photography

Mongolia – Treading on Bones

I landed a job in Mongolia over the summer to create an image library about dino bones. It all started with an out of the blue call from an old friend, Michelle, who’s with Infiniti Motors in Hong Kong. She asked if I was interested in supporting their media program and I was all ears. Gigs with Michelle have always had a wonderful sense of adventure.

An international media crew was invited to join the tail end of an expedition to retrace some of historic explorer Roy Chapman Andrews routes, dating back to the early 1900’s. Using drone technology, we could identify new sites in the Gobi Desert where potential dinosaur fossils and bones could be found. And mission success! A few new species were identified too along with lots of data points. I’m no dino expert but it was pretty hard not to get sucked in and feel hooked. Under the watchful eye of scientists from the Paleontology Department of Mongolia, we found bones dating back 80 to 100 million years… a number that’s pretty hard to get your head around, I know.

Gobi is stunning!  In 2013, I ran an epic 250km race through the Gobi Desert on the Chinese side of this open barren landscape. This gig was further north, near the small town of Dalanzangad. The sheer expanse, scale and emptiness is overwhelming. Other than the occasional scattered Ger Camp, it’s just a mass of wilderness, mountains and emptiness. In fact, Mongolia is 1,5 million square kilometres in size, so as big as France, Germany, Nethelands, Belgium and Spain put together, yet the population is a mere three million (compared to 220 million within the others).

During my two weeks there, we were treated to all manner of extreme weather from rain, hail, and chilly nights to baking hot temperatures in the midday sun. Normally after the rains, the land turns green and vibrant but after the epic amounts of rain we experienced, we were rewarded with insane mud pools. It was still a great trip. And besides, if Mongolia were an easy place, everyone would be there.

Infiniti put us up at the legendary Three Camels lodge, which is listed on National Geographic’s unique lodges of the world. With my own ensuite Ger Tent, I felt like a luxury bedouin. Healthy food, fantastic crew and awesome company. Having no WIFI or cell coverage in camp felt like going back in time. Being offline these days is a luxury in itself! Conversations over dinner, waking up to a sunrise rather than an overfilled inbox and no urgent uploads made us all slow down. And when you slow down, the magic happens…

My brief was simple… to create an image library based on cars, paleontology and culture, to build a master hero collection and work on individual imagery too. It was an open brief, which suits me well and allows me some creative license in terms of just getting out there and embracing the opportunities that come my way. As I always say, variety is key and I’m super stoked with the quality and mix of visuals.

A big thanks to everyone! This gig will certainly go down as one of my coolest projects.

Wk

 

Ten things I’ve learned from a decade of solopreneurship

Ten things I’ve learned from a decade of Freedom.

 Twelve years ago, on a regular run of the mill day, I got up from my comfortable corporate cubicle in a swanky office tower and handed in my resignation letter. I’d had enough of paperwork and politics and was ready to trade in my suit for sneakers, swap my posh Jaguar for a beaten up Land Rover Defender. I had little clue about the direction I was heading in, but deep determination solves all issues. Big dreams and real action fuels success. I was on fire and itching for freedom!

I now find myself a decade on. I must have passed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule yet this is an industry that’s never matures. It is ever vibrant, dynamic and evolving… and as a result, I’ve kept evolving. Some clients have stayed aboard and others have left the boat. That’s the name of the game, I guess. Out with the old, in with the new. I value building long lasting relationships with clients yet I also love the pursuit of new ones. I’m generally not wired to do more of the same… I thrive on challenging myself, always chasing the next rung on the ladder. It’s all about the hustle. I found a great quote recently: “The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.” Which sums is up nicely.

So in order to celebrate my 12 years of hustling, I thought I’d write an honest reflection of the lessons learnt and insights gleamed. I guess I’m reaching out to the young guns here, those transitioning towards their dream job and those corporate dudes ready to turn their back on that office cubicle.

TEN THINGS I’ve learned over a decade of DOING SHIT I LOVE

  1. Focus on your passion and don’t chase the money

A question I’m often asked is how to get started. That’s a big question but at the core, I always refer to passion. Everyone has a personal interest at heart and everyone can shoot their subject way better than anyone else. So start within your comfort zone, borrow or rent some basic gear and start to build a strong portfolio or show reel around this. Funny things happen after this. Doors open!

 Forget about chasing the money. We really do deliver our best work when doing something we’re really passionate about. That driving force feeds enthusiasm which feeds creativity that leads to amazing work. It’s a powerful cycle. The opposite is also true… when I’ve stepped into jobs that have either physically depleted me or where interest is lacking, my output has been below average. For this reason, I only do gigs that I’ll love working on.  I know that’s easier said than done at times yet my core message shall always remain… focus on your passion and don’t chase the money.

  1. Outstanding work leads to awesome opportunities

I’ve had some amazing opportunities come my way, doors that opened completely out of the blue. Shooting my aerial book on Dubai for example. And a client flying me around the world to shoot celebs or creating a cool destination film around Luxor, Egypt. These were fantastic opportunities that resulted directly from previous (unrelated) assignments… assignments where I busted my ass to produce outstanding work.

Sometimes it takes a while to connect the dots, but then you get that call, “Hey Wouter, you know four years ago you did that PR stunt in the desert with golf pro’s Kaymer and Donalds? How about recreating that look, feel and energy with Margot Robbie?” You can’t engineer great gigs like these. The reason I was called in for the golf shoot back in 2010 was thanks to my being ‘the desert photography specialist’… this, a credit earned by shooting and producing books for the four editions of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge. Shooting Margot Robbie in The Empty Quarter, led to assignments in Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Moscow and Milan. This is just one of many examples of how delivering wow work plants seeds. It really is that simple. But don’t forget that seeds take time to grow and mature. You can’t always control your inflow of work but you can decide to only deliver outstanding work… the rest will come.

  1. What you talk about is what you get

So create a portfolio around the subject you’re passionate about. That’s where it starts. You then want to share it, whether through social media, your own site, another portal or even a pdf you send to your wish list of clients. This work becomes your identity. This is how people store you in their brains; the work you do, your style and how you work. With people, I mean your mum and dad, your friends, prospects, editors, marketing managers, decision makers… everyone who sees your work. They’re the ones talking about you and they push new work your way, so they need to sing the right song, right? Let’s say your passion is food. You love making visual art around food. You share this in the hope of getting work that allows you to do more food projects. Those around you only know you as the food creative so logically word of mouth heads in the right direction. When the phone rings, it’s a job right down your alley.

Having said that, at the beginning, you do need to keep it real so if you get a call to work on something different (or not your specialty) in exchange for cold, hard cash, don’t necessarily turn it down because it deviates from your passion. If it’s a decent gig, think about how you might use it to grow and pay for new gear… take the job, deliver great work (no shortcuts), pocket the cash and then make little or no noise. We’ve all done this. Just stay low profile about it.

Now what if that work grows? You now need to think about some long-term implications. Cash may motivate but doesn’t rule all. How important is taking the gig versus spending your time promoting the area where your passion really lies? If you take the job, do you confuse your audience? One way to minimize confusion is to ensure your online presence is only filled with the work you’re passionate about.  Where your energy goes, your focus goes. Again what you talk about is what you get.

