Saturday, 28 March 2009

Road Trip

Part II of The Night Owl

I heard the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore. I was still dreaming of being transported to another world, or going back at the beginning of time. I thought I heard the screaming of Pterodactyls searching for fish as the early sea frothed with abundance of one celled organisms.

The Dawn of Time.

But as I slowly opened my eyes I felt the hard rocks on my back and saw the soft morning light was already creeping inside the habitat.
My watch read 6:00 am. The alarm didn't go off.
What the...! I almost slept for two hours.
I opened the zipper door and saw the lightening of dawn.

Still half awake I scrambled for my tripod and rig and noticed that the lens attached is different from what REMEMBERED putting on before i went to sleep two hours ago. My head is still throbbing with pain and my still sluggish brain just couldn't register what was happening. I just stood there perplexed for a few moments and realized that SOMEONE has switched my borrowed 10-20 to something else during my helpless state of drunkenness and stupor. Sneaky!

I rushed outside and almost tripped on the rocks when i saw the culprit sitting on the sand with my lens on his camera with a big grin on his face.

It was getting lighter, i grabbed the lens and wasted no time on trying to find a good angle close to the shore but to my dismay it is not possible to make long exposures anymore.

Last resort was to use my Cokin tobacco graduated filter to put some colors on the bland sky. The sunrise that day was not that spectacular I have to admit. The clouds are less attractive, but with plenty of foreground interest, long exposure could have provided interesting results.
Oh well better luck this time.

I went to the other side of the road across the beach once the sun was up and took some more photos of bushes, rocks and hills and more rocks.

It's lenten season which means breakfast was chicken sausages for me. I really really wanted to sink my teeth into the plat du jour.
Grilled pork belly.

Looking back a few minutes ago, watching the sunrise while sitting on the shore gives a unique feeling everytime. As the drama unfolds before your eyes you always get a sense of peace inside you, watching a new day being born and thinking that on the other side of the world another day ends.

The infamous G7 (group 7)

Actually not all. Im on group 4 and another one from group 2. We kinda don't like our own groups so we merged with group 7 which is hell lot more fun!

After breakfast there was the group shot where you have to stupidly wave your hand and give your best smile. While almost everybody is dressed in black and white ( black for the so called "masters" and white for us "newbies"), I wore a pink shirt. hehe

Tents are packed, stuffed on the trunk and we are off to the roads again. The Fujayrah coastline is beautiful, its beaches glistening on the morning sun and the road seemed endless.

The trip then is pretty straightforward. We had the beaches at our left and the rocky cliffs on our right.

Next stop was the Al Bidyah mosque known for its unique design with its rather queer looking minarets. Built at around 1146 A.D according to radiocarbon analysis, is the oldest known mosque on the UAE.

Overlooking the mosque is a fort like tower on a top of a rocky hill.

And while everybody seems to be having with them big lenses for such landscapes like this I saw this girl at about 5 years old clicking and snapping anything and shouting "Silhouettes"!
I say she's got more sense compared to everybody feeling macho with there ultra telephotos, she has a 10-20 ultra wide angle! Go kiddo!

"I can show you a thing or two with my Ultra Wide, this is not a sports match so why you buggers bring 500mm's?"

"Sunstars" at Khor Fakkan

We stopped at Khor Fakkan to gather our wits. After a useless stopover we headed to Kalba where the famous "crabbing area" can be found. During the crabbing season there are...well..lots of crabs crawling around especially at night. You can camp here and take your pick on the juicy shelled crustaceans.

Crabbing station

Then we headed home via the rock tunnels that leads us back to Hatta and we stopped over for some snaps of the rocky mountain views. And then the highway patrol came and started shouting at us demanding we stop and go back to our cars. What! Can we not take photos of rocks anymore? Whats your say UAE?

I was taking a leak halfway when i heard the sirens and the megaphones. So i was "done" half empty.

We still didn't take our lunch so having chicken on a running car is quite close to having it while on flight.

Chicken wings anyone?

So for road tripping here on the UAE, if you can go as early as possible you can travel from coast to coast and be back after sundown and have loads of pictures and stories to tell.

