Writing this post feels like a celebration of all that’s happened in the last twelve months.
2016 was a dynamic year. Business was a bit all over the place with some great productions and awesome opportunities in the mix. Travel is one of my greatest passions and the year took me to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egypt, Paris, London, Moscow, the usual Middle East spots and of course, my summer sabbatical through Europe.
I produced two short films. Khareef was a personal project… a story about friendship and windsurfing off a remote island in Oman and Hakawi, a destination film about Luxor. This gig came about through my role as Canon Brand Ambassador in the Middle East. What we created is a gift to the people of Luxor and to Egyptian tourism to help them promote their beautiful destination.
Following my successful Margot Robbie gig for British Airways in Abu Dhabi, BA flew me to Shanghai to shoot David Beckham then to Hong Kong. There, my brief was to recreate an old vintage poster with David Gandy and to shoot Immy Waterhouse and Lizzy Jagger. After this, came a cool ballerina stint in London and shooting on their inaugural flight to Moscow. These were pretty amazing opportunities with red carpet treatment and celebrity protocol all the way. The briefs were creative and what resulted is some magical storytelling imagery.
I love working with sports brands and their inspiring athletes. There’s such beauty in the collaboration… it’s like a dance between athlete and photographer. This year saw some big sports productions including shooting the Middle East launch campaign for Under Armour, expanding Lululemon’s brand ambassador portfolio, a fair bit of magazine work and some more personal work with pro athletes.
I recently produced my BrandReel, which is an energetic 60 second summary of what I’ve done, what I like to do and most importantly, what I want to do more of. As with writing this post, I had to dig through my archives, which resulted in a celebration of what the past has brought.
No year is complete without a Project Pause. I’ve been pretty quiet about last years Hajar Mountains edition… a week I spent in the Hajar Mountains last March, solo, off the grid and disconnected from the digital rat race we live in. The experience was stunning, so valuable and needless to say, a highly recommend endeavour! I’ve built a dedicated page on my website with background info and short videos. Feel free to browse and (hopefully) get inspired…
Of course, no year is complete without some impulsive, spontaneous act of madness so in December, I challenged Guinness World Record queen, Eva Clarke to join me in jumping from a plane to overcome her fear of heights. In return, she challenged me to run with her from Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit to SkyDive Dubai. Neither of us was prepared for 100+ km but we set off anyway, ready to see how it panned out. In the end, we ran and ran and ran (and walked) 108 kilometres in total. Why? Just because we can. We ALL can! Read the full post here. A short video is in the making…
In June, I took time out to review my own personal goals and dive deep into the business. I saw two amazing coaches… Tom Young and Tricia Evans. The challenge was wonderful. To be shaken up gives great clarity on how to move forward. I think my biggest takeaway was identifying my need to do meaningful work, work that moves people and to develop my new tagline; “Helping Brands Tell Powerful Stories.”
Finally, a huge thanks to all of YOU for staying tuned to my Blog, Facebook and Instagram. A big thanks also to all my clients and the crew of independent creative professionals I get to share my adventures with. Last but not least, to my rockstar wife Kiki, for giving me the freedom and go ahead to continue this magical journey…
I look forward to spending an awesome 2017 together!
My longtime friend Giles is an avid windsurfer and has been suggesting for years that I join him on (and shoot) one of his windsurfing trips to Oman. We finally made it work this past summer, thanks to the dates not clashing with my annual summer exodus to Europe. Beyond the usual photography, I set myself the challenge of shooting my first short film, everything from initial concept and storyboarding to the actual camera work and editing. The full monty. My camera’s have been able to shoot video since Canon launched their 5D Mk2 in 2008 but over the years, I’ve never really had the desire to venture into the world of motion film. Photography was my kinda thing. Till now anyway…
Khareef tells a story of a group of friends who travel every summer to Masirah, a remote island in Oman, to crash out on an empty beach and do the thing they’re super passionate about… windsurfing. Khareef shares their passion, experiences and adventures. They talk about what make Masirah so special and unique. The film wraps with a scary adrenaline rush at Keyhole with intimidating waves, sharp rocks and a small exit.
