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New Orleans, Louisiana – In A Different Light

10 Sep

Royal Street During a Light Rain

New Orleans is probably one of Americas most photographed cities.  It certainly makes up a great number of my images.  One of the most difficult things that I encounter is ending up with a bunch of images that rarely captures the beauty and excitement of the French Quarter Streets or Canal Street – the River you name it.  In this series of images, taken at different times, I decided to pump up the saturation, chroma and whatever else I could manipulate in order to make the mood different.  I have overdone it in some of the images but again the colors make me feel good about the picture.  It helps me to see what is there and not to concentrate on what is not there.

The image above was taken on Royal Street after a light rain had started falling.  It was a nice image but just sort of gray.  So I decided to play around with the sliders in Photoshop and in Capture NX.  I liked the result.  The Royal Street image and all the ones that follow are simply produced by adjusting the saturation and chroma of the images.

Late Afternoon Lights on Canal Street

The image above was snapped on Canal Street and I was lucky enough for two streetcars to show up.  As luck would have it I was already soaking wet and just after taking this picture I walked over to the Walgreens at Baronne and Canal and bought a much-needed bottle of water.  Upon exiting the store I stepped into a crater on Baronne Street and fell.  I broke my fall but not that of my camera.  The lens hit the street and broke into a number of pieces.  I also soaked up all the water and essence that Baronne had to over.  This year I will go back and get some of the pictures that I intended to take that night.

An Image Taken From A Small Boat in the Mississippi River

This too was a gray toned image in the original image.  After pumping up the saturation a little the tones in the buildings started matching those found in the water.  A small ship is passing New Orleans headed downriver early in the morning.

The colors in this image turned out completely different.  At first it appeared to me that the image was taken at about the same time as the other but as it was we were running up and down the river quite a bit that day.  This does show how much lighting and colors can change dramatically while one is out and about taking images.

Adding saturation and playing with the color added a lot of drama to the clouds.  The off set was the color of the water that resulted.  I guess I could change it if I wanted to but all in all I enjoy looking at the image as it is.  The colors and the clouds gives the image a “depth” that it would lack otherwise.

Well, after any photo excursion it might be better to look at some pictures and to see what you can do with them.  When I first saw these I was disappointed but after a year it was fun to play with them and see what resulted.  They indeed give one an opportunity to see the same old stuff in a new light.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – U.S.S. Kidd – Small Ship Big History

17 Jul

Moored in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River

The USS KIDD has been in Baton Rouge since 1982.  I have been on the ship several times – always bringing some kids to see an old war ship.  While on the ship I have thought about the men that served aboard the Kidd and as I have navigated the small doors and narrow halls I have thought how “tight” things must been for them while at sea.  I am fairly tall and somewhat claustrophobic and have become uncomfortable while on the ship.

My dad, a World War 2 veteran,  always told me that the service would get one over phobias  and everything else real quick.   Maybe the visitor center covers more but I haven’t even bothered to visit the facility and I had not discovered the rich history of the little ship. I have been apathetic.

The Kidd is not overly impressive as it sits near the Mississippi River levee in Baton Rouge. It is a destroyer.  It is a good thing that beauty contests are not held for ships. It is certainly not as glamorous as the Battleship USS Alabama located in Mobile, Alabama. Ships are more like boxers.  The destroyers are fast and meant to defend against a number of different threats. Destroyers are like lightweight boxers and battleships are like heavyweights.  The heavyweights pound and the lightweights are all over the place hitting and dodging.  The Kidd has a few small guns – not like the many massive ones on the Alabama. The USS Kidd is a Fletcher class destroyer (built in 1943) and about 175 of them were constructed during WW 2.  Only four remain today but three of those have been modernized leaving only one that still is basically the same that it was on V.J. Day in World War 2, and that one destroyer is the USS Kidd.

The Kidd is moored just North of downtown along the Baton Rouge riverfront. Since it’s home is now the Mississippi River a special mooring system was designed to account for the annual fluctuations in the Mississippi River water stages.  The river fluctuates over 40 feet a year and so part of the year the Kidd is floating and when the river is at lower stages the ship is held  in its one of a kind mooring, and is completely out of the water.  People can walk under the hull at these low water periods.

The Kidd is named after Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. Admiral Kidd was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor while he was serving aboard the USS Arizona.  The Kidd was launched on February 28, 1943 at the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Kearny, New Jersey.  It has been a valuable part of some of the most important times in American history. It has fought in battles, has rescued downed flyers and was even hit at mid ship by a kamikaze.  History is interesting for those that live it but for those that don’t there is always a list.  What follows is somewhat of a list.  This was obtained from the National Register for Historic Places Application.  By the way, the U.S.S. Kidd is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the summer of 1943, as a new ship, the Kidd served its shakedown duty guarding convoys in the Atlantic. As it’s need for duty pressed nearer it was assigned for duty in the Pacific in August of 1943. Within a month the Kidd was escorting aircraft carriers in their attack on the Wake Islands.

