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

Sometimes it’s Black and White.

Hey friend,

I always shoot my landscapes in colour, and enhance the color, and bring out the details… but I though what if I try to turn them into black and white… would it work? It kinda leaves the bare essense of the image and no bullshit around.

Look at this one, how the opening in the sky looks like eyes, and the glacier and the mountain look like a nose and the snow is somehow of a beard leading to the smile of the lake… I’m sure the colour version would distract from that perseption.

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Waterfalls actually work nicely in monochrome too.

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I’m just experimenting and trying to teach myself something new… not to rely on colors, but try to build visually strong image like in the old-school times when most of the images were black and white.

And somehow I have a feeling that if the image doesn’t work in black and white, then it is not so great in colour either.

Just something different, and some photos reflecting my current state of mind.

Take care of yourselves,

Anna

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. 😛

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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.

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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.

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

Hugs,
Anna

Face The Challenge.

Hello wonderful world of Internet.

I think I am falling sick, or maybe I just need to rest up a bit… muscle pains and sleepiness.

Yesterday I had a shoot with Mastercard local office. They told me I need to do a headshot of the CEO guy. I don’t really like taking headshots, but for many photographers it is their bread and butter money. I take any jobs because I have to pay my bills. So headshots, will do headshots!

So for one headshot, you need to brind a ton of equipment – lights, light stands, modifiers, backgrounds and stands for those backgrounds and other stuff. For headshots, I usually use 3×4 softbox on one side and reflective umbrella on the other side – easy illumination with diffused light from both sides, provides enough light for the while wall behind.

But this time somebody had the 3×4 already booked for a shoot. So instead I had a choice of a stripbox or a small octabox. Octa is so much easier to fit in the car, so I figured work. Never used it before, so I was a bit intimidated. But I went for it! Took the grid as well.

I had two prophoto lights with me, so I could easily use the umbrella on the other side, but to challenge myself even more I used the silver reflector instead of the second light. Using reflector without assistant is tricky, as you move it just a touch and it stops working the way it should. Actually, it is tricky with the assistant as well. You need to really understand how light works.

In theory all of this should work fine, the way I saw it working in many workshops.  Hard to be looking confident about something that you’re using for the first time. But come on, to boost my confidence I put some eyeliner on.

Half of the job of taking headshots consists in chatting to people that you are about to photograph and relaxing them enough so that they look like themselves in the pictures. I had no issues with my CEO, as he was Italian, tall and handsome, and he told me he was enjoying the shoot as he liked the chance to do something different.

But he was 2 hours late for the shoot. I had to stay extra-time and they don’t want to pay for it now… but I took good images. I could be upset for the fact that I worked extra for free, but I am just going to remember that I learned something.

And I took a picture of myself to test the light that actually didn’t turn out so bad.

So go and dare.

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Сам себе автопортрет

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I used Zeiss 50mm 2.8 macro lens which worked beautifully. I didn’t shoot portraits with it before, but I loved it.

We are about to open #GPP17 photo week at work. It is super exciting and going to be very exhausting as well. I feel star stroke when the world-famous photographers walk around the office just like that. It’s so cool… but making friends with them is even cooler.
A year ago I was attending this event as a student, this year I am teaching 2 classes. Dreams do come true, so dream big, dare even bigger.
Much love my friends,
Anna

A Trip to Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

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Hello friends!

Some of you might be sad for summer to have finished, some of you live in the other hemisphere and you have the winter to finally come to an end… and some of you probably live in places where there are no real seasons, so all of this doesn’t make much sense to you.

I had a friend visiting Dubai on her way from her trip to Italy, and she is one of those people who have been everywhere and seen everything. She lives in Singapore and travels the world with her Sony camera, capturing fleeing moments of rising and setting sun in different locations. Actually, she was my roommate on my trip to to Iceland, so I know her somehow fairly well… as you know people with whom you have to share accommodations and occasional beds.

Those of you who were lucky to visit the Middle Eastern countries in summer might know it is not the best time to hang around. Apart from the fact that it is 40+ degrees celsius outside, certain places also greet you with the 100% humidity in the evening air, or if you are particularly lucky, even during the day. Dubai being the coastal city has this particularity too. My husband tends to describe this state of humidity as “when your fat sweaty friend gives you a hug”. That’s pretty much how it feels – sticky and uncomfortable. But fine, as photographers, especially those enjoying landscape photography, we often find ourselves struggling through rain, wind and nasty mosquitos for one interesting shot… Humidity, however, creates a layer of haze that is not easy to dehaze with any photoshop tools. That’s why it is great to be out of Dubai in these times – you won’t get any great photos anyway. But I was not going to tell my friend, listen, the weather is crap, we’re not going to shoot anything… so I thought of somewhere where I could take her where humidity and heat wouldn’t reach us.

