Posts Tagged ‘Beirut’

AUB Alumni Art Expo

February 19th, 2013

Last week, on 15th and 16th February, the American University of Beirut (AUB) held its first ever Alumni Art Expo. It brought together work by over 60 established and emerging artists - painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramic and jewelry designers – from among AUB’s alums.

I was privileged to participate in the exhibition, with two of my two photographs being showcased. The two photos are below.

King Jimmy

 

This portrait was taken two years ago in a tiny village in Northern Spain, along the Camino de Santiago. It is of one of the people dearest to me. An extraordinary heart. And a man’s man. I captured this photograph some days after I’d first met him, when our friendship was still in its budding stages. There was just something about the way he stood, cigarette dangling, that seemed to call to the photographer in me. When I raised the camera to my eye and he looked up, it all just seemed to come together. Click.

The Little Light in the Dark

This photograph I’ve featured on my blog before, but here it is again anyway. This picture is special to me for many reasons (see here). Among them also is the sense of wonder I always get when I look at it. The clear blue of the water. The rising steam (the water was at a gloriously warm 40 degrees Celcius, while outside it was just 3 or 4). The light. The fact that my wonderful wife, all wrapped up in layer upon layer, had insisted on going out and exploring – on foot – the lake Myvatn area in Iceland, despite a raging fever…

Here is a review of the exhibition by lOrient-le-Jour newspaper (sorry guys, it’s in French). I’m particularly stunned and honored that the newspaper pointed to me as being one of two photographers it found of particular interest. 

You can find out more about the exhibition at AUB’s website here.

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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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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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Bab Sharqi

June 29th, 2010

I had the chance to travel by car from Beirut to Damascus, Syria to spend a half-day there.

Despite all I’d heard about the beauty of the city, I remained unprepared for how extraordinary it truly is, and more so for the friendliness and kindness of those of its inhabitants whom I had the chance to meet. I’ll be sharing here some of the pictures I took in the few short hours I spent there.

The city of Damascus has 7 ancient gates, the oldest of which dates back to time of the Romans. Due to the limited time I had, I unfortunately only managed to visit 3 of the gates (and -silly me – took pictures of just 2).

This is Bab Sharqi (or Eastern Gate), which apparently is the only one to retain it’s Roman plan.

During the era of the Rashidun Caliphate, the great Arab military commander Khalid ibn al-Walid, who was known as “Sayf’ Ullah al-Maslul” (The Drawn Sword of God), entered Damascus through this gate after his conquest of the city on 18 September 634, at the end of a 30-day siege.

More coming soon!

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Flight of the Pigeons

June 19th, 2010

I was wandering down a street at one point, when I noticed a large flock of pigeons flying overhead. They were circling and swooping in tight arcs, round and round. Someone was pigeon flying! Naturally, I paused to watch and snap a few pictures.

The art of pigeon flying remains quite popular in the Arab world. I’ve often see flocks of pigeons circling over the rooftops in Cairo, Beirut and Amman, for instance. But the shot above wasn’t taken anywhere in the Arab world. Can you guess where?

Brussels, Belgium. Yep.

Some say the use of pigeons to carry messages can be traced back to the ancient Persians (some 2800 years ago). The ancient Romans also used messenger pigeons in their military campaigns over 2000 years ago (for example, Julius Caesar was reputed to have used them in his conquest of Gaul). Use of pigeons to carry messages outside of a military setting – in a postal system – goes back to the late 10th Century at least in the Arab world, where it was developed under Fatimid rule.

The use of homing pigeons by the French during the siege of Paris in 1870-1871 gave new breath to their use in the military in Europe who used them extensively during World War I and again in World War II. You can find out more about war pigeons here.

There’s a memorial to those messenger pigeon trainers who fell in service to Belgium during World War I at one end of the garden at the far side of the Quai au Briques. Here’s a shot of it below.

All this may be interesting but it doesn’t explain why someone was flying pigeons in Brussels.

