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

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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A Trip to Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

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Hello friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,
Anna

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

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

Hello world,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend and stay inspired!

Love,

Anna