The Kidd participated in the attack on Rabaul and supported amphibious operations at Bougainville in an operation to dislodge over 60,000 Japanese troops from New Guinea during October of the same year. On November 11, 1943, South of Rabaul the Kidd was detached from the main strike force as it steamed to rescue downed pilots from the U.S.S. Essex.  The Kidd was alone during the rescue and was attacked by eight Japanese aircraft.  While rescuing two downed pilots the Kidd shot down three of the aircraft, left another trailing smoke and had hits on the others. Now mind you the ship was not only picking up downed flyers and shooting at enemy planes but it was also dodging bombs and torpedoes! There must have had some Louisiana boys in important positions on that ship if you ask me!  Commander Allan B. Roby was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the action.

During the time of November 19 until December 9, 1943, the Kidd screened aircraft carriers during air attacks on Tarawa and the Gilbert Island Invasion. The Kidd was sent, away from the main force, to investigate possible submarine activity.  While away the crew spotted 15 low flying enemy bombers headed toward the large U.S. troopships carrying thousands of Marines.  The Kidd sounded the alarm and the fleet opened fire downing two bombers.  The remaining bombers were soon downed by air patrols.

In early 1944, from January 11 until February 28 the Kidd participated in the invasion of the Marshall Islands.  She not only screened heavy ships and bombarded Roi and Wokje but she was the first ship to follow minesweepers into the lagoon at Majuro. From March 20, 1944 until  April 14, 1944, the U.S.S. Kidd guarded airstrip construction at Emirau until completion.

The Kidd also supported the occupation of Atlape and Hollandia, New Guinea. She fought in the Marianas campaign on June 10, 1944. She bombarded Guam from July 8, 1944 until August 10, 1944, to prepare for invasion. During this time the Kidd rescued at total of 35 downed flyers.  She was also part of the invasion fleet of the Philippines in October of 1944.

It appears that the Kidd was at important duty and seeing some type of action just about every day in the Pacific but things were about to change.  The US was preparing to invade the main island of Japan and the first step, and test, was to be made at Okinawa.

I tend to think of Okinawa as the forgotten battle in World War 2. If the Japanese could have prevailed then there was a chance of a negotiated peace. It the allies prevailed then the next chapter was the invasion of Japan.  In looking for information about the battle there are all kinds of official and unofficial estimates about casualties and this and that.

Over 12,500 Americans died there and nearly 40,000 were wounded. Most of these did not make the evening news or the local newspapers.  No vigils were held when the first 1,000 killed or when the total reached 10,000.  One battle in World War 2 with more casualties than the number serving in Afghanistan today.  On the Japanese side things were a lot worse. About 110,00 killed and maybe 20,000 more sealed in caves by their own hands or forces. Don’t forget that civilians lived on Okinawa.  Maybe as many as 150,000 died. These casualties were not all inflicted by the Americans or the battles.  Over 1,000 locals were killed by the Japanese because of their dialect.  It was now or never and someone with a language difference might get friendly with the enemy.  If high end estimates are used then the Japanese military and civilian casualties are about the same as those inflicted by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  We are still hearing debate about the Atomic bombs but little if anything is said about Okinawa.

The above figures and thoughts are mentioned to show the gravity of the situation and the determination with which the Japanese were willing to fight at Okinawa. It was into this mix that the USS Kidd would enter its most perilous times.

During the early phases of the battle the Kidd screened battleships, rescued downed flyers and participated in shore bombardments.  The Kidd was then assigned radar picket duty.  This was the most dangerous assigned for a destroyer.  A radar picket had to maintain its position, regardless.

A few days before the Kidd was to be assigned radar picket duty it had provided emergency protection for the USS Franklin, a carrier, that had been hit by two kamikazes.  The kamikaze flights were numerous at Okinawa.  Over 1,500 were used in seven waves in the early days of the battle.  On April 11, 1945 a low flying kamikaze took aim on the U.S.S. Kidd hitting her at mid ship.  Thirty eight men were killed and 55 wounded.  Despite the horror the Kidd was able to rejoin the task group.  While she was being repaired the war in the Pacific ended.

The Kidd went on to serve in Korea and in the Cold War but I have just covered the high points of her time in the Pacific in World War 2.  The Kidd was decommissioned for a final time in 1964.  In 1982 she was donated to the Louisiana Naval War Commission and was placed in Baton Rouge.

Much drama, death, excitement, emotion and history have taken place on the decks of the USS Kidd. It is not felt today as families stroll around and inside the ship.  She sits there on the river like most of the old World War 2 veterans now and doesn’t say much.  She knows the horrors of war but she is content to sit in silence.  We have a great witness to what our fellow countrymen have done for us.  Those on the Kidd helped to give us freedom.  She is the only WW 2 Fletcher Class Destroyer that can tell us her story.  We need to listen.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Mississippi River

26 Jun

Crescent City Connection at Sundown. On the Mississippi River.

