Archive for the ‘Travel/Urban’ Category

Seychelles Wedding

October 10th, 2012

I seem to be shooting a fair few weddings of late. :)

One such wedding took place on the beautiful island of La Digue, Seychelles. A place that is as close to paradise as there can be.

It was the wedding of a dear friend and wonderfully talented photographer Diane Aftimos (check out her work here). The wedding was a small and intimate (we were no more than 20 people attending) fairy tale affair. I was very privileged to have attended, and doubly so to have been asked to photograph it.

Here are a few shots from this extraordinary heart-warming wedding:

Confetti were flying everywhere when I took this shot.

The massive granitic boulders which are scattered along the beaches make for some extraordinary settings, especially with the warm light of the setting sun and the dramatic crashing of the waves on the rocks.

More coming soon!

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Spotted Ray

October 5th, 2012

This shot was made off of Oman’s extraordinary Mussandam peninsula during my first ever night snorkel session.

We jumped off the boat and dropped about 5 meters below the surface of the calm waters. Almost the moment we hit bottom, the light of my torch illuminated this beautiful spotted ray.

We saw three more rays and many fish that night, but I am most proud of this shot.

More to come soon!

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First Rain

October 2nd, 2012

It had been building up for a few days now. The air was heavy. It was hot, humid. Stifling. Then, early this afternoon, it broke with a flash of light, followed by a thunderclap: Beirut’s the first rains after the summer.

I had the most extraordinary view from my balcony. The sky grew dark surprisingly fast. Strong winds threatened to blow away my laundry and had the heavy rain falling at a sharp angle. And the lighting! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much lightning.

At some point, while standing on the balcony transfixed  - watching the changing landscape, listening to the rain, the wind, the incredibly loud cracks and the rolling rumble of thunder, smelling the wonderful scent of wet earth – I thought of my camera. I’d never taken pictures of lighting. Never really had the opportunity to.

To get a good shot of lightning, you need to set up properly, and to have a measure of patience.

First, the setup. Ideally, you need to set your camera up on a tripod, and in an area which is sheltered from the lashing winds and the rain. Water droplets on your lens can ruin a shot. And worse, water in your camera can, well, ruin your camera. Second, you need a remote trigger, or a cable release. This is to eliminate any vibrations from your finger depressing the shutter button on the camera.

As regards settings, I set the camera to manual mode, set aperture at f22 (the narrowest I could do with the particular lens), ISO at the lowest possible setting, and shutter speed at as slow a speed as I could to get a properly exposed image (in this case, I varied it at between 1 second to 2 seconds, depending on how dark it got). The relatively long exposure time makes it doubly important to ensure that there is no vibration – hence the tripod and cable or wireless trigger – and the long exposure time also helps in increasing your chances of catching lighting (more on that in a moment). It also gives your camera breathing space. Every camera has a buffer – if you take too many shots in rapid succession, you can overload the buffer, which means there may be a lag between one shot and the next while your camera’s processor struggles to keep up. This lag can mean the difference between getting the shot, and not.

Next, you need to ensure you have a big memory card with lots of free space on it. See, since it’s impossible to know where lightning will strike next, and when, you need luck and patience. The trick is to compose your shot in an area where you see a lot of activity, and then fire away. Just keep shooting continuously, shot after shot after shot in immediate succession. There’s just no way you can hope to catch lightning by pressing the shutter button just when you see it. So you just keep shooting, wait patiently, and hope for the best. Hence the memory card with the lots of empty space and the patience.

Unfortunately for me, of the above gear, I had virtually none at my immediate disposal.

No tripod (it broke on my last trip and I haven’t had the chance to replace it yet). No cable release (it’s in my other bag). No memory card with oodles of space (While I’ve downloaded the pics from my last shoot, I haven’t backed them up yet, so until I do, I don’t delete them from my memory cards – You never know). So I improvised as best I could. The balcony table was too low and too wobbly for my purposes, so I took two dining room chairs, plonked them outside on the balcony, each chair facing away from the other and about 15 cm apart. I then placed a stack of books on the crests, forming a bridge between the chairs. I placed my camera on this and used my SB900 strobe’s diffusion dome as a lens support to allow me to tilt the camera and compose my shots.

