production

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.

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.

 

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.

Hitting the dunes with Miss Poland & Saluki Motors

Mark and I go back a dozen or so years. I still worked as an experiential marketing manager for Land Rover when he first came knocking on our door. He had a passion for rally driving, which we supported and had also branded his pimped up Land Rover Defender.

To me, Mark was a pure example of following your passion and doing what you love. At one stage he left his comfortable, stable corporate job to start his own car garage, Saluki Motors, which he turned into a go-to brand. Now he uses his rally knowledge for training and 4×4 experiences. A great showcase of following and evolving your passion.

Wouter-Kingma-Blog-for-Saluki-post-2 I was in Oman when Mark got in touch again and I immediately knew it would be for something good. A brief chat and he’d caught my attention with his unique combination of  former Miss Poland, Marcelina and his motorbikes. 

 Soon after, I found myself in the desert with Marcelina Zawadzka and Marek Dabrowski, a Dakar Rally driver from Team Orlen. Our gig was short and sweet. Marek and Marcelina’s brief was to rampage the Polaris buggy through the dunes. They were to go hard and fast, rev the engine and get some crazy sand flying. I got them to follow the crest up the dune straight into the sun then quickly dialled down on exposure and hit the shutter. Now covered in sand, I knew I’d banked the shot. Afterwards, Marcelina stood in for a few portraits. It’s always a joy working with pro models. 

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Many thanks to Mark for the inspiration, the crew at Saluki Motors for keeping us out of trouble and our Polish friends for a great afternoon. Till the next.

Wk.

Under Armour Launch Campaign #2

Back for more launch content. The Under Armour campaign was based on a series of two images. One beach image with an iconic landmark setting, which we shot with Goes Grant on the Palm Jumeirah and for the second, I needed a location with a strong athletic feel so chose the Zayed Sports Stadium. The national sports stadium has all the grandeur we needed for a world-class sports brand. Years ago, I shot the Presidents Cup in a packed stadium for a FIFA Bid Book, which was a very cool experience. Later this month, I’ll be taking my boys there and a bunch of other dads with theirs to watch the UAE football finals.

Again, I shot with my PhaseOne medium format. Granted it’s not a sports camera (with just one frame per second) so I needed to work it harder, but when you capture ‘that’ shot, the end result has mind blowing detail.

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This time, we were collaborating with legend Eva Clarke, seven times Guinness world record holder and top notch athlete. We had a wrap in a short and sweet two hours. Check out the behind the scenes video to grasp the energy of the shoot.

 Thanks to the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Zayed Sports Stadium for opening their doors.

Wk.

My fascination with bikes

During my younger years, I worked as an outdoor instructor around Europe, enjoying life’s great adventures, travel and camaraderie. One of my favourites was mountain biking in the Belgium forest with over-energetic school kids… hitting the hills, trails, mud pools and river crossings. After a day on the bikes, we’d be exhausted, filthy, aching and thoroughly beat. I’m left with wonderful memories!

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Following the great Adventure HQ catalogue shoot, we got together to shoot a new Ozzy bike brand called ‘Fluid’, prior to their launch in the region. As always, the preproduction is the most important element of any shoot… knowing what, where and when to shoot, scouting to find locations that match the brand and give a strong selection of backdrops. One of my scouting trips found me at the Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre, which completely blew my mind.

Awesome technical trails surrounded by glorious mountains. I hadn’t even known it existed. I rocked up at sunrise but I wasn’t having much luck. My bike had a flat tire and I found my spare also had a puncture. After scouring around for my repair kit, I found that the patches were dried out and no good. But alas, I had my trail running gear and my two feet so off I went! I don’t want to be seen to be promoting running on mtb tracks but it was my only means of getting the job done.


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Back in Hatta for the actual photoshoot, we all set out on bikes to get to our chosen locations. My style is very much real people in real locations and we worked with some very talented bikers, which brought back great memories. 


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Anyone who owns (or rents) a mountain bike should go and visit the place. The trails are marked based on different skill levels and it’ll be a guaranteed great work out.

Wk.

Going hard at Under Armour Launch Campaign #1

Just before the summer I shot the Middle East launch campaign for Under Armour, in conjunction with their official launch in the region. Thanks to agency BWM+ and along with their CD Greg we worked on one super strong image showcasing local athlete, Grant Goes, posing in a push up hold. I love working with real time athletes. True RAW power. They move effortlessly and fluidly, with authentic and perfect form.

