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Photography: The story behind the image

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Saudi National Day

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I only saw this once. Apparently the police are not allowing such a display to occur again. That year there was vandalism to many shops along the avenue. Too bad. There was such enthusiasm and spirit. A woman asked to take a picture! Really! I pointed the camera at her. She put up her hand and rolled her window up. She wanted me to take a picture of her car. Some things remain the same!

Maybe everyone knew to come by social media alerts. But then again, I have never seen a gathering like this. Cars lined the avenue and just sat. No one cared about moving along. They sat – “ Car proud” – banners waving, costumed, enthusiastic.

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They waved at me to take pictures as though I were a news journalist. And so I did. I got worried because one guy grabbed the camera from my hand and did a group shot. I’m trusting but wary. You never know about a crowd. But… it was all a happy day.

Rain

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It rains in Jeddah and the city of 3 million or so people are paralyzed. Kids get sent home from school like a “snow day.” Traffic is snarled for hours. People don’t do weather here. Maybe they have never turned the wind shield wipers on? Whatever! It rains about once a year. It might rain for an hour. There is absolutely no drainage system for water to run off. Why? It only rains once a year! The rest of the time, why worry? Infrastructure! I’m told a prince stole the money earmarked for the drainage system. Ah! One part of the government stealing from the other. How quaint. It seems to be a habit.

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I guess there is nothing that beats the pleasure of riding your bike in the rain and raising hell with the puddles. After all isn’t that a  basic rite of childhood?

Street Photography

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There is a genre – street photography. I’m shy. And I dislike encounters. And I don’t want to ask. And I don’t want a pose. And I don’t want to be giving someone money to take a picture. You may not like it, but in America, anyone on the street is fair game. Commercial use is a different story. But for personal use, it’s all good. Here’s what you do. It’s simple. (Somehow people don’t object as much to iPhone. But I use a camera.) Use your camera on wide angle, set the shutter speed to about 1/125. Then do what it says – point and shoot. Don’t look. There is the flavor of an imperfectly composed shot. It works. You hit. You miss. Sometimes you win. If you are unsure shoot more than one. Don’t stop moving. And don’t let anyone catch on that you are taking pictures. Slices of life, unposed, unpretentious, natural…it’s more for me to have a flavor of life to recall. In Jeddah the heat of the day has everyone indoors. Some shops are open. But at night the whole tenor changes and the streets of the old city are teaming with activity. The heat of the day is lowered to simply unbearable as opposed to daytime hell. And digital allows you to take images I could never do with film. There’s a vibrancy to night life in the city.

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Push carts abound. Vendors will sell any kind of produce. The big supermarkets – nope – people buy, sell, and bargain – probably illegally. But there is definite supply and demand.

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Sugar cane – it’s crushed and the liquid is served up as a drink. It’s bland. Almost yuck! You need to add lime and ginger when you crush it. That’s a drink! Jules and I learned this in Zanzibar. She drank the whole thing and left me a taste. So I know from that small sample how to fix this. But nope, not in Jeddah.

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Sticks – there is vendor in this spot, his spot. And now there are a couple of others – competition. They cut them and bundle them. They are to rub your teeth – like a toothbrush. No Crest, Colgate, or Tom’s of Maine. Buy a bundle. Share them or use them yourself.

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Sewing – the tailors use a fairly unsophisticated machine to do their magic. If you are native, you wear a thobe and someone has to make them. It looks like he has made lots. And overwhelmingly they are white. And, abayas are black. Who’s the biggest loser?

Life in the city. It all happens at night. There are huge super malls. But what’s new there? Everyone has seen a mall by now? Online shopping! Walmart is scared! Amazon rules? Imagine the next big thing….

Disconnected

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This image is disconnected from my story again. Yes, sentimental again. It just keeps happening. Personal. What is clear is that folks like a happy ending. Go to the movies? It’s always a happy ending. Mostly. Really. Think about it? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? I never watch the last scene. Too sad. I know how it ends. They die. I don’t need the reminder. Nor the visual. Be careful about talking about sadness or sentiment. Folks want uplifting stories.

