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Kale

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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…”

Caveat!

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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.

 

Juvenile

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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.

Red

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Long Game

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If you scuba dive long enough you can get shots like this. The coral hind and wrasse are in a symbiotic dance. The wrasse cleans the bigger fish. The hind is in the grouper family and is very shy. I suppose if you were fire engine red in color, you might not want to draw attention. So occasionally, very occasionally, I get a shot. The ordinary shot is of the tail end as he swims away. And if you are patient and you wait, then sometimes he is pointed straight at you. And if you catch him when he’s getting cleaned by a wrasse, then you have the shot you want. So I am not in a hurry. Patience. Readiness. And my time came. Easy? No! But I was there at the right moment. A lot of things have to align, but then you would not appreciate it unless you tried and failed. I have, and so, believe me when I say that it’s not hard for me anymore. But it’s still not easy. Special! Definitely!