Partying with the locals in Da Nang, Viet Nam.

Before going to Vietnam, I didn’t know anything about Danang. In fact it is a coastal city in central Vietnam known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port, but for us, it was the party side of it that swept us away. 

The area where we stayed was right next to the beach, which was long and deserted in a beautiful way.

There was also a lot of construction going on, seems like Danang is building up and modernising. It looks stunning at night, especially from a hotel with a pool on 40th floor :p.

Danang at night

Unfortunately the sunsets I have seen in Vietnam were not very inspiring, but the blue hour was beautiful nevertheless.

Local Eateries

With the sun down, it was time to go look for a place to have dinner at. We walked around a few streets, peeking into small restaurants with the tiniest chairs in history of chairs, when we heard music playing loudly out of one place sized a little bigger than a general garage in someone’s house. There was a sign above the table saying “happy wedding”, however we didn’t spot any wedding dressed people, nor for that sake any girls at all. It was a party of 20 lads, who were high up in their beer consumption and jolly for the fact that Vietnam apparently won a qualifying game against Bahrain in Asian Football Cup. It just took a moment for us to exchange smiles with the vietnamese guys, and we were immediately invited to join the celebrations and given a beer each…. Most of those people weren’t able to say a word in English, but it didn’t stop us from having a time of our life dancing to the old classics like “One Way Ticket” and “You My Heart, You My Soul”… 

The shirtless fellow apparently was a Vietnam war veteran (as actually most of the older people are)… and he challenged our friend Paul to a competition of push ups. The guy must be like 65, but look how ripped he is! Also, notice how in this part of Vietnam they have a tradition just throwing finished cans on the floor, along with the food that they don’t plan to eat any more.

Obviously, it was a friendly competition, and I laughed, and took pictures, and laughed some more.

It was hard to leave this party, but it was time for us to go and actually try to have some food… and now the song One Way Ticket will always remind me of that surreal experience. How incredibly friendly of these guys to invite us to their celebration, how much fun we all had?! 

Later on that night, we went to a local club that also played some songs that I was dancing to in 2005 rather than what you hear on the radio today, but we also got invited by some locals to their table and had a fantastic night. Danang was so much more open to receive us without asking anything in return than Saigon, it was like a different world. 

Bridges in Danang – Shot on Huawei P20 Pro.

It also has the most fantastic and beautiful bridges including the dragon bridge and the one with the hands, that I unfortunately couldn’t take photos of. So if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam I definitely recommend staying in this place for at least a couple of days. 

Thank you for reliving this day with me!

Much love,

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.

Jokulsarlon Black Sand Beach or How I got Kissed by Atlantic Ocean.

So one of those must visit places in Iceland is this magnificent Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon beach with black sand and gigantic pieces of ice just lying around.

Although the first time we arrived there, there were no pieces of ice and it was raining like it’s the end of the world. But I saw some cute seals, that I quite liked, but nobody else wanted to take pictures of seals. It was so good to be wearing my goretex jacket and not be getting wet under the rain… how did I live without this thing in Russia?

The second time went around Jokulsarlon it was a beautiful sunny day, and there were plenty of pieces of ice. We had a great lunch full of arctic char (literally), and some fun bathroom stories. Denny put on his fancy waterproof boots, and we were all cheerful and happy to be there. But you don’t joke with the sea in Iceland, it can lure you and trick you into doing stupid things… and then it strips you down and laughs at you. So we were all mesmerised by the ice, roaming around, looking for the perfect shot, that we forgot to keep the distance… and as Kris told me not to leave my backpack on the ground in case I need to run from the wave, I thought he has a point, but I forgot to run. And as I looked at that big junk of ice in front of me, holding my tripod in place, I got swallowed by the sea, and hit by that very piece of ice I was trying to take picture of._MG_5744-Edit.jpg

And then yeah, you were half-body immersed in the sea, and yes, you have waterproof pants, and jacket, but no matter what – your shoes are full of water, and whatever you have underneath those pants is full of water. Hopefully your camera is safe, but full of sand, and everything is going to be full of this black sand for days from now on… and outside it is still around 2 degrees (40 F), and we are here until sunset.

