What catches my eye. 

Motion. Color.

Those are a couple of things that inform my photography. It doesn’t matter whether the subject is a Mardi Gras parade, as you see in this picture, or if it is some other subject like a city at night. Sure, making tack sharp pictures of a city is one thing, but showing the city alive is quite another.

Both have a place in my work. I’m a storyteller. A complete story has both kinds of imagery and everything else in between.

But.

Motion and color catch my eye first. In many ways, I should shoot video. Unfortunately, I’ve never been attracted to that process. Unfortunately? Yes, because that’s where the money lives. You don’t have to be a big time film maker to triple your income if you switch from stills to video.

I’ve thought about it. But, doing it in a way that actually is useful to somebody else  really is the word I just used — a process. More equipment. More investment. More editing. Much more time. In many ways it is the real life study of the phrase “you get what you pay for.”

Anyway.

I try to make still imagery in a way that gives you a taste of the color and motion that I saw. Yesterday I posted a picture that pretty much illustrates the decisive moment. Today, this picture shows you how I arrived there. What I saw. What I felt. Same subject, made in a very different way. I wonder which you like better. For me, it’s this picture. It’s the energy of Mardi Gras. The energy of a parade. And, the energy of young adults doing what they enjoy. Playing music while participating in a yearly event.

I’d like to tell you how I made this picture. But… the best I can do is to tell you to slow down the shutter speed to at least 1/8 of a second. Close down the f-stop to at least f8 or maybe even f11. Then work away. Don’t chimp — look at your camera’s monitor — and just keep looking, seeing, and photographing. When you get home you might have something that works. Something that you like. I’ll tell you one more technical thing. Working this way insures that your image won’t have noise in it.

 

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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.


Massive brass at the Mandela second line parade.
Massive brass at the Mandela second line parade.
Leading the parade.
Leading the parade.
Dancing in the streets.
Dancing in the streets.
Dancing for the crowd.
Dancing for the crowd.
Brass and my favorite building.
Brass and my favorite building.
The first song.
The first song.

I’m not sure what there is left to say. Every possible media covered, reported on and opined on the passing of Nelson Mandela. In New Orleans, we say goodbye with a combination of jazz funeral and second line parade. Often, second lines are wonderous and amazing events. They can stretch out for blocks. As they pass from neighborhood to neighborhood, people hang out on their stoops and balconies. They dancing in the streets. This one was a little different. Because the neighborhood was The French Quarter, the actual second line was fairly compact, but very dense. There were a huge amount of walking and playing musicians. Some of the bigger, more senior, local names turned out. The played. They sang. They danced. They sent Mandela off in the only way we know how. Happily. Celebrating. Chanting. Singing. Dancing. Smiling.

The pictures. Well, it would have taken three or four of me to do this justice. One place from which to work would be from somewhere overhead. An open window. A balcony. A rooftop. There could have been three people working in the crowd. One from the front. One in the middle and one trailing from the side.

But, I’m just one guy.

So. I did what I always do. I tried to work from the inside out. I think I achieved that. I also thought about this parade a little more. I decided to move away from isolating people into a single subject picture. Instead, I tried to show the mass, the depth and the density of the crowd. Hopefully, I pulled it off. Why don’t y’all tell me?