Lebanon From Air Through Lens of Expert

Published November 28th, 2018 - 11:24 GMT
Balou Balaa in Mount Lebanon, Tannourine. Exposure: 1/4000 SEC, f 2.8, ISO 100. GPS Coordinates: 34,10.4095N - 35,52.2145E. A: 1561.30 m - R: 35.50 m. Courtesy of Elio Sassine.
Balou Balaa in Mount Lebanon, Tannourine. Exposure: 1/4000 SEC, f 2.8, ISO 100. GPS Coordinates: 34,10.4095N - 35,52.2145E. A: 1561.30 m - R: 35.50 m. Courtesy of Elio Sassine.

The work in Elio Sassine’s photo book, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Land,” used drones to get a bird’s eye view of Lebanon and offer a fresh perspective of the landscape. What began as a hobby five years ago has produced a book of 120 photos, selected from a collection of thousands. The pictures were taken from regions around the country, showing both barren wilderness and bustling urban topographies.

“We start with Beirut and then go deeper into Lebanon, the mountains, coastline and ancient ruins, which I really enjoy photographing,” Sassine told The Daily Star.

“I like both ancient ruins and newer ruins from the Civil War. In Mount Lebanon there are abandoned and broken silk mills from when we have a thriving silk industry in the 19th century. They look amazing from above.”

With many countries seeking to restrict civilian access to drones, drone photography has become a part of artists’ practice recently.

“There is no legal [framework] yet [in Lebanon] and they register your drone with the army when you buy it,” Sassine claimed. “I’ve never had problems using the drone because one thing you have to have is common sense. Don’t fly it over crowded areas, as you might crash it into people, and don’t fly it over sensitive security areas.

“I changed drones over the years,” he added, “like phones. Technology gets better and you get drones that can go higher and farther and make better images. It’s different from classical photography because, not only do you need to learn how to take photos, but also learn how to fly the drone and not crash it.”

Sassine’s approach to photography also required much hiking to remote, inaccessible areas.

“If you want good shots you need to hike a bit and like it, on top of using a drone.” He said. “This photo is of a kind of sink hole called Baloue Balaa in Tannourine and it has these natural bridges.

“You have to snowshoe to get there,” he added, referring to the photo of a gaping blue-and-green hole surrounded by snow. “One good thing with drones is that you don’t have to get very close and can send the drone to places you can’t reach it has a range of about 2 kilometers but I like to get at least 500 meters close to not lose sight of the drone.”

Sassine says the angles and techniques come with experience. He often enjoys the challenge of playing with perspectives, making something look like something it isn’t.

“Sometimes they turn out like paintings,” he added, pointing to a photo of red blocks that leaves viewers guessing what it could be. “This one here is a shot of vineyards in the Bekaa, which are red because the soil is red, taken in fall, so it depends when you photograph too.”

All proceeds from the book will go toward the Association Pour la Protection de l’Enfant de la Guerre (APEG), a free mental health clinic founded in 1996 offering psychiatric aid and services of adults and children.

The launch of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Land” will be accompanied by a photo exhibition and a video projection, at Beit Beirut, Sodeco, Nov. 28, 6 p.m.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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