It certainly was a real adventure for me. I loved putting a film director’s hat on and tweaking the storyline as we went along. Canon Middle East kindly supported me with the latest C300II cinematic camera and cinema lenses. I also brought my own telephoto lenses so I had no shortage of gear to play with. We camped on this wonderfully remote beach without phone, internet or electricity. Fully self sufficient. Living simply. Anyone who knows me, knows that’s just how I like it but our set up did raise some challenges in producing a film. Ultimately, it all worked and we had a blast. My thanks to Goal Zero for keeping us charged with solar energy.
As with the filming, I was keen to do the editing myself… I certainly wanted to understand the process, workflow and basic jargon. The Final Cut’s tutorial videos saved the day, helping me to learn and edit simultaneously.
In preparation, I watched a whole bunch of hardcore windsurfing videos on youtube. The filming was epic but I often found them repetitive in their storytelling so I wanted to create something slightly different. With Khareef, there are three storylines really… camaraderie, destination Oman and, of course, epic windsurfing. I’d love to hear your thoughts…
A huge thanks to Giles and your fellow surfers… for inviting me into your world and sharing something that brings you so much joy. I so appreciate you sharing your little slice of Omani heaven with me and am inspired by how protective you are over keeping it pure and simple, without growth, development or commercialisation. I think back on the many conversations you had around gear and sail sizes; “Wow, you’re on a 5.7?” “Crazy, I need to get on a 6.3….”. The passion for the surf was conveyed even in conversation, never mind when on the water. So boys, keep on riding those big waves, tackling those stormy winds and taking a step back into a life more simple. We have just one life and you guys are certainly living it…
Thanks to Canon Middle East, I had the great pleasure of spending a day with ten media creatives from a range of publications and blogs. We were hosting a full day program centred around the theme of Urban Exploration. The video below is a great summary of the energy of the day.
Urban Exploration means different things to different people. We spoke about this at length during the class room session, particularly in terms of access and location. My definition is this… urban relates to the urban environment and culture and exploration relates to the intention of discovery and being open minded about the outcome. Together, Urban Exploration means hitting the streets in a rich and dynamic place to randomly wonder and tell stories with photographs.
Exploring is all about spending time on the street, either on foot or on a bike. Strap on a backpack and hit the road. I’m a big fan of fstop gear bags for three reasons; they’re super comfy, they’re not immediately recognisable as photo gear bags (thereby allowing you to blend into a crowd) and they provide easy access to kit. Trying to stay unnoticed is key. Depending on where you are in the world, that could mean looking like a local or a tourist. Ditch the tripod, travel light and keep your camera in your pack (lens mounted) until you really need it. Walking around with your camera around your neck would be a definite no no and simply draw attention to yourself.
Beat sunrise and shoot well beyond midnight. Remember the unexpected stories come from the out-of-the-ordinary. Every city bustles with energy 24hrs a day. Think bakeries, fish markets, bus stations, entertainment areas, ports… they all run around the clock and each one tells a story regardless of the time of day. If travel time is an issue, just book a room in a cool neighbourhood. I booked a heritage hotel along the Dubai Creek once to fully immerse myself in three days of exploring Deira and Bur Dubai. A truly amazing experience.
Heba showing off her latest collection of Canon gear…
With regards to access, my advice is to be bold. Ask for forgiveness rather than permission. From experience, I know that if you ask the question re whether its ok to enter somewhere to take a photograph, you’ll spend ages waiting for someone to respond, which eventually turns out to be “Problem Sir, not allowed. No photo”. This particularly applies in this part of the world. So just find a way, walk with confidence like you know where you’re going and keep moving forward.
At some point, we hit the grey area of trespassing and going somewhere (truly) off limits. My point of view is that there are certainly things that would be damn stupid to enter. I’m talking military camps, Skeikh Mohammed’s private palaces, the safe of the central bank, the ladies section of mosques etc. These are absolute no no’s. And then there are other places where I guess you’re not suppose to tread but, if you get caught, a bit of sweet talk might be all you need to get away with it. Think container complexes at the harbour, old ruins, building rooftops and abandoned warehouses. Accessing these would just amount to a little harmless mischief. Both lists can go on and will differ for everyone. It all depends on your own comfort level. For me, it’s important that I’m not doing anyone harm, not damaging anything and not doing anything super illegal. Common sense really.
