It’s called technical diving. It’s what you do when you have been using a tank on your back for long and you want a different experience. Also it’s useful to swim in tight spots like a cave, which is the true purpose. For a few days I dove with a sidemount diver. And after all that time, I finally managed to get a good shot of Armand and his tank setup. We were headed into shore and I was trailing him. As I looked up the waves breaking above made the perfect frame and I got this image. At the time I realized how well matched we were. He had much more experience. But we were both photo enthusiasts and we could stay down more than an hour on a tank. He didn’t mind lingering over a subject to get more than one image. Yeah it was a lot of fun for those few days. I wouldn’t mind myself to dive alone and photograph at leisure. But it’s against the rules to dive without a buddy. So I don’t. And this makes everyone else, who knows how I feel about rules, happier.
I do admit to getting lost the other day. The water was murky. I estimate that visibility was 15 feet. It only took a few seconds of separation to make it hard to see my two buddies. We were at the midpoint turnaround time in the dive. I shot an image, looked up, and realized that my two buddies were not to be seen. No panic. I started back along the path we had come from. I figured it was time to turn around. I admit I was not panicked. I shot my images, watched my air, and arrived at the 3 minute decompression rope right as my buddies appeared from the murk. I promised not to get separated again. On the very next dive the inexperienced member of our group ran out of air and I was right there to share air and get him home to safety. Yes, yes… it’s important ‘never to leave your wingman.’ It also helps not to panic in the face of danger. This time my other buddy was lost in the murk and I waited till he surfaced and was safe.
I liked this image. As I shot it I knew it would be good. Sometimes (and I usually don’t) it’s good to look up. I’m usually getting an overexposed image. But here the silhouette is rather interesting.
There is a branch of diving called free diving. It means you use a mask and long stiff fins. You dive without a tank and go to some fairly deep depths. It’s sure different and not yet on my radar. Groups of free divers come to this resort and I am always fascinated watching them. Well, actually I see them walking around but have not seen them in the water until now. They always have a float and there is a rope with a weight hanging beneath so the divers can follow a line down. Otherwise I don’t know too much of the sport except what they describe on the ‘net. And no, it’s not that it costs nothing and is really free.
Right there! It says ‘Happy Thanksgiving – photobackstory.’ I am absent from Thanksgiving holiday in NY once again. Farid’s kids are off today. They go to the American International School. So naturally they have off for the holiday. He graciously suggested we have dinner. He was reminded of that quintessential menu item – “Gravy.” Well, that’s true but it does need a turkey to go with it. Where to eat? I started a web search for a restaurant in Jeddah where we could go. I’d also pay for dinner if I could get the bill first. Nonetheless, there are no viable suggestions. I tried the American junk food places – McD, Burger King, of course not; Fuddruckers, no way; Friday’s, Tuesday’s, not a thing on their website or anywhere else about Jeddah. No American chain hotels. To be honest until Farid suggested, I was just going to have a very quiet dinner out. I was going to drag my iPad along and read a digital book and look at the many photographs of the fishies I have shot. We’ll dive in the Red Sea tomorrow, of course.
There! Right there on my search page screen capture. It’s even on the first page! There’s a reference to my blog post last Thanksgiving. It’s irrelevant to my search. But the tags and key words put me on the first page of the search engine. That is too cool! It also means there is no where you can hide. (Note to myself: “self, don’t put anything into your blog that you would be embarrassed if your mother should read it.”) … which means that no one will be seeing anything about the inside workings of the world of neurosurgery anytime soon. It would prove way too politically incorrect. I have no particular desire to be the nail that gets hammered. Happy Thanksgiving again to one and all for whom this is a significant day (which excludes most of the rest of the world). …For the historical record, I had dinner with Farid and Silva, and the kids. They both (the kids) passed out by the end of dinner. We ate after 9PM in an Italian restaurant. It was quite a find. I have been up and down this boulevard countless times and never looked up to see a restaurant on the 4th floor with an outdoor balcony (smoking). The menu had hamburger, and spring rolls. I had veal scaloppine – after all it’s Italian. It was breaded, deep fried, and very tender. It wasn’t Turkey (Friday’s or Chinese), but it was very flavorful and enjoyable. I fought once again but lost out in paying. It wasn’t family; it was close friends and that’s a wonderful thing too.
