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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Are You Going on Adventure or Ticking off the Checklist?

Hello friend,

I was wondering what kind of travel photographer are you? Are you visiting a country with a checklist of places to photograph or are you going with the flow and shooting what happens to appear in front of your lens?

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Patrick and Alexandra discussing the importance of cracks for composition.

I suppose there is no right or wrong answer, but I noticed that there are two trends:

1. If you go and photograph places that are famous and well-known, you have to fight for your right to place your fat ass tripod to be able to take that shot because apparently you are not the most ingenuous person in the world, and a the check shot is on the list of many people. But if you get it right and in the interesting light/way/composition, you will definitely be rewarded with social media love.

2. If you go into the wild, you might as well find something absolutely amazing, or be left with nothing, but at least you won’t be frustrated with the fact that there were 459 people from the Eastern Parts of the Eurasian Continent with multiple selfie sticks trying to get the shot for themselves. If you are travelling more for the peace of mind, then maybe you should stay away from the well-flattened down by multiple hiking boots paths of your travel destination.

So in my case, this was a completely random stop in a completely unknown to me place (and those who have been to Iceland will know that there are many places that look like that), but somehow it was one of the most memorable and cool spots we did in our trip. Just the texture of that ice is amazing.

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Nature created ice chips. Fujifilm XT2 and Fujinon 10-24.

But as the weather wasn’t amazing, and the place was random, these pictures don’t stand out from the total never-ending flow of “northern lights”, “fiery sunrises in glacier lagoons” and “massive super-silky waterfalls” in Iceland and the goal for likes collected in treasure hunt wasn’t completed.

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Fujifilm X100T.

However, these hold a special place in my heart. This is Iceland, beautiful and special from any angle you look at it.

Have a great Easter Holidays, and stay safe!

Much love,
Anna

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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Much love,

Anna