Jessie standing in as model for magic hour demo shot
To get the max out of your time, do your homework first to see what the area has on offer. A simple google search will have tons of images. Coffee table books are a great source of inspiration as are searches on a good image bank like Getty Images or Arabian Eye. Get a detailed map to plan a rough route. I find the ‘sun scout’ app super helpful to see how the sun travels at precise times of the day. So have a wishlist but don’t get too hung up on it. Be open to change. Take a left turn when you planned a right, just because the light looks better or you feel there might be a good story at the other end of the street. Follow your intuition. Listen to your gut. I’ve discovered the best places on random explorations. Remember what Tolkien said. ‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost.’ Don’t be disappointed if your wishlist isn’t met. Instead, celebrate the lucky and unexpected encounters. Embrace the unseen.
Urban Exploring is only partly about taking photographs. It’s also about meeting interesting people and having unexpected conversations. It’s about having roadside food, whether a schwarma from a roadside vendor or some tea in a crowded joint. It’s about the mindset of choice and freedom and not chasing someone elses wishlist. It’s about the adventurer and explorer that lives in all of us. It’s quality ME time and that’s so valuable. Leave your phone at home… don’t be disturbed by ringing, buzzing or vibrating.
Finally, it’s about getting out there. Don’t be an armchair dreamer. Get out, do it and experience it. Explore first, brag later.
A big shout-out and appreciation to Canon Middle East for the opportunity to spend the day with such an amazing crowd. There is something super rewarding about sharing passion and trade with those keen to learn. Also many thanks to SanDisk and f stop gear for spicing up the media kit with valuable products. The crew at Clarke and Romero did a fab job in putting the behind the scenes video together.
What do you pack for a week of solitude in the desert?
I’m referring to my recent Project Pause. For those not in the know, Project Pause refers to a week I spent in the Empty Quarter this last March. I lived for seven days, off the grid (no wifi, no email, no phone, no social media) and fully self-sufficient in the second biggest desert in the world. The idea evolved around wishing to spend some quality time in nature away from the digital rat race we live in. I felt curious to discover what the experience would give me. With the support of a few great brands I’ve now got an awesome short film (30min) to hopefully shift a few minds. Check out the 90 second trailer at the bottom of this post.
Back to the packing question. For me, it didn’t seem like a big task to prep and pack for such a long gig but I’ve had so many questions so here’s the lowdown. Do note this post title features the word ‘essential’. Could I have done with less? Absolutely. But I wasn’t on a Bear Grylls survival expedition. If you read my previous posts here and here, you’ll see there was more to my adventure.
Below edit has the full walk thru video I took in camp the day I left. Just to talk thru all the gear and toys I brought along. It’s a basic edit but feeds the gear freaks out there…
Think duct tape, cable ties, knives, my Petzl head torch, a Black Diamond LED lamp, bike repair kit, small rope, mini first aid, snow shovel and my Suunto Ambition 3 GPS, as with all my solo desert running, I knew navigation would be a big thing for me. I ventured deep into the desert yet kept a pretty good sense of where I’d come from and where I was headed. My Suunto, which had the campsite location safely stored, provided the navigational back up I needed and gave me the confidence to explore more and go deeper into the dunes. I’m a bit of a coffee addict too so never go far without my Handpresso. There’s no need to forgo real Latte’s when on a desert adventure!
I was truly amazed how well my Yeti Coolbox functioned in the heat of the desert. I still had ice on day five and coolish drinks on day eight when I drove out. The secret is to pack it smartly, with all the last-to-use items at the bottom and to minimise the time the lid is open.