It was quite an exhilarating experience and with a close call from the police it added up to the spice of the trip.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Night Owl

Mar 20 2009 Fri

It was a late Thursday night, the rush hour traffic plus the fact that it is going to be a weekend proved to be difficult for everybody to get the convoy going to the other side of the Dubai coastline, to the emirate of Fujairah.

This was a part of an outdoor trip of a photography group which i was in, and which i was out, and with a little bit of angelic persuasion i was "in" again. lol.
Well i wouldn't wanna miss this part.
And the fun has just began.

We started from Dubai at around 10:30 pm with convoy of close to 40 vehicles ( sedans, 4x4 cruisers, Jeeps, a Hummer and three mini buses).
At number three position we obviously should be the third car on the convoy but guess what, as stubborn as a dust bunny, in 30 minutes we are already miles away from the main group and speeding up into the night with the equally mulish car No. 20 and No.28 close behind us!
Talk about male pigheadedness.

The Night Owls

In short we got scolded and stopped somewhere at Ras Al Kaimah, ate some superb chicken sandwiches and waited for the convoy to catch up while enjoying the cool night air.

The drive to the camping site took more than three hours since the convoy was slow moving. I didn't enjoy the landscape much because it was dark but i know that we are passing by the rocky mountain cliffs carved for the roads we are on.

When i smelled the sweet and tangy scent of exposed rocks on a low tide, the algae, the decay of those dead beach critters and salty air I knew we are right on the spot.

The Habitats (171 seconds)

Soon tents where brought up and bonfires lit and in no time the place was filled with thick smoke from the grilled pork steaks. Yeah UAE! And "drinkable fluids" too. The papaitan is close to heavenly.

Moonshine (310 seconds)

The glare of Dubai's city lights are absent on this remote area, it was close to pitch black and VLE or very long exposure shots are a good way to test wether your rig can handle "amp noise" very well. But its too dark that I cant lock focus so going manual on hyperfocal distance method is necessary.

Starlines over Fujairah (372.8 seconds)

The D40 did quite well on 300+ seconds and i think i can even go further without problems.
Well, shame on the higher pixel Nikons. Lets see if you can beat D40 on VLE's.
A warning though: Turn off the noise reduction function!

Stars and clouds (261 seconds)

If you examine closely the stars are blurred in a concentric way. This means that the earth is rotating. I was so sleepy i couldn't get anymore of this.

View from inside the Habitat (171 seconds)

A few glasses of scotch made me dizzy at almost 4 am and decided to have an hour of sleep before sunrise.

I would soon realize that the lack of sleep and some scotch on the bloodstream and then hitting the sack very late is not a very good idea if you want to catch some early morning action.

Next: Road Trip.

Route (green line)

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Anything For The Sake of Photography

Feb 13 2009 Fri
The illegal SD Cards

Today (Fri 13 09) marks the "monthsary" of our infamous early morning photo shoot here in Dubai in search for camels that nearly landed as a disaster...being fined and jailed.

Everybody in the Emirate must catch a glimpse of these amazing beasts of the desert. The animals which are highly prized here can be found on the outskirts of the city wandering inside fenced areas but to get close to one there is a place called Nad Al Sheba Camel Race Track which i think is worth the visit.

So why post a picture of SD Cards? Here's the whole story.

It was one cold and dark Fri morning 13th of Feb 2009 when we started off to Nad Al Sheba for camel hunting. Brimming with photo gears we were full of high hopes that by the end of the day we will have our memory cards full of camel pictures.
The other car was late so we on the first car, decided to go ahead and find the spot early on. It was still dark and since we don't know the exact location we just followed road signs.
Nad Al Sheba was not hard to find because it is quite close to the city but the camel race track proved to be quite difficult to locate.

I remember going there three years ago and the route now seems to have changed. So we just followed every road that we think will lead to the camels for quite sometime. Frustrated that it seemed we couldnt find the place we opted to go to the desert sand dunes of Um Al Qwain.
But luck guided us to a road with a sign that can be graphicaly read clearly as "Camel".

