Street photography – you don’t aim or compose, you just press the shutter. The idea is to catch spontaneity. It’s mostly because you are afraid or shy to ask to take a picture. Or you are afraid to have an angry objection. And if you are in a foreign place it is wise to be discrete. Auto focus! It works. Aim in the general direction of your subject. Hope for the best. At night I use auto ISO and shutter speed 1/125. Otherwise things will be blurred. They tend to be. So I try to lessen the error.
I had an errand to do in the old city. It’s September and still hot as blazes. The humidity is high. And still, it does not rain. You go out only at night. Daytime is instant meltdown. I live in A/C. My villa has never seen the A/C off in four years. Power outages are very rare. Once it lasted for more than an hour and my friend left to go to a hotel. He did not tolerate heat. Wuss! Well, me too. But for some reason we were on different circuits and my power was on. No, he did not want to stay in my messy villa. As soon as I exited the air conditioned car my camera lens fogged up. I did not realize it. So for a moment, until I checked, everything was fogged. It was an interesting effect. And the shot I could not get… the man in the chair had sweat dripping from the tip of his nose. Sorry. Couldn’t get that. It’s street photography! There are shots I saw that will ever be on my mind. I missed it. But I saw it. If you didn’t get it, you didn’t see it. But I did. Like the eggs. Some days you are in the right place at the right moment. And just a bit later on, you miss. Yes, a drop of sweat, right on the tip of his nose. “Plain as the tip of your nose.” Missed!
Ok. Be impressed. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut (sometimes). Yes! My dive buddy saw the eggs. She did not have a lens to photograph them. The other two of us did. We shot. I was singularly unimpressed. The eggs had been laid on a white PVC pipe. The guardian parents was buzzing us. The current was moving me about and the visibility was near zero. It was murky! I closed my eyes, adjusted my settings, and pointed and shot. I could not get a high high mage shot. But the image magnified shows eggs and eyes. At least that is my story. And, I’m sticking with it. This made my day.
Look how menacing he appears. I’ve lots of shots of this guy (or his brothers). But this one was horror movie scary. The teeth! My! “The better to eat you with grandma.” I’d would have to say that you see this guy and you move in for a shot. He’s fair game because he will sit still long enough for me to set up. Move in a little closer. It’s not a snapshot. Ah! Perfect! Thanks for posing. Yes, he looks like a prehistoric monster of the deep. In real life he is shy and swims away from me if I am too close.
We dove on a wreck. A large ship had sunk and was now a hot spot to dive and explore. It’s not my cup of tea. There’s nothing picturesque or too much interesting. And the scale is too large to get a clear shot of the whole wreck. The twisted metal covered in coral is not bursting with image opportunities. Color balance is awful. Hey? Am I complaining too much? A day diving is a day better then work. Right? The back end has the propeller. Duh? One propeller and a very large rudder. Really, it was a large ship propelled by a single rudder and prop. How large? Well, I got a diver swimming through. That is what gives you some comparative scale. We did not go inside. That’s dangerous. If you are trapped inside, you are toast. This was for fun, not for danger. So it was fine to get an overview. Been there, I probably won’t elect to do it again.
It reminds me of… This was serendipity. As in, I was trying to get something and this is what happened when I closed my eyes and pressed the shutter. All of the sudden my skills went south. I was having trouble focusing. It happens. I got anxious. Imagine? It’s just me. What’s to be anxious about? Anyway, for a while I could not focus on any of the giant clams. Maybe they were having a laugh on me? But then, I did come away with some good shots. I’m used to most shots being pretty good. Nope. I had a lot of out of focus shots. But whoa! Look at this! It’s striking. Painterly. I am proud of this shot. And you would never get me to admit that this was completely fortuitous. I just closed my eyes, pressed the shutter, and hoped for the best. Yup, uh huh.
Bite me! – It bit me!
I was attacked. I’ve shown you an encounter in a previous post. I was roughly in the same area photographing a couple subjects. This guy (I’m not sure he’s the same as the other) started attacking my close up lens. Ok! Get a picture. I did. Then he came back again and again. He attacked my goggles.
