The Blue Distance


The thing that I’m looking for.

It’s not really a thing. It’s a person. Me.

I’ve written briefly about my paternal family. I knew the family mythology. I knew what we were told. Every bit of it was wrong or a lie. A while back I took Ancestry.com’s DNA test. I reckon not much is private now and they had the biggest database, so off I went.

I few things were confirmed. Sorta.

One day about a year ago I received an email from a guy why might be related to me. We emailed back and forth for a while. I suppose we both got tired of it. Ancestry.com sent me an email telling me that they found more new data.

I decided to subscribe for six months so I could try to dig into the records. What I found was stunning.

We were told that our grandfather jumped ship and deserted from the Royal Russian Navy after being told to fire on their own people during the first Russian Revolution in 1905. That sounded little too much like The Potemkin Affair, a movie released in 1925.

I discounted it.

I thought that he might have left the country, but those circumstances were a little to close. We were told that he made his way to Hamburg, Germany and sailed on a tramp steamer to Ellis Island where he entered the United States.

Nope.

Somehow he made his way to London where he lived for a little while. He probably got together enough money to buy a ticket on a ship called the Haverford. He left from Liverpool and arrived in Philadelphia in 1910. He met my grandmother about the same time. I never knew him. He died in 1948 at the age of 60 or 61.

Here’s where it gets really tricky.

I thought my dad was an only child. He wasn’t. He had a older sister who was born in 1915 called Ruth Shirley Olga Laskowitz. She lived with her family as documented on the 1920 census. She drops off in 1930. She meets a man called James Albert Miller, with whom she has six children — my cousins.

Again, it gets tricky.

My cousins were born in 1939, 1943 and 1949. I’mm not sure when the other three were born. She and Mr. Miller did not get married until 1962. My cousins are all Millers. Riddle me all of that, Batman.

Mr. Miller — my uncle — died in 1974 on Long Island. Ruth Shirley Olga moved to California where she lived in Cypress, just across the Los Angeles County border in Orange County. We lived about five minute into LA County. We were maybe ten minutes apart. She died in 1990. I never knew her, or heard of her until a little while ago.

Of the Miller family all that is left for me are very distant cousins who call my late aunt, great-great grandmother. They never knew her.

I have no idea why everything was so secret. There is no one I can talk to because they are lost to the fog of time. I wish, when I was younger and my parents were alive, that I had questioned them. But, by then our relationship wasn’t great.

I know where my grandfather came from. I have a pretty good idea where my grandmother came from. I’m not concerned about my maternal grandfather and mother. Their history is quite clear as my aunts and cousins have done quite a lot of research.

I had this big plan to travel to Belarus and a region in Poland that used to be called Galicia. I was going to do it after my big work was finished this year. You know what they say. If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans. Along came the pandemic.

That’s why I’m sad. I’m lost. I’m confused. I’ve lost my mojo. I’ve lost my hope. I feel like I don’t know who I am.

The Picture.

I needed this picture. It’s light. It’s happy. The clouds made me smile when I saw them. We had a huge storm yesterday. A cold and warm front clashed. The booms of thunder made me cringe. By mid-afternoon the storm blew out. When the all seeing dog and I took a walk, the clouds in the picture are what we saw.

I didn’t take very long to make the pictures. I took even less time in post production. Mother Nature did her thing.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every hour.

It’s Here


Like a guiding finger.

Yes. It’s here.

It came earlier than I thought it would. It came like an onrushing tide. CoVid-19 arrived yesterday. The person who caught it lives in Jefferson Parish. He or She is being treated at the new Veterans Administration hospital in Mid-City, New Orleans. We haven’t yet been told much beyond that. I suppose we could deduce from the treatment hospital that he or she served the country.

However, that’s the least of our questions. Where did this person live? Who did he come in contact with? How long did she have the virus? Where does he work? Did she travel or did she catch it from someone else in Louisiana?

That’s not all.

There is the personal aspect. I’m old. I have a compromised immune system. I’ll stay within my community except for essential trips, like to buy food and water and soap. I’ll follow the protocol as laid out by the CDC. That leaves me with the ultimate question. If I catch the virus will I live or will I die?

It still may be too early to ask the question. If the virus’ rapid spread is any indication it’s time to think of some tactics to cope with this and come out on the other side with my life intact. Of course, we don’t know when the otherside will be, nor do we know if the summers heat will kill it, or if it will just return in October. The thing about our heat and humidity is that everything grows.

So.

I made this picture the other day. I thought the clouds are what makes it even a little bit different. I suppose it works on that level.

