Roll the Dice

Now that the time has changed back to daylight saving time, the sun sets much later and there are more opportunities to get out and make some images in the evening. Tonight I kept watching the sky, waiting for a sign that the sunset would be spectacular. It was between 5:30 and 6:00 PM and the sky was looking kind of hazy.

I checked an app I have that shows me where the sun will be setting based on what location I enter. I also use a web site to see what I can expect on the ground level.

The sky still wasn’t looking very promising, but I decided to take a chance, to just roll the dice (as it were). After all, it’s Friday and the worst thing that would happen is I would waste some time and a little bit of gasoline.

As I drove to my predetermined location, all the while keeping an eye skyward, I started to notice a kind of ‘cobbling’ of the clouds. I’m not sure that’s the right word, but what I was seeing was that they were starting to kind of clump together. This is a positive sign, but the sun was still surrounded by a pretty think haze.

I realized that this could go either way. The sunset could be drab (as the app warned me it would be), or something good could happen.

That’s why you got get out there, because you just never know.

As I parked and started to walk to my desired location (I had this shot in my head for some time). I kept looking towards the directing that the sun would be setting and it was starting to look promising!

Usually, symmetry in photography is “against the rules”… however, sometimes it’s a good thing to break these rules.

I’m happy with the sunset that greeted me. I hope you like it too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.web twin bridges william wolfe


web pier sunset 002

What makes a person do the things that they do? What are they thinking or trying to accomplish when they take an action and set out to fulfill a goal. What drives a person to ‘get out there.’

In the world of photography, an individuals motivation may be simple or very complex. If the photos to be created are for a client, that’s a completely different motivation. If, however, the images to be captured are for the use of the photographer, what makes them take the necessary steps to actually go and do it. After all, it does take some ‘work’. Work is a strong word. Perhaps preparation is a better description of what is needed in advance of a photographic venture.

Personally, for my own photographic work, my motivation is quite simple; I want to try to create pleasing images that will transport the viewer to the location and, hopefully, they will imagine themselves in the scene and feel what I felt when the image was created. Of course, no one can control what another person will find pleasing or what emotion, if any, they’ll have when they view an image. Still, that’s my hope for my work. I don’t usually have any particular ‘message’ or hidden meaning that I’m trying to present to the viewer.

In Louisiana (at least South Eastern Louisiana), we don’t have any towering mountain ranges or deep lush valleys to provide us with powerful subjects to make images of. We just don’t. What we do have is no less interesting or unique however. In this image we see a pier leading out into the lake. I imagine that this pier was built for fishing and a place to dock a boat. As I stood with my camera waiting for the sun to get in the best position, I couldn’t help but think about the people that built this pier. It was probably built after Hurricane Katrina as most of these piers were destroyed by that storm. I wondered just how long it took to complete the pier, what skills a person would need to have to build such a thing to withstand the elements for years to come. I imagined excited children running the length of the pier towards an anticipated boat ride or fishing trip. I wondered if, perhaps, the pier was built for an older couple as a place for them to sit together and watch the sunset. If you look closely, you’ll notice a couple of crab traps hanging off of the pier. Those reminded me of my daughter as she loves to go crabbing.

While there are no people in this photograph, it is all about people!

Boating, fishing and other water activities are woven deeply into the fabric that is the South Eastern Louisiana culture. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of similar piers jutting out into waterways all over in this area. This image is uniquely Louisiana. I hope when you see it, you can imagine yourself there, wind and saltwater spray splashing up and wetting your face as you wait to get a bite on your fishing line. Or perhaps, you’ll imagine yourself with a loved one sitting and talking quietly as you wait to watch one of the best shows we have on earth…… A Louisiana sunset!

Above the Noise.

web harvey locks 002 noiseless

They say everything is about timing. Being in the right place at the right time. No where is that more true than in photography. It’s all about the timing and, more importantly when it comes to outdoor or landscape photography, it’s all about the light.
Overhead, flat, lighting isn’t good for almost any subject. There needs to be at least some shadow to give the image some depth.
The light may be the most important factor to consider, but it’s just one of very many. Equally important is the subject as well, of course.

While most of the images that I’ve been posting have been ‘traditional’ photographs taken at ground level. This time, however, I wanted to put out another image made with my UAV (drone). Most photographers that I know are always looking for new ways to get a different perspective on the images that they make. As challenging as traditional photography can be, it helps to step out of the norm sometimes to spark a new level of creativity. Whether it be underwater, time-lapse or aerial, it helps to ‘mix it up’ from time to time.

