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.
“You touched a camel!!” my daughter exclaimed when I shared this photo. We had searched vainly for a camel to photograph when she visited in March. Yes, Julia. I got right up in its face. Actually, the camels, especially this camel, were quite used to people and did not hesitate to come right to the fence and allow me to touch it. This guy has probably been fed by many visitors in the past. I don’t know… but one could guess. No, he wasn’t smelly, and yes, I used a wipe to wash my hands. One of the nurses was carrying one and pressed it into my hand after the shots.
Sometimes I surprise myself. It’s always a problem at the zoo to get a shot without the distracting cage. I like the juxtaposition of the head and tail, obviously not the same porcupine. Call it coming and going. Otherwise this shot would have been in the discard folder.
We arrived at the zoo. Simon and Garfunkel, it ain’t. It was early and we were the only group, the only people, visiting. It was pretty small and to me, pretty lame. I admit that I did not see this picture first. It was on the internet when I was doing my homework on Taif and it’s sights. Dogs!… from USA! Imagine that??!! They do not like dogs in Saudi Arabia! They are considered unclean. Cats, yes; dogs, no! But there was even a cage with cats. Meanwhile a stray cat wandered by… You’ve got to be kidding me, right?? Please don’t stick your fingers inside.
When we finally arrived in Taif, we were lost. I was traveling with 28 nurses, two husbands and our Arabic driver. What with the different languages, I was not privy to the fact that we didn’t know where to go. We just drove up and down like we didn’t know where to go. So, at one stop I turned around. My companions liked to have their picture taken. Everyone was awake and they all smiled… so I took the picture. It’s not supposed to work out this well in an enclosed space at least 15-20 feet in depth. The depth of field on my camera is not that great and everyone keeps saying that the lens isn’t that wonderful. I would have to say that luck played a role. Not bad… not bad at all.
And the road signs warn drivers about… something you don’t see in the USA. I have to say that I have braked for moose after I saw the sign in Maine. I never saw a moose on the road in Maine. But there was a moment when I realized that hitting a moose would be like hitting a truck. I got the wise notion while driving in the fog in Maine, that the GPS device gave you good forward idea of the road and its curves ahead. The rub is that if you happen upon a moose at high speed, you will hurt yourself. I slowed down and got cautious. So far no sign of any stray camels. I tend to doubt there are any wild ones about. And like moose, for me, any sighting is worth a photograph.
Well, I haven’t been out of town too much. But the nurses organized a trip to Taif and invited me. You cannot not go to Macca as a non-Muslim. So to get to Taif is a round about road. It’s slow… 80 miles, 4 hours. We left at dawn; it was still very dark. I was honorably put into the front ‘shotgun’ seat of the bus next to the motor and the driver. As the dawn lightened, I got the early morning light as it gave me an overlapping view of the mountains. This was shot through the tinted bus windshield, in poor light, and from a bouncing moving vehicle. You don’t always get a shot you can keep, but sometimes…
I made this shot back in December when Farid and I took his kids to the Red Bull Flutag event in Jeddah. His brother had special passes and we were in the VIP section. It meant no crowding. And the kids got a hat. I’ve done some group shots of Farid and the kids. I recently loaded them on a CD and he took them with him when he visited the family in Lebanon. When he returned he had this shot on his iPhone and told me that everyone in the family was making prints and framing the shot. I made this shot without any special effort. It’s just the photo sense that I have developed with experience. I’m glad that I did not have pressure to produce a money shot. Anyway it’s flattering to know that someone is appreciative of your work. This photo will be in their family forever, my gift as a friend.
When I say there were a lot of cars, let’s see… eight lanes, bumper to bumper, at least two miles… that’s a lot of cars and a lot of heat. The police were out with flashing lights, but what could a few cops do? There were roving bands of young teens, who made me a bit nervous. Mostly they were friendly enough. There is a median separating the eight lanes and folks were gathered on it, standing around or walking up and down. For some reason, the police chased everyone away from the median.
And they chased down this group. One was apparently impersonating the king and giving an interview… a spoof. The police made it clear that this was not within the ‘rules.’
There’s one thing in Jeddah that I may note. Everyone drives, no one walks. That’s why the sidewalks are in such poor shape. So on a night of celebration, it’s everyone to their car. They don’t walk, they don’t parade. They drive. So the eight lane boulevard was completely clogged in both directions by cars…just crusin’ …. There were a few people on the street, but not many.
There were many people who appeared to disapprove of me taking their picture. It seems that parents were more sensitive about their kids. So I tried to be discreet. It was my first time in this situation and I was merely playing it safe. If you’ve seen my Halloween shots in NY, anything goes. There, you just stick your camera up into the faces in the crowd and fire away. Even so, there were plenty of people who wanted their picture taken. No one asked that I send them a copy. They just wanted to be digitally recorded. And I couldn’t but help feel the pride and joy.
