Ubar ?

Ubar ?
Ubar again.I have another post somewhere about this place they claim is The lost City of Ubar: known by various other names (Wubar, Wabar, Iram of the Pillars and Atlantis of the Sands mentioned by Lawrence of Arabia) but the more I visit, the more I think it lives by reputation & reality is something quite different.

It certainly held some significance for the Frankincense trade route but; looking at the site with mark one eyeball, it is small compared to Khor Rorī or Al Balid on the coast: a lot of wishful thinking going on me thinks.
Freya Stark sums it up.

When the explorer Freya Stark consulted the works of Arab geographers, she found a wide range of opinions as to the location of Wabar: “Yaqut says: “In Yemen is the qaria of Wabar.” El-Laith, quoted by Yaqut, puts it between the sands of Yabrin and Yemen. Ibn Ishaq… places it between “Sabub (unknown to Yaqut and Hamdani) and the Hadhramaut. Hamdani, a very reliable man, places it between Najran, Hadhramaut, Shihr and Mahra. Yaqut, presumably citing Hamdani, puts it between the boundaries of Shihr and San’a, and then, on the authority of Abu Mundhir between the sands of B.Sa’d (near Yabrin) and Shihr and Mahra. Abu Mundhir puts it between Hadhramaut and Najran.”

I paraphrase:   With such evidence, it seems quite possible  to find Wabar in opposite corners of Arabia.

Bronze Age Trilith – Dhofar.

Trilith - Dhofar.Bronze Age Trilith – Dhofar.

This unusual row of stones is one of Oman’s more enigmatic archaeological finds: found in eastern Yemen & South West Oman,  C.400 B.C.E – 300 C.E.
The stones are usually found in groups of 3 to 15 (although longer rows have been seen) about 2 or 3 foot high and standing on end, forming a tripod structure with sometimes a capstone. Placed along side & parallel with Wadis or tracks; mostly stood on bedrock.
They are not burial places because they seem to be always placed on a hard rocky surface and that is about all anyone can be certain of. The construction period has been reasonably well confirmed by Carbon-14 dating, from ash remains of wood fires that seem to have been used within the structures.

The fence has been placed for their protection; a lot of sites can get damaged through ignorance or just basic theft of the stone as building material.

P.S I can thank Freyja my daughter who noticed these while we were driving some way off on the main road.

My Nikon 35Ti camera.

Nikon 35Ti Quartz Date compact camera, introduced in 1993. giving the ultimate in analogue technology (almost) more of this later

The titanium metal casing covers the motors and camera’s microelectronics, the top incorporates a unique, analogue display system. It shows all the important camera settings and the scales give a quick and easy guide during use. The Command Input Control dial, full 3D matrix metering and a superb f2.8 35mm lens, all add to the control over picture making that this camera gives. There is one caveat to this statement: the Iso is only set by the film canister coding (not changeable by the user, unless modification of the films DX coding) why this was done I have no idea.

There was another problem on early models of the 35mm but not the later 28mm cameras: the flash was difficult to control as it only had two buttons ‘on or fill’ switching off permanently meant a menu function needed to be selected (a forerunner of the nightmare found on some digital cameras) mine has the newer three button selection method not often seen when looking for one of these cameras in the used market.

A couple of other things it can do (not used by me) it will imprint data on the film !! not in the space between frames as seen with most professional SLR data backs. It can modify the framing for a form of panoramic image (crops top & bottom of the 35mm frame) a novelty and not worth using.

It also looks nice – like a well crafted piece of 50’s engineering, the Weston Euromaster meter from the 70’s is another; if you have not seen or used one then Google it.

Ruins – Birkat Al Mouz.

Enough of the sarcasm about the new WordPress reader: back to what passes as normal on this blog.


Ruins hidden behind some of the modern houses in the main thoroughfare of Birkat Al Mouz.

Ruins that most people miss when they visit this town: there was not two as I have seen mentioned, but three occupied areas until modernity arrived.
In his book “Across the Green Mountains of Oman” Colonel S B Miles says that in 1876 the population was about 3000 & the settlement is divided into three distinct hujrahs (sic) sections, Belonging to Sezzid Hamad and the other two to the El Amair & Beni Riyam tribes respectively.


