sports

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.

My short film Khareef

My longtime friend Giles is an avid windsurfer and has been suggesting for years that I join him on (and shoot) one of his windsurfing trips to Oman. We finally made it work this past summer, thanks to the dates not clashing with my annual summer exodus to Europe. Beyond the usual photography, I set myself the challenge of shooting my first short film, everything from initial concept and storyboarding to the actual camera work and editing. The full monty. My camera’s have been able to shoot video since  Canon launched their 5D Mk2 in 2008 but over the years, I’ve never really had the desire to venture into the world of motion film. Photography was my kinda thing. Till now anyway…

Khareef tells a story of a group of friends who travel every summer to Masirah, a remote island in Oman, to crash out on an empty beach and do the thing they’re super passionate about… windsurfing. Khareef shares their passion, experiences and adventures. They talk about what make Masirah so special and unique. The film wraps with a scary adrenaline rush at Keyhole with intimidating waves, sharp rocks and a small exit.

It certainly was a real adventure for me. I loved putting a film director’s hat on and tweaking the storyline as we went along. Canon Middle East kindly supported me with the latest C300II cinematic camera and cinema lenses. I also brought my own telephoto lenses so I had no shortage of gear to play with. We camped on this wonderfully remote beach without phone, internet or electricity. Fully self sufficient. Living simply. Anyone who knows me, knows that’s just how I like it but our set up did raise some challenges in producing a film. Ultimately, it all worked and we had a blast. My thanks to Goal Zero for keeping us charged with solar energy.

As with the filming, I was keen to do the editing myself… I certainly wanted to understand the process, workflow and basic jargon. The Final Cut’s tutorial videos saved the day, helping me to learn and edit simultaneously.

In preparation, I watched a whole bunch of hardcore windsurfing videos on youtube. The filming was epic but I often found them repetitive in their storytelling so I wanted to create something slightly different. With Khareef, there are three storylines really… camaraderie, destination Oman and, of course, epic windsurfing.  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

A huge thanks to Giles and your fellow surfers… for inviting me into your world and sharing something that brings you so much joy. I so appreciate you sharing your little slice of Omani heaven with me and am inspired by how protective you are over keeping it pure and simple, without growth, development or commercialisation. I think back on the many conversations you had around gear and sail sizes; “Wow, you’re on a 5.7?” “Crazy, I need to get on a 6.3….”. The passion for the surf was conveyed even in conversation, never mind when on the water. So boys, keep on riding those big waves, tackling those stormy winds and taking a step back into a life more simple. We have just one life and you guys are certainly living it…

Wk.

 

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.

Joe Clarke in training for Rio

Red Bull UK called to build a portfolio for young and upcoming Joe Clarke, who was training at Wadi Adventure in Al Ain. Joe is a complete joy to work with, very accommodating and knows his sport as a slalom canoeist inside out. I had certain shots in mind and Joe would just appear in exactly the right place, again & again. We’d then review the shots and head back into the water to refine them, making them tighter and better. Collaboration is the game plan here.

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Halfway through the morning, he mentioned that he’d made it into the Rio Olympics. Awesome. I’m so excited for him. The Olympics has to be considered the pinnacle of a sporting career… the opportunity to compete with the world’s best and show them what you’ve got. I can only imagine how focussed he’ll be now, as he gears up for the games.

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Towards the end, I pulled out my Aquatech waterproof housing and jumped in the water with him… shortly followed by some lifeguards chasing me in with a helmet and a life vest as they’d escaped me. Whoops! I chose to shoot in the white water section rather than the calmer end basin. Slalom is about rapids and fast moving water so an underwater shot should be bursting with bubbles and energy. There’s nothing to hold on to and the bottom is slippery, so everything moves like crazy; the camera, the canoe, the athlete and myself. It’s like jumping in a tumble dryer and trying to get a straight focussed shot. Eventually, with a bit of trial and error, we nailed one super strong frame.

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To wrap, I was keen to get one strong portrait. Raw background, studio lit and Joe in his racing gear, dripping wet with a determined look. To stay ‘wet’ he could either jump back into the cold water or hit the warm shower…which one would you choose?

Wishing Joe an amazing Olympics. He’s in it for the gold… so take it home!

Wk.