This restaurant would otherwise be the equivalent of a Brazilian churrascaria. Basically it’s the same setup – salad followed by grilled meat carved from the skewer at the table. You eat till you drop. Our nurses eat like birds so that the consumption of large quantities of meat is lost on them. I had a great time. It was a meal sponsored by one of the drug companies – a touchy subject these days. And the representative was stuck in traffic so she arrived for dessert. Me, I was just along for the ride. I was told to show up and I did. One thing that our nurses enjoy is taking group pictures. So we did.
While Farid and his wife were away, their kids were with Grandma. As an act of good will I took the kids to the amusement park. They have a setup in many of the big malls here. This mall actually had an ice skating rink. Nicholas was excited to skate until we got on line and then he claimed he didn’t want to do it. No amount of cajoling could get him to put on a pair of skates. He’d been skating before but I think he just got a little nervous and scared. Ok. But which rides did the kids want to do. Kelly is younger by about two years. The rides she liked (merry go round) were too young for Nicholas and he told me so. I got Kelly on some rides too young for her but she was fine. Kelly made me ride on one with her that left me queasy and dizzy. Oh great! Then I made Nicholas go on a ride with Kelly that tilted, swayed and swung. He didn’t like it but he put up with it. Ah! It’s so touching to see kids grow up and outgrow things in such a hurry.This ride is a bit childish, but it was no problem.
I was driving Farid’s car for a few days while he was away. My nurses have been pretty wonderful in making life a bit easier. So I took them on a field trip as a way of thanking them. Jen runs my clinic. The other Jen is my OR nurse. They are both left handed like me. Anna joined Jen and is not left handed. We went over to the Corniche (beach) and caught the sunset – not too spectacular this particular night. Then we ate in a Chinese restaurant. Hey! I gave them a choice and this is where we ended up. Finally there was a late night shuffle through the Balud – the old city. We ended in a Body Shop – just like the USA – where I stood outside (family only- female). What I did not know was that it is illegal to be out with a woman not your relative. Come to think of it I have been single with other families. But anyway, I read somewhere that it is forbidden to be out with single women, morality and all that. So here I was with three (women) and in trouble again without realizing it.
This reminds me of another way to get into trouble around here. English is really a second language for everyone else. Most of the MD’s are Arabic speaking. Our nurses are mostly Filipino except for batch of new Chinese nurses recruited by the last nursing administrator. One day it was dim in the OR. One of the spotlights we use had a missing bulb. I asked for a candle. (It’s a joke!) Usually the nurses ignore me. Once in a while they pause and actually look to see if I’m serious. I never get a candle. (To be honest I’m old and I need more light to see. – Another joke.) On this particular day the new Chinese nurse took exception to my request for a candle. What did I say? She just stopped talking to me. No, I don’t speak Chinese. What?! Well she told Jen, my regular nurse, I had just insulted/embarrassed her asking for a condom. Huh!?!? It doesn’t sound the same and in the context of the OR I suppose a condom or a candle were both strange requests. I don’t know what to do. They did not fix the lights in any case. Honest! I didn’t make this up and I certainly didn’t intend to insult anyone. At the end of the evening out, the ladies bought bananas – 3kg for 10 SAR about $2.50 – that’s cheap.
I was fortunately invited to attend a Saudi banquet in honor of two physician administrators one coming and the other going. Here are some observations. The invitation was for evening dinner. This means come over after the last prayer – about 9PM. You sit in areas cooled by outdoor fans.
