art

Luxor – temple guards portraits

Shooting portraits of the guards at the Habu temple was an experience to be remembered. The expression on their faces was quite magical, full of charisma and telling of so many stories. Just seeing how engaged they are in what they do and their passion for the city of Luxor makes you want to capture them. I was keen to shoot straight down to f2.0 for a beautiful isolated portrait. I had it beautifully lit with a big octabank as my key light source and a smaller strip for a bit of over the shoulder fill.

Once set up, it’s a pretty indestructible set build. I shot wirelessly to an ipad so spectators and crew could see what was being shot. Feedback came in the form of giggles and enthusiasm. It turned into a damn good series!

We made some prints in Luxor, which we gave to the guards a couple of days later as a thank you. It was great to see their reactions. I wonder if they’ll make the walls of their living rooms at home?

One of the experiences that struck me most about working in Luxor was just how ancient everything is. At every turn, lie literally thousands of years of story telling. It’s certainly a sharp contrast to Dubai where so much emphasis is placed on the new, the modern, the glitz and the glamour. Luxor was a sweet reminder that I really do like ‘old stuff’.

This project has been such an amazing experience. Luxor has so much to offer and it’s been a joy helping them to create fresh content and share their stories.

Wk.

Intro Luxor & behind the scenes

This is the first of a series of posts about Luxor in Egypt. The Canon office called me in to discuss a project that would be straight down my alley. In a nutshell, Canon made the commitment to support the people of Luxor with visual assets to help promote their stunning destination. Tourism in Egypt has been having a rough time and needs a push with some fresh creative.

We did a scouting trip in November last year to figure out the scope of work, meet the Governor and seek inspiration for the storyline. I was shooting and producing. It was a typically hectic scouting trip, with long jam-packed days but I needed to get my head around the project and all it entailed.

This post is about the photography side of Luxor. I shot a handful of advertising style images, a stunning portrait series and an additional refresh for their destination image bank. My workhorse was the Canon 1DX Mark 2. I love their 1 series body. Thanks to the size, it just holds so nicely. It’s well balanced too with longer lenses attached. It has heaps of pixels and for me, the icing on the cake is that you can push the ISO setting and keep on shooting handheld with ambient light. This is great in darker spaces.

I worked with a mix of lighting scenarios. Most of the Luxor hero images were shot with Profoto studio lights, used both indoors and outdoors. We worked with pure ambient light when on the fly and occasionally used LED panels as a quick fill in option for portraits, whilst shooting with lower aperture. We moved through our long shot list of destination image bank shots pretty quickly so kept our gear light.

We nailed some amazing golf action shots with the 14fps and the awesome EF 200-400 lens with the 1.4 build in extender. Such a strong combo for isolating sport action. The focus tracking works perfectly with amazing sharpness. The new telelens is so much lighter than my alternative EF 400mm lens, enabling you to shoot handheld most of the time.

Luxor is so worth a visit. I’ll be taking my boys there to experience ancient storytelling with all the temples and tombs, alongside the vibrant colour and character of the bustling souks and the lush green east coast of the river Nile. Please check out Hakawi, the short destination film I produced… and keep your eyes peeled for my next few posts.

Wk.

What feeds creativity?

Whilst buzzing along in my Defender today, this question came to mind. “What feeds my creativity?” It’s not a new subject, I know. There’ve been tons of books written on the topic. Nonetheless, here’s what came to my mind.

1. ENERGY. First of all, creativity needs energy and energy comes from sleep and downtime. At least for me, that’s very much the case. On the other hand, if I feel tired and drained, I operate on auto-pilot and the engine for new ideas operates in slow-motion.  If there’s anything more non conducive to creativity, it’s falling back into old patterns of thinking or creating images. For me, a complete recharge of the batteries from time to time is super important to keep on delivering amazing work… hence my recent Project Pause. Power-naps are another powerful tool, I’m an early riser where most of my writing gets done early morning before the world wakes up, so to reenergise with a quick 15min head down does the trick for me.

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2. FRESH HORIZON. What feeds new ideas aka creativity is seeking new environments. I love travelling, exploring new cities… walking the streets, seeing the people, checking out the billboards and bus ads, chilling at trendy cafes or bars, discovering trendy designer hotels and equally the backpackers districts… Travelling certainly gives you one big, fresh take on things but what when travel isn’t possible? What also works is buying new magazine titles. Personally, I don’t think I’ve actually purchased a single photo mag in the last decade. Rather, I always pick up travel, design, culture, interior design or architecture titles. I’m a big fan of Frame magazine although it’s hard to find in this part of the world. Over the years, I’ve built an impressive collection of books and magazines which I often return to for ideas.

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3. WORLD OF ART. I’m a huge fan of visiting art shows, galleries and museums. There’s just so much amazing work out there. I also love looking at how work is presented, packaged and displayed. A really worthwhile visit is the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar which I visited earlier this year. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of historic artefacts but the way they’ve packaged and presented their collection is truly outstanding. So much about art appreciation for me is wondering how others got their ideas, what inspired them and how they sell it. I have a poster in my studio by Andy Warhol with the words, ‘ART IS WHAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH’. Love it! On the topic of art shows, I had the privilege recently of presenting a key note address at World Art Dubai.

4. ART DIRECTION. There’s always great value in working with an art director, either in the early creative stages of a project or on site at the actual shoot. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few and have often found them to be great characters with lots of energy and ideas. With bigger productions, there’s such a large crew which can easily absorb more of my attention than is necessary so having an extra set of (art directors) eyes helps to push the envelope. Often art directors represent the brand and know it inside out so they can easily make instant decisions on the spot… I’m talking simple decisions like sunglasses on or off, socks yes or no. Simple things yes, but trying to discover the best answer at 5am can be a challenge otherwise and getting it wrong could have a negative impact on the whole shoot.

5. CREATIVITY FROM OTHERS. For many years, I’ve had a folder on my desktop named ‘Creativity by Others’, which is filled with inspirational work on a super wide range of subjects including photography, art, interior design, quotes, furniture, art installations and more. When I see something nice, I screen grab/photograph it and chuck it in this folder which, as you can imagine, now contains thousands of things. I guess the folder acts as a good summary of the person I am today, the work I do and the work I want to be doing. I tap into it regularly when working on a new gig or putting together proposals.

6. CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE. Finally, I believe we all need our own personal space to be at our best. With our recent move, I’ve had the opportunity to re-create my studio which is now my think-tank, editing suite, chill out zone and inspiration chamber all in one. Studio//73, check it out… it’s even cooler than you can imagine.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but rather the first thoughts that popped in my mind on this great topic. There a great quote by Ansell Adams that my copy editor Victoria Leckie once sent to me. It goes, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, music you have heard and the people you have loved.”

Cheers,

Wk.