Finally, he took a nip of me. (yes, look close, he left a red mark). Ouch! I did not notice any source for the attack. There were no eggs or juvenile fish around. I was surprised and promptly beat off his attack with my dive stick. Yes a sword fight under the sea. Jules wrote to tell me that they are territorial. All this time, I have seen this species often and no one ever attacked me. Yes, I was sure surprised!
I love this shot! Every once in a while the shot is good and the story is second place. Isn’t this a great graphical image. Night shot! This was near to impossible before digital. Now it’s easy. High fashion shoes and abayas don’t seem to be congruent. What does one wear out? And what goes with an abaya? Folks mostly wear sneakers or sandals. Sandals are great because it’s so damn hot. Sneakers are hot.
Oh! Another aside. “Oud or agarwood is one of the most popular scents on the market today. Oud is said to be the most expensive wood in the world; oud oil’s value is estimated to be 1.5 times the value of gold, and it is sometimes referred to as ‘liquid gold’.” My nurse told me about this scent. Everyone smells to high heaven. What with the “built in sauna” wearing an abaya, you do need a lot of scent.
High fashion shoes under an abaya? Pearls before swine? Sorry. No pork here. But you get my drift? Which reminds me… one of our nurses was stopped from entering with marzipan. She had brought it in and it contains like .001% alcohol! The Saudi customs officer stopped her triumphantly! She refused to give up her stuff. She argued and cried. Her husband left her. He was standing next to her with a block of Serrano ham in his bag…
So? What shoes do you wear under an abaya? Anything you like I’d guess. Incongruent? It’s not like you are solving a geometry theorem.
Baa – Language
What lamb in Arabic? If you don’t know it will not help you to sat baa. Ogden Nash wrote about the language of dogs. They bark differently in different countries. Woof is not universal. French dogs do not necessarily “bow wow.”
When I arrived in Jeddah I could not speak Arabic. And I still cannot. Thankfully all the Filipino waiters speak English. We tried a Malaysian restaurant the other night. Tried. Failed. The staff looked vaguely oriental which meant to me that they were likely Filipino. Nope. My nurses were embarrassed. They could not speak with or get a translation for the menu. We were stuck in a place with cuisine I was not familiar and with no one to guide us. We went to an Indian place instead. My nurses have never eaten Indian food. Imagine? I ordered us up some good vittles. Mmmm….
This picture? I was in the mall. I saw someone eating. It was a stew that was eaten with fresh made flat bread. I went to order up some too. And the Arabic speaker behind the counter was mystified. We could not speak. At all. I pointed. He shrugged He asked in Arabic. I pointed. I said baa. I said moo. He smiled and shrugged again. I got beef. They don’t serve pork. And I never clucked.
Now? I get on the phone to my assistant. I tell him and he speaks on my behalf. A lot of hospital staff have asked me for help and I use this method to be sure I am understanding the problem. No, I did not learn enough Arabic to be conversant. Yes, I am shameful. I still eat well. And mostly Filipinos wait on me. I am not learning a new language but I have adapted. Bow wow.
Side By Side
When I visited Beirut the civil war was done and the center of the city rebuilt. It was clean and shiny new. It was pedestrian friendly. I walked about and took in the sights. Mosque and Church could be seen side by side. Outwardly there is no war. Sunny days prevail. Beneath the surface lingers all the old animosities. The government is dysfunctional. Religion, politics, and ethnicity all lurk as intractable barriers. You can’t see it in the pictures. Some days I wish there really was a reset button.
There is a style here. Dinner. It’s traditional. Which is to say that after the first several times I attended, it has a recognizable pattern. This typical dinner in my compound was attended by men. Females, even physician colleagues are not invited. A lamb is prepared – grilled – and then served over rice. Picking at the meat with your bare fingers to get to the succulent parts is an accepted norm. Eating with your fingers is common. Forks are provided. No knives. The usual dessert is a sweet semolina cake that has cream or mozzarella cheese in between the layers. In Mexico it’s called arepa. My friend Nasser – we call him Kideida – dressed in traditional formal garb in celebration of the occasion. I wore my golf shirt. Ha! I don’t golf.