  1. Personal work is powerful

Big clients or brands rarely book you to do a project that allows you to experiment with anything new. Why? Because the bigger the production, the more clients and different agencies get involved and all too often, decision makers want to play it safe. It’s a game of risk management. So don’t bet on the call for an experimental gig. Instead, go out and create those opportunities yourself. This is what I call personal work. No clients, no brief, just collaboration with amazing people and the freedom to explore. I love my personal work. It allows me to experiment with new gear, build relationships and strengthen my portfolio. I sometimes do it to support an agency pitch or sponsorship proposal. It definitely helps when knocking on doors, with the aim of producing similar (and paid) work for clients. Forget fake it till you make it. Rather, create it to promote it.

Doing personal work should be fun and stretch you both creatively and technically. It calls for high energy and laughter on set. For those on the other side of the lens, it helps them build some nice visual content and tell stories of their own. My ‘Project Pause’ and ‘The Curiosity Film Series’ are personal projects where I share interesting stories. Project Pause is about inspiring people to spend more time in nature, away from the digital rat race we life in. Curiosity Series is about creating short films allowing interesting people to voice their stories and share their passions. I’ve no clear plan on where they’ll lead to, but I really enjoy the process and it feels like the right content to produce.

  1. Be fair in business and with people

What is your driving force to get up every morning? For me, it’s about creating impact and value, to produce art and share stories that move people. And I’m blessed to make a good living doing this. Yes … we should make a living from the skills we offer in exchange for a fee that is fair. Value your work. Your art should come with a price tag. Quality clients understand that. How much you charge is up to you but consider the product you offer and its market value. Don’t compete on price but rather compete with unique work, your style, your vision and how you deal with people. Again, quality clients appreciate that. Over the years, my fees have increased as productions got bigger and artwork more complex. Some clients have stayed on board, others haven’t. I would far rather lose clients due to my fees rather than poor delivery and if budget is a real struggle, I’d rather do a gig for free and work on my own terms than come in crazy cheap and be at the client’s mercy. Chase Jarvis wrote an interesting post here about decision making… how to validate (new) work by using three criteria, of which at least two need to be matched. It’s a good read.

I’m a big believer in teamwork. Productions can get insanely tough with long days, tight deadlines, chasing best light and hauling tons of gear around. The bigger the production, the bigger the crew. Amongst all that chaos, be fair with your team and look after them. Smiley faces, hydrated bodies and filled bellies still work the best… Perhaps this is a good opportunity to thank all the amazing heroes I’ve worked with over the years… You’re awesome.

  1. Connect with people not brands

As a creative, you have relationships with people not brands. Someone who says I do work for brand X actually says I have a relationship with someone at that brand, so that relationship is sacred. Look after them. You’re not married to a brand, you’re in a relationship with someone who represents that brand and gives you the opportunity to collaborate and have fun with it.

When that person leaves the company, so does your ongoing work with them and you have to re-apply with his/her replacement. Having a strong brand history helps but is no guarantee for future work. The new person might bring in someone he already has a relationship with, he might have a totally different vision and your style simply doesn’t match. Anything can happen so your best bet is to present your work, share that you’re keen to explore new ideas, discover his philosophy and take things from there. People come and go. So do brands. If all goes well, you stay with the brand and you’ll transition with the departing person in his or her new role and start collaborating with their new brand too. That’s a great way to organically grow your network and client base.

Pro actively reach out to those you want to work for and build relationships with marketing people, art directors, creative directors, brand managers and editors. Try to book in facetime with them and present your work. Don’t forget that there are 10’s or 100’s of others also knocking on their doors but if you’re hungry enough and bang the door for long enough, they do open…

  1. Curiosity rocks

Be curious about life. Travel the world, discover new places, immerse yourself in nature and breathe in fresh mountain air. Keep developing professionally. Grow personally and spiritually. Break old habits and seek new patterns. Curiosity keeps your fire going. It’s the fuel that get’s you out of bed at 4am to create magic.

Travel is my greatest source of curiosity and I’m fortunate that I get to travel for gigs. A particular favourite was a gig in Hong Kong to recreate a British Airways vintage poster in celebration of 80 years of Asia flights. We shot David Gandy on a jam-packed corner near a busy night market, where the backdrop of neon lights just framed perfectly. With a crew of 20 and just thirty minutes to shoot four options, I suspect we fed the curiosity of the on looking crowd too!

Another favourite was right here in Dubai. I’ve lived here a long time but rarely venture to the historical part of town, to the old souks and the vibrant areas around the creek. A few years ago, I wanted to experience true Old Dubai so I booked myself into a heritage hotel on the creek for three days. Just me and an old Hasselblad, with no brief other than to wander from sunrise to sunset and long after. I just wanted to be present and feel the energy around me, without rush or urgency. To feed my curiosity! I would encourage everyone to experience their home town as a five year old child. Big eyes, lots of questions and a great sense of wonder.

Feeding your curiosity goes hand in hand with making a commitment to never stop learning. Here in Dubai, you have Gulf Photo Plus, which is a great photography community, and online, Creative Live, which has tons of content. I‘m also a big fan of podcasts. I follow Rich Roll and Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness but there are many many more. I listen to them during downtime, especially during long commutes.

  1. You are a brand

Building a business and a brand takes time. Twelve years ago, I (foolishly) started my brand as Orange Expressions, partly to shy away from using my own name and being insecure about what I would deliver. I quickly re-branded into Wouter Kingma Productions (adding productions gave me the baggage to go after bigger gigs and book productions). Now my brand is just my name, Wouter Kingma. Clients book me for my style and what I have produced based on my portfolio. If you’re a creative, your brand is YOU so I think your brand should be your name.

Get a website and only upload your best work and the work you love to do more of. Your online presence should only feature the stuff you really want to do. I seek help from the team at Wonderful Machine, who help me select what goes online. It’s good to get feedback from fresh eyes. When it comes to social media, ensure you only post value, I repeat only post value. Don’t join the crowd of junk, fake and useless content that clutters cyber space. Instead be real, be inspiring and be yourself.

Making noise about your work is a must. That’s how you get recognized and book new business. How and where to share stories is different for everyone. I’m perhaps a little old school writing my own blog, but over the years it has become my diary of sorts. It’s filled with real life experiences, my best work and behind the scenes videos and as it’s a blog rather than a social media channel, I own the content. I work with an amazing copy editor Tori, who turns my jagged words into words that flow. I often pull out posts to share with prospects… a handful of images, a video and a short captivating write up about what happened on set sells much better than a few jpgs at the end of an email. The blog also feeds my newsletter and the work I do in my Canon ambassador role.

  1. Surround yourself with creative brilliance

Success is a team sport and becoming who you are, is a collaborative journey. No one makes it alone so surround yourself with the best creative people you can afford. This applies equally to the established brands and the fresh ones. Sure, when you start out, affordability is an issue, but bear in mind that some work for cash, some just for love and others will put in their time in exchange for something you can offer them.  When it comes to meeting new creatives, it pays to attend regular gatherings, art shows, agency awards and talks. They can, at times, be hit or miss but they’re often a great place to source drive and contagious energy.

