Posts Tagged ‘lebanon’

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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The Switcheroo

November 28th, 2012

Earlier this summer, I shot a few behind-the scenes images at a wedding in the mountains of Lebanon.

After the ceremony, and just before the start of the start of the festivities, the bride snuck off to change out of her heels in favour of something she could easily dance in: a pair of (no doubt waaaay more comfy) Chucks.

I couldn’t resist taking the shot. I love the unusual contrast of the casual shoes with the skirts of the wedding dress, and the discarded outrageously high-heeled “my-feet-are-killing-me” platforms in the background.

More coming soon!

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Nap Time

November 15th, 2012

This shot was taken at Tawlet Ammiq eco-friendly restaurant by the village of Ammiq in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, after a delicious Saturday lunch in the Fall.

In typical Lebanese fashion, lunch was a social and multi-hour affair – by the end of which your belt needs to be loosened by several notches and you’re left pleasantly drowsy.

More coming soon!

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Pumpkins for Everyone!

October 30th, 2012

Halloween is tomorrow. Have you carved your pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns yet?

If you ever wondered where this mainly American tradition of carving up a pumpkin into a lantern came from, and why these by turns funny, creepy, silly, lanterns are called “jack-o-lanterns”, click here. :)

The above shot was taken in the late afternoon at the fantastic Tawlet Ammiq eco-friendly restaurant, located near the village of Ammiq in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley.

Happy Halloween everybody!

More coming soon!

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Summer Sunset

October 20th, 2012

Clearly, I’m not yet entirely ready to let go of summer.

This young couple was deep in conversation, sat at the edge of the infinity pool, with the mountain range extending before them, bathed in the gorgeous light of the setting sun. What with the lighting (those colours!), the near-perfect symmetry of the scene (the wine glasses!), and the reflections in the mirror-like water, I couldn’t resist snapping away.

Seen at Montagnou, a great restaurant nestled high in the mountains of Lebanon, in the Ouyoun-el-Siman/Faraya area.

More coming 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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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 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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Mountain Trail

September 6th, 2010

I had the opportunity to go on a half-day’s hiking along the Lebanese Mountain Trail.

The Trail is an extraordinary endeavour which was established in just a two-year period between 2006 and 2008 by ECODIT, with funding from USAID. It starts at Qbaiyat in the North of Lebanon and winds its 440km-way through the mountains to end at Marjaayoun in the South. You can read more on the Trail here.

I only walked a short part of the 18th section of the Trail, between Ain Zhalta and Barouk, namely through a portion of the very beautiful Shouf Cedar Reserve. You can find out more about the reserve here.

Below are a few pictures from that day.

Above, a Lebanon Cedar‘s branches, from which arise a number of immature seed cones. I very much enjoy the unusual way in which the cones rise vertically from the branches, unlike other coniferous trees.

It has only recently been brought to my attention just how beautiful these cedar seed cones (and conifer seed cones in general) are. And a whole new world has opened to me as a result.

Interestingly, it seems Lebanon Cedars produce seed cones generally every second year and those mature in 12 months from pollination. I understand that mature cones typically measure 8 to 12 cm long and 4 to 6 cm wide.

Above, the view onto Mount Lebanon in the late afternoon.

The first section of the hike took us through the cedar forest and then the trail we followed branched out onto the drier mountain top.

Above, sunset over the mountains.

Above, a fir tree at dusk. The reserve is home to some 24 species of trees, including Lebanon Cedar and a number of species of oak, pine and juniper.

More coming soon!

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Girl by the Window

July 28th, 2010

I came across this picture in my archives. It was taken late last year in Lebanon when I was exploring abandoned houses in Batroun, Lebanon.

I lit my friend with an SB900 set up on the floor to camera right, and a distance away, with a hint of backlighting from the light bouncing off the cieling and wall beyond the window.

The picture would have perhaps benefited from a little softer lighting, but I still very much enjoyed the play of light.

More coming soon!

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