Shoot for the Stars or #GPP17 Shootout.

Hello friends,

Can it be more epic than to be able to post a blog post from high above the ground? I am pretty impressed by this myself.

Today I wanted to reflect upon the event that closes GPP events every year – Shootout. The principle of the shootout lies in having 3 photographers competing against each other on a given subject. None of them is supposed to know the subject before they arrive to the stage (as they are taken out while others do that). 

This year we had 3 amazing photographers to participate – David Hobby, Rafael Concepcion and Benjamin Von Wong. 

Although by winning a shootout you don’t actually win anything apart from a round of applause from public, there is still a lot of pressure involved. All the people who come to the event have stickers with the faces of those they support, and there is a lot of trash talking going on before the event starts. It is also usually super sold out, so you can’t just show up, you have to register, and usually there is a massive crowd before the beginning of the event. 

I honestly love all three of the above mentioned photographers, but I somehow made friends with Benjamin who is an amazing personality apart from being super talented and creative. I really wanted him to win cause he shared his idea with me and it looked really cool what he was planning to do…

The weather that Friday was more resembling the end of the world. Sandstorm mixed with heavy showers, wind *that actually managed to blow away my credit card from the pocket while I was walking from the coffee shop that day. Everything that was not attached was flying around. 1 minute spent outside and your eyes are so full of sand that you can’t stop rubbing them for the next couple of hours. That kinda weather.

Ben showed up early and didn’t know much what to do with himself, so I asked him if he wants to go for coffee. He is that strange person who wears a t-shirt and bracelets with his own name (well, we all have our peculiarities… I like to wear bright pants :P) but what was funny that day is that he managed to lean on some freshly painted wall so his t-shirt and also most part of his arm was covered in paint. If you ever met Ben in person, this fact probably won’t sound surprising… but out of all days, this had to happen when you have to create magic in front of 350 people… 

After that coffee I don’t know whether it was the stress or the caffeine, but my friend turned into fire-spitting selfie-sticks-spearing entertainment machine and went to warm up the crowds, riding up and down the street on his boosted board. 

RC was half, if not the quarter of the RC we have seen during the week cause he was super tired and couldn’t sleep last night. David Hobby continued shitting his pants, although he has done the Shootout before… but he was the most stressed out of them.

During event there are also commentators, and someone who counts how much time is left to complete the task. Each photographer is given 20 minutes to take the picture, and to edit it. And in the end the audience decides who took the best picture. No pressure, really.

David Hobby chose to be the first since he couldn’t stand the waiting any more. This is when we found out that the subject of the shootout was “Balance”. If you are given a task to shoot balance in 20 minutes, I don’t know how many ideas will emerge in your head… but I thought right there and then, shit, I can’t think of anything. 

But David found his balance by inviting a father and daughter on stage and took a simple one light portrait of them saying that it is so difficult to balance your work and personal life and the line is so thin and fragile. It was incredibly touching. I think Zack Arias cried. Although people say he cries all the time. It was sweet, just the image wasn’t that striking.

The next in line was my dear friend Benjamin who couldn’t be himself if he didn’t put out the show. I think everyone sat there with their mouth open looking at what he was trying to do. He put one of the directors of GPP on his boosted board, gave her a 360 camera, made half of the audience run upstears for more dynamic image, smoked the place up with some smoke aerosols, asked the other director of GPP to pick up the fire extinguisher and to push Hala on the boosted board through the audience. It was spectacular but the technology or Mohamed’s pushing abilities failed a bit and the picture didn’t come out that well.

The last was mister Rafael Concepcion who I was expecting to be joking around and making everyone cry of laughter as he usually does, but instead he wasn’t saying a word. He asked for a tripod, trigger, gels, some lights. Pulled out a random Emirati guy with a camera and a girl in the background and was trying to create something without telling us what his idea was. It was stressful to look at him. Even more stressful that looking at David Hobby almost making the little girl cry.