Did you see “Saving Private Ryan?” Tom Hanks says to Matt Damon (paraphrasing), “Nope, that is my private memory. Mine. I don’t share that with anyone else. It’s mine.” (That movie also ended badly.)

Here’s an image that would never ordinarily make this blog. It’s plants – coral. Boring. Who likes pictures of green leaved trees? But fall foliage, ah, a different kettle of fish entirely. Is humor (mine) obvious? I’m more in your face. Did you understand the reference to the ‘kettle of fish?’ No? Sorry. Someone might.

It’s nice when someone gets it. I like to whistle (while I work) – “If I only had a brain” from the Wizard of Oz. Once, just once, another surgeon got it. Did you? Ok. I’ll give you a hint. I do brain surgery as my day job. Duh?

It’s been a hell of a month. Big doings going on my way. Decisions, pondering, rearranging my life. That’s about as much as you get. But a couple years back I had another life altering encounter. So, yes, this is another special day. I suppose I could backtrack and recall lots of great days. Birthday, Christmas, on and on….

It’s very interesting. In this digital photography age my images are all numbered. The numbers repeat after 9999. So there are many images with the same numbers since I went digital in 2004. I do a search and all the 2345 images come up. It’s interesting to see what they show. Images come so fast now. I hardly remember except to look it up.

(An aside: the rhododendron sat on our deck for about thirty years in a container and survived everything that brutal winter and summer in NYC could bring. It would bloom on David’s birthday in April. When we moved, we took it. It’s transplanted in the yard on Long Island. Retired… and hopefully happy.)

Still, there are some special days. Two years ago, this was a very special day for me. Sorry, I ain’t sharing. You will have to settle for this image that does not match the story. I was just wondering how I’d work in this orphan coral image into a post somewhere.

Fly – Wings Optional

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The event is a spectacle of stupid. Everyone fails. 100% It’s in the rules. I think that some things constructed were flimsy fantasies. And others were a serious threat to the Wright brothers. Ultimately, things heavier than air all come to land. If you are lucky the landing does not hurt.

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Meanwhile my kids are grown and not with me. So? Shoot someone else’s kids. I did. It’s one grab shot on the fly. Farid’s kids don’t like to pose. And I don’t ask. I just shoot what’s there. Great! I passed along my images of the flying circus. His family made multiple framed prints and displayed them everywhere. Thanks. There’s a copy in his office on his desk. Meanwhile they use iPhone and get images and movies. But? A real camera? Nope.

Special Day

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I’m sentimental. You might not know this. Or if you know me, well, who knows? But I’m admitting it. Hey! It’s my blog. I’ve posted this pic recently. It was not staged, not Photoshopped. It was a spontaneous capture. I rose over the crest of a coral ridge. For an instant these two fish came together. It was not a kiss. Fish don’t kiss. Silly! We interpret what we see in our own contextual lives. It was but an instant. And I’d have just as easily missed this shot. But my camera was ready and I got exactly this single image. It’s a special day today. It’s an anniversary of sorts. That’s about all I’ll mention. The rest of the story is a memory private for me. It’s not that I won’t or don’t share. It’s just that some days are special and deserve a place in my heart. You might have one too. It’s nice to secretly share something in the public domain and yet keep privacy. Too often we shout from the top of any place and ask for applause and acclamation. I’m not. I’m just letting you know that this is a special day for me. And … you know who you are. Shhhhh.