How I see it, every single day, we start with a fresh jar of energy, one jar with no refills. We all choose how to spend it so we need to be wise and spend it on the good stuff. If we surround ourselves with positive people who creatively inspire us, we have the right mindset to make the right decisions. So, pick the people around you wisely.

Surround yourself with inspiring work as well. I have a folder on my desktop called ‘creative by others’ and every time I see something that moves me, I screen grab it to add to this folder. It’s now full of stunning photographs, ad’s, artwork, quotes, interesting video’s, cool fonts, case studies, unique locations, brand books, strong design, articles and short captions. I go back to when I’m stuck with a brief or pitching for a new project. Follow in Picasso’s footsteps, who said, ‘Good artists copy… great artists steal’ so seek inspiration from others then build from it and twist it into your own.

  1. Only Karma. Trust the process and believe in yourself

People land on your path at the right time. Phones ring and emails ping when you’re ready. Life unfolds just as intended. When I speak about this to my age groupers… the 40ish kids amongst us… they get it… so to the Millennials out there, just be cool about the journey you’re on. Everyday, people cross our paths and valuable lessons land on our laps for a reason.

It’s taken me a lifetime (or at least the recent dozen years) to be where I am today, comfortable with what I do with a body of work I’m proud off. Being a self taught photographer and filmmaker comes down to vision, dedication and believing in yourself. If I can do it, so can you. So please, quit the mundane and follow your heart. We’re surrounded by people addicted to their comfort zone, where not much happens… Precious time just slips away like water through your fingers. What might seem a giant leap isn’t as intimidating as it seems. It’s up to you to make it an exciting new chapter… bumpy at times, no doubt, but thrilling nonetheless.

I hope these words have planted seeds in those dreaming in their corporate cubicle. Feel free to follow my sporadic blog and irregular newsletters. Through the soon to launch Canon Academy, I’ll be running classes on making the big leap and following your dreams as well as some advanced tech stuff. Announcements will be made on Instagram.

Be great.

Stay great.

Wouter

Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience

Over the last few years, I’ve had the great fortune of traveling around the world documenting the story behind the Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience. We’ve cruised through Rome, Paris, Dubai, Ras al Khaimah and Edinburgh. How did I land such an awesome gig? It was all thanks to a kind introduction via my friend Zantelle at Lamborghini. I’m always grateful to have great clients who share the love…

Needless to say, we’ve created great chaos with our fleet of colourful and noisy Lambo’s. Streets come to a standstill. Fellow motorists stop to pull out their mobiles. It’s all a dream for boys who love their toys. Yet not everyone has been impressed with our presence. It’s funny how the various law enforcement officers react differently. Cruising through Rome, the police were snapping away while we looped around Piazza Venezia Roma… me doing my standard bag of tricks, crawling in and around the convertible Huracan to capture some great car to car shots. But in Scotland, we were pulled aside. “Excuse me sir, why are you not wearing your seatbelt?”. I was ready to wax lyrical why but didn’t even get the chance. In it’s place, a stern lecture about road safety, responsibility and ‘what would happen if’s….’

Little did he know that I do this for a living and have been in way scarier situations than bumper to bumper traffic cruising towards Edinburgh Castle. I was nearly issued a fine and knew better than to argue. A sincere apology did the trick and besides, even my five year old son reminds me about being strapped in before driving.

The tour has been great. 4am wake up calls to catch the sunrise up Jebel Jais. Timing traffic lights to get a clear view of Pont d’Iena for the iconic Eiffel Tour backdrop. Ducking hoards of scooters and navigating crazy narrow roads in Rome. Then there was the lead car being driven by the throttle heavy hotel manager and me, with a 23 year old Lambo pro driver, briefed to stay within inches of his back bumper.

I love this shit. The mesmerised eyes on the street, the sound of the Aventador’s V12 engine, the long list of happy hotel guests who get to experience how it feels to own a Lamborghini and a bag of iconic visuals to boot. Returning all the metal in one piece and the cool memories to return home with are the icing on the cake.

Wk.

Luxor – Hakawi film release

I’m super excited to release my latest short film. Titled Hakawi, it’s a destination film about the stunning city of Luxor, part of a bigger project I worked on for Canon end of last year. The Luxor project started with refreshing their image library but evolved into creating this beautiful short film using the Canon C300 Mark 2. I worked with the C300 last summer shooting Khareef and really enjoyed it.


[Hakawi – short destination film]

I found it particularly supportive in my run and gun style of film making. It’s small enough to shoot handheld and the follow focus with the EF lenses is brilliant. Speaking to ‘old school’ DOP guys, they prefer manual focus but coming from a photography background I’ve learned to trust the system.

Luxor is quite simply a truly amazing city. It has so much to offer, the sights are breathtaking, the people are super friendly and the hospitality so welcoming. It’s hard to really grasp just how far their history dates back to. Visiting these tombs that are thousands of years old can’t fail to touch you. Their silence is mesmerising and their stories tell such wonderful tales.

We met with the Governor of Luxor on our first scouting trip to discuss the project and he gave us carte blanche access. In reply to our question about what should be included in the film he said, “We’ve been sharing our history for many years and the stories always look the same. Why don’t you visit Luxor and create your film around your experience, something unique and different.” Surely, that’s the ultimate in open briefs. I story boarded the creative and pretty much ended up shooting what I had in mind.


[60sec TVC]

We flew in with a small crew from Dubai, joined up with a bigger crew and talent in Cairo and finally in Luxor, threw in the local entourage. Before we knew it, we were a ‘small’ production family of 25+ for a week of cruising around town.

Nothing happens without a little help to open doors and Mohamed Osman played an incremental role in doing this for us. From finding rare mountain bikes and building Bedouin camps in the mountains to accessing private hot air balloon rides and looking after us at his amazing own Marsham boutique hotel (http://www.marsamluxor.com), we asked and Mohamed Osman delivered. My heartfelt thanks for all his support.

My thanks also to the team at Serena, who were responsible for post-production. They turned many hours of footage into the engaging edit. Shooting in Canon C-log 2 means shooting RAW film footage, which in pre-production has a flat muddy feel until you put it in the hands of a good colour grader. Post-production is vital for a strong final product.


[behind the scenes]

To get a feel of what happened on tour, have a look at the behind the scenes video below or put more aptly, a behind the scenes of the behind the scenes, as this is the uncut RAW version showing what it really takes to run a big production. Safe to say, it’s probably one of my funniest videos of its kind to date…

Wk.

Luxor – gear talk

Boys and their toys! For Luxor, we didn’t travel light. This is what we packed for a week long film and photography production.

Pictured in this image is pretty much everything we used, apart from the DJI drone and Ronin stabilisation rig.

  1. FILMING

We used the Canon C300 Mark 2 as our prime cinema camera. We shot with both their stunning cinema lenses and their standard EF lenses, paired with Atomos Shogun as 7” external monitor. We took the XC10 for some of the hard to access point of view shots. It also shoots 4k so easy to cut in the main edit. I brought two of the Canon 5D mark 4 for the behind the scenes filming used by Christina Everington.

