Word and Image

Archive for April, 2013

IMC, The Tour

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I took Julia on a tour of the hospital. Ordinarily, it’s not a big deal to show your daughter where you work. I did a lot of ‘take your daughter to work’ days with her. But the architecture is pretty stunning. So once again I got this fortuitous shot of her LCD as she lined up her shot. One thing that they do a lot is to make elaborate displays for new babies. The balloons are draped around the doorframes. Here’s what you see before it’s installed.IMG_9869 copy


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I can’t quite describe this confection. It’s a glazed roll, but more like a cream puff. The center is laden with melted butter at its bottom. The glaze bakes on and provides a sweet crisp topping. I found them quite delightful. Julia found them heavy and too much for an afternoon snack. All I can say is they are really the best right out of the oven. I’ll see if David enjoys this when he visits. It’s not something that I have come across in New York.IMG_9703 copy


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You might laugh since you saw the dive shots in the Red Sea. But I’ve been to the brand new Jeddah aquarium a couple times now. Julia wanted to see it, so off we went. Looking back on the images I can see what she meant when she said that the coral in the Red Sea was more than any she had seen else where in the world. We saw a bunch of sharks. Julia was under the impression that there are no sharks in the Red Sea. So while we dived she was relaxed until the instructor set her straight. I suppose she will be looking over her shoulder when we next dive. And there was this unusual orange stone fish. This would be hard to miss in the sea, but hey, I miss seeing a lot of things when we dive.IMG_9779 copy

Speckled Sand Perch

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What I like here in Julia’s shot is that she has a head on view of the fish. My shots have mainly been profile shots. Hers is a real fish portrait. As they say, it’s in the eyes. She nailed it! Have I mentioned before that this is not easy to do? You hover, the fish hovers, everybody is moving in 3D and then you have to get the exposure, pose, and composition …. ah you get the idea.


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This is the term used to describe looking at your camera LCD to judge the last photo you took. This shot was purely fortuitous. I happened to get the LCD screen as Julia was lining up her shot. If you tried to do this you would miss nine out of ten times. Hey, I got lucky. Underwater, you don’t really get to use the viewfinder, and the LCD at best is just an estimate. You really let the camera do the hard stuff, focus and exposure.

Fairy Basslett, Male

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These shots are examples of why Julia is better than me. She was able to float into place and just press the shutter at the perfect moment. Hence, she got these spectacular shots. IMG_0632c copy 2The females are bright orange and do not look at all like the males. She got great shots of them also. What impressed me is that she got the hang of underwater photography on the fly by just listening to me and the she applied her own technique to get these shots.IMG_0636 copy 2It’s a great feeling to have your kids exceed your own skill.


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Maroun told us there were two octopi out on the reef, a male and female. As to where, he simply spread his arm and made a general gesture. Julia found this one also. She was looking at a rock, that she thought was a moray eel, which turned out to be an octopus. They change color and you don’t really get to see tentacles. So they are hard to spot. They can really mimic the surrounding coral, so you have to catch them while they are confused about what camouflage to take on. And shy… this one scooted under the rock and hid from us as best it could. IMG_0562a copy

Coral Tunnel

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Julia and I were taken by Capt Omar (instructor) to his secret dive spot. It’s less than one hundred yards from the dock, but it’s not at all obvious. His co-instructor, Shamia, has yet to find it. IMG_0493 copySo much for sharing… It was spectacular, but I’m still trying to get a great shot. We were there every time we dove and Julia even missed it as we swam through because it’s not so obvious. IMG_0775 copyWhat it amounts to is a tunnel in the reef coral, that is beautiful to swim through. From one direction (as in these shots) it’s great and from the other side it’s nothing special. So that’s why Shamia is mad at Omar.IMG_0701 copyFor once, even Julia didn’t realize we were swimming through the tunnel when we approached from the wrong end.

Stonefish – Two!