The Jebel this morning.

the-jebelA quick stop on my way to Birkat Al-Mawz (Birkat Al Mouz) this morning.
I’m afraid there are going to be more posts about ruined villages in the next few days: I spent this morning going around the three abandoned areas of Birkat Al Mouz.


These abandoned villages were important stopping places on the camel route between Muscat and Al Buraimi. A camel In caravan can make about 20 miles a day and Al Buraimi was at least 350 miles by dirt track from Muscat; a long trip of many days, needing plenty of rest stops en-route.
The village (now town) of Al Buraimi was an important juncture between Oman proper & the Persian Gulf  ‘Arabian Gulf for some – depending on which map you look at and its age.

Concierto by the Jim Hall sextet.

A great jazz version of the well-known  Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo: taken from the album Concierto by the Jim Hall sextet.
With a glass of Chateau Musar:  A red wine from grapes grow in the Beqaa Valley Lebanon.
Please click the link for the wine & get an interesting insight into a family run vineyard that has gone through great travails keeping this wine in production.

Testing a Nikon Df at night – Muttrah.

I have been testing a Nikon Df with its D4 sensor: these images were taken with the Nikkor 50mm f1.8AF G lens set @ f5.6.
All hand held at Iso 3200 apart from the water feature which was 10000 Iso (that is the correct number of zeros !) other than a little noise reduction & a small amount of sharpening, nothing else was done.
Raw NEF images converted to Tiff Adobe RGB then Jpeg s.RGB but no colour correction; the white balance was set on Auto 1.
All taken last night and never again, far more people than I like when out with my camera.

I don’t think I could do this using a film camera without many trials & tribulations.

Retouching prints.

retouching-imagesRetouching prints.

As you can see, I have a bad habit of taking over the dinning room table when retouching photographs: side light from the windows is good (my excuse anyway) which is a must.

As most of my work is on matte fibre papers (even my inkjet prints are matte papers mostly) I can use a number of different spotting mediums.
Spotone dyes are (were) the best IMHO but Marshalls are now the only archival liquid dye I know of. Two other methods can be used with good results: a range of artist quality pencils & the Edward Weston use of ink & gum arabic.  For this I use Japanese ink stick and varying amounts of the gum arabic; depending on how glossy the paper surface is.

Ink jet prints will sometimes get the odd white or pale spot that went unnoticed on the screen (especially in high-key images) they can be retouched using the same methods used for fibre prints. Yes I know I could just reprint, but sometimes I won’t notice the fault for several days.
It could also be that I have developed a parsimonious reason; the cost of Ilford fibre paper is not cheap now, neither is good inkjet paper. If the retouching is done well enough, it will never be noticed when the print is behind glass.

Two things from the above: a tip from my wife (an artist who uses both watercolour & oils) is, look at the image upside down in a mirror. The other being, leave a print where you can see it on a daily basis: both remove the image from the minds eye, one then looks at it with a fresh mind-set.

New lens – Nikkor 25-50mm f4 zoom.

Nikkor 25-50mm f4.Nikkor Ai 25-50mm f4.

A new addition to my manual focus Nikkor collection: The Nikkor Ai 25-50 f4 zoom lens.

Click lens image below for Nikon site.

As of May 2017: Nikon seems to have taken down their Nikkor 1001 Nights Tales – this is very sad because it had so much interesting information about the design and production of many lenses. I hope this is just for the duration of their 100th anniversary; it would be very short-sighted of them if it is gone for good.
Update 20 Aug 2017: it looks like all the tales ending with No.60 are back.

One of Nikon’s early professional zoom lenses, which should complement my ‘F’ camera quite nicely. This lens was manufactured in 1981 and by the end of that year was changed by Nikon to an Ai-s version. For some reason the second-hand price for the Ai-s version is more expensive than the Ai, there is no real reason for buying the later version unless one owns a Nikon FA camera, even then it is questionable as the internal construction of both lenses is exactly the same. All Ai / Ai-s lenses fit on every Nikon SLR camera, be they manual or AF with one caveat; some of the cheaper AF cameras will not meter with manual focus lenses (check your instruction manual). The only warning I would add here is ‘non Ai lenses’ made for the Nikon ‘F’ will damage most other cameras, with the exception of the F3, F4 & the Df !

