So close, yet far away.

It’s a funny thing.

We all think of New Orleans as being a giant city. It’s not. It’s a city of about 375,000 people. We are losing about 1,000 people a year due to all sorts of reasons. Broken infrastructure. Institutional racism. Crime. Horrible schools. High Taxes. Very high rental prices. The list goes on.

That’s not what this post is about.

Instead, it’s about the region in which we live. Fifteen minutes outside of the city lies Southeast Louisiana. If it matters, leaving the city means traveling from a blue city to a red state. It doesn’t matter to me. Even though we might not agree politically, I find the people to be sweet, kind and caring.

So, we don’t talk politics. Or, religion.

Aren’t those topics what you are supposed to avoid during holiday dinners? With people who really look like you because they are you. Sort of.

I like crossing the big muddy and tooling along the roads on the Westbank. You never know what you’ll find. I find pictures like this one. I find good almost home cooked meals in gas stations. I find people who ask why you are taking a picture. When you tell them, they ask to be in a couple frames. They either tell, or guide you, towards locations that they think might make a good picture.

They are country folk.

To them, New Orleans is the “big city.” A place in which they aren’t comfortable and don’t feel safe. And, yet, the are only 10 or 15 miles away.

The picture. Wandering along River Road around sunset. I’m pretty sure that you can figure out the rest.

 

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A different kind of learning.

To everything there is a season.

My season seems to by learning in some of its purest forms. I could also curse this thing. It’s really opened me up. That’s a good thing. It’s helping me to see with different eyes. It’s helping me feel with a different heart.

But.

It’s also bringing up emotions at inopportune times.

After all, who wants to start leaking when you are grocery shopping? That almost happened, as I watched a daughter about my age help her dad with his shopping. Her tenderness towards him was amazing. He was ancient and wearing a World War II service cap. Pinned to it were a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Thanks for your service. You helped save the world.

On balance, I suppose that it’s a good thing. We’ll see where I come out. Next year.

Anyway.

This picture is also about learning. In a different way. It is about experimenting with my smart phone’s camera. Once again, this picture was made in manual, in the so-called pro setting. I did a tiny bit of post production, but the picture is as I saw it on the monitor.

That’s something.

One more thing. If you are so inclined, please go to http://www.laskowitzpictures.com. Take a look around. For sure, there are lots more to be done. But, it’s my new website. It has a blog called Storyteller. Imagine that. There is one post. There is also a store. You can buy photographs there. Currently you can only download files. By the end of the week, it’ll be linked to a printer called The darkroom. They’ve been around for 40 plus years. You can select a picture, select the size, and the finish and it’ll be shipped directly to your address.

Please tell me what you’d like to see in the store. You aren’t committing to anything. I’m just very interested in what might sell. Be patient with that. It’ll take a while to upload masses of pictures from which to select.


They say it’s still winter.

A Sunday picture.

A bright spring like picture to help your day. Something colorful. Something almost playful. Something to make you smile. Or, groan. Spring on a winter’s day.

I have a blogging buddy. She doesn’t  post much anymore. She mostly posts on Facebook and on Instagram. She moved from Northwest Louisiana to Iowa. She has her reasons. Most of them are family driven.

No matter what the reasons, I think why would anybody do that?

She spent last night complaining about the snow. There has already been a lot of snow and cold. Another storm blew through. At around 11pm my time, six more inches of snow were dumped on them. Add to that, she has the flu and has to take her dog out.

I’m not being snarky. I’m not making fun. Come summer I’ll be complaining.

Maybe this picture will send some cheer to those of you who are reading in frozen places.

It is true. I like snow. I also like to leave when I’ve had enough. The last time I was in frozen place was five years ago.

Time flies.

Don’t waste it.

In case you are wondering, I did not go to the parades last night. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t make myself go. After seeing a few pictures pop up on various social media, I kind of wish that I was there. Then, I look at the crowd size and think, “nah.”

It’s a question. It’ll be a question for the rest of Mardi Gras. For sure, the hounds around here are going to the Krewe of Barkus. That’s always fun. They get to meet and greet other dogs. New dogs. I’m sure that a lot of barking and growling will ensue. But, not in anger.

