If you get up early enough, you can capture the morning fog. The photographic composition respects the rule of thirds, especially regarding the lone tree, my main subject. I included the picnic table to signify the presence of human activity in the vicinity. This often adds interest to a scene.
There’s no shortage of space in Quebec when it comes to picking berries. Although it doesn’t appear so in the picture, the Vire-Crêpes business had many customers on its grounds that day. But the estate covers such a large area that it offers people a fairly private zone.
This last photo shows a blueberry plant from Saint-Nicolas, south of Quebec City. The fruits require more time to reach full maturity, but the different colours visible at this stage of growth makes for a more interesting shot.
The setting sun hits the side of these Quebec City buildings, creating two areas of very distinct luminosity. Such extremes pose challenges for the camera. By using a Raw file rather than a JPEG, it’s much easier to correct the brightest and darkest areas.
In the summer of 2023, a South Korean tourist takes a short break in Old Quebec after a busy day of walking inside the ramparts of the old city.
When they hear the name Mohammed Ben Salmane (MBS), most people don’t react, as they can’t associate him with anything. If they are told that it was he who had a journalist cut up into small pieces and stuffed into garbage bags in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, it resonates more.
The graphic novel “MBS— L’enfant terrible d’Arabie Saoudite” introduces us to the life of this implacable ruler who tries to forge links with the great powers. By negotiating his support with the United States, Russia, China, India, or France, he seeks to position his country as a major player on the world stage.
The book is also a very interesting first approach to the history of Saudi Arabia, especially with regards to the Saud family and its reign. We realize the importance of alliances and radical decisions by MBS if he wishes to attain supreme power and hold to it.
Domestic and regional stability remains a top priority for MBS. Even if he wants to modernize society and appeal to young individuals, he must at the same time avoid upsetting the Wahhabi clerics too much. The latter enjoy ancestral prestige and have a marked influence on the way people behave and think.
When it comes to imposing his ideas, MBS hasn’t invented a thing. Like most rulers of the world’s major countries, he has learned to use the media and spares no expense to achieve the desired results.
Top managers of intelligence and news organizations know very well the limits within which they can operate. You won’t see any photos of MBS spouses, or articles that would enlighten the public about the nightlife of the leader and his friends.
This graphic novel maintains interest by interspersing surprising anecdotes with pertinent information accessible to all. As the back cover of the book states, “This ambitious prince happens to be our ally in the Middle East : oil, the fight against terrorism, Arab-Israeli peace, arms sales … we need him. But what price will we pay?”
Luck plays a significant role in the acquisition of an original shot. To put chance on our side, we need to go on photo expeditions frequently, whatever the weather, and seize opportunities when they arise.
For this outing in Old Quebec, I thought I’d use a Canon 11–24mm f/4L USM super-wide-angle zoom lens. It allows you to get very close to a tall building and obtain vertical lines without the top of the structure disappearing.
Indeed, many high-performance zooms require the utilization of image-processing software to produce an almost perfect vertical effect. But doing so cuts off the top of the edifice.
So, I was looking for a different perspective to shoot the Château Frontenac. I saw it more in the background, as a point of arrival for the eye, rather than taking up all the space. Even as a small edifice in a photo, you recognize it before any other structure.
To do this, I chose an architecturally interesting building as my starting element. It reminded me vaguely of the Flatiron Building in New York. Naturally, it’s not as high and offers that rounded effect when captured in wide-angle format.
I’ve observed a lot of representations of Old Quebec so far. However, I don’t recall previously noticing the street and the old edifices in this way. Usually, the building in the foreground is partially visible.
Lost in the analysis of the ideal angle, I heard a strange engine sound. On my left, a vintage car was moving slowly and would pass in front of the Canon 5DSr lens in a few seconds.
I quickly lifted the camera and placed it in the right spot. The auto was already gaining speed and I had to seize the opportunity. This vintage car blended perfectly into the scene. Only the slightly more contemporary station wagon indicates a more recent picture.
Modernity and the past still come together in harmony in a developer-protected Old Quebec. To capture interesting pictures, you need to get out into the old town frequently.