Adventure HQ Photoshoot

That million-dollar question… how long will it take to shoot? Rock climbing, mountain biking, skate boarding, road cycling, kayaking, surf skiing, camping, trail running, yoga, fat biking, diving, fishing, BBQ… and the shoot list didn’t end there. I looked at the client and replied with “10 days”. They looked back, grinned and responded with “how about three days?” I laughed… and then we settled on five.

Five days… and I still don’t know how we fitted it all in. Days were jam-packed with crew call times at 3 or 4am making for 16hrs day. Pre-production was key, with extensive location scouting and setting up the shots at the best outdoor locations in both the UAE and Musandam in Oman. We pretty much crafted a minute by minute production schedule, making the best of the sweet early morning and afternoon light. I can’t remember how many brands were represented with hundreds of items and dozens of athletes / talent. But most importantly we all an amazing time in the great outdoors.

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Why do I love shooting adventure sports? Because we’re all in it for memories, all keen to create stories. And stories are so powerful. It’s a great opportunity to work with amazing athletes and adventurers. And its a grand excuse to head out into the mountains, live it to the max and enjoy the great outdoors. For me, it’s pretty much second nature but for some of the crew it meant first-time camping or getting high up in the mountains. Seeing their enormous grins during those long days was super rewarding.

I created a mood board with images I’ve shot in the past or collected from adventure brands for years, just as a reference to dig into when stuck on site or to explain individual concepts to the team. In an ideal world, you’d shoot a real and raw adventure over a ten day expedition where gear, people and clothing naturally gets worn in and roughened up. Instead, in this shoot we sped up time by rolling in the sand and using other dirty tricks. At the end of the day, the images had to look genuine, unstaged, real and inspiring. I know that’s what we delivered.

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Have a look at my main site where you’ll find the full image gallery and seriously check out the behind the scenes video on the top of this post, which besides the production side of things also shows the adventures YOU can have in our region. We do live in an amazing playground with unlimited access.

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A big shout out to the crew at Absolute Adventure for keeping us out of trouble and being our partner in ground support. Anyone who gets inspired and is keen to venture off should contact these guys. They’ll take you outdoors, look after you and give you an amazing adventure experience.

I’ve got a few amazing brands that support me with the work I do. Many thanks to Goal Zero for keeping us powered up, fstop gear for their fab pack to haul our gear around the mountains, Aquatec for keeping my camera bombproof dry in the ocean, SanDisk for their fast and uber reliable CF cards and Western Digital for safely storing 100’s of GB’s of data on their HD’s. These are amazing brands to rely on when digging it deep in far away places.

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Finally, thanks to everyone for bringing their energy and making it all happen! When tempted to buy some new outdoor toys and gadgets. Check out the Adventure HQ stores around the UAE… and when you’re there, pick up the new catalogue. I heard it looks really nice…

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Behind the scene image by Kish

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Behind the scene image by Kish

Till the next adventure….

Wk.

New Nike brand images

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

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

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

Pro athletes portfolio shoot

I’m so glad we got this one together. Svetlana and I had spoken about it a number of times but trying to align her busy race schedule with my hectic shooting itinerary proved a challenge. A matching day finally arose and we certainly made great use of the opportunity. Here’s part one of a day spent with a professional triathlete.

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Prior to the shoot, I put together a moodboard with images I liked. Some very triathlon driven and others more arty and fashion oriented. For over a decade I’ve been collecting images, art pieces, ad’s and illustrations so when stepping into a portfolio shoot like this, I find it helpful to go through my… (more…)

New Nike brand images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wk.

Trails & tales with The North Face

My very first experience with The North Face goes back to a purchase some 25+ years ago and over the years, I’ve trashed their packs, duffles, tents, tops, base layers and shoes at exciting places all over the world. They’re an awesome outdoor brand just crying out to be played with.

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So when the phone rang and Craig, their Middle East brand guy, asked if I wanted to do some trail running work with them, it was a no brainer. Their logo is on my ‘brands I would love to work for’ board so needless to say, I was eager to grab this opportunity.  I did some work with The North Face brand ambassador, Dean Karnazes in ’08 and ’09 with some extreme running in Chile and China and my… (more…)

Wings for Life Dubai

I’m so proud of my great buddy Chris for pulling off the Dubai chapter of the Wings for Life World Run.  Putting on the show was a bit of a spontaneous ad hoc decision which, by the very nature of organizing a running event, proved a little overwhelming with the sheer amount of work involved. Still, he pulled it off with aplomb… called the right people and connected with the community. Within a mere matter of weeks, some solid sponsors were confirmed and around 200 runners at the starting line. That’s our Chris!