This group of guys surrounded me and one grabbed my camera. They stood all around me and I was in the group shot. I got a little nervous when the shooter didn’t give me back my camera right away. But, he was just messing.
It was September, 2012, and there haven’t been many previous Saudi National Days celebrated. But, the Saudis have gotten the hang of it rather well. They go all out, stopping traffic, painting their cars, and dressing outrageously. They also are all happy to have their photo taken. Considering how conservative everyone is, I was shy about using my camera… but not on these two nights. Wow! I was constantly asked to photograph people as they passed. I was told that some folks must have thought I was a foreign journalist… hmmm. One woman rolled down the rear smoked glass window of her SUV and asked me to take a picture. As I raised the camera, she quickly rolled up her window and then rolled it down again as I (puzzled) lowered my camera, “I wanted a picture of the car, just the (painted) car.” She smiled… no pic.
Since I’ve been in Saudi Arabia, I’ve developed a habit of carrying a camera everywhere. And now that I got an iTouch, I have the means to image anywhere anytime. But this happened a year ago. I’m just catching up to myself and have gotten all the digital files in some order. At that time I would wander randomly and forage for a spot to eat. I hadn’t stopped in Subway (sandwiches) in forever. As I came to the counter, these guys asked me to take their picture because they saw that I had a camera. They looked at the image and then continued ordering sandwiches. Random, chance encounter… they don’t do that in New York.
Prince and Sensei Tony are two of the instructors. During the exhibition part of student graduation, Prince demonstrated what a master can do. It’s not an easy thing to capture the critical moment. First I was using the on-camera flash on my Nikon D200. You don’t motor drive as Manny taught me. Besides there is a lag after the flash fires before it’s ready to shoot again – similar to shutter lag on a point and shoot. So you get one shot, and you’d better be on time for the image capture. Wow! Even I have to admit I got the shot. Not having seen the move before, it was hard to know where to be standing. Prince only did it once. I’d have changed spots but that was it – one shot – only – the peak moment. Hurray!
Wow, look at the water, freeze framed! I was asked to shoot a child’s swim meet. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of lessons and an incentive to continue. Everyone had a great time and all the kids got a medal. Kelley, four years old, was a winner. I just let the camera go on auto and shot for composition and cropping. At 1/320 sec, I got this great water freezing shot. Periodically, I question my own skill and wonder if I’m just lucky or I’m really good. Maybe there’s a little of both in play. Anyway I’m flattered that the family group in my compound think highly enough that they called me especially for this photo op. One father commented on my D200 and asked, “Is that a canon?” He had noticed the 18-200mm lens zoomed all the way out and asked if it was a weapon not the brand (Canon). I only got the joke later.
I was invited to go to Taif. Twenty eight nurses, two husbands, and me. We got to a mountain called Al Hada and were greeted by a tribe of baboons which sit along the roadside and wait to be fed from the passing cars. If you look on google earth there are lots of photos of the area and the baboons.
There’s a difference in taking a picture and looking at one. I don’t think I have taken anything unique, but it is mine. I shot it. And, I was there. That, I guess is all the difference.
We stopped here for about 15 minutes. Most of the nurses were too timid to get off the bus. They were afraid of the wild baboons. I cajoled and some of them got down. We had (at least I did) a great photo op. You could approach so closely that there was no need for a telephoto lens. Earlier at the zoo in Taif we had seen baboons behind two layers of fence. There was no photo op there. But here we were face to face. I just didn’t have the nerve to try and pet one.
It’s always fun to see where you live from a plane. The two large buildings under construction (middle left) are on Thalia St. Following Thalia St, on the upper right is another large building. And to the left is the compound where I live. They are low-lying white two story buildings. Yeah, I can see home from the plane. And, no…, you can’t see if I made my bed.
The large towers spewing smoke are supposed to be the desalinization plants. The cost must be staggering. But oil is cheap. After they make water, large tanker trucks deliver it each day. No one seems to drink it. Everyone buys bottled water. Go figure.
The island to the left belonged to a deceased king. No one lives there now except a caretaker staff of about 1000. Someone will get possession and it will be nice to have your own island in the harbor. About the closest vantage is the Hilton Hotel across the way( the tall building to the right). And King Fahd’s fountain is also there but it’s not turned on in the afternoon.
I learned a great Photoshop trick from Julia to cut the haze. We used it on the underwater shots. And in this image, it sure worked on the afternoon haze. It’s about as good a shot as you could get of the tower since it is not close into shore and therefore I am about as close as you can be if you’re not in a boat.