2013 – Recap of an awesome year

Each passing year seems to fly by more quickly and each seems to get better and better. Here’s a brief recap on how my 365 days in 2013 panned out… the stories, the highlights and the game changers.

A big slice of my 2013 pie was car work. I’d say a good third of my photography work is automotive related. I came to this realization when I visited the Dubai Motorshow last November and took this one picture. All the luxury brands came together and it dawned on me that I had recently worked for all of them. I hope to continue this trend and further extend our relationship over the years to come. It’s all about putting the Middle East on the map with… stunning images, pushing the boundaries and crafting awesome work.

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During 2013, I had some fabulous opportunities working with Nike to produce iconic visuals of their running apparel. We hit some truly unexpected places throughout the city and wrapped up our last shoot of the year with the above short behind the scenes video. After a period of absence, it was great to work with Red Bull again too, seeing their drivers drifting like crazy. So cool, so noisy, so dynamic! Other great action packed gigs included the annual Abu Dhabi Triathlon and the Al Ain Aerobatic show.

We’ve picked up a few new titles on the book production side, finalising a four-year summary book for one of the UAE ministries, setting the foundation for an awesome book about falconry and wrapping up work on our oman oil book. I can’t wait to see them rolling off the press in 2014. This coming year will see a stronger push towards more book productions, mainly because they’re just really enjoyable to work on.

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Although it doesn’t fall under our brand as such, it does very much feel like our book. We’re on commission by one of the biggest publishing houses in the Middle East, to shoot the content for an aerial book about Dubai. At the book launch of Adrian Hayes’s ‘Footstep of Thesiger’ book, which holds tons of my images, I got talking to Ian Fairservice and John Deykin, they key players at Motivate Publishing, about possibly creating additional titles together. After sharing my portfolio of aerial work, it was a go ahead to create an awesome Dubai by Air souvenir book. That discussion was last May. The dusty summer then passed and we successfully tackled all the red tape in getting permissions and NOC’s, a delayed flight for ministry reasons, a reschedule that landed us in thick mist and an entry into a big no fly zone during the world parachute championships. So we certainly had our fair share of obstacles before finally getting airborne! We rescheduled the shoot again for the 16th and 17th December and the wait proved so worthwhile. Nothing beats hanging out of a chopper for ten hours and soaking up amazing shooting conditions. Stay tuned to my blog and facebook to read the updates on the book releases, cool behind the scene video’s and possibly a tutorial ebook.

Just before the summer, I took a mini break and booked myself out of work and into an old heritage hotel at the heart of old Dubai. I’ve been in Dubai twelve years and rarely get to experience this stunning old part of town. My stay was not so much about photography but more about exploring the city I call home and seeing it with fresh eyes. Saying that, I couldn’t roam the streets without a camera and bringing a Hasselbad proved to be the best companion for the journey. A big thank you to the team at Advanced Media for kindly lending out one of their Hasselblad demo’s. Check out the experience and images.

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Early 2013 saw a special moment when I handed over a cheque to WWF to support their Wadi Wurrayah project. Part of our brand is the commitment to keep nature a source of inspiration for generations to come so we donate 1% of our revenue to an environmental cause. In our case, we chose to support Wadi Wurrayah National Park on the east coast of the UAE.  One percent of our ’13 revenue will again go towards the park. Keep up the awesome work guys!

Project TED_2020 was an awesome side step from photography, a chance to think more about the output side of art. Around 100 artists and ad agencies were given a naked white teddy bear to go and play with. I was one of the lucky ones chosen, and whilst ideas weren’t forthcoming at first, I finally decided on turning my bear into visual stories of Dubai. My blog post shares my thought process, the challenges faced and my source of inspiration.

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The summer… yes the summer is always a highlight of my year. A true privilege. By the time it comes around, I’ve had nine months of gigs, productions and shoots so a long break is much needed! My days become all about quality time dedicated to family and friends plus the chance to explore new ideas and let my creative juices flow. We always tend to head back to Europe for the greenery, great company and good food. Yip, it’s my time to enjoy a slower pace of life and recharge the batteries.

