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!
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.
I only saw this once. Apparently the police are not allowing such a display to occur again. That year there was vandalism to many shops along the avenue. Too bad. There was such enthusiasm and spirit. A woman asked to take a picture! Really! I pointed the camera at her. She put up her hand and rolled her window up. She wanted me to take a picture of her car. Some things remain the same!
Maybe everyone knew to come by social media alerts. But then again, I have never seen a gathering like this. Cars lined the avenue and just sat. No one cared about moving along. They sat – “ Car proud” – banners waving, costumed, enthusiastic.
They waved at me to take pictures as though I were a news journalist. And so I did. I got worried because one guy grabbed the camera from my hand and did a group shot. I’m trusting but wary. You never know about a crowd. But… it was all a happy day.
There is a genre – street photography. I’m shy. And I dislike encounters. And I don’t want to ask. And I don’t want a pose. And I don’t want to be giving someone money to take a picture. You may not like it, but in America, anyone on the street is fair game. Commercial use is a different story. But for personal use, it’s all good. Here’s what you do. It’s simple. (Somehow people don’t object as much to iPhone. But I use a camera.) Use your camera on wide angle, set the shutter speed to about 1/125. Then do what it says – point and shoot. Don’t look. There is the flavor of an imperfectly composed shot. It works. You hit. You miss. Sometimes you win. If you are unsure shoot more than one. Don’t stop moving. And don’t let anyone catch on that you are taking pictures. Slices of life, unposed, unpretentious, natural…it’s more for me to have a flavor of life to recall. In Jeddah the heat of the day has everyone indoors. Some shops are open. But at night the whole tenor changes and the streets of the old city are teaming with activity. The heat of the day is lowered to simply unbearable as opposed to daytime hell. And digital allows you to take images I could never do with film. There’s a vibrancy to night life in the city.
Push carts abound. Vendors will sell any kind of produce. The big supermarkets – nope – people buy, sell, and bargain – probably illegally. But there is definite supply and demand.
Sugar cane – it’s crushed and the liquid is served up as a drink. It’s bland. Almost yuck! You need to add lime and ginger when you crush it. That’s a drink! Jules and I learned this in Zanzibar. She drank the whole thing and left me a taste. So I know from that small sample how to fix this. But nope, not in Jeddah.
Sticks – there is vendor in this spot, his spot. And now there are a couple of others – competition. They cut them and bundle them. They are to rub your teeth – like a toothbrush. No Crest, Colgate, or Tom’s of Maine. Buy a bundle. Share them or use them yourself.
Sewing – the tailors use a fairly unsophisticated machine to do their magic. If you are native, you wear a thobe and someone has to make them. It looks like he has made lots. And overwhelmingly they are white. And, abayas are black. Who’s the biggest loser?
Life in the city. It all happens at night. There are huge super malls. But what’s new there? Everyone has seen a mall by now? Online shopping! Walmart is scared! Amazon rules? Imagine the next big thing….
Shisha – it’s what they smoke. I know it as a water pipe. Hookah, another name. It connotes smoking through water. I read that the dose of toxic nicotine is equivalent to hundreds of cigarettes in a single session of smoking shisha. Don’t do it! It’s bad for you.
It started when I passed a store that sells water pipes. It was the tip of the iceberg. Around Jeddah there are stores which will sell you custom made thobes. The stores are congregated in a few places. There might be a dozen or more shops side by side competing for business. There is another location for honey and another for olive oil, dates, and so forth. It’s silly economics. All the prices must be comparable.
The water pipe stores are on a narrow street. And then, much to my surprise, an artisan was right there. He was working away in an open shop with horrible fluorescent lighting. I paused, he looked up, and I did something I never do; I asked if he minded if I took his picture. And he was okay with it. And I got a couple. I did not try to overstay my welcome. Yay! It’s street photography and ordinarily I just shoot and look like I’m doing something else. But we were eye to eye. There was no hiding intent. And he was gracious and I said thanks. We had our moment and I moved on. I’d buy one. They sell his product next door. But, I don’t smoke. So, no…
Happy 4th of July. No fireworks for me to shoot. I guess I will have to make do with another day of diving….
