A Day of All Weathers – On the Road To Ras Al Khaimah

Reflections of rain, recollections of haze,
Endless desert that never will seize to amaze,
Now it’s sun,
Now it’s storm,
Now it’s rain,
Now it’s warm,
Now it’s a camel that got wrecked by the careless

On the side of the road,

Rest in peace, jamal, God

Will take care of you, 

Now and Forever.

Passing by

I will nod

say goodbye, thanks a lot…

But that’s life and that’s one and the only we’ve got.

Take my palms for a ride,

Nissan “Batrol” on it’s side,

Roundabout occupied

By the people with whom you don’t wish to collide –

No use hurting their pride,

Which they have in their pockets aplenty

Though they barely reached the age twenty.

Now your car’s full of sand

Proper fit for this land,

Please enjoy short-lived status of freedom.

And forget all your plans, 

Take this rare-case of chance

And embrace nature-made cloudseeing.

Much love,

Anna

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

On Being a Woman in Photography Business.

There are certain jobs that are traditionally male-dominated and photography is known to be one of those, but why is that?

Is it because it is tough? Is it tiring? Does it require physical abilities that are more typical to be possessed by men? Do men have better creative thinking when it comes to building up a composition and do they understand the settings of the camera better than women do?

I have to prove to people, every time they hire me, that as a woman, I can also do all of that.

When I come to take portraits of CEOs and Directors to their offices, they always look at me with big round eyes while I am setting up lights and backgrounds, asking if I am sure I can do it by myself, and am I sure I am ok and don’t need help, but in the end I heard some of them saying that they never looked better in their life.

How often do I come to a shoot, and waiting for the crew to arrive I hear people asking when is he, the photographer, coming, assuming that obviously it is a He, and I am just a pretty edition to this photoshoot. If the assistant to the photographer is a guy, most businessmen would come and shake their hand first, assuming right away that it is the photographer.

How often (90% of the time) when a guy hires me to do the job, he says: “But you should be in front of the camera, not behind it” thinking that he is complimenting me, but instead making me feel like I am not good enough to do the job I am hired to do.

And there are hundreds of us who have to deal with this every single time.

But I still do love the challenge, and I love the struggle, I love proving people wrong for myself and for all of us.

Definitely, there are advantages in being a female photographer as well, especially in the Middle East where certain celebrations are still traditionally gender-separated. And certain ladies do feel more comfortable to be photographed by women.

However, I do often find myself to be the only woman (even in the room) in certain industry-related events, and that’s fantastic as well. Every time it feels like a win!

I have recently asked one of my clients, just out of curiosity, so why me? He didn’t say anything about my photography, but he said because I work tirelessly, because I know what they want and because I am a nice person. And that’s fair enough, I guess.

I do what I love and I do it with open heart and at the best of my ability, and it is sad that most clients would still pick a guy over me while hiring for certain project just because of the male-dominated market…or certain other reasons.

In 2017 Nikon couldn’t find a single female-photographer to promote their latest camera and all 32 ambassadors for it were men. In other brands, the situation isn’t much different to be honest.

But there are many, many talented women photographers out there, and even in the Middle East we are blessed to have a plenty of them.

So give us a chance, industry, or let us prove you wrong once again.

Much love,

Anna

2018 in Retrospective.

2018 was a tough year. It was scary, and scarring, but as well it has turned to be a life-changing year for me. Perhaps, it was the end of the cycle and something had to be let go of forever because in this universe it didn’t make sense any more.

This was the first year I spent New Year in the country. We didn’t do anything particularly memorable, just went to a restaurant, stuffed our faces and went home to sleep at 2 am. The first day of the year I did the zip-line over Marina, which was very fun and exciting way to start 2018. I also did sky diving and the biggest bungy jumping in the world this year. A lot of adrenaline was released.