As many of you know, a little over two years ago, I covered the Footsteps of Thesiger expedition. This was undoubtedly one of the best regional gigs I’ve worked on during my twelve years in Dubai. Pretty soon after the expedition, I felt compelled to write down my own expedition experience… my tales of random meetings with local Bedu’s, behind the scene stories, the hospitality displayed and of course, the photography of such an expedition. Anyone who has written a book before knows how much time it takes to pull it off. Many thanks to Tori for her support on the copy, turning it into an awesome read. All the images got a unique retouching effect, which goes with the heritage feel. By June, we had it all done and dusted and converted into an epub file tailored for your iPad. We launched ‘Real Men Don’t Shave’ online and it’s now available at iTunes and our own web store. I’m so proud of it and anyone who enjoys following my blog should really get a copy.

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Speaking of webstores… ArtOnTheMove.me has been an amazing extension to the business and a real spark in 2013. I’ve never explored retail before but I was getting a vibe from the market to do more with my photography archive. ArtOnTheMove.me was born from the desire to freshen up people’s walls with images that tell a story. Tori and I spent hours talking through the 100 images chosen and these conversations resulted in 100 individual stories which give meaning and context to each image. These stories are what make the prints extra special, allowing me to share with you where the images was taken and why, along with specific anecdotes. Go check them out for yourself!

We launched ArtOnTheMove.me in style, with a grand solo exhibition at a cool art gallery in Dubai’s creative hub of Al Quoz. It was exciting to hear all the great feedback and the setting matched perfectly what the brand stands for. Many thanks to Canon, Audi and Sandisk for their valuable support towards the launch exhibition. Have a look at the following video…

2013 saw the start of more talks for Canon Middle East. At my exhibition, I had the privilege of talking to a selected audience about my roadmap to where I stand today… my photography career, the choices I’ve made along the way, the gear I use and my tips & tricks. I loved it. Looking ahead to 2014, there will be an expanding relationship with Canon where I’ll be playing the role of their brand ambassador. I would like to extend huge thanks to the Canon team for this opportunity and look forward to great brand explorations.

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Some 2013 lessons I’d like to share:

  •  I recall shooting the Filipino football team who were in town for a friendly match. I was brought in to take a group photo… my quickest shoot ever. Time was scarce and it ended up happening between the warm up and kick off with impatient players eager to enter an already crowded stadium. A recipe for disaster? They all hastily lined up and all I could hear was ‘Quickly, we have to go in…‘ I took nine frames, did a split second review on my LCD screen and when I looked up, a handful of players had just got up and walked off. I guess that’s all I get then! Thankfully, it was well planned, predicted and framed so we walked away with a set of strong images. My takeaway? Good prep really does pay off but next time, I’ll keep a closer eye on the players than on the hardware!
  • This more of a constant challenge than just a 2013 situ. The brand is now big enough to support a small crew who wish to join for the ride but finding the right match in individuals is never an easy task. My assistant left recently, following her hubby to Ethiopia and taking up a great opportunity to follow her dreams. Secretly though, I was rather hoping that the helicopter rides, behind the scenes access at aerobatic shows, camel beauty contests and hot laps on an F1 circuit would keep her close by… but nope! So going forward, yes there is a vacancy for a talented photo assistant.
  • It’s simple. Things that get scheduled are the things that get done… one thing I’m terribly bad at is finding time to go for a run, which is a shame because I love running so much. It clears my head and generates ideas so what I need to do is actually schedule time for workouts and my beloved mountain days. My best thinking is done when in the outdoors. Let 2014 bring me and my running shoes many shared miles!

My awesome 2013 was only made possible with the support of my lovely wife Kiki and our two crazy little monster boys. Many thanks for all your energy and love. I always know that we’re running at full speed when I put the boys to bed and after reading their bedtime stories, end up snoring before they fall asleep themselves. Life can be exhausting at high speed.

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Looking ahead at a fresh calendar year, you have to realise that it’s all ours for the taking… our own opportunity to make it either awesome or average. I urge you to look back on my recent post about your five phone calls in 2014. We all start the new year with lots of ideas, wishes, intentions, new habits, must haves etc which are all of course, keys to success but let’s try narrow these down into just five phone calls. If your phone could only ring five times in the next twelve months, it has to ring for only the best of reasons so who would those calls be from and what would they be about? Read the post… then get to thinking about your own five.

Be great. Be awesome. Be busy doing amazing work in 2014.

Love

Wk.