Crab, lobster, and shrimp all love to hide. Not love, survival. They naturally don’t want to be eaten. And it’s true, because I don’t see them much on the reef. On this dive I was queasy. Bad pizza or current pushing me around, who knows? But I was thinking ahead to dry land and settling my stomach. My dive buddy pointed. And usually it’s obvious – the subject. He was wide angle and helpless to shoot this. The crab was in a hole. This means that the focus was going to be hell. The camera focuses on the closest nearest subject. No face recognition here! And then if you point your camera into the hole, your strobe will not fit too. I need a ring flash here. They do not make one underwater. Serendipity! Luck! Lots of it! Persistence! And time! The crab and I played peek a boo. I’d shine the light. He’d move. So I shined in one spot and waited for him to move into the field of my camera and strobe. It worked…till he caught on and moved away and under another coral to be lost to this poor photographer. Bye! I wasn’t going to eat you…promise!… heart crossed and hope to die….
Airbnb rocks. Despite what you may hear from the hotel trade, there are some finds. I’ve stayed in hotels whenever I went to a meeting. The designated meeting hotel in each city is about the most expensive after you get discount. The plain flat has a bed and a bath. Been there done that.
And then I discovered Airbnb about two years ago. This time around we took an apartment in Chicago. The strategy is to stay in walking distance to the convention center or one of the meeting hotels. The hotel bus to the convention center is free. I shouldn’t tell this secret. Everyone will rent out space before I do. The apartment was on the 32nd floor. And the view? The downtown landmarks – see them? And it was the whole place including kitchen. I did not need the amenities of a hotel. The only downside was there was no closet space so we hung our clothes on the back of a door. With the view you see here, that’s a small downside. Oh, Chicago’s called the windy city. From up here it definitely was. I think you’d agree that the view at dawn is spectacular. Why? ‘Cause my time zones are still a mess coming from the Middle East. And, ‘cause neurosurgeons like to get up real early to meet in the morning.
Prayer time and everything comes to a halt. The open air market is no exception. The shops close their doors. The outdoor vendors mostly follow suit. Not all, but they mostly do. So I headed for a seat. I had sat out the thirty minute hiatus here a few nights ago. The bench was full. But I’m brave. It’s like the Egyptians at the cornice right? Go for it. I sat next to the two old guys. Hey, I’m old too! And they left after a bit.
And across from me was a photo op. Gee, even sitting down and cooling my heels, I get to take pictures. So while checking on what I had, I also shot images too. The last one was the keeper. And I promptly quit. No waves, please.
Well, it was quitting time for me. I was headed to the car and wandering the streets to make my way back. I was going up and down random streets and walking toward lights. There was a late café serving a classic dish. It is like burgers and fries. The dough is pulled into a square. Then, a sheet of dough is added, liquid looking egg batter, and another layered sheet is added. It is folded into a square. Grilled, it is served hot to a waiting group sitting at tables inside.
I got a single shot, it’s not great or even fully understandable till I explain. It’s a barber. His dad is holding the kid down.
And I guess it is not an exactly cooperative kid getting his hair cut. Lastly, I passed one more place. Somehow I was brave, made eye contact, and shot a few images. I heard someone in the café behind me say, “Camera.” That was my cue to beat it. It’s grilled flatbread and quite popular by the looks of it.
The end of my evening was the start for someone else. I chanced to pass this very active social night scene. My first pass was a failure. The camera had reset itself and the exposure was blurred. It was interesting. But I considered it a failure. In a rare moment for me I turned around and made a second pass. I was not quite as invisible but did get a better shot.
No women! The men were talking and drinking coffee and playing dominoes. Night life! No alcohol. No women. Oh boy! Well, a sports bar it ain’t. And the waiters are not dressed like Hooter girls either.