I attended a welcome dinner. Two physicians joined our department. I live modestly in hospital housing. This was an opportunity to see how the other half lives. It’s a separation of sexes. No females were in attendance. Someone brought their son. Otherwise it was a banquet of males. Lamb is roasted on a skewer. Standard fare. The sides included lots of rice, salad, and fruit, followed by dessert. Afterward our host played traditional music accompanied by his son. From the outside, the walls are high and drab. Inside, the accommodations are quite the opposite. Elaborate and ornate, it reflected a long life of collecting the trappings of wealth and success. Me? I’m living in two suitcases, ready to go if it’s imperative. The bulk of it will be my dive gear. I’m of the opinion that you can’t take it with you…but…. you can sure store it somewhere else. To be fair, I’ve got a lot of junk sitting around somewhere else… Please don’t laugh too hard.
Sometimes When We Touch
It’s a song title. I’ve been hoping that Lulu and Casi will be friends. Lulu was all fur flying and hissing when Casi walked through the door. Jealousy?! I think so. I was Lulu’s human. And she was not sharing. At this point they coexist. The share space. They have divided me up. One or the other will hang near me. At night one sleeps close by to my right, the other to my left. Yes, they sleep on the bed. It happens after a while… Casi prefers to sleep under the covers. She feels safer.
There are encounters. And even some playful cuffing goes on. I do not think I will ever get a portrait of the two of them together sharing in any gossip. I belong to them. They share. But they are not happy about it. I will therefore stop short of discussing the Muslim belief here that you can have up to four wives. Did you know? They rotate. The first wife goes in order to make room for the fifth. That is how they get around the limit. Cats! I’m still waiting for them to be smiling in the same image together.
Science and religion clash. Evolution does not exist if God created the earth in seven days. I read it in the Bible. Or, Darwin is correct? I keep my sins to a minimum in case there is a heaven. And I sin because there might not be heaven. We can agree to disagree. Or not. It’s why wars are fought. Jonathan Swift could never have written Gulliver’s Travels otherwise. It was a great childhood movie. Too bad it sailed right over my head until high school straightened the innocence right out of me. I like Greek mythology too…
Phrenology, palmistry, sand sculpture, do you understand the dilemma? I shoot images. I don’t stick to any topic in particular. I once told Susan that I shoot flag pictures. And she does too. I shoot the red, white, and blue. But wherever I am I will shoot the flag of any country or state too. There’s no mission. I’m not paid. It’s a lifelong hobby. I’m unstructured because there is no agenda. So my image collection is not just fish, or cats, or food, or…
…on a roll here… I am not a cat person. Dogs are easy. You call. They come. You feed them. They wag their tail. Cats are entirely different deal. Love ‘em or hate ‘em they are just not the same as anything else. Personality. They do not come when called. They wag you not their tails. They get under your skin and you are hooked. Elle is shy. She turns away from the camera whenever it points in her direction. I use street photography to get her. I hold the camera and don’t look like I’m taking a picture. She will not let me hold or hug her. She will come to me for petting when she wants. And I am so glad to touch her, I pet her every single time. Immediately. She has me trained.
It’s all in the eyes. Lulu, too, has green eyes. Piercing! That is the feature. That’s it. I’ve got pictures of all the cats that have been around me lately. Each time I look at the stunning riveting eyes. I have a lot of memories and the totem is their picture. Green eyes. Stunning. They stop you in your tracks. I know someone with green eyes too. Yup, it’s true.
Ok, I’m stretching here. I’m desperate for a post? I have lots of images. Good ones. Great fish pics. I’m bored. Too much fish. My attention is wandering. Or I am separating? I will secretly admit that I do not prefer to eat fish. Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks with tartar sauce, is my most vivid childhood memory. Yes, I ate American cheese sandwiches too. And that’s not cheese! Geez! And, I won’t eat cheese whiz; it’s not real food.