The picture. Operator failure. I meant to get the Japonica buds in focus. When I reviewed the pictures, I sort of set them aside. When I looked at them again, I thought “very interesting, with a little bit of work…” Work I did. This is the result.

Have a good seasonal day, wherever you are.


Rebirth under moon glow.

The moon under a cold winter sky.

That’s not all.

See those lumps on the bare branches? New blooming leaves. Spring is upon us down here in the swamp. Yeah. I know. Most of you are buried under many inches of snow. That’s a benefit of living down here. Of course, there are the summers. I’ll complain about that in a few months.

Anyway.

That’s not what this post is about. It’s about a dream. And, a book. Maybe.

I had a dream last night. Make that a series of dreams. About the same subject. When I awoke as old guys do, the dream ended. When fell back asleep, the dream restarted. This happened a couple of times. It was a very strange dream. One of the emerging characters was a musician who called himself Jim, but whose real name was Augie.

I couldn’t get the dream out of my head. I wrote down the main parts of the dream in a little day book. Usually, when I do that, whatever is stuck in my head is let out.

Not this time.

Then it hit me. One of those shower things. This could be a book.

Not a photo-driven book because there may be places on earth like this place but I’ve never seen them. Or, pictures of them. There is no way for me to visually portray this place. Or, the people.

I decided to scribble my dreams into a book. A novel.

I’m not going to say much more. For me, this is a moon shot. If it does nothing more than get my dream series on paper, that’s good enough for me. If something grows out of it, all the better.

You knew I’d tie this picture back into my story. Didn’t you?

The funny thing about this new, maybe project, is that now in retirement I’m busier than I’ve ever been. Photo books, a potential novel, archive work, tours, travels. Sheesh.

I should have retired earlier. I could have gotten something done.

The picture. I knew something was up. No pun intended. I’ve been sneezing and been stuffy for a couple of days. Tree pollen really gets me. When I saw the moon and looked up through the leaves, it was confirmed. Tree pollen. I focused on the moon. That’s what originally caught my eye. Besides, I’m not giving those pollen-filled buds any more credit than they deserve.

 

 


A winter sky.

Drifting.

A winter sky. A little branch of something not dormant. A little bit of peacefulness. That’s what I saw. That’s why I made the picture.

It seems that it’s time for a little shift. At least here. On Storyteller. I’m in an odd place.

Tonight, I’m going to photograph one of the first parades of the Mardi Gras parade season. Chewbacchus. With that name you can imagine what it will be like. It’s a walking parade. A downtown parade. A hipster parade.

Let’s hope that I’m motivated enough to actually go. I could tell you about the difficulties of working in The Bywater. Parking. Broken streets. That stuff.  As a wise friend once said, “sometimes, the hardest part of taking a picture is getting there.”

That should cover my whining excuses.

Anyway.

You don’t need a lesson in making this picture. It’s a simple picture. A graphic picture. See it. Frame it. Push the button. It’s a test. I’ll tell you more about that later.

From the fine world of housekeeping.

I finally found a way to sell pictures without creating what amounts to another website. And, with the ability to price my work at the right rates. It’s called The Darkroom. After reading and testing, I think it’s going to be very cool. I’ll add the link somewhere on this page. After that, it’s just a matter of clicks for you. You can look at the work and have it delivered to you anywhere in the world. Even Texas. That’s a joke.

Your photographic art will arrive in a matter of days. Hopefully, you’ll like it. Hopefully you’ll like the pictures with which I start building my collection.


Everything in one picture.

Hong Kong.

Not this picture. This is near home in New Orleans.

I was watching the last season of Anthony Bourdain. The show made me nostalgic. It made me a little sad. Not for Tony. We know his end.

It made me miss some of the things that I had. That I did. I thought about living there. I liked it. A lot. Maybe more than I like living in New Orleans.

I think, even after my paid expat time was up, I should have stayed. Yes. It’s expensive. Yes. It’s crowded. For certain I was in the minority. But, there’s a lot to be said for that. It changes your thinking. Your viewpoint changes. You learn a lot. About people who are different from you. About yourself.

If my word for the year is learning, the Lunar New Year brings us to the Year of the Pig. I’m not exactly sure who those two intersect, but it’s worth a thought. Or, two.

