ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 29 – LAND ROVER (MONO)

 

 


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Geological research (and a vast amount of birding too … ) in the mountains of Oman, sometime around 1976.

Here is our campsite, two tents, the vehicle, and rock – rock everywhere – with the bare mountains all around.  I’m slouching in the shade of the vehicle on a camping stool, with my sweat-soaked hat on my knee after a long day’s work – and the photographer is my colleague Don.

It was extremely interesting exploring the interior of a country which was only just opening up to the outside world.  The interior was wild, I remember many apparently ancient sites lying open on the surface, but the going was tough.  The days were hot, I wore two pairs of socks inside stout boots to keep the heat away from my feet, and the vehicle’s bodywork was burning to the touch. Picking up a rock to examine it often involved juggling it around in the air to cool it down a bit.  There were no tarmac roads, and indeed very few roads of any size at all; we often found ourselves driving across country, or up into the many deep wadis that radiated out from the mountains’ flanks.

The Land Rover was rugged, tough, very basic and an absolutely wonderful vehicle for these conditions.   There is a jerry can visible in the roof rack: we carried most of our water and spare petrol up there above our heads – which in the case of the petrol was distinctly unnerving, but luckily we never turned the vehicle over.   The water was solely for cooking and drinking, washing being a luxury that had to wait until we got back to our base at Sohar, on the Batinah coast.

The terrain was mentally as well as physically taxing, since nearly the whole landscape was in shades or brown or maroon, so much so that the rare patches of greenery, near water, were often quite shocking, even strident, to the eye.  Flying home, the endless greens of England were a definite shock too.

Before going to Arabia, we had been trained to give and receive intravenous injections of serum that would counteract snake bites and scorpion stings.  I can’t recall seeing any snakes, but scorpions were common under stones, especially near water.  During our training, the sight of the large, intravenous needle, and then having to stick it either into myself or someone else, to extract a little blood from the vein before injecting the serum, always made me pass out.  I would feel my head getting tighter, and then wake up lying on the floor, looking up at a ring of laughing faces looking down at me.

And so the scenario was all too predictable – Don would be stung or bitten, and collapsed, flat out on the desert floor.  I would rush up with the large needle, push it in – and then there would be two of us flat out on the desert floor …  We were very careful, and this scenario never unfolded – the worst sting I had was from a hornet that landed on my neck.

The Looking at Cars series: looking back through the nine years of the FATman Photos archives (and some new images too), I’m posting pictures of cars in various contexts and styles.  Earlier Looking at Cars posts are here: 1 (with context); 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 .  Each post will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – certainly recommended.

Technique: Don took this, and looking at it I would guess he used his Olympus OM-1 with a 135mm Zuiko telephoto.

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PEOPLE 391 – ME, A LONG TIME AGO …

 


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Well, OK, you want something different, you can have it … >>> this is me, I suppose around 1976 or so, when I was on geological fieldwork (aka birdwatching and photography) in Oman – and taken by an old friend, John, who was another of our team – and who kindly emailed it to me recently on my birthday.  The location is a place called Ras Sillan, which is on Oman’s Batinah coast, near Sohar.

So, after the initial shock / disbelief, what’s to see?  Well, let’s work down from the top.  Perched on my noble dome is the early incarnation of Photographic Hat, which I talked about and illustrated in a much later incarnation, in Kenya, here .  This hat, bought cheap in I think Millets and already faded by the really searing Arabian sun, drooped down nicely over the top of my glasses, and enabled me to look through my camera’s viewfinder no matter how bright the light – and hence its name.

Then quite a growth of beard: being outdoors engaged upon birdwatching and photography, I mean geological fieldwork, I probably never bothered cutting my beard at all – LOL! the beard I started growing the day I left school and still have!  I have never been able to comprehend the compulsion of many human males to remove their facial hair every day …

Then, around my neck, the pair of wonderful Zeiss Dialyt 10x40B binoculars that – breathtakingly – I paid £125 for, new, in about 1975, and which went on to accompany on all my birdwatching in Kenya, and which took a real battering when I worked as a bird/wildlife safari leader there.  I still have them, they are beside me as I type this, and they are still in full working order, albeit in urgent need of a full internal clean.