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The Wings for Life World Run is a global movement, a 10k race run in aid of those who can’t.  At precisely 10 am UTC last Sunday, a global charity race saw … (more…)

5th Abu Dhabi Triathlon

The fifth event saw me back shooting for the fifth time. Always a fantastic gig to work on. I just love the atmosphere when you have a huge combination of athletes, some newbies to the sport, some going hard for a new PB and some pro’s racing insanely fast to grab that podium finish. The finish line ends up having no shortage of huge sweaty hugs and tears… 2,400 personal and powerful stories within a few short hours.

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From a photography point of view, the mission is avoid shooting the same old content year on year. Going through this year’s imagery, I’m pleased to see that I managed a few new monster shots, pushing on creativity and… (more…)

ADOR prepping for Volvo Ocean Race

I’m wondering what their out of office reply will be. “Got your email, thanks… but it’s unlikely I’ll reply anytime soon as I’m off sailing around the world for eight months with the Volvo Ocean Race.”

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The team Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is in town and I had the privilege of spending a few days with them. They’d just announced the new crew for the Volvo ocean race and this was the first time they were all together in Abu Dhabi.

Over the course of three days, the agenda was all about having… (more…)

2014 Salomon Wadi Bih Run

Heading into the Hajar Mountains from the coastal town of Dibba never fails to bring back fond memories. I’ve been heading out to this area for over twelve years and it never fails to impress. Past trips have included endless camping adventures on the higher ridges, my introduction to trad climbing, a top three finish in the inaugural Jebel Qiwhi run, landing the winners trophy at the Arabian Quest, lot’s of long mountains runs, wadi floods (not recommended!) and last but not least, the witnessing of a super special wedding proposal by my best mate silhouetted against the moon. So when the phone rings and I’m asked if keen to cover the annual Wadi Bih run, my answer is always a resounding yes!

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Those who follow my blog will have read about the race before. It’s a 72k run through a dry river bed, up the mountain and back, completed solo or as a relay team of five. In previous years, Nike were key sponsors of the race and my brief was guideline heavy. This year, the brief was very open. I was simply to create a bank of images that connect with the race. For me, this meant roaming around the wadi and just shooting where the light was at it’s best. I really couldn’t have asked for it better! The race actually takes place in (more…)

2013 – Recap of an awesome year

Each passing year seems to fly by more quickly and each seems to get better and better. Here’s a brief recap on how my 365 days in 2013 panned out… the stories, the highlights and the game changers.

A big slice of my 2013 pie was car work. I’d say a good third of my photography work is automotive related. I came to this realization when I visited the Dubai Motorshow last November and took this one picture. All the luxury brands came together and it dawned on me that I had recently worked for all of them. I hope to continue this trend and further extend our relationship over the years to come. It’s all about putting the Middle East on the map with… (more…)

Hitting the dunes with Lewis Hamilton

It’s always fascinating to see where new business comes from. Matt, a client who I did a lot of work with at the Abu Dhabi Tourism office, recently moved to the UK to work for a sports marketing agency. I’ve since gained the title of the desert photography expert at the office, which resulted in the epic opportunity to shoot golf legends Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer in the world’s largest dunes. (worth a read).

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Matt rang me recently to ask if I was keen to do some destination work with Lewis Hamilton and Blackberry in the desert. ‘Hell yeah‘ was my reply, not because he’s a celebrity but just because he’s a very cool guy! I worked with him briefly two years ago on a shoot for McLaren and despite his status, he remains refreshingly down to earth….

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The Nike running season has commenced!

With the hot and steamy summer now behind us, we’re all back to enjoying the magical outdoors again. As many know, I’m a big fan of getting outdoors and exploring new places. My personal project ‘Exploring Old Dubai’ was a prime example of venturing somewhere new, even when it was right here on our doorstep.

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The Nike Running Club has changed their formula this season whereby, every month, they plan to gather a crowd and take them to new running locations. Last weekend, they kicked off from Downtown’s Vida Hotel and ran a route around the Burj Khalifa. 21st century city slicker running at its best! The previous month they took on the energy of… (more…)