Bourdain met up with a cinematographer who worked a lot with Wong Kar-wei. He made those dreamy introspective scenes. He led Bourdain on a merry chase throughout the city. To places I loved and frequented. Some of it changed. Hong Kong never stands still. Others have not. They didn’t hit all of my spots. But, they hit enough.

I haven’t been to Hong Kong in 11 years. I’ve grown older. Slower. A little broken. I’m not even sure if I could walk many of the city’s streets. I could try. I could take breaks. I would probably see more.  You know. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

I should go. This year. Before it slips my mind.

When is a very obvious question. Between my two lives, I’m booked until at least September. That could work. The weather there is about like it is here. The temperatures would start dropping. It would be cool, but not cold. We’ll see.

See what’s happening here? It’s like a journey through the past. Only it’s headed toward the future. There are a lot of places I’d like to visit. Before I can’t.

Oh yeah. The picture. The dog who sees stuff was groomed. She got a haircut. The groomer shaved her down to her body. She needed it. Between rain, and falling leaves and the wetness on the ground, she was matted. Sure, I brushed her. I combed her. But, when her fur is long, she picks up everything. Funny thing about her fur is that it weighs a lot. She started out her day weighing 24.5 pounds. Just under the maximum cocker weight of 25 pounds. Off came her fur. We weighed her again. Twenty three pounds. That’s a helluva diet. She lost 1.5 pounds in three hours.

This is the long way of saying that she was in a great mood. She was ripping around on our walk until she lead me to this. She stopped. I photographed. I made two good pictures. Off we went. There’s really not much to this picture. Winter silhouetted trees and a sunset. What could be easier?

They say that anything worth doing is worth working hard to achieve. Sometimes. Other times, the best thing is the easiest thing. It just sort of flows. As I wrote yesterday, I am just the conduit.

Be the conduit.

 


Creativity.

Creativity.

I was reading something about that this morning. In The New York Times. It was a piece about “The Artist’s Way.” A book which is 25 years old. A book that all of us who claim to be creative, want to be creative or, who are creative, should read.

I’ve only read a chapter or two. I borrowed it from a friend who needed it back well before I was done. It’s full of philosophy and exercises and thoughts that will help. You not be doing anything creative yet, but want to. You may be a working creative and are stuck. You may want to change genres. There is something for all of us.

Oddly, since I didn’t read much of the book but have a very good idea of what the author says, I found that say about the same things.

Things like.

Photography block? Go outside and photograph the first things that you see. In a new city? Photograph “what is it like to be…” Need inspiration? Talk to your friends and colleagues. They don’t have to be photographers. Need to fill your head with creativity? Head to your nearest museum or art gallery.  Practice, practice, practice.

And, so on.

One thing caught my attention 25 years ago. Neil Young says it. Bob Dylan says it. Van Gogh said it. “Let the higher power speak through your work.” Whoever and whatever that is. That’s a version of my, “the work is the prayer.”

It took me many years to learn this. From all sorts of sources.

There is one more thing. You can’t hurry it. You can’t hurry the process. You can’t hurry the technology. You can’t hurry your own learning.

As a friend if mine once said early in my learning, “the river flows in its own time.”


Another view of Japonica blooms. 

I posted another version of this tree last month.

Last month was yesterday. I didn’t post it yesterday. I posted it a week or so ago. Last month.

That’s my topic. That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Calendar pages flipping.

What does that mean? What doesn’t it mean? For me, aside from business and credit cycles, they don’t mean much. Of course, they mean seasonal changes. But, they don’t change me.

We make a very big deal about the new year. We make resolutions. We try to drive our businesses harder. We try to change ourselves.

Why wait for a new year to do those things? Or, a new month? I would humbly suggest that you change those kinds of things when you notice they need changing. If you are in poor physical shape, take action when you notice that. If your business had a bad month make the required course corrections. Whatever needs doing, you should do it.

This post was created in response to a number of posts, comments and tweets. People where talking about how bad January was for them. They expected good things after New Year 2019. Good things didn’t happen. In some cases, bad things happened.

People got sick. People lost their jobs — especially if they are journalists. People had dreams that didn’t come true.

I didn’t reply to any of that.

I realized that it would make a good post here, on Storyteller.

