Tag Archives: photography

The Remains Of A Previous Era

That is  “Historical Jeddah” ! A UNESCO world heritage site from 2014.

A visit to this place is a sharp contrast to today’s modern Jeddah.

What really stands apart are the cobbled pathways and the old architectural style, with coral being a major resource used in their construction.

 

The ornately carved doors and the beautiful lattices, windows and balconies are truly beautiful.

Today the area is mostly left alone, with the few dwellers being poor immigrants and cats. An early morning visit here shows how desolate the place has become.

A must visit place for any immigrant in Saudi Arabia.

I have been here 5 years and this is my first visit. And I know plenty more who have never seen the place. A shame really !

You can learn more here:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1361

A Winter To Remember…

I have been in Saudi Arabia for 6 years now. This has been my favorite winter.

This winter I drove down with my family to Al Baha. I’ve been wanting to visit this place for a few months now. Information about this place from people I knew was almost non existent. Not many people have been there. All I could find out about this place was from Google and  Wikipedia.

What really piqued my curiosity was the thought of a hill station in the middle of the desert !

image

Saudi Arabia has been a revelation to me. Al Baha has only furthered that. Before Saudi, my concept of a desert was a huge barren land filled with sand and dunes. KSA showed me deserts can be rocky.

Anyway, Al Baha is a picturesque piece of land lying a little over 2000m above sea level. Temperatures during our visit peaked at 11 degrees Celsius in the morning and went as low as 4 degrees Celsius at night. The mornings were mired in fog and mist. It is around 420 kms  from Jeddah by road via Taif. The roads are long, winding and with very little traffic once you pass Taif.

image

We found a lot of viewpoints along the way up hill, all of them deserted. It’s as if no one wanted to see this beautiful place.

imageimageimage

Lying below the hills of Al Baha, is the Tihama plain, which is more like the desert we are familiar with. Here, close to the small town of Al Makhwa, is a 400 year old abandoned village, named Thi Ain ( use these exact letters to search for the place on the wonder that is google maps). The road from Al Baha to Thi Ain village, called Aqabat King Fahad is spectacular to view. The entire stretch serpents along the the mountain face with  numerous tunnels and bridges.

imageimageimage

Once u descend Aqabat King Fahad, a turn to the right will take you to Thi Ain. A well preserved ruin!

image

I hope more people find time and make their way towards Al Baha – A must visit place for the Saudi expat. The tranquil drive and the surrounding scenery and the cool climate alone is reason enough in this hot desert.

 

Looking For Doors..

It was by accident that I stumbled upon ” The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge “.

I never knew it existed !! Anyway I decided to give it a shot.

Early mornings and late evenings provide ideal lighting in these parts. Shooting in the mid day is a bad idea. It’s very hot, very humid and the sun is right above you blotting out every detail in the sky.

I decided to venture out at sunrise. There’s not much time even then. The rise is fast, usually within half an hour and the warmth turns into heat quickly. I don’t have a thermostat, so I Googled the temperature. 34 degrees celsius at 5.46 am!

I live in a relatively old area in Jeddah. There is decay all around. Everything is in various stages of decay. Buildings are old and not very well maintained. It struck me, there were no good-looking doors anywhere. Most of them were the same, as if the entire area was supplied by the same door company. There was just one door that was relatively new. And guess what ? That belonged to my apartment, because its only 4 years old ! Looking around I realized all doors in this neighbourhood are made of metal. I never noticed it or gave it much thought before today. Every door is Iron or iron and glass. This is in stark contrast from my native country – India, where most doors are made of  solid wood .

I’ll stop ranting now and post the images I selected for today –

A Door With Character

Metal Door, Brick Wall

Glass Door

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Door.”

Walking In The Neighbourhood ……

It was surprising what I could find on an early morning walk in this most boring and ordinary neighborhood.
And I learned something from this as well. If you don’t find anything interesting, you can still shoot images of the ordinary. The things you find around you.

Like this, spilled cup of tea?

20140803-012757-5277111.jpg

Or, this solitary crushed 7up can that some bored soul drank sitting boredly, on those uninspiring steps.

20140803-013040-5440188.jpg

If u start to really look, you would probably see something like this everyday.
A bright, hot and hazy sunrise.

20140803-013309-5589427.jpg

Speaking of sunrise, you can also see the light falling against the buildings, highlighting some surfaces and leaving the rest in shadow.

20140803-013728-5848075.jpg

Almost every growing city has these old abandoned cars, left to rot in the sun. Ironically you see newer cars parked right next to them. As if that were some sort of statement. ??

20140803-014158-6118609.jpg

And post boxes. What else can one use them for ?

20140803-014304-6184889.jpg

And my favorite – The stray cat and her litter. Parking themselves near garbage dumps and near busy apartment complexes. The kittens peacefully having their morning breakfast.

20140803-014541-6341297.jpg

Tree Chopping In Ramadan

I was tired and fast asleep, when I was vigorously woken up by my children, shouting about a tree being chopped. And they wanted me to take pictures.