In February, I was a silent volunteer to help and document GPP18, global photography event held in Dubai, gathering professionals and enthusiasts for workshops and industry-related talks. I can call myself a fairly organized person and I really suffered from lack of organization at this year’s event. I never totally knew where I had to be, who I had to help and what time I was supposed to show up and leave. I can’t say that I learnt anything new this year, or that I made new friends… it was all sort of a blur, and on the last day I even found myself to be a part of the crew of videographers to film the biggest highlight of the week – the shootout. When did I agree to that? Well, never, but I did it anyway. GPP photo week was always my most exciting event of the year and I used to be always so thrilled to be a part of it. I hope that next year it will feel more like what it used to be – a true global community people passionate about photography.

In terms of travelling, the first trip of the year was to South Africa. I used to live in Cape Town ten years ago, and it felt amazing to be back, I am still very much in love with that country. A lot of things changed for the better, and a lot of constructions went up, but it still feels just incredible to climb up the Lions Head Mountain and look down at the ocean hugging the city.

I didn’t take much landscape photos in South Africa, although there is an enormous potential for that there… just didn’t have time, didn’t make an effort. I documented all of our trip on my film camera, though, and those are perhaps not perfect in terms of quality, but are very special in essence.

In terms of crazy things to do in South Africa, we didn’t swim with the sharks, but we did the biggest bungy jumping in the world – around 900 m down the bridge and it was terrifying. Not sure I want to do it ever again, but glad I did it.

Upon my return, there was a few “fun” projects to shoot at work… like a portfolio of creative architectural images for one of the real estate developers, but without a permit to shoot them. Must say, it really unleashes your creativity when you have to compose your shot and be on a look-out for a security guard chasing after you, engage your peripheral vision 101.

I had to shoot a bunch of rings and bracelets designed by a local jeweler having no resources at all. I am still amazed how I managed to do it, but in the end the client turned out to be quite difficult to deal with.

I taught a workshop on landscape photography in the desert, which you can read here… and found myself thoroughly enjoying it, even though the whole things was hardly well organized…

I shot food, I shot clothes, I shot make-up, I shot furniture stores pretending it was someone’s houses, I shot people partying, people looking at art, people talking about problems in Maritime sector, I shot portraits of my friends, and portraits of friends’ friends, I went out with people to try to help them find what they want to shoot and how they want to shoot it.

I wanted to go to Iceland again, and so badly that I had to choose between keeping my day job for my previous employer or being fired, and it was the major decision of the year. I felt horrible, I couldn’t sleep, I lost half of my hair and I was being told that I am just not good enough, and I shouldn’t be doing what I am doing because I am just not as good as other people. So stepping away from this situation, leaving, being fired, going to Iceland was the best decision for my sanity. It all started there, and ended up there somewhere on the edge of the sharp cliff attacked by seagulls.

Second half of the year I started as a freelancer. I still had a few clients from my studio and it seemed I was doing pretty much the same job as before, just being paid differently. Summer is a dead season in where I live and a lot of creatives struggle so much that they prefer to leave than to stay and suffer the Dubai prices and no jobs, but I was fairly busy. There almost wasn’t a week I wasn’t photographing something, so I didn’t feel like I made such a bad decision of leaving the 9 to 5 job.

In August we did a fantastic trip to some place I have never been before – Viet Nam. There’s a whole story about that you can read here.

In September I did my last studio shoot during which the person who was in charge of the brand was fired, her colleague was sobbing throughout our shoot, and since that day I never heard from them again.

The last quarter of the year I was mostly shooting people that I know for a long time, and it really made a difference. In the end, my job is not only to document events, to make products look good, to take photos for people’s linkedin profiles… my job is to make people happy. And if you are happy, I am happy too.

Last two month I found myself shooting a lot of events for one of my most loyal and hospitable client – Saudi Arabian Shipping company and it really feels amazing to be greeted with smiles and treated like a part of their family whenever I go to their offices. A lot of photographer friends say they hate shooting events, but I genuinely look forward to take photos of these guys again and again.