Snow

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The last time I saw snow was….mmmm… 2012. Anyway, it was a while ago. Skiing was one of my first passions as a full grown adult. I took the kids. David was so small on the mountain, people turned to photograph him on the steep blue/black trails in Utah. I’m not proud. I was an idiot for getting a kid who could barely walk straight up on a pair of skis. Laid back! David was so laid back he fell asleep on the chair lift. Nap time was nap time. He would just pass out. Oh! I started first by skiing with them between my legs. Jules and then Dave would be in front – I would ski slowly while holding them back with my ski pole. Yes, nuts too. Dave would lean over the pole like a cat arms just resting there. He snores! In the quiet shushing over the snow Jules and I heard him snoring away. Yes, nap time!

On this occasion Jules finally got her wish to try a “board.” Her cousins and brother had tried. She’s the only girl on my side of the next generation. The cousins are not too skilled. Dave can handle himself. And Jules spent an hour tumbling and falling. She sprained her wrist, gave in, and went back to a sensible pair of skis. Smart!

You don’t get to many selfies with your kids. But I guess it happens more than before. Low light, bad focus, poor composition, wide angle distortion matters not. Hey! It better than nothing. As I paused in editing I realize that these imperfect pictures mean the most.

Sleeping…?

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The Olympics are on. Remember “Cool Runnings?” It’s about the Jamaican bobsled team. “You dead, Sanka?”

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Do fish sleep? I don’t know. I’ve asked if they have eyelids. Do you know? Can you actually sleep without eyelids? Humans must sleep. It’s a fact. What do fish do? At night some become dormant. But do they sleep? No blanket?

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I thought this guy was dead. Or sick? It’s unnatural. You don’t really see horses lying around on their sides. Dogs, and yes, my cats sleep. A lot! I got a few shots. And then to my relief he righted himself and swam off. Sorry to wake you from your nap. You ok?

Distracted

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Pure white is rare to see in the sea. See it below. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Homonyms must be so confusing to non-English speakers. Reading it is easier. But it’s fun to hear. So, I passed this white coral. Pure white. So white, that my camera would not expose properly. Too much dynamic range. I bet you care? The brightness exceeded the camera’s ability to expose properly. There, I bet you were wondering. Well, the point of it all is that I wanted to shoot white. Shoot? Remember? Everything has this gray green cast. Lots of dead stuff. Like the floor of the forest. It’s brown drab. Fall leaves are such a good photo op. Afterwards there is nothing much photogenic in brown leaves. White is not natural. Dirt, grime, all that stuff you know, there’s no reason to remain pure white. Entropy! Chaos! Randomness!

Ok? So I was concentrating and adjusting the focus and exposure. I never did get the good shot I envisioned. It was the end of the dive. We were in our decompression stop – three minutes. Hover. And turn off your mind and camera till you are done and emerge. As I shot my camera was bumped. Not once, twice, and again. There! A fish decided to have a “human encounter.” Really! Yup. It was a dream photo op! And I had all the wrong settings. I was shooting “white!” Dammit! He came around again. It’s always a “he” when they are curious and aggressive? Eggs? Young? Nope. But we had an encounter. I was too close! Can’t focus in close. I back pedaled. Yeah, fins and all, I was backing off. Gotcha! If you don’t understand how rare this is and how hard it was too get, it’s ok. I’m telling you. Ho hum, just another interesting encounter. But it was five star in my book. Never turn off your camera until you are out of the water.

Weaving

_DSC2308A long long time ago… I was in Peru. Recently, I remembered this image. I shot it for the graphics and color. We were visiting a llama farm. Native women were costumed and weaving. I shot the color and not the technique or style, or loom. Sorry. It was not important to me then. I suppose more detail and the hands would have been a nice touch too. But one image must suffice. It illustrates all. A single image is always an incomplete story. I can recall the trip and the place we were in. The image is an anchor. I remember much of the day. David had llama for lunch later. I would tell you it tasted like chicken, but no, it was more lean and stringy like beef. And in the big picture, we were in Peru because we had attended a wedding in Lima. This leg of the trip was to Cusco and on to Machu Picchu. I took a lot of pictures throughout the trip. This was my weaving photo. One image, a lot of memories….

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