Once you are seated there’s not too much movement and social mingling. No women – not even the female medical colleagues. And if there were women, they would have to mingle in a separate area. The pool setting with seating all around. And it was hot so you needed the fans.
You sit and talk with the fellow next to you and you’re out of luck if it’s someone who’s not conversational. This polite conversation goes on for about 2½ hours. Everyone who arrives after you comes around and shakes hands and then drifts off to sit in an empty spot. I suppose the next time I will know this and pick my partner a bit more carefully. And I think that I will make it a point to move around anyway. Little cans of soda and a bottle of water at each place setting. There were a few cans of diet Coke. No alcohol allowed.
Dinner was buffet style but we changed seats to a formal table setting. Everyone ate quickly like they were famished. I certainly was hungry since I didn’t know dinner would be served at nearly midnight. After 30 minutes everyone started to say goodbye and quickly departed. I am told this is the style. So my observations are based on this experience and the questions I asked afterwards.The buffet line loaded with too many interesting choices.
….of course I ate too much.
The other event I shot recently was the karate class demonstration. It’s in a fluorescent lit space. There’s no room to maneuver. Getting an angle of view and shooting the action is a challenge. I suppose video would demonstrate the skills better. But as time has gone by, I find that I look at my still images. I have many hours of video of the kids but hardly ever pull it out. Action… you have to anticipate. I’m using direct flash so there are shadows. I don’t know the routine so to catch a kick in midair is tough. And how do you catch the grace of the kata and the tension of the exercise routine?
All of the sudden I have become an unofficial photographer for local events. There aren’t too many and I’ll return to fish soon…. David, one of the managers of the Purchasing Dept organized a Fitness Competition. For the first time I got to see how the other half lives. We have a couple of fitness groups that run at different times and I guess they have become competitive. My group is very strenuous but does not emphasize weight lifting. However, there are some hard core ‘lifters around. Three teams gathered poolside and competed in several two-man team events. I’m working with a DSLR and in-camera flash. The flash recycles slowly so motor drive is not in play. You simply have to get the ‘moment.’ And then there’s the angle. Shirt off… because there was a swimming portion of the meet and everything was timed. So I got low… angled and I popped the flash. It’s not flattering but it captured the essence of competitive testosterone.
This year will be the first Village parade I have missed since leaving NY. Last year was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. There are a lot of participants and the avenue is lined 10 deep from Spring St to 23rd St. It’s a wild and crazy night. This couple got married right before the parade and like Cinderella rode a coach up the parade route.
Just like those buddy movies, David and Michael remain best friends to this day. They met in grammar school and have stayed steadfast ever since. This was one of the autumn trips we took to Bear Mountain. They were just a couple of buddies having a quiet walk in the woods. To complete the circle, David called me this past autumn for directions to the lake. He and Mike, with Sarah and Josh, were planning to hike in the autumn around the lake again. It’s pretty special to have that memory carrying forward.
As I have mentioned, Julia was born on August 1. The poor kid was deprived of having a school year birthday party. So she had a party before the school year ended, a party for the immediate family, a party with the extended family, and often a party of her friends during the summer vacation… all so she wouldn’t feel left out… It was Julia’s birthday and we had arranged for a party in the Hamptons where we had rented Margaret’s place that summer.. Her friends and her brother just fell into place for me to get this shot. No posing. I was just there. Sorry, I don’t know who was far left but second in… Julia, Alexandra, Ben, David, Chessie… endless summer day without a care.
I’m starting a series of iconic images in my life and will continue for a few weeks in my posts. This blonde headed kid is one of my first street photography images. It was taken back in the ‘70’s. I’m kind of shy, really! So it’s not my first inclination to put my camera into someone’s face and shoot. We were at a street fair and this kid just presented himself, isolated in the crowd, just him and me. He’s got to be in his forties now. I wonder what he’s doing. This was one of the earliest street images for me. The other great source of images was New York City’s street fairs, which were just beginning in the ‘70’s. Nowadays there’s a street fair every weekend and most times in multiple locations. Back then, it was a local merchants fair. But, London was among my earliest experiences.
