, well… let’s just say, I really broke through. I sort of trapped myself. I couldn’t get back outside of the rope. I could only move forward with the band. That would normally have been great, but the crowd was sort of too crowded.

Apparently, it kept growing. By the time the second line made its way back to Claiborne Avenue under the interstate, it looked like a big jazz funeral for somebody who is near and dear to the community. I wasn’t there. From where I was working I couldn’t double back.

I know this from posts on Instagram and on Twitter.  I get very little love there. I guess I should post directly, and I should take off my watermark so anybody could use my work for free. No matter what people keep saying about sharing, like it’s caring, I still think it’s image theft. They say that helps you get your name out there. Cool. I wonder how many photographers have generated paid work from getting “their work out there.”

It’s one thing to share your work to a closed system like WordPress. It’s another to share your work so far and wide that nobody knows that it’s your work. Watermarks are very easy to remove.

Anyway. That wasn’t the point of today’s discussion. The real point was the email I mentioned to your yesterday.  I can summarize it fairly easily. It all came down to “Why am I here?” I don’t know the particular answer, but in general I think we are here to serve somebody, either formally or informally. That can mean all sorts of things. For instance, a young parent serves his or her children by helping them to grow in a good human being. Or, you may serve somebody by doing a task for them. To a larger extent, politicians are here to serve you and me. But, they forget that. The list, like the road, goes on forever.

There were a lot of other particulars to my friend’s email. Some are silly. Some are serious.

From the silly side, comparing your photo gear to someone else’s gear. I always say that it doesn’t matter how much gear you have, it’s how you use it. Besides, in travel situations, too much gear slows you down. It forces unnecessary fumbling around while the picture leaves.

Some were more serious. The rapid decline of his physical health while he was in a place that is known to have horrible air quality with large airborne particulates.  Scary. If you are around my age or older, think real hard about going there. For sure, there are ways to train yourself for certain events. In sports they talk about getting in baseball shape, or football shape. If I were doing a photo tour that required a lot of walking, that’s how I’d train. There is really no way to train for bad air quality. Bring a mask an oxygen bottle I guess.

Anyway, that was my story for yesterday.

On a housekeeping note. Mardi Gras parade season sort of starts with a walking parade on Saturday night. The Krewe of Chewbacchus. As you might guess from that name that it is on the weird side. It is. It’s fun. It used to be held on a day with other parades. It grew so big and so unwieldy, that the powers that be moved it up by a week. It is more or less an unofficial parade that became popular.  I’ll be out there. I’ll do my best not to cripple myself for the rest of parade season.

Then it really begins. Mardi Gras parade season. I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph it. For the past few years I worked at the start so I could make somewhat unique pictures. Unique became same and now I’m trying to figure out new locations and more commercially useful pictures. It’ll come to me in a dream. Or, in the shower.

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The queen and her court.

Royalty in Blue.

The queen and her court roll by at the head of the Treme Sidewalk Steppers second line. This was a big deal since it is their 25th Anniversary.

Unfortunately, they start on Rampart Street across from the Quarter. A few years ago, they started putting up police barricades and hiring security guards. You know the ones. The ones who wear badges that say the word security. The kind you can buy online for ten dollars.

I dealt with it that year, didn’t go last year and decided to get as far away from that silliness as I could this year. I went into what was just about my old neighborhood. The same so-called company was still working the ropes. I just walked around them.

I actually don’t like to photograph the floats since I normally can’t get a good angle on them. I did this time. I sort of had to make a picture like this because the actual second line was chaotic. The brass band was scattered amongst the walkers. The walkers were all over the place. The guys with the ropes couldn’t control anything. Everybody walked around them.

I let the second line come to me. That was the best thing that I could have done. I stood on my little patch of ground and made pictures.

That’s the story of the picture.

I have another story. It deals with wondering what we why we are on the planet. A friend of mine sent me an email about that. I don’t know why people come to me. I’m no guru. I barely understand what I do, let alone what others do. I have to process his words before I reply to him. Then, I may talk about it here. In general terms. No sense in embarrassing anybody when they are reaching out. Or, ever, really.


Smokers.

I know where I am.

When I smell the food smoking away. Street food. BBQ working away. Grilling big sausages. Often with the cooks hidden in a cloud of pungent smoke.

You know how I feel about street food. I love it. In any place. In any city. On any continent. I know that it’s freshly cooked. I know that it’s safe since it prepared over an open and hot flame. And, it’s inexpensive. A good sausage with all the fixings costs $5.00. No. There aren’t any sides. This is street food. Handed to you by a guy who is wearing black rubber gloves. Mechanic’s gloves.

If you want a drink of anything, you’ll have to go find another vendor. If it’s the hard stuff your after, it’s $5.00. That’s for two unmeasured shots over ice, or not, in a plastic cup. There are free mixers. They are very plain. Coca Cola. Royal Crown Cola. Orange Juice. Ginger Ale.

There ain’t no craft cocktails here. No Cosmopolitans.

I drink water. That’s a dollar a bottle.

The picture. I’ve been waiting for this picture a long time. It’s hard to find. The scene was damn near perfect. A lot of light gray smoke. It was backlighted to illuminate the smoke. The light also gave the leaves in the background a sparkling quality. The cook was built well and made a good silhouette.

And, I was talking to a videographer friend of mine who shoots tape for a radio station. Yeah. I know. This is New Orleans that we are talking about. He helped me by blocking passersby from getting in between me and the scene. He really didn’t have to do much. He mostly just stood there.

All I did was pick my moment and press the button. The exposure, which I pre-set, was dead on. I only had to clean up a little bit in post production. This is what I did instead of watching “The Lame Bowl.” Then we paraded all around the city. We had a lot more fun than the fine folks of Atlanta. The general consensus around the country was that New Orleans did much better than the two teams who played. I forget who they are. Maybe you can help? Our music was certainly better than the half time entertainment.

