abu dhabi

With David Gandy in Hong Kong

Back to where it all started. Back to the place where I was born. Shooting in Hong Kong with the UK’s best known model David Gandy and re-creating a bit of history for British Airways. Following some recent stints with BA in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, they showed me an old heritage poster from Hong Kong dating back to the 60’s, followed by the question of whether I could recreate an image with a similar feel? 

 I spent 36 hours on a scouting trip in January, scooping out possible scenarios. And yip, Hong Kong has certainly changed. Drastically! Pottinger Street today, is a far cry from the image on the original heritage poster. The Peak view is blocked with high-rises and the shops replaced with bars (and tasty beer). The impossibly steep steps are all that really remain. Quintessential to the poster were the neon lights and the Chinese promo’s making it so iconically Asian so I was on a mission to find a street with a similar feel. This proved no easy task!

I researched online, walked for hours in the pouring rain, spoke to lots of people and finally settled on one workable junction close to Argyle Street and Nathan Road. Despite being jam packed with regulars, night time shoppers and tourists, it worked. 

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Key to the shoot is the jacket. David is wearing an original pilots jacket from the BA heritage museum. It even came with the museum curator, in charge of looking after it. Judging from its size, pilots in the good old days must have been tall, super fit and muscular… there was no autopilot in those days so it took real muscle to fly a plane. Along with the jacket came all the old cabin crew uniforms, also from the BA Heritage Museum, the perfect showcase of how uniform designs have evolved. 

As you can imagine, the shoot was insanely chaotic and with a crew of 30, we attracted a fair deal of attention. We couldn’t close the road so we just had to manage the flow and make them part of the story. I hired a local team of assistants and studio lights… this was the first time I used Profoto B1 which made a great fit for working in low ambient light.  We settled on two frames; firstly an Armageddon style shot and secondly, a more candid hero shot with the light popping out of the subject. 


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Hong Kong is an amazing vibrant city and the local team was fantastic in getting things sorted. It was a great shoot all round and I hope the content may be used as visual reference in many years to come.

 Wk.

Memorable runs

My love for running really took off when I moved to Dubai in 2002. It all started with my first half marathon in Abu Dhabi. Marathons and triathlons followed then eventually I discovered that my true passion lay in long distance trail running. There are so many reasons to love trail running. I love exploring new places. Nothing beats heading off in a random direction and just discovering where the path takes you. Trail running also unites interesting people and amazing places. On longer solo runs, I get to munch on business topics; my keynote at World Art Dubai came together during the 30k night rebel race. There’s alot to be said for using solitude to feed your creativity.

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These are my top most memorable runs over the years:

> My best run last summer was with my friend Ilonka, who runs a mountain lodge in the France Alps. We both love alpine runs and got up early one morning to hit the mountains. I don’t own any cold weather running gear and can remember it was a bitterly cold start in just shorts and a light fleece at 5am. Still dark, we used our head torches to wind through the forest trails, past little mountain village Narreyroux and on to Col du Bal. Running on the high ridges with spectacular views and fresh mountain air is when I’m in my element. These are truly magical moments.

> A run filled with anxiety and excitement… or perhaps more an escape run! I fled my parents house back in 2003 to run free. It was my wedding day and the house was full of family and friends… it felt like chaos and I just needed to get out there on my own. I enjoyed an amazing run through the forest and remember feeling so free.

> Day seven of the Gobi March, a 250k self supported running race in remote China. Day seven marked the final stretch to the finish line and I can remember running the entire way, despite the blisters, aching limbs and immense fatigue. Running through the Flaming Mountains and ending at a Buddhist village made for an incredible setting. It was pretty much all downhill at that point. Crossing that finishing line came with such immense relief and pride before receiving the biggest medal ever. I felt on top of the world.

> A memorable run to be that remains in the pipeline will be a dash with one my boys, either in a competition or just a run down the street. Having seen other dads during that proud moment of first running with their sons, I can’t wait to do so with my own.