  1. PHOTOGRAPHY

We used the Canon powerhorse EOS 1DX Mark 2. I love this camera. I can work it with my eyes closed, it delivers super strong imagery and can really take a good beating. We took the following lenses; 16-35, 24-70, 50, 85, 70-200 and 200-400 with 1.4 ext.

  1. WORKFLOW

Nothing goes without a MacBook Pro these days. As we were filming 4k, we geared with SanDisk Extreme Pro CFast cards and used their portable SDD hard drives for storage and constant backups. We did intermediate media checks with Lightroom, Photography and Final Cut Pro. To learn more about workflow, check out this previous post.

  1. LIGHTENING GEAR

We used the Profoto B3 battery pack with their Airsync. Two flash heads and a range of dishes, softboxes and umbrellas. I’ve had this kit for years. It’s such a reliable piece of equipment and produces consistent quality light.

  1. MISC

I love my mini studio build using the iPad and Camranger as a second screen to evaluate images and keep the client and team away from the camera. Field cleaning kit and a headtorch too.

  1. SOUND

For the film production, we brought the following audio recording; lapel mics and a directional microphone with a big boom stick. Recorded directly to Zoom H4.

  1. LED LIGHTS

Simple battery powered LED lights as a quick fill in light source for both filming and photography.

  1. TRAVEL PACKS

My trusted companions for every gig. Pelican cases, which are the only way to transport precious equipment and survive the endless beating of air travel. They also make useful apple boxes. I love my fstop backpacks too. The internal units carefully store photo/film gear and the pack carries just like a comfortable backpack.

Wk.

Curiosity Film Series

This post marks a sort of personal milestone for me. Over the last year or so, I’ve been working on a film series named CURIOSITY. I’m not necessary new to motion work, but producing a consistent short film series brings a new tool to a filmmakers kit so I threw myself into the deep end and took this on, with the sole objective of creating five special shorts with five super talented athletes. It’s been a journey of fun, learning and fine-tuning along with establishing my own RAW style and juggling with unscripted story telling.

Making films, with captivating people in beautiful places, has become one of the most satisfying things that I do. I’ve so enjoyed the entire process and I feel truly stoked to finally release the series. All five are now online at www.wouterkingma.com/film. I hope you take the time to watch them all and feel moved by the inspiring individuals featured. Here’s a quick trailer.

It’s been an absolute privilege to work with these five incredibly gifted athletes… David Labouchere, Sjaak van Tunen, Claudine Foong, Karina Bensemann and Heidi Jones. The art of storytelling is so very powerful but it’s their unique and personal stories that really make the series such a success. They live and breathe their sport and it’s inspiring and humbling to learn about their successes, struggles and failures.

Watch the individual episodes:

David Labouchere

Sjaak van Tunen

Claudine Foong

Karina Bensemann

Heidi Jones

The majority of the series was shot on the new Canon Cinema C200 camera. As a Canon ambassador, there are always talks about new projects and field stories so I suggested they let me use the prototype C200 to shoot this series. A new piece of gear inevitably brings new challenges like unsupported software, no manuals and having to just figure things out as you go but overall, I really enjoyed working with it. It has great features like internal RAW recording and a touch screen with auto tracking. It delivers great quality footage with unbelievable colour richness and fits all my existing Canon lenses too. Check out this super short behind the scenes video about bringing the series together.

As for what drives my personal work? Put simply, it provides total creative freedom. I’ve always been a big advocate of doing personal work. You don’t have to worry about brands and labels, politics and hidden agendas. You can just work with your own ideas and push yourself to produce something that adds value to others. That is the ultimate reward, the ability to inspire and motivate others to leap into the unknown and fulfill their own dreams.

The feedback I’ve received so far has been awesome so I really hope for future opportunities producing more series with inspiring entrepreneurs, artists and designers.

Wk.

Humr An-Na’am Book

I love working on authentic local stories. A few years ago we crafted the story around Falcons of Arabia with an exclusive book, a photo exhibition tour and a bunch of talks. In recent months, I’ve shot a whole different beast … the Arab’s beloved camel.

Last summer, I was approached by Aditi Kumar, an upcoming author, to support the photography for her new book ‘Humr An-Na’am – Treasure of the Desert’. We gelled well and over the last few months, we’ve been travelling around the country capturing a wide variety of camel settings. I’ve rarely seen anyone so dedicated and organized as Aditi and it’s been a real pleasure working together. Her father is a vet and has been looking after the camels belonging to the Bin Hamoodah family for over 25 years. As he approaches retirement age, she thought it would be a great opportunity to tell their story and dig into his wealth of knowledge.

 

The main character in the storyline of the book is Faraj bin Hamoodah, a 70 year old successful entrepreneur, former Bedouin, family man and respected personality from Abu Dhabi. Humr An-Na’am echo’s his vision of what camels have to offer us as humans and how the lifestyle of camel farming, racing and breading can bring us back to the core of living. Faraj bin Hamoodah clearly loves spending time at his farms, away from hectic city life, a place where he finds peace, simplicity and solitude. I am deeply grateful to him for sharing his passion and knowledge.

[CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ONLINE IMAGE GALLERY]

It’s not every day that a photographer sticks a camera so close to a camel’s face that you can literally see the lens steam up and smell their breath… or lies flat on the ground and has a dozen or so camels standing around you, munching on fresh grass from beneath you. Any outsider would probably think I’ve gone nuts but that’s how I love to roll, always in search of a unique perspective. Over the course of this project, I’ve really gained an appreciation for the camel and the role it plays in Arab culture.

Opportunities like this, working with inspiring individuals like Aditi, creating meaningful and long lasting content are an absolute privilege. It’s her days of research, hours of interviews, four years of writing… that laid the content for an awesome book. A tangible book of great historical and cultural significance.

The book will be available at all the major bookstore and online at www.thedreamworkcollective.com.

Wk.

Omantel Campaign

Fun and games in the heat of summer. It’s taken a while to recap this shoot but I felt it was worth sharing. We flew down to Muscat with the simple objective of shooting four hero frames for the new Omantel campaign.

In line with the brief, we worked solely at sunrise and sunset, which was the smart thing to do anyway given the heat and insane humidity. The locations wanted were pretty straightforward, with either an urban or a mountain/desert feel. Anyone who’s been to Muscat will know that this meant no shortage of options. You can find iconic sand dunes slap bang in the middle of town.

The forth and final shot proved the real challenge. Two people rappelling down a waterfall or ‘Meet Non-Stop’ as the creative copy described. I had a pretty good reference image to go by, albeit one shot in the Alps. The location guys found a great spot deep into Wadi Tiwi, which had flowing water even in the height of summer. Our athletes, Ben and Anisa, were amazing and super skilled. Clean polished rocks don’t make great anchor points so it took some time to set up the ropes… no easy feat in 45+c heat and with the blaring sunlight shining through the gorge. Still, we made it happen!

