Crossing the Bridge to Tolerance.

2019 is a year of Tolerance in the UAE.

It is a wonderful initiative started by our government in order to bring us closer together, in the end we are more than 200 nationalities living in this country.

Today I happened to pass by the Tolerance bridge, a beautiful construction that holds Dubai together because a few years back a new canal appeared within the city… so I sat under the bridge waiting for the sunset, and wrote a few lines thinking about tolerance, UAE, and all of us.


Tolerance bridge, what are you tolerating?
Fisherman sneakily stands by your side, 
Cranes move around new construction creating,
Labourer sleeps in the shade you provide.

Me, I’m just waiting for sunset to happen,
So that I have a new picture to post.
Why does canal feel like a gap in the planning? 
Dubai, are you winning with it or at loss? 

Tolerance bridge, please be kind and don’t judge us
For racism, profiling, for snobbing and lust. 
Hug all the residents that live in Dubai,
And make us all equal – be fair and be just.

Much love,

Anna

What You Should Consider Before Going on a Photo Mission to the Desert.

Hello dear curious friend, tell me, are you fascinated by the desert?

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It is a place full of wonders, and obviously sand. But people who think that there is nothing in the desert couldn’t be more wrong. Recently my wonderful relationship with Gulf Photo Plus brought me to an opportunity to teach a class in landscape photography to someone who is not from here and haven’t ever really been to the desert. Of course I was super excited to be able to share my knowledge with someone who is genuinely interested in the subject, plus making a bit of money on the side is always a great idea.

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My student, Brian, was visitng his brother in Abu Dhabi, and was given a gift voucher for anything in GPP, so he decided to exchange it to a private class in landscape photography. Thank you for giving me a chance, Brian, you are a very talented photographer and I am sure you didn’t need half of my directions, but it was fun shooting together with you.

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However, when I woke up the day of the class, there was a bad sand storm even in the city. Bad to the point that when I went out of my building, I had troubles keeping my eyes open, and the outside temperature was at least 8 degrees hotter than it was the day before. Well, that’s gonna be fun, I thought to myself, but you never know how the weather would change in a few hours. I packed flip flops, a cap, water bottle and took a camera that I didn’t care so much to be sanded because that would happen no matter what you do.

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GPP booked us a proper 4×4 desert safari driver, who was very much insisting on selling us any kind of tourist entertainment (camel riding, dune bashing and so on) and couldn’t believe that all we wanted was to take beautiful pictures of the desert. But I have to give him credit, once I asked him to stop the car next to a tree or a bush, he figured that it was indeed what we had interest in and started proposing to take us to other landmarks (rocks).

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When we stepped out of the car first time, the desert was amazingly calm. It was quiet and no piece of sand was moving, but those of you who have been to the desert before can imagine how fast this situation can change. And indeed, in just 10 minutes we saw a big dark cloud coming out of the dunes, and the never-ending shower of sand started pouring on our heads. One other thing is, when you are out there, you don’t notice how hot it is (especially with a bit of wind), and all that sand ends up covering you completely in a thin layer that blends you in with desert even more.

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In terms of photography, desert is a tricky place to shoot. Being an ultra-wide angle shooter, it is especially tricky for me since one needs to find some point of interest in both the foreground and the background to make it work. If you manage to find cool patterned dunes, plus the mountains in the background and the clouds as a bonus – then you are in the money. But… in the UAE you have to be incredibly lucky to have all those elements lining up in front of you. So, if you are shooting the local desert, I would advise to go for mid-range lens, or even try a telephoto and really look for those patterns and geometric alignments. Most of the time you are in the desert, there will be sun (so don’t forget your hat), but in our case the light was actually quite flat because of that cloud. And though it added some interest in the skies that we didn’t even hope for, the sunset was completely non-existent.

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If you are out shooting the sunset in the desert, here is one piece of advice for you – find your angle, set up the tripod and wait for the moment when it is about 20 minutes before the sunset. Take 3 shots focusing on:

  1. front (foreground),
  2. half-way (middleground),
  3. and infinity or close (background).

then wait for the sunset to happen.