Turns out that the (modern) sport of pigeon racing was developed and gained immense popularity in Belgium in the middle of the 19th Century. The sport has since spread all over the world, though it seems to be suffering from a lack of interest by the general public. You can find out more about pigeon racing here.

More coming soon!

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Lebanese Randomness

January 21st, 2010

Today, I’d like to share with you a few random shots taken recently in Lebanon.

Window shutters, seen in Batroun:

The weapon of (mass) distraction, as explained on Gemmayzeh Street:

This put me in mind of a scene from a film noir:

The party bollard that insisted everything was real:

More pictures coming soon!

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Mary's Wisdom

January 19th, 2010

Each time I pass near Sagesse University, in Furn-El-Chebbak, Beirut, I see this beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary. Each time, I’d tell myself I’d stop by and take a picture or two.

So the other day, I did just that.

This is an HDR image, created from 5 different exposures.

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The Forlorn Tractor

January 15th, 2010

The other day, I decided to go for a walk. As per my wont, I grabbed my camera and some gear and headed out.

At one point, I was passing through what is now a residential neighbourhood, but which – back in 1995 or so – was home to olive farms if not overgrown with weeds. Now, the only sign that there ever was something else there was this abandoned tractor left by the side of the road between two buildings. I couldn’t resist not shooting it.

I chose to continue my Lebanese experiments in HDR with these shots. Each shot was created from a set of five exposures.

More pictures coming soon!

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New Beginnings

January 13th, 2010

So the New Year has begun! I hope you ushered 2010 in style and that it has been treating you kindly so far.

It’s certainly been an eventful and busy start to the year. On this end at least. Hence my prolonged absence.

This year, methinks is a year of changes. I look to be sharing the changes with you in due course.

My friend Dan seems to have started the New Year in exceptional form.

For my part, I started 2010 a little more differently than my usual. Following an excellent and relaxed dinner in the lovely company of a few good friends, we gathered ourselves and our party hats and headed to the Clock Tower – or Parliament – Square, for the final countdown under the very full blue moon.

Later, we headed down the pub, restaurant and nightclub-filled Gemmayze Street which was – not unexpectedly -overflowing with people.

It was interesting to see all the different people from so many different places out on the streets. It seems tourism in Lebanon is on the up and up. And high time too. I heard snippets of song and conversations in so many different languages (including German, Italian, French (Parisian, as opposed to the Lebanese variant), various Arabic dialects, and some Slavic language I couldn’t place).

Below, a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Just minutes before midnight, everybody and their grandmother got their camera ready to record the moment for posterity:

Nearly-midnight bokkeh:

The stroke of midnight:

Of course, there were a few TV camera crews (with obligatory truck-loads of Gear) out and about to film the whole thing:

The mood was certainly festive:

…with people hanging out of cars:

…or even converting their vehicles to night clubs and bars, with vodka and champagne aplenty:

I leave you with a shot of a party-going bollard which steadfastly insisted on continuing the party when most everyone else could barely stand:

Again, Happy New Year everybody! All my warmest and best!

Look for the next post in 2 days. J

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The Burnt Car

December 28th, 2009

Someone parked their old Volvo to the side of a tiny side street and then set fire to it. God only knows why. Insurance perhaps? That said, there doesn’t always have to be a reason why people do what they do. This is Lebanon, after all.

The carcass is visible from my window. I needed a break from work at one point and so I grabbed my camera and trusty gorillapod and went down to take a closer look.

I wanted to try some more HDR. Here are a few of the results. Each image below was created from 5 separate exposures.

Burnt Car-1 (D700, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, f11, ISO 200 - HDR)

Burnt Car-3 (D700, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, f11, ISO 200 - HDR)

Burnt Car-3 (D700, DR-5, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, f11, ISO 200 - HDR)

Burnt Car-4 (D700, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, f8, ISO 200 - HDR)

More pictures coming soon!

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