creativity

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.

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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.

2014 YEAR RECAP

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.

Wouter-Kignma-Blog-2014-RECAP

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.
Wk.

Our new brand

It’s been cooking for months behind the scenes so I’m super stoked to be starting a new year with the sharing of my new brand. Much has changed… an entire website rebuild alongside a new logo, blog and newsletter. We’ve also thrown some animated video into the mix.

Wouter-Kingma-new-website-copy

When I see WE, I’m 100% referring to this being a team effort. The foundation for change was laid out by the crew at Wonderful Machine. They undertook a full brand audit which resulted in a super valuable report with  professional, industry specific views and recommendations. I seriously recommend tapping into their knowledge. Following the report came the rebrand starting with a new word mark and a box of graphic identity tools. I LOVE my new logo. I knew that the new site and blog would have to be a custom build project using a photo template as a base. Internet in this part of the world is slow so we had to be smart as to how it would look and load. Whilst this was going on, Sean at Wonderful Machine assisted with an extensive photo edit, trying to make good sense of thousands of images. He set the base for my portfolio categories and content. The team Wonderful Machine made the below video which recaps on their thinking.

I found an awesome website template at APhotoFolio. They seriously know their stuff and build great websites for creatives. They have a super easy to use backend system for the editing and uploading of new content. Their template was the base from where we added our custom built text pages. Philip Meissner, a web designer familiar with APhotoFolio web jargon did an awesome job in pulling custom work off. Phil also turned the hand sketches of the new blog design into a working platform, still using wordpress. New to the blog will be the introduction of external content and other sources of inspiration. Melissa, from the Wonderful Machine design team, kept a watchful eye to ensure a consistent look & feel, redesigned our mail chimp newsletter and did a grand job in pulling the team together.

One element that needed a stronger online presence is why and how we produce award winning books. Book production is a key element to our business and that needed stronger recognitions. I wanted to step away from jpgs of stacks of produced books, but instead talk about the role of books, what they can mean to your business and our philosophy of making them. I found some inspiration in David McWilliams animation video, on how to tell stories. My text queen Tori edited the copy to create a nice flowing story, which got a voice over by Chris Radley. For the visual animation, I sat down with artist Matt Ryder and videographer Karl Edwards to bring it all together. Sure, the web video might be a tad long, but if someone is really interested, they’ll find the full six minutes both entertaining and valuable.

In summary, I think it all looks AMAZING. Fresh, relevant and a true reflection of what we do so a big shout out to everyone involved. Many thanks for sharing your magic.

Wk.

Get out there

I recently took a magical two days off and headed out to the mountains. As many may know, I’m a big fan of mountain days… spending quality time immersed in nature and soaking up fresh mountain air can surely only lead to great things!

Wouter-Kingma-Blog---Take-time-off

This trip was no different. To get me into an inspirational mood, I downloaded a podcast from The School of Greatness to listen to on the drive down. I can’t recommend listening to these podcasts enough. Thanks to Google maps and a bit of exploring, I found a new dirt track leading deep into a wadi or billabong as the Aussies would call it. As I drove deeper into the valley, the track got rougher and rougher and I was into (more…)