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a fairly new building and it is practically any photographer’s paradise. I haven’t visited it before, but I have always wanted to. So here was my chance, plus I thought it was a great opportunity to show Emily something cultural of the United Arab Emirates… sadly, we don’t have so many “cultural” places to take our visitors, but we have hundreds of malls that all feel the same.

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A vital part of this story is the fact that although I have passed my driving test in 2009 in South Africa (oh those fun days), I haven’t been driving since leaving Cape Town. I just didn’t really need to because my office was 15 minutes walk away and if I needed to get anywhere, they paid for my transportation. But engaging on my photography career meant that I had to start driving, and my office is not as close anymore. So I have been driving around Dubai since the beginning of the month (already got myself stuck in sand once and got lost on several occasions, but never got in any serious trouble). And my glorious husband has a car with 2 seats only, so I couldn’t ask him to drive us to Abu Dhabi, I had to do it myself. I went to pick up Emily from her hotel, discovered a new route on the way since I never came to downtown before. Emily was quite impressed with our ride (as most people usually are since the car is a bit loud and the colours are a bit flashy). And off we go, on the five-lane highway for the first time, everything was going smoothly and we didn’t get lost on the way to Abu Dhabi (it’s honestly impossible as the road is a straight line for about 120 kms). We went to the wrong parking initially, but finally we found our way to the mosque. In the blazing heat, we entered the premises, were told to cloth ourselves in the modest abayas that we could get for free in exchange for a valid ID. And here we are roaming the arches of the beautiful marble corridors of the mosque.

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Apart from fantastic symmetrical walkways, there is a unique opportunity to photograph women in abayas without any shame. You can’t photograph people on the streets of Dubai without permission, but in the mosque there are tourists everywhere, so you can’t possibly get in trouble if they get caught in your frame.

I loved the place – so beautiful with all the decorations, flowers, tiles, gold and white embroidery… and soft azans being played while you walk around. It was still very hot, and our hair was wet with sweat. But wearing abaya, nobody can’t see your hair or your sweaty back… it is somehow an advantage of this kind of clothing here. Whenever I have to shoot outside, I get all sweaty no matter what I wear… this is how human body works.

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The bathroom of the mosque looks like a palace with green marble on the walls, and endless sinks along the walls. It was sterile clean and the smell of the cleaning products is still lingering in my nose.

After spending enough time outside in the gorgeous corridors, we went inside the mosque itself. As you get closer, you feel the cold breeze of air conditioning caressing your sweaty body. You have to remove your shoes before entering, and it feels somehow good to be walking on a cold marble before entering the main hall of the mosque. What impressed me there were the gigantic chandeliers made with precision and placed to be noticed…

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They must look so beautiful if you come there for the first prayer of the day turning the whole place into a magical fairy tale with all the shades of colours projecting on the walls. The carpet inside the mosque is known to be the biggest carpet in the world, and is absolutely stunning as well. It feels so soft and comforting under the bare feet peaking out from the abaya.

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Emily was constantly getting lost behind me shooting everything like a paparazzi, but I am glad she had fun. I wouldn’t be able to impress her with the skyscrapers or the malls.

So if you are in the region and you want to experience something special, go visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – it is free and it is absolutely stunning.

I want to come back when it is a bit cooler outside and when it is blue hour. I am sure this place looks stunning at sunset.

Wishing you all a beautiful autumn! It’s one of my favourite times to shoot nature, so beautiful with all the colours… not in Dubai of course. But I bought my first DSLR camera just because I loved shooting autumn colours. And look where I am now.

Much love,
Anna

P.S. All the photos are taken with Fujifilm XT-2 and 10-24mm lens.

How to Entertain Yourself if You are Stuck in Dubai for EID.

Hello world,

The long week of religious holidays in Dubai is finally coming to an end. Normally, my wonderlust would send me exploring far away countries and cities, but this year I was stuck in the limbo of not getting the resident visa, so I could not travel.

I decided not to be sad about this fact, as it gave me an opportunity to explore a bit more of Dubai and go take pictures of some things that I always wanted but never did due to certain reasons. 

My husband left to see his friend in Taiwan, but I had a car which meant almost unlimited opportunities, if you are not scared of Saudis on the roads, who flee to Dubai in search of premium entertainment… particularly the malls, always stay away from the malls.

So I took the car and thought that it must be nice to go and take pictures of the sunset on the famous Jumeirah Beach. Right… so half of Dubai thought the same and there was traffic, no parking and a lot of covered ladies on the beach which made me feel uncomfortable so I left without taking photos of the sunset. I mean I did, but not what I really planned to.

After that, I decided to go to another beach in hope for a better view of Burj Al Arab (should try this one next time for the sunset, could be nice). I spotted this interesting composition with the lights leading to Dubai Marina, and decided to take a picture of it during the fading blue hour. 