See this link for camera compatibility: https://www.nikonians.org/reviews/nikon-slr-camera-and-lens-compatibility

This lens has some very nice qualities;  although long discontinued, it is without colour aberrations and images are sharp from corner-to-corner, light fall-off being very low even wide open. It will attain peak sharpness at f/5.6 and holds well even when stopped down to f/16 which delivers very good results.
Looking forward to cooler weather  😎 so that I can get out & about with it fitted on both film and digital cameras.


A bit of unabashed advertising: I must take this opportunity and introduce my wife’s E.Book.
If you have children who like reading or being read to and enjoy animal adventures, then I am sure they would enjoy this book.  If interested then click on the book cover for an Amazon link.

Three young animals meet after a very bad storm, in an ancient oak tree. A Siamese, a crow and squirrel. They become friends, until one of them with a sibling is taken to a new home by people who have never had cats before. The crow hearing the confused cries of his friends follows the car, thinking to rescue the Siamese kittens. At the journey’s end there is a stray tomcat lurking in a nearby hedge and nearly captures the crow. The stray is adopted by the humans and named Scarecrow.
Prior to this an older squirrel Twigleaf, fell into the river and got swept away, not far from the oak, which is his home.
There is open warfare between the Siamese kittens – Aqua and Tangsun her brother and the ginger tom, who misses his real family, recently returned from abroad. He had gone out within a few days and got lost in the storm, unable to smell his way back. The kittens new owners, cannot cope with the animosity, secretly preferring the tom, punish the Siamese. They become ill with parasites Scarecrow had picked up while he was a stray. Eventually Scarecrow and the kittens call a truce, the tom finds his old family and the Siamese escape, having all sorts of adventures manage to return to their mothers place just before a spring snow storm.

My Canon Pro9000 printer – update.

I am a very happy bunny…………………………   🙂

Just back from UK with a new print head and my printer is back up & running. It would seem that Canon were aware of problems with the original Pro9000 mk1 head; Pt No:- QY6-0055-000 and replaced it with a QY6-0076-000 which fits both the 9000 Mk1 & Mk2.
Amazon had Canon 0076 heads at about 98 pounds sterling, a lot less than was being asked for the original 0055 heads !!! so on advise I took the chance of buying one and lo & behold the printer is back fully serviceable.



Dead printer.

I have been using a Canon Pixma Pro9000 mk1 printer for a few years now: it has died…. Dead, given up the ghost – not a happy bunny !!!!

This printer has given sterling service & contrary to popular opinion, could produce some very nice B&W prints; provided a careful choice of paper was made and it was correctly profiled.

It would seem from the fault code indications that the print head has quit: every time I try doing a cleaning function it flashes ‘printer says no’. Gone through all the suggestions found on the trusty internet, no luck.
This printer looks like new and has always been kept covered when not in use; never had any problems, until now. I should have known, as the Canon agent tempted fate when I was buying new ink “gosh that’s an old printer, why not buy a new one” hummm.
What is it with electronic items these days, it’s a constant battle against new operating systems, drivers, spares & a barrage of being told new is better. Try telling that to my Nikon F or F2SB, new is not always better – just different & usually far more complicated when faced with scrolling through menus just because a function needs changing.
Things just never last: Don’t get me started on saving the planet  “ You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”

Gosh I am having a rant: probably because I have seen the price of a new print head; that is if a supplier has stock ! Two thirds of what the whole printer cost me. Ho well, there is always the Darkroom  🙂

I am on my way back home in a few days so will search and see what Canon UK says.

Nikkor 43-86 AIs zoom.

43-86 AIs Nikkor Sno-1037665Soft at the edges even at f8.

43-86 AIs Nikkor 43mm @ f5.643-86 AIs Nikkor – 43mm @ f5.6.

