I’m out. On the plane. The door closed and I got out of Saudi. Happy! Yup! I was surrounded by African pilgrims for the ride home. Maybe I have MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). They coughed front and back of me all the damn way home. I got it about two days later. Stress lowers your immune system. I have been fighting a vicious cold for two weeks. It’s not fatal. And it’s probably not MERS. These very nice ladies posed for each other during the latter part of the flight. They did not even notice that I stuck my camera up and shot them in their finery. You would have to say it was worth the trip. The ladies would disappear into the tiny restroom for lengthy makeovers. Why dress to return home? Who knows? I will always remember them by this image and the vicious cold they shared with me.
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!
… 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.
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…
Remember the wall? The nine foot one from yesterday? Hey! Sometimes the posts link. Jumping is an art. To do it the lazy way needs no real leap of height. It’s an illusion. Just bend your knees as you go. Then you will look high without hurting yourself. It also helps if the photographer (you know who you are) presses the shutter while you are in the air. Otherwise it looks like you are holding up your hands at a stick up. Hmmmm? That begs the question, do you know what, “Meet you at the pass” means? It’s an old west term from the movies, when the bandits split up to escape the posse. They would say, “Split up. We’ll meet again at the pass.” It seems they don’t say that in the movies any more. And you need to be a certain age (old) to know the term.
So there was this metal bridge in the park that cut over and across the highway.
Neat. It made for a photo op. I did not have time to plan. It was cold and slightly rainy. Windy. Hey, it was Chicago! No standing around in the rain.
You could laugh. Traffic circles are a way to avoid lights. This assumes that one knows how to maneuver a circle without stopping in the middle. Fine, good – no! People just go into the circle and free for all ensues.
Somehow everyone emerges on the other side. Someone has to blink, right? What do in the middle? Ah! Art work! Who commissioned this stuff? How? Why? Whose taste? Oh my! A fruit boat in plaster and tile was just what I thought of. Really!
No, no, I’m pretty sure I have posted this before, but it bears repeat commentary. I’ve been here a while now and it never ceases to amaze me and make me shake my head. What were they thinking? And who were they? Did you understand that this is satire? Or is it just hideous?
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.