Summer in Lebanon: A Trip Through the Lebanese Mountains

After much talk, a few friends and I decided to go on a North Lebanon road trip yesterday that took us through Batroun to Tannourine from which we crossed over to Becharre, descended to the Bekaa and then returned to Ehden.

Massive amounts of driving aside, I took a few pictures that I figured I’d share with you. All of these pictures were taken with a Nikon D5100 and weren’t modified in any way. I’m also not a professional photographer so these aren’t supposed to be perfect – they’re there to show the beauty of the Northern Lebanese mountains.

Some of the cedars at Tannourine

The cedars of Becharre

Residual snow

Lebanon’s highest peak – Kornet el Sawda

The Bekaa valley

Saydet el Hosn – Ehden

And the following picture I took with my iPhone and modified using Camera+:

This is what you see when you’re literally above cloud nine

 

Pictures from Old Beirut

Have you ever wondered how the Lebanese capital looked before it got turned into the concrete maze it is today? Well, I blogged a while back about Lebanon in its golden age. Since then, I’ve found many pictures of Beirut that precedes the rabid urbanism of today.

Beirut – 1900

Bourj Hammoud, circa 1930

Raouche, around 1925

Martyr’s Square, 1930

AUB, 1930

Martyr’s Square (Previously Bourj Square) – circa 1898

Ain el Mraysseh, 1930

Koraytem, around 1945

Gemmayze – 1900

Nahr el Mot, 1965

Place de l’Etoile – 1950

Ramlet el Bayda – 1974

Ain el Mraysseh – 1972

Another Massacre in Syria: Qubair, Hama

It seems that Houla’s effect wasn’t “grand” enough for whatever force killing people in Syria to stop doing so. We all know who that force is but for the sake of keeping this about the people, I won’t throw names.

In the town of Qubair, near Hama in Northern Syria, 78 people have been killed including 35 from the same family. Half of those killed so far are women and children. The death toll is still rising. Did I mention the town counts only a 100 or so resident? They literally killed everyone there.

In the nearby town of Kfarzeita, 6 bodies were found burned till they became charcoal. There’s even a video for that.

In total, the death toll is at 130, more than Houla, and rising.

Hama has been one of the areas affected the most by the recent Syrian uprising, with it seeing some of the highest death tolls and destruction. Hama has also been the city affected the most by the current Syrian regime with another massacre taking place in it some 30 years ago.

In an interview with someone in the town of Qubair, this is what the man had to say:

Some of the highlights of what he says: “More than 18 families were murdered. Some of the bodies were burned. The massacre started at 2 pm and was executed by the army of Assad’s regime. Families were killed with knives and gunshots. Families were abolished in their entirety, from the 80 year old elder to a 4 months old newborn.”

Here are some pictures from the recent Qubair Massacre:

A mother holding her two children

The two children

Ahmad and his sister Chayma

3 brothers

2 other brothers in the same family

Their mother

Their grandmother

I will update this with more pictures when I get them.

A Collection of Timeless Pictures

Following my post about some of the best pictures ever taken, a reader started sending me her collection of pictures that she’s amassed over the years.

Some of them were part of the previous post in question while others were totally new. All of them are still striking, amazing and haunting.

So without further ado, I commence.

1957 – The first day of Dorothy Counts at the Harry Harding High School in the United States. Counts was one of the first black students admitted in the school, and she was no longer able to stand the harassments after only 4 days.

1963 – Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist priest in Southern Vietnam, burns himself to death protesting the government’s torture policy against priests. Thich Quang Duc never made a sound or moved while he was burning.

1965 – A mom and her children try to cross the river in South Vietnam in an attempt to run away from the American bombs.

1966 – U.S. troops in South Vietnam are dragging a dead Vietcong soldier.

1975 – A woman and a girl falling down after the fire escape collapses.

February 1, 1968 – South Vietnam police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan shoots a young man, whom he suspects to be a Viet Cong soldier.

1980 – A kid in Uganda about to die of hunger, and a missionary.

1987 – A mother in South Korea apologizes and asks for forgiveness for her son who was arrested after attending a protest against the alleged manipulations in the general elections.

1992 – A mother in Somalia holds the body of her child who died of hunger.

1994 – A Rwandan man who was tortured by the soldiers after being suspected to have spoken with the Tutsi rebels.

1996 –  Kids who have been affected by the civil war in Angola.

2001 – An Afghani refugee kid’s body is being prepared for the funeral in Pakistan.

2003 – An Iraqi prisoner of war tries to calm down his child.

Congo: A father stares at the hands of his five year-old daughter, which were severed as a punishment for having harvested too little caoutchouc/rubber.

1902 – location in the United States not specified.