Hummm…. Distortion is as bad as people say ! but for general use it’s probably ok – just no architectural images: I don’t want to hear  it can be corrected in Lightroom !!! this is a film camera lens. Distortion like this is almost impossible to correct in the darkroom.

This is one of the last made, with a Sno: 1037665 which is an improved version. I wonder why Nikon thought it was ok, although the construction is of a very high standard which is missed with most of the AF lenses foisted on us these days.

Further reading about this lens.

In the Nikon article below, the operative word is “skilfully”

Nikon in their Nikkor – The Thousand and One Nights series (very interesting for those who use Nikon) do acknowledge its limitations :  http://www.nikkor.com/story/0004/

“While there is no denying that its performance does not match that of its contemporary fixed focal length lenses or the latest zoom lenses, the 43-86mm instigated the development of the whole standard zoom lens genre, and deserves our esteem as the lens which more than any other popularised the use of zoom lenses by allowing the man on the street to experience the convenience and joys of zoom photography. It is still an eminently usable lens which if used skilfully can provide a unique and evocative quality unattainable with today’s lenses.
This lens, with its trademark array of coloured, engraved lines indicating depth of field over the zoom range decorating the lens barrel, is definitely one of the great lens to bear the Nikkor name”.

Tombs at Manal.

Archæological site: opposite the Village of Manal.

There was some interest in this site around 2003 if I remember correctly; when a dig was carried out and most of the tombs were enclosed by a chain-link fence, but behind this on a tributary of the main wadi are more tombs.

I am not sure of the age: but what information I could find, listed it as an Iron-age site, although some of the tombs could be reused from an earlier date.

Converting an AF Nikkor lens for Nikon F/F2 metering.

AF Nikkor lens convertedHow to get an AF Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens to engage with the metering system of a 1973 Nikon Ftn camera?
Easy ! If you can find the ‘Rabbits Ears’ as a spare part; a little difficult these days but not impossible, find a friendly camera repair shop.

Look at the F stop ring of most Nikon AF lenses (Pre ‘G’ type) there are two little dots at the f5.6 indication. These are where you will carefully drill two small holes, slightly smaller in diameter than the screws that should have come with the Rabbits Ears. They must be deep enough for the screws to be flush with the top of the ears pedestal, but no more…….. care is needed here ! I used some tape on the drill as an indication of the depth required and held the drill bit in my hand, not in any form of drilling machine.
Fit the Ears by placing a very small amount of contact adhesive on the base of the pedestal, then position with the step facing towards the front of the lens. The adhesive is only really needed so that fitting each screw is a little less fiddly; avoid over tightening these screws as they will have cut their own thread (if you got the diameter right) if not – don’t panic as a small amount of adhesive on the thread of each screw will take up the slack; but leave to dry for at least 24 hours before using the lens.

Voilà – an AF lens metering with an F & F2 camera system.


Nikon F – test film.

Nikon F - test filmFujifilm Neopan 400 @ box speed in Microdol-X 1+3. 22c for 15.5 mins with Kodak style agitation.
No filter, just a slight increase in contrast as compensation for image scan.

Ho & it was taken yesterday morning at Qurum Natural Park near Muscat – more of these later, as it is a lovely place for an
early morning walk & not a long drive from my house.

As an after thought for anyone interested: this was exposed using the camera meter, so I think my TLC has worked quite well.

My new friend – Nikon F with Ftn finder.

Nikon F with FTn finder.Ignoring the fact that I have more cameras than any sensible person should have – I have acquired a  1973 Nikon F (S/no says manufactured between JUL 1973 to SEP 1973) with an FTn finder.
Wanted one of these cameras for years, but would not (could not) justify the prices being asked – but this was a sensible price and more importantly, in good condition & with a working meter system: not bad for a camera nearly 43 years old !  Thanks Freyja  🙂

The only thing I found was that the meter seemed to be about one & a half  stops out, but consistently over many different ‘f’ & ASA settings: which meant the ring resistor was probably just dirty. Or it had been modified to take the modern equivalent of a 1.35volt mercury battery (several methods available – all unknown on a newly acquired camera) suspicion aroused because it contained two mercury batteries that still indicated 1.3volts; how old were these I ask myself….. especially as they have been unobtainable for years.