With the sand storms throwing my plans around a bit, I didn’t get my Fatboy hammock out till the morning of day four. But once I did, it was amazing. Imagine a tropical white beach with two palm trees holding up a comfy hammock. Lying in it, I had that totally chilled feeling of not having to do anything other than absorb the moment and relax. Bliss!
We simply can’t survive without water. I took 80 liters of drinking water with me, intended to last seven days plus extra emergency days. I also took a full jerry can of tap water for cooking, washing the dishes and mini showers. I had to be pretty sparing by the end so in hindsight I would have brought a second jerry can.
I took the luxury of taking two tents, the first being my big-ass base camp tent (Marmot Capstone 6), which I used as HQ tent and the second (Marmot Limelite 2) which served solely as a sleeping tent. I kept this one closed to keep out creepy crawlies and on warmer nights, I removed the fly and just slept beneath the mesh.
TECH GARMENTS + FUEL
Marmot is, hands down, my brand of choice when it comes to time out in the wilderness. Their technical gear kept me nice and dry even when highly active and their down vest, which I love, kept me warm and comfy during the cooler evenings. Nobody performs without fuel and I stocked up heavily on GU hydration tablets, gels and recovery shakes. For longer runs, in particular, I use gels to keep up my energy levels. I wore Salomon trail running shoes, same as I wear for all my races. They’ve never let me down.
A buddy of mine worked for Primus and every year when he came to stay at our place, he brought a new fancy piece of Primus kit. We’ve now got a pretty nice selection! For Project Pause, I cooked on their Easy Fuel and went through four gas cylinders. My tea was kept nice and warm in Stanley thermos flasks.
SHADE AND SEAT
My plan was to set up camp with a big canopy to seek shade during the day and create a sense of cosiness in the evening. Stupidly, I tried setting up the OZtrail Festival 15 in the sandstorm. Bad idea! Even if I’d managed to assemble it, it would have taken off like a parachute so it wasn’t until day four that it came into good use. The size and ease of putting it up is great but I’d love a few big sand pegs to make it more wind robust. Add to this a comfy OZtrail camping chair and all would be great!
I knew I wasn’t going to be caught out on super cold nights (which we have experienced before in Dec/Jan) so a lightweight down sleeping bag would suffice. I love the Marmot Helium, which makes for the perfect light duvet on warmer nights and when fully zipped up, keeps you snug during the colder, early morning hours.
Many asked what I ate during Project Pause. I took two crates of food. I love healthy, nutritious and fresh foods but for a week like this in the desert, you do need to be smart about what you bring. I took only hard fruit that would last well outside the coolbox… apples, pineapples, oranges and banana’s mainly. I also brought fresh veggies with short cooking times (to save gas) such as broccoli and other veg that doesn’t require cooking at all like avocado’s, cucumbers, carrots and peppers. I do think it’s important on trips like this, to keep your fresh produce intake as high as possible. Keeps you healthy and energised.
I had a crate full of dry foods like pasta, rice, crackers, dried fruits, mixed nuts, tinned fish, breakfast cereal and jam… foods I could survive on for weeks if I had to without having to worry about storage temperatures or expiry dates. Rather than bringing lots of herbs, I cooked with ingredients that are full of flavour like canned fish, cured meats, salami and pre-flavoured couscous. I also took some quick and tasty expedition meals.
Beyond a good tent and a warm sleeping bag, one item often neglected is a good sleeping mat. I’ve been sleeping on Thermarest mats for decades. Admittedly, they’re a bit of an investment but they last well and have great padding. A good night sleep leads to a great day in the outdoors!
SURLY MOONLANDER FATBIKE
My first experience on a Surly Fatbike surpassed all expectations. It seemed a little like ski mountaineering in the Alps when you spend hours getting to the top, which is an awesome workout alone, then experience the real joy of skiing down on virgin snow. Fatbiking in The Empty Quarter was no different… firstly, the challenge of cycling to the top of a huge sand dune and then the actual blasting down the dune. Hours of fun, exercise and exhilaration!