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We, Julia and I, were on our own, having passed the confidence test of the instructor, Shamia, and were swimming along, when a professional photographer beckoned and pointed out the presence of the larger stonefish (above). It’s not easy to notice because it blends in so well. I called Julia’s attention and we had a ball taking photos. The professional had completed his shoot. He had a serious DSLR and housing with high-end flash (big bucks). Julia to her credit was aware of everything around and motioned to me to look at another rock. It was another smaller stonefish. I wanted to ask someone if it was male and female, but underwater, questions are hard to put. Hey! I don’t see one (stonefish) before and then we see two in one dive.IMG_0408 copy

Julia, Red Sea

IMG_0303 copyJulia was visiting a few weeks ago. She actually learned to dive before I did. I’ve had more dives. She’s better. When I say this, I mean she’s got better buoyancy control and she’s a better dive photographer. She didn’t start off with an underwater camera, so she says that she had a lot of practice just floating and maintaining dive control. The kid can hover like no one’s business.I got her an underwater housing for Christmas and she used it once before she arrived. No water leakage, that’s the first test. Ah! What fathers can do to make their kids embarrassed. She’s used to it though. So as a good sport and knowing that I was taking her diving in the Red Sea, she consented to let me shoot pictures. IMG_9956 copyMe, I’m still all over the map with buoyancy. So I adjusted weights and by the second day could drop like a stone and with a little help from my BCD could hover, somewhat. It’s still a work in progress.IMG_0372 copy


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Farid is pretty certain that I am due to be shot. He keeps telling me it’s not a good idea to point and shoot my Canon. Hey it’s silent and no one ever really pays attention to a point and shoot camera. And if you don’t look at the LCD while you pull the trigger… it’s called ‘street photography.’ Julia hates me for it also.

This gal was in the front row, groom’s side during the wedding ceremony. I presume family, perhaps sister? She got up during the ceremony and walked up the crowed isle. So I got to notice the dress for a long while. It was different and certainly noticeable. With all the black lace it was hard to see where the dress and the woman were separated. I realize that a grab shot does not do the dress justice, but it was Farid who was pulling my arm as I tried to line up the shot. Happily I shot, but did not get shot. I never did find out if she was Sherbel’s sister.


IMG_1607 copyThere is a certain order to things at a wedding. At the altar there was a best man and maid of honor.  There was no room for anyone else after the photographers and videographers staked out their turf. At least that’s my presumption. You have to figure this young woman is part of the wedding party. The dress is a bit too fancy not to be part of the bridal party. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. No one was around to explain things to me.


IMG_1565 copyFarid didn’t want to attend the reception. It was kind of funny. He has a very large extended family in Beirut. On the other hand this is my first trip to Beirut. I am not familiar with the wedding practice here. I just took my cues from him. Because the church was so crowded he stepped out to avoid blocking the view of the guest sitting behind us. I figured that I’m from America [many thousands of miles] and from Jeddah [another thousand] and from Saudi Arabia. Unless someone pushed me aside, I was going to get a view of this wedding. What a rewarding shot! Just as the ceremony was complete they peeked around. Got it! And even better, they knew we were there. As I said, I was a bit uncertain that it would have been impolite to skip the reception. It was only a few minutes later that Farid and I congratulated the parents and the wedding couple before we beat our retreat. I almost [not quite] made him stand in that golden sunset light for a picture.

Don’t Ask, I’m Not the Photographer

IMG_1538They have to be accustomed to the way things work. I already commented on the light level in the chapel. I mean you can see the hot spots in the last post. It was bright! It’s the custom, so they tell me. The priests are pretty good about it all. Well, just as the reading starts, all the power in church goes out. The video lights were drawing so much power, everything gave out. The place isn’t wired for a modern wedding. The light to the right is coming in from a single door open at the back of the [warm, stuffy] chapel. This particular door opens onto a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea facing west. And it’s about twenty minutes to sunset. And though it had been raining and misty the day before, this day was going to develop into a grand sunset evening.