But what am I holding?  No, not some sort of rocket propelled grenade launcher >>> it is in fact a Pracktica MTL (I think!) single lens reflex film camera with a pretty dreadful 400mm telephoto lens, all mounted on a rifle stock – you wound your film on manually, fitted the rear end of the stock snugly into your shoulder, and pressed the trigger at the front end of the stock which was connected to the camera’s trigger by a cable >>> and achieved your single exposure! >>>  LOL! one exposure at a time, and certainly not the slightest hint of autofocus!  Not sure I ever took any decent photos with this contraption, although the telephoto achieved some better results later in Kenya, when mounted on a tripod.

And then, lower down again, my mum always said that I had lovely legs … but then, well, you know how mums can be …

And technique???  Well its an Agfa colour slide that has been scanned into digital, and massaged a little in Lightroom, and left uncropped at full frame.  But the really characterful thing about is all of the dust/dirt particles in the slide.  Given time, I could probably have removed all of these in Lightroom, but that would be to completely miss the point >>> here is a picture from the “old days of film” – this is the sort of thing that might gone into a slideshow – and we were working in a very sweaty, dusty and dirty environment, it was really a waste of time trying to keep clean, especially when water was in short supply during our expeditions into Oman’s only recently opened up interior – and to me this slide, just as it is, fluently brings all those long past days back to life.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window … but only if you are not of a nervous disposition …
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OMAN 6 – FARM IN THE MOUNTAINS

 

 


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This picture is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Long ago – in 1975/7 – I made several visits to the Sultanate of Oman, in the southeast of the Arabian peninsula,  to carry out geological research in the interior of that then little known country.  Other pictures from those days can be found under this blog’s Oman category, and there are other pictures here and here .

When we arrived in Oman, the new Sultan was in the process of opening it up to the modern world, but these were early days in that process and, going to many places in the interior, we came upon scenes that must have remained unchanged for many hundreds of years.  We were geologists – and also enthusiastic birders and photographers – and we were working in Oman’s northern mountains, to the northwest of the capital Muscat.

And so we drove our Land Rovers into the mountains, often in areas with no roads for motor vehicles, and then we left the vehicles and walked across the hot, rough, rocky deserts of the mountains.  And as we walked we often came upon scenes like this.  What can we see here?

This is the home of a small group of people, a family probably, and two of the women can be seen immediately above the bright patch of green at lower left.  And the contrast of that little patch of green – which is probably something grown by these people – with the rest of the picture shows one very real aspect of working in these mountains.  Everything, all around you, everywhere you looked, was either brown or maroon, with only a few pallid green thorn bushes (as can also be seen here), and brighter, lusher greens only around rivers and oases.  Spending time in these mountains, and coming from UK landscapes dominated by shades of green, these interminably brown and maroon landscapes has a definitely depressing effect – and the rare glimpses of green were all the more startling to our eyes.  Equally startling was the return trip to the UK, flying in over the green fields of Kent.

Then, to the right of the women, there are small buildings, made of low stone walls and palm fronds.  Further right, there are paddocks, also bounded by low freestone walls, and I’d guess that this family had a herd of goats, and some donkeys.

And then there are small, smooth, meandering paths used by the people, and maybe some of the stock too, to cross the rough rocky terrain.  After all these years, I can’t recall if this settlement was anywhere near a track wide enough for a 4×4 vehicle – I seem to recall walking quite a distance to arrive here.  And finally, these people must have some source of water: maybe there’s a well beside that little patch of bright green.

Technique: way back then I had a Praktica LTL SLR, and this would have been taken with a Pentacon 29mm wide angle lens; it was shot on colour slide film, either Kodak or Agfa; Lightroom.
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PEOPLE 297 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Yesterday, I introduced these People from my Past images, along with a picture from my time as a geologist in the mountains of Oman.  This is another picture from Oman.