But you go to the bathroom and try to dry yourself, and then you realize nothing is going to help you, so you just roam back with your shoes making that sounds… if you grew up in Russia, you know, because every mid-season you have your shoes full of water. That nasty feeling…

And then you see all your friends in the same state really, because everyone but one got hit by the same wave, or the next one. Patrick left his shoes in the hotel, gave up on the idea of drying them. But I made it till the end of the day, and maybe my mind wasn’t sharply concentrated on taking photos, but I had fun… the sunset wasn’t spectacular, but it was just nice to be there. It was a special moment, and I love this place so much. _MG_5916-Edit-2.jpg

Even if you don’t take pictures, watching these pieces of ice slowly drifting around is so relaxing. I wish we were there when auroras were dancing in the sky.

I was surprised I didn’t catch cold, but to make sure I took a couple of shots that night at the hotel. It was the third and the last night we stayed there, and the wifi was so bad in the room, you had to go hang out in the common corridor to catch some signal. Very conveniently Kris was there with his bottle of scotch. His catch phrase was that you can deal with anything, if you add “with scotch” at the end of the phrase. Like oh, there is a girl in my bed “with scotch”. God bless.

More arctic char, and I believe we were brave enough for fermented shark that night as well…

The next morning was a beautiful sunny morning with a stunning sunrise, that we missed._MG_6076-Edit.jpg

We ran out in our pj’s with Emily trying to take pictures of whatever we can. Those heaps of hay look like camels sleeping at sunrise.

After breakfast we went back to the Glacier Lagoon again, and the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was even so warm in the sun that you could suntan.

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And we roamed around the big pieces of ice being wary of the waves, and I screwed up some good otherwise photos because it is not a good idea to have polarisers when shooting into the sun. Nobody got wet this time.

We laughed, ran away from the coming water. Pat took this magnificent picture of me surrounded by 1000 year old ice._MG_6569-Edit-Edit-Edit.jpg

Didn’t want to leave… but couldn’t stay there forever as well.

Here is a picture of Pat as well trying to catch a piece of ice for another fantastic shot of his. Yeah, I know, his backpack is bigger than him, but size doesn’t matter, right, girls?

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Have a great weekend!

Love you all,

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.

Love the alpenglow in this photo… first time I see it red, last time it was golden in Iceland.DSCF7210-Edit-2.jpg

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

Mesmerized by the Ice in Jokulsarlon.

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One day when you’re going to visit this beautiful place, just don’t be tricked by the slow peaceful way these ice cubes move, they can totally bring you down and let you feel how really icy Iceland can be… but I will tell you the full story another time. For now just enjoy the soft palette of the rolling in sunset.

1/200 sec at F 7.1, 24mm with Canon 24-70 2.8 L USM taken with Canon EOS 6D.


Check the other Icelandic adventures here:

Falling Down The Golden Waterfall – Gullfoss.

What is Down there in the Ice Cave?

Making Friends with Dogs in West Iceland.

Getting Lost in West Iceland – Kirkjufell Stories.

What do Auroras Make You Think of?

Chasing Walter Mitty in West Iceland.

How to Deal with Jet Lag in Los Angeles.

Happy Tuesday, is it already?

I started this blog cause I wanted to write down my travel stories one by one, but now I have too many and not enough time to write them down. But in any case, taking a short break from Iceland, will tell you a bit about Los Angeles.

I have never been to the US before, and I didn’t really know what to expect of it, because people say that you either love it or hate it, and it is very different from anywhere else in the world (well, I guess not so-so much different from Dubai… since we have all the same restaurants as in the US).

Anyway, when we arrived to Los Angeles airport after the long and tiring 18 hours flight wit Qatar Airways, the customs guys were quite surprised that a Russian girl is travelling with a bunch of French guys… from Dubai? And asked me why am I doing this? Mmm why not? What’s the answer really?

The day was rainy, we took a bus from our terminal to the car rental place, which was like 10 minutes drive – very convenient. Having booked everything online, we just had to wait until our car was ready for pick up. I was just hanging out in the parking trying to shoot the planes flying over the parking in different ways. I found it quite interesting to try to catch the reflections in the puddles…

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We did the whole drive around Los Angeles during the rush hour, so basically what might have taken us 15 minutes without traffic, took us an hour… but there are also so many traffic lights in Los Angeles! I think Google Maps are not aware of this fact.