I will tell you why you should do it this way: when the sun is still high, the sand looks nice and textured, but it is quite washed out in colour because of the bright sun (that it reflects).  When the sun is not far from setting down, the sky starts turning red and orange, and these colours reflect in the sand making it the most colourful you ever going to have. However, when the sun is setting already, it is now too low to cast any light on the dunes and they turn grayish already (and stay like that throughout the blue hour). So be wise, and plan to blend your image if that’s what you would normally do.

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Being in the desert with Brian, I felt like a scout – running up and down the dunes, hunting for angles for him, telling him to shoot lower, to isolate, to follow the lines… and it was a challenge for myself too. I have never been to this particular location, and the weather was bad, the light was not amazing… but I think we nailed it. I am happy of the fact that I was able to shift my focus and look for patterns and textures instead of endless wide-angled compositions.

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What wasn’t so much fun though, trying to get that sand out of my bag, my hair and my zoom lens… but hey, you can’t have it all!

Thank you for reading and see you soon.

Much love,
Anna

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I See Beauty Where Others See Ugliness.

Hello everyone,

today I wanted to tell you a story of fishermen picture that I took last weekend and it seems to have caused a lot of controversial feelings among my followers.

Three girls, two friends of mine and I, decided to go on a Saturday morning photowalk with a challenge to shoot with our film cameras. I had black and white film loaded in mine, so I was looking for punchy contrasts and interesting scenes that would look good devoid of colour. For my choice of film, the weather wasn’t great cause it was overcast, but we didn’t get completely cooked thanks to the cloud coverage.

We saw a few interesting scenes, but nothing really exciting until one point, we were passing by a shack where the fishermen just returned from their fishing trip of the day, and they were cleaning the nets and listening to some cool music.

I asked them if it was okay for us to take a few shots of them, and they seemed to be cool with that, so we started shooting them with our three film cameras.

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The guys seemed to be quite happy to have a company of 3 girls (and some taxi drivers also stopped on the way to salute them and us). I took a few iPhone pictures among which was this image:

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I took my last shot on the roll of film, rewinded it and I already packed my camera when this guy in the “adidas” pants stood up to hug his friend as that one was quite shy for posing in front of us. It felt like it was quite a cute moment, and when you live in the Middle East for long enough, you always see these guys hugging or holding hands, so it is completely a normal thing in their culture. But as I posted this image on my Instagram story I received a few replies from guys saying that it’s wrong, it’s weird and it even looks like rape…

The story that I saw with my own eyes looked like something else in the eyes of my followers… and I am not going to judge anyone, and say that they were wrong to perceive it the way they saw it… but it made me stop and think for a second, how many times people saw something on my social media and they didn’t say a word, but this time it actually made them stop and write something? In the end, even this kind of reaction is better than silence, right?

Is it wrong for man to hug another man from behind? Is it wrong to take pictures of that? Is it cute or is it disgusting? Everyone sees it differently and nobody is right or wrong, I suppose.

I’d rather have more love than hate in my life, so I am sharing a story of brotherhood, friendship, support and love. And you are free to see it any way you prefer.

 

380 words in verses on Emirates.

Hey people,
In 2016 I took a part in Emirates Airlines Literature competition for which I had to write a poem in 380 words about Emirates and the notion of “time”… The prize was 4 economy tickets anywhere in the world, and I was shortlisted to go to the Award Ceremony, just I was in Iceland, so I couldn’t make it. So I never won, or lost in fact, because I couldn’t come to the event. But I thought, why not share it here. At least it can live in its own space over here.

Silent night, no wind, no whisper,
Stop and look up in the sky.
Notice stars are getting crisper,
That’s not often in Dubai.

Take a picture, freeze the moment,
Show the world what you have seen.
While the rest of us are dormant,
Pull the break in time-machine.

Time in here has different meaning,
Here it stops and lets you pause.
No phone calls from your dry-cleaning,
Desert likes you with these clothes.

Supervastness – arms of desert
Pick you up and make you fly.
You are now as light as a feather,
Gliding smoothly in the sky.

Constellations shine with wisdom
Since the times of Ancient Greeks.
Guiding auto-pilot systems
With a bunch of cool techniques.

Emirates brings you the future,
Cheating time with airbus wings.
Building bridge to foreign cultures
Always treating you like kings.

