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.


The waiting…

Everyone knows that it’s the high school bands that I like best when they roll during a Mardi Gras parade. The floats are fine. The Rolling Elvi are fun. The motorcycle riders are fun.

But, the marching bands. That’s the thing for me. They combine three wonderful elements. Music. Energy, And, color.

If there was going to be a Mardi Gras parade season this year my plan was to focus on just high school marching bands. I was actually going to reach out to some of the schools so that I could have a little more leeway on the streets.

As always, my trade would be my pictures. Since mostly high school students and parents are their photographers I’m guessing mine would be a few notches above the usual work. Who knows? One of the parents could be a retired National Geographic photographer.

That said, it’s a good thing most of the public versions of Mardi Gras have been shut down. A scientific analysis was released today. It looks like one carrier infected 50,000 people during Mardi Gras 2020. Not directly, but one person infected another and so on.

We were blamed for the surge last March even though we didn’t even know there was a virus. While it seems extreme, I’m glad the mayor is taking such a hard line this year.

Yesterday, she had a group of Big Chiefs on the podium with her. Each one of them implored the Indian community not to come out so that they would be alive to roll next year.

It’s serious.

So.

Tourists stay home. There won’t be much for you to do anyway. You won’t be allowed on the famous Bourbon Street unless you live there. If you gather illegally you could be fined or you could serve jail time. You don’t want that. We don’t want that.

There is the Jefferson Parish issue. I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Semi-monochrome. That’s what I’ll call this picture. As I said a few days ago, I let the picture guide me in post production. All I want to do is print them down a bit.

As I wrote on the left side, I like high school marching bands.

I work hard to photograph them. One year, two high schools were rehearsing ten feet from each other. A battle of the bands broke out. The drum majors were prancing in each other’s faces. They gave no ground. They held no quarter.

But, just like a good sporting match, when they were done they broke apart and shook hands.

I’ll look in my daybooks and find the year. If I can, I’ll publish some of the files from that night. I won’t tone them down. I’ll light up the page with them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Listen to all the high school marching band music.


Endings.

There is no reasoning with a hurricane season.

Most of the lower half of the state is getting prepared. Officials say that if we aren’t done by noon we’ll likely be working in the rain.

Hurricane Marco will make landfall sometime later today. As it stands, it is barely a Category One hurricane. But, the longer he lingers over the gulf he will pick up the hot water there, gaining energy and windspeed.

Hurricane Laura is somewhere over Cuba as I write. She should make landfall over Louisiana on Wednesday. The time is not yet certain. Laura is a tropical storm now. She’ll pick up energy and water as she crosses the gulf. She’ll become another hurricane.

Depending on which spaghetti model you use, New Orleans could be hit twice, not at all, or to the east and west of us.

No matter what happens, we’ll get wet. We may lose power.That is not even a prediction. We always do. I’ll try to keep my phone charged, but if I disappear for a while, no worries. Two storms in a week will keep the power company busy. According to the mutual aid plan there are power companies from all over the southeast already here to support Entergy.

The Picture

It’s the headline that matters. “Where Time Stands Still.” I borrowed that from a Mary Chapin Carpenter song because that’s what it feels like around here while we are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This being 2020 I have terrible expectations.

I made this picture because I thought of it as a symbol for the end of summer. In some places in the North that’s already happening. The weather is cooling off. But, not down here. The temperature will continue to hover around 90 degrees into almost October. If we are lucky.

Even though the heat lingers, the plants and flowers know their place. This little Camellia is saying goodbye. Even the trees which seem to glow a few weeks ago are showing the seasonal shift. The greens have become muddy. Leaves are already falling.

Yes.

Yesterday’s fern was bright and glowing, but they grow all year. The only time they wither and die is durning our few days of extreme cold.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Look after each other. Stay dry. Enjoy every pancake.


Krewe of Cleopatra.

Waiting. The hardest part.

That’s what Tom Petty sang. That’s what true. We waited and waited and waited. Sometimes that happens, a tractor broke down on one of the earlier parades. The Krewe of Cleopatra could do nothing but wait.

Besides, it’s peak New Orleans.

This picture is sort of a placeholder. I’m jammed up. Night time parades followed by daytime parades will do that. I thought this was a great picture with which to start. I’d have used it in a grouping as well as this way even if I wasn’t too busy.

I don’t think that I have to explain anything to you, do I?

I’m off. I’ll be back.

Happy Mardi Gras, ya’ll.

 


 

Through the looking glass.

Such a weird little picture.

It looks fairly normal. Just wait until I tell you about it. You’ll understand.