So I got up and took my camera and went to the balcony.
We live on the 7th floor of a large apartment building, so we have an “aerial view”.
I looked down and saw they were chopping up the only tree that provided us any shade in this sweltering heat, and they were already half done.
It was already 6.30 pm and there was a little more than a half an hour for Ifthaar (time to break fast in Ramadan) to begin.
Unfortunately I don’t have any images of the tree in its full glory. And guess what? I don’t have any after it was chopped down. Instead I have these:

A tree being chopped down and the first thing I noticed was this guy on his phone

20140724-031546-11746858.jpg

Here is this person seated calmly and looking at the operation

20140724-031836-11916891.jpg

A few branches kept aside right below our balcony

20140724-032006-12006564.jpg

The hired “choppers” preparing and pulling down a branch. The second photo is a little soft.

20140724-032119-12079193.jpg

20140724-032120-12080864.jpg

Here are some people walking through the jungle of branches and leaves

20140724-033136-12696234.jpg

Then there’s the guy with the electric saw, surveying his handiwork

20140724-033515-12915248.jpg

It was getting late. Almost time for Ifthaar. So here are the workers, finished with all the culling and waiting for the prayer call, to break their fast. In case  you’re wondering, they are going to eat Al-Baik Chicken (the local chicken fast food delicacy)

20140724-033636-12996683.jpg

In Search Of A Story.

I was thoroughly tired of photographing at home. I wanted to get out and shoot something. Anything!
And that’s when I noticed the AC repair guy across my apartment. Grumpy young fellow. Doesn’t appear too friendly. But his workplace is cramped, dirty, dusty and haphazard.

20140721-055626-21386044.jpg
Now, I am not the kind of person, who is good at small talk. I rarely start conversations and I am probably the last guy you want to be with at parties.
So, it was not going to be easy asking this guy about photographing his workshop.
I wanted to get in and shoot and I really wanted to try out my Helios 55mm outside the house. Thus , I gave in to self persuasion and asked him. He agreed and gave me 15 minutes. I think he was more curious than being friendly.
I got in, but what do I shoot ? 15 minutes is so short. Hastily I decided to photograph his tools. Unfortunately there weren’t much. Just a few old air conditioners and some hand tools.

20140721-055833-21513586.jpg

20140721-055849-21529904.jpg

20140721-055911-21551228.jpg

20140721-055938-21578478.jpg

Towards the end of my allotted time, I asked to photograph him. He declined politely and I think he was glad I left.
I felt good. It’s not about the photographs. They aren’t outstanding in any way. I just did something I usually would not, and it wasn’t unpleasant.

Dental Armamentarium

A busy day at my dental practice means a lot of instruments to be washed and sterilized.
I never considered photographing dental instruments before. But this blog has me looking for images everywhere.
So here they are a : few dental armamentarium

20140706-203903-74343322.jpg

20140706-203901-74341720.jpg

And here is the loading bay of the autoclave where all these instruments will sterilized after being pouched.

20140706-204025-74425311.jpg

By the way, I am a dentist. At least when I am without a camera.

A Fuji X-T1 User Experience.

I am no pro at photography. An enthusiast perhaps, and an average one at that. But I do have gear acquisition syndrome, which was a compelling force behind my purchase of the much talked about FujiFilm X-T1.
And for the first time, I am totally satisfied with a purchase. I have been a Nikon user for 6 years now. I started photography with a Panasonic FZ-8. That was a nice camera. It introduced me into the world of photography. Sure it had its limitations, but it provided a good starting point. I used it for a year.
I was contemplating purchasing a DSLR and was following heated debates on the Canon vs Nikon dilemma on the numerous Internet forums. Ultimately it was a chance encounter with a friend that led me to buy a used Nikon D7000. My first DSLR. AND A GOOD ONE TOO!
Now the D7000 is almost the stuff of legends. Great shooting speed, all the necessary external controls, good autofocus and excellent metering. I used this for almost 4 years.
But I never loved the Nikon as much as I loved the FZ8. After all the FZ8 was my first camera.
My main problem with the Nikon system was the weight. I like everything about it except for the weight. I hate heavy equipment, which is why I won’t go into full frame.
And then I was hit by the “thunder bolt”!
I found the Fuji X system. I followed all the blogs and Internet forums on the X100 and the X-pro1. It was a system mired in controversy. Here was a system loved and hated in equal proportions.
I went into a local camera shop and held a X-pro1 in my hand, and was immediately charmed by the size. But it was prohibitively expensive.
I saved up for a year for the X-pro1 and bought an X100s instead. It was love at first sight. And I’ve yet to be disappointed with this camera. Small, light, great images and a wonderful hybrid viewfinder. I was hooked into the system now.
It took me 4 months of careful planning and haggling to sell my Nikon kit and pick up an X-t1. The Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro, a Nikon 50 f1.8D,a Nikon SB-700 and a Yongnou 565 were the only Nikon gear I kept. I planned to use the lenses with adapters on the X-T1.
I had just enough to fund my purchase of the X-T1 kit. I picked up some vintage lenses. A bad economy had a lot to do with my preference on vintage glass.