Bigger cities, crazy traffic,
Will you ever find your peace?
When will life stop being epic?
Can you ever have release?

Think about Einstein explaining
That the reason why time runs
Is so that all things on planet
Won’t be happening at once.

Wait a second, friend, and ponder,
Never-ending sky of stars…
Isn’t this the biggest wonder
To have planet all to us?

Grains of sand forever captured
In the shape of hourglass
Will keep track of time elapsing
And your life with sand does pass.

Try to be appreciative
Of the moment you live in.
Look around, be creative –
World’s your canvas to begin.

Paint with light, but do it softly
Share the love and take the chance.
You will notice difference shortly,
Don’t be shy –  get up and dance.

Truth is that the only treasure
Is your memories to keep,
Food is not a lasting pleasure,
TV shows will make you sleep.

Life is short, won’t last forever,
Go explore, don’t be afraid.
Keep in mind – it’s now or never,
Get your ticket and upgrade.

Destinations, expectations,
Stations, nations, visas, lands,
Here, my friend, congratulations.
You begin to understand.

Be the frequent flyer going
From Mauritius to Taiwan.
Travel all around the planet
And come back to land of sand.

Endless dunes will hug you softly,
Singing tender lullaby.
Wind of night that’s almost salty
Brings you to promptly to Dubai.



Anna

My favourite 2017 images (a year shot with Fuji)

Everyone is tempted to draw a certain line at the end of the year, which I guess provides a certain psychological closure on a pathway to a better newer you… at least in theory.

Last year was quite an amazing year for me professionally and in terms of my personal photography as well. I met so many great people, some of who turned into good friends.

I went to Berlin, Sri Lanka, Iceland, California, Italy, Norway, New York, Moscow, Mauritius… maybe not so-o-o many places but definitely good memories.

Went to a few rooftops in Dubai that I didn’t think I’d ever make my way to, thank you amazing friends again.

I am going to add a bunch of my favourite pictures I took this year to this post, so maybe one day I can look back and see how I improved (or not :))

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Though a fantastic view and a terrific company, the day was just so hazy that it wasn’t so pleasant to shoot. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F4 // 0,5 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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A shot from short weekend trip to Sri Lanka. That place has fantastic sunsets… and is always so fun and so relaxing to be there. A random couple was just at the right spot at the right time. Fujifilm XT100T // F8// 0,5 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Iceland, my beautiful small Reykjavik sunrise that nobody else came out to shoot but me. I might have been shaking for an hour after I got inside, that cold I was,  but it was all worth it. Fujifilm XT2 // 16mm // F16 // 1/30 second  // ISO 200 //

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Iceland, near Budir Church. This dog just walked into my shot and stayed there for a moment. Other photographers were quite annoyed that the dog is ruining it, but I thought it actually makes the picture rather more interesting, so thank you Dog! Fujifilm XT100T // F8// 1/60 of a second  // ISO 500 //

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There are many, many pictures of Iceland I’d include here, but I chose just a few. Jokursarlon, another of my most favourite places in the world for it’s uniqueness and everchanging beauty. Not the most easy place to photograph, but always so captivating. Fujifilm XT2 // 16-55 at 48 // F4 // 1/200 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Currently my phone background picture. Such a beautiful sunset, such a wild place… a piece of my heart is still there. Fujifilm XT2 // 16-55 at 20 // F8 // 1/15 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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For the love of silky water, this is a shot of the stream that goes down from a fantastically looking waterfall… but i chose to look in the opposite direction, and again, no regrets there. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F10 // 6 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Perhaps not the most impressive picture of bears ever, but we saw bears! Real furry fluffs in Sequoia National Forest. Fujifilm XT2 // 100-400 at 400 // F5,6 // 1/125 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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So many beautiful spots in California, and so hard to photograph them because of their scale. Death Valley is such a gem. Another paradise for photographers. The sunset was behind the mountains, but it was still quite epic.  Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F4 // 0,5 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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We’ve got enough desert of our own in UAE, but these dunes are impacably photogenic. Woke up at 5 am because of jet lag and because we were too hot, and went to explore and get sanded. Fujifilm XT2 // Samyang 8mm  // F10 // 1/60s of a second  // ISO 100 //