Photographers make little use of the intense midday light when it comes to achieving an interesting effect. However, as in this HDR photo of the stairs of an Old Quebec street above, bright light can be used to create shadow effects with horizontal, vertical and oblique lines.
Above, another staircase with lines running in all directions. But it plays only a partial role in this HDR photo, the rest being taken up by the scene in the distance. I was looking for a double effect of chiaroscuro and atmosphere. The foreground, dark and cold, contrasts with a brighter background with an uncertain sky. On the right-hand side of the photo, the tension eases and the blue sky and sun appear.
This image is what is known as “street photography“. Chance has placed this person in the right place with the right dress and the right umbrella. She is wearing a horizontally lined dress and holding an obliquely lined umbrella in front of the vertically lined fence of the “station de la Plage” in Quebec City. The gray sky avoids distractions and focuses attention on the main subject.
For this last photo, I didn’t have my full-frame camera, but a cell phone. The file was of inferior quality, so I had to improve the focus using photographic software with artificial intelligence capability.
These machines, which were not designed to operate from an aircraft carrier, would not be able to reach their targets and return safely to port for lack of sufficient fuel. All the pilots were well aware of this, and volunteered.
The fleet of sixteen aircraft, commanded by Jimmy Doolittle, successfully achieved its objective of confusing the enemy and showing that Japan remained vulnerable to surprise attacks. The Japanese wondered how it was possible that American bombers could have reached and hit their country. Where did they take off from? They know that the B-25 Mitchells were not designed to take off from an aircraft carrier, and that they were incapable of landing on one.
The genius of the operation laid in the combination of a number of highly risky decisions which, taken together, took the enemy by surprise. Firstly, as it was impossible to land the planes on the Hornet, they were installed with a crane, knowing full well that they would never return to the ship.
In addition, the captains were trained to take off over distances unthinkable for them, using a technique pushed to the extreme. The ship sailed at high speed into the wind, improving the headwind component so essential for such perilous maneuvers.
The pilots had to be extremely skilful to keep to the departure trajectory on a platform that moved from left to right in the middle of a storm. Buildings on the Hornet’s side had to be avoided at all costs, and the available gap between the wing tip and the ship’s tower was no more than two meters. Despite all the obstacles, all the B-25s managed to take off. It was to be a one-way mission to Japan.
Doolittle piloted the first B-25 to take off from the carrier. He had only a very small portion of the deck to work with, as there were still fifteen other bombers waiting their turn to take off. The second pilot to leave the deck narrowly avoided a water landing, as the aircraft sank slightly and a landing gear wheel touched the water. But the plane gained just enough speed to stay airborne.
Bombers and crews suffered different fates once the bombing raids on Japanese targets had been completed. The authors conclude: “The raid destroyed 112 buildings and killed 87 people, in about 6 minutes. […] The destruction of 15 of the 16 B-25s, unable to reach Chinese airfields for landing, was nevertheless to be deplored, the 16th B-25 having landed safely in the USSR. Also to be deplored was the accidental death of three airmen (planes 3 and 6) and the capture of 8 others (planes 6 and 16) by the Japanese, 4 of whom never returned home, 3 having been executed as “war criminals” and the 4th having died in captivity. Worse still, the Japanese took revenge on the Chinese, who had helped all the surviving airmen, by organizing the massacre of some 250,000 civilians in the Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces then under their control. This was to leave its mark…”.
Landing and takeoff tests on an aircraft carrier, the Forrestal, were also made decades later for a C-130 Hercules. I tried to repeat the experience in flight simulation. The flight can be found in the “challenging virtual flights” section of my blog. As the Forrestal is not available in virtual mode, I used the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
Note: The excerpts are taken from the French version of “Tsar par accident” and re-translated into English using DeepL.
Author Andrew S. Weiss has worked at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and so on. He points out: “If someone had told me at the time that a former KGB non-commissioned officer – who had never really shone – a certain Vladimir Putin […] – would be promoted from the back rooms of the Kremlin directly to the head of the country, I would have told you to get yourself treated”. He adds: “What we think we know about him is often a clever mix of counter psychology and misinterpretations of Russia‘s thousand-year-old history “. His staging as a tough guy “allows him to come across as more intelligent – and more competent – than he really is. […] “.
