Posts Tagged ‘faqra’

The View from Faqra Club

January 31st, 2010

I was at a friend’s chalet in Faqra early one morning and took myself out onto the garden terrace with the aim of creating a panorama of the beautiful view.

Normally, at the time I made the pictures the entire mountain landscape should have been white with snow.

However, despite record rainfall this year (accumulated over just two or three separate rainstorms) up until less than 2 weeks ago there was little snow except on the highest peaks with the weather remaining much warmer than usual. The past week and some’s storms will have likely changed that some.

Click on the thumbnail below to view a larger image.

I used my Nikon D700 sporting a Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 lens and set on my trusty gorillapod. This image is created from 7 separate HDR images, each of which was created from 5 separate exposures. So that’s a total of 35 separate shots that went into creating this panorama.

More pictures coming soon!

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Temple of Adonis, Faqra

January 27th, 2010

A while back, I began a mini-project to visit and explore the three surviving temples of Adonis in Lebanon. On the same day, I managed to visit the temple at Mashnaqa, and that at Afqa.

The temple at Faqra I had to reluctantly leave for another day. I finally managed to visit the site of these beautiful ruins just recently.

It was a heavily overcast day which softened the light and chased away strong shadows. And allowed for more than just an exploration of the temple itself.

One of the most striking features of the temple at Faqra is that it was partially cut and built into the living rock. The peculiar rock formations feature in clusters at the entry to Faqra and are commonly called the “Houses of Ghosts”.  Time constraints meant that I couldn’t explore them for photo opportunities. But I guess that just means I’ll have to pay the region another visit. 😉

Here is a tonemapped shot of the entrance to the temple proper. The tiny figure of my friend standing inside the temple should give you an idea of how impressive the structure is.

On the other side of the temple of Adonis lie what I understand are the remains of the smaller temple of Atargatis.

In front of the temple of Adonis sat an empty cube a few meters across. The cube had windows cut into it. I wonder what it was meant to be.

I had my gorillapod with me, which helped me to shoot multiple exposures for creation of HDR images. Unfortunately, it proved rather unwieldy to use here given the open spaces which limited my choice of positions and angles. It also meant that the camera often ended up being at less than 20cm from ground level. That led to a lot of uncomfortable crouching to look through the viewfinder…

And finally, my favourite image from the set. I’m particularly proud of this one as it proved particularly difficult to set up and shoot (thanks to the size limitations of the gorillapod – still MUCH better than with no tripod, so no complaints). I particularly like the backlight provided by the sun gently shining through the modest cloud cover.

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Overlooking the Valley

January 23rd, 2010

I was taking a walk with some friends the other weekend in the mountains in Faqra, Lebanon. It was late afternoon and we’d lost the sun behind cloud cover. Rain, it seemed, would be coming later.

The path we followed eventually opened out onto a valley, the slopes of which were mostly stepped farmland.  The view was breathtaking.

While we paused to admire the view, I was struck with an idea.

I asked my friend, E, to model for me – she graciously agreed – and I conscripted her boyfriend, G, as a voice-activated light stand. I slapped on a half-CTO onto my SB900 flash, zoomed it to 200mm, and got G to hold it and aim it at the spot E would be jumping into.

I can’t thank them both enough – they were patient enough already with me on our walk as I would often whip out the camera to shoot some random thing or other – and they were awesome again here, full of enthusiasm. I had a blast shooting this and I hope you enjoy the result of our mountain photo shoot:

More pictures coming soon!

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Temple of Adonis, Mashnaqa

November 10th, 2009

For some odd reason, I decided to visit the temples of Adonis. I understand there are three such temples surviving in Lebanon – in Afqa, Faqra and a place with the dubious name of Mashnaqa (more on that below).

Since this was decided the day before my departure from Leb, and rather late in the day at that, I managed to only visit two of the three sites. Still, am happy as I managed to visit both sites on the same day while taking the scenic route through tiny winding mountain roads (as opposed to the Afqa/Faqra/Faraya highway, which I used on the way back, and which required a bare fraction of the time it took to get to Afqa…).

So, the temples! The first I visited was the temple at Mashnaqa.

Mashnaqa is a small village in the mountains on a forgotten road that leads up from Jbeil (AKA Byblos).

Now, Mashnaqa loosely translates in Arabic to “the Gallows”. Charming, you might say. But one source apparently insists that the word is derived from a Phoenico-Aramæan word meaning “Place of Tears”. Same difference, no?

Mashnaqa is interesting to me for another reason. It is the first of a series of beautiful Shi’ ite villages that pepper a predominantly Christian mountainside and which I passed through on my way to Afqa. Proof that Lebanon is full of surprises, at least for me (See, I was under the impression that there were nothing but Christian villages in that particular area of Mount Lebanon. When I recounted this to my parents later, they both just looked at me blankly and said, “Well, of course there are Shi’ite villages there!”).

I had a chance to chat with the locals a bunch of times in my search for the temple (which proved surprisingly easy to find, if I’d only followed the directions to the letter), and true to form, they time and again proved as friendly and as hospitable as ever. I don’t really know why I resisted the urge to ask if I could take their pictures. Some had such beautiful faces. The kind with a story to every wrinkle, and a bright spark in kind eyes. Ah well. I know better for next time.

On a side note, oddly enough the turning point for me I guess – in terms of asking people if I could shoot their portraits – was on the plane ride to Bangalore. There was this old Emirati man and his son taking the plane with us. The old man had the kindest, gentlest face. I just had to take his portrait. Three hours or so into the flight, I finally plucked up the courage to go up and ask. He acquiesced with a smile, and I had a mad scramble to switch on every seat light I could find in the dark fuselage and try and direct it at his face in just the right way to get enough, soft, light and a catchlight in his eyes.

Here it is:

Gentle Old Man on a Plane (D700, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 @ f3, ISO 1000, 1/40sec)

If you don’t ask, you won’t get the picture.

Right. Back to the temple!

When the temple finally appeared, it was at first glance something of a let-down despite the marvellous setting. Barely a corner and a few columns remained of the once no doubt imposing structure. But closer inspection showed it to be more than just the sum of its few remaining parts. For one thing, the setting: it rests in the cosy garden of a quaint farm house overlooking a lush green valley and mountains. Absolutely beautiful.

Interestingly, the farm house seems was built in part from the stones that once made up the temple… Go figure.

Unfortunately, the light was not as soft as I’d have liked, despite the lateness of the hour. But you do what you can with what you’ve got, no?

Here are a few shots from that beautiful, peaceful place.

The Gate (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/200sec)

Rana was evidently here... (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/320sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

Rise Up (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

There's a Wall There (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

The Temple (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

The Nub (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/200sec)

Temple Green (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

A Terraced Garden (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

Here you can see the farm house behind the temple:

Farm House (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 36mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

And the farm house itself and its terraced walkways, built evidently from rock from the temple:

Steps and a Doorway (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

A Shady Terrace (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 44mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/80sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

As I said, it’s a farm house. Emphasis on “farm”. So here’s some produce seen being grown there:

Cabbage! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f9, ISO 200, 1/160sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

Aubergine! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/80sec + flash SB900 zoomed to 180mm)

Chili Peppers! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 70mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + flash SB900 zoomed to 180mm)

Not quite ripe jabali tomatoes... (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + flash SB900 zoomed to 180mm)

More pictures (from the India trip, the temple at Afqa and others) coming soon!

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