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Moving on to Norwegian adventures… can you tell it’s end of June? Fantastic nature and lots of streams and waterfalls left and right, just as I like. Fujifilm XT2 // 16-55 at 17 // F11 // 30 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Another absolutely crazy waterfall spot we discovered by accident. So much power in that water that if you slip, there is no chance of getting out of there alive. As much as I love silky water, I felt like the power of this place is better shown in short exposure. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 24 // F11 // 1/100 of a second  // ISO 100 //

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Moody view of a fjord with the softest moss in the world. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F14 // 0,5 second  // ISO 200 //

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Ah the midnight sun, how pretty you are giving us no rest. Lyngenfjord, Finnmark. Fujifilm X100T // 23mm // F5,6 // 1/150 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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New York, New York! We stayed in a place with a bad-ass view and a rooftop to chill. Wasn’t very high, but we are spoilt in Dubai, I guess. Fujifilm X100T // 23mm // F16 // 8 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Mauritius. A place with beautiful clouds. I was a lazy photographer there, didn’t photograph much, although these clouds call for experiments with long exposures. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F11 // 1/125 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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Another picture from Mauritius. I forgot to switch on shooting in Raw after making some time-lapses so what I thought in my mind I’d recover, turns out I can not. But somehow I still love this sunset shot as it is. XT2 // 35mm // F5.6 // 1/125 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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And last but not least is a gift from my lovely Dubai – a week of fogs, and a rare occasion of a sunset fog. Such a spectacular view. I am planning to write another post about our rooftopping weekend, so check in a bit to see more amazing images of December in Dubai. This one is a screenshot from a video shot on Canon EOS 6d with a Sigma 12-24 lens.

Happy New Year My Friends. Hope you enjoyed the images and wishing you all the best and tons of inspiration in the newly born 2018.

Love,
Anna

Are You Doing It for the Money?

Two month ago I was contacted by an agency who asked me if I am interested to shoot landscapes for them, and in those landscapes there would be some influencers and luxury watches. They wanted me to shoot beautiful landscapes like they saw on my instagram and would inspire people to travel.

Great, I thought, it was the first time someone wanted to hire me because of landscapes, of course I was willing to do that.

The photographer who did their last campaign is quite a well-established world known photographer, and they didn’t forget to remind me of that on every possible occasion.

The initial plan was ambitious including travelling to foreign countries (nearby foreign, but still abroad), but then the budget was cut and the shoot was to take place within the country.

The initial plan was to shoot throughout the month of September with the final images to be delivered by the end of the month, the reality was that we were shooting Monday to Thursday and the final 16 images to be retouched and delivered by end of Thursday.

Last shot was done at sunset of Thursday followed by the trip to the luxury watches office that I only left by midnight. The number of images they selected was 50. The delivery time was Friday end of day. The luxury watches were to be retouched to the “studio-shot” quality. They were shot in the desert, on the beach and in a mountain village. You can imagine…

IMGL0176-Edit-2When I agreed to do this project, it sounded exciting, inspiring, well-paid and ego-boosting.

By the end of that week I felt emotionally-drained, I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours per night, I felt like I was trying to sell my soul to a devil with all the requests from 5 people who were around me at all times trying to direct the shoot; I felt like there was no money in the world that would cover the emotional damage that shoot left me with. And they didn’t even put my name next to my images when they printed them and exhibited them in the biggest mall in the world.

So what is the positive take away from this experience?

For me it is to shoot what I don’t care about for the money, and spend money on travelling shooting whatever I want, however I want.

Don’t sell your art for nothing. Don’t let other people sell your art for nothing. If people want your art to promote their brand, they better have means to pay for that. The only exception for that would be giving your art away for charity purposes – if it can save someone’s life, don’t hesitate.

Two days after I sent all the pictures to the client, they called me up and asked if I was willing to give them two more images of mine for free provided they quote “make sure to include me in their next project”.

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Absolutely not, you want the pictures, they have their price.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Stay strong and live with passion.

Anna

My Story of That Last Thing I need to get or You Already Have All You Need for Happiness.

