creative

My six lessons from 2015

How to summarise a stunning year in one word? … Blessed.

It is a true blessing to work with so many amazing clients seeking to go that extra mile, athletes who are at the top of their game and so many interesting, inspiring and courageous people. Yip, 2015 has been a pretty awesome year and I’m very grateful for all that’s happened.

2015-RECAP

The last five or so years, I’ve written a recap post reflecting back on the twelve months behind me and every year I make the same observation about the speed of our lives. Consumed by the digital rat race, we play a constant juggling game between family, work and play. So much happens that unless I sit down and recap, I forget about all the great opportunities that have landed on my plate… and I forget, I realise, to often appreciate it all and say ‘Thank You!’

This year, I decided to keep my post short and sweet by sharing my six lessons from 2015. They’re in no particular order…

Nothing happens in isolation.

Simply nothing happens in isolation. Nothing. An idea might come from a quiet place but only grows once it’s out in the open. I built my own Studio//73 with the help of others. I work with creative talent to build greater books and deliver amazing shoots. As a brand ambassador and influencer, it’s about sharing the buzz about our industry. My behind the scenes videos is about giving back. We attract what we put out in the world and great ideas are worth spreading.

Be open to new things.

In 2015, we finally wrapped up the Falcons of Arabia book project… something we’ve worked on for 2 ½ years. Sure, we’ve produced over a dozen books but the sport of Falconry was new to me. Why it landed on my plate, I still don’t know, but I grabbed the opportunity. New topics require a great deal of research, study and learning… and in the process you evolve personally and connect with an entirely new crowd. This project meant immersing myself into the Emirati world of Falconry which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m grateful for this opportunity and for being raised in a culture where exploring new things was always encouraged. And thankfully, I still have all ten fingers!

Turn thinking into doing.

In March, I spent a week solo in The Empty Quarter, which is the second biggest desert in the world. An entire week ‘off the grid’… self sufficient and without any digital connection, it was a week of pure quality time in nature away from the digital rat race that consumes us. I named it ‘Project Pause – The Empty Quarter’. I thought about it for twelve months or so but once I’d made the commitment to just go, there was a complete shift in my mind. Suddenly, I found myself saying, “In March, I’m going on…” and as luck would have it, brands, friends and clients all picked up on it and wanted to support. Wow. With a bit of cash, my thinking was to produce a cool film about the experience, with the aim of inspiring others to find a Project Pause of their own. And so it happened…

Project-Pause-walking-up-dunes

Be patient. Good things will happen, when you least expect.

A gig that pushed the boundaries in 2015 was shooting two big Hollywood stars. Two weeks prior, I got a call… “Are you available on the 5th of November. Please say yes”. Euan and I had worked on a gig in 2012, shooting the world’s biggest golf players in the world’s biggest bunker. This time he pitched a similar idea to do a shoot of Margot Robbie in the same stunning desert landscape. We did just that and the results were amazing. One led to another and the next day, I found myself on the Hyatt hotel’s rooftop helipad shooting Orlando Bloom. Clearly the story isn’t quite this short as there was all the pre-production to think about, but the message is there.  Creating great work leads to new work. Yes it might take time, but when it does, it rocks! This story is just one of a few. In March, I flew to Kuwait for ten days to shoot some amazing fast cars. This opportunity came out of the blue, but it also sort of didn’t…

Wouter Kingma Blog for Brittish Airways with Margot Robbie in Abu Dhabi 01

Create from who you are… and do what you love.

As many of you know, I’m a big outdoor and adventure guy. For that reason I tend to attract like-minded lifestyle brands as clients. Attracting them is one thing but turning their briefs into real, RAW imagery is where the real challenge comes in. I put it simple,  you have to work with real people in real places. With Adventure HQ, we went on a five day photo gig, touring the best locations and shooting the best possible content. Yes we got fried, dehydrated and sleep deprived but hell did we capture the real stuff. For Lululemon, it was all about creating the unstaged moments with their pro ambassadors. Creating the unstaged isn’t easy but if you can bring passion and positive energy to the shoot, it’s certainly do-able. My love for the great outdoors has been with me since childhood but turning it into a source of business has required patience and the constant seeking of opportunities.

Learn to let go. 

I normally start a gig with a clear vision in my head, knowing what imagery I want to get out of the shoot. Most of the time this works but not always. When you find yourself swimming upstream, there really is great value in letting go and leaving the shoot to chance. Just letting it flow. I’m not saying to settle on anything less but to allow something different to pan out. Just let things happens as they are meant to be. I’m a big believer in this and it works. Try it.

 

So there you have it. My lessons from my humble observations working as a photographer, a producer, a storyteller and an aspiring filmmaker. Our futures lie in our own hands and are transformed by the actions we take day in, day out and by the people that influence our lives. 2016 will bring amazing opportunities so make sure you’re ready to grab them with both hands.

Feel free to share this post…

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.

Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Creative-Feed-post

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.

New Nike brand images

Nike seem to shift their brand creative at a rate even more frequent than I buy new gear… and that’s saying something!

Wouter Kingma Blog for Nike Running Middle East 05We took some amazing environmental shots last year to put Dubai on the map at Nike Global. And now, we’re working in an entirely fresh direction. After going through an extensive 77-page brief, we’ve brought together this new set of creative content, a set of strong, black & white images, guaranteed to make an impact.

This epitomises what I really love shooting, in terms of both subject and art direction. And the style reminds me of an industry piece I want to put together called RAW. Just that… RAW. Strategically strong yet unpolished, crafted images, seemingly un-staged, moody and easy to connect with, a bit of dirt perhaps but not dirty, a blend of motion & unfiltered energy.  Sure, the focus may be a little… (more…)

New Nike brand images

Nike seem to shift their brand creative at a rate even more frequent than I buy new gear… and that’s saying something!

Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Nike-Running-Middle-East-05

We took some amazing environmental shots last year to put Dubai on the map at Nike Global. And now, we’re working in an entirely fresh direction. After going through an extensive 77-page brief, we’ve brought together this new set of creative content, a set of strong, black & white images, guaranteed to make an impact.

Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Nike-Running-Middle-East-02Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Nike-Running-Middle-East-01 Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Nike-Running-Middle-East-04Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Nike-Running-Middle-East-03

This epitomises what I really love shooting, in terms of both subject and art direction. And the style reminds me of an industry piece I want to put together called RAW. Just that… RAW. Strategically strong yet unpolished, crafted images, seemingly un-staged, moody and easy to connect with, a bit of dirt perhaps but not dirty, a blend of motion & unfiltered energy.  Sure, the focus may be a little… off or there may be an added strain of lens flare which might otherwise render a shot an imperfect picture, but RAW is a lifestyle and an approach to how we see the world.

So how does this filter through to the imagery we see today?

With this Nike shoot, the timing and location threw in some challenges. I knew it had to be dark and the location on the iconic Palm Jumeirah was pretty much a given. But how do you then deal with the combination of faint darkness and furiously fast athletes? Five years ago, I would have struggled badly but now we have great camera’s where you can just keep on cranking up the ISO. Most images here are taken in the range of 8.000-12.800 ISO, shooting borderline handheld shutter speed. The Canon 1DX is a master machine in such conditions, made even sweeter by my beauty lens, the 50mm f1.2.  When darkness falls, there’s just no need to call it a day!

My thanks to Tristan and Dania at JWT for their support and ideas and a big hands up to Coach Tom at PTX Dubai for coming out on his birthday and bringing his awesome crew along. Together, we made it work. Wonders! And we created RAW. In all its glory.

Wk.