Aerial photography and videography bring with them other challenges beyond just getting images or footage. You have to be able to fly the thing for starters. Luckily, that isn’t very difficult these days. Still, to get it into position at the right time can pose some issues.

Also, there is still a bit of a stigma with drones. People are still a little uneasy about them. They shouldn’t be, but they are for some reason.
With this in mind, I’m always quick to explain what the drone is all about, what I’m doing and show anyone around the display and just what the drone is ‘seeing’. This really helps them to get a grasp on the wide angle of the camera and they seem to feel more at ease that it really isn’t capable of ‘spying’ on anyone (not at the altitude that I fly). Most people are really fascinated when they actually get to see one up close and get a look at what it can do.

This image was taken from my DJI Phantom 3 (4k) of a barge being pushed out of the Harvey Locks into the Mississippi river.
From this angle, you can get a really good look at the locks and how everything works…. well, kind of.

Under a Blood Red Sky.

I think that’s a U2 album or something. (?)

Taking a photograph of a sunset is a little bit ‘safer’ than attempting to photograph a sunrise. The reason is, you can get an idea of what the sky is going to look like throughout the day and, to some degree, determine if the sunset is going to be worthy of being photographed. It doesn’t always work out, but you have a much better chance.

Waking up well before sunrise and, usually, driving some distance to a predetermined location and hoping to capture a stunning sunrise is really a gamble. You can either have a boring, cloudless sky or, you can have an overcast, lifeless sky with no sunrise at all.

In this case, I woke up and got on the road a little bit later than I would have liked, but hey, it’s very early. I made my way down the treacherous stretch of highway 90 towards Des Allemands. I arrived on the east side of the bridge over the bayou and started to select my final location. The sun, of course was going to be coming up behind me (duh, sun rises in the East!).

So, I jumped back in my car and made my way (quickly) across the bridge. I pulled up right across the street from this docked shrimp boat. I set up my tripod and the sky just lit up! The image you see was what I saw and it only lasted for about 2 or 3 minutes! When I got back to the studio and started working on the images from the morning, I was pleased that I decided to wake up early and was rewarded with a sight that few people get to see. That is another great aspect of being a photographer, sometimes you get to see something spectacular, you may be alone when you see it, but that’s to your photographs, you can share the incredible image with others! How great is that?!boat 001 edit


Bitter and Biting

screen night lighthouse 002

When people think about being a photographer, I imagine they think about exotic locations and warm sunny beaches. It’s true that you can find yourself there from time to time, but that’s not always the case. Whenever I look at this picture, I’m transported back in time to the night that I took this photo. As you can see from the flag, the wind was gusting. I remember I had my tripod set up and my hoodie pulled over my head to try to block some of the wind.

The cold was bitter and biting! We may not get as cold here in Louisiana as other areas of the country and we usually don’t get snow. We do however have a different kind of cold. It’s a cold that goes right through you and chills you to the bone. As I age, the effect seems to be even greater – just one of the downfalls of getting old!

The lake was very choppy, but the long exposure helped to smooth out the waves. Even the clouds are just streaks across the sky. Surprisingly, one of the most interesting thing (to me) about this photograph is the reflection of the light through the hand rail of the walkway to the right of the image. I saw it there when I was setting up to capture this image, but you never know, for sure, how reflected light will look in the final image.

The light on the water just to the lower left of the image is from the South shore harbor just behind my position.

This lighthouse is one of my favorite subjects. The shape is so unique and it has a place of prominence in this area. It’s a symbol of the restoration that has been taking place over the years to the lake, which has been quite amazing to tell the truth.

Captured Forever

old bayou shack

Sometimes I think….. well, ponder really, about the first camera and the first time people saw a photograph. I often wonder what they thought. In this day of cell phone cameras, we really take photography for granted, maybe more than we ever have. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just like to stay in touch with the roots of photography and what it is.. and does.

I seem to recall reading that American Indians, some of them at least, wouldn’t allow themselves to be photographed as they feared that part of their soul would be stolen and locked in the photograph. Something like that. You can’t really blame them as photography must have seemed kind of magical.

One of my favorite aspects of photography is that, with each press of the shutter, a slice of time is captured forever. Sometimes, as it turns out, the slice in time captures something that isn’t going to be around much longer, even if that isn’t known when the photo is made.  I’ve photographed several structures only to find out some time later that they had been demolished or changed in some way. That gives the photograph a special meaning, to me at least.

