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Midnight at Balad

IMG_0411The last time I made the mistake of coming at 7PM. The action I spoke about starts after the last prayer. So this is the crowd milling about at midnight. This is a one-way thoroughfare. Are you kidding? Nope, it’s one way. I got caught about half way along and had to walk to the end twice. Pain! No one sleeps during Ramadan. They stay up until 4AM, then try to sleep all day to minimize the time of fasting and hunger. I’m saying that families and young kids are all up and active at this hour. If the routine change has affected me so, it must be hell on little kids. Once a year for 30 days…..


Typical for Ramadan

IMG_0328My guide told me that this is typical food served at Ramadan. It is liver she said. Diced liver and mixed vegetables are added to a hot grill. The savory smell beckons. It seems this is the specialty of the house and at every table multiple orders were being eagerly shared. No one seemed to mind me taking images, so I did.


Street Food

IMG_0325

This is a pocket food. It starts as a small ball of dough that like pizza is stretched to paper thinness. And then a filling is added. The package is folder and thrown on an oiled hot grill. Make it golden brown. It looked good. The picture says it far better than a description.IMG_0352


Seating For Seniors

IMG_0305This spot is designated seating for the elders of the village or neighborhood who would gather, sit, smoke, and discuss the news of the day. I asked and the pictures are of prominent members possibly deceased but who are still remembered. I asked and this man graciously let me take a few images. Jules would be proud that I asked.


Unstaged

IMG_0281Street photography – you shoot an image hoping to preserve spontaneity. It is an unguarded moment. I guess I’m better than I realize. I shot this. It is on my memory card. No one else used this camera other than me. The problem is that I don’t remember taking the image. It is in the middle of my Balad night series during Ramadan. So I am as surprised by the shot as anyone else. Does it still count if I don’t remember pressing the shutter release?


Balad Nights

IMG_0211During Ramadan the Balad is covered in lighting. I was too early to see the entertainment. But the lights are welcoming. I am simply amazed that the camera figured out this complex scene and calculated the proper exposure and white balance. I got to compose and shoot. No complaints from me. It helps if you have a fast lens. I took this single shot and it was fine by me. Now for the entertainment….


Face in the Window

IMG_0232This is sure to be a classic image for me. I was walking the old city Balad. The evening heat was still simmering. I was half melted. There in the window was a kid looking out at the passing crowds. As I snapped another woman commented it was a great shot. She did not copy me. And a moment later the kid was gone. I shoot multiples especially in poor light. Something is always wrong with focus or lighting. I have my favorite. It’s good to have a choice.IMG_0230


Hitchhiking – Cleaner

IMG_9730The small blue fish, a wrasse, represents a symbiotic relationship in the sea. They are the local car wash. Fish have no fingers to clean themselves. So the wrasse hang about. Some call their locations ‘cleaning stations.’ Bigger fish come along and the little guys do their task. I’ve seen them within the jaws of moray eels. Hmmm a tasty morsel, just swallow. But larger fish even seek out the wrasse. And there seems to be an unwritten agreement about not eating your cleaning service help. Do fish have ears? None that stick out. Because it is hard to clean behind your ears in the sea?IMG_9697


Ray

IMG_0076I was swimming along the reef with Farid. He wears glasses and has custom lenses in his dive mask. Maybe I should get some too. He always spots the good stuff first. He caught my attention and off I went in pursuit. I don’t know quite what is under the ray. A remora? We are deep. The floor here is about 120 feet. My gauge says we were as deep as 123 feet on this dive. So the colors are muted and the image is grainy. Fine. I was there, got an image, and we saw it.


Lunch Special

IMG_0125I am just realizing that the restaurants around here run lunch specials. Restaurants do this everywhere, I suppose. But bargains? This one was a pretty sweet deal. Zucchinni soup, pasta with bacon (it’s really beef), and a pounded tender chicken cutlet; the salad, bread, and soft drink are included. IMG_0127That’s my iPhone ebook reader in the background. Peaceful setup as anything…All this goes for the price of an entrée menu item. I’m trying to be good and not overdo this. IMG_0129I noticed the steak house has a lunch special too. And with Ramadan the Indian place will run an all you can eat buffet. So many restaurants, so little time. I’d mention the name but you probably won’t be dining in this restaurant.