For the coincidence seekers among you, here’s one. The New Orleans Saints record during the 2018 season was 13 – 3. That’s 13 wins and two loses. The game score was 13 – 3. The winning team scored thirteen points, whoever they were. The losers scored three. That made it the lowest scoring lame bowl in history. It was beyond boring, so they say. Even the announcers couldn’t resist tearing the game down.

That’s how bad it was.


It’s all in the eyes.

The street.

A place that I enjoy working. I like to make pictures that are a slice of time. Photographs that are a glance. On the street.

Pictures that are an image of an idea.

Pictures that take you there.

Pictures that let you feel.

Pictures from the inside.

Pictures that are from my insides. From my eyes. From my brain. From my soul. From my heart.

That’s the deal. My deal.

Sometimes it works. Often, it doesn’t. It worked a lot this past Sunday. You’ll see over the next few days.

The picture. I got stuck in the middle of the band. That happens when you work closely. Those out of focus areas in front of the tuba player are other band members. I was working on the inside. Just that close. The tuba player’s reflective sunglasses are what caught my eye. Even though we were in constant motion, I managed to make three good frames of him. Photographer’s luck. And, my ability to walk sideways and forward at the same time. The development and post production was easy after that.

That’s it for a Monday morning.


Smile.
Smile.

… they are just in the wrong order.

The Treme Sidewalk Steppers Second Line.

They packed just about everything they could into it. A huge van that was essentially a giant speaker. The krewes, themselves. The normal brass bands. A large group of unknown security people.  A high school marching band. A lot of big money donors. Oh, and a guy dressed like a Mardi Gras Indian.

Normally, there is sort of chaos to any second line parade. That’s the fun of it. And, it’s sort of controlled. Controlled chaos. That comes from respect. We all respect each other.

This one. Not so much. Sheesh. They planned to start early at 11:30am. They actually started about 45 minutes late. That’s normal. The NOPD normally try to push it along since city streets are blocked. I’m not sure they could get to the organizers. When the second line did start, it ran right into the last runners of the Rock n’ Roll Marathon who were coming down Esplanade. Two blocks away. Did I use the word planning? Did I mean it?

You know me. I don’t complain about this stuff. At the very least, there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing I actually somehow managed to get the job done. At best, it almost a religious experience and I walk away with a sort of high. A lot of times it’s somewhere in the middle. All good.

The pictures. No talent. All luck. All technology. The new lens is magic. No reason in the world for these pictures to exist. But, that lens…

Illegal smiles.
Illegal smiles.

 

 

 

 


Tuba, a tool of the trade.
Tuba, a tool of the trade.

… the truth, everything else is just cheap whiskey.

There you have it. Cheap whiskey. Nothing more. Nothing less. I think I’ll forget about any rumors about anything until I know it to be true. For me. At any level. Anywhere.

That said, tools of the trade. That’s what these pictures are about.  Sparkling. Glowing. Well used. Beaten up. Doesn’t matter. They serve a purpose. A great purpose. Just like cameras are for me. I once had someone tell me that they were mostly using their smart phone, even the they had a closet full of beautiful Nikon cameras.

Whaaaa?

I may buy new camera bodies. Experiment with new lenses. They are well maintained. But, they are my tools. Of my trade. They aren’t beautiful to me. They are technological marvels. Think about the digital processing ability in those little, tiny bodies. Whew. Amazing. But, Beautiful? Not to me. I buy them, trade them and sell them when I need something that helps me do my job a little better.

I recently bought a new lens. An 18-105 mm G Series Sony. After all the trials and travails of the last second line, I made a couple of really good pictures. Whether we all agree on the causes, we all agree that the second pretty much was chaotic. And, not in a good way.

This lens. Is magic. I made more keepers than I do on a good day. As I said to a friend, my pictures at this second line are a result of technology and luck. Not talent.

I want to amend that slightly. No photographic talent. When you push me, I push back. Not physically. Although it almost came to that with the undertaker. Nah. I just grind away harder. Some people flow like water. I really admire that. Boy, do I admire that. Me? I have a sort of grinding ethos. Like a marginal New York Yankees baseball team.

The pictures. Pre-parade. While I trying to sort out the mood of the parade.  The tools of the trade. If you look closely at the top picture, those guys have all the tools of their trade. A tuba, ragged jeans. And, a beer.

Sparkling brass.
Sparkling brass.


Father and Son at the Treme Second Line.
Father and Son at the Treme Second Line.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This picture illustrates it almost perfectly. I made it during “Treme Sidewalk Steppers Annual Second Line Parade.”

Here’s the story. The paraders walk over long routes. People sort of jump in and out depending on where they might happen to be at the time. The parade also takes breaks at certain stops in the neighborhood. Our first break came at Kermit Ruffins’ Speakeasy. It’s a neighborhood bar, club and restaurant. Kermit is closing it in a few weeks. But, it’s all good. He bought the old Ernie K. Doe’s Mother in Law Lounge and would rather put his business energy there. After all, he is a hard-working musician and he was beginning to stretch himself a little too thin. I believe he plays six nights a week at various clubs around town. He takes breaks from those standing jobs when he a special gig somewhere, like at Jazzfest.

Anyway.

We stopped and the main line (the Sidewalk Steppers and the brass band) started milling around. I was standing next to the guy with the cigar, when out of nowhere comes his son, dressed just like his dad. He threw his arms around his dad and there I was. Click. Click. Click. When they saw me, they sort of straightened up a bit and posed for me. I gave dad my card and asked him to call me. When he does, I’ll give him a few prints. Likely, he’ll want the more posed pictures. But, to me, this is the moment. The decisive moment.