A first aid kit is one of those things you hope not to need and thankfully mine stayed untouched. My first aid kit is pretty well stocked with even an expedition first aid manual to answer any questions. Bear in mind that SIRI doesn’t work in the wilderness so you can’t google it even if not on a digital detox. I did have with me a Thuraya satellite phone (my thanks to Xtra link for their support) and I had Dr. Mike, a specialist desert doctor on standby, just in case…
I never go far without a camera by my side. For Project Pause, I took my Canon 1D X with a few lenses; 15mm, 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200. For the (self) filming I used the same Canon 1D X, their new Canon Legia Mini X and GoPro’s Hero 3+ and Hero 4. To keep life simple, I used the biggest SanDisk Extreme Pro cards (128GB and 64GB) so I didn’t have to spend too much time downloading. These cards are super reliable for storing files as well.
ADVENTURE PHOTO PACK
Nice and snug on my back, I had the fstop Satori EXP in blue with ICU’s to store camera kit. When hitting the world’s biggest dunes, you need a pack that sits comfortably and gives easy access to plenty of gear. I used the fstop mountain series with ICU’s to store my camera kit. What I love about the fstop packs is the gear access from the back pouch so you don’t have to place the sweaty backrest onto the sand to get anything out.
17. SOLAR CHARGING BATTERY PACK
I could simply not have done without the Goal Zero Yeti 500 and the boulder Solar Panels. I didn’t have much to recharge (camera batteries, sat phone, go pro’s, music) but the fact that I could be fully self sufficient and have my own power supply was awesome.
So here you have it. If inspired to stock up on some kit yourself, visit Adventure HQ, for pretty much all the stuff you need.
Now check out the trailer and see where adventures can take you…
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions for a project pause of your own. Get out there!
What an amazing experience it was to see the initial hand sketches evolve into an amazing three months road show through Dubai. The feedback has been amazing and we even had the honour of HH Sheikh Mohammed paying a visit! If you didn’t get the chance to visit, do check out the video below which brings it all together.
A selection of DXB/AIR images are now for sale at our own webstore ArtOnTheMove.me. Beautifully hand crafted photographic prints start at US$ 390 and if you order before 31 March 2015 you’ll receive 20% off by using ‘JAN NEWSLETTER’ at check out.
A massive shout out to all our sponsors without whose generous support, energy and trust, none of this would have been possible. Jacqueline at Jumeirah was the first to embrace the exhibition by opening the doors to Emirates Towers and Souk Madinat. Without a home, there simply is no exhibition so my sincere thanks for giving us a stunning roof over our heads.
As a Canon ambassador, I knew I could count on the support of the Canon Middle East team, my trusted partner in large format printing gear, photography equipment, social media and PR. I’ve worked with Ali al Naboodah and Inken Wessels for eight years and I’m deeply grateful for the support they have shown. Integral to the entire gig was of course, the helicopter, without which there would be no aerial images. During the many hours flight time, Captain Andy Nettleton at HeliDubai proved to be a trusted partner and a complete joy to work with.
I went for a run the other day and starting thinking about my ‘2014 Recap’ post. I’ve done one for the last five years; 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. It’s a lot of work putting it together and I asked myself, ‘who actually reads it all?’ Obviously you… so far!’ So why send it out?
I continued running and let the highlights of the last twelve months come front of mind. Damn it’s been a great year! A lot of ‘a-ha’ moments which I think had sorted of faded from my memory. Then it struck me, in the fast pace we operate in, it’s always all about the now, the constant barrage of briefs, editing, digital distractions and what have you. The nows are closely followed by the what’s next… the next gig, next rebrand, next blog update, next new business and the next new year.
It struck me that I rarely sit down to absorb and be proud of what we’ve accomplished.
So I guess this post is more for me rather than for you the reader. Sorry! But, don’t switch off quite yet as success is always better shared.
Here’s a snapshot of how my 2014 panned out
I launched my own retail book with my publisher Motivate in April. It’s always a proud moment to see my ‘Dubai Aerial Tour’ in all the book stores around town. If you’ve not already seen it check out the behind the scenes video.
