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.
And, so they did. If a second line starts and rain falls in the middle of it, everybody keeps going unless the rain starts blowing sideways and upside down. Anything else is just a drizzle to them. And, us.
There’s a lesson in that. Don’t be denied.
There’s a lesson in that too. Here we are on the tenth day of January and I’m already reading about people who are starting to lose their way in 2019. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the leadership in The United States just isn’t up to the job. I watched both speeches last night. Afterwards, we all said the same the same thing. “That’s a half hour of my life I’ll never get back.”
For other people, the year started out terribly. People got sick. People got fired. A friend died.
You know what? That’s life. As John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Suck it up. Pull up your big boy and girl pants and move on. In a war long ago and far away, when something really bad happened, the African American troops used to say, “Ain’t no thang. Drive on.”
Drive on, indeed.
For anyone who thought that just because the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019 things were going to get easier, disabuse yourself of that notion. This may be the hardest year yet. Hopefully, when we come to the end of it, all the hard work, suffering and some pain will be worth it. Maybe. Maybe not. We may have another year to go.
This is your “Come to Jesus” speech for today.
Now, don’t make me come out there and give it again. Heh. How many of us heard something like that when we were growing up? If you were like I was, it was a daily occurrence. Or, it was this variation. “Just wait until your father comes home.” Or, “Apologize to her right now,” said with a stamp of your mom’s feet after you did something to your sister. I’m just talking here. I wouldn’t know anything about that. Heh. No. Not me. Never. Heh.
The picture. It’s a couple of weeks old. I’m trying to photograph second lines, but post them less because I’m not sure that you understand them. That’s what the numbers say, anyway. When I make good picture — something like this one — I know you understand music, I’ll post it. Besides, the guy playing his trumpet right at me is my pal on the scene, Kevin. He likes seeing his picture. He’s a musician. What do you expect? It proves that he was out there. For that matter, it proves that I was out there.
Website update three. I have two more things to do. Figure out how to make my portfolio be found and accessed easier. And, figure out how to attach PayPal to those images. I want that to be seamless so that when you want to buy or license an image, you don’t even have to contact me. Did you read that? YOU. BUY. LICENSE.
That’s my biggest change. A change in my personal viewpoint. It took my Storyteller break to help me see the difference. It took those days to help me understand that I’d better stop reading so much bad news. More importantly, I stopped reading viewers comments at news websites. Both sides are nuts. I’m not on either side. Most people seem siloed. The more you try to change them, the deeper they dig. They angrier they get. I’m not angry.
Who needs that?
Even though I don’t make New Year resolutions, I did kind of did make one. By all accounts 2018 was a disaster. It left everybody unhappy, depressed, out of sorts. Me too. A lot of that was well beyond my control. You know what I’m talking about. Some of it is within my grasp, yet I didn’t do much to fix it.
That can’t go on.
For me, personally, if I live my life feeling negatively I don’t get much done.
Let’s just use Storyteller as an example. I started worrying about my yearly numbers. Don’t do that. It starts a cycle of posting for one reason only. Reader views and likes. Those numbers add up to nothing. Instead of doing that, post your truth. Post your best picture whether or not you think it will be well received. Post your best story. Let it fly.
Stop overtly selling.
There are a couple of bloggers that I’ve just stopped reading. They wrote a book. In an effort to drive people to the book, they stopped telling their stories. Everything is sell, sell, sell. Lead me to your work. Don’t shove it down my throat. That’s sort of a rule among more sophisticated sales people.
Besides. Probably 20% of the emails I receive want to sell me something. Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram have become never-ending sales tools. Don’t drown me in it. My reaction is to never buy anything. We both lose. You don’t make a sale. And, I don’t know what I missed.
I’m not leaving social media unless personal security becomes a bigger issue than it already has. I want everybody to see my work. But, I’m not going to convince you to buy it. I’m not going to share most news events and I’m not going to get in what used to be called a flame contest. There’s no need.
I’d rather post about art. In all of its forms. That’s what I understand best. That’s what I like.
That said, this picture. I made it at a second line. The tuba, or sousaphone if you want to split hairs, was resting. It was waiting to be played on a long walk through Central City. I saw it. I photographed it.
You can look at the picture in one of two ways.
The instrument is busted up. The sidewalk behind it is busted it up. My city is busted up.
Or, it’s well-worn and repaired from playing a lot of music. The sidewalk is torn up because the city is 300 years old and that’s why a lot of us live here.
Yeah, sure. There is plenty to repair. The streets are potholed. The water pipes and pumping stations break down. Power fails.
Yet, one yearly statistic made me smile. The murder rate was lowest that it’s been in 50 years. That’s a start. A pretty big start. Hang on to that and build. Build a little more. And, keep building.
A little housekeeping. The new website/blog is about ready. I’m a little afraid to push the button. There are a couple of reasons for this. They all center around the unknown.
I have no idea what Facebook and Twitter will see through my distribution channels. I have no idea whether I can build portfolio pages from which pictures are sold or licensed. I have no idea about static background pages that are not the main page. And, I don’t know if I can post multiple pictures in one post. There is no going back once I push the button. I can’t know those things until I do that.
I suppose that I should jump and fix things on the fly. Nobody will die if I get parts of it wrong.
In New Orleans, the music is everything. Musicians play in clubs. They play on street corners. They play in high school marching bands. They play in small brass bands. They are a major part of any parade, big or small.