You all know that I am not Muslim. It’s Ramadan and I was invited to an iftar dinner. I live in a compound of physicians and so it was a group of ‘docs’ who got together. I am also not conversant in Arabic. During the course of conversation everyone was laughing. One internist’s husband had a first name – Jihad. He was I guess 30 to 40 years old. At the time he was born it was not an inflammatory name. Other cultures name their children Jesus, Angel, or Neveah (heaven spelled backwards).
Definition of JIHAD
1 : a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also
: a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline
2 : a crusade for a principle or belief
But the laughter was over a story of Jihad being stopped at airport security. It turns out that he (Jihad) works for the Bin Laden group. Really! So anytime he travels he’s marked as “Jihad” who works for “Bin Laden.” And his wife added he was once asked by a customs official if, …”he’d named his son Osama?” There is a Bin Laden Hospital nearby to where I live. And it is a popular name – Osama.
I guess there are worse things to be named. And there are some things you just can’t make up.
You don’t get many opportunities to shoot the local people. At this tourist stop it’s part of the deal. So I took the shot. It gets tricky as the light gets low. But on a gut level, you know when you like a shot. I could post process and crop and … but I just like it as is.
They had a toboggan ride. About eighteen of the nurses signed up and bought tickets. I tried to ride last car for the photo ops. Everyone rushed to the last cars so I ended up in the very first car. It’s a good thing. The individual cars have hand brakes. I reasoned that the cars were stable enough that they couldn’t fly off the track even if the brakes were never applied. So I didn’t use them. The nurses who followed were much more timid and thereby created a traffic jam.
I love the fractured English. Hey, it’s not their native language. And I appreciate that many signs are written in English. Spelling and translation often leave something to the imagination. It’s nothing to spell incorrectly or to interpret the word in a less than traditional manner. But you get the idea.
Not to be derogatory, this man was offering camel rides to the passersby. And on this busload of eager nurses I heard one exclaim, “It’s been my dream to ride a camel before I’m thirty.” So I guess this was her lucky day. What can I say? When the light is right shoot away. I could have used some fill flash and maybe composed a bit more off center. But this was a constantly changing target rich photo shoot and I was clicking away as fast as I could go.
I was busy with the camels at this roadside stop. So it was a non-sequitur to have this car stop me and ask that I photograph them. Not one to be impolite, I did it. It’s just that at that very moment, I was having camera panic. The settings had changed and I couldn’t figure out why every image was not focusing. In the meantime, I’ve got a prime time moment and tried to manual focus on the run. It’s not quite right, but close enough to get the point. It turned out that the manual focus button had been pushed. But to go through the check on the run, it’s always hard.
This is a whole lot of potatoes…ok maybe some onions. Either way, I don’t really recall that the average Saudi diet is so full of potatoes or of onions. French fries, yes…but I think McD’s brings theirs in from outside. Anyway it got me to thinking about the weight (obesity) problem. The again, I thought who needs so many 50 pound bags of potatoes. I’m telling you that this was a big warehouse and all the bags were stacked with potatoes… lots of potatoes.
Even in the fruit market, things can get a little crazy. They have men with carts who will move sacks of purchased produce. Two guys were fighting. I wasn’t sure who was crazy. But it appears that the big guy took the head scarf from the little guy and was teasing him. Security arrived and separated the two men before real trouble occurred.
You get up at dawn, travel 80 miles, nearly fry in a hot bus that breaks down, and what is a hightlight of your visit? Yup, we stopped in the local wholesale market and everyone stocked up on produce. Really! No fruit for me, just pictures. The string beans were a mistake. My camera had been set all day to shoot at 1/250sec to minimize the bus movement. I couldn’t do this shot again.