Excited we shouted "camels ahead!" and shortly after a few more signs we came to a big gate with a guard on a small shack.
We stopped and the guard approached our car.
"Where are the camels?" we asked.
He gestured inside the gate. So we said we want to go inside and he answered OK and gave us a logbook to register.

So off we went inside and lo and behold! Camels! We are finally inside the camel race track.
This is the place where they train those million Dirham racing camels. Second only to horses in terms of racing tradition.
Lines of camels trot with their jockeys and trainers. It was a wonderful sight to see. We wasted no time and quickly got down from the car and started shooting on all angles.

One thing to remember though, the camels get upset when you approach them real close so caution is exercised. We then followed them to the racing pens where they where whipped and shouted at by their trainers as the camels were told to sit.
The trainers didn't seemed to mind us and they even gestured for us to go closer to take photos.

And then more batches of camels followed inside the racing pens. They were all lined up sitting with their respective jockeys.

It was just pure snapping pleasure for us.

When the morning got lighter more camels came and by this time the other car was on the way trying to find our spot. Late!

We had enough of camels already so we decided to meet them halfway to guide them back inside.

After a brief coffee and breakfast we had the other car back by the gate and did the same registration process with the guard.

There was a big walled compound with a large gate that attracted our attention. It was the camel stables! We didn't dare to go close but camel shepherds gestured us inside and they want us the ride the camels!

For free! who wouldn't want that?

I decided that the only the girls will ride ( the powerfpuff trio) and so they mounted and rode and we snapped photos all the way. It was fun!

A few minutes later they dismounted and we gave thanks to the shepherds and planned to go back at the racing fences.
But as we got out the gate a white Toyota Landcruiser just arrived and out are two Emarati Arabs. We greeted them good morning and they greeted us back and asked:

"Who told you to come inside?"
"Who told you to take photos?"

very sternly and they were not smiling at all.

Everyone on our group ( there were eight of us, six were with cameras) suddenly fell silent looking at each other with blank expressions.

We tried to reason out but it seems we were told we are on private property and we are trespassing and taking photos illegally.

We realized that we were on a racing stable after all and two of our girls just rode a very expensive racing camel.

We were then told to go outside the main entrance and wait for the manager to come.
They followed us there and took all our cameras ( all DSLRS), put them inside the white Landcruiser and waited for the manager.

The situation isn't fun anymore. We are in deep shit.

The manager came riding a small four wheeled drive ATV (all terrain vehicle). Probably chinese made.
His name is Ahmed. And not happy at all.

"What is this?"
"Who told you to take photos?"
"Who told you to come inside?"
"How did you find this place?"
"Which company are you working from?"

came the barrage of question after question.

We tried to explain that the guard at the gate allowed us in and we are just taking photos for photography class and other lame excuses we can muster.

But Ahmed wouldn't have none of that.

"This is private property and you are trespassing and the penalty is a two year jail term!"
"This is a company and you just dont walk straight in here!"

Two years! Good gracious!

Ahmed had the guard replace the post immediately and inspected all our cameras.
He browsed the photos and when he saw the picture of the girls riding camels he almost freaked out.

I can almost hear him scream "that is a very expensive racing camel you just rode you idiots!"

He made us format some of the SD cards but some he just took without deleting. A sort of evidence to be discussed at the board meeting.

They took our work permits, our telephone numbers, had them photocopied and told us that they will call us after a few days for the decision.

Some of us were scared shit!

Lots of discussion followed and finally we were allowed to go home.

We went home shaken and lost all appetite to shoot some more pictures. After all we don't have any spare memory cards at hand.

Back at the city we had coffee and talked about our fate.

After a few days we phoned Ahmed but he's just ignoring our calls. We lost all hope to get back our memory cards.

More than two weeks has passed and our fear of being penalized and jailed had subsided so one of us decided to go to him and confront him personally.

To make the story short we got back our memory cards, formatted and promised never to tresspass again.

"Ahmed which company is this you say?" he was asked.

"This is not just a company. This is the Sheiks' Palace." was his prompt answer.

We just trespassed on His Highness' private property.

