New trip on the road since quite some time: the destination is New Orleans and it comes 6 months after our last week-end escape to San Antonio at the end of April. We choose this date to avoid the crowd and be able to see this magic city in a more private and calm mood. Or that’s what we had in our minds.
The plan is to leave Houston on Friday evening right after work, drive a couple of hours on the I-10 all the way to Lake Charles. Stop there for some food and mini-rest, then head to Lafayette and pass there the night. The next morning, as early as possible, leave for New Orleans: spend there Saturday and a few hours on Sunday, then come back to Houston. Plan approved.
Now, let’s think at the photography gear: what lens do we need in order to capture the spirit of New Orleans? I will be travelling with a backpack for the cameras and lenses so I can afford to use more than a lens, since I will be walking most of the time however, I can’t exaggerate.
Choice #1: the Canon 50 mm f/1.2 is a must for both portraits and for more generic type of shots either in low light or during the day. I use the nickname ‘The Prince’ because it’s a noble lens, almost perfect.
Choice #2: Fat boy – Canon 85 mm f/1.2 not as versatile as the 50mm but a champion of portraits. Moreover, I am looking to shoot portrait for a project I will be finalizing probably during the next year so both lenses will come with us and, for sure, I will take advantage of their wide aperture f/1.2.
Choice #3: The third lens is ‘Wonder Lens’ Sigma ART 35mm f/1.4, great for almost every reportage or story, either in full light or late at night, superb colors and bokeh.
Choice #4: ‘Work Horse’ Canon 24-105mm f/4, more desirable for the wide angle than for the zoom capabilities. I am now used to plan my shoots using primes and it’s very rare that I move from wide angle to a close-up zoom within a few shoots. Anyways I don’t have anything wider than the 24mm of this zoom and I am sure it will be very handy.
Choice #5: finally the Canon 100mm f/2.8 L macro, ‘The Hit man’: you’ll hardly miss a shot with this one. My plan is to use it mostly during the daily sessions for street photography and to capture details. This lens has superior speed, sharpness and colors and I ended up using it also at night in so many occasions while in New Orleans that I was really happy I did not leave it at home.
Couple of batteries, a charger and that’s it. Let’s drive to Louisiana!
We spend the night in Lafayette: a cajun b&b full of history and personality named ‘the Duchess’. We try to leave early on Saturday morning (for us the terms ‘early’ and ‘weekend’ don’t match very well) and the beautiful light entering the b&b rooms demanded a few shots be taken.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III – Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L
Same conditions of light: Work Horse and WondeLens: two completely different ways to live photography.
The road to New Orleans is long and the traffic is heavy. Once arrived, a quick stop at the hotel and then Uber helps us reaching safely the streets close to Jackson Square where we wander around till late night.
The macro 100 ‘Hitman’ is super sharp and fast, colors are always great and those 100mm can be hyper-useful when you just can not get that close. The biggest issue of this lens is its name: you might be fooled into thinking that it’s just good to shoot flowers and cockroaches (I am joking, I love macro photography….).
Yes the streets of New Orleans, looks a lot like our European home town: so narrow compared to Houston’s highways and mega boulevards. Also the architectonic style of the French quarters reminds us of Italy. The style is infact a mix of French and Spanish because of the history of this part of land ‘recently’ bought from France by the US. I say ‘recently’ because for any European ‘200 years’ is just nothing if we think at our ancient Romans and Greek roots.
New Orleans is not just the French Quarter: it’s enough to step outside that block and the great skyscrapers remind us where we are. We just don’t have enough time to explore the metropolitan faces of New Orleans, we leave that for a second trip, and decide to stick to Bourbon Street with so many things to see and admire.
I had to fight a lot to make this picture acceptable in post pro: f/4 is not the best when your background is annoying. The Mr.9 staring at us was not invited to the shot, still, we have to deal with him. I did not capture the rest of the scene but this guy with the trumpet pulled it out of nowhere and started a duet with a band that was playing on a balcony in front of us. The one in the picture is exactly the moment when he pulls the trumpet out: everyone was looking elsewhere at the band on the balcony (except me and Mr.9) so the crowd was caught out of surprise and rich tips flooded the improvised trumpet guy. Staged ?? I leave it up to you.
Time flies when you’re having fun: the afternoon dies and the night arrives. Our plan to come here in November to avoid the mass of tourists was only partially successful: after dinner the streets are full of people from everywhere, several of them taking full advantage of the laxity of the local laws when it’s time to deal with alcohol. There’s also a tourist industry that apparently relies on the boost people’s mood get from a few more drinks. Lights, music, people: all these factors give to these streets a particular look that I’ve tried to capture in my pictures and that make the famous ‘Mardi Gras’ of New Orleans.
WonderLens and the bokeh: shooting anything but fully open is a crime against humanity. Colors and sharpness are at the top and that’s why I gave it that nickname.
Now below let’s see how the 85mm behaves in a non conventional use: this lens is mainly appreciated in a studio environment, due to its rather slow focus: exactly the opposite of the streets where you need to be quick and reactive.
A long strip of pictures taken with the 85mm, ‘Fat boy’, due to its shape and weight: a massive piece of glass that I improperly use for street photography, against the common school and thoughts. I love it and just don’t care about ‘common school and thoughts’! The subject pops-out of the picture with all its details, the background is so smooth that I still don’t know if I prefer the in-focus or the out-of-focus part of the pictures. If it was fast to focus it would be perfect.
A final word about Luminar, the software that lately I am using to develop these and several other pictures for this blog: easy to use and very effective, I love the final quality and hope Skylum will keep on developing it. A new version is due for the 18th December and I just can’t wait to try it.
So, bottom line: we saw a lot but not enough of New Orleans, we know we need to be back, avoid the touristic places and get more close to the core of this city. We completely missed/skipped the vodoo stuff because we couldn’t find time to search for anything truly authentic. Next time!
I am happy for the pictures and for some funny moment we had taking them: people here are just fantastic, during the day I was wearing a shirt of the Texans and everyone was cheering and clapping their hands at me…not exactly what would happen with the colors of Torino while walking around in Bergamo…
A new week is just starting now: only 10 working days left before flying back to Italy! Maybe I’ll have time for a mini-post, a quick snapshot of the Hustonian life, while I am focused preparing a big post of our beloved Tuscany and how we see it after almost one year being away. Yes time flies, we all change and nothing stays the same: the camera is a way to capture the essence of what we see, of who we are… Come on and Follow me in this upcoming trip!