What do y’all think?

The Last Chance


A wintery blending of a wonderful sky and pink Japonicas.

I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that when I photographed the Japonica trees a day or two ago that it would be my last chance. Normally the flowers would last another two or three weeks. But, we had a pretty bad storm this afternoon. Not only did we get a lot of rain, but we also had a lot of hail.

The hail knocked off about 95% of the Japonica’s flowery petals. I’m glad that I photographed the fully blooming trees when I did. Now THAT’S photographers luck.

The best thing about the storm is it that sits on the leading edge of a cold front. That’s good because the weather was starting to get a little too warm for this time of year. I like winter to feel like winter for more than a day.

The winds did something else.

They blew down the scaffolding at the yet to be completed Intercontinental Hotel near the river. Luckily, nobody got hurt, although a couple of cars were badly damaged. One was a taxi with passengers in the back. Once the riders got over the shock of having metal rain down upon them, they walked away without injuries.

As a friend of mine tweeted, “we are not so good at constructing tall buildings around here.”

Indeed.

A Simple Picture


Looking like fall.

Simplicity.

A fall picture. It could be too simple, except that the leaves and the clouds form a nice bow-like shape in the upper middle of the image. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I saw it when I looked into the sky and thought, “yes, that’ll work just fine.”

It’s a kind of photographer’s luck, which is starting to mean if you put the work in, look for pictures, and practice a lot, you’ll make pictures.

I tell my traveling friends this all the time. I say that they should stop waiting for a trip to take a snap. I suggest that they should just walk around their neighborhood and photograph their world. That is, unless their world is made up of fast jets, massive cruise ships and cheap hotel rooms.

I doubt that’s right.

But, I really dislike taking pictures on a trip or assignment and starting out cold. Or, a little rusty. I do best when I’ve been practicing, which is kin to music practice. Would you enjoy listening to a concert when the musicians weren’t well rehearsed? Or, rooting for a sports team that didn’t practice before they took to the field?

It’s the same thing with pictures. You must practice to get to the good stuff. That takes time. As it should. It’s also why I’ve been critiquing myself. I haven’t been wandering around looking for pictures. I write some of that off to the heat. It’s no fun dripping into the lens. I also write some more of that off to physical issues. I don’t always trust myself not to fall down. On a good day I’m great, but sometimes a good day turns marginal.

I find ways to work around both of those. It’s just not as frequently as I’d like.

And, so that goes.

Into the Sky


Freight train high above me.

On some days it looks like trains are flying.

They’re not.

They are crossing The Mississippi River over the railroad bridge that ties into the Huey P. Long bridge originally built in the 1930s. It was renovated and widened a few years ago. For trains it is the gateway to all points west. Or, to every traveler’s dreams.

Once a train crosses the river it passes through a little town called Westwego. Legend has it that the town was named by train conductors calling out, “West we go.” I suppose it could be true.

The picture. New smart phone. New techniques. The color rendition is nothing like my mirrorless cameras or my old iPhone. It’s taking some getting used to.

I made the picture after looking at this bridge for years. You may know it from a news story a couple of years ago. A strong storm blew in from seemingly nowhere and knocked about ten freight cars off the bridge. They crashed down to the ground below, making a giant racket. Luckily, nobody was hurt. A chain link fence was destroyed.

A few changes around this place.

Aside from haringing you to vote, I’m going to stay away from politics as much as humanly possible. I don’t just mean here, but on social network sites and even on traditional news sites like The New York Times. It’s all day, every day. And, that’s too much. The country isn’t just polarized. It’s pushed, pulled and torn in every direction. It’s as if instead of messing with our elections, the Russians dumped something in our water and made us all crazy.

That’s enough.

Vote.

 

A Summer’s Evening


Drifting into the mystic.

Another one. Another picture that makes you smile. A version of yesterday’s post made from a different perspective.

And still.

That weird light refraction followed me.

I have no idea what it was. I think it was some strange bit of light bouncing around the water droplets in the air. Usually, that reflects something in the red spectrum, making the raw frame a little gray and muddy. Not this time.

Perspective. That’s a good word. Let’s talk about that.

A friend shared a post on Facebook. It was about #metoo. It was well written from the point of an expert in what I’ll call systems of belief. She was waiting for a plane with another expert. A man. A guy sitting across from them asked why they were there. They told him. He proceeded to go off on a tangent mansplaining his point of view rather than asking her for viewpoint. Her colleague proceeded to take this guy down. He did it gently and mentioned that he lost a great opportunity to learn from an expert.