Once I’d composed my shots and set up, I’d fire away for a while. Then pause, rapidly look through the images and delete the one which didn’t capture lightning (something like 90% of them). Rinse. Repeat. I lost a lot of spectacular opportunities this way. Worse, the whipping winds sent periodically sent rain flying all over the place. Invariably, it ended up on the lens and the camera. Which meant running back inside to wipe off, then come back out and set up again once the rain focused it’s attention elsewhere.

Despite all this, I think I got some pretty decent shots, especially for a first try. :) Do let me know what you think.

And yep, I aim for this to mean that I’ll start posting regularly again. I seem to be shooting a lot of weddings lately, and so may post something on that soon. Stay tuned!

Cheers!

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Etihad Towers 360

March 3rd, 2012

Serendipity. Sometimes it hits you.

The day I took this shot, I was waiting for a few friends outside their new apartment in the stunning new Etihad Towers buildings in Abu Dhabi. While they showed up, I decided to try ou my new 8mm Sigma fisheye lens.

This is the result. One of the first shots I took with the fisheye.

Needless to say, I’m loving this lens.

More to come soon!

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Laqlouq Snow Walk

June 15th, 2011

Summer seems to have come upon us quite heavily here in Abu Dhabi. Got me thinking about the cooler times, such as earlier this year in Lebanon, where I had the chance to go on a snow walk for the first time.

The weather was starting to warm up earlier than expected and the mountain snow was turning a little slushy around noon, making skiing an unattractive proposition.

We went to a place known as Laqlouq, in Lebanon. We got there early in the afternoon, parked the car by the side of the road, put on the snowshoes and took off up the slope.

Below are a few pictures from that wonderful day.

The snows were already beginning to melt. And to melt quite fast. Just a few short weeks before, the entire mountain side was covered with snow, but the rocks were starting to reach out to the skies again…

As were some of the thorny wild flowers…

We were aiming to get to the cross at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, just meters from the top, I dropped my glasses! Had to watch them ski their way down the steeper slope of the  mountainside.

We headed down after them, and I ended up falling and sliding down a good distance myself. Got snow all over my lens… Halfway down we met two dogs, German shepherds, who eneded up following and playing with us all the way back to the car.

The light was fading fast as we headed back down to Beirut. The clouds hung low over the mountains, bringing fog as the air cooled and making for a spectacular sunset.

More coming soon!

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The Cowherds

June 10th, 2011

Hyderabad is a fantastic and interesting place.

We were lucky enough to have a great driver who doubled as a tour guide on my trip there. As we were driving on a highway, I spotted the ruin of a mosque rising up from the small buildings to the right of us.

I asked the driver to stop, and we entered the narrow streets and headed towards it. And there it was, around the bend. Absolutely beautiful. Overgrown with green. Small plants and flowers growing out of cracks. Hundreds of years old, by the looks of it. Neglected. Crumbling. Seeming forgotten despite the bustle of life around it.

The mosque turned out to be inaccessible. Walled off from all sides. The driver, a man in his sixties, told us that he used to come often to that neighbourhood as a child. But as sectarian troubles began to increase between Hindus and Muslims, gradually the Muslims left the neighbourhood.

Round the back of the mosque, we came across a herd of cows and goats, tied up and docile.

Turned out the Hindu family nearby were raising them. Also turned out that the family elder was our driver’s wrestling instructor when he was a child. They hadn’t seen each other in some fifty years. It was an extraordinary moment.

We got to spend a little time with the family, and eventually I was allowed to take pictures.

The elder:

The son:

Father & son:

I feel privileged to have gotten a glimpse at a different side of life in India. One not many people get to see.

More coming soon!

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Qasr Sunset

June 5th, 2011

Sunset over the beautiful Qasr Al Sarab resort deep in the desert of Liwa, home of the rolling, flowing hundred-meter dunes and situated in the Southern UAE at the of the Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter).

I spent the weekend there earlier this year to attend a wedding.

It’s an absolutely fantastic place. The setting is one of those few places which are larger than life, reminiscent of the old Hollywood master epics from the sixties. Like something you could have found in Lawrence of Arabia, or Cleopatra, or something…

More coming soon!