My first few moments with the X-T1, I was fascinated by it size. So small for all that tech packed into it. I haven’t decided whether I like the X-T1 or X-Pro1, in the cosmetics department. I like them both.
I am not writing a review here, so I will forgo all the features and specification write ups, found all over the web. Instead I will concentrate on what I love and dislike about the camera and why.
First off, the external controls. I enjoy using the shutter speed dial. I usually shoot on Auto ISO and have it configured for a max of 3200. I am at aperture priority most of the time and the shutter dial, helps me go into full manual very quickly when I need. No flicking a mode dial into M and then selecting a suitable shutter speed with a command dial. Just select the shutter speed on the dial and I am done most of the time. Neat!
The viewfinder! Much hyped on the internet and lives upto the hype for the most part. Great refresh rates and very easy on the eye. It does get grainy in low light, but still useable. The manual focusing aids are very good and well implemented. I have no complaints with the EVF and have found I don’t miss the OVF much. I was pretty much used to manual focus on my Nikon especially in dark conditions even with lenses like the Nikkor 50 1.8d and the Nikkor 35 1.8g. True they aren’t great low light autofocus performers. But, compared to the standard kit lenses, they didn’t offer a vastly superior upgrade in autofocus in extremely low light. I used to switch to manual focus and had no problems with that. I accept those challenges and prefer to work over them rather than get disheartened. That’s why I feel manual focusing on the X-T1 with legacy lenses is so much better. The EVF brightens up and the magnified view with focus peaking is stellar.
Again the size. Dismantled it fits neatly into my small IPad bag. I would be lying, if I didn’t say, I wished it were a tad bigger, especially when using it with a Minolta MD 50 1.4. But that’s a minor trade off.
The buttons. The feel of the D-pad sucks and I bought the camera knowing this. So I am not complaining. I read a blog on a sugru fix for this and I did the same. Applied a little sugru on the D pad buttons and it makes a big difference. The buttons are more tactile and easier to find. Almost every button is customisable and I have it customized like my X100s. So I have no fumbling while switching between cameras. Unlike the D7000, there is a dedicated button for both AE-L and AF-L.
Again, I am not writing about the image quality. Any camera at this price range delivers great images. And the fuji doesn’t disappoint here. But out of camera jpegs are better than the D7000 and I spend very little time in front of the PC in post production. Color tones are really good. Dynamic range is good too. But most of all, if focused well, the images are superbly sharp. I don’t know if it’s fuji’s processing or if it’s their sensor. The images are usually very sharp.
One of my large disappointments is the shutter speed tops out at 1/4000 sec. I like shooting wide open and here in sunny Saudi Arabia, I have to stop down or use a neutral density filter. The 1/180 sync and no hss is a definite downgrade from my experience with D7000. I have never tried hss, so I won’t complain about it.
One area where FujiFilm is really lacking is in the lighting department. Almost all bodies have commander flash support, but nothing easy to use and versatile like the Nikon system.
This is the one thing from the Nikon D7000 I really miss. I am planning to buy a Cactus 6 trigger system, which should probably ease my pain. With the Nikon D7000 I didn’t need a trigger system as I shoot flash mainly indoors and everything could be controlled from the camera. But on the X-T1, I can use my Nikon flashes on manual but I have to walk upto the flash to change output settings. Gets real tiring after a few shots. That’s why I decided on the Cactus 6 system after much research.
I have purposefully left autofocus for the last part of this user review. There is so much written about the autofocus on the X-T1. It’s good, it’s slow etc.
Personally I have found it a little slower than my D7000. Since I am not into action or sports photography, I have little reason to complain. I was initially disappointed with the autofocus, while photographing my children, who do not sit still at all. The D7000 itself seemed to struggle getting them into focus. But in life you make compromises. With the X-T1, I had 2 choices. I could manually focus and wait for them (the kids) to align and then shoot. I do have infinite patience. Or I could switch to continuous auto focus and select continuous drive mode and I would get 3 or 4 keepers out of say,20 shots. Not bad for casual use, but won’t cut it for pro use. But like I said, I am no pro. Used carefully with planning and thought, the autofocus works well enough.
But the best part of the autofocus is the accuracy. It might be slow but it’s dead accurate. Even at night, when it’s really really dark. I will post a few shots to show you this. With the D7000 in the dark and a 35mm 1.8g lens or a 50mm 1.8d, I wouldn’t get focus most of the time. The camera would try and give up. If it did find focus, it was not accurate almost every time. That’s how I learned to focus manually. The X-T1 on the other hand takes around 2-3 seconds but nails accurate focus almost very time.
I will conclude this review now. I hope somebody finds this useful.
As for me, I have found my Camera. I thoroughly enjoy using this beast. It has it’s quirks. But I will keep using it for a long time, unless Fuji makes another cam, much better than the X-T1.

20140702-161257-58377816.jpg

20140702-161254-58374582.jpg

20140702-161256-58376145.jpg

Here are a few pics, taken last night at 2 a.m. local time. Very very little ambient light and shot using off camera flash and shutter speeds of 1 second and 2 seconds to mix ambient and flash exposure and aperture set to f4.
I don’t know how good the photographs are technically or compositionally. I just wanted to show how accurately this camera focuses in poor lighting conditions