Arabian Nights

On my way back from Burma in February, I planned a 2-day layover in Dubai for a chance to witness firsthand what this renowned emirate/city is truly all about. Can’t say I was impressed to be honest. True, they now have the world’s tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa), they’ve managed to build a ski resort inside a shopping mall in the middle of the desert and a 7-star hotel on an artificial island. All these are great accomplishments and marvels of engineering, but for me it all seems a bit too artificial. The city itself lacks character – a blend of a westernized modern city with an Islamic middle eastern undertone, done in a fairly distasteful manner. In my view the phrase “building castles in the sand” is true in this case both literally and metaphorically.

I spent more than half of my time wondering around the malls, but the highlight of my short stay was the afternoon I spent on a safari in the desert. It was quite the experience – being in the back of a 4×4 driving over the sand dunes, witnessing the sunset over the sand hills and having an amazing dinner in a camp in the middle of the desert. To add a bit more authenticity to the whole experience, we also got this beautiful belly dancer to entertain us over dinner.

Belly Dancer - 1920c

 

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Canon 50mm F1.8 prime lens at ISO 3200, F1.8, 1/200sec.

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Studio Photography

Finally got a chance during my photography class last Wednesday to give Studio Photography a try. It was my first go at using external light sources, rather than simply shooting with a standard flash gun. I must say that the technique itself is fairly straight forward, especially if you have a light meter handy. You simply position your lights, tether your camera to the light kit, take a reading on the meter and then just dial in the settings.

The truly difficult part however, is managing the model herself. I definitely see the value of communicating constantly with your subject, asking her to move around and try new poses that would really make her shots come out flattering. I managed to take roughly around 300 shots or so over the course of 2 hours, and happily ended up with about 10 or so that look fairly decent, one which is shown below.

Taken with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens, at ISO 100, F9.0 and 1/125 shutter speed. This shot was taken with a single softbox to the right of the model.

Studio Photography - 1920c

A 94-year old face

One can look at a portrait of someone and immediately sense the hardship of that person’s life and wealth of experiences. This is my grandmother, who is about to turn 95 in a few months and is every bit as energetic and well spirited, as she was 35 years ago when we first met. Unfortunately last week she lost her balance and fell, ending up in the hospital for a fairly minor and routine procedure. Surprisingly enough, this is the first time ever in her life that she had to see the inside of a hospital as a patient. But even laying on a hospital bed recovering from her operation, her spirits are still high and her mind 100% there. Wishing her a fast recovery and many more years of good health and happiness!

Giagia Eleni

Face painting

A few people asked me why the kids in my previous post had paint applied all over their face. In fact the vast majority of Myanmar people and particularly the women that I saw while I was there, had that yellowish-white paste on their face. Apparently, this paste is called “Thanaka”, and is extracted from a specific tree which grows abundantly in that region. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, which explains it in a bit more detail:

“Thanaka cream has been used by Burmese women for over 2000 years. It has a fragrant scent somewhat similar to sandalwood. The creamy paste is applied to the face in attractive designs, the most common form being a circular patch on each cheek, sometimes made stripey with the fingers known as thanaka bè gya, or patterned in the shape of a leaf, often also highlighting the bridge of the nose with it at the same time. It may be applied from head to toe (thanaka chi zoun gaung zoun). Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection from sunburn.It is believed to help remove acne and promote smooth skin.It is also an anti-fungal.”

I took the picture below at a local tea shop towards the end of our day tour in Yangon. In fact, this girl was our waitress there, who after serving the tea (which incidentally no one touched), she thought wise to pour the entire tea pot into a plastic bag and hand it to us to take home! Gives a whole new meaning to “doggy bag” I suppose!

Taken with my Canon 60D, and Canon 24-70mm  F2.8L lens at ISO 400, at F4.5, 1/250 sec with a +1/3 EV exposure bias.

Faces and smiles of Myanmar

Poverty, malnutrition and bad hygiene are very apparent as your walk through the streets of Yangon – the result of the country’s mismanagement and years in isolation.  The words of a Myanmar university professor who we met during our trip, described it perfectly – “In the past, Myanmar people were scared to dream of the future. They would close their eyes and all they saw was nightmares. For the first time in years, they are now able to dream of change – a better tomorrow for themselves and their children”. Simply looking at the smiles on the childrens faces this is indeed very apparent.

Part of our tour included a boat ride across the Yangon river, so just before noon we arrived at the ferry terminal. The picture above is of 3 out of many children that greeted us outside the terminal, who were really eager to be photographed. Clearly their motive was money but admittedly their emotions seemed genuine. After posing for what seemed like 100 photographs, they each revealed a set of 10 postcards that they were selling for 2000 kyats (about 2 euros). One must admire the business sense of these kids, as there was no way for me to deny giving up that money; not just for the postcards, but in return for all the pictures I managed to take of them.

Shot with my Canon 60D and my Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens at F2.8, 1/1000 sec at ISO 200.

Horsing around

Last week my company organised an event at the horse racing track in Ayios Dometios. I must have been to this place only once before as a kid, though definitely not at an age where I had the chance (or the budget) to personally place a bet on a horse! Admittedly I am not much of a gambler myself, but I did appreciate the “science” of picking your horse based on its physique, training condition, upbringing and one hundred other variables that people meticulously study before placing their bets.

On this occassion, I decided to dig out one old photo that I took back in Aug 2008. Daria and I had decided to go for horseback riding on a Sunday afternoon just outside Toronto. While waiting for our turn to mount our horses, this fellow was minding his own business until I asked him to pose for a shot.

As for the horse races, I think I will return to the track very soon – only next time I’ll make sure I bring my camera to capture some action shots!

Shot with my Canon Rebel XTi, Canon 50mm lens at F2.2, ISO 200 and 1/1600 secs.