Here is our campsite, two tents, the vehicle, and rock – rock everywhere – with the bare mountains all around.  I’m slouching in the shade of the vehicle on a camping stool, quite possibly after a long day’s work – and the photographer is my colleague Don.

It was extremely interesting exploring the interior of a country which was only just opening up to the outside world.  The interior was wild, I remember many apparently ancient sites lying open on the surface, but the going was tough.  The days were hot, I wore two pairs of socks inside stout boots to keep the heat away from my feet, and the vehicle’s bodywork was burning to the touch.  There were no tarmac roads, and indeed very few roads of any size at all; we often found ourselves driving across country, or up into the many deep wadis that radiated out from the mountains’ flanks.

The Land Rover was rugged, tough, very basic and an absolutely wonderful vehicle for these conditions.   There is a jerry can visible in the roof rack: we carried most of our water and spare petrol up there above our heads – which in the case of the petrol was distinctly unnerving, but luckily we never turned the vehicle over.   The water was solely for cooking and drinking, washing being a luxury that had to wait until we got back to our base at Sohar, on the coast.

The terrain was mentally as well as physically taxing, since nearly the whole landscape was in shades or brown or maroon, so much so that the rare patches of greenery, near water, were often quite shocking, even strident, to the eye.  Flying home, the endless greens of England were a definite shock too.

Before going to Arabia, we had been trained to give and receive intravenous injections of serum that would counteract snake bites and scorpion stings.  I can’t recall seeing any snakes, but scorpions were common under stones, especially near water.  During our training, the sight of the large, intravenous needle, and then having to stick it either into myself or someone else, to extract a little blood from the vein before injecting the serum, always made me pass out.  I would feel my head getting tighter, and then wake up lying on the floor, looking up at a ring of laughing faces looking down at me.

And so the scenario was all too predictable – Don would be stung or bitten, and collapsed, flat out on the desert floor.  I would rush up with the large needle, push it in – and then there would be two of us flat out on the desert floor …  We were very careful, and this scenario never unfolded – the worst sting I had was from a hornet.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: Don took this, and looking at it I would guess he used his OM-1 with a 135mm Zuiko telephoto.

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PEOPLE 296 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 1 (MONO)

 

 

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I’ve been posting pictures of people since I started this blog.  I’d have liked to have posted more from this genre, but opportunities for such photography have never been plentiful.  Now, as a subset of this genre, I’m going to post images of people – myself included – from my own past.  Some of these images have been posted here before, some are new.  This idea has been stimulated by the rediscovery of pictures I sent to my mother from far off places, and also by the rediscovery of some old photograph albums.  I hope you will enjoy these pictures.

And so to the first image, above.  Years ago – my passport tells me 1975/6 – I was working on geology in the mountains of the Sultanate of Oman, which is in the southeast of the Arabian peninsula.  Don (above, right) and myself would drive our (absolutely wonderful) long-wheelbase Land Rover inland from the Batinah coast and deep into the mountains, and then camp there while we worked on the rocks.  That was all that our little expeditions consisted of – him, me, the vehicle and a small tent each.  We had no radio, no means of contact with the outside world at all – but we were young, and didn’t think or worry about such things …

So there was no convivial club or bar to retire to in the evenings, and the only at all civilised and comfortable seating was in the front of the Land Rover – and so here are the two of us, with our Tilley lamp blazing away, passing a restful evening reading and writing up notes in the front seat of what we called “the van”, while outside the stony desert that had scorched us during the day became, under crystal clear skies, very much colder.  And yes, crystal clear skies every night, with no light pollution at all, and the Milky Way blazing out magnificently above.  We were both naturalists (and photographers too, as it happens) and so we both had binoculars, and we bought a little book on astronomy with binoculars: the things visible through the bins in these crystal clear heavens were impressive – and such interests gave us welcome diversion.