I don’t think the lights were out for three seconds before someone had lit a candle and brought it to the altar so the reading could continue. It took a minute of so to restore full lights again. When the ceremony was complete, the bride and groom did not exit but stayed at the altar to take some family group shots. And, of course, the power failed one more time. But now it was sunset. Everyone [photographers and videographers] were facing the altar and the wedding party. That glorious sunset golden warm light was streaming in the door just begging for someone to use it and take some memorable wedding shots. No! They kept at it with harsh flash in that crazy shadowed altar. I could hear my family admonishing me not to interfere. After all who am I? Sometimes, you just don’t know what to do.

Family at the Wedding

IMG_1551I have already been informed that if I try this trick at my daughter’s wedding, I be killed instantly. And I have no doubt that is what will happen. So, there’s a million people all around the bride at the altar. The wedding party was probably kept small to accommodate videography and photography. Really, don’t they know it messes up your background to have those tacky photovests with your company name in just about every photo. One of the videographers kept exhorting the bride’s maid to smile for the video. I expected him to start interviewing her right there at the altar.

About halfway through the ceremony the guy in the white shirt just ambles up to the left of the altar and starts firing away. He pushed the paid photographers out of the way. Another [presumably family] man had already been clicking away from that side. Just come on up, everyone’s welcome.

It was interesting in that the video light was bright enough to shoot without flash. But the photographers were happily flashing everyone in sight. And the priests [two, count ’em, two] were conducting a ceremony completely nonplussed.

And did I happen to mention the ‘dress?’ It was so large. We arrived late, so I missed the entrance of the wedding party. The dress was draped over the back of chair so the bride could sit at the appropriate times during the ceremony. As large as it was, I was fooled into thinking it was a table or an animal next to the party at the altar. Or maybe [just for a moment] the groom was marrying two women. No, that would never happen. That’s a lot of lace for one use and one wear.


IMG_1525I backed into a wedding in Beirut recently. It’s a long story. But to be brief, I attended because a general surgeon had been invited and he never showed. And instead [uninvited] I had ended up with a warm invite to a small chapel to attend a [typical Lebanese??] wedding ceremony. I say chapel because the venue was terribly small. Quaint, but there just wasn’t enough room for everyone to get inside.

You expect a church to be dark and poorly lit. Inside it was a bright as midday. The video lights were blaringly bright. But I digress. With three photographers with flash, and two videographers crowding the dais, it was hard to tell the wedding party from the film crew. With everyone in their place, photographers and wedding party, how does anyone get a shot that is different. Well here you are. From where I stood [unfortunately I stood in front of sitting guests behind me], the flower girl and her young male counterpart, were seated to the side. Yup, they had that bewildered bored look wondering when this long interminable ceremony would wrap up. So that’s my shot and I’m taking it.

As to standing in front of other guests sitting behind me, I was not alone [standing with several others beside me], they didn’t object, and I figured that everyone knew that I was from far away and they would forgive my ignorance. It worked.

I can reasonably sure, I’m the only photographer to get this shot in this wedding. Hey that’s what makes things special. But keep in mind that I’m not doing this for money or hire, so there’s no pressure to come away with anything.

Air Condition Repair

IMG_9847I have passed this shop for many months. It is along the back road to the hospital. They constantly close major roads so you have to hunt for a way to get to work. Since I am a captive passenger, I often idly look at the road and discover new things. The stacked air conditioner grills are clear enough. Inside are compressors and more parts. After a few months it dawned on me that the weather never changed. It was sunny everyday and the temperatures reached over 90 degrees pretty much daily. Why then? Really, why is the A/C repairman sitting in his shop without any? Don’t worry. I passed another repair shop on another street and it was the same… no A/C for the repairman.

I used to think that you can know a place within a few days. But this one took me a while to notice and figure out.


