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My short film Khareef

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…

Wk.

 

Football in Oman

Many I know love working in Oman. The people are amazing, the scenery is stunning and there’s a wonderful humility and sense of calm there. I recently worked on a reportage about youth football in remote places. There’s not a lot of text to go with it so just enjoy the images

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Also check out the Audi Challenges Arabia website where you can see the awesome short movie. Both the FD Joeri Holsheimer and DOP Carlos Catalan did a grand job in bringing together an awesome story. Well worth the watch!
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This series of images was taking in the iconic village of Bilad Sayt, deep in the Omani Hajar Mountains. If you get hold of the Oman Explorer you’ll find a mix of 4×4 routes taking you up there.

Wk.

Energizing Oman – Book recap

I’m super stoked to be sharing the our latest book production, ‘Energizing Oman – celebrating 30 years of oil operation’. It was actually delivered to the client a couple of months ago but I’ve only now had the chance to sit down and recap. Below is a quick flick-though to give you an idea of what it’s all about.

From concept to print, the project took nearly two and a half years so it was a real labour of love. On launch, it was presented to Royal Al Said family, the Minister of Oil & Gas Mohammed bin Hamad Al Rumhi, the Minister of Finance Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali Al Balushi and I was delighted that all the client’s employees received a copy of their own. Oman is a truly special place and distinctly different from other gulf countries. You’ll find Omani’s at work at all different levels within organisations and they hold immense pride over what they do and what Oman has to offer. A large component of ‘Energizing Oman’ was about capturing this pride and conveying the enthusiasm of the local workforce.

Before I started working on this book, I had little knowledge about the oil industry… nothing beyond filling up my own tank at the petrol station but I’ve since spent a lot of time on oil rigs and now have a pretty good understanding of what it take to pull raw oil from the ground. The technology it requires is mind blowing and the precision they operate at when drilling truly amazes me. Oxy brings in alot of technology from the US to do what is best described as follows, “In the Mukhaizna fields, the oil sits deep in the ground like thick peanut butter. In order to get it out, we inject hot steam into the ground to warm up the this peanut butter and make it a more fluid consistency. Only then can it be extracted.”

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed some pretty overwhelming hospitality in Oman. The friendliness of Omani’s characterises the nation as a whole. In 2011, during the Footsteps of Thesiger expedition, we spent weeks travelling through the most remote parts of the country and everywhere we stopped, the expedition team was always received with unconditional hospitality; dates, fresh camel milk, traditional dinners and fireside conversation. My Oxy gigs weren’t any different and before heading back to Dubai on the final day, the team I had worked with for the week prior took me out for a delicious local lunch in a traditional restaurant. I know the cultural drill well now… shoes off, bum on floor, plastic sheet in centre and eating with the right hand. Throw in lovely salads, meats and side dishes along with great conversation and it would be hard not to really value such experiences.

So with another awesome book product in the portfolio, all I can say is a big thank you. Thank you to Oxy Oman for the opportunity and teamwork in creating a stunning book together. And thank you to Gilbert Ruegg, Isam Al Zadjali, Moza Al Behlany, Mohammed Al Sarmi, Tim Ansel, Louise Adamson and Pascale de Jong for their invaluable support.

Wk.

Project Pause… The Empty Quarter – Part 2

I ventured into Project Pause in the hope of making it a valuable experience and when sharing my ideas and objectives, I found that other brands were keen to be part of the story. With their support, it opened doors to record the gig and share what it stands for with a bigger audience. I really hope to kick some butt and shift some mindsets!

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On drop off day, I had a film team join for an afternoon of filming but when they left at sunset, the rest of the week was self filmed. My photo gear has been able to do video ever since the Canon 5D Mark 2 got launched in 2008 but strangely enough, I had just never had the desire to flick the switch and shoot video. Thankfully, video pro’s, Alex and Maellyn gave me a quick 10 minute crash course before leaving the desert on how to set my Canon 1Dx to film mode. I also had the newly launched Canon Legria MiniX and a couple of GoPro’s to play with. On the last day I got picked up, Maellyn joined to film the missing takes.

I certainly had enough hardware to film the story and was delighted that there was such enthusiasm for me to document the project as best I could. Keep your eyes peeled for the Project Pause documentary video!

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The timing for such a project is never going to be perfect and inevitably, it was really hard to find a week-long window amongst back to back shoots and my latest book project. During the month of March, I think I was only actually home for four days. Project Pause came right after an intense 11 day shoot in Kuwait leaving me with just 48 hours to pack and shop for my week of solitude as well as squeeze in some quality time with the family. In parallel, I’ve been working on an amazing book called ‘Falcons of Arabia’, scheduled to go to print mid April. Willingly cutting myself off like this meant I had to have a great team in place during my absence. My thanks go to all involved for making it work!

One of the brands that instantly embraced Project Pause was VW Middle East and they provided me with a brand new VW Touareg. Driving their latest model, packed with all my toys and desert survival kit was a real joy and undoubtedly the most luxurious thing I had with me. I’m working on a separate behind the scenes video with all the kit I brought along, sharing what gear works and what you may want to pack if you feel the urge to go on a similar adventure.