And in the end, RC created an image of red and blue balance in the back of the Emirati guy who was wearing the perfectly white outfit. The image didn’t speak to me really, but we all just wanted to give RC a hug and say that he did great. So that’s how he won the shootout. His image was the most technically perfect. That we can’t deny.

It was a great show that felt like it only lasted a couple of minutes. Everyone was on the verge of exhaustion, but we took a group picture where I got to hug RC ūüôā and then loaded ourselves on the bus to go party in style in Dawn’s villa. 

Lack of sleep, stress and long working hours don’t mix well with alcohol so half of the night people were trying to throw me into the swimming pool, spilling drinks on each other and then when it started raining we were all dancing around the plastic ball that changes colors in a half tribal, half Macarena way. It was definitely a night to remember.

This World Has No Limits. #GPP17

Salut adventurers!

Today’s story is about how we went to the desert to photograph a conservation project with Benjamin Wong as a part of his workshop for GPP17.

The idea behind the project is that desert kills trees, and we need to help planet by planting more trees. So Benjamin and GPP teamed up with a charity company that plants trees. He found really cool looking trees in Sharjah desert as well as an artist who created absolutely incredible costumes of deadly creatures.a_s_dsf3142-2

The whole team behind the project is talented beyond measure… and what I love most is that it was done for a good cause.

Initially we planned to go to three locations to create 3 images, but unfortunately with the usual Dubai organisation we only managed to do 2 trees. Nevertheless Ben took 3 shots that I am sure going to be mindblowing when finished. I saw one almost finished, and it is really impressive.

I had a really funny driver in our 4×4 who was:

  • looking like a rock star from 90s.
  • in fact British, but spoke with Indian accent.
  • had a problem with his neck but refused to go to the doctor saying that Jesus will help him.
  • promoting eating camel meat and drink camel milk even after I told him I was a vegetarian.
  • was singing¬†songs about Jesus the whole time we were driving *and we had an Emirati lady sitting in the back of the car.
  • asked me if I want him to model for my fashion shoots.
  • and was thanking Jesus every time we made it over the dune.

I also met a guy in this workshop that I have been following on Facebook for a while but I didn’t realize it was him. Only after he complimented my Fuji, the whole puzzle came together for me to figure out who he was. Pleasure to meet you, Waleed.

What I saw in the shoot is that Ben is just like me, always does everything himself. There are plenty of people to help, but we still have to do everything with our own hands. ūüėõ


Apart from seeing the magic in the action, we got lost in the desert, got stuck in the desert, got rained, blown away by the wind… my camera got so sanded to the point that shutter speed won’t press any more. Thankfully there was free camera cleaning service available during photoweek.


So grateful to have been a part of this unbelievable experience. Left tired, but motivated and inspired to dare to dream bolder.

Getting stuck in the sand 15 times on our way back maybe wasn’t the best experience ever, but we made it out alive with or without Jesus’ help.


Loved being a part of it. Thank you Ben, Valentina, Kashyap, Bernhard and each of the students. You guys rock!


I didn’t Choose Photography, Photography Chose Me. #GPP17

If ever life stops being epic, oh well, that would be boring, wouldn’t it?

The GPP17 photo week is done, and gone, but not forgotten! So many adventures, so many funny stories, so many inspirational people.

Had a chance to go to¬†Grand Mosque¬†with the master Yoda, mm, I mean Hobby, David Hobby¬†to photograph the blue hour.¬†Doesn’t that just sound like a dream? David Hobby, however, wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t have a plastic diana lens, which he taped to the converter for the¬†Fuji camera. The lens was faaaaar from being sharp, but he also converted images to black and white, and square format right away. Interesting choice for the blue hour class photography, but why not, honestly? Anything, but ordinary. I only had a chance to take one picture for myself of the magical sunset that was happening that night, but I am happy with what I got. I was there to take pictures of David and the students.