The graphic novel “Accident Czar” tells the story of how Vladimir Putinfound himself in power at a time when his rather lacklustre career was destined for a lesser position. But the same could be said of some of the world’s dictators, presidents, kings and ministers over the ages who have been blessed with good fortune. They too have taken advantage of favorable opportunities to climb the ladder too high for their natural talent. The nation then pays the price until the person’s overthrow, exile or death.
Still, we have to give Putin credit for persisting, for hanging on, despite setbacks and rejections. To join the KGB, he was told to study or join the army. He did so and received his diploma.
In 1975, he joined the KGB. But it wasn’t the big missions he had dreamed of that awaited him, but local fieldwork. He failed to impress his superiors with the results he achieved. Following a brawl in the subway, he was transferred to Dresden in 1985, where his missions were meaningless due to lack of budget. In 1999, President Clinton was told that Putin would be the next Russian president. What had happened between 1985 and 1999 for Putin to suddenly emerge from obscurity and become President of Russia?
Credit must be given to his work ethic, but above all to his loyalty to his bosses in an organization that favors personal ties. Yeltsin, the president at the time, sensed his end was coming and offered Putin a deal. The author writes: “He would make him president if he agreed to protect him and his family“.
Just as Hindenburg believed he could manipulate Hitler by giving him access to the highest echelons of government, so Yeltsin thought he could do the same with Putin. In both cases, it was a costly mistake for Europe and the world.
The book reviews the rise of the Russian oligarchs, and the rapprochement of power for Putin’s friends. Andrew Weiss points out: “One of the points that foreigners don’t always grasp is that Russia is a society that operates on the basis of personal ties, rather than within the framework of institutions or the rule of law.“
In the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, important sectors of the Russian economy were taken over by corrupt officials and KGB agents, as well as by the mafia. As the author writes: “Vladimir Kumarin, all-powerful boss of the notorious Tambov gang, ruled the country“.
Vladimir Putin’s support for the United Statesafter the attacks of September 11, 2001 brought him closer to George W. Bush and his father George H. W. Bush, with whom he even went fishing in Kennebunkport. He hoped to revive the moribund Russian economy and gain the freedom to control the Russian media.
What’s most astonishing to me is that, during this period, Putin approved the highly controversial establishment of American and NATO bases across the former Soviet Union(Uzbekistan,Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan). With this gesture, he was seeking stabilization with the West. With the causes of the September 11th 2001 attacks still being debated around the world today, especially in the most informed circles, Putin was later forced to reflect on the relevance and consequences of his decision to authorize new American and NATO bases near Russia.
The Russian president quickly realizes that he doesn’t carry much weight in the diplomatic balance against a superpower like the United States. He is not recognized as a player to be reckoned with. With a view to better understanding between the West and Russia, the author stresses the importance of better understanding the grievances of both sides. He points out that this is sorely lacking.
Especially since the Kremlin is convinced that “demands for political change are always the result of Western-backed conspiracies“. All the major nations, by dint of monitoring each other and trying to influence the internal management of other countries, are projecting their intentions and no longer believe that a protest can come from the bottom up, based on a serious desire to improve certain detestable policies.
The author takes a look back at the problems surrounding Russia’s territorial security through the ages, invaded in turn by the Mongols, Napoleon and Hitler: “[Russia] traditionally relies on annexed territories to act as a buffer between the motherland and any external threat“. He also discusses the Chechen conflict, the fight against terrorism, political interference in neighboring states and Russian involvement in the 2016 US elections.
Andrew S. Weiss covers a lot of ground, and other themes find their way into the book: the history of the Cold War, Trump, Snowden, Wikileaks, the Sochi Olympics and the work of Maria Butina, a Russian agent who managed to penetrate the upper circles of the American Republican Party.