Kale is one of the veggies not in my diet. I don’t and have never sought it out. We have lived apart and quite happily so all of my life until now.
The picture does not do the dish justice. I’m not a food photographer. And I was using available light. And well, you know, the food was too good to start styling it at the table. So the picture is not particularly special. But the memory, that’s a different kettle of fish. Fish? No, it’s just another American slang saying. Like… “I’ll meet you at the pass…” Don’t ask. But Jennifer knows.
Describe it? It’s deep fried. That is enough information right there. Stop! Deep fried? Yes! Stunning what you can do with leaves. The rest is history. There are dollops of mustard mayo and you can see the onions. But the crunch and the texture and the flavors are not translatable. You just have to eat this. The picture is a mere shadow of the real thing. Which is more important? The picture or the story? …you gotta try this!
This is the best…
…Chinese restaurant the I will never return to eat in again. I’ll start with an aside. I don’t eat sushi. But when David graduated from USC we had dinner where my niece’s boyfriend worked. It was the best sushi ever. Perfect. After that anything else would be downhill. Bonnie made a touching random act of kindness and invited me to dinner. She had told me the food was outstanding. It was. Even the rice was soft and fluffy. I don’t wax on about rice. But the very basic staple of every Chinese meal was done to perfection. The noodles are hand pulled. Or, as her husband, Daniel, said – “homemade.” Big difference. But same. (He’s German – language/translation ww) The noodles start as a ball of dough and then as a lump it is pulled into a single thin long noodle strand. The trick it is to find the two ends before you eat it. That would be “Chinese luck.” Suffice to say the meal was outstanding. Rosewood Hotel – Noodles – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. No, you can’t go either. Travel visas are hard to get. Which means that most folks will never get to eat there either. I don’t show you any food pics. It was not that kind of meal. The other gal is Jen, my OR nurse. We almost did not eat there. My colleague Farid was invited. He does not like Chinese food so we were almost set to go to a Lebanese place. But as it turns out, he had to go to parent teacher conference and the invitation was aimed at me. So, yay! We ended up in the best place I will never return to eat. No pictures of the food. What you really remember is the company. Now, read between the lines. When I was studying English and literature, we had to parse the meaning out of everything the writer was saying, analyzing what was not on the written page.
Change of Pace
I post according to what catches my eye at the moment. I photograph eclectically. Stuff. I shoot graphics. I shoot current event. I shoot history. I do fish! I used to photograph my kids a lot. My wife never liked her picture. So there were less and less of them. Random shots. Random thoughts. At least it’s not fish today. I have to break up the line up or else I risk changing the blog to a dive blog. Change, it happens. It’s sort of inevitable. To some of you who know me, this is more meaningful. But there is a Chinese saying, “May you be born in interesting times.” Or, “Every journey begins with the first step.” Or, even more trite, “Today is the last day of the rest of your life.”
Interesting times? How about Trump? Who’d ever have thought he’d be nominated and that a very large number of people are supporting him. Sorry, I guess you can guess my politics. But really, I don’t believe in any of them. No one you elect actually does anything for you. They do so they can be re-elected in the next cycle. Cynical? Maybe.
Change? Yup. Kodak? Film? Who were they? Digital rules. Cameras? Nope. Everyone pretty much uses a smartphone now. The game has changed. Brick and mortar stores are going. You even buy shoes online now. Amazon rules. I haven’t set foot in a store to buy Christmas presents in a few years now. Online sales prices lie to me. MSRP is a come on. No one pays retail. Not for a long long time. So the sales price is a come on too. But no one can hide on the internet. So lowest prices are pretty easy to shop and it’s a whole lot easier than walking or driving. Bye Macy’s. Gimbles is gone. So too are so many other stores. The anchor mall stores here in Saudi are grocery stores. Everyone needs food….for the moment.