Sadly, I can’t say that I took many amazing breathtaking photos of landscapes or cityscapes this year, but there is still two-three good months of the clear weather, maybe some clouds, so everything is possible. I took many film camera photos, those are very precious memories…

But let me just share a few favourite photos of mine that I took this year below… and thank you for supporting me this whole year, means a lot to me ❤

Thank you so much again for being there for me, supporting me and trusting me to be your photographer if I ever was.

Much love,

Anna

Partying with the locals in Da Nang, Viet Nam.

Before going to Vietnam, I didn’t know anything about Danang. In fact it is a coastal city in central Vietnam known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port, but for us, it was the party side of it that swept us away. 

The area where we stayed was right next to the beach, which was long and deserted in a beautiful way.

There was also a lot of construction going on, seems like Danang is building up and modernising. It looks stunning at night, especially from a hotel with a pool on 40th floor :p.

Danang at night

Unfortunately the sunsets I have seen in Vietnam were not very inspiring, but the blue hour was beautiful nevertheless.

Local Eateries

With the sun down, it was time to go look for a place to have dinner at. We walked around a few streets, peeking into small restaurants with the tiniest chairs in history of chairs, when we heard music playing loudly out of one place sized a little bigger than a general garage in someone’s house. There was a sign above the table saying “happy wedding”, however we didn’t spot any wedding dressed people, nor for that sake any girls at all. It was a party of 20 lads, who were high up in their beer consumption and jolly for the fact that Vietnam apparently won a qualifying game against Bahrain in Asian Football Cup. It just took a moment for us to exchange smiles with the vietnamese guys, and we were immediately invited to join the celebrations and given a beer each…. Most of those people weren’t able to say a word in English, but it didn’t stop us from having a time of our life dancing to the old classics like “One Way Ticket” and “You My Heart, You My Soul”… 

The shirtless fellow apparently was a Vietnam war veteran (as actually most of the older people are)… and he challenged our friend Paul to a competition of push ups. The guy must be like 65, but look how ripped he is! Also, notice how in this part of Vietnam they have a tradition just throwing finished cans on the floor, along with the food that they don’t plan to eat any more.

Obviously, it was a friendly competition, and I laughed, and took pictures, and laughed some more.

It was hard to leave this party, but it was time for us to go and actually try to have some food… and now the song One Way Ticket will always remind me of that surreal experience. How incredibly friendly of these guys to invite us to their celebration, how much fun we all had?! 

Later on that night, we went to a local club that also played some songs that I was dancing to in 2005 rather than what you hear on the radio today, but we also got invited by some locals to their table and had a fantastic night. Danang was so much more open to receive us without asking anything in return than Saigon, it was like a different world. 

Bridges in Danang – Shot on Huawei P20 Pro.

It also has the most fantastic and beautiful bridges including the dragon bridge and the one with the hands, that I unfortunately couldn’t take photos of. So if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam I definitely recommend staying in this place for at least a couple of days. 

Thank you for reliving this day with me!

Much love,

Anna

Was it Worth a Sweat? Visiting the Marble Mountain and off to the Street Markets of Hoi An.

Having just arrived to Da Nang, the city of golden bridges and few people speaking proper English, we decided to do something cultural.  “Marble Mountain” – a some kind of a marble hill, overlooking the city, adjacent to the marble market where you can literally buy anything made out of marble.

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The place was fantastic, but the humidity was whipping hardcore that day. Just being outside we quickly turned into some kind of sad, wet and stinky creatures. And the +35 C temperature… so as you can guess, we very quickly stopped looking presentable in the photos.

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At least the advantage of black and white photography is in the fact that you don’t see how red your face is.

It is also quite remarkable how much more resistant the locals are to this weather – you will never see them drenched in sweat, they are somehow just glowing with their bad-teethed smiles, or maybe their hearts just beat in a different rhythm… who knows.