I arrived in Salalah a few weeks later to shoot Audi’s new Q5 and as I walked out of the domestic airport, there I was faced with a giant image of the shot with Ben and Anisa. Last December too, driving around Oman’s interior for a Lexus shoot, I spotted my ‘Three boys – Meet Playful’ shot featuring on a massive billboard on top of a building. It will never cease to be a huge reward seeing my work in large format.

Wk.

Emirates Marhaba Campaign

Following our Emirates Flight Catering shoot, we got the gig to work on the next round of Emirates artwork… this time creating a fresh image library for Marhaba. We were shooting at the new Dubai airport, which, like any airport has its complexities, especially with a crew of 25. Reach beyond immigration and you can’t just pop out to the car to grab a forgotten something. Access passes, x-ray machines and endless long corridors make for a challenging labyrinth for production.

The lounges have a fresh and modern feel, making for a great backdrop. Part of the brief was to make the imagery feel alive. Real people in real places… connection, engagement and an open invitation to travellers to enjoy their services.

Like all big productions, we worked to a tight schedule to deliver the goods. I had my camera set up for the shots to arrive on the agency / client iPad in real time. This way, the images can be reviewed on a larger screen and we can work on the finer details. It’s all about the detail…

All round, an enjoyable gig, a great cast and a grand job by RAPP in managing the production and creative.

Till the next.

Wk.

BA at Milan Fashion Week II

Three hours later and we’re at Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) with David Gandy, a stunning vintage Jaguar E-type and Tina, the focal point of our image. With only an hour to play with, we did a quick run down of the four proposed shots then got to it straight away.

I had my camera connected to an iPad so the client, agent and crew got a live feed of the capture. It always helps to get instant feedback and approval on what works. Again, the overcast skies gave a moody, almost vintage feel to the images. Nostalgia.

As the last sequence, we also captured some shots of David cruising his Jag. You can’t fake driving shots. The car has to move as it’s the energy exchange between driver and car that make it authentic. I could have rigged the camera to the car but we were pretty short on time and I wasn’t overly keen on super-clamping this stunning heritage car so I ran alongside it instead. My preferred way anyway…

This Milan gig was fast and furious and the client was super happy with the visuals… the icing on the cake. What next?

Wk.

BA at Milan Fashion Week I

You can really sense the energy arriving at Milan Airport for their fashion week. The place is buzzing with stunning models and chic designers, all queueing up for their luggage.

I was in Milan for British Airways, my brief to create an editorial library with British super models David Gandy and Suki Waterhouse. David and I worked together in Hong Kong last year and on the same trip, I did a shoot with Suki’s sister Immy, so I knew I was in for a fun gig.

Two busy days got the ball rolling. Locations, logistics, framing and a backup plan in case the weather went sour. I had a blast. Just waking around the streets of Milan is a joy. I got utterly lost on a run one evening. No cash, no phone, an empty tank… nothing but a city map, although that wasn’t helping much. It’s adventures like these that make travel come truly alive…

Production day started with Suki in an eye catching paper dress by designer Zoe Bradley. A really iconic image but one that proved challenging. She could barely move and the dress was so wide that no one could stand very close to her. Needless to say, our shooting in the Piazza du Duomo, with its famous cathedral as our backdrop, attracted a big crowd. Suki was a star. Imagine having to work in 12c temperatures with only paper to keep you warm?

During the thirty minutes we were on location, the sun didn’t join us at all resulting in some moody misty morning images…

Wk.

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.

Lifestyle hotel imagery

Sometimes a new great gig comes off the back of a friendly referral. This gig was just one of those. My thanks to Rupert @ Film-Me for saying the nice words.

The client was the stunning new Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort on the east coast of the UAE and the brief, to build a portfolio of lifestyle images. We shifted shoot dates a number of times before settling on four days this March.

What I like about the final images is their experiential feel. Real people in their element, at an exquisite location. Simplistic, candid composition complete with fine detail. The aim was to create content that is inviting, content that feeds curiosity and authentically conveys the look and feel of the hotel. All right down my alley given my background at hotel school, many years of operational experience, Burj Al Arab posting and of course, shooting for high end luxury brands for the last ten years.

I thoroughly enjoyed the shoot, largely thanks to the enthusiastic and knowledgeable crew who made for a super smooth production. The schedule may have been intense but we had scouted and planned well in advance. The one thing we hadn’t anticipated was rain. Probably only once every couple of years do I find myself seeking shelter under an umbrella in the UAE. Seems like such a European thing to do.

I’m stoked with the resulting images…

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.

Emirates Inflight Catering

Back to my roots… back to my original studies… back to what brought me to Dubai in the first place, 14 years ago. The world of hospitality.

Thanks to the creative agency, RAPP, I had the opportunity to capture the world of Emirates inflight catering. I was simply amazed by the operation they run. Pushing 120,000 meals a day? Yes 120,000 meals EVERY DAY! It all needs to run like clockwork so needs a kitchen on steroids (without the steroids obviously).

After a full scouting visit followed by creating a detailed production plan, we spent three days shooting. The brief tagline was ‘Appetite for perfection’ so the images needed to make the food look delish, handcrafted and show scale on a refined level. How to make a production line look appealing? This was easier for the first class meals than those for economy. In the economy class kitchens, everything from the cooking utensils to the bowls where spices are mixed is just huge. In fact, when shooting their spices room, I anticipated a nice shot with a mix of colourful bowls. As it turns out, cooking a 10,000 litre Bolognese sauce doesn’t happen with a teaspoon on chili flakes but rather tubberware boxes full of it!

Emirates pride themselves on their handmade, real egg omelettes and they have a designated crew that flips 20,000 a day. Amazing!

The shoot was a wonderful experience. I’ve been in many kitchens around the world and I love the atmosphere of crafting and teamwork. The Emirates operation stunned me by the sheer scale of everything, the professional approach and how seriously they take hygiene. The staff were all geared up with hair nets, safety shoes and and face masks for the bearded ones…. that included me on shoot day!

Wk.

 

London with Bolshoi Ballerina’s

It started with a comfy red eye flight into London Heathrow on BA business. I ditched my bags at the hotel, got changed and went running in downtown London. It was a chilly Sunday morning in the Financial district so felt like a real ghost town. It felt great to be back in a city I called home in 2001 although I struggled to find my way to the Thames. Little seemed to have changed really. Clearly the rate of change in Dubai is not a global standard! I was in the capital for just a couple of days to create a picture story with dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet and crew from British Airways. All in the name of creating some buzz around the inaugural Boeing 787 flight to Moscow.

I figured running would be the best way to find good shooting locations. I was in search of iconic London, space to work with an energetic vibe. I’d also promised my little boy that I’d check to see the London Bridge wasn’t falling down (seriously!) and in the process got confused between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Felt like a daft tourist! Thankfully both bridges are doing just fine…

15km later, I had my shooting spots figured out and got them ‘signed off’ ready for production the next day. The crew at Direct Photographic provided an awesome service in renting me studio lights.

We were blessed with the weather. Sun, blue skies and poppy white clouds. Thank you British Weather Man. The shoot ran smoothly albeit with some minor chaos. With just one pair of hands, there was a lot of moving around to do on set. I wifi-ed my Canon 1Dx to an iPad for a bigger display unit and to seek instant client approval. Four locations and five hours was all it took to get the strong set of images we were after.