It was his belief in the irreversible decline of the West that enabled Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
The author concludes with a remark on the invasion of that country and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets: “The world is beginning to understand that Putin was never the strategist he claimed to be. He is an improviser caught in his own trap”.
Allow me to make a comment about the invasion of Ukraine. This country is to receive fighter planes from the Allied States to protect its territory, which deeply offends Russia. However, I would like to remind you that during the Second World War, the Soviet Union accepted a great deal of outside help for its defense on the Eastern Front. To name just one aircraft and country, the Soviet Union obtained 877 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the USA.
Comfortably seated on the new terrace of Quebec City’s Station de la Plage, I wrote this article sheltered from the elements.
Phase 3 of the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain in Quebec City will have cost around $190 million. A site foreman confides: “The most complex part of all this was complying with the actual government requirements. We had to do a lot of digging and install infrastructure to prevent wastewater from being discharged into the St. Lawrence River. We also had to deal with the sudden increase in inflation: to avoid a $50 million overrun, we had to shorten the width of the children’s romper and cut where it had to least impact “.
While out cycling, I took the opportunity to snap a few shots of the construction progress around what will develop into the “station de la Plage”.
The picture above shows the production of the reinforced concrete for the main staircase.
Below, the finished steps can be seen. What will become the swimming pool (on the left of the photo) receives its first coat of paint. A modification to the pool’s depth necessitated the installation of a fence.
It can disappear completely into the ground as soon as swimming is allowed. However, its operation is currently causing serious problems, as with all novelties. When the motor exerts too much force to raise a section of fence, it falls back down on its own. The presence of sand in the vicinity may have been ignored, or at least its effect underestimated, when the railing was designed. Sand is inserted into the gears with each day’s activity. And there’s no question of using grease to make it easier to raise and lower the panels: the sand would stick to the lubricant and further complicate operations. A technician has been working for weeks to rectify the situation.
The pool has now received a coat of blue paint. This creates a clear demarcation with the color of the river water, an effect that will also benefit photographers. Only a few preparations remain before the population can officially access the site. The Commission de la capitale nationale de Québecwants people to be able to bathe just in time for the Fête nationale des Québécois, on June 24.
From now on, the incredible popularity of the site with the public will have to be managed. Indeed, in their eagerness to access the beach, few individuals bother to read the current regulations. This task will fall to the security staff, who will have to utilize their teaching skills and diplomacy to get the message across.
In fact, the “station de la Plage” and “station de la Voile” are so popular that the planners had to quickly rethink parking management. On sunny days, thousands of people come to relax on the sites. Cars arrive laden with children and beach equipment, and everyone hopes to find a space for their vehicle. But by 10 a.m., there’s nothing left.
The two beach and building attendants have their hands full observing everything that moves, correcting habits and arguing with people. Because, in addition to the scarcity of parking spaces, pedestrians are not tolerated strolling alongside their bicycles, either near the beach or on the elevated terrace.
However, the rules and regulations posted on the National Capital Commission’s website are confusing. They stipulate that you must walk on the site and that bicycle traffic is prohibited. You might think that a person walking with his bike at his side would be complying with the requirements, since he’s not straddling it, but that’s not the case.
A month into the operation, a security guard tells me: “We’ve already notified over 400 visitors who were walking while holding a bike”. He wants the word to get out. But the facilities for accommodating bicycles are not keeping up with demand. The tree trunks near the main building help out, and serve as a place to put a padlock on busy days.
What’s more, with bicycles becoming increasingly expensive, many cyclists are reluctant to leave them unattended for a few hours, even when locked. Experienced thieves are notoriously quick. This first year of operations will therefore require some modifications to procedures and installations.
Unstable weather presents two advantages for a photographer on the Île d’Orléans. Firstly, the fear of rain means that visitor numbers are greatly reduced. In fact, most of the people who come to the island are interested in the outdoor activities on offer, such as fruit picking, cycling or sea kayaking. So, we’ve got the road all to ourselves to stop whenever we feel like it!
Secondly, unstable weather means the possibility of thunderstorms, with all their interesting cloud formations. It is therefore essential to check the radar and weather forecasts before setting off for the island.