IMG_9829Ok, once again I have no idea what this store is about. I’ve seen it but never had an opportunity to photograph the store front. On this occasion I got the shot, but still haven’t walked up to the door and looked inside. My level of curiosity is not enough to make me ever want to eat in the place if it should be a restaurant.

Camel Hunt

IMG_9899 camelJulia visited recently. When I first came to Jeddah in December 2011, I passed a series of roadside vendors selling camel milk. Herds of a dozen or more camels were stretched out along the roadside. It’s said that camel milk is healthy for you. Then they told me it’s unpasteurized and can lead to interesting infectious disease. That quenched my desire to give it a try. Julia and I made three unsuccessful road trips to the area that I remembered. I even [and I never do] asked for directions. No! No luck. the best we could do is see some poor decrepit camels behind a cinder block wall. It was OK with Julia, she’s ridden a camel in Africa. Me, I’ll look again when David visits.

Oh, the camel? It’s a silly Photoshop trick the kids taught me. Actually, they hold their hand up and pretend that the camel in the background is in the palm of their hand [perspective, not Photoshop]. I just took a camel on the other side of the wall and cloned it on her palm. After all her pose was all set up for me [except for the camel].

First Supper


After six months, this was the first meal. If you’re Italian, it’s ‘gravy.’ I worked on Staten Island (heavily Italian) for many years. To me, it’s sauce. Either way, over spaghetti, it was like home. And I have a complaint about that damn Paula Deen pan! The cover is round just like the pan. It doesn’t fit down. And I know it wasn’t bent from the plane trip. Sometimes you just can’t count on American quality.

Cousin Amy could have done better on the food photography. But ‘red sauce’ is red sauce and I was so hungry that it was luck that I remembered to get off a shot.



I took Farid. He’s never been. And in the Sands Hotel, there’s a franchise – cash only. I guided him to the hibachi and we picked streak. The chef came out for his knife and spatula routine. The difference is that they have heavy plexiglass that hangs down to within six inches. Protection! I guess he won’t be flipping any shrimp into the waiting mouth of the diners. After the cooking, the plexiglass rises. It’s another mystery to me. Farid can’t tell me, he’s never been here.



Gee, I haven’t seen this stuff since the astronauts went up. To the right are large containers of powdered milk also. I mean really large containers; look closely. They are like gallon size and enough to make gallons and gallons of drink. Super market? Nope. Airport lounge. Huh? Where are you going? What travel destination beckons where you would stop off in the duty free shop and get a couple containers of Tang for the road. Which, by the way, they don’t sell any powdered drinks in the super market  – diet ice tea and such. But Tang, you can’t get enough, I guess. Don’t be late to the airport, you won’t have enough time to shop for Tang.


I Would Like Another Please


So a woman came to me with a scan performed three days ago. By now you should be able to see a large white ball on the left of the picture, which would be a very large tumor with some swelling. She’s lost her hearing but insists that she can hear the phone. She is unbalanced for quite some time. The tumor is in the balance area of the brain. She asks in Arabic that I order another MRI scan. Why? Because she doesn’t believe the results of the scan that she has already had. Ah, insurance! You’ll have to pay cash if you want another scan. She got up and left.

Magical Thinking/Right or Wrong


They use this term a lot. Here’s an examples. This is a 4 year old and this scan is 6 months old when I see the child. She’s blind which I notice immediately as she comes into the office in a stroller. My assistant still has some problems with simple observation. Sometimes just watching tells you a lot. This tumor (white) in the middle and on both side of her head is a killer. Two surgeons six months ago gave opposing opinions – operate/don’t operate. It turns out the surgeon who said ‘don’t,’ believed that this is inoperable. The ‘operate’ surgeon wanted to make a diagnosis and treat if it was possible. Neither surgeon was wrong, but it sure created a dilemma. And six months later with nothing done, here we are. The father was looking for a cure. And I was advised that should I operate and anything then worsen, I would be an easy target of blame. Wow! There are days when there are no right decisions. Moral, ethical, technical, legal, religious, no one wins here.