Night time on Washington Avenue.

Street portraits made easy.

When you have help. My buddy, Pableaux Johnson was working with a new video light on a still camera. It is flat panelled and a continuous light source. He thought it would help illuminate the Mardi Gras Indians as they walked while they showed off their suits. After all, on St. Joseph’s Night we work in available darkness. He turned it on to take a picture of this guy. He couldn’t quite get what he wanted. But, standing to the side of him, I did. I just didn’t know it at the time.

I’m not sure I would use that light. It was a little cumbersome for him. It also seems to provide a very flat — meaning not enough contrast — light. And, I could see him from a block away. My whole way of working on the street is to blend in, and not be seen.

Anyway.

I made a pretty good portrait, mostly just by standing there and pointing the camera.

Of course, the original file didn’t look anything like this. Yes, the red color was there. It just wasn’t so enhanced. And, I buried a lot of noise with darkness. Even with the external light, I really was pushing the camera’s limits since we were standing in the darkest possible location. That took some doing because the picture — his face — needed some sharpening because the focal plane is centered on his hands and the sugar skull button. Even with masking, I ran the risk of sharpening the noise. I made it work. Just.

But.

It came together. I’m really anxious to run a test print. After all, it’s not really a photograph unless it’s printed on paper. With all the technical issues I had to overcome, I’m wondering if the image will just fall apart on when I print it.

Questions? Ask away. Answers? I’m all ears. Like the picture? Buy it. Papa needs a new large format printer to crowd an already crowded studio.

 

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St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

Cemeteries. A lot of people like to photograph them. I’m one of them. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I like to use them as a base photograph for something else. After all, where can you find a place that’s sacred, moody, mysterious and spooky? All in one? You just have to work at the right time of day.

Like anything photographic, I think that you just want to feel, and not think about the subject too much while you are making the pictures.

But, but, but…

I also believe that you have to make a loose plan that outlines your goals. Often times, I just sort of stumble onto pictures. That’s not always an effective way of working. If you are seeing well, you can make a bunch of good pictures in about a half hour. Or, you might spend all day looking, but not seeing. The result is predictable. No pictures. A tank of gas wasted. Time wasted.

My preferred way of working is by assignment, or self assignment. That doesn’t mean that every picture has to be planned. In fact, it shouldn’t mean that.

It should mean that you’ve picked a location based on your interest. Or, a subject that you enjoy exploring.  It might mean that you’ve done a bit of research. You might know the area’s history. You might have talked to people who spend a lot of time at your soon-to-be-photographed location. And, who might understand the subject better than you do. They might even become part of your picture story.

From the  technical side, you might have planned for the light and shadows. You know, the time of day in which natural light helps make the picture better. You might bring allied equipment like strobes and reflectors.  If you want maximum sharpness and depth of field you might also bring a tripod.

Depending on your planned location, you might also bring other people. Maybe just a friend to watch your back. Maybe an assistant who understands photography and can make your life easier. And, maybe a fixer who takes care of everything needed to allow you to be in the place you want to work. This person, understands your photographic needs, speaks the local language and English and can deal with the proper paperwork.

Please don’t misunderstand. On most self-assignments, I’m just exploring. The only extra person I might bring is the one who watches my back. The other two assistants that I mentioned are really for a paid assignment work.

The one thing you don’t want is a map of tripod holes. That’s a joke. You know, that’s when you try to find the exact place where a great photograph was made so that you can copy it. Make your own pictures. Always.

This picture. I made it a few weeks ago on St. Joseph’s Night when the Mardi Gras Indians rolled through the streets of New Orleans. Even though I knew the kinds of pictures I hoped to make, I also knew from experience that if I parked my car on the street that divides the two sides of the cemetery I might get lucky and make a couple of unrelated, but good pictures.

I did make a few pictures worth looking at more than once.

This ought to help you understand the notion of “photographer’s luck,” which is really a mix of experience, talent and situational awareness.  It paid off nicely. I made the “sunset, crosses and telephone poles” picture that many of you liked. I made this picture, along with another that I haven’t shown you yet. Unlike the first picture, this one took a lot of work in post production to make it look like my vision. The vision in my head.

That’s my story. I’m sticking to it. I’ll answer questions though. I’ll always answer questions.


Down in the graveyard.
Down in the graveyard.

This is inspired. By this year. 2016. Soon to come to an end.

I’m not even going to list the things that happened this year. Most of them were bad. You know what they were. It seems like the bad news never let up. One thing after another. One person after another. One musician after another. One horrible event after another.

I hate to sound cynical. I read a lot of posts and tweets. A lot of people are hoping for a better year. Next year. In 2017.

Why would that be? Why should things get better because we hope for a better year?

We were inspired by the word, “hope” eight years ago. Some things did get better. For a while. As musician Neil Young wrote, “You can’t eat hope.” Then things got worse.

You can’t hope without doing. You can’t say that you’ll try without doing. You know what Yoda said. “There is no try, there is only do or not do.”

So.

Let’s all do something. Whatever it is we do. Let’s do it.

As far as the “famous passings” go, to everything there is a season. I’m going to miss those musicians who left us this year. We have their music. They live in their songs. If we do what we do, we’ll live on too.

In case you haven’t figured out what event brought on this post… Godspeed John Glenn.


Wild Man John's suit, waiting...
Wild Man John’s suit, waiting…

It seems like a long time ago. But, Super Sunday 2016 is less than a week old. Time seems to moving so fast these days.

Generally, when I start looking for pictures on big days like the yearly gathering of Uptown Indians I start looking at “little” pictures. A picture that is somewhat symbolic, but not the main reason I came out. It helps me to get into my own groove. It’s like stretching prior to exercising. It gets my mind, heart, soul and body working together. It’s why I come out an hour or so early before the “published” start time. It allows me to stop thinking and to just take pictures of whatever I see.

All of that matters.

A week before I was late to the scene. I parked, walked quickly to the start of the second line and out the first liners came. I wasn’t really ready. I wasn’t really in my zone. I got lucky. I made a couple of good pictures. I received a couple of compliments. But… It never really felt right.

Keep in mind, I’m discussing what works for me. Everybody has a different approach. A different reason for taking pictures. A different intent.

What’s yours?