After spending at least 15 minutes more of fiddling with the lock to open our Airbnb house, we finally parked ourselves inside. We rented an absolutely beautiful house in West Hollywood. Charming, but very gay at the same time. Had a picture with Northern lights in my room, like they knew 😛

And then we found our new home in Los Angeles… which we apparently shared with Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin – Barney’s Beanery! So we fought with jet lag with help of some beers and burgers.

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And we even felt brave enough to go out to another bar, which provided us with expensive and charged vodka redbulls. Spoke to some American guys who were surprised that we are getting married in Cyprus, California…. but we were getting married in Cyprus, Cyprus – the island in the Mediterranean which they apparently never heard of. That’s just too funny.

We tried to go to another bar, but we were too “happy” and we couldn’t find it, so we got into Uber with some girl (I didn’t know you can share Uber with other people). I was surprised to find this girl there, but made friends with her in 2 minutes and started encouraging to pursue whatever her dream was (can’t remember so clear).

We made it safe home, some of us more damaged than others, but we learned that Los Angeles was definitely fun.

Next day was again gray and we got rained on us while we were driving down to Santa Monica beach. My driver knew a map of LA by heart by playing GTA V, so we never got lost, and it’s too bad that the weather was not great, since I think it’s a cool place to visit on a sunny day… but again, just another reason to come back.

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Santa Monica beach and Venice Beach are such “colourful” places that I think they deserve to have their own separate post.

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So bye for now!

Much love,

Anna

 

Falling Down The Golden Waterfall – Gullfoss.

Happy Monday, folks. Or whatever day of the week you are reading this.

We are burning in our oven in Dubai, temperatures climbing higher and higher. Well, honestly I myself don’t suffer so much, just almost never go out. Air-conditioned reality. But when you have to go out, you just dream of falling down the waterfall, a really icy one, like Gullfoss for example.

_MG_3985-Edit-EditWe arrived to Gullfoss after visiting Geysir, and that gray day was getting just grayer and grayer, which meant that we could forget about any kind of cool sunset.

This place has numerous of shooting locations, each of them showcasing the waterfall in a new way. This is what you see more or less on arrival to the waterfall, two cascades of waterfalls just disappearing into the snowy abyss. _DSF1468-Edit

I looked at pics of this place in no-snow season, and it looks so different from what you see here. The water splash creates a massive ice cap on the opposite side, and it is really hard to judge where there is land and where there is no more. There are obviously signs that warn tourists against going there, but as usual you will see a bunch that hangs out dangerously close to the edge for the new instagram photo. How much will your followers like the photo of you falling down the waterfall?

I turned this photo into black and white because there is not much colours happening as it was literally 50 shades of gray.

_MG_4154-Edit.jpgThis is the path that goes down from the parking area to the other side of the waterfall, which was also closed at that time when I was there. Did it stop anyone from going? Well, Ken Kaminesky tried to stop us, and particularly me because he had no confidence in my crampons (I didn’t have much confidence in them too, since I just bought them and experienced profound skating around all throughout the beginning of the trip). In the end I had to promise him that I will go back if they didn’t work, but they worked like magic.

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This is how everything it looks from the other side. It is enormously impressive. When you stand on the edge of it, you just have no words, and forget to breathe as well.

The next day we started our day in the same place, and thought the sunrise was not spectacular, there were some colours to enjoy. And this place looks great even if there are no colours… can only imagine how beautiful it is on a sunny day.

This is Ken Kaminesky that I left in my shot just to have some sense of scale._MG_4165-Edit

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There is also a beautiful viewpoint on the other side of this view, where there is a third layer of this waterfall. Very cool sharp edges of rocks create an awesome border. Well, the dark violet colour I added in photoshop._MG_4229-Edit

Honestly, was hard to leave… I loved it there.

If you want to read my other Icelandic stories, you can choose one of the stories below:

What do Auroras Make You Think of?

The Importance of Choosing the Right Travel Buddy

What is Down there in the Ice Cave?

If The Sunset is Failing, Turn Around.

Making Friends with Dogs in West Iceland.

Getting Lost in West Iceland – Kirkjufell Stories.