Another awesome moment of that night was that Patrick Hall from Fstoppers team had to come with us to film the class, and he showed up in shorts and had to wear a kandura (the local dress). He honestly looked awesome!

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Next morning I had to teach a class on live performance photography with Sony Middle East. My husband showed up for support and won the heart of my assistant, who later on sent me a bunch of messages emphasizing how much he liked my husband. Okaaaaaay ūüôā

Teaching again was fun, I liked enthusiasm of my students, they asked questions and shared their successes in that short amount of time that we had. I honestly struggled to take images with the Sony¬†because I didn’t know the camera so well, because the light was changing¬†every 5 seconds, as well as the white balance and the direction of the performance. But some people managed to create some awesome photos.

The weather was pretty horrible the whole week – it was dusty, stormy, rainy, cold, and sandy. But we still had fun.

We got a chance to try electrical scooters that were fantastic experience to ride around. How long do you think it takes to take an image like this? And under the rain?


The next day I went to take pictures of the one and only Sara Lando, the beautiful weirdo, who had a class in a mannequin storage room. All the students had 30 minutes and a topic given to them – to photograph the model in a certain mood with the mannequins. That was mindblowingly creative. I loved it.

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Went to Davide Moneteleone’s talk that night, which was again sponsored by Sony so had to shoot with Sony….somehow I feel I am gonna end up with that Sony in my pocket one day. All of the odds.

That night we went out for drinks with the crew and the photogs, and I ended up sitting next to Davide. He is Italian, but lives in Russia, which I don’t understand. But the guy really has a Russian soul. He even looks Russian now. It was interesting to listen to his stories… but on my other hand was his sweetheartedness Zack Arias. I love what Zack does. I feel his pain about seamless backgrounds. I wish he drowned me with his medium format megapixels in the back yard and made us all feel uncomfortable. Next time, ha?

Got to know Rafael Concepcion better and he is a fun man, and that story about massage… khm. One day he employed me into shooting the whole behind the scenes story of him using the surface pro. That was fun. He immediately makes everyone around him laugh.

Had a company dinner in Iranian restaurant which was awesome as I got to know Benjamin Von Wong better as we went hunting for vegetarian food together, and ended up sending selfies to Patrick di Fruscia at the end of the night. I am so grateful to the fact that he ended up on my side of the table because otherwise I  would never had a chance to take BTS photos in his workshop which was honestly mindblowing experience. He is a crazy genius.

298d6908-65c0-4668-b536-d57615cd5a80Spent my Valentine’s Day talking to Ben about environmental issues in Dubai and in planning his next day shoot. It honestly deserves a separate post that I hopefully will be able to produce.

I am so happy to have met my old friends Damien, Tracey, Altamash, get to know my colleagues better and make new friends.

God bless coffee. Thank you GPP for making this all happen.


To Be Continued…

Enjoying PhotoFriday #GPP17

Hello friends,

The photo week #GPP17 has officially kicked off.

Greeted by David Hobby at the door as I stepped into the magic land, I grabbed a coffee and drifted off to the world of photographic bliss.

There is nothing better than to start your day with some inspiration from Benjamin Von Wong, who is too cool to wear shoes during his presentation. Shoes are overrated anyway!

He also has this absolutely kick ass cool assistant Valentina with green hair and fantastic eyes. Can’t wait to see what they are about to create this season.

Laughed to tears and teared up with sadness at Zack Arias’s talk. You just got to love this guy, he is like my photographic version of Murakami. Turns ordinary into pure magic.

Flavoured with spicy stories of photographing celebrities including Donald Trump by Martin Prihoda. I know it is not easy to deal with them.

Finished off my day with a presentation of Elia Locardi, who has undoubtedly the most beautiful portfolio in the world!

Saw many cool people, got to play with the new Fuji Cameras, felt the love, spread the love.

Have a class to teach tomorrow.

Gonna be fun.