Below behind the scenes video is the shoot in 90 seconds…

I shot using a killer PhaseOne medium format camera, allowing for huge end production printouts. It’s not always easy to shoot sports at one frame per second, but once you get the image right, the fine detail is amazing. Endless sharpness and tons of data to pull details back into the image. There is so much good to say about medium format.

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Thanks to Fairmont The Palm hotel for hosting us. The view from their beach is a stunner. Gotta get back there soon to chill and go sundowner.

Great gig. Thanks team for making it all happen.

Wk.

With adventurer Adrian Hayes

There’s never a dull moment in an adventurers life, particularly when it comes to UAE hero Adrian Hayes… over the last ten years, I’ve followed Adrian’s extreme expeditions and had the pleasure of capturing some of them. I’ve seen him at his best and and at his worst… I’ll never forget his flying start on his Footsteps of Thesiger expedition, when the camels turned into rodeo bulls and threw Adrian and his expedition team members off their backs and onto a rocky wadi bed. The next stop was the local hospital rather than the desert! Time with Adrian during both Footsteps of Thesiger and the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge has left me with some wonderful memories. We even did an adventure race together once but unfortunately my bike frame snapped just five kilometres into the race so we were forced to complete the full Arabian Quest course on foot… needless to say we were last in, but at least we didn’t give up!

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Adrian is a hard man to pin down as beyond his great adventures, he has a crazy busy schedule with speaking engagements and corporate coaching in Europe, the US and here in the Middle East. I love spending time with him though… it’s always inspiring to pick the brain of a full time adventurer, where he stands now and how he turns future fantasy’s into reality. So I jumped at the opportunity to organise a shoot when a simple yet great idea sprung to mind.

We both share a friend and client, Dewald, who distributes amazing outdoor brands like Marmot and Patagonia. Together, I felt we could build a super strong portfolio of images around Adrian’s training regime and desert jaunts, in preparation for tackling high altitude peaks in the Himalayas or hair-raising polar crossings. Marmot could throw in some amazing new gear… without which Adrian would probably have rocked up in a tatty Ironman Finishers Shirt dating back to 2005 (!)… and Marmot, in return, would get great visual assets and stories for social and editorial use. Win-win for all!

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So organised it was and we set off, suited and booted, on a energetic day shooting, hitting the desert in time for the morning sunrise. We headed for Fossil Rock first of all, followed by RAK’s mountains in the afternoon. Needless to say, we had lots of fun and got cracking shots along the way.

What’s my take on Adrian’s life as a full time adventurer? It’s restless, thrilling, vibrant, passionate and his living on the edge is an inspiration. As a worldwide, record-breaking adventurer, the world is certainly a crazy one. Where to go next? What to climb? What to cross? Who’s not done what? You constantly need to be thinking of something harder, higher and more extreme than what’s already been accomplished. How do you maintain your unique voice in a pretty crowded space?

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Perhaps this instills in you some crazy thoughts and ideas?

Thanks Adrian for the inspiration and energy!

Wk.

Our new brand

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

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

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

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

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

Wk.

Lone Survivor helps to refocus

I’ve just watched Lone Survivor on a flight to Amsterdam, an epic American war film, directed by Peter Berg. It was amazing. Based on a true story, the movie is simultaneously action packed, thrilling and touching.

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On the list of my 5CALLS is the desire to produce a book about the armed forces… to shed a light on their work, to collate and expose the work they do, to put these role models on a pedestal where they can be given the applause they deserve. Perhaps this goes back to my wanting to be in the army as a kid, I don’t know.. (more…)

Fresh of the press – UAE Ministry book

Putting together the official 2009-2013 UAE Ministry Achievement book in only three months brought with it great challenge in terms of turnaround time. Commissioned by the UAE Federal Government of Cabinet Affairs, we’ve produced a solid 250 page hardcover book about the UAE government’s achievements over the last four years.
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It has a fresh and modern looking design, with copy entirely in Arabic so we’ve had a bilingual team who have worked around the clock to bring all the artwork together.
The result is a beautiful looking book which was presented by his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum at the cabinets meeting last… (more…)