Park? I’ve been a nomad for a lot of years now. I never intended nor expected to be. It has been an unparalleled adventure. I would not have willingly mapped it out this way. But moving seems to suit me. My family moved on average every two years till I was eighteen. I told my wife and she gut renovated our apartment twice so we stayed thirty years at one address. My kids lived in different countries on different continents. Risk, adventure, wanderlust? My parents left China to journey to America. They gave me opportunity. I’ve been very lucky and blessed. The timing for me was so very fortunate. There has been badness. But on the whole it’s been pretty nice. I opened Lightroom to look for some images today. Random. But thoughtful. Or as Bing Crosby sang in White Christmas – “….I count my blessings instead of sheep…”
Available light has a soft appearance different than the look of a strobe. The majority of professional style images are all done with strobe lighting. Smartphone photos by far are the most dominant images posted to Flickr. This was a throwback day.
Sometimes things go to hell. I have had all sorts of problems underwater. The first worry is that salt water will leak into and damage your gear. Yup! Been there done that. Fried two cameras and counting… one strobe…. Fortunately, the strobe main body is waterproofed. So, the batteries fried not the $400 strobe. Dive computer – o ring failure – check, yes. Forgot my memory card on one dive… yes, stupid!
Things breakdown. It will happen. Be prepared. Have a backup plan. My buddy forgot to charge his batteries. I had spares to loan him.
The latest calamity? The wire that connects my strobe to the camera sheared. It’s a fiber optic system that simply broke apart. At the beginning of the dive…it’s always right when you are in the water and at the beginning of the dive. I even have a back-up camera – (did not have it that day).
So? There has been only one dive I recall when I did not have a camera. Otherwise, you improvise. I love it when my advice rhymes. I went available natural light. I haven’t done this in ages. You have to white balance every ten feet deeper you go. And there are a bunch of settings to adjust. I did it on the fly and it only took a minute to recall all that I needed to do. Saved! Well, it was enough for me to come away with images. You know? Make lemonade when they give you lemons. I tested and experimented. It’s a learning experience when things breakdown. Yes! I could take a sharp highly magnified image. The main difference is that your odds are better when everything is working. But you can still get something. So it was not a wasted dive. I learned something today.
So? What caveat? It’s about backup storage. It’s enough to strike fear. Do you worry about losing all your images on your phone? Have you heard of the cloud? Do you remember floppy disks? Or VHS tape. Did you ever see a Betamax player. 8 track tape?
The New York Times published a very earnest article by a so called expert who advised – use Google cloud. It’s advice. And therein lies the caveat. All that other technology became obsolete and discarded. Floppy disks are coasters. There are no readers, so they are toast. Companies come and go. Kodak! Did you ever think that the great “Yellow father” would be an historical footnote? Ever hear of a platinum print?
Pardon me Mr NYT. Fine and dandy, but at least let me have redundant back up on an external drive that I own and control. Google forever?! Do/did you Yahoo? I zen too, but I want my photos to be preserved. Zen will live on; will my photos? They say my blog will be on the net forever. I’ve got my posts on word and the images on my hard drive. Paradoxically, anything you wish would go away will follow you forever too. Like old girl friends…did I say that?
I know someone…
… who knows someone. You know? Six degrees of separation. Well, Mother Theresa is a saint now. She was alive during my time on earth. I am used to thinking that saints were all made before I was born. So there are no new ones. There are a lot of saints. And heaven help your “sainted mother.” But really, everyone has been all agog over Saint Theresa. A saint must perform two miracles. I thought three; I was wrong. It’s hard enough to do two. 1. She made a brain tumor go away. 2. She made a brain infection disappear. Neat! Neurosurgery! Whoa!? Really? I do not know the case nor the circumstance. The church has ruled. It’s a miracle! (Both!)
It’s all good with me. I thought that it’s easier to turn loaves into fish…or whatever. But the miracle for me is that I know someone who actually touched her while she was alive. And she has a relic. That would be real live DNA – a body part (gross) or nail clipping or hair or… I asked. Ginny confirmed. But she can’t find it! But I know she never throws anything away. So it’s around. Things go missing… they don’t know where Kennedy’s brain is. By the grace of god I do not know anyone who died in the WTC on 9/11. But I know people who knew people. That is too close.
