One night, lonely.

S

ometimes the pictures are better along the way rather than at the event I was going to.

I was going to photograph Krewe du Vieux which is one of the earliest parades of Carnival. The parade was as I expected, too crowded and nowhere to do work arounds. Oh yeah, with the exception of a few pools of light, everything was in shadows.

I made some okay pictures at the parade, but this was the best picture of the night. It’s prime French Quarter. It’s got a food store that mostly sells alcohol, a bike and a guy in a hoody waiting to do God knows what.

I think this was the beginning of Mardi Gras 2020, which means two months before we were blamed for holding a massive super spreader event before anybody knew what CoVid 19 could do.

It was so weird back then. In many ways, I’m glad I stayed out of the crowds as best I could. Which brings me to…

We’ve been watching a Netflix produced three season show called “Formula 1-1, Drive to Survive.” It’s a deep story about the story of Grand Prix drivers and the teams behind them. It’s very, very good.

We are into the third season. 2020. It took us right back to the confusion of the early days of the pandemic.

The first event starts in Australia, where the drivers and teams have just started hear about this new virus. They had no idea what to do.

Quick backstory. The drivers are great athletes. The train in all sorts of ways to handle the stress of driving a car at 200 mph without dying. They are smart as hell. And, they are personable.

Back to the story. One driver finds out that the virus is called Corona Virus. He walks over to a hospitality tent, pulls out a bunch of beers, hands them all around and he kiddingly says, “This will take care of it.” Corona Beer.

Anyway.

The first five events are cancelled. Everybody goes home. The first Grand Prix is held in Austria. Everything has changed. The teams are wearing masks. The drivers, who normally sign autographs with whatever pen they are given, tell their fans they can’t use other people’s pens.

Keep in mind, this is real life. There are no actors.

One more story.

In 2019, there is a heartbreaking accident. It starts out with Lewis Hamilton (at the time he was four time world champion and the face of Formula 1 Motorsports. He’s now six time champion and still the face of the sport.) He’s casually talking to some media and looking up at a monitor. He says, “Oh wow,” and stops the interview. His eyes were wide open.

There was a horrible accident. When Netflix didn’t show it, I knew. There was a fatality. A young driver racing in the Formula 2 category was killed.

The next scenes are heart rending. Drivers, like anyone who does something dangerous, are brothers. It doesn’t matter if they are normally competitors. They gathered on the track, in circle. They prayed. They shared stories about the driver. His helmet was on a stand. One by one they put their hands on it as they left to go to their cars.

Then, they drove as hard as they could.

Y’

all know what I’m going to say about this picture. There’s nothing to it. Except that I can hand hold a camera in available darkness.

You probably can’t.

One day I won’t be able to hand hold a camera at night. That might be now since I haven’t tried in a long time.

We’ll have to test that out one night.

But, not tonight.

I have other work to do since I slept on and off until 2:39 pm.

That’s what watching Netflix will do.

It was some start to my very busy schedule. I’ll start tonight and work tomorrow and catch up.

I think.

Let’s get back to the picture for a minute.

One of the reasons I learned to hand hold a camera is because of a theory called, “Shoot and scoot.”

That means if I keep moving there is a lesser chance of being mugged or killed for my photo gear and my wallet.

Think about it. Using a tripod forces me to stay in one place, maybe for too long. On the other hand, it could be used as a weapon if the timing was right.

I’d rather not need to do that.

So, I make a few pictures and move on. I tuck my camera under my shoulder so that in low light it’s not easily seen.

It’s worked for a long time.

Then, there’s the swagger theory.

It works this way. Working photographers sometimes develop a pretty good way of walking, like a swagger, but not. It works best, when you’ve got about a third of cigar in your mouth and are surrounded by smoke.

Nobody messes with that.


French Quarter Purple
French Quarter Purple

This picture was made when the poodle and I had our guy’s night out in The French Quarter. I’ve been walking past this building for years, but on that night the light made the building look bluish-purple and oh so photographic.  So I stopped and worked the building for more than a few minutes. I added a little to it in post production, but not that much. The evening light did most of the work.

One of the aesthetics of The Quarter that I like so much is that you can just mentally put yourself in some part of Europe while you are standing in the middle of New Orleans. See? I never have to travel. I can just pretend. When I think about that last sentence I kind of have to chuckle. People come to New Orleans, and especially The French Quarter, from all over the world. Me? It’s about a ten minute drive. I couple probably walk to The Quarter from the house in a half hour. I may have to try it one day.


FQNITE-6
St. Louis Cathedral during Holy Week.