As rumour has it that I am an electronics engineer, one of these heads should not be outside my capabilities for cleaning and minor adjustment; given the right documentation (find out were the access screws are hidden !!! ) under the top leatherette as it happens.

It turned out that at some point in time the battery-box  -lead wire had corroded and this being replaced along with some judicious application of Isopropyl alcohol  gave the whole thing a new lease of life, it now only reads about half a stop out compared to my Nikon D800.

All in all a happy bunny……….

The Pirate Coast.

Beach watch tower - KhasabBeach watch tower near Bukhā on the Khasab coastal road.

Yashica 124G on Ilford HP5plus.

This whole section of coastline was (even a little today !) known for its piracy. Mentioned on official maps of the area as The Pirate Coast, recognised as such, all the way back to around 694 BC, when Assyrian pirates attacked traders travelling to and from India via the Persian Gulf.
One of the earliest mentions of piracy by the British came from a letter written by William Bowyear: East India Company Resident at Bushire, and his assistant, James Morley, to Henry Moore, East India Company Agent at Bussora, dated 13 July 1767

It describes a rather brutal Persian pirate named Mīr Muhannā:

“In his day, he was a major source of concern for all those who traded along the Persian Gulf and his exploits were an early factor, beyond purely commercial concerns, that led the East India Company to first become entangled in the politics of the region”

Samuel Marinus Zwemer, while traveling in the area has several interesting references about the safety of travellers: a snippet –

Oman and Eastern Arabia S. M. Zwemer: Journal entry 1907.

It may be of interest to note our mode of travel in this primitive country, where there are no beasts of prey but where every one goes armed for fear of his neighbour. I quote from my diary:
……..Our guides proceeded mounted, but with their rifles loaded and cocked; then followed the baggage-camel, to which mine was towed in Arab fashion by hitching the bridle of the one to the tail of the other; in like manner, my companion rode his beast fastened to the milch-camel, followed by its two colts.

Around 1805, the Wahhabis implemented a system of organized raids on foreign shipping. The vicegerent of the Pirate Coast, Husain bin Ali, compelled the Al Qasimi chiefs to send their vessels to plunder any trading ships of the Persian Gulf without exception. Rather lucrative because he kept at least 1/5th of the plunder for himself.

At the end of the 1809 monsoon season, British authorities in India decided to make an example of the Al Qasimi once and for all. An expedition was sent to destroy the largest of their bases and as many ships as could be found; an added bonus was to counteract French encouragement of these pirates from their embassies in Persia and Oman. By the morning of 14 November, the military expedition was over and the  forces returned to their ships, suffering light casualties of five killed and 34 wounded. Arab losses were unknown, but probably significant and the damage done to the Al Qasimi fleets was severe: as a  number of their vessels had been destroyed at Ras al-Khaimah.

The Pirate Coast was later called the Trucial Coast after the Treaty of Maritime Peace in Perpetuity was signed in 1853, giving the Royal Navy responsibility for the protection of shipping. It also set the seeds for what would later become the United Arab Emirates.

Old chemicals & film – not always a good mix !

From Jebel Shams.Made at about 9600ft early one morning on my Yashica 124G: using old Kodak Ektachrome sw 100 6×6 film.

Found in the back of my freezer…. age, no idea because the outer box was missing – but old ! which is why it got overlooked (well that’s my excuse anyway) I will not mention the box of old developer used.

There is some unevenness seen in the sky (like bromide drag) probably more chemical related than film. But hay-ho, it is always fun not being really sure what will come out of the tank. At least it wasn’t a completely clear strip of emulsion with a glutinous mess in the bottom of the tank; old story, as I was trying development of B&w transparencies and got the acid quantity wrong    ❗

Muscat Harbour – ship names.

Visiting Muscat harbour anchorage at the entrance to a bay overlooked by the Sultan of Oman’s Muscat palace; there has been a tradition for ships crew to paint the name of their vessel on the rocks surrounding this bay.
A lot of the names are very faded and can only be read up close from a boat, but one or two are still very distinct; HMS Perseus being one of them.