> Living in Dubai means living pretty much in the desert. In just a 30min drive, you can hit spectacular dunes which make for perfect training ground. Running in soft sand builds character, turns a run into a serious workout and requires a decent sense of navigation. Followed by setting up camp with the family, these runs can turn into a really fun weekend. I remember one run not far from Bab al Shams, when off I started, with a loaded pack at the usual crazy hour and there, beautifully lit by the early morning sun, was a stunning white Arabian Oryx. It was perhaps only 100m away, staring intensely at me… probably wondering what on earth I was doing… for what seemed an age. I stood still, staring back at him and then he just dashed off. And so did I.

Wk.

The world’s hottest helipad

As part of the recent British Airways PR roll out, we recently shot on the helipad of Abu Dhabi’s Hyatt Capital Gate hotel. It’s a pretty cool location with aerial views of the Abu Dhabi skyline. We were shooting Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom, a celebrity heartthrob who first landed in the limelight for his role in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

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As his schedule dictated, we ended up shooting just after 1pm. This meant harsh sunlight along with super warm temperatures, unusual for early November, making the conditions far from ideal for photography. But then again, do the perfect conditions ever present themselves? You just have to work best with what you have. In this case, the key was to keep it short and sweet with a well orchestrated, highly conceptualised and pre-figured set of images. I had shot on this helipad before with Matteo Manassero so I had some advantage of knowing what to expect.

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Arriving on set early with my assistant Kish, we dragged all the kit up stairs, worked on our shortlist, had a rehearsal with the BA crew, then agreed on our ultimate three shots. First up was the usual head-on pose, second, a more dynamic shot of Orlando surrounded by BA crew. I gave the crew a real scare when I tripped over my studio light cables when walking backwards, near the edge of the helipad. Thought was quite funny (but might have been the only one…).

Finally a fisheye shot, that really captured the lines of the helipad and the curve of the skyline.There’s a similar shot in my aerial series when I photographed the iconic Palm Jumeirah using a fisheye lens. Taken from a helicopter, it made the cover of the national newspaper. I don’t use this lens very often, but I carry it with me always and when mounted at the right time, the results are amazing.

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Quick doodle visualising shot list. 

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Rehearsal – Behind the scenes image by Kish

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Behind the scenes image by Kish

Our short and sweet plan panned out perfectly… we were in and out within the hour.

Wk

Falcon project ongoing

I posted a few images from our falcon project on Facebook a while back. Work on this project continues full steam ahead and a couple of days ago, the client exhibited some of my first works for a selected group of VIP’s at Abu Dhabi’s Park Hyatt.

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This project is still very much a work in progress. Getting into the ‘inner circle’ has proven to be a bigger task than the actual shooting and we’ve had all hands on deck just to secure access and permissions. The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority is helping to open doors, which has got me into some private falcon stables as far out as (more…)

5th Abu Dhabi Triathlon

The fifth event saw me back shooting for the fifth time. Always a fantastic gig to work on. I just love the atmosphere when you have a huge combination of athletes, some newbies to the sport, some going hard for a new PB and some pro’s racing insanely fast to grab that podium finish. The finish line ends up having no shortage of huge sweaty hugs and tears… 2,400 personal and powerful stories within a few short hours.

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From a photography point of view, the mission is avoid shooting the same old content year on year. Going through this year’s imagery, I’m pleased to see that I managed a few new monster shots, pushing on creativity and… (more…)

ADOR prepping for Volvo Ocean Race

I’m wondering what their out of office reply will be. “Got your email, thanks… but it’s unlikely I’ll reply anytime soon as I’m off sailing around the world for eight months with the Volvo Ocean Race.”

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The team Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is in town and I had the privilege of spending a few days with them. They’d just announced the new crew for the Volvo ocean race and this was the first time they were all together in Abu Dhabi.

Over the course of three days, the agenda was all about having… (more…)

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… (more…)

Ferrari Berlinetta F12

I must say I felt pretty privileged to be the first photographer to shoot the new Ferrari Berlinetta F12 on a racing track. It’s the most powerful machine they’ve ever built and with 740 bhp, she really is a high performance beauty as well as being stunning to boot.

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Together with the FF and California, we got to have a go at the Yas Grand Prix circuit in Abu Dhabi. As most of you know, I love getting up close to the action and my preferred way to shoot a car is from a car, that is lying in the trunk of a lead car with the subject nice and close behind. At modest speed, it’s all about hand signaling brand viagra canada their position back and forth… back, forward, right, left. Working with pro Ferrari (more…)