Here’s what I think. You can’t control illness anymore than you can control nature. Dreams take hard work to come true. Most of the people whose comments I read were just waiting for them to come true.

Journalism. It is true that digital companies like HuffPost laid off a lot of people. Same thing with Buzzfeed. That makes me nervous. Those are the kinds of companies that should succeed today. Obviously, their owners wanted a better financial return. Good journalism costs money.

A number of my friends got laid off from traditional newspapers. You know, the ones made out of real paper. I like these folks. But, what did they think was going to happen?

That side of the of the news business has been dying for years. You can’t hang on forever. Talented or not.

What really amazed me where the comments made in reply to their posts. Friends were offended for the loss of good journalists. Or, good photographers. Whatever. They said things like your newspaper doesn’t know what they are missing. Or, Let’s boycott XYZ  newspaper.

Like that’ll help.

The world is changing. Technology is running rampant. Some for the better. Some for the worse. Realize that. Accept that. Use it. Drive your career with that knowledge. For that matter, run your life with that knowledge.

Think about it.

WordPress claims about 90,000,000 blogs or websites. We do all of this self publishing online. We couldn’t do that 25 years ago. Sheesh. Doing it 20 years ago took real online publishing skills. Now? Not so much.

What do U.S. Marines say? ” Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.”

Do that.

Forget the calendar. Change as you need to. When you need to. What you need to.

Happy weekend.


First blooms of the winter.

This picture. The real first blooms of winter.

I almost forgot to show you this one because I posted it on Instagram. I know that not all of you follow me there, so I decided you should see it here. On Storyteller. Where it belongs. My first social media home. That one that really matters to me. To you.

I’ve got a few more pictures like that. I’ll share them with you here.

When I made the picture I was just was really just trying to make a good exposure. The blooms were really out of reach for me with a phone. Once I saw how nicely the blooms were back lighted, I thought that the picture needed some special treatment.

Off to the digital darkroom I went. I worked. I played. I tinkered. I finally got to this place. I liked it. It has almost no bearing on reality.

That’s a problem.

I vacillate between something semidocumentary and something that is a kind of art. I reckon that I should sort of settle on some direction. I could do both. That would require separate marketing. Separate websites.

Sheesh. I can barely keep track of one.

We’ll see.

I realized that these days I’m not wanting to spend a lot of time building websites. That came about from my Smugmug experiment. I’m still doing it, but to do that well it takes more time than working on Storyteller. The point is less work. Not more. I want to be making pictures, not fiddling around with a new website.

Another problem has arisen for Smugmug. I watched two pricing videos. I read a lot of their material. They are great at helping you solve technical issues. They are horrible at photo philosophy, which bleeds into sales. Nobody has been able to teach me about price points.

As I see it, just about every photographer links their prices to a photo lab. They sell their prints for what it costs to make a print. Nothing else is added. I eat what I kill. Doing that might get one of my pictures in somebody’s hands, but I can’t make any money from it.

The way to do it, it seems to me, is to add the print cost to the total fee. So, let’s say you want to buy a 16 x 20 print. That costs about $12.00 to make the print. Likely, I’d want to add at least another $250.00 for the subject matter. So, your cost would be $262.00 plus the cost of shipping. I can’t find a photographer who actually does that so I could learn from him or her. When I asked around, it was crickets. Apparently, most photographers who use Smugmug are rich and don’t even want to try to pay for the cost of cameras, lenses and other photographic gear.

And, we wonder why the photo industry is so broken.

I am regional president of a trade group called ASMP. American Society of Media Photographers. We work very hard at teaching professional standards. That includes what it actually costs to produce an image. Wholesale costs and net costs. If photographers actually listened to us, and many other working professionals, we might actually make a living.

But, noooo.

So many photographers are so excited that somebody actually wants to use one of their pictures, that they give them away.  You see it at professional levels all the time. Image users want to use a picture for a credit. I can’t eat credits. I’m at the point in my career — as many of us are — I don’t need the exposure. In many ways I don’t care what the other guy does. It’s not my business. They say.

They are wrong. When another photographer gives away a picture, or undersells a picture, it erodes the market. Ultimately, it hurts me. Luckily for me, the people that I call clients know the difference between a hobbyist with a camera and a professional who has paid his dues.

Aren’t you glad you saw my email and opened it?