July 7, 1865 – Washington, Lincoln assassination conspirators Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, David Herold and George Atzerodt shortly after their execution at Fort McNair.

July 1913 – Gettysburg reunion, Veterans of the G.A.R. and of the Confederacy, at the Encampment.

March 1941 – Planting corn on a plantation near Moncks Corner, South Carolina.

May 18, 1914, Washington, D.C. – Washington Post records the passing of one John A. Eaglen, 3 years.

Some of the Most Powerful Pictures Ever Taken

The power of a picture can be changing. It can change perceptions. It can alter ideas. It can even ignite movements. Some pictures will even bring you to tears.

I recently stumbled on a post online that had a selection of 40 pictures deemed as some of the post powerful photographs ever taken. By the end of the scrolling through those 40 images and reading the captions, I was amazed.

This is a picture of three sisters, posing for the same picture, years apart.

This is Harold Whittles, hearing for the first time ever in his life.

This is a photograph by Marc Riboud, showing young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir planting a flower on the bayonets of one of the Pentagon guards during an anti-Vietnam war protest.

These three pictures are but a fraction of a series of equally haunting images that you can check out at this link.

Spring in Lebanon: Saydet el Nourieh Convent, Hamat

When it comes to my favorite places in Lebanon, the Saydet el Nourieh (Our Lady of the Light) Orthodox Convent in the Batrouni village of Hamat, which many people incorrectly believe is in Chekka, ranks high.

It’s possibly one of the most peaceful and picturesque places you can find. But I may be biased. Batroun pride, I guess. I think it’s very difficult not to be taken by the beauty of the mountain descending almost perpendicularly into the sea, giving you a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean and for religious people a very serene place to pray.

The story of the convent goes as follows: around the year 503 AD, two sailors found themselves in peril at sea. So they prayed to the Virgin Mary for salvation. She appeared to them as light and guided them safely to shore. To honor Her, they carved a cave where they saw the light emanating from. An Orthodox monastery was built in the 17th century.

And what better way to bid farewell to the Marian month than with a tribute to one of the most famous Marian shrines in Lebanon?

The convent

The view from the top of the mountain

Going towards the cave

The cave that was carved

All of these pictures were taken with an iPhone 4S and edited with the app Camera+.

The Facebook Camera App: My Impressions

Seeing as I have a US iTunes account, which I dearly cherish, I got to download the Facebook Camera app, currently exclusive for iPhone, before its availability on other stores. So I tested it for a whole day on my iPhone 4S and these are my initial impressions.

It’s pretty fast. Once you launch the app, it takes you immediately to a news feed version for Facebook’s photos. You can see pictures that your friends uploaded and comment on them. This is where the pictures you take will go as well. You can swipe among the pictures your friends were tagged in. Loading the pictures is much faster than the regular Facebook app, which I think is horrible at handling pictures.

Facebook Camera is streamlined enough to post pictures on your Facebook timeline without much effort. Once you take the picture, you’ll get many filters to choose from before sharing your work. Those filters are a total of 14 (apart from normal). You access them by tapping on a brush button similar to that in Apple’s iPhoto app. They are similar to the filters you get in instagram but are named differently, obviously. You can upload pictures in batches, faster than with the regular Facebook app, and in higher resolution.

Once you’ve chosen the filter of choice, you click on the button to post. Now you’re back to familiar territory, similar to the Facebook app for iOS. However, you can actually save a post draft here in case you decided you wanted to save sharing the picture for later. That’s something I hope they add for the regular Facebook app.

Once you share the picture and it uploads, it’ll appear on your timeline as posted from “Facebook Camera.”

Overall, I think it’s an interesting app. I really like the icon, actually. But it’s not quite a home-run. Will it overtake instagram? I doubt that’s Facebook’s intention but they’re not betting right if they think it will. While it has its advantages, such as saving the original picture in your camera roll immediately after taking it, it has its drawbacks as well. For instance, it doesn’t save the modified picture in your camera roll, unlike Instagram.

Instagram has become so ingrained with users that uprooting it will take much more than an app which shares exclusively on Facebook and using it means flooding un-wanting users with pictures of things you find interesting but they have no interest in.

At the end of the day, where Facebook Camera falls short is in it not being a photo-exclusive platform. It comes with the baggage that is “Facebook.” Bonafide photography applications, such as Instagram and Camera+, cater to those who have a hobby for photography. They created an environment where those users can stretch their wings with exotic shots that they wouldn’t necessarily want to share with their Facebook friends.

Facebook Camera caters to the Facebook crowds whose pictures are less interesting than the Instagram crowd. But they are much, much more numerous. For once, however, Facebook has created a mobile app that is actually good. Hopefully that’s a sign of what’s to come for the regular Facebook app.

Brace yourselves, everyone, the Facebook Camera posters are coming.