Looking forward.

New Orleans.

You don’t think of my city this way. It’s true. We are funky. We are old. We have many buildings that are well over 100 years old. Houses in the Garden District are 150 years old. My first house in the 7th Ward was built in 1837. It was the second common house that was built on a plantation that grew indigo. You know. The stuff that makes your blue jeans, blue.

First and foremost for most of our history, New Orleans is a port city. A business hub. People worked here to sell cotton, sugar, rice. They imported coffee and vegetables from South America. The Bywater, which has become gentrified and a place to go for dinner and to stay in Air BnB lodging, was the country’s chief importer and processor of coffee. And, bananas.

That’s all changed. But, we still have a pretty good-sized business district. These days a lot of former office spaces have been converted into condo and high-end apartments.

After all, our biggest business is tourism.

That’s kind of too bad. We’ve gone from making, and doing, to serving. That happened long before my time. I have no issue with that except… the local newspaper just published a study on salaries in the service industry.

Unless you have a name as a chef or something equivalent, the highest pay you’ll make is around $14.85 per hour. It goes down from there. That’s not good. Not in a city that has rapidly gentrified. Not in a city where most of the folks who are part of the culture that tourists come here to see can’t afford to live here. In a city where most of the folks working in the service industry have to have more than one job to afford the rent.

I know. I know. That isn’t limited to New Orleans. Some places have it worse. Much worse. Think about San Francisco or Los Angeles. I grew up in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. If we sold everything, I’m not sure we could go back to my home even if we wanted to. I’m not sure that I do. I think it’s crowded and traffic is terrible here. Think about the Los Angeles region. Sheesh. It would drive me crazy.

The picture. Not a drive by. But, a drive through. I was waiting for the light to turn green. The light you see towards the bottom of the picture. I decided that I liked what I saw so I made the picture. I’ve done that in the past as I passed through the French Quarter on the way to some place else.  I actually proved a point with this picture. An editor with whom I work wants me to photograph something specific. It needs a city-like background. She thinks of NOLA in the same way that so many people do. The funky, old French Quarter. I emailed her this picture. Now, she thinks differently. The funny thing is, if you are walking up Bourbon or Royal streets, you can see this if you just look up. Too many people are looking down into their hurricanes and wondering where the time went.

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Fire hydrant and words.

A little change.

Something a little more grungy. A little more urban. A little more made by hand.

Some people think graffiti is some kind of blemish. A kind of destruction. An attack on civilized society. Others think it is a kind of street art. I fall into the latter category. Sometimes. Some of this is just tagging for tagging’s sake. Leaving a mark.

It gets controversial when an artist like Banksy came to town a few years after Hurricane Katrina. He tagged 18 buildings. Almost immediately, 17 of his works was painted over in gray, by a guy who took it upon himself to cover all graffiti with gray paint. The remaining one was removed along with the wall on which it was painted. The owner of the building did that. He also had it restored a bit, and it is now on display as part of another show.  I think it just opened.

I made these four pictures in The Bywater. I also turned the graffiti into my own art by cropping in camera and then bringing out the color in post production. On the other hand, if I actually knew who did the original tagging, I would love to credit them too. Unfortunately, unless you know the taggers’ work by name, secrecy is kind of the whole point.


An urban look.

Yes. Once upon a place.

I keep writing about my time in Hong Kong. And, how I filled my down time with walks. With making pictures. With exploring. I thought that I should show you a little of my work from that time.

However.

I’ve reworked this picture a couple of times. Over a couple of years. My intent was always to show the city as a dynamic and colorful place. Hopefully, I finally did that by using more contemporary post production techniques.

Hong Kong is slowing down a bit now. But, in the past things changed quickly in the city. There were times when I found myself a little lost because old landmarks were torn down and new buildings were quickly built in their place. I suppose that if I traveled there today, I would have to relearn the city the I once knew quite well.

The picture. I made it from high in Times Square. No, not Times Square in New York. That would have taken one very long lens. Heh! There is a shopping mall called Times Square in Hong Kong. You can enter it in many ways. From various doorways. From a direct entrance from the MTR (mass transit) and from tunnels in Causeway Bay that are really intended for MTR use. On the sub floors there is a food court. Mostly like fast food. For the next ten floors there is a shopping mall. Finally, as you reach the tower there are offices and fine dining. That’s where I made this picture. Towards the top.

Technically, this picture is the result of a couple of modifications. At first I saw the picture as a HDR work. Later I saw it differently, but I used my early post production work as a base of the new version which is mostly adding a huge amount of color. That’s about me. I choose to believe that Hong Kong was, and is, a very colorful place. In fact, the color can be overwhelming. But, not to me. I like that.


In all its glory.
In all its glory.

More freedom.

Really the same freedom. As yesterday. Just a different look at it. I like “compression” shots. They help to make a crowded scene look really crowded. They add a “stacked” look. They help urban pictures look really urban. Bottom line. They help my vision.

Yes.

I used a long lens. I don’t use it to get close. When I photographed sports, that was one thing. Today, I use it to help create the graphic I have in my head. The shape, the tight framing. a central pop of color.

That sort of thing.

Housekeeping. I’m way behind in responding to your posts or emails. I’m in motion. Transit. Something like that. I promise I’ll get to them. Soon.


Nature returns.
Nature returns.

Nature always balances things.

