I recently made a connection, or perhaps a reconnection from West Virginia. Colleen, a girl from my grade school class in a very convoluted way found me again. Once a woman marries her identity is virtually impossible to trace. There was another girl, one of my secretaries tracked down. She refused to talk even though she remembered me. This (photo) encounter, email only, came about via circumstantial detective work, only to fizzle for a few more years until, Marty another mutual acquaintance linked us again. Lisa had a similar experience with her grade school class and reunion. Lisa and I had attended the same school but at different times. I had been long gone to West Virginia by the time Lisa attended. And Colleen, my new contact and I have never met in person. Confusing, try this. I did it without Facebook.
I swim across these giant clams with regularity. I always take a shot. They aren’t swimming away. But they close up. The key is to get that opening to the left; it’s a mouth or excretory organ. The color varies, blue, brown, and some occasional red tints. I don’t usually see green. The algae are a factor in determining color. Reproduction has been on my mind. The clams are in a fixed location widely separated. This must be quite a challenge. As far as eating, which my father would have certainly considered it. Do the colors affect the taste?
Near the training dive platform is a pale pile of shells. It is easily overlooked unless you know to look specifically. A crustacean has taken up residence. It covers its hole cleverly camouflaging the opening so well you cannot discern the crab waiting for prey. I have not seen the whole creature. I am told it will harm you if you get a finger too close. This boy is not about to be bait. Every once in a while we visit again to get a shot. This day the water was clear and the crab cooperated for its close up. They eyes swivel in different directions and it makes me dizzy. No sneaking up here.
Ghosts, gliding majestically along blithely oblivious to a couple of divers, Farid figured that if we were deep we might see them again. Typically he pointed too late for me to get an image of the first one that practically swam into my face. You can’t speak underwater so his strategy was lost as I followed him to 140 feet. We had just completed our rescue diver certification I was idly wondering if his brain was addled from the depth. Nitrogen narcosis is insidious. He pointed and even with max effort I was not going to get close to this trio. So the silhouette had to suffice until I get a better opportunity. Majestic.
Rain or shine – well it never rains…but the men’s dominos game goes on whether or not there’s a crowd. The guys are tolerant. People were crowded all about them snapping pictures. I mean the crowd was in their space! The game was on and no matter the crowd, it was proceeding. Just one table and one game…. The last time I saw this group, it was on an evening tour of the Balad. The tourists crowded and shot images. The men ignored them and played on.
Plop! Yes bring a rug and plop down in any open space. No one seems shy about bringing along a rug and just claiming a spot in the middle of everything. I can’t say that it appears comfortable. Selfies in the background!? It’s midnight and joint is hoppin’! I’d ordinarily think a nice soft patch of grass would do. But there ‘s no grass in sight. Folks will set up in the most unlikely and most uncomfortable looking locations. And despite the hour, no one appears ready for bed.
My guide told me that there were typical drinks that were served at Ramadan. These things create the familiar memory of a holiday as eggnog would remind me of Christmas. The dark purple drink is served everywhere. The origin or berry is unclear to me. The taste is distinctive. The other drink is newer and is seen together. But it is the purple stuff….has an odd distinctive flavor. It is sweet without citrus tartness. Initially I did not like it but it becomes an acquired taste. It was new for me but is typically served where ever I go. Most vendors served it up from plain plastic containers. Here at least the display had some style and was worth sharing the image. Otherwise for the rest of the year I don’t see this drink.
More street photography – I got a second chance. Well okay. This time I wasn’t under pressure. If I got a shot or not, there was already one in my archive. So now the goal is to get a better one. Smile, get eye contact, and shoot.
Someone I know, knows all about second chances. This really isn’t. You have already seen two shots on a recent post. This time with nothing to lose, I relaxed, smiled at the kid, made eye contact, and got him to engage with my camera. Instead of a distracted look, I got a smile. Like many of my street photography subjects, this kid will grow up. But for this instance I have preserved his youth forever.
The 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…..
My 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.
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.
This 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.
Street 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?
During 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….
This 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.
The 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?
I 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.
I 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. That’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. I 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.
Poetry. 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. 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.
What 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.
I’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. I 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.
John and Eric, well, we were all pretty young. 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.
When 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.
Another 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 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. After 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.