Room With A Loom

2764 18 Farm house roomPoetry. I found myself in Norway for a colleague’s birthday. I was hijacked into attending. First I enthusiastically agreed to attend and then he told me where. Can you beat that? He held me to my promise. Then my supposed roommate was another neurosurgery colleague. Except John was very smooth with the ladies and he picked up his own roommate, a rather good looking blonde at the airport in Oslo. Harald had to scramble to find me a place to stay and I was consigned to the loom room in a shack behind a farmhouse.2768 07 Farm house I would add that he was compulsive and needed to guarantee enough rooms for guests coming in from around the world. So he bought a hotel for the weekend. The farmer had remorse about selling it to him, so Harald sold it right back at a profit. The room I had was view to the cows passing back and forth to the barn several times a day. It’s a bit of a different view from the Manhattan skyline.2768 05 Loom


Pathologically the Same Fish

IMG_3881What are the odds of seeing the same fish on different dives? I can’t tell one fish from another of the same species. Hair color, eyes, facial features, weight might be helpful to tell human from human. But I could not tell the difference between fish and that’s okay until I reviewed my images. Since it’s relevant to my surgical specialty I guess it would have to be this particular fish. There’s a bite and it looks as though there’s no brain in there. What do I know about fish brains? But an incomplete craniectomy will grab my attention every time. I actually got a shot of him on two different dives on different days. And I have no answer to the complaint why do you shoot the same fish over and over. It seems that I do sometimes. This fish and I have met at least twice. And I got a head shot both times.


Windows On The World

0636 21 Victor LisaI’ve been to the restaurant on top of the World Trade Center. Restaurants being what they are it was not too difficult to get a reservation as long as it was done in advance. I need not mention it no longer exists. This occasion was for my thirtieth birthday and Lisa sprang the surprise. 0636 24 Victor LisaI don’t have a shot of the view. It is of course why you go there. What’s in my archive are several pictures of how we looked a lot of years ago. No I wouldn’t embarrass Lisa with mention of age. Suffice it to say that these pictures were at the same age as my kids are now. 0636 33 Menu

Which is to say that Bill and Lila in this picture are around my age now. Focus on them was a camera technical issue and there were no duplicates. 0636 13 Bill Lila

John and Eric, well, we were all pretty young.0636 15 John Eric I was there at the restaurant on a couple other occasions once for a significant birthday for my neurosurgery chairman Joe Ransahoff. Of course there’s no going back. The restaurant was lost forever on 9/11. My kids never ate here. But they did once come to the top when the Frary’s visited.

 


Fish Tail

IMG_7472When the kids visited in December I chased a fish like this for quite a way. I never did catch up and get a nice shot. It’s more tail than fish. The proportions are wrong. It didn’t swim faster. It swam just fast enough to avoid me. If I hang around long enough I’ll get a better shot and a better background. This is my current best shot of this fish. It is a rather majestic tail.


Blenny

IMG_7484Another fortuitous find but it took two tries. On the first dive I had no idea what my buddy was shooting with his big ass macro lens. Did I mention there was some serious glass involved, as in expensive gear? I actually blindly got it with my camera the first time around. On the second dive we were at the end of the dive and O2 was dwindling fast enough that I was glancing at my gauge and deciding what my backup plan would be when the air ran out. But we passed the same coral formation and I got another chance. This is a little fish head no more than ½ inch probably less. Most fish will retreat into their hole. But this guy kept perfectly still and never budged even while another companion stuck his big housing against the very coral next to him. Brave! I moved in next and he was still there! So I got my shots and have leftovers to pick and choose the best. The slight blurring is because I enlarged it for the purposes of the blog post image. Well, now I’ve seen it. There is something to be said for changing dive partners. Everyone sees something differently.


I Shot What He Shot

IMG_7346I was without a dive buddy. I can’t/don’t dive alone. Rules! So I fortunately hooked up with three photographers. At least everyone had a camera. The guy with the ‘big rig’ had excellent air management. We were down together for 91 minutes. That’s long. He wasn’t too communicative. Usually it’s courtesy to point out interesting things. He has a major big ‘mother’ macro lens attachment with some expensive glass. After he paused I followed and just stuck the camera up and took an image. Yeah, definitely just blind luck. Some days my mask has not cleared well and all the images look blurred and not white balanced. Some days are better. And sometimes it’s blind luck. No, kids, glasses won’t help. Actually these fish are out and about right now, perhaps because of mating season. I’ve got a better shot somewhere. IMG_7478After all this time in the water I can say I’m beginning to understand symbiotic relationships underwater. This fish and this coral like to stick together, most of the time. The human eye is trained (survival) to detect motion. What my eye can see, often cannot be captured by a camera. This enlarged detail shows a small fish resting before it darts away from my camera.