At least I hope so.

I made this picture while I was waiting for the second line to start. It’s one of those pictures that I made on my way to somewhere else.

Here’s what you are seeing.

The mowed lawn used to be buildings, as did all the foliage in the background. They were likely falling apart before the storm. After the storm, most of them fell down, or were demolished. The brick wall is actually part of the Sportsman Club, which is ground zero for many of the Uptown Mardi Gras Indians. And, the church steeple? It’s an old abandoned deconsecrated Catholic Church. The church, the school, the living quarters and a good-sized piece of land have been for sale for at least five years. It’s starting to be demolished from neglect.

I kept the colors a little muted today. They say that all art is autobiographical. Make of that what you will.


A little French Quarter light.
A little French Quarter light.

French Quarter traffic. As the sun sets.

Luckily, for me, I got jammed up behind two pedicabs. And, a taxi. That allowed me to do my drive by shooting thing, stop in pretty heavy traffic and not get honked at for creating problems. Normally, I wouldn’t care about honking horns, but in New Orleans you could get shot. No. We aren’t quite the “wild west,” yet. But, we are something kin to the “wild south.” The mayor made a big speech about that, just yesterday. I like the mayor. But, I think he’s in denial on this one. He’s trying to protect our tourism business during Jazzfest. But…

Anyway.

The picture. You know me. I have no problem making a picture through the windshield of a car. I also have no problem shooting into the sun. These are things that you aren’t supposed to do. This is a picture in which I broke both rules. At the same time. How cool for me.

I suppose I might not have done it if there weren’t people riding in pedicabs in front of me. They kind of made the picture. They sort of appeared at the right time. The sun was setting right where I wanted it, but there was no subject in the picture. Or, even a hint of one. Then car in front of me dropped out of the lane because the driver parked it. And, there they were. Pedicabs impeding the flow of traffic. Heh, heh!

Photographer’s luck. Or, making my own luck. I don’t know which one.


Hmmmmmm…

Sometimes, I have to eat my words. Many of you contacted me. You don’t want me to end Storyteller. Amazingly, you like it. I don’t want to end it either. Sometimes I get a little burnt out and want a break. But, right now I’m pretty energized. I’d like to keep going.

So, I’m going to experiment a little this weekend.

The WordPress desktop, as it currently stands, is horrible. I can’t see how the page looks before I schedule it. You can’t see the captions. But, they are there when you open the picture. One of you said that you could see the post via Facebook. And, Twitter. I know that too. I’ve tested it. But, that’s not the issue. It’s about production. Not, how you view it. Yes. What you see is very, very important. But, my intent is also important. One without the other doesn’t work. And, there is no spell check. At least that I can find. If you know one thing about me, it’s this. I’m a horrible typist. I don’t need spell check to help my spelling. I need it to check my typos.

These pictures. I promised you prettier views of places in New Orleans that you can go when you stop by for a visit. I’ve been doing that for the past few days. Some are older. Some are reworked. But, they give you an idea of the city.

The big picture is Magazine Street. The longest shopping street in the country. It’s old, funky and very local. Only a couple of national chain stores are located anywhere on the street. One is Whole Foods. I doubt that you are coming to New Orleans to see that, even if the very first Whole Foods was opened here.

The picture to the right is a commercial second line, playing in the French Quarter. I know, I know. I keep telling you to get out of the Quarter, but you also so should see that you can have fun without drinking all the booze on Bourbon Street.

Below that is a picture that I call Mardi Gras Flowers.

The river at sunset is really a bayou. Bayou St. John. If you paddle towards the sunset, you’ll pass City Park, a golf course and eventually you will come to Lake Ponchartrain.

Next to that picture is St. Louis Cathedral that I made into a dreamy state.

Next to that is the old building on Royal Street That I photographed during the blue hour.

And finally, a classic view of Decatur Street, Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral that was taken at dusk during a super moon. The moon is over my shoulder so that it lights everything, but you don’t see it.


Inside the old food store.
Inside the old food store.

I went back.

I found a way inside. That wasn’t so hard. The side door was open. I walked in. It’s a little weird entering a big building. You never know who or what is lurking inside. I generally creep around quietly. But, I’d rather have a little backup. Although, I’m not exactly sure what good that would do if things went south.

Before I write further, please drop to the bottom picture. Remember that? I showed you that place about a week or so ago. The top three pictures are from the inside. I made them maybe two days ago.

You know how I like to tinker with pictures to give the viewer a sense of what I felt. Check out the top picture. Looks like I did that, right? Wrong. It looks just about how I found it. I didn’t have to do anything. What you are seeing is a building rotting away.

The second picture is a little weird for me to look at closely. That was the food store. See those boarded up doors way up in front, in the middle right? Where the light is peeking through? The last time I was inside, I walked through those doors. Although the store was already abandoned, it still looked like a store. The doors were still made of glass.

You might also notice that big square of light on the floor. The roof is three stories up. That means there is a hole in the roof and the two floors in between. Normally, that means fire damage. There aren’t any burn marks.

The third picture shows how I really entered a couple of days ago. See? It really wasn’t all that difficult.

You know what the bottom picture is. You’ve seen it. Not all that long ago.

A lot of graffiti.
A lot of graffiti.
Holes in the walls.
Holes in the walls.
Falling down... sooner to later.
Falling down… sooner to later.


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.