The next morning I was up early to check in on BA233 to Moscow. Ten minutes before boarding, we got permission to shoot Bolshoi Ballerina, Olga, in the huge 787 engine. We’d talked about this lots but never thought we’d actually pull it off. Five minutes to shoot. Freezing cold London, No lights. No planning. Ample time!

As a surprise for the passengers on board , BA hosted a ballet performance with opera singer Katherine Jenkins in the sky. A world’s first at 12,000 ft. What a magical moment to be a part of.

With six hours to kill in Moscow, I deliberated whether to stay in the airport terminal and drink bad coffee or to spend a few hours on a train venturing in and out of the city. The latter won of course! I managed a quick stroll through the streets and captured the quintessential photo opportunity at Moscow’s Red Square. It had to be done…

Wk.

Adventure Via Ferrata

It’s adventure time! An awesome Via Ferrata recently opened on the UAE’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah. With the Hajar Mountains as your backdrop, you can now attach yourself to a steel cable and, under the watchful eye of the Absolute Adventure guides, you can spend hours exploring the rock and rushing down cool zip lines.

During my years as an outdoor instructor in the French Alps, I spent lots of time of Via Ferrata’s and believe me, RAK has done a great job in building the real monty. It’ll certainly get your heart pumping; think exposed ledges, intimidating step ladders and the sheer adrenaline rush of being on the country’s highest peak. Anyone who’s up for a bit of adventure should check it out.

I covered the inaugural PR launch with the RAK tourism CEO Haitham Mattar, and the Emirati adventurers Huda Zowayed and Hamad Al Mazrouey. Yip … never a boring day in my office! Now it’s open to the public and I really can’t recommend it enough. Check out jebeljais.ae

I would love to go back here and shoot a series of ‘staged’ action shots. It’s a tough one. Access outside the Via Ferrata route is, as you can see, difficult but there is scope for more. And yes any excuse to spend more time on the rock…

Wk.

BTS with Karina @ Wadi Adventure

A while back, I worked on an editorial piece for Women’s Health. They were running a feature story on super women, Karina Bensemann being one of the super women featured. I know Karina. We’ve collaborated in the past with Lululemon. She’s great company and certainly lives up to what she’s known for.

Wadi Adventure in Al Ain was our base, a super cool watersports park at the base of Jebel Hafeet and a place for champions.  I did an awesome shoot here with Joe Clarke, who at that stage was prepping for the Rio Olympics and had his eye firmly fixed on a gold medal at slalom canoeing. I should add that he did indeed return home with a gold.

I shot with both a long Canon telephoto lens and got deep into the action with an Aquatech waterproof housing. Both work, the  ‘dry’ long lens version freezes the sharp action nicely and has a bit more control whiles shooting. Than getting into the surf with my waterproofs and a wider lens allow for in your face action, obviously you’re thrown all over the place but allows unusual angels.

Thank you James for shooting and editing an awesome behind the scenes video. It really tells the tale of a fun day out, doing what I love to do. The article itself, written by editor Yi-Hwa Hanna is well worth reading for its inspirational vibe. Must be a nice job seeking out interesting people then picking below the surface and understanding what makes them tick…

Wk.

Lambo’s in Paris

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts flew me to Paris at the back end of last year to create a story around their customer driving experience. Hard to say no to a gig in Paris! It really is an amazing city. Shooting the new Lamborghini Huracan with pro drivers, a stunning hotel and an open brief made for a pretty cool assignment.

We were blessed with perfect weather and a hotel with a real history behind it, especially around the 2nd world war when some pretty important players lodged there. With the hotel’s rich history in mind, we parked two spanking new Huracan’s at the entrance. Old v new. White v colour. Italy v France. It really didn’t matter how it was interpreted. The shots all looked wonderful.

When we hit the streets, the local crowd went wild. Granted the boys were revving the engines whenever they could. The echo was crazy too… through tunnels and bouncing off buildings. We couldn’t have gone unnoticed if we’d tried!

What I love about projects like these is shooting in a new place. Fresh ideas. Fresh spaces. You don’t even have the option to press repeat. I spent a day walking around downtown Paris, spotting sites, backdrops, colour and iconic landmarks. Paris has so much to offer. We tried driving shots around the Arc the Triomph but it proved just too chaotic and has some pretty strict traffic rules.

I think the icing on the cake must have been shooing at Place de Costa Rica. I found it during my recce and it just seemed to scream Paris. A friendly Parisian on a bike couldn’t have cycled into the shot at a better time…

Wk.

MG’S NEW CAR CAMPAIGN

It’s always tricky to really work out where new business comes from. Sure, I knock on doors, reach out to brands, feed this blog and send out promos… but I do sometimes question the ROI of these efforts. Short term, some jobs just land on your lap. Right time, right place kinda thing. But long term, these efforts do pay off I think although it can be hard to trace back and figure out what actually led to sealing the deal. So it’s a numbers game, I suppose. A constant effort to throw strong, fresh and consistent work out there.

One day the phone rang, out of the blue. No history with the brand. Just a cool gig and the words, “Found you via the internet…” So online noise is worthwhile, it turns out. Blogs, social media, brand affiliations… they all have a place.

MG is being reintroduced in the Middle East. Originally a quintessentially British brand, it’s now run by the Chinese SAIC Motor Corporation. I’ve worked with them to create a full package of imagery and am stoked with what we wrapped with. The studio shoot is always a dance with lighting, reflections and shadows, constantly moving things around in search of perfection. The outdoor shoot is always great fun and a real team effort. Five locations in one day was a pretty ambitious production but everything was pre-scouted and we worked, as always, to a pretty rigorous schedule.We ended up pushing the dates a bit in the hope of better weather. Turned out to be a great decision.

I shot with the new Hassy 50mp for billboard quality images. Expect to see some cool images on a highway near you soon!

Wk.

2016 Recap

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.

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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!

Wk.

Three days in the mountains with WWF

There’s something remarkable about working with field biologists. Their passion and excitement are contagious. Their appreciation for the smallest gritty crawlers makes me wonder what beautiful fauna I fail to notice everyday.

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Recently, I found myself at a very special place… the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been appointed to create the first National Park in the region, named Wadi Wurayah National Park, on the east coast of the UAE.

129 square kilometres of rugged mountain land has been closed to the public since 2009. The area is most valued for its wetlands and the opportunities it presents for documenting and conserving natural resources. For now… and for generations to come.

For three days, I pretty much got carte blanche to roam around the park… to create imagery for a book project I’m involved in. With my innate love for the mountains anyway, its pure rock, fresh mountain air, breathtaking views and sheer expanse, to have access to such exclusive areas was a real privilege. And they call this work?!

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With few roads let alone hiking trails in place, exploring entailed roaming with a pack on my back to find the best vantage points. To wonder and to find. I spent some time with Alex on a ‘Bear Hunt’… of course, without either the hunting or the bear element! Actually, the wildlife is pretty scant. The biggest animal we spotted was 6cm big, a toad. Obviously animals don’t turn up to order but rather show up on their own accord… and generally when you’re least prepared! Anyway, with the help of of the local team I enjoyed an eye opening experience and banked a few great shots.