I’ve now formally taken on the role as Canon Ambassador for the Middle East region. A new challenge which feeds my passion for sharing and teaching. My content has gone up on their Facebook page with #WOUTERINFOCUS as the tagline and I’ve already enjoyed a few speaking engagements. In December, we produced a really cool Canon case study video as a summary of my work.
I needed a new roof over my head so I converted an abandoned 20ft container into a vintage lodge as our studio and creative space. I’m a big believer in creating a working environment that works, fits your style and is full of energy to fuel creativity. Swing by and check it out…
On a more private note but a pretty a big one… nope, trust me.. the two energetic boys we have are enough! My wife Kiki has left the corporate field herself and has a heart set on creating a voice within the team & relationship coaching world. She is great at what she does and I wish her all the best in chasing her dreams.
Together with the crew at Wonderful Machine, we’ve been through a big audit of my business, which proved to be an eye opening and valuable excise. Over the course of the last nine months, we’ve rethought what we’re doing, re-photo edited, rebranded and got a fresh online presence. Let me know what you think of it…
Our webstore ArtOnTheMove.me is working well but needs more TLC to increase sales. The Middle East remains fairly new to buying goods online, let alone printed art but the feedback has been promising so I do believe we’re on the right track. I’m potentially looking at some kind of partnership with someone who can take the lead on the e-commerce business. Open for discussion!
The moment I walked out of the helicopter, I knew it would have to lead to a photo exhibition. And so it did. Over the summer we worked on putting the DXB/AIR roadshow together. Three months at three amazing locations! Check out the video to see what it was all about. The big backlit images brought the stories together along with the exhibition art installation, created from recycled wood. For me, it was as much about sharing the aerial work in big prints as it was about the actual art installations.
No books went to press in 2014 but we’ve been doing all the ground work for two new releases in February and May 2015. More to come! It’s always so rewarding to see the artwork pdf be transformed into a physical book. In parallel, we’ve produced an entertaining video about producing books … The Rough guide to Bookmaking.
A final note to all the amazing clients who keep us engaged throughout the year. THANK YOU! We’re very fortunate to receive a really nice mix of gigs. It is variety that rocks our boat and working with amazing people is the icing on the cake. We really do appreciate all your support.
As mentioned above, I have no idea how many followers actually make it to the bottom of this post, but if you did, awesome! You’ve joined the 2014 celebration.
I’m super stoked to break the news! This has been in the pipeline for a while, with a relationship that trails back to my first exhibited work in 2008. Canon was a great support of my ArtOnTheMove.me exhibition and I’ve done a few trade show presentations and workshops for fellow photographers.
But now, I suppose it’s just a bit more official! I’ve taken on the exciting role of Canon Brand Ambassador for the Middle East region. Amongst a mix of deliverables, I’ll be feeding their social media channels with fresh content, throwing out crazy photography ideas, mishaps, large format printing experiences, creative injections and brain twisters… basically sharing what I do on a… (more…)
I recently wrapped up a series of talks at the Sign & Graphics trade show in Dubai. It was great fun with lots of energy and a tip-top crowd.
My talks was predominantly geared towards photographers and printing professionals… sharing real life experiences from the diverse productions and shoots we work on covering photography and (large format) printing. In a nutshell, my story ran as follows (more…)
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…)
Working for Red Bull is great fun and they always get the mix just right. The scene looked awesome with lots of energy, music and liquids to give you wings. They’re very strong on their brand marketing generic viagra online canada and the ever-enthusiastic crew are always a joy to work with. Every image tends to have one big logo, occasionally two which… (more…)
With the hot and steamy summer now behind us, we’re all back to enjoying the magical outdoors again. As many know, I’m a big fan of getting outdoors and exploring new places. My personal project ‘Exploring Old Dubai’ was a prime example of venturing somewhere new, even when it was right here on our doorstep.
The Nike Running Club has changed their formula this season whereby, every month, they plan to gather a crowd and take them to new running locations. Last weekend, they kicked off from Downtown’s Vida Hotel and ran a route around the Burj Khalifa. 21st century city slicker running at its best! The previous month they took on the energy of… (more…)
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.
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…)