No excuses.

Clouds are running wrapping
Around Burj Khalifa today,
Minutes away from the rain,
Making reflections again
With the million of lights,
Seize the night,
And let’s go for a ride,
Wait for the green light
Getting close to perfection,
Catch the right intersection
And let go of your fears,
Change that gear,
Now it’s you and the road –
Happiness mode,
Heart about to explode,
So be bold.
Only memories matter
The day we grow old.
So it’s now or it’s never,
And it better be now.
Cause today’s gone forever.
Simple and clever.
That’s how it is,
It’s a hit or a miss.
Just please,
Don’t be making excuses,
Cause when you do,
Everyone loses.

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

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

Hustle and Bustle of Saigon, Vietnam.

This year hasn’t been filled with travels yet, so we decided to change that and booked tickets to go to Vietnam for a week. There was no plan and no list of things to do, for the first time we decided to take it as it goes and just hopped on a plane with the whole country in mind but nothing in particular.

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Firstly, our plane was delayed 4 hours, which made our arrival pretty much “arrive to the hotel and go to sleep” but there definitely are worse things in life.

We decided to pack light and take only backpacks, therefore I decided to take only my Fuji X100T and a film camera PentaxK1000. I took a tripod as well just in case, but the opportunity to use it didn’t really present itself. I knew, that we are not going there to do my favourite type of photography – landscapes and city scapes, but rather to do a bit of streets and perhaps a few portraits.

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One good advise that you can easily find on the Internet but still we managed to fall into the trap – count your money always! The exchange office of the airport managed to forget to give us a few thousand dongs, which is really easy and confusing because there are a lot of thousands and millions that fall into your hands and it feels very overwhelming. Then, don’t take the taxi unless it is the official Vinasun or Mailinh, install Grab application and always use that one. We were naive white people to take a taxi suggested by the guy at the taxi stand of the airport and paid 6 times more than we should have.

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It is somewhat annoying that in the South the Vietnamese people will try to rip you off with every chance they have, but for them we are white people with cash… as soon as they hear you speaking English, they will do anything to get your money out of you. It’s not much money most of the time, but still kinda spoils your mood.

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So after arriving and taking a good bunch of sleep, we went to explore the streets of Saigon//Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a pretty loud and always buzzing place with tons of people everywhere all the time. When we got out of the hotel, the weather was somewhat nice and sunny.

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Instead of breakfast, we decided to plug into the culture right away, and a had a big tasty Pho for a meal… when it started raining. It was raining, and rainng lots.

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We found a refuge in the botanical garden and spent 3 hours looking at streams of water pouring down, running around rats and soaking Vietnamese people on their bikes.

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Eventually we got tired of waiting for the rain to stop and decided to go spend the next hour in the War Museum. The museum should rather be called “Shame On You Americans” museum, as it is portraying everything in that way. A lot of interesting and horrible photographs and war pieces to see… a lot of lives lost in vain like in every war.

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I saw this passport photo of someone outside of the war museum on the grass… wearing a pajama with “I love you” writings on it… really wonder what is the story of this photo.

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On the famous bar street of District one, you will find a lot of dirty places full of questionable entertainments that we didn’t partake. Decided to just walk around and choose somewhere to rest our restless bums, we chose a restaurant poorly. The waiters kept telling us that what we want on the menu is not available, but then we kept seeing other people having it… the question remains – if they didn’t want us there, why did they let us in in the first place?

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It is curious to see that Vietnamese people for real wearing the famous hats, and tourists buy them in bulk as well (probably to be never worn again). But they seem quite useful against the rain and the sun, and look very nice as well. Definitely add a lot to the snaps for all the tireless street photographers.

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Crossing the streets in Vietnam is an interesting sport. Nobody ever stops, even when the light is red so you have to manoeuvre around the traffic, trying to get to the other side of the road. It feels very intimidating at first, but you kind of get a hang of it in a few days. The busses and trucks seem to never stop at the intersections and instead of even checking the surroundings, they beep. Everybody actually beeps. All the time. And you get used to this after a while. The rule of crossing the road in Vietnam seems to be – do not try to cross in front of cars and bigger vehicles, and just confidently walk when the bikes are there, they will go around you.

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That seemed to have worked just all right for us.

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Saigon can get pretty tiring after a few days of being there, so we booked two tickets on the sleeping bus to take us to the beach side of the country. The next stop is Mui Ne.

But that is a story for another day.

Much love,

Anna_DSF8301

What Happens if You Develop Colour Film as Black and White?

Hello there,

I just came back from my holidays to the land of ice and fire (yes, again), yes, I know. In addition to shooting my traditional long exposures with the beloved Fujifilm XT-2, I brought a film camera with me, and shot a bunch of images on film. Just because I love how the memories look on film, and it is always fun to shoot with my friendly snappy Pentax.

Meanwhite, my husband got inspired by my film experiments and got himself a second-hand Olympus M-10. He seems to be particularly enjoying shooting in black and white, which we then carefully (or not so) develop at home. So, when we got to Iceland, he still had half a roll of Kodak TriX400 black and white film left in his camera. Snapping left and right, it didn’t take him long to finish it on his first day there. As we returned home, we decided to develop this roll to see some photos from our holidays to feed our holiday blues.

So we did the whole shabang of opening the canister of the film in the black bag, rolling it on a spool, putting it in the development tank and pouring a crapload of chemicals on it, washing it with water, unrolling and hanging it in the bathroom only to realize… hey, the emulsion colour is supposed to be gray, not orange… and hey, these are not the pictures that my husband took.

Turn out that I accidentally took the roll of Kodak Portra 160 from the shelf instead of Kodak Trix400… and now my beautifully (supposedly) coloured film turned into a black and white one, and oh, joy, we have to start from scratch, because the actual black and white roll was still undeveloped.

I didn’t think that you can actually develop colour film in the same chemicals as black and white, but I must say that the pictures turned out beautiful. Better than I ever had on any actual black and white films.

But I let you be my judge. Shot on PentaxK1000 with the expectations to be Kodak Portra 160… but well, better black and white than no photos at all.

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Exploring West Fjords.

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Fascinated by the Super Powerful Waves.

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Always Love a Good Rearview Mirror Reflection.

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What is Iceland without Ice?

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Tried to Do a Bit of Long Exposure (You Can See A Flying By Seagull on the Cliffs).

Thanks for having a look and feel free to ask any questions, if something crosses your mind.

Ciao,
Anna