One shot I was keen to get was the release of a toad, shot half above and half below the water. Knowing the wetlands plays a big role in the story, I had to include a strong water shot so I took my Aquatech waterproof camera housing. I found a pool with the right water depth and timed it so we w’d be there during the three hours of the day when the pool catches a bit of sunlight and the backdrop would look dramatic. Part of the WWF learning program is counting toads so it’s a common practice which happens in real time. I did a quick dry run to check the camera settings and framing, followed by the a painfully long 45 minutes trying to find one (Murphy’s Law), but eventually we struck lucky and caught a sequence of 24 frames. The below is one of my favourites…

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As a photographer and storyteller, Wadi Wurayah National Park has endless beauty and content. As a scientist and biologist, it must be heaven to map the park and for WWF, it’s a proud showcase of the valuable work they do. I’m so grateful to the Fujairah Government for taking the lead in preserving their land and building a platform around sustainable access.

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Once the park is officially opened, I’ll be taking my two boys there, to hike the trails, spot the dragon flies and observe the Arabian Tahr… and most importantly, to teach them the value of looking after our resources. It’s a stunning place.

Wk.

Lululemon Ambassador David Labouchere

David Labouchere is a real character. Founder of his own gym, Optimal Fitness, he’s also a well established triathlete and Lululemon ambassador.

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Thanks to Lululemon, we had the opportunity to spend some time together, building a portfolio of brand imagery. It was a simple shoot. Just David on his monster tri bike at the crack of dawn, his normal work-out hour anyway, followed by some fast paced running shots breaking some real sweat. Sweet.

Wk.

Powerhouse Eva

Eva Clarke and I have competed in races together a few times now. She’s upfront and I get to hang around somewhere in the middle. We recently shot the Under Armour Middle East launch campaign together.

Eva has an inspiring accolade of sports achievements under her belt but when checking out her Facebook page pre the UA shoot, I found a page rich with inspiring stories and achievements but pretty weak on strong visuals. I reached out to her and we spent a couple of hours in the gym building a bank of images to help Eva tell her story.

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I had no real game plan when we started. Normally, I have quite a clear idea on deliverables and creative direction but on this occasion it was athlete led. I wanted Eva to inspire me so we just played around a lot. My motto is always to shoot ‘real people in real places’. Eva is certainly real and she commands the gym, it’s her place. We collaborated well with ideas feeding ideas… add some strobes and a camera and we got some pretty cool frames…

Wk.

Fishing in Fujairah

To celebrate their 60 year anniversary, I went assignment for Toyota and Al Futtaim Motors. How do you tell a 60-year long story? What mark have they made? Sure, you just need to glimpse at the highway to see their presence on the road but my brief was way better. I was to drive to the East Coast and capture the look and feel of Fujairah’s life as a fishing village.

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At sunrise on the beach, we discovered a load of old Land Cruisers, most of them older than I am. They’d certainly put in a few decades of hard work on the beach. Fishing in Fujeirah involves a fishing boat, a Land Cruiser, a huge net in between and a crew of hardworking guys. One side of the net is attached to the boat and the other side to the Land Cruiser, to haul in the net. The catch is then loaded into the back of the car and sent to the local fish market. Ready for diner time…

It’s the daily routine that fascinates me. The simplicity got me hooked. We spoke to one guy who’s been fishing there for 28 years. If the car breaks down, he said, they just weld it together!

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The catch attracted a small crowd looking for fresher than fresh fish. I loved the atmosphere of people coming and going, digging through the nets to source their dinner. In this quaint fishing village, so set back in time, there was complete harmony in this mini economy at 7am in the morning. There’s much to learn from that.

Wk.

Ultra Running; Love. Can. Do.

I always mean to write this post during a big race, when the thoughts are most fresh in my mind, but somehow I never get round to it and then on return home, reality kicks in and the routine takes over.  So I went back to a voice memo I recorded during the 50k Urban Ultra Race.

Why is (long distance) running such a key part of my life? Why am I doing this? The hours on your feet, top to toe pain, negative self talk, dizzy sun rises and complete exhaustion. Why?

It’s hard to pin point what it comes down to but I’ll give it a try. For me, it’s about being out on nature’s trails because… well, because I love it. Because I can. Because this is what I do. These three words; LOVE, CAN & DO kinda sum it up for me. It’s about putting momentum towards the stuff I love, which works for running but also other passions in life. It’s important to walk your talk, even if it’s a long walk. It’s also about sharing the field with like-minded, driven and ambitious people. We’re all here, from all walks of life, for the experience.  Being out there, running together and embracing your surrounds is all that counts.

Earlier this year, I ran the Salomon Wadi Bih 72k solo and below is the brief race recap…

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It’s 4.30am as the start gun goes off and we’re pounding through the sleepy town of Dibba. Once we pass the empty dam on the edge of the village, the race continues in a pitch black wadi (dry riverbed) filled with nothing but the meditative spotlights of fellow runners’ headlamps. After years of being on the other side of the lens and shooting the this Desert Relay, I thought it was time to sign up to run solo and give it my best bash.

Needless to say, it was tough. We basically ran through the wadi for 30 or so kilometres followed by a 1,000m mountain climb towards the turnaround point at 36km. The route returns back down the same way to finish at the Golden Tulip Hotel on the beach. The first part was amazing, running at night amongst these big rock faces and witnessing a new dawn. I even quite enjoyed the big mountain climb as a good, strong hike proved a welcome relief from trail running. I checked off the first half of the race in a little under four hours which I was pretty pleased with and I passed the 50km marker in reasonable shape, but the remainder, I recall, went downhill (no pun intended).

My nutrition was ok but my legs were screaming and the hallucinations, that all us runners can associate with, began with me seeing no other than Elvis stepping out of a 4×4 and strutting his stuff. These crazy thoughts at least brought me some much needed distraction. It’s fascinating during a long race, to observe how the brain behaves, the mad mind games it plays. And then there’s the constant inner voice telling you to stop, to give up, to reserve your body and mind for the hectic work and home life that lies beyond the race. It’s insane.

Of course, all “good” things come to an end… as does the finish arch eventually appear in the far distance followed by great applause and a well-deserved medal. Bingo. “What next?” I immediately ask myself. We’re a strange bunch, that you cannot argue!

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The following day I shot the relay race, working on capturing some beauty shots for sponsor, Salomon. Surprisingly, I had a pretty swift recovery from my own race. My legs were sore yes, but my joints had held up pretty well, which is always my biggest concern. Knowing the course and the experience that fellow athletes are going through certainly helps to create strong imagery. Knowing where to shoot, where the landscape is best, is often the hard part but luckily I’d seen it all the day before.

My thanks to John Young and the entire Wadi Bih team for putting on an amazing race. Anyone considering an epic mountain running experience, stay tuned to their webpage. Next year’s race marks their 25 year anniversary so it will no doubt be a special one.

Wk.