Years ago I visited Lake Itasca in Minnesota to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  As the water leaves the lake and flows toward the Gulf of Mexico it is a narrow and shallow stream – one can jump or wade across and only get his feet wet.  A short way down from the beginning is the first bridge.  It is a split log, which means it is pedestrian only. One hiker at a time.

A Heavy Laden Ship Passes Under the Crescent City Connection

The Mississippi River is a rich part of America’s history and wealth.  The delta region abounds in a history of wars and discovery and trade and new cultures coming to this country. Jazz, the Blues, Rock and Roll all came from this region.  Ships from around the world continuously head for docks from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. How rich a heritage!

Container Ship on the Move Down the Mississippi River

When looking at a map or reading a book it is easy to conjure up images in your mind about all these things.  However, how many of us have actually been out on the river around New Orleans?  I’m not talking about a ferry ride but in some type of boat or ship?

Loading and Unloading Containers

Last year a friend and I put in a boat above New Orleans and traveled down the river just past the city.  The reason was that he is an artist and wanted to photo some images to use as studies for future work. All the mind’s conjured images of river history and culture are soon lost as one starts to think about actually surviving while out on the river.

Grain Elevator Loading Ships on the River

We spent much of the first day getting familiar with things and snapping pictures and trying to find a good place for a sunset image. The light was not good that November day as a front was pushing its way through.  There was just not enough light in the right places. Any photographer knows what I mean.  We identified some good things to take in the morning light and traveled on to Algiers Point to spend the night and wait for daybreak.We tied up and it was near dark when a strange light was bearing down on New Orleans.  It appeared odd and neither one us knew quite what to think.  What was this sight?  It was a storm, and rain hit us from all sides and angles.  We had a covering on the boat but the wind was blowing sideways so much that it didn’t matter.  The temperature started dropping and we outfitted ourselves in warm winter gear and brought out the stuffed sleeping bags. To make a long story short all our gear did was absorb water and by morning we were two freezing boaters wrapped in wet everything.  I wish we would have measured the water we squeezed out of our gear just so I would know how much it was that made me so miserable.

Jackson Street Ferry

The morning brought a different world.  Ships, tugs barges and anything else that would float was on the river.  It is sobering to see a fully loaded tanker riding low in the water headed straight for you. Then a quick glance over the shoulder sees another one coming up from behind.  Thank goodness there is a wake zone through New Orleans or we would have been knocked out of the water as we scooted around trying to get out of the way and take pictures at the same time.  After a while though we settled down and things became manageable.

Large Ship Above New Orleans Headed Down River

We were impressed by the large ships, loaded so much that their hulls were sunk well down in the river.  The skill it took to steer one of those things and to go under the bridges and make the curves in the river is not appreciated by most of us.  It was magnificent to see those ships skillfully maneuver to position for a shot through the curves and then to straighten out and “Thread the Needle” under the Crescent City Connection and then to maneuver again to make the curve in the river below the city.  A ship did this every few minutes and ships continued coming up the river and tugs and barges and ferries were all active.  All of them seemed to be at home and doing his part.  However, each one had to have someone very responsible and very alert at the helm or disaster would have been inevitable. One has to be vigilant 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on the river.

Ship Passes Under the Boutee Bridge

For the first time I began to appreciate the river for the great economic engine that it is.  Those ships were carrying cargo containers, grain, oil, refined petroleum, sugar and no telling what else.  Ships were being built at Avondale and cargo was going in and out of ships all up and down the river.

We saw grain being loaded though elevators on a number of ships.  The loading capacity of the Port of South Louisiana is around 1 million bushels per hour.  Grain elevators were a common sight and every one of them was very busy.

Containers were being unloaded and loaded near New Orleans.  They were coming in on railroads and on trucks and were leaving by the same modes of transportation.  Large ships were being loaded with containers as well.

Moored Ships Waiting Their Turn to Load or Unload

A number of tankers were headed up river to various refineries.  Others were returning loaded with something that had been refined or made in Louisiana.
The Exxon refinery complex in Baton Rouge uses about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.  That is barrels and not gallons. Marathon, Shell, Texaco and others down river use tremendous amount of oil too on a daily bases.  A million barrels of oil used every day on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is probably a low estimate.

Military Ships Being Built at Avondale Ship Yards

For years I have thought that most of the activity in New Orleans was on Canal Street or perhaps the French Quarter and Super Dome.  I was wrong. The pulse of New Orleans is on the Mississippi River.  It always has been that way and it will be that way always.

My mind was forever changed by the experience.  Skill and bravery are exhibited every day and it has been that way since the first ship of explorers sailed up the river.  New Orleans was created because of the Mississippi River. It is now my belief that New Orleans is the river and the river is New Orleans in this part of Louisiana.