Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fayoum Desert Trip - Part 3

Sand Boarding
 
In the previous part, we stopped the story telling at the "Whales Valley", we rested there until the sun's & the sand's heat became bearable for sand boarding, which was our next activity, click through to find out more.

I have never done or seen any sand boarding before, and I was curious as to how the whole thing worked out. The drivers took us to some dunes with very soft sand (that of the type that enters beneath your focusing ring and under your mobile phone's keypad and sticks to yourhands and faces, a real threat for electronic devices) and a steep downward slope.
 
Car parked on a gentle slope
 
Next step are the boards themselves, as you can see in the opening picture, they are made of wood, and have straps to hold your feet, but not all of the boards had these straps. Before boarding, the sand boards are waxed from the bottom so the friction becomes minimal and they slide easily by the force of gravity, at first we tried going down sitting on the boards to see if we'll be able to control the board, it looked very steep from the top, and it was a far way down.
 
Sliding for the first time
 
Then some started sliding while standing.
 
Sitting & Standing
 
And soon enough we had our falling pictures.
 
Falling at speed
 
A heap at the bottom, far far away, that was shot with a 100mm focal length
 
Falling didn't hurt at all, but we soon discovered a big problem with the whole game, when you reach the bottom, you have to get to the top again, with the board, needless to say, it required a huge effort because of the slope and some of us took a break at the middle of the climb, I know I did, that killed it for me, after a couple of slides I decided the pleasure of sliding for a few seconds was just not worth climbing to the top again in several minutes. And it didn't help there were several people waiting and calling for you to climb tothe top so that they can use the board I had.
 
Using the board as an anchor by digging it in the sand to aid the climb
 
I spent the rest of the time taking photos from the top, gear wise, for the whole sand boarding thing, I have been exclusively using the 200mm f/2.8, the 24-105 went inside the bag and I decided not to use it for the rest of the day. I took some photos of the drivers and my exhausted comrades, there's just something with that 200mm look that makes me giddy.
 
Can't remember what was he saying, probably didn't even hear him since I was a 200mm f/2.8 away
 
Sun tired
 
Fallen down
 
Sun and effort took its toll on all of us
 
We had to leave this location and reach the place where we were supposed to cook dinner before the dark, and it was nearly sunset, one look behind us on the other side where the sun was setting, and I found some gorgeous photos, the 200mm helped me compress the pictures in a way I liked.
 
Cliche shot
 
Dunes and sunlight
 
Human steps
 
At the top
 
Once we finished taking these photos, we headed for a camp (just a torn tent) to grill our dinner and main course for the day, sun has already went down and I removed the 200mm and put on the 50mm f/1.4 and the 580EX speedlite which I specifically brought for low light shooting, and while we waited for the drivers to finish grilling, I decided to use the blue hues in the sky and take some pictures.
 
Last picture with available light, 50mm wide open
 
Artificial light
 
Sinister look
 
For the two pictures at the top, I metered for the sky until I got the blue hue I wanted and then I turned on my flash and bounced it to the left, I used the white fabric of the tent to bounce my flash from and get this nice directional light, I had my subjects sit beside the tent and turn their faces until I got what I wanted, flash was on TTL, I didn't fiddle with the power. The picture below shows a slight pull back to show where I bounced my flash from.
 
Bounce flash and TTL, best invention after digital sensors
 
After we finished dinner, we made some tea utilising the coal we used for grilling, and we spread around talking, relaxing, singing and doing whatever we felt like doing, we played for a while with a torch to make scary looking portraits.
 
Coal on fire, captured with the 550D and the 60 Macro
 
Lighting from the bottom looks scary, but the expression was not scary
 
Now that's more like it
 
For the final photos of the day, I wanted to try some long exposures, I had my Slik mini tripod, and I used the 50mm, I wonder how people focus on things in complete darkness, fot some photos I was able to focus using a torch to light someone's face, but for landscapes, it was very difficult, and I had to do some guessing based on the faint outline I saw at the back LCD live view image.
 
Can you believe this is only the light of the moon?
 
Pile of stuff, shot 1
 
Pile of stuff, shot 2
 
The two shots above were both identical 14 second long exposures, but with one difference, an accident actually, during the first exposure you see at the top, one of the guys was taking a photo of the same thing but he used his flash, resulting in a totally different picture, which one do you like more? I like the first one more, it looks more interesting.
 
Staying still for 14 friggin seconds
 
B&W version
 
My cousin in the images above has an uncanny ability to stay still for a long time, so this time we decided to test him to the limits in a 14 second exposure, what do you think, did he succeed?
 
The red light you see is an idea we decided to implement to make the picture more interesting, we had a Yongnuo 565 flash that emits this weird pattern as an AF assist light, so we moved the light around during the exposure to create what you see at the top, and I made a black and white version as well, which one do you like more?
 
That's it for the trip, after resting for a while we gathered all our stuff and moved back to where we left our cars, the only thing worth mentioning during our trip back is that the drivers turned off their headlights for a part of the road and used the moon light only, their reasoning was that they were able to see the road more evenely and farther away that way, we were back at around 10pm, exactly 12 hours after we started.
 
I hope you have enjoyed this series and that I managed to tell you the story in a fun and an immersive way, until next time.
 
 
RELATED POSTS
 
Fayoum Desert Trip - Part 1
Fayoum Desert Trip - Part 2