What do Auroras Make You Think of?

Hello, friend!

Travelling from Dubai to Iceland is no joke – you go from full on summer temperatures into winter, even though March is not so cold. When I stepped out of the airport, I felt like someone punched me in the face with cold wind, so I rushed to put on my furry shapka (hat in Russian) waiting for my turn to get in the bus. It is organized in a very smart way, transportation from Keflavik to Reykjavik. You can take two kind of busses: one takes you to BSI (the central bus station) and the other one can drop you at your hotel, you just need to put it on the list when entering the bus. If you are going to BSI, there will be a smaller bus that takes you to your hotel, or you can take a taxi. The whole trip to the city takes around 45 minutes during which you can enjoy minimalistic sceneries with no trees, but lots of moss fields and funny viking-inspired hotels and inns.

On my way to Reykjavik I had to do 2 stops in various airports, each time almost missing my flight. It’s a lot of stress when you get out of the plane and it’s boarding time of your next flight already, but you still have to enter Schengen zone and check your luggage, and get to the other terminal. Thank you kind Norwegian people who made it possible for me to arrive to Iceland on time, who kindly transported me alone in the bus to the plane and  who made me drink a litre of water at the customs while I already needed badly to visit the facilities. But all good!

I ran into the Iceland Air plane and there was no one to check my boarding pass at the entrance – that’s something new. They always are so annoying with it – even though someone just checked your boarding pass 1 minute ago at the entrance to the “plane sleeve”. The plane was quite loud, but I didn’t care much about it. What I loved most about Iceland Air – they have lights in the plane that look like Northern Lights, very-very cool. And they have a bunch of documentaries about different parts of Iceland on entertaining program, so if you don’t know anything about places you want to visit, this is your chance to familiarise with it. You can also conveniently buy a sim card just for 2000 Icelandic cronas on board of the plane, and won’t have to worry about it once you leave the aircraft. It is very easy to activate it and gives you around 500 MB data and some minutes to call anywhere. You can also easily top it up with a credit card at any time using your phone’s browser.

I love the way Northern European cities look like, love the minimalistic style, love the funny hats and beards you see everywhere and no tall buildings. It’s nowhere close to being glamorous and completely different from Dubai, but it has its charm if you are not attracted to shiny things.

My Dream Photo Tours group meeting was scheduled at 6 PM in the hotel lobby, and my roomie Emily and I were the last ones arriving. However, we had to wait for one group member named Denny who got lost in the streets while trying to shoot the sunset. Everybody introduced themselves, explained how they ended up here and what kind of photography they do if do. We met our group leaders Ken Kaminesky and Patrick Di Fruscia, who also introduced themselves and told us how they ended up here. We had a good laugh about the fact that we had 3 people named Chris in the group and that we have to give them nicknames now to single out which one is which Chris. Everyone was amazed by the fact that I “won” the trip, especially considering how much they had to pay to be there. We were just two girls with the rest of the group being guys, but I love being in guys company, so I didn’t mind at all.

It was a clear frosty night, everyone was excited and jet-lagged. We walked down the icy streets of Reykjavik to go to Apotek Bar Grill, a very nice Icelandic restaurant with loooooots of food and welcome glass of champagne. Our driver, the fabulous Siggi, joined us not long after we sat down at the table. I recognised him right away from F-Stopper’s videos with Elia Locardi and was very happy to be experiencing his “dark” sense of humour that I have already seen in the videos. The guy is amazing!

Apart from Emily and I, everyone else was from the United States and Canada, so they didn’t really suffer from being sleepy, but we did. Siggi said there is a high chance of Northern Lights that night, and our sleepiness vanished without a trace. We all marched back to the hotel, got our equipment needed for the night shots, and started off into the darkness.

When you guys need to shoot something outside after 11 pm out of the city, it is a good idea to get your camera settings and lens settings right while you are still in the bus, because it is freakishly dark out there! But you live, you learn.

The group unloaded itself in the unnamed location outside of Reykjavik that only Siggi really knows where it was. It was hilarious cause we all saw the mountain and started setting up tripods in that direction, and Siggi … of course being Siggi, said: “Look the opposite direction, you bunch of dumb photographers” and indeed the other way we started seeing the green dragons dancing in the sky.

It is so exciting to see those for the first time that you almost can’t contain yourself, it is a rush of adrenaline that will keep you warm on a cold open-skies night (but believe me after an hour you will be frozen anyway). The location was not perfect, there wasn’t really any proper foreground to put in the shot, but the auroras are beautiful and unique even if the only thing you can wrap them around is a yellow bus. And why not?

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We kept roaming around, getting into each other shots, swearing at each other and growing as a group together by laughing our asses off at people who forgot to take their lens caps off and were wondering why are the photos being just darkness, running off the road trying to get away from a car and then ending up with a very interesting shot of blurry lines.

It was a perfect beginning of the trip, and though maybe some of our shots were not epic, we were happy and frozen, wrapped up at 1 AM and fell asleep full of emotions.