 

Catch Karina

With a bit of pre-summer breathing space in the shooting calendar, I’ve been able to catch up on personal work and hangout with some mad athletes. I love the surfers lifestyle and have enjoyed getting on a board myself in the past, mainly in Oz. I dusted off my Aquatech waterproof housing then called Karina to go have some fun. Soon after, we found ourselves on sunset beach to hit the morning waves and take advantage of the last big swell of the season.

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Karina is a total badass. She called the day before to ask if we we should still shoot as she had a black eye from a recent surf crash… “Hell yeah,” I responded. “More RAW!” And the following morning, in an attempt to avoid hitting me with her new board, she cut her nose. More blood and I did appreciate her efforts in keeping me out of the firing zone! It didn’t slow her down. She lives life full stop without slowing down.

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I also brought my super long telephoto lens but stayed put with the waterproofs. In the water. In the waves. In where the action is. It’s certainly harder to shoot this way… waves are variable, the subject moves, I move, waves break just when the composition is right… it’s hard to really grasp what you’re shooting. But when the shoot comes together, it just looks so much more authentic. A long lens shot would have helped tackle some of the variables but on the downside, could then create a distance between the viewer and athlete. And I love wide angle ‘in your face action’.

Thanks for a fab morning Karina!

Wk.

With Jagger & Waterhouse in Hong Kong

Granted my portfolio may not be overly strong on shooting high end fashion models, but hey… life throws us all serendipitous opportunities from time to time. Work with David Gandy already had me in Hong Kong (link) so extending my time with Lizzy Jagger and Immy Waterhouse made perfect sense.

Success is all in the research, detail and pre production. The key was to create Hong Kong related content with stunning models yet with a different look & feel to David Gandy’s images. During my research, I came across well-known established names like Mario Testino, David Roemer and Peter Lindbergh. All have the habit of stripping down clothes, whilst my shoot was all about the uniforms as both girls were to wear stunning old British Airways uniforms from the BA Heritage Museum.

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With the iconic Hong Kong Island as our backdrop, I found a perfect location on the Kowloon observation deck and as the weather cleared, we shot a bank of great images.

Wk.

Tips for working alongside a TVC

I recently worked alongside a couple of big TV productions, shooting the stills whilst the TV crew did their thing. There’s something great about big TV gigs. They run like clockwork, are so well orchestrated, have huge crews and days are spent shooting what will result in an, albeit awesome, 90 second commercial. It’s a condensed pot of energy, like an oiled machine at full steam, running on a super tight deadline.

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This post contains my tips for photographers when working alongside a big TV production.

– Determine who’s boss. You or the film director? Who’s calling the shots? Exactly… the answer is not the photographer! I start here because you need to know your place.  Producing TV content is an expensive gig where time is always short, stakes are always high and stress levels are ever present. There’s rarely time dedicated to shooting stills so you have to just work around what’s happening. It’s probably more reportage style photography but space can be made to work on staged hero shots… keep reading.

– Create your own story. Work on your shortlist of hero images that fit your style and brief. It may be tempted to go with the TV flow but thats not your story, take a moment to plan wisely.

– It’s super important to connect with the FD (Flim Directors), AFD (his/her assistant) and DOP (Director of Photography/person behind camera). Do a bit of prior research about their background to feed the conversation and build trust from the start. These guys need be comfortable with you roaming around.

– I find it super important that the client introduces me to the FD & DOP and explains the importance of the stills (PR usage, hero shots and general reportage) and he/she requests we work together. Generally, my client is also their client so we’re on the same team. Post this introduction, it’s over to you to make it work.

– Next up, stay out of the frame and don’t make a noise. If you follow these rules, you’re on to a winner… and it’s probably wise not to direct the talent/actors/actresses as this will piss out of the FD.

– The noise of the shutter is your worst enemy. The sound guy (recognisable with a big boom stick and headphones) will pick up on anything, even your internal camera focussing beep so switch this beep off and select single frame and quite mode (Canon has the ’S’ option). What works for me is knowing where the sound guy stands then making a concerted effort to stay away from him. Working with a long telephoto lenses also helps to keep a bit of distance from the set action. I use my 400mm lens a lot. If you’re serious about doing lots of work on TV sets, it’s wise to invest in soundproof housing; Aquatech Blimp kits are be a brand to look at.

– Know what lens the DOP is shooting with, whether a wide lens or a longer lens. Staying out of the frame is crucial, which means having a handy stache of hiding places (behind cars, on top of cliffs etc)

– Work independently i.e. have your own car, gear, power, drinks, food, coffee etc. This particularly applies when sets are a car ride apart. You need your own wheels to move quickly between them and not be dependant on a spare seat in a crew truck or worse still, discover there’s no space for you at all…

– Think like the film director. What is he trying to get out of the shot? That helps you to understand how the actors/actress move around, where the DOP will stand/roam and most importantly how to stay out of the way. I generally find it super interesting to understand their thought process and how they build their story.

– On multiple film days, try to get in on day one. Production days are long and from day one, the team blends like a family, ego’s are determined, the funny guys tell their jokes, breakfast/lunch/dinner is shared and there’s a real feeling of ‘we’re in it together’. It’s tough to join that family at a later stage.

– Look after them. I don’t mean running around being a coffee boy, but simple things like handing your sunscreen to a frying red faced DOP or a bottle of cold water on a roasting hot day. These work wonders. The best hugs I’ve ever had came after taking cold beers and pizza to the film crew during the Footsteps of Thesiger expedition. The crew had been filming in the remote desert for a couple of weeks and my having to return to Dubai for a couple of days gave me the perfect chance to treat them.

– Try to get your shots during the dress rehearsals so you can leave the main shoot free… or use a wide lens during dress rehearsals and a super telephoto lens (bigger distance from set) during the main shoot.

– In the heat of the moment, only shoot when your know your image will be truly amazing. By ‘heat of the moment’, I mean when they’re running behind schedule, the sun is setting, crew are shouting at each other and tensions are generally pretty frayed. There’s no point agitating others without very good reason.

If you’ve gelled well with the team, they’ll value your input and do yourself a lot of favours. I’ve even gone as far as requesting a few extra takes just for stills and being able to direct talent so it both worked for stills and film.

Much of the above is common sense and hope it helps.

Wk.

Boat Building Awe

Shooting trade and industry blows my mind. Over the years, I’ve been on multiple oil rigs, power plants and desalination installations and I’m always fascinated by their sheer scale and design… so many pipes, valves and de-compressors, all of which play an important role and then these super smart engineers make it all happen. It’s like taking a huge orchestra and making it play in perfect harmony.

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Recently, I found myself, plus team, on a boat dock, where tucker boats are built from scratch and bigger boats repaired. We’ve been shooting aerial footage (motion & stills) and commercial imagery for the company catalogue.

I could have easily spent a week on site, curious to observe the finer details of boat building and unearth some good stories. Massive steel plates are cut and welded to create dozens and dozens of small puzzle pieces which are eventually transformed to a boat’s outer shell. The shell is then dressed, cabled and painted before becoming a beautiful floating object. Once the engine and a few more moving parts have been added, the finished result is ready to start it’s very own journey. It’s a nice ending, really…

Wk.