There’s only one place to do all your outdoor shopping for a trip into the wilderness and that’s Adventure HQ. The guys are super helpful and highly knowledgeable about the products they sell. I’m a big believer in technical clothing to keep me dry when exercising and warm and comfy in the evening. Marmot fits the bill perfectly and is my preferred garment of choice.

One thing I was keen to start during my week was the writing of my own book ‘1975 – connecting the dots.’ Eventually, I hope to see it as a printed book, filled with stories and images. Each story feeds to the person I am today, why I do what I love and how I choose to live my life. It was inspired by a blog post I once wrote in May 2013 after browsing two amazing photo books in the Yas Hotel lobby. I’m delighted to have made a good start with notes, anecdotes and the makings of a general outline. The book is very much about how opportunities have landed in my path, some expected and others far from it. I guess I’m keen to find out from where they originated from.

The big question, of course, is when is the right time in your career to scribble down your story? Never, I guess… so the best time is NOW. Don’t wait for someone to write your memoir knowing that you’ll never get the chance to read it. Read the 2013 post and you’ll find out how.

An unexpected highlight of my week was when my wife and two little boys joined the pick-up team on day seven. Total surprise! The kids where ecstatic about dune bashing and our family dinner in The Empty Quarter will be etched in my memory for a long time to come. My big thanks to Kiki for manning the fort in my absence and taking on the long journey to collect me.

To wrap up this post, I would love to leave you with two questions. 1) What would be your version of Project Pause? 2) Within the next six months, when could you spare a week to explore in solitude? From experience, I can tell you how great it feels not having the urge to pick up my iPhone and check my status, email or other stuff.

Great ideas happen when not glued to a handheld….

Wk.

‪#‎adventureHQ‬ ‪#‎Volkswagen‬ ‪#‎Marmot‬ ‪#‎SanDisk‬ ‪#‎GoalZero‬ ‪#‎FstopGear‬ ‪#‎Fatboy‬

‪#‎CanonMiddleEast‬ ‪#‎Thuraya‬ ‪#‎GoPro‬ ‪#‎xtralink‬

Project Pause… The Empty Quarter – Part 1

In pursuit of my Project Pause, on the 21st of March 2015, I drove into The Empty Quarter for a week of total solitude. The Empty Quarter, for those not in the know, is the second largest sand desert in the world, equal to France, Belgium and Holland combined. The desert landscape is truly fascinating. Think endless views of sand dunes and salt flats without a single soul in sight. Pure emptiness! It’s also home to the highest sand dunes in the world, rising to over 300 metres high.

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The Empty Quarter certainly made for an inspiring place to call home for a week and grab some quality down time, particularly after six months of being crazy busy. With the aim of being completely off the grid and self-sufficient, I set up camp with enough water, food, shelter and powerful reading to survive. That’s it. No wifi, mobile phone, email or any sort of connectivity. Project Pause was all about stepping away from the intense rat race we live and work in, to do away with to-do lists and let the days take shape as they naturally unfolded.

I can honestly tell you that it was a most amazing experience. I managed to read great books without instantly falling asleep. I enjoyed every sunset, counted shooting stars at night, went for long runs, got hooked to Fat Biking and most importantly, the experience calmed me down. I came out feeling more relaxed and mellow than I’ve felt for a long time. Granted, it wasn’t until day five that I started to really feel at peace both in body and in mind.

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Does feeling recharged and ready to combat life to the full again mean that I’m ready to return to the rat race with a vengeance or that I’ve had a change of mindset and am now capable of re-entering the rat race but taking things at a slightly slower pace? I’m not quit sure yet. You see, I live and work at a high pace and I can’t decide whether that alone is a good or a bad thing. All else considered, I have my own brand, I do what I love and it feels pretty awesome, most of the time anyway. I certainly don’t think I could slave away for a big multinational company, one who cares more about you reaching your target than about you on a personal level so I guess in that sense, I’m definitely in the right space. I’ve been so blessed over the years with an incredible mix of clients and a great diversity of work.  But if I could slow down a little, it would be to spend more quality time with my wife and kids. I’ve been  promising my kids I’d build them a pirate bed for months now and still haven’t started. It’s a fine balancing act many of us face, I know.

Was my entire week one of happiness? I would say yes. Back in the civilised world, any hardship quickly disappears from memory. I do recall days two and three being particularly hard as I had to sit through a crazy sandstorm. My Marmot tents held up really well but when stranded in a hot tent for hours or days at end, covered in sand and with gear constantly being thrown about, I did have to dig deep to find the enjoyment factor. Leaving the tent to the great outdoors was akin to having someone constantly throwing sand in your face. Not nice!

But storms come and go and this too eventually passed.  By day four, I could finally set up my canopy to create a nice shaded space to assemble my Fatboy hammock. The remainder of my week was quite simply, paradise.

Stay tuned for more Project Pause stories… The Empty Quarter – Part 2

Wk.

‪#‎adventureHQ‬ ‪#‎Volkswagen‬ ‪#‎Marmot‬ ‪#‎SanDisk‬ ‪#‎GoalZero‬ ‪#‎FstopGear‬ ‪#‎Fatboy‬

‪#‎CanonMiddleEast‬ ‪#‎Thuraya‬ ‪#‎GoPro‬ ‪#‎xtralink‬

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…)