All good.

I made the mistake of reading the comments. I never do that for obvious reasons. Most of the comments were fairly tame until. Until it devolved into a shouting match where women were attacking other women on little tiny points, calling each other sexist. WTH?

People, people, people.

This ain’t gonna help. Better to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes than to be so sensitive that you attack them for some little, insignificant point. Always to remember what they taught me in drunk school. When you point one finger at someone, the other three are pointing back at you.

If you want to change something – and a lot needs changing — work at it. Stop attacking each other on social media. Build. Don’t destroy. After all, faith without work is dead.

The picture. It’s one that I made when the sky was doing weird stuff. I even walked to a different location. The strange light followed me. Maybe it was meant for me. It did some post production. The first take looked very evil. Nasty.

So.

I thought, a dangerous thing to do, that I would make it gentle. Cotton ball-like.

See?

It’s all in your perspective.

The Bell…


Autumn, the second growing season at the train yard.

The bell.

You know the one. The one tolling. As in, “For whom it tolls. ”

It’s tolling for us. In Southeastern Louisiana.

I actually have been out and about a little. I went to one of my favorite places. An old train yard. Where there really are old trains. As in the one in the background. An old standard passenger car. This one is a baggage car.

Look at that day.

Bright. White puffy clouds. What you can’t know from the picture is that we have entered the “perfect weather” season. Temperatures in the very low eighties, with a slight breeze and low humidity. This is the weather that keeps a lot of us here.

But, there is that bell. Tolling away.

It’s our turn now. There have been hurricanes all around us. Texas. Florida. The Caribbean. Cuba. Puerto Rico. We have been counting our lucky stars. Praising The Lord. Singing hallelujah.

Now comes Hurricane Nate.

A tropical storm that has already hit the Yucatan Peninsula and is speeding through The Gulf of Mexico. Currently, every possible computer model has it hitting us dead on, as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane. It could also settle down and make landfall as a tropical storm.

And, we thought we were going to skate through one of the most active storm years in recent memory. Ha! Besides, it’s been five years since we were hit by Hurricane Isaac. We need a good storm every few years, whether we want one or not.

I have to do a few things to prep. But, we are always prepared this time of year. The good news, during a week of mostly horrible news, is that it’s a late season storm. The gulf has cooled down some so there’s less water generated energy. And, when we lose power (not a matter of if), the temperature won’t be so brutally hot.

Hurricane Nate should make landfall around 1 am Sunday morning.

We’ll have rain throughout most of Saturday as it arrives. It is a fast-moving storm. By mid-afternoon on Sunday, it should have passed into Mississippi.

Electrical power. That’s another story. It could be a few hours or a few days or even a few weeks before that is restored. Or, maybe we’ll get lucky. Nah. That’s too much to expect. We’ll be BBQing breakfast.

The picture. Pretty much as you see it. It was a beautiful day when I was out and about. I made the finished picture look that way.

 

Summer at the Lake


In blue.

A summer day at the lake. A southern summer day. A New Orleans summer day.

A summer day in New Orleans that folks who aren’t from here probably never think about. They think about the French Quarter. Maybe Magazine Street. About parades. Mardi Gras. And, food. We have our peaceful places too.

This is one of them. Just about anywhere along Lake Ponchartrain. Sure, the lake can get pretty violent during a storm. It was storm surges from it that actually flooded New Orleans 12 years ago.

But, on a nice hot summer day with a little breeze blowing…

This picture is for Sunday. A peaceful Sunday. I thought that after yet another week of turmoil, presidential stupidity, protests and terrorist attacks, we could use something calming. If you open this picture up real big, and play some quiet music, I promise you’ll think you are some place else.

A Fine Day


A pretty day on Decatur Street, The French Quarter.
A pretty day on Decatur Street, The French Quarter.

You know that I don’t usually work during mid-day hours. But, every now and then rules are made to be broken. Even if I made the rules. Which is a whole other discussion of another day.

Look at it. The scene was perfect. The red carriages contrasting against the fresh greens of spring and the white puffy clouds and wonderful blue sky. How could I not take this picture? Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of a postcard picture. Most artists can’t stand these. Everybody thinks we need to get deeper into the location, the people or the  culture. I’ll buy that. But, does that mean you shouldn’t shoot this picture when you come to it? Should I just walk by and grumble something about the scene being too pretty? I don’t think so. Not me.

Anyway.

The picture. One of those see it shoot it, F8 and be there, kinds of pictures. The only trick to this, and many, of my pictures is that I like to work a little wider than many people do.