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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA003A

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.

Ilford HP5_Vietnam (23)

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA004A

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.

_DSF8426_DSF8421

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.

 

Anna S - Kodak Portra 160 - AA002

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA013A

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA015A

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?

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA033A

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA036A

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA019A

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

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA022A

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA027A

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA025A

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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA030A

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.

_DSF8371
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.

_DSF8406
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.

Ilford Delta 100_Vietnam (11)
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.

IMG_20180820_122229.jpg
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.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA000A.jpg

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.

IMG_20180822_072330.jpg
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.

Ilford Delta 100_Vietnam (24)
Much love,
Anna

Taking It To The Next Level with Level 43 Dubai.

Good evening, my good friend and thank you for tuning in.

Today I had an amazing opportunity to go do what I love to (shoot cityscapes, sunsets and blue hours) with a bunch of like-minded individuals. Thanks goes to mr. Mohammad Azizi aka Alphaspotting for organizing, and to Nikon ME who were kind enough to lend gear to people who wanted to try different things to shoot.

Yes, I’ve been to this location before. I’ve seen shots from this location before. Many, many, many times. But I still love the glitter of the big city lights and the unbeatable futuristic vistas this terrace provides.

While in the beginning the weather looked promising for the sunset and there were even a few clouds there was not good enough material for long exposure shots that I love so much. And the sunset was dead, it was so dead, that I had to colour it all myself and I wish it was looking like it does in my shot, but in reality it didn’t. But hey, I am a visual artist and that’s how I see the world.

What I loved most about this meet-up was the unity of like-minded photo geeks. Some are old friends, always pleasure meeting someone new. Some of us are more geeks than the others, we all have different cameras and different techniques, but we all love fiddling with those buttons, pointing our lenses in different directions and most importantly sharing our love of photography with the world.

Thanks for the inspirational evening!

Also, big thanks goes to Four Points Sheraton and Level 43 for the yummy sushis and warm welcome from their team.

One 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?

IMG_0602

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.

IMG_0537.jpg

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.

IMG_0543-Edit.jpg

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.

IMG_0613.jpg

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).

IMG_0598-Edit.jpg

IMG_0588-Edit.jpg

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.

IMG_0608-Edit.jpg

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.

IMG_0576-Edit.jpg

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.

IMG_0538.jpg

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.

IMG_0617.jpg

IMG_0619-Edit.jpg

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

IMG_0606.jpg

Why Would Anyone Shoot Film Today?

Good day everyone roaming around,

On all things photography topic today is: is shooting film making a come back?

Being an avid pixel-peeper, I was always laughing at people who told me they are still shooting film. Why would you shoot film in the times of digital, and also you can make any of your digital photos look like film with one click of a filter? Then I met one girl who was my age and she never in her life shot with a digital camera… oh that’s proper hipster stuff, one would say, but there’s something about it, I thought, and decided to give it a try.

Today you can buy plenty of film cameras on ebay or amazon for pretty cheap, or you can buy a super expensive Leica and feel very exclusive on the streets of wherever you are. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to just take one out of your parents’ attic. In my case, my parents camera rewinding mechanism was not working, so after ruining two films, I gave up on that one and got a cheap-ish Pentax K1000 which is also easy to use for those who don’t know what they are doing in terms of film photography and settings as it has a pretty accurate exposure meter.

000371550008.jpg

Thankfully I don’t even have to bother about thinking where to get 35mm film because it is for sale in my office plus I also get staff discount on it. The variety of film nowadays is pretty impressive, and a lot of those companies who gave up on making film are coming back in business. So far I shot mostly Kodak film, but I also tried some of Fuji…. and Ilford black and white which still needs to be developed (which I am hoping to do one of these days in my bathroom when I have a few free of nonsense hours).

So I shot two rolls of film for fun to try it out before moving to anything serious and a few photos came out very nice, some other not so great cause I accidentally opened the back of the camera and there were some light leaks… but so be it.

000371570024.jpg

We have at least one studio that does film developing and scanning within 24 hours for a reasonable price. It’s hard to wait for us, digital shooters, we need everything right this moment, we need to post! But good things come to those who wait.

Recently I went on a roadtrip to South Africa, and although that place is full of fantastic photo opportunities for wide angle and long exposure shooters like me, but I didn’t have time to do any of that because I wasn’t alone on that trip… so instead, I decided to have fun and shoot film.

SAtrip-95.jpg

What I loved about the process:

  1. It teaches you patience. Instead of clicking like a maniac, you tend to wait for that moment when everything aligns before the click.
  2. The photos though not perfect in terms of colours, sharpness or depth, do look like real memories. No one has memories with sharpest details, they are pretty hazy and dreamy and the colours tend to fade.
  3. Using manual focusing and choosing shutterspeed and aperture for each shot teaches you to be a better photographer. After a few messed up shots, you will learn how it works for sure. I swear, I used to be scared to use manual focus on my digital camera thinking I’d never get is as right as the camera itself, but now I am less stressed about it. And in the end if it is not perfectly sharp, it is still ok… nobody’s gonna die.
  4. There’s no need for choosing the filter or editing really, and that’s such a breather because I tend to not post anything straight out of camera and in this case I can.
  5. It’s just fun do it, go around with one camera, one lens and a certain film in mind and capture things that will be kept inside your camera until the day you release them into real life. It’s almost like doing magic. And it’s a great tool for ice breaking in a party, just show up with a film camera and guaranteed you’ll find someone bugging you about it.SAtrip-50.jpg

It honestly almost feels like a therapy to me, to get away from shooting 55 photos of one pair of shoes until the client is happy with it. It feels great to roam the streets, and just imagine how the photos will come out (because you never know, they might not come out at all)… and it is very much going back to basics.

SAtrip-25.jpg

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

On the Road to Good Memories.

This last weekend we had a chance to joing a group of car enthusiasts to drive along one of the most beautiful roads in UAE.

As others were having fun driving, for me I tried to create a story about it.

Of course, as everywhere, I had a guy telling me that I shouldn’t bother and film because there was another guy coming with a stabilizer and he would film the event. But I don’t worry, and I don’t need somebody to tell me what to do. I am just having fun.

Hope you like it as well.

Plus a quick photo I spotted while the guys were chatting about all the car parts they need to upgrade.

Bloom-Fashion-1

Much love,

Anna