Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Becky's Hennaed Hands, Al Ain, UAE  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

The tradition of decorating hands, arms and feet with ornate tattoos made from the reddish ink of the henna plant dates back thousands of years to the Bronze Age. This custom of applying body art is still practiced today. It is especially important for Emirati women in their preparation for the biggest of celebrations... a wedding.

Becky and Debi had a henna night of their own during our visit to Al Ain. Beautiful flora patterns were selected from samples hanging on the wall. Then a layer of henna paste was applied. When the paste dried, it crumbled away leaving a temporary tattoo which lasts several weeks before coming off completely.

In this image Becky is wearing a brightly colored kandora, a gift from our hosts.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rebecca of Arabia

Becky on a Camel Ride, near Al Ain, UAE  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Becky rides a camel during our desert safari on a calm and beautiful evening. The constant rhythm of the camel's up and down motion made it a challenge to take photographs, so I set the camera on continuous shooting and fired away.

The word safari is a wonderful description of our adventure. Coming from the Arabic
safar, it means "journey." In fact our entire visit to the UAE was a journey never to be forgotten! Thanks again D & D!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


The Diver and Waterfall, Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE  
Image © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

A diver plunges down a three story waterfall as part of an art installation at the Dubai Mall. The mall is the world's largest and is part of a 20 billion dollar downtown complex that includes the Burj Khalifa. If you are hungry, as I usually am because I eat like a Hobbit, you have about 120 restaurants and cafes from which to choose.

 The English word albatross (an oceanic diving bird) is a derivative of al-gh
attās, Arabic for "the diver".

Saturday, April 27, 2013


View from Observation Deck, Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

This view from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) shows the downtown district of Dubai with the desert stretching far beyond. Immediately below you can see dots in the water that represent crews who are cleaning the fountain pools of sand from a recent sand storm.

The Burj Khalifa defies explanation... it is impossibly high in the sky, the stunning views make even the surrounding skyscrapers look like toys, and it is as solid as a rock. At 2,717 feet tall and 160 stories, it is simply an amazing work of human engineering! So if mankind can make this, why can't my local Pizza Hut make a decent pizza!?

Visiting the observation deck, on the 124th floor, was literally the zenith of our trip to the UAE. By the way, the word zenith is derived loosely from the Arabic samt arras, translated as "path over one's head."

Friday, April 26, 2013


Fancy Bird, Miracle Garden, Dubai, UAE  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

When traveling to new destinations, I am often torn between taking lots of photos and looking at birds. After photography, birdwatching is my next favorite outdoor activity (well, add yodeling too). In fact both Becky and I enjoy birdwatching. So on trips such as this one to the UAE, I usually have camera in one hand and binoculars with birding guide in the other.

The odd fellow pictured above reminds me of the hoopoes we saw. If you have never seen a hoopoe before, it is categorically outlandish in appearance, at the very least cartoonish.

This image was made in the Miracle Garden in Dubai, an unexpected oasis of flowers. Of all the amazing places that we visited, this little Eden was one of my favorites. I loved its colorfully whimsical displays! 

Yes, I know, I am an odd bird too.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Camels and Dunes, near Al Ain, UAE  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
 (Click on image for larger view)

The desert is never far away in the United Arab Emirates  In fact it is usually just across the street, or even in your own front yard. And what would the desert be without camels? Camels seem synonymous with the landscape. I drove only a short way off the road to capture this trademark scene of the Arabian Peninsula... a loose caravan of dromedaries strolling around the dunes, herded by a 
cameleer (just out of the frame).

Although there are a lot of camels here, the UAE is not a Camelot for camels. Camels are a commodity. They are raised as livestock on farms for meat and milk. They are also raced, and used as beasts of burden to carry tourists like us 
for rides in the desert.

Not surprisingly, the English word camel comes to us from the Arabic word jamala, meaning "to bear".

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Gold Columns and Reflecting Pool, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

In the United Arab Emirates, the concept of wasta is well known. It is an Arabic word roughly meaning "clout" and refers to the practice of receiving favors from influential people. It is much like the saying "it is not what you know, but who you know." Recently, Becky and I were fortunate to benefit from an extraordinary dose of wasta. Her cousin and husband work for the Abu Dhabi Education Council, and were generous enough to bring us over to the UAE for two weeks on an unforgettable visit.

Over the next several weeks I will share with you a collection of my photographs from our Arabian adventure. All these posts are dedicated to Debi and Dale... 

we can't thank you enough for your hospitality, 
offered in the true spirit of Bedu tradition!

Pictured above is a contemplative moment at Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, one of the world's largest and one of the few where non-Muslims are permitted to enter. Just before I took this picture the call to prayer was sung by the muezzin. It echoed throughout the majestic courtyard and into the city... 

a beautiful and stirring moment.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Sunset, Charleston Battery Bench, South Battery, Charleston, SC
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Old mortars and cannons, relics from wars fought here in the past, are put on display along Charleston's South Battery. This area is also lined with ornate wrought iron benches. 
On the bench arm rest is a bird motif, symbolic of another relic from the past. It represents the Carolina parakeet, which once filled the skies of the Southeast U.S. but was hunted to extinction by the 1920's.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Twilight of the Tall Ships

Tall Ships at Dawn, Charleston Harbor, Charleston, SC  
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved 
(Velvia slide film)

Before the routine docking of cruise ships at our port, a cavalcade of tall ships came to Charleston every few years. It was one of my favorite events. Ships of various types from multiple countries would line-up along the harbor docks, like these masted beauties which I photographed early one morning.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Raised Brickwork

Old Brickwork, Biggin Church Ruins, near Moncks Corner, SC
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

The church ruins of Biggin Hill show three-dimensional brick work around what used to be one of its large windows. This rural parish church, attended by plantation owners, was burned during the Revolutionary War by retreating British troops in 1781. It is now protected as a National Historic Place.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Remains of a Poster

Torn Poster Paper on Glass Window, Old Library on Marion Square, Charleston, SC
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

The remains of a dilapidated poster cast shadows on a curtain hung behind a window, creating a layered visual abstract.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Car on Wall

Mural on Wall, Automobile Ad, Portland, Oregon  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film converted to Black and White. Click on image for larger view)

It is not everyday you see a car painted large on the side of a city wall. 