Casting a shadow. Locally, people call this view “Touchdown Jesus.” What do expect from a city who has an NFL football team called “The Saints?” After all, we live in “Who Dat “city. I’ve photographed this scene from many angles. But, never straight on. I guess I thought that the bars on the fence would get in the way, so I never even considered about it. Guess what? I stuck the lens of my camera through the bars and everything was fine. So. I made a Holy Week picture. On Sunday, I’ll return and photograph everyone in their Easter finery. Easter is a real big holiday around here. Three parades snake their way through The French Quarter. Women are dressed in real Easter bonnets. Children wear their best dresses and suits. Hopefully, it will warm up just a bit. Last night was the coldest night this late in March since 1955.

The picture. You know my first little trick. I stuck my camera’s lens through the wrought iron fence. I also exposed for the white in Jesus’ s statue. That assured me of some detail and turned the rest of the scene darker which emphasized the giant shadow. I’m not really sure what is causing the purple light on the obelisk  on the right. Yes. Yes. That’s what that shape is called. An obelisk.  I thought it is called a plinth. But, that’s the square block at the base of the Jesus statue. If you take away just one thing from this post, it’s this. Google is your friend.

Oh yeah. before I forget. This picture was made at the back of The St. Louis Cathedral. This view, or any of the others I’ve made, were not possible before Hurricane Katrina. There were tall trees blocking the view. They were too badly damaged. They had to be removed. Not to worry. In about ten years the new trees that were planted after the storm will block the view again.


Reflections
I happened to notice the reflections in this lighting store on Royal Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Sometimes, it’s in the details. Sometimes, your eyes just have to be a little more open than normal. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than luck and timing. This picture is a result of all four. The details are found in the one thing that makes this picture. The woman’s face in the bottom left of the picture. She pretty much completes it. The combination of seeing better, timing and luck are all combined into one almost holistic action. The luck is simply that I changed my normal direction of approach. Normally, I walk along Royal Street where the lighting store is located. Usually downriver to upriver. This time I approached it from a side street, almost straight on.  The warmth of the lights are what caught my eye, and the approach allowed me to see the reflection of the old buildings that are located across the street from the store. Everything came together. Sorta.

The picture. Itself. It was a funny act when it came to making the picture. The woman who completes the picture kept trying to get out of my way. She was being very kind to me. And, I kept saying to her, “It’s okay, you’re good, you’re good.” I suppose that’s also a bit of luck. She kept moving and I managed to press the button before she moved out of the picture. That’s what street photography is about. Sometimes.


KB038
“Hey Mister, What Is That Thing You’re Sticking In My Face?”

KB010
“Sunglasses?” “Really?”

KB043
“Well?” “What Are Looking You At?”

KB021
“Hey Buddy…”

KB013
The Queen, She Said.

KB045
Best Friends

Yes. Sunday and Mardi Gras. About dogs. And their people. From my point of view, the main parade yesterday was the Krewe of Barkus. Yes. Barkus. Bark. Bark. Bark. Except these dogs were all pretty good. They visited with each other before showtime. Then they walked throughout The French Quarter. It was their parade. The streets were packed. With humans and visiting dogs. Dogs everywhere. People too. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen The Quarter so packed with people. I suppose, we are starting to get the early spillover from next Sunday’s little football game. They call it the Superbowl. Combine those crowds with the normally heavy Mardi Gras crowds and you get one full French Quarter.

Anyway. Please have a look at the dogs and some of the people who make New Orleans unique.

That’s it for the first week of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We are taking a break. The city. Not just me. The NFL asked us to do that. So we started Mardi Gras a week early, worked in a week-long pause, and will resume again on the Monday after the game. For my part, it’s really messed with my timing and planning. No. I’m not working in the city next week. We are heading to Memphis… for the BBQ at The Rendezvous and a lot of Blues. Musicians are going to play there from all over the world. It’ll be a little crowded there too. But, nothing like New Orleans. And, Memphis is sacred ground to me because of all the great music made there. Once, I walked into Sun Studios and wanted to kiss the floor. Elvis, Dylan and U2 recorded there. Then there were guys like Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and, and, and… I know I’m really lucky. I live in New Orleans. A musical city. I’m traveling to a Memphis. Another musical city. These days so much of my life is about pictures and musical sounds. Thanks.

The pictures. Well. You know what I do. I bet you didn’t think I could do it with dogs. It’s easy. I just talk to them. They have no idea what I’m saying. Or, do they? Do they seem to like the tone of my voice.


KVD-1
Krewe du Vieux rolls up Royal Street.

KVD-2
There was dancing in the streets.

KVD-3
The sky exploded.

KVD-4
Partying, partying, partying.

Carnival Time. Mardi Gras. Krewe du Vieux. The first big parade of the season rolled last night from The Marigny through The French Quarter and back. But, mostly it rolled around The Quarter. Krewe du Vieux is an adult parade. This year’s theme is Krewe du Vieux comes early. That’s sort of all you need to know. Most parades have themes. This year’s theme was an attack on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, The Super Bowl and The Times-Picayune. Why? For those of you in far places, or who don’t follow local news, Goodell is reviled for suspending part of The Saints coaching staff and a couple of players in a scandal called “Bountygate.” The Super Bowl, was attacked because this is New Orleans and The Saints aren’t going to play in it. And, finally, The Times-Picayune lost about all of its love for cutting the staff and for cutting the paper to three days a week, making New Orleans the first major American city without a daily newspaper.