I wish you, my friends, to have this experience at least once in your life, it is unbelievable scene to see those lights dancing in front of you and I believe no photo can show you how incredibly amazing this is. But we try.

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Have a great day!

Anna

Is it about Luck or is it about Talent?

I don’t really consider myself to be a lucky person, but from time to time I would participate in competitions or draws (and right away I forget that I did). One day my husband sent me a picture from a magazine which encouraged photographers to participate in the following competition, described as follows:

Share a photo on Instagram of Dubai “illuminated” using a hashtag #shinedxb to win a trip with Dream Photo Tours in December 2015.

I looked through a gallery of my Dubai images, picked one, and posted on Instagram without any second thoughts. Didn’t even bother putting many hashtags to attract attention to it, so it had only around 45 likes at the time when I received a DM from the MENA region marketing manager of Facebook asking if this photo really belongs to me, and if I can send a high-res version of it to his e-mail address. In about 30 minutes he told me that I won this competition, and all the three judges voted for my photo. This all happened in an event where Instagram was celebrating it’s 5th anniversary in Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, and they had a photo exhibition and a voting session.

I couldn’t really believe it at the time, because I never dreamt about going on a photography trip that I don’t have to pay for! This is when I thought to myself, well, seems like I must have at least one good photo in my arsenal then, since this thing happened to me.

The guy who stands behind this “luck” of mine is an amazing location-independent travel photographer Elia Locardi. He was the one who picked my photo in the first place, and shortly after I realised why. At the time of the events, it happened so that he had visited Dubai so many times, but was never able to capture Dubai covered with fog. I believe this to be the most amazing time to shoot the city and certainly gives the most magical-looking and breath-taking view. Well, I was lucky to wake up early that day to capture this beauty unveiling in front of my eyes (truth to be told, I haven’t gone to bed yet when it was happening). Capturing this image opened me a door to more amazing opportunities. Maybe this will forever stay the most famous photo I took, but if I don’t try to take the next one, we will never know.

I was allowed to choose any trip from Dream Photo Tours upcoming schedule among which were Vietnam, Japan, Italy… Until that moment I never thought about going to Iceland. I live in Dubai and I don’t own a coat, neither a decent pair of boots, nor warm clothes really. I don’t think about weather-sealed lenses or cameras because I don’t face any of those harsh conditions here. I could have gone to Myanmar, I could have gone Vietnam, but I decided that it’s perhaps something I would never otherwise do and I put myself on the list to go to Iceland.

This is where it all began, my magical journey to the land of ice and fire, which happened in March 2016, and changed my life completely.

Many people tell me how lucky I am in my life. It is my luck to have moved to Dubai and my luck to have followed my heart to be a photographer, but I honestly don’t think that anyone is preventing you from doing the same. I am lucky because I opened my heart and let amazing things happen to me, that is perhaps true, but so can you.

“Luck is believing you’re lucky.” – Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Start Your Day Right.

It’s so important to wake up and program yourself to a good day, otherwise negative thoughts will bring you less than a great day – I am pretty much sure about it.

I try to start my day with the music I like and think of something that I am looking forward. Dancing while dressing up helps a lot too. Today I had a chance to get a kick of motivation from one of the most talented photographers I know who sent me a couple of great words on Facebook. Thank you, great soul.

Depending on how crazy for food you are a good breakfast can be that thing for you as well. I usually just eat some granola mixed with 0 fat yoghurt, but this breakfast on the photo up there doesn’t look too bad, does it? It was a photo I took for my company’s Instagram page and there is no fake food in this photo! I am really proud of how it turned out provided that I had 30 seconds to photograph this scene before the berries sank into the smoothie.

Hope you all had a great start for your day and something inspirational to look forward to!

Have a great one,

Anna.

A golf player at sunset

Happy Sunday everyone!

Today I announced in my office that I am no longer going to be an office manager, no longer going to be making coffees and buying toilet paper… but rather after two months I am going to be chasing my dream and going to be joining a very exciting company to become a full-time photographer.

My office pals were very cute and sent me lots of heartwarming messages… some more genuine, some a bit less, but nevertheless – exciting times are coming.

The weather in Dubai was weird today. It was raining, and it was sunny at the same time. It was humid, windy and fresh all somehow the same. The day ended up in an amazing arrangement of beautiful clouds in the skies.

Thank you Mr. Unknown Golf Player, who roamed into my frame and made the whole scene quite more awesome.

Hope you are up to something good today. Wishing you lots of inspiration!

Anna

Photography is awesome!

Hello world!

My name is Anna Shtraus, I am from Russia but I live in Dubai, U.A.E., and I suffer from travel addiction. In fact I don’t suffer, it’s only my wallet that does, I am quite enjoying this state of affairs.

I have been fiddling with the buttons of different cameras for quite some years now, and arrived to a conclusion that I love it, so not planning to stop any time soon.

I believe in positive thinking, in love, in beauty hidden everywhere. I try to live with passion and devotion, and show the beauty of the light through my camera lens.

Thank you for stopping by and let’s enjoy the beauty of the world together.

Love,

Anna