A story from our first journey into the mountains sticks in my mind.  Don and I were both well qualified for our task (the product of British universities, don’t ya know!!!), and so we had all the gear and everything was planned – except that, on our first expedition, we forgot to pack any matches.  So, there we were in the back of beyond, with the prospect of either existing on uncooked food, or of doing something about it.  We were carrying lots of spare petrol, some of which powered the Optimus stoves that we used for cooking.  So, on the first night, we sparked the Land Rover’s battery onto the Optimus, there was a flash as the petrol went up – and we had hot food and drink.

But it was clear that repeatedly treating the battery in this way might not be wise for various reasons, so we had to think again.  The next day, we met another vehicle and paid them quite a steep price for all the matches they were carrying.  Fine, and we thought no more of the encounter.  But several days later we met the same vehicle again – and were astounded to find that, on reaching the coast, the occupants had spent all of our money on yet more matches, and had brought them back inland in the hope of meeting us again to pass them on.

The point here is that, in deserts like this, getting into trouble, maybe even from some small mechanical failure on the vehicle, can result in getting into a very deep trouble indeed, and so everyone looks out for everyone else.  Wherever we stumbled upon (usually tiny) habitations we were always invited in for coffee and dates and, in these mountains, we never experienced any problems with theft or security.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet further.

Technique: Don had a (now) classic Olympus OM-1 camera and several lenses, and I used a Practica SLR; we shot colour slides – maybe Agfa CT18 I think.  Here one of us must have set the camera up in the back of the vehicle, and then reached over to press the delayed action.  Such simple things provided welcome diversion and relaxation.

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ARCHIVE 278 – IN THE SOUK (MONO)

 

 

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Man selling fish in the market at Sohar, on the Batinah coast of Oman; mid 1970s.

For a little more info, see the Oman 1 post, here .

Technique: Praktica LTL with 29mm Pentacon lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; converted into mono, and toned, in Silver Efex Pro 2.

UPDATE: here are real memories – both photographic and general –  from long ago.  My first visit to Oman, as a geologist, was in 1975, and I was there the following year too.  The interior of the country was a wild and largely undeveloped place then, and I have wonderful if distant memories of driving Land Rovers into the mountains, a baptism by fire at off-road driving that was to serve me well in Kenya a few years later.  In those days, Sohar was a little, undeveloped town on Oman’s Batinah coast; but I hear that Sohar is now greatly modernised and enlarged, even with its own university.  But in those days the Indian Ocean’s great bounty of fish was hauled daily up onto Sohar’s beach (see the Oman 1 post linked to above – recommended) and, in the absence of extensive refrigeration, either sold right there, or here in the town’s little market (souk).

The Praktica LTL was my first single lens reflex (SLR) camera, and the Pentacon my first wide angle lens.  And I was already using the Agfa CT18 colour transparency film, so good at registering landscapes’ browns, that was also to be my film of choice in Kenya.  And looking at this ” people shot”, I think once again that I should have done more in this genre in those far off days.

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ARCHIVE 80 – SHARKS ON THE BATINAH COAST (MONO)

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Two sharks, one a Hammerhead, being sold on the beach at Sohar, on the Batinah coast of Oman; mid 1970s.

I spent some time in the Sultanate of Oman, in the southeast of the Arabian peninsula, during the mid 1970s.  I still have a few colour slides from there, mainly Agfa CT18, but they are starting to feel the ravages of time – and especially so from having been stored in equatorial Africa – in Kenya – for a good few years.  Oman is now a wealthy, modern country, but back in the 1970s it was far less developed.

The Batinah coast is that part of Oman that faces out into the Gulf of Oman, a part of the Indian Ocean.  Sohar was a small town and, with scant refrigeration facilities, much fish was simply landed on the beach and eaten almost immediately.  Here the fishermen have caught two sharks and they are laid out on the sand for sale.  The image is presented upside down and with peripheral detail darkened, to concentrate interest on the two fish.

And, in terms of cameras, here is mention of my first SLR, an East German Praktica.  I bought it as a replacement for my Ilford Sportsman not long after getting my first real job, and what a thrill it was to at last be able to see (more or less) exactly what the camera was seeing >>> and to have through the lens (TTL) exposure metering too! 