So. The pictures. I go through this every year. In many ways the 50 or so parades that roll though out the region are predictable. They have themes. They have basically the same throws. They have variations on a theme when it comes to masking and costuming. Yes. It’s true that for the individuals in the various parades all of these things are a little different. But, the devil is in the details for them. So. Back to me and what I go through. Every year I start thinking about Mardi Gras photographic coverage in general and parades in particular. How can I do it differently than I did in the past decade? The answer is if you just make pictures of the parades, you can’t do it differently. To most people, the parades, and therefore the pictures, all look the about same. To complicate matters, shooting Carnival Season is sort of like getting ready for some kind of athletic season. You need some practice. But, there is no spring training. For the most part, you just jump into it. The closest I can come to practicing is tonight, when I’ll photograph four groups of Mardi Gras Indians practicing for Fat Tuesday. In the dark. But, at least most of them are practicing in Central City. That adds to my project there. A very good thing.

Then, there is me. I’m using different cameras this year. They are great little cameras. I’ve written about them in the past. They are Sony NEX cameras. They are mirrorless and they have almost cutting edge sensors. They can pretty much see in the dark. They are lightweight, small and nobody takes them all that seriously which lets me get closer to things. Although I got fooled tonight. We were walking and talking to a couple of guys. One said, “Those look like pretty good cameras. You must be a magazine photographer.” Oops. And, my heel is still giving me problems. It’s much better. But, between having to park on the furthest edge of The French Quarter and walking to the place where I wanted to work took its toll. It probably should have. That’s a long walk on rough streets, cobble stones and huge crowds.We probably walked about three miles tonight. Ouch.

What did I do? I walked. I worked. I grumbled. You have to grumble in order to do this job. I decided that since this is the only night parade that rolls through The Quarter I would work to capture its energy, light and motion. I gave away sharpness for the sense of what it was like to be at a Krewe du Vieux parade. And, I stretched the bounds of the camera. First I set that ISO — think of that like film speed — to 3200. That’s very fast. These cameras can handle it. Many — no, make that most — digital cameras can not handle that. They generate a lot of noise, which looks like grain. Second, I used the cameras’ LCD as it should be used. I held the camera away from my face and into the parade. That put me closer to the middle of things, which is how I like to work. Inside out. Not from the outside. I think these pictures work. At least for me.


Another Saturday Night in The French Quarter.

Still No joy when it come to Mardi Gras decorations. I do know there was at least one carnival ball tonight. But, getting invited to those is very hard if you aren’t a krewe member, or close to a krewe member. So, I’ll make do with another picture made in The French Quarter. The folks in the picture must not be local.They are working very hard to decide what to eat. Unfortunately, as you can see from their dress, the weather isn’t very winter-like. Even though we’ve had a lot of rain last week, the temperatures have been unseasonably high. In fact, it was 81 degrees today. That’s a summer temperature in many places.

The picture. Not much. F8 or something and be there. A night exposure. And, some post production tricks to tart the picture up some.

 

 

 

 

 


So. I dipped into the well of New Year Eve in The French Quarter. I had a pretty good shooting night. And, we had a pretty good dinner. So, all in all as they say… it was a pretty good time. I’ve written about it in the past few blogs so I’m pretty much out of words. For now. I’m also pretty much out of current pictures. So. I better go look around.

This picture was made near Jackson Square. I dithered a bit. At first I kept the diners in focus. Eh. Then I decided that the picture told a better story if just the bicycles were in focus. The diners were out of focus creating another layer to the picture. The rest was pretty simple. I just sort of crouched and took the picture. The odd greenish light on the bike tires was caused by the lights over the sidewalk.NYE-7

 


When we went out to eat and to photograph on New Years Eve I really was looking for one image to start the year off right. It seems like I was just making and making pictures. There were picture everywhere. Since my ritual is intended to be sort of totem to staying busy in the new year, I guess I’m going to be real busy in 2013. That’s good. I like working. I like working hard. I reckon that one day I won’t be able to and I’ll have to slow down a little bit. But, not today. Or tomorrow.

One of the things that I really like about working in The French Quarter is its vibe. For instance, in this picture  St. Louis Cathedral I think that  it looks like a church you’d see in Europe. And yet, it’s located just a few steps from The Mississippi River.

The picture. It looks pretty much as I saw it. In fact, when I started working on it in my post production workflow, the auto function which I use to give me an opinion made it worse, not better. So, I junked that one and started again. I  more-or-less left it as I saw it and just cropped and sharpened it a bit.NYE-6