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The Balaa Sinkhole

May 26th, 2011

A short while back I had the chance to visit another of the many natural wonders that Lebanon has to offer: the sinkhole known by various names including the Balaa Sinkhole (Ballou Balaa in Arabic), Baatara Sinkhole, and Three Bridges Chasm (Gouffre des Trois Ponts in French), or even the Batara Gorge Waterfall.

What is it? It is a natural sinkhole plunging 255 metres into the mountainside. It features three natural bridges, rising one above the other over a height of one hundred metres and overhanging the enormous mouth of the chasm. I was lucky enough to visit it during the snow melt, when a 100-metre waterfall drops behind the three bridges and into the sinkhole.

It was first discovered in 1952 and explored in 1962. You can find out more here and here.

That’s a couple down there on the middle bridge:

The snaking path of the river before it drops into the chasm below:

Some mini waterfalls, a little way up the river from the sinkhole:

The long drop:

A view of the three bridges:

Two perspectives from the middle bridge:

Below is a long-exposure shot I took as I was heading out. To give you an idea of the size of the chasm, those little red, white and blue dots to the right of the middle bridge are 3 people.

More coming soon!

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One Year Later

May 20th, 2011

I know it’s been a bit light of late, but well… Today marks the second of two very special first anniversaries this week.

On the 20th of May 2010, along with a small group of friends, I hit Fisterra (or Finisterre). My Camino was over. My 900km trek – spanning 36 days of walking and totaling some 39 days – had come to a close.

On the 16th of May 2010, my 33rd day of walking, I entered Santiago de Compostella.

So this week I’ve been remembering so many of my wonderful experiences on the Camino and thinking of the family I made along the way. Not that a day has gone by without my thinking of the people who made it so magical.

Above, our Camino Family. Or a small part of it, at any rate.

There are many ways to enter Santiago. You can enter it on horseback, shortly after dawn:

You can enter it by bike, like these three matching ladies and their matching bikes here:

Or you could enter it on foot, which is what I did.

However you enter the city, you will be overcome with emotion. You will stop, in awe or shock or both, in the square in front of the cathedral. Perhaps you will stand in silence. Perhaps you will cry, because you can’t believe it’s over and because it is.

However after those first few moments pass, and you start meeting up with people you’ve met on the Camino, they will make way for joy.

On the 18th of May I departed Santiago and began my Camino to Finisterre. I was lucky. I walked with friends. That first night, I came across this entry written by a friend in a diary at an albergue in the town of Negreira. Brought tears to my eyes.

In the distance to the left is Cape Finisterre. The End of the World:

Our little family of pilgrims made their way to our agreed meeting point at the cliffs at the end of the cape, where we prepared for sunset.

After the sun had set, we set fire to the wooden dummy, dressed up as a pilgrim in clothes abandoned by pilgrims. We each tossed something into the fire. A symbol of our lack of attachment to material things, or of a promise to abandon a habit… As many reasons as there were people.

We have all since scattered to the four corners of the globe. And though I am quite bad at staying in touch, I have not forgotten. I miss you all.

Tonight I will be thankful, and I will celebrate.

More coming soon!

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Time Flies

April 14th, 2011

Time flies. It really does. Today marks one year since I took my first steps on the Camino de Santiago from St. Jean de Pied de Port in Southern France.

Memories of this extraordinary time have been flooding back at me of late. This is probably due to three things.

The first is that two dear friends are leaving this very day to start their own pilgrimages on the Camino. One of them is going for the second time.

The second is that I recently had the opportunity to watch The Way, an absolutely beautiful and moving independent movie by father-son duo Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, which follows an American father who travels to St. Jean to recover the body of his son who died on the Camino and decides to walk it in memory of his son.

The third, last but not least, is a small package which arrived in the mail just a few days ago. A prototype of a DVD project begun by Alexander Ruediger, a friend I made on the Camino and who turns out to be something of a celebrity in his native Austria.

I’m overjoyed to have had the chance to collaborate with him on the production of this beautiful DVD which offers impressions of the sights and sounds of the Camino de Santiago. I contributed a number of pictures to the project. I can tell you, I was so excited to see my pictures featured both on the cover of and on a DVD!

The DVD will be launching soon. You can find out more on www.camino-chillout.com. Unfortunately, my German is about as bad as my Chinese, so I can’t understand much of what’s featured on the website… Hehe.

More coming soon!

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