When a second line is getting ready to start, the tuba starts it. It is a big heavy instrument that replaces bass notes and is carried around for five, six, seven or more miles. In Mardi Gras parades the distance is greater. Around 12 miles. But, those are walked by high school and college students. Their recovery time is less. Good. Because, they might do it again tomorrow. For second lines, the musicians vary in age, from the youngest, right out of high school, to veterans who have been walking the street for 40 years. Think about it. You are 50 years old. You are carrying a 40 pound instrument. And, you are walking five or six miles. Maybe more.
The picture. As you all know by now, I photograph what I see. I made this picture at The Krewe of Barkus well before the actual parade began. Often, the musicians lay down their gear and hang out with other musicians. As long as you don’t touch their resting instruments, they don’t care what you do. So I took pictures. I helped this one in post production with a little more golden color and glow.
This post is short. Not because I don’t have much to say. That’s never stopped me before. Oddly, I do have few things to say. Today. See what I did there?
Big storm a comin’. I’m checking the weather channels to see what parades will be postponed, and cancelled. And, planning and reacting accordingly. Normally, when a rain storm moves into the area during the parade season of Mardi Gras, the parade keeps rolling. There are a ton of reasons for this. Not the least being with already tight schedules there is often no place to add another rescheduled parade. More importantly, there is a huge disappointment factor. The krewes work for about a year getting ready. If their parade is cancelled, well… how would you feel?
This storm is big. The weather folks are predicting four inches of rainfall over a couple of hour span. That’s a lot of water. With our barely functioning pumping system that gets dangerous. For everybody. You never know where the streets will flood.
This picture is sort of a placeholder. You’ll see this at almost any pre-parade location. Bands waiting. Getting ready. Relaxing. Before a six or eight miles walk carrying heavy instruments. Mardi Gras parades are even longer. More like 12 miles. Think about this. Every brass band or marching band member should be among your heroes. Can you walk six to 12 miles carrying a 30-40 pound weight know as a tuba? Okay, okay. A Sousaphone.
Our prayers and thoughts go out to the people who live along the Gulf Coast in Texas. Twelve years ago, they came for us. Now, it’s our turn. Whatever they need. Whenever they need it. You’d have to have been here and gone through a major storm to really feel it deep inside. We did. We know.
Our hearts are in our throats.
Thank you for reaching out. We are fine here in New Orleans. Right now, it looks like we will get about 6 inches of rain over a four-day time span. That’s about like a normal summer storm. Yes, some parts of the city have other worries. All the pumps are not yet functional. Some of the electric turbines are still not up to full speed, and, for certain, the drainage system needs about 20 years of work. But, everybody is well aware of the issues and what we need to do.
So far, mixed sun and clouds. No rain. No wind.
I mostly only pay attention to the NOAA hurricane reports since that’s what the local television stations weather people read. I reckon given their percentage of being wrong and right, I’m about as qualified to read them as they are. Besides, I know when to shelter in place and when to evacuate. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
The picture. I made it on the day of the Great American Solar Eclipse. While I was waiting. My first inclination was to make the picture with just the tuba, the bench and the bicycle in it. But — aha — this woman came walking by. Those magenta tights were just the ticket to make the picture a little brighter and more colorful. I had to wait a minute because there was somebody walking in front of her. That turned out to be a good thing since she framed herself with that square sign board. Luck. Luck. And, more luck.
I photographed the Mother’s Day second line hosted by the Original 7 Junior Steppers. I’ve done it since the mass shooting four years ago. No fear. But, this day was especially poignant with the passing of Deborah (Big Red) Cotton.
I set out to work. And, work I did. I made some 600 digital exposures. By the time I finish culling and editing I will probably cut that down to no more than 60 pictures. You won’t see more than 10 or so of them. That’s how I work. Less is more.
Hopefully, my curating skills are up to the task. I haven’t really started it yet. I’m trying to give the pictures enough time to marinate. For the record, the phrase was first said by a friend of mine. He doesn’t blog. I just gave it a lot of exposure.
The picture. This is pre-parade. The musicians gather around, say hello, and decide what to play. Most of the songs are pretty much street standards so there isn’t much of a need to rehearse. Besides, the minute the tuba starts, everybody would think the second line is starting. That would be confusing to say the least. The condition of the instrument is — in a word — beat. This is likely a student tuba that was recovered after the storm. It still honks, so there is no problem.
Post production. There isn’t any except for what’s necessary. After all this is a RAW file.
When you hear the first notes from the tuba you know the second line is about to begin. Playing a tuba is hard work. It’s heavy. The musician playing it walks about five or six miles. Maybe more. So, until it’s time to go to work, the tuba sits quietly on the ground.
I know. I know. Some of you have made comments like, “When my child played an instrument, it was alway stored carefully in its case. It would never be left just sitting on the ground.” For me, the operative word is “When.” Does he or she still play? If not, why not?
These guys are working musicians. Once they learned to play, they never stopped. They have gig bags. They transport their gear in them. They take the bags off their instruments and leave them in their cars. After all, do they really want to carry around one more thing that they won’t be using on a five or six-mile walk? This time of year walking is a little easier. Just wait until they are walking in July. In 98 degree heat. And, about 95% humidity.
That’s the other thing. Some of these guys may be too big. They may carry too much weight. But, they are true athletes. Maybe in the Russian weightlifter sense. You try carrying a tuba around in the heat of summer. You’ll see.
The picture. The true grab shot of grab shots. See all those legs in the picture? They were walking all around the tuba. I timed the exposure so that I had a clear view. For less than a second.
… 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.
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.
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