There are times I am obtuse. I’m told. So it must be so. That mosque is in Jeddah and quite well known. Jules is in the foreground. We were happily wandering and taking pictures. A large group of Indonesians were organizing a group photo. Some kids were playing soccer nearby. Then, she saw the sign. “No photography!” Who knew? This is the site where they execute sentences – as in “beheading.” No need to lose your head? Stop taking pictures.
This is a juvenile. Little fish got to start somewhere. Tiny! He was lethargic. So I got shots! It wasn’t easy. But, you knew that?! Tiny, I could hardly follow him in my close up lens. I’m still a work in progress. I’m getting better but there was a lot of pressure. I was diving with two excellent photographers. Neither had their cameras. So they were finding subjects and graciously pointing them out to me. Get the shot! Don’t disappoint. I did not find this fish nor see it until it was pointed out. So, it was a challenge to get an image that would please the experts. I usually come away with something. Pressure, you rise to the occasion or…not. I’m a lucky guy…mostly.
Stonefish are not bright red. They are bright red. How? Well, the light is filtered and red color fades as you go deeper under the sea. A flash will bring out what would otherwise be a dull colored fish and make it really stand out. Under the sea it actually looks pretty dull.
Sometimes the stonefish is really pretty ugly. And color can do it no improvement. This guy was posturing. He lifted his head as I took his pic. So I got a bit of pink. He did not intentionally pose for me. He wasn’t warning me off. Stonefish are pretty mellow. Both fish are very easy to miss. They don’t move. The human eye is sensitive to movement. It’s about survival. Something moving is a potential threat. These fish just lie still and blend into the surrounding coral. It’s worth a picture anytime we see one. It’s so nice that they pose for me.
Too Much – TMI
TMI – too much information – too close. I sent this image to my daughter. She commented, “What is it? Show me the whole thing.” There’s a balance. You need context. But I’d like to just publish a single image. Choose. Which one? Ah! Well, that becomes a matter of choice. But which? I guess consider the difference between a snapshot versus a photograph. I’m still a camera person. Right tool? There’s no argument that most of all images are smart phone productions – too easy and convenient to ignore. I’m a long way from point and shoot. Set up takes time. I moved up along the scale. And yet there is a large group above me who finds my set up to be inadequate. There’s always someone better. Meanwhile, I like what I’m doing. I’ll stick to my day job for a bit longer. It’s still a hobby for me.
With digital you are not limited to shooting a single image. Fire away. Memory card and battery power are your limiting factors. You can shoot hundreds of images and discard them later. The point is not quantity; it’s quality. Lately I don’t press the shutter as I think to myself, “It’s not a picture.”
Better – Better?
When I started taking pictures underwater, I was immediately rewarded. I got some very nice images. Looking back, you’d almost laugh. I look at the new divers with their cameras and smile. They do not understand the learning curve. You come back with something. It’s digital. You get an image. It’s poorly framed and the color balance and …. It’s just not that easy. Then you get camera envy. A better camera will get you a better chance to get a better result. Dream on. There is a price for success. The best photographers have thousands of dollars invested. It comes down to controlling the light and getting what you want when you want it. Control. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful with less. I have worked my way up. I’m using a more sophisticated set up than before. I would love to drive a Porsche but Toyota gets me there too.You look good getting there but what’s the point if you can’t drive the car fast anyway.
Christmas tree worms – I used to struggle to get an image. Now I am so close up that I see the individual parts of the animal. Then I can concentrate on composition…. Yes, at a certain point it makes sense to upgrade. But equipment will only do so much. It comes down to the right tool for the right job. But you can still do the job, if you understand your tools. A friend of mine said that a screw driver is a hammer if you don’t have a hammer in your toolbox. Maybe. But it’s nice to have a hammer if you need one. These days my craftsmanship get me an image that requires little post production manipulation. Yes, somewhere along the way I got better.