The shack in this photo, which was already in pretty bad condition when this photo was taken, was eventually reclaimed by nature. It will live on, however, in this image forever.

If there is something more important about photography than that, I don’t know what it is!

An Unexpected Stop

web foggy 002

I packed the trunk of my car in a rush and headed out. It was much later in the day than I would usually get started, but the sky was gray and overcast and there were dark clouds and rain in the distance. These are terrible conditions for normal photography, but excellent conditions for pinhole photography. As the overall light is dim, shutter times are more manageable with a pinhole camera than in bright sunlight.

Still, I packed my other equipment because… well, you just never know.

I had a location in mind that might work well for a pinhole image, but as I turned on the road that runs along the Mississippi river, I saw something unexpected. There was a think layer of fog! It was really just over the water for the most part, but it was so thick that only the tops of the tallest freight ships could be seen. I did set up the pinhole camera, but decided to make a few images with my digital camera as well.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about trying to incorporate mood or emotion into a photograph. No one can really tell you how to do it, you’re just supposed to feel what you’re feeling and, hopefully, that will be transmitted to the viewer. I’ve also read other accounts where the photographer had no emotion whatsoever during the making of the image, but viewers of these photographs come up with all sorts of ideas as to what the photographer was trying to say. When, in reality, he wasn’t saying anything in particular.

To me, the goal of a landscape photograph is to try to present the scene laid out in front of the photographer in as interesting a way as possible. Through the use of light, composition and depth of field, nudge the viewer towards what you want them to see, and nothing else. Remove all the distractions and highlight the subject. In this case, the fog helped me do just that. It also adds an element of mystery to the final image. I never did make it to my original destination as rain started to fall and I was anxious to see how these foggy images turned out.

I processed this photo in black and white, to me, a fog image just looks better when colors are removed.

If this image causes you to feel anything when you look at it, I’d love to hear what it is in the comments.

Memorial Cross

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No Photoshop tricks here, this is exactly what it looked like that foggy morning.

I knew I had a long drive ahead of me, so I left the house extra early. You know when you pass a Starbucks and they aren’t open yet – you’re out too early!
I had watched the late weather report and expected it to be a foggy morning. As my subject was in the water along the bank, I expected the fog to be a factor – a very good factor.
As I drove to the predetermined location, I couldn’t help but wonder if the idea and vision I had for this photograph was going to live up to what I was planning.

All along the drive, the fog seemed to streak towards me in waves. There would be periods where I couldn’t see anything, and then the fog would clear for a bit so I could get my bearings again. The only time this was unnerving was along the last stretch of the trip where I was on a two lane highway with fairly deep ditches on both sides. I remember wondering just how many unlucky drivers had ended up in this drop-offs!

There wasn’t too much time to think about that as I was nearing my location, time to get my thoughts in order.

In 2005 an event took place in our area that became a line of demarcation. Even today, memories are described as being before Katrina or after Katrina. Hurricane Katrina made the national and even the world news. The vast majority of news coverage revolved around the well known and popular city of New Orleans. The only problem with that is; the storm never actually hit New Orleans head-on. It only suffered a glancing blow and the eventual flooding of the city and all the drama that came with it was due to levees that failed to hold the water back, which is their only job.

There was little to no mention of St. Bernard Parish. Even now, you may be saying that you never heard of this part of our area. That’s no surprise as I don’t recall the news mentioning it at all. The problem is, St. Bernard Parish took a direct hit from the storm. Flood waters that were 8 to 12 feet tall filled the streets. The flood waters actually moved houses away from their original locations – I saw this for myself.

Homes were reduced to piles of junk which had been the home owners prized belongings. Sheetrock was gone exposing an open view to the attic and ceiling fans were bent down like wilted flowers. The scene was unimaginable.

The are I was quickly approaching was the small fishing area of ‘Hopedale’ and ‘Shell Beach’. Several boats, small to large littered the shallow waterways, some still tied to docks, even though they weren’t going anywhere.

However, my subject this day was a cross that had been placed 20 or so feet off shore. The cross accompanies a large memorial plaque that list the names of the 163 people from this area who we lost, killed by this monster storm.

The gravity of the memorial was in the forefront of my mind as I parked my car and started to gather the equipment I would use to capture what I hoped would be an image that would echo the mood of the subject. Imagine my surprise when I walked up to see 4 or 5 other photographers who were there for the same thing! I thought I was the only one crazy enough to get out this early!