When I started taking photos for work, I had Canon EOS 1100D, which is a very basic level cropped-frame DLSR camera, but still you can totally take decent photos with it if you have a good lens in your bag… but I remember how it bugged to go to the event, and I have this shitty DSLR and everyone has  5D and a lens with the red ring… And I felt like I really need a big heavy camera so that people take me seriously. So I got a second-hand Canon EOS 7D. It is a beautiful cam, but it is just a bit outdated now. And the one I had got in my hands from the hands of a wedding photographer, so it was quite well used. But it was heavy, big and respectable.

With that I had to upgrade my tripod as well, because this camera was too heavy for the one I had. The tripod served me well for around 3 years, and I wouldn’t have known something is wrong with it until the day my dear friends on my tour to Iceland kept making fun of me and my flimsy tripod…. well, I never dropped my camera with it. One guy in the Iceland tour with a more expensive tripod gave his Sony a swim in the salty waters of the Atlantic ocean, and it never worked again.

But my happiness with 7D didn’t last very long, because very soon I decided that now I need a full frame camera. This for real will take my photography on the very new level. And thankfully there was this Canon EOS 6D with WiFi and GPS that showed up on the market. It was just perfect for me at that point. It costed half of my salary, but I needed to have it. For the same reason that I needed 7D, now it was not enough for me.

I must admit that shooting with a full-frame DSLR is fun. I love it, and it makes your life easier to use 50 mm as 50 mm, not as 85 and you can fit more than one person in the frame.

The tricky part with buying full-frame cameras is that half of your lenses are good for nothing no more, because they are made for cropped sensor… and now you ‘obviously’ need to upgrade your lenses as well. That what I was doing for a while, got 24-105 as my first L lens, and didn’t love it. It works just fine, but it is a very unexciting lens. And heavy. Got 24-70 and it is bloody heavy… shoots nicely, but I had a tamron 28-75 which is much lighter and gives you kinda same-same effect. Plus this canon lens was constantly fogging from inside in Iceland… that was a bummer. And honestly working with it is like doing a workout, but the 70-200 is the real workout one. I was dreaming of buying one as my next investment, then Fujifilm happened to me.

_DSF0401_So I gave my 1100D as a gift to my sister along with 50 mm lens, and she didn’t really use it (I know, cause now they got some Sony cam), and I don’t even know what happened to my beloved Canon that I started my career with. As soon as I parted with it, I realized I need something light that I can travel with or just can take with me to a party (no, I can’t shoot with iPhone, right?) …. (of course I can, but…) Anyway, that’s how I got myself a Canon 100D with a touchscreen… and I had some fun with it, but sold it after some time cause I didn’t really use it. And also because I had bought a Fuji X100T as my put in the pocket camera. It is absolutely amazing with colours, size and performance… but the lens is fixed and the battery is shitty comparing to Canons.

Have played with Fuji in Dubai, and in Iceland, I loved it, so one day something happened to me and I just went to the store and bought Fuji XPro2 which was on promotion with 35mm lens. And I looooove how sharp it is, I love the details, I love that it is light and the design of it excites me as well. So I wanted to sell all my Canon stuff and become a Fuji convert, but as I have now landed at a photographer job, I would like to hold on to Canon just for now to see if I can actually do it with Fuji. I am sure I can, but it is just not as fast and reliable as Canon. What I love about Canon is the speed of the response, it is just a second and it is ready to go. It is very rarely giving me a brain freeze, but mirrorless cameras tend to do that from time to time. I can also connect it fast and easy to iPad and show the clients what’s going on, while Fuji with the WiFi card takes really a while to load the photos.

It doesn’t bug me anymore to go to the event with the non-pro DSLR camera, I know that I can manage to take nice photos even with the kit lens, because I know how it works, and I can make it work.

We often fall victims of the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and think that the new camera or lens will unleash our creativity, but in fact we already have all the tools. You can’t shoot with 3 cameras at the same time, so do you really need so many? And I can guarantee that some of those lenses are just gathering dust on the shelves…

I just need to repeat this last paragraph to myself whenever I feel like I neeeeeeed that just that one more lens or camera, or tool, or whatever.

Need to learn to be happy with what I have.

Peace and love,

AnnaIceland 2016-23