Anything for the sake photography.

photo taken at Nad Al Sheba at 2006

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Cotton Waters

March 07 2009 Sat 6:40 p.m
The River that flows

Yay! My first long exposure on moving waters without using any ND filters at all! Um yadah yadah!
You may ask whats so special about that? Well for starters, GOODLUCK on finding these things on DUBAI where there are no flowing bodies of water like what we see back home and to find these things you have to explore the outlying mountains and borders and only God knows where to find it.

Much to my delight when i found this on one of the beaches here. Yep it's still man made but the rocks are not. But it gave me something to practice on.

But I dont have any freakin' ND filters.

Solution is to wait for the sun to set and when your meter reads less than 1 second on Aperture Priority, go for it!

The only drawback without the ND is the very limited time window. Too dark and it becomes too long and the water too smooth. And no more light from the sun to give that vibrance on the rocks.

Well at least i got my cotton waters.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Deira Fish Market

Feb 06 2009 Fri 5:30 a.m
A Tale of Tails

The fish market on Shindaga Tunnel is one of the busiest places on Dubai during the wee hours of the morning.
While the rest are all asleep from an all night party, or from any popular Thursday night vice, the atmosphere here is quite the opposite.
Fish traders, vendors and hagglers flock the fish stalls all hoping to have a good deal from the freshest catch in town.

Well, as you know the "fresh catch on the Thursday night" on the other side where the light is red is quite stale by now. haha

Ummm, kidding aside the place reminded me of the fish market of General Santos City with the exception of the hulking tunas and other gigantic gilled ( is there such a word?) and finned creatures. I have to admit, Deira fish market lags far behind by comparison.
But the place still proved to be interesting enough for the weekend enthusiast snapper (no not the red one) wanting to catch something fresh and smelly.

A typical scene. The action is just starting. Lots of activity around by the time we arrived.

The gapping mouth of a very fresh brown spotted grouper known locally as Hammour. Probably the most popular and favorite fish among the locals and some expats. We call it "lapu lapu"
Most Pinoys still prefer the tilapia and galunggong. hehe
IMO, i buy one of these from good deals whenever i find one, since i cant afford to eat this luxury back home. But here, this is ordinary mans food.

The Butcher

Retails for the small time buyer. You can get the fish cleaned and sliced too. Thats a juicy piece of King Fish or Tangigue as we call it.

A barrowful of tuna.

Fortunately the vendors are very accommodating when you try to photograph them. They don't complain and they even stop to pose for a shot.
When we said we are from the local newspaper, they gleefully complied for shots hoping to have their faces on the local paper by tomorrow. haha
But it will make our shot look like a "friendster shot" not that these people have friendster accounts, so we asked them to just go on with their work as we try to compose a frame.

The scene outside the stalls are more interesting than what's inside. Here is where the real action is.

A man ponders on Barracudas.

A large guitar fish.

Small sharks lined up waiting to be bought. The story behind is really quite gloomy for the sharks. As Dubai as no current legislation for catching sharks, it has been estimated that close to a hundred thousand sharks are caught every year on the gulf waters. Some of the catch come from the neighboring Oman.


Another big catch. A really gruesome scene. I dont know the specie. Im no shark expert but it looks like a blacktip shark.


Sharks are the top predator on the marine food chain. And they sort of clean up the sea as well by feeding on dead fish. But they are just defenseless prey for humans. Sharks are killed for their fins which sells for a hefty price for the right buyer.

Up close and personal (photo courtesy of edouard)

No i don't promote killing of sharks but i cant miss the opportunity of having my mugshot taken beside one. This one is big enough to chew my head off.

Tilted horizon (Sorry i forgot the rules)

As the morning lightens up, stocks of fish are brought out from the storage tanks.

My fish are blurred ( sorry again, i only meant to depict action)

As the new day begins, my shoot ends here. I smell of fish by now.

We headed for the nearby souks

The nearby Gold Souk.

but Its too early for gold. The shops are still closed.

Made in Pakistan

Urban Decay

We passed by some ruins and saw a potential spot for another outdoor fashion shoot hehe.
But it gave me another idea somehow.
There is an abundance of colors, textures and shadows on that place.
If you only know where to look.

Definitely i will be going back to this place again....