Posts Tagged ‘tripod’

Temples of Astarte and Adonis, Afqa

November 26th, 2009

I seem to have broken my post-every-other-day routine. I’ve been so busy lately. Been a very very hectic time. But I’m still here, alive and kicking.

So, anyway: Back to the hunt for the temples of Adonis in Lebanon. New pictures!

After taking a goodly amount of time in Mashnaqa, the race was on to get to Afqa before sunset. I got there with bare minutes to spare before the last of the precious light was gone. I cursed myself for not carrying a proper, full-size tripod with me. (I’d only taken my trusty Gorillapod – which is an amazing piece of gear but unfortunately limiting – occasionally, you might want some shots to be taken from a higher – or a different – perspective than that the Gorillapod can provide.)

Aside from the scenery, Afqa was interesting from a human point of view: The soldiers I met at the checkpoint just outside Afqa, and again in the village when asking for directions, were ever so helpful and friendly. Two shepherd boys who were tending their flock just outside the temple grounds couldn’t be more different.

The boys made such a ruckus when they saw the camera gear. They threw fits every time the camera wasn’t turned completely away – screaming they didn’t want to be photographed (At no point was I tempted to in any event). They called to each other in shrill voices, their screams shattering the peace of the place. To top it off, when my back was to them I was followed by jeers. So much for the innocence of youth.

The Collapse (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec)

The temple in Afqa is an odd sight. Not exactly a disappointment. There is precious little left of it, most having been appropriated over the years by villagers from the nearby towns. All that is now left of what was certainly an imposing structure are piles of stones, rocks and rubble – a hillock overgrown with weeds.

Rocks & Rubble (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec)

The far end of the temple grounds overlook the famous Afqa cave, and a waterfall that falls into the most beautiful crystal-blue pool.

Afqa Cave (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 34mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec)

The Pool (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 45mm, f11, ISO 200, 1sec)

Waterfall (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 85mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1.6sec)

When about to call it a day, one of the soldiers who was with a group I’d asked directions from came to join me. Turns out he’d grown up in a neighbouring village but had never known of the ruined temple until then. The soldier, a young and friendly lad named Ahmed, told me of a hidden entrance to the temple from beneath which his friends had spoken to him about. We searched in the failing light and found a tunnel that led into the heart of the hillock.

The Half-Buried Entrance (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, f8, ISO 200, 1.6sec + flash SB900)

The tunnel was quite deep, curving leftwards about 15 meters in and carrying on for a bit before the ceiling dropped to less than half a meter.

Below you can see the figures of Ahmad and a friend at the mouth of the tunnel.

Inwards & Outwards (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f4.5, ISO 200, 1.6sec + flash SB900)

Torchlight revealed that the partially collapsed tunnel went on at least a further 20 meters or more and it seems there may be open rooms or halls further in. It certainly warrants further exploration. At some point I may return there with torches and clothes I don’t mind ruining…

The Collapsed Tunnel (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f4.5, ISO 200, 1.6sec + flash SB900)

On another note, I should have taken Ahmad’s portrait, but the thought only occurred to me after we’d parted ways. Ah well…

More pictures coming soon (promise)!

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Moi. A Portrait

October 1st, 2009

A while back I decided to fool around with some light. Just to see what combinations worked and how. A little experimentation, if you will.

So I made a self portrait.

Looking through the small collection of pictures I took that day again, I realised that I’m wearing the same suit and combination of shirt and tie. In the words of Dr. Horrible: What a crazy random happenstance!

(You absolutely MUST see Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. It is Joss Whedon at his very very best. It’s a short, hilarious tragicomedy musical – or rather: a “tragic-romantic-comedy-musical-satire” – that he made when bored during the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild of America strike. It was shot over 6 days on a shoe-string budget and was after released for free on the Web. If you’re in the US, you can stream it from the Hulu plugin on the DHSAB website, else, you can view DHSAB in three Acts on YouTube here: Act I (Part I and Part II), Act II (Part I and Part II), Act III (Part I and Part II).)

Anyway, I digressed. Seeing as I’m wearing the same combination as I write this, I’ve decided to share with you a self-portrait from that shoot.

I set my D700 on a mini tripod very close to the floor, and set two flashes: one to camera left inside the doorway with a diffusion dome attached (white light), and the other to camera left, gelled warm with a full CTO and with a makeshift snoot so the light was directed only at my face (warm – as in: slightly orange – light).

So here it is.

Self Portrait

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The Emir's Palace

August 27th, 2009

The Palace FacadeOver my last trip to Beirut, I attended the 50th wedding anniversary of a very good friend of mine and my family in Chtaura in the Bekaa valley.

It was a fantastic event and a heart-warming reminder of the joy two people can find in, and keep bringing, each other over the course of a lifetime well-lived. Oddly enough, it’s something we as a culture seem to be steadily discarding by the wayside and replacing it with… something else entirely.

The Wedge

Now, getting to the Bekaa valley from Baabdat means taking any number of roads. One involves a very long and oft log-jammed road (via Zahle), and another one or two less well known and rather windy road (via Hammana). You can also find out more on Hammana here.

As you may have guessed, we took one of the windy roads via Hammana. We spent a pleasant hour and half passing through quaint little villages clinging desperately to the mountainside, peppered with hundred-plus-year-old homes built of traditional yellow stone. This was great for me as we travelled through areas of Lebanon that I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore before.

At one point on the way out to Chtaura we passed through Salima. It’s a small and very old village dominated by a large abandoned 16th or 17th Century castle. Salima was the seat of power of the Abillama Emirs (hence the castle). Salima is a fantastic little gem, and in a country peppered with beautiful little villages that’s saying something.

Stairs

Many of the houses and other buildings seem to date back to the 17th and 18th Centuries. A disproportionally large number appear to be abandoned today. The sheer number of missing roofs made for an odd sight. Find out more here and here.

Strangely enough, the village seemed to be largely empty. Perhaps this is fallout from the Lebanese Civil War, but I’m not so sure. The village does sit on the road linking some rather key, perhaps strategic, locations. A number of different factions may have driven through it on their way in or out. That said, it bears noting that the war ended in 1990.

I fell in love with the village, with its beautiful old church sitting by the town square, dwarfed by the ruined fortress which sprawls across from it. A quaint school sits by the road above the fortress. I was dying to explore it, to spend a day there and make photos to my heart’s content.

Tunnel Vision

Three problems: 1) I had an event to attend; 2) I was with my parents and couldn’t really abandon them to be bored to death while I ran around in search of a good angle or the light and generally getting lost in the belly of the palace or in the village; and 3) I didn’t have my tripod *sniff*.

So basically, all I got was five precious minutes to take a quick look around the palace on the way BACK from the event. In all fairness, that wasn’t so bad, as the light was a tad softer by the time we’d returned to Salima.

I’ll be making sure to go back there soon to explore it properly.

Bonus points if anyone can spot the glaring *gasp* error I made in one of the shots.

Welcome to the Other Side

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