Early Selfie

0865 05 Victor Lisa EdinburghScotland again. Before they were called selfies, here’s one we did. I was not shy to use a mirror. The only thing was that the result wouldn’t be known for quite some time. There were no retakes. At most I might shoot two frames. This was the better of the two and barely passable on technical merit. But it reflects the time and place. Another shot from the archives that I bet Lisa hasn’t seen or remembers. I look back at the early work. Film was pretty restrictive and unforgiving. But there were enough shots that came out to make for some great memories.

 


Edinburgh Castle

0864 24 EdinburghIt’s formidable. High on a hill it has been besieged unsuccessfully and successfully throughout history. I’m sure there are better shots than the one I have. But the point is that I took this. I was there and this is my 1/125 second slice of time and place. These days with no limit on my memory card I’d have many shots as I approached and the view changed as I got closer. This trip I took two. I laugh at how sure I was that I had what I wanted and only clicked the shutter twice.


Stonehenge

0844 36 Lisa StonehengeI’ve been there and you could guess it was many years ago. There are restrictions and tickets necessary to visit now. Somebody made a pile of rocks. Yes, it’s a mystery. And of my shots, the ones (2) that counted had Lisa in them. As I have said there are many images one can find of monuments. What makes them different is the people in the image. You go places. And you take a picture and that picture is mine. It makes all the difference that I took it. But I’d do things differently now.


July 4th

DSC_2375Time to trot out a 4th of July shot. I got some good ones. And I learned that you need a long exposure on a tripod. This year Macy’s didn’t plan to set the fireworks off along the Hudson. The New Jersey residents howled. No matter, Macy’s moves things around from time to time and someone is unhappy. I’m just glad I was there when the wheel came around for me that time. Once you master the long exposure you tend to want to get some more. I have a collection of the skyline to my east. Either way it’s a great view._DSC2796


Mom Looked Good

0843 27 Lisa LondonI would have done more but then I overdid it. Make sense? Lisa wasn’t a great photographic subject. She suffered my enthusiasm and didn’t want to be a subject at all. I wanted to shoot and shoot. Nope. Here and there I have some pretty nice images. She’d disagree. I don’t know. I married her and had my own cockeyed opinion of how well she looked. To say she’s beautiful she would accuse me of unbridled bias. 


Somewhere in Belgium

0599 13 Hotel GhentOnce upon a time we did road trips in Europe. We’d rent a car and drive from one place to another with a general plan but no reservations. We would pull into a city and hit the tourist info center for a hotel reservation. It worked pretty well. There was a place in Antwerp where a number of roaches marched around the twelve foot high ceilings. I received a can of bug spray by way of my complaint to the manager. We never unpacked and he graciously handed back our money. In Belgium (no names to protect the innocent)  we had secured a reservation and were headed across town to find the place. Stopped at a railroad crossing, I idly noticed this hotel. At my urging Lisa entered and asked about rooms and prices. She came back with a price of about $20 when the currency was converted. I said, impossible and sent her back to be sure. She not only confirmed but had also looked at a couple rooms. It seems the rooms were mostly open and available to view. Well, it couldn’t have been nicer than the one we were headed. The price was too good to be true. 0599 10 Hotel GhentI remember mirrored ceiling but maybe it was the bathroom. The next morning we asked about staying for an extra night. The desk clerk ascertained that we would be out all day touring and then she agreed. Later that day Lisa had a small issue and needed a change of clothes. When we entered the lobby, the startled clerk explained we couldn’t enter the room. It was in use. Because of the train station next door folks used the rooms during the days to rest before continuing their journey. Lisa used the restroom and I noticed a beaded curtain and a couple emerged holding cocktails. My suspicion was reinforced by the parking lot full of cars. The lot was empty again in the evening. You do the math.0599 12 Hotel Ghent And for the second night it appeared that we were the only guests again. Years later and armed with my story and picture, grandma and grandpa tried to get a room. No dice. I figure, they figured we were just a couple poor Americans kids and they took pity and let us stay a couple nights.


Joyous Gillies

0562 20 Jumping gillieWell that’s what Lisa and I called them. We traveled without a plan. And in Brussels we chanced upon a fair or festival. These guys were dressed in head wear that reminded me of craniotomy dressings. It was quite an elaborate affair and in my inexperience I wandered around getting some random shots. I would do it all differently knowing what I know now. But that was then. And these guys make me smile every time I run across the image.


Random Children

0562 05 BrusselsWe were in Brussels. I take pictures of silly things like mailboxes. The first shot was devoid of people. Then to my surprise a kid came and posed. In those days I just took a single shot. Today it would have been a series of clicks. But this was it, the one and only. Cute. Spontaneous. Memorable.


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