While it was a warmer morning, that’s what creates the fog, it was still chilly at the water’s edge. I remember pulling my hood up over my head and just looking out into the darkness. The first light of the day hadn’t shown itself yet and, between the dark and the fog, it was difficult to know exactly where the cross actually was. With other photographers there, I needed to stake out my spot and be prepared to make the best of it. I fired off a few test shots to gauge the exposure setting I would be using, knowing full well that they would be changing quickly once the light entered the equation. Suddenly, the early, long, dark and foggy ride transformed from a kind of chore into a moment better than I could have hoped for. The first rays of light, diffused by the fog, gave off an orange appearance and the sky above the horizon turned almost purple. The water and the marsh usually visible was completely obscured by the fog. I fired off several images and, just as quickly as it appeared, the view completely changed. The fog started to burn off and, within just a couple of minutes, it was all over. Such a long build up to such a short payoff. However, this is one of my favorite images of all time. The meaning of the subject and the mood of the environment seemed to be in perfect harmony. I rode around the area for an hour or so shooting other photos, but none would match the almost magical feel of this particular photograph. Whenever I look at this image, I still hear the sound of the waves, I feel the gentle breeze moving the fog in a random pattern and the call of the pelicans looking for their first meal of the new day. Sunrise and sunset photos have become something of a cliche’, but there’s a reason that they are still so popular.

I hope you enjoy viewing this image as much as I enjoyed making it Even while the subject is a solemn one, there can still be joy in a successful capture and one that actually does match, and even exceeds, my vision!

Use What You Have

In Louisiana, especially southeastern Louisiana, we don’t have mountain ranges or deep, flowing valleys. We don’t have waterfalls or any real dynamic scenery really.

What we do have is plenty of water!  When you have water, you tend to also have boats.

As a photographer in this part of the country, when you set out to make some landscape images, you have two choices;

  1. Travel to places that have those things
  2. Use what you have

Most of the time, I just have to choice what I have to work with. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. People travel from around the world to see our swamps, bayous and waterways. We also have some very intense sunsets.

When I pack up my equipment and set out, the main thing I hope to accomplish is to create images that say, without any doubt, “Louisiana” to anyone who views them.

new shrimp boat 2

This image was made in July at about 8:30 PM. We get a very late sunset in the summer, VERY late!  This image was shot using a tripod and I kept my ISO (which is the equivalent of film speed) at 100. This provides the best image quality when it comes to digital noise. Looking at the image and how smooth the water looks, but how intense the light is reflecting on the water, I feel confident that the shutter speed was around 30 seconds (another very good reason to use a tripod!)  I hope this technical information isn’t boring. Some have commented that they appreciate it, so I’ll include it from time to time.

One thing I remember very vividly from this image is that the gnats were swarming and biting as they tend to do at dusk in the summer. As hot as it is in July in the deep south, a long sleeve hoodie isn’t a bad idea to protect yourself from the gnats and mosquitoes. Of course,  you’re sweating anyway, so it doesn’t matter that you’re wearing long sleeves!

Using a wide angle lens, I like to try to include something in the foreground to give the images some additional depth. In this case, that clutch of weeds did the trick. I mean, they went to all the trouble of growing there!

Even though this large shrimp trawler looks like it’s ready to head out to fill its hold with tons of shrimp, there wasn’t anyone onboard, not that I could see or hear. In fact, my car was the only vehicle near the boat. That brings on a whole different set of possible issues. When you’re hanging around someone’s VERY expensive boat near dark, you want it to be instantly clear to anyone passing exactly what you’re doing there. I keep my distance and my camera and tripod in full view. I don’t need anyone mistaking me for a criminal looking to rob this boat and shooting me – that would be bad!

So, should you venture out yourself to make this type of photograph, be very careful. Stay out of the shadows and, whatever you do, don’t go on someone’s boat (unless the owner invites you of course). This may sound like common sense, but common sense isn’t the most common thing.

I did move around the docked trawler taking several long exposures, this just happens to be the one that I liked the most.  Maybe because you can see the last light of the day in the background or the majestic way the net rigging cuts against the darkening sky. Or maybe it’s the way the boat’s lights reflect off of the water, giving the boat a sense of life.

Maybe it’s all of those things! What do you like, if anything, about this image?

Thank you again for reading my thoughts and visiting my photography website. Please ‘follow’ along with this page or ‘like’ my Facebook page if you’re interested in seeing more.

Thanks again! Have a good one.




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