I was walking by a fence. There was a hole in it. I looked through it. And, what did I see? The very scene before you. I thought it would make a cool picture. What to do? What to do? The hole is about the size of tennis ball, or a little smaller. I knew that if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t have a picture.

So.

I stuck the lens up to the hole and looked through the LCD to make sure I didn’t include the ragged edge of the hole. I continued to look at the LCD and waited for some kind of truck, which I knew would eventually come. I made four exposures, managed to get my hand in the fifth, and called it a picture.

I’ve made pictures in just about every way a person could. This was a new one for me. For my next trick I’ll take a picture behind my back while still looking forward. You never know… some days feel like that.


Working tools.

Painter’s tools.

Paint brushes waiting to be called upon to make art.

No. They aren’t mine. You know better. I was walking a couple of the dogs when we came upon our neighbor who does paint. She likes to say hello to the dogs so we know each other a little bit. Her studio is located in a screened-off section of her porch. When I asked her about summer’s heat and humidity, she said she didn’t mind. It helped her to feel. To feel more connected to her work.

I asked her if I could photograph her studio. And, maybe her. She declined on a portrait saying she looked like a mess. I tried to counter that with you look like a working painter. She’s smarter than that. But, I did make pictures of stuff in her studio.

This is one that I like best.

My post production is kin to something that many photographers have forgotten about. Painting with light. It’s always been around. After all, the word photography is Greek for either painting with light, or, writing with light, depending on who is doing the translating.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it really burst onto the photo world, in part because a photographer-inventor created a machine that controlled how the light fell on a scene.

It looked like a giant vacuum, with a large hose attached to one side. You pointed it and controlled where the light travelled. There were additional tools that you could attach to the hose to create different light shapes. Just like a vacuum and the tools that came with it.

Like all things trendy, it fell out of favor after a few years of everybody doing it. What was art became technique. Sort of like those star field pictures that are so popular today.

I haven’t thought of that machine in years. I’m going to have Google around to see if I can find an existing example.

Anyway.

This is my take on a vase full of paint brushes.

If I can’t use them, I can photograph them.


The waiting is the hardest part.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

That’s the hardest part said Tom Petty.

As of now, the storm has slowed down a bit. We should get rain and winds along towards the end of the afternoon with the storm passing through around midnight. Or, after midnight as J.J, Cale wrote and Eric Clapton sang.

It’s a Category 1 Hurricane, which means the lowest possible wind speed that you can classify as a hurricane. It should make landfall at the Mississippi – Alabama border. I mention all of this again, because my friends have been calling and texting. When something like this makes the national news it becomes something frightening.

It isn’t.

And, we’ll be alright.

Okay?

The picture. I had something else planned for today, but I saw this on a dog walk. It was funny. She — the dog — walked to this place and kept circling around. It wasn’t like she does when she’s looking for a place. It was more like every time I wanted to move on, she kept coming back. To the place that you see in the picture. So, I made a bunch of pictures. After all, she’s usually right about a lot of things.

She also wanted to be outside longer than normal. She won’t go out in the rain. She knows something is coming.

It is.

Two to four inches of rain. Meh.


Sitting, think and waiting.

Yes. It’s a long story.

The picture seems fairly simple. These two guys are waiting for Big Chief John to dress and make his appearance. That part is simple enough.

But.

Oh, you knew this was coming.

The Original Wild Tchoupitoulas were getting dressed next door. In a private home. One that was rock solid. The building next door had been falling down for years. But, gentrification is coming to Central City. It was being restored. I said to somebody at the time that now it looked like it was ready to fall down.

I was right. It did.

It fell down. The next day. On Monday. It completely collapsed, trapping three workers, and onto Washington Avenue, closing it in both directions until the debris could be cleared.

I’m trying to figure out a couple of things. It’s one of those chicken and egg things. The building was abandoned for years. For years, we sat on the stoop waiting for Second Sunday activities to start. Drummers played their drums on the porch. Brass bands practiced there. It was solid. Now with new construction and the shoring up of the foundation, the building became fragile. We all did the things that we usually did. It fell down.

Did we cause it to fall down? Was it the new construction? Was it simply the fact that it sat abandoned for so many years?  I don’t know. It’s probably our faults. Luckily, the workers who were trapped were not injured. And, the building didn’t block traffic during rush hour.

The picture. It was one those extra pictures I made during the main event. I just liked the position of the two men. I did a lot to it in post production, including adding that frame. I’m not sure if it helps or hurts.


How it looks before…

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?

Anyway.

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?

But.

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.

So.

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.