How about a test drive?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Four Columns

City Hall Columns and County Courthouse, Four Corners of Law, Charleston, SC 
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved 
(Click on image for larger view)

A row of four columns leads the eye toward the old County Courthouse in Charleston, which was designed by Irish architect James Hoban and dates from 1792. 

Hoban met George Washington when the president visited Charleston, and later won a competition to design the presidential mansion, more famously known as the White House.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bench Back Blues

Bench Back and Wall, North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville, North Carolina
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

At the North Carolina Arboretum, I took advantage of
 reflecting blue light that 
filled the shade on a cloudless sunny day. I made this closely cropped image 
of a wooden bench back, which made a nice design against the wall of Appalachian stone.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Theatre of the Suns

Arcade, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

On one of our trips to Atlanta a few years ago, I was so enchanted by the Fox Theatre arcade that I spent about an hour photographing there. The theatre was built in the moorish style, and its colors, textures, shapes and patterns completely captivated my fancy, like these stylized radiating suns.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Misty Monday - Profile of a Pelican

Pelican on Shem Creek, Mount Pleasant, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film. Click on image for larger view)

An immature brown pelican seems to pose in profile

 for a portrait at Shem Creek on a misty morning.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some Assembly Required

Old Fence, Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Individual sections of rustic fencing are fitted together loosely to form a boundary around burial plots in historic Magnolia Cemetery. In the background is an old mausoleum.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Creatures Among Us - Three Eyes

Marina Electrical Box and Boat, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

A strange three-eyed face from outer space 

disguises itself as an electrical box.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Face in the Theater

Wood Carving Detail, Dock Street Theater, Charleston, SC
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

This is an image I made during a photo shoot a few years ago at the Dock Street Theater when it was under renovation. You can see parts of the original carving have been replaced with putty. It was eventually painted and made to look like new. Renovations of historic buildings like the Dock Street Theater are seemingly endless in Charleston, a city packed full of 18th and 19th century structures.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Italy in Poland

Courtyard Balconies, Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland  
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film)

Dating from the 14th century, the royal castle of Wawel Hill was where Poland's rulers lived until the early 20th century. It was originally designed in the Gothic style, but was later renovated as a Renaissance palace. You can see the influence of Italian architects in these arched and balustraded balconies.

Wawel Hill has a long and fascinating history, including human settlement dating back to the Paleolithic Age, a legendary dragon, and the location of one of the world's most powerful chakras (spiritual energies).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Contrasting Styles

East Battery Mansions, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film)

The neo-classical architecture of one antebellum mansion contrasts with the eclectic style of another along Charleston's Battery. These homes face east toward the harbor and bask in the morning sun.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old Winter Snow

Snow and Clouds, Alpine Visitor Center, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado  
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Remains of old winter snow, appearing like layers of white sedimentary rock, can be seen at the Alpine Visitor Center on Rocky Mountain National Park's Trail Ridge Road. The two lane road is the highest paved road in the country at 12,183 feet above sea level (or in other words, over 2 miles above Charleston level!)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Everything's Rosy

Hand Rail and Lantern Shadow, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

Here's my optimistic take on a Charleston hand rail,

 as might be seen through rose-colored glasses.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Churchyard Shadows

Gate Shadow, Saint Philip's Churchyard, French Quarter, Charleston, SC
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Early morning sunlight delineates the scrollwork designs
 of an iron gate on a stone walkway in Saint Philip's churchyard.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Pineapple Fountain at Night, Waterfront Park, Charleston, SC
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

This night fountain becomes a colorful subject
 for a mind flush with imagination. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Rocking in Texas

Rock Layers, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Geology always intrigues me. It was the subject I first studied in college until I realized I was better at taking pictures of rocks than analyzing their chemistry. 

Colorful outcrops such as these in Palo Duro Canyon rocked my eyes everywhere we explored. Very thin layers of white gypsum can be seen threading through this section of orange sedimentary stone, which dates from roughly 200 million years ago.

I am still a bit of a rockhound, collecting interesting specimens here and there. Consequently our yard is full of rocks from many places around the country.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Art of the Rock Wall

Rock Wall Pattern, Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, Kentucky  
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

The well honed skill of making a beautiful wall is on display at a 19th century Shaker village in Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Twin Frames

Twin French Doors, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

The reflections of a brick chimney and a dormer window
 are framed by two french doors. This South of Broad neighborhood in Charleston dates from the 1700's.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Plug for the Modern Era

Fire Plug and Round Door, French Quarter, Charleston, SC
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

This fire plug standing sentinel next to one of Charleston's old cobblestone streets 
is a reminder of the modern era.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Odd Couple

Lion and Pigeon, Florence, Italy  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film)

A perching pigeon seems to take no notice
 of this lion's fierce visage.

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