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Not without a little bit of suffering, we made it up and touched upon a few temples, went down to a cave with a massive Buddha, fought with some kinky and loud Americans for the scenic outlook… watched the sunset, which was not really memorable in comparison with the state of our shirts’  moistness.

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One thing worth mentioning about climbing this mountain was that I was very, very much happy that it wasn’t raining that day, because all the stairs are made out of marble stones and it was quite a miracle that nobody broke any limbs on their way. Those stairs were not steady, straight or safe. But if they were also wet, this whole adventure would have probably had a nasty turn.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA008ASadly, most of those temples were too dark for photography, but definitely worth the visit alluring the tourists with foreign burning incense sticks smells and candle lit figurines with the donations.

We didn’t invest in any marble goods, and came to a decision that the rooftop swimming pool was a necessary visit after the profound sweating in the mountains.

Danang seems like a new city full of construction, young people and shiny bars and restaurants. But in fact it dates back to 102 AD, so not so new in the end. There is more than a million people living in there, but it doesn’t feel as crowded as other big cities of Vietnam, though also can get quite loud.

 

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Danang has a beautiful coast which felt quite deserted where we were. It was heavily used by Americans during the Vietnam war times to unload the new-arriving soldiers…

In just 30 minutes drive from Danang, there is an absolutely stunning little city called Hoi An – meaning a peaceful meeting place. It looks and feels like and old-school Asian settlement with plenty of small temples, bridges and lanterns all over the place.

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Most places would want a small payment to enter, but it is usually only 1 dollar per person. What can you seriously buy in your home country for 1 dollar? Here, you can literally touch the history. We visited one home where the Chinese guy told us he is the 6th generation living in this place since 1690 (and he was like 85 or older) and his house was made out of beautiful dark wood with lots of intricate carvings… not comparable to the kind of places we live in of course.

Went to have a late breakfast in an awesome restaurant called Cafe des Amis.

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The owner is playing majong with his friend. This guy (on the right) was a chef in Paris and made friends with a few french celebrities from the 60s and 70s. Their music still plays in his restaurant every day. And I must say I never had such a tasty tofu meal as in this place. Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA031A

These are the street vendors taking a break just outside the restaurant. If eating inside is too fancy for you, you can always grab something from these guys, or from one of those mobile cafes where everything is on one scooter – the stove, the serving station, the seats, the umbrella… what else do you need?

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Gotta say, I loved this little city. It was a delight for photographer to be there, and I shot a whole roll of film just in this place.

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Ah what a good coffee they make in Vietnam, so dark and so flavourful. We bought a bag of the most expensive coffee in the world for the price of 3 dollars… but for some reason it just doesn’t taste the same at home.

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There’s plenty of tourists in Hoi An, but it never feels too crowded.

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You can also take a boat cruise, which I believe is a nice thing to do, but we didn’t have enough time for that. Hopefully, with our next visit we will plan it better.

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You can also cheaply make any kind of outfit in the clothing factories in Hoi An. The choice of materials is quite extensive and the prices are way below your expectations.

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Hope you enjoyed a little trip around the central Vietnam with me… and stay tuned for the continuation of this party as we go to explore the night life of Da Nang.

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If you missed the first part of the Vietnam adventures, you can find it here:

Hustle and Bustle of Saigon, Vietnam.

Vietnam part 2: Mui Ne, Train Adventure, Why do We Play Flip Cup?

Love,
Anna

Vietnam part 2: Mui Ne, Train Adventure, Why do We Play Flip Cup?

Hello everyone,

Part two of Vietnamese adventures follows. After we had enough of Saigon, it was time for us to go explore more of Vietnam goodness. As we had absolutely no plans or reservations, we decided to join a few guys that my husband met online. They were having a good time on the beach of Mui Ne, so this became our next destination. Living in a relatively small country, we were forgetting again that Vietnam can’t be crossed in one day and even going to this beach destination would take us a few hours. Precisely from 5 to 7 by bus, as the bus company announced. Nothing is too sure in terms of timing in this country.We decided to splash and buy the “comfortable” version of the bus, that had beds instead of seats.Ilford HP5_Vietnam (35).jpg

I can’t say that this was more comfortable option, but what is important that we made it in one piece to our destination.