OK, the metering was not open aperture – when you metered at F22 you looked through F22 gloom at the scene, but it was still a huge improvement on a cheap, handheld exposure meter.  And the screw (as opposed to bayonet) lens mount was not ideal for dusty desert conditions – but it did enable me to use Pentax lenses – I had a 135mm Super Takumar.  It was, as I say, a significant step up from my 35mm viewfinder camera.  But, not long before I finished my stays in Oman, the Praktica was replaced by absolutely incredible and ground-breaking cameras – the Olympus OM-1 and OM-2 >>> but that’s another story – for which, should you be interested (and not have better things to do on this beautiful sunny day …), you can click on “My Photography”, in this blog’s menu bar.

Praktica LTL with 29mm Pentacon; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; converted into mono, and toned, in Silver Efex Pro 2; rotated 180 degrees.

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OMAN 5 – MAN IN DESERT (MONO)

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Man on desert flats, Sultanate of Oman; mid-1970s.

In my early twenties I’d been here and there in Europe, but geological fieldwork in Oman in the mid-70s exposed me to a whole new ballpark of harshness where environments were concerned.  Dawn, before the sun rose, was quite cool and pleasant but, as soon as our star hauled itself up above the horizon, all sense of coolness was gone and we were at the start of another blazing day. 

I remember the chap pictured here going outside on his first morning, seeing the cloudless blue sky and exclaiming “Oh, what a nice day!” – and not having the heart to tell him that every day was going to be just like this and that, as each day grew ferociously hot, “nice” was not going to be quite the word to use!

However, here he is, a man in the middle of, well, not much.  The bleakness of such places was stark but, working as we were in and around Oman’s mountains, there was in fact quite a variety of scenery. 

But I found it was the lack of colour that got to me.  Everywhere was drawn in shades or brown and magenta, and after awhile the virtual absence of any greenery became depressing – such that when we did stumble upon any patches of vegetation, the greens appeared unnaturally bright and vibrant and, flying over moister countries on our journeys home, the lush carpets of green below came as quite a shock.

Praktica LTL with 29mm Pentacon; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.
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OMAN 4 – GEOLOGY IN THE OMAN MOUNTAINS (MONO)

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Geological research in the mountains of Oman; mid-1970s.

To say that this area is rugged is vast understatement.  But, as the song goes, “we were much younger then”, and we had excellent Land Rovers to transport us into remote places – this very rigorous off road driving stood me in good stead when, a few years later, I was in Kenya.

But I look at this picture now and wonder what on earth would have happened if we’d had an accident or some other disaster – how we would have notified the outside world, or been extricated from these wilds, doesn’t bear thinking about.

As part of our preparation for this work, we all had to learn to administer, to others and to ourselves, intravenous injections of serum in case of snake bites or scorpion stings – I can’t remember encountering any snakes, but scorpions were commonplace under stones and pebbles.  The great weak link in all of this medical preparation was me, for as soon as I saw the hypodemic needle probing about trying to find a vein, my head started to feel like it was bursting – and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, looking up at a ring of people laughing down at me!

We never had any of these bites or stings – although I remember a hornet sting on my neck – but the scenario would have been all too predictable >>> whether one of my colleagues was stung, or I was alone and stung >>> out would come the needle and one british geologist would have been flat out on the ground – very likely killing whatever had stung him by collapsing on it!

Practica LTL with 50mm Tessar; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; converted into mono, and toned, in Silver Efex Pro 2.

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OMAN 3 – DIADEM IN A MUSCAT GARDEN

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Diadem Butterfly in a garden in Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman; sometime in the mid-1970s.

This is not totally in focus – well I was younger then (as the song goes) and I was just getting to grips with wonderful Olympus OM photography.  But this does give an idea of the wonderful brilliance and colours of watered gardens in this part of the world.

OM-2 with 75mm-150mm Zuiko at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.

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