Perhaps the composition would be even better a bit further down, but there is no parking over there and it’s a royal palace, so I doubt they would be thrilled to see a person with a camera outside their gates.

Driving down the beach, I managed to get myself stuck in the sand because there is no real road, it is more compressed sand, but if you go left or right, there is a big chance of you getting stuck… what pretty much happened to me. But Dubai is truly an amazing place and in a blink of an eye a bunch of Arab guys helped me out without me even asking them.


Took this photo on the beach, there were plenty of people chilling there and some even swimming, but I edited them out of the photo.

Before it was often that I’d come back from my photo adventures with a bunch of exciting photos but more and more often these days, it is one or maximum two photos that qualify to be seen publicly. Maybe I got more critical, maybe I take less worthy photos. But it is true, for 5 days off that we had for these holidays I have one or maximum two interesting photos to share.

Went to take pictures of the fountains around Dubai Mall. It is always crowded there, but I found a good spot for the sunset image. It was so humid that my hair was all damp and sweat was running down my spine as I was waiting for the show to start, but nevertheless, I think I came back with a couple of good photos. 

Anything with Emaar or Meraas properties is very tricky to photograph as they don’t want you to take good quality pictures therefore you can’t use tripod. One option is to take pictures at sunset when it is still light enough, but honestly this whole thing looks even more spectacular when it is dark… so one way to do it is to play a dumb tourist, and try to take your photo in the 5 minutes you have before the security guard kickes you out. You can also try to pretend that you don’t speak English, but I doubt it would work for me…

Today I have my roomie from Iceland passing by Dubai so probably will go to the same locations for the round of new photos of Downtown Dubai.

Have a great weekend and stay inspired!

Love,

Anna

Hiking up for the View in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria.

When I decided to Germany, I tried to research the most breath-taking views, and there are plenty just in Bavaria, quite hard to choose… but since I only had a couple of days, I had to make it logistically possible, so I first went to Schwangau, the story of which I will tell later, and after that I went to this place with the unpronounceable name Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which as it turned out was an Olympic village for skiing competitions in Winter Olympic Games 1972.

Arriving to this place by train, I was quite literally glued to the window… those mountains look absolutely indescribably beautiful. I am not used to the sight of the mountains, so they always mesmerize me.

I got off the train around mid-day and thought to myself “wouldn’t it be a great idea to walk to the hotel? Such a beautiful day!” Checked how long it would take me, and google maps said that it’s only 30 minutes away, so off we go.

The city itself is so cute, you just want to take pictures on every corner. It is like a fairy-tale place, every house has decorations and flowers on the windows, beautiful lawns and wooden figurines in the yard.

After 20 minutes of my walk, I arrived to the bottom of a quite a steep hill. Maybe 45 degrees or so, because when I let go of my luggage it would roll down without hesitation. The map was telling me that it is only 500 metres left, which is like nothing, right? So I started to make my way up the hill… and boy it was a hard one.

Arrived all sweaty and tired like after a hard cardio work out, but man, what a view!

The reception was closed, because apparently Monday was their day off. It took me a bit of time to figure out where to find the key to my room, because they left me a message in Arabic (my name does truly sounds Arabic, right?), but I made it.

Caught my breath, changed my clothes and went out roaming around alpine fields, farms, mountains, horses… recharging my lungs on fresh air.

I was planning to go visit another beautiful location of this place – a gorge called Partnachclamm, but when I arrived to the Olympic Stadium (which is the bus stop for this location), I took the wrong turn. I don’t regret though, because it was fantastic to get lost in those fields. Also saw the cows that look like those from Milka ads, so cute!

Two hours later I went back to the village, had a wonderful Bavarian meal, and went back up the hill through the park, which made it easier this time. The park there is called the trail of philosophers, and has a bunch of benches with philosophic quotes, you can sit on and enjoy the view of Zugspitze thinking about the meaning of life… or whatever else you prefer.

I am very happy that I chose this hotel because it was cheap and it had such a perfect view. I was capable to capture these two images while comfortably sitting on my balcony with a pint of Bavarian beer. The first one is of the sunset that didn’t disappoint with colours and clouds.DSCF6987-Edit-2When I was taking this photo, there was a bunch of teenagers who arrived to the downstairs area of the hotel that they perhaps do every Monday cause they know that the management is off. They were listening to Joe Dassin and Gainsbourg’s songs quite loudly, which I find to be a strange choice for teenagers, but better than gangsta songs.

This second one is of the sunrise… with much less amount of clouds and a bit hazy, but still beautiful. Had to wake up before 5 am to have a look what’s available on the sunset menu, because sunrises are so early in Europe in the beginning of July.

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I loooovvveed this wonderful place so much, really hope I can go back there one day.

Have a beautiful day, friends!

Enjoy summer… if you live in the place where it is summer.

Anna