Now a problem arises:
Received wisdom says the ships name refers to:

HMS Perseus a British Parthian-class submarine built in 1929 and lost in 1941.

But there was another HMS Perseus who spent time visiting Muscat.

HMS Perseus was a 3rd Class, Protected Cruiser.
Built by Earle of Hull, laid down May-1896, launched 15-Jul-1897, and completed 1901.
On completion she went to the East Indies Station, where she spent her entire active service 1901-13.
Returned to the UK and paid off.

The diary of A. Barker whilst in service aboard the Protected Cruiser, HMS Perseus in 1901/03 at the East Indies Station. Starting from 13th September 1901, he makes several entries pertaining to Muscat.

See example of entries below.
13th After smooth passage we arrived at Muscat at 9 am. We saluted the Sultan with 21 guns which was returned.
14th We coaled ship 200 tons.
Time had been rather dull during our time up the Gulf as we had had no leave since we left Karachi so we arranged a seigning (sic) [seining or net fishing is what I think he means]  party, which came off very well.
18th We received the Sultan & the British Consul on board. A salute of 21 guns for the Sultan 11 for the Consul was fired.
20th We had Divine Service which was conducted by the American Minister from ashore
21st We got the starboard bower anchor out, and then we started painting ship.
23rd We had another seigning (sic) party, which was attended by the British & American & French Consul & Mrs Cox. There being no communication from Muscat by telegraph we left Muscat on the 25th for Jask & arrived there the 26th. We left again on the 27th for Muscat.
28th We carried out our firing and arrived at Muscat. We moored ship placing spare bower on the billboard.
29th We unmoored ship and replaced spare bower anchor.
30th We left Muscat at 7.30 am with British Consul & Sultan of Muscat & 150 soldiers onboard, bound for Sur & Khora Jehoram

And another:

HMS Perseus – Light Cruiser 2,135 tons served in The Persian Gulf between 1909 and 1914:
Towards the end of the 19th Century the trafficking of arms in the Persian Gulf area had escalated to dangerous proportions. The British Government pressurised the Governments of Persia and Muscat to take action to bring this business under control. By 1897 Persia had managed to reduce the involvement of their nationals but Muscat was still a serious problem.
So this ship also visited the harbour on several occasions.

But the most interesting is this reference to a HMS Perseus crew painting their ships name in 1857, Made by members of HMS Gambia who visited in August 1958 and did the same thing.

While a few of us had thus been seeing what there was to see, or doing battle on the hockey pitch, a party of stout-hearted individuals had landed on the rocks a few hundred yards from the town where, having scaled a hundred-odd feet of mountainside, they set-to repainting the magic letters GAMBIA on the rock-face, together with the Admiral’s Flag close-by. This was not just a bright idea by one of the boys, but part of a publicity campaign which has been going on ever since H.M.S. PERSEUS painted her name on the brown rock in 1857. As a result, the cliffs either side of Muscat form what is surely the world’s biggest autograph album, for by now they are covered with the names of ships and not only R.N. ones who have visited the place.

The problem is that if the following list is correct, it would indicate that no ship called HMS Perseus existed for that time frame (1857) – so who knows.

Six ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Perseus.

HMS Perseus was a 20-gun sixth rate launched in 1776; she was the first vessel of the Royal Navy to be sheathed in copper. She was converted to a bomb vessel in 1799 and was broken up in 1805.
HMS Perseus was a 22-gun sixth rate launched in 1812. She was used for harbour service from 1818 and was broken up in 1850.
HMS Perseus was a Camelion-class wooden screw sloop launched in 1861. She was used for harbour service from 1886, was renamed HMS Defiance II in 1904 and was probably sold in 1912.
HMS Perseus was a Pelorus-class protected cruiser launched in 1897 and sold for scrap in 1914.
HMS Perseus was a Parthian-class submarine launched in 1929 and sunk in 1941 during the Second World War.
HMS Perseus was a Colossus-class aircraft carrier launched in 1944 as HMS Edgar but renamed a few months later. She was scrapped in 1958.