Mui Ne is as it turns out quite a popular destination for backpackers.A few individuals of that type were getting quite hyped at the end of the bus, shouting at every sign of a new urban dwelling “Mui Ne?!” until the bus driver got mad and started shouting NO NO NO NO NO. I can’t say that he was a very well-tempered man before they started annoying him either. He had a habit of overtaking large chunks of traffic at the traffic light, and one time got overexcited and got the side mirror smashed by a truck. Whoa, bit scary.

So we are finally in Mui Ne, it is raining and the bus just left us somewhere sort of in the vicinity of the hostel we were staying. Thankfully, we had the sim card and could find the location easily. It was just up the hill. And when you think that it is already quite up the hill, there was some more up the hill. Checked in, read the rules and regulations, that mentioned absolutely no sea food in the room or you will be punished financially by paying 1 million dongs. As harsh as it sounds, 1 million dongs is not such a big amount of money. And there was no cooking appliances, so I am not sure how one can even cook sea food. Anyhow, we refrained from doing that.

Found our new friends at the bar, they have had consumed a few buckets of alcoholic beverages and were ready to take part in all the numerous entertainment opportunities provided by the establishment, namely playing flip cup (the motto of this game is “why do we play flip cup? to get fucked up”), the ever popular beer pong and a few others. We preferred to be on the observing part that night, and I clicked pretty of crazy photos of that night which should not be shown to any of the mentioned personas’ mothers.

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The next day we woke up kind of early. It is pretty hard to sleep in Vietnam anyway, because Vietnamese for some reason get up super early, and start actively build stuff and hammer stuff at 6 am, they also need to call everyone and talk loudly. By 9 am all these kind of activities slow down. Anyway, we took a pretty decent breakfast in the hostel for 2 dollars. The coffee in Vietnam is dope. It is very tasty and quite strong. Just the way I like.

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After breakfast we went to explore the beach which was quite much deserted and we enjoyed a fantastic beach by ourselves. Also at the same time the sun was enjoying roasting us, so we all got a premium sunburn in just a few hours despite applying the cream to our white skins.

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In the afternoon, the boys were somehow involved in pillow fight competition. Not just a pillow fight, but on a metal pipe over a swimming pool with wet pillows.That was a sight to behold. The guy who won the epic battle was doing detox that month so the beer tower he won, he decided to share with us. Good questionis why did he take part in this competition at all. His name is Nick and he is a 19 years old backpacker from Germany.

Ilford Delta 100_Vietnam (13)The guys that we made friends with were from Germany too, but they didn’t much like Nick. I had a good time talking to him. He was travelling at that time with Pete, who is a British guy changing jobs every couple of years and taking backpacking trips in between. They both had so many great stories to tell, we spent as much time talking as we could. One good thing about hostels is finding interesting people. When you stay at a fancy hotel,  everyone is on their own. Backpackers are much more open community, and usually it doesn’t take long to befriend somebody.

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So after spending two nights in Mui Ne, it was time to move somewhere else. We bought tickets on a night train to go to a place called Danang. 14 hours in a train.

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For an average Russian this doesn’t sound like a lot of time in a train, but ze germans and zi french were impressed. The train really reminds a lot a Russian train, but everything is made for smaller people and instead of 2 sleeping rows of shelves, there are 3.

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We were like the only people of European origins in this train and the Vietnamese were looking with suspicion at us. At 6 AM everyone got up, started calling other people on the phone… there was even a chicken in the train, I didn’t see it but I heard it. 14 hours were feeling quite long… but eventually we made it to Danang. The beautiful city of Danang with its Dragon Bridge and the Marble Mountain. That is however a story for the next time.

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Much love,
Anna