I just had to share the below two ad’s. It certainly isn’t some sort of top two list but something I recently came across in Wallpaper and New York Style mag. What I love about them is the way they share their message. Both hotel brands and both found a unique way of reaching out to their audience.
Hotel brands typically use an image of their grandest room or the buildings exterior. You wonder how that can really resonate or connect with the reader. The have a bed, tick, a side table, tick, a huge bouquet of flowers, tick… they may be perfectly photographed but they also seem so obvious. In my opinion, if you book into a luxury hotel, a giant bed to trampoline on with crisp bed linen and soft, fluffy towels should come as standard so why… Read the full post >>
I’m so happy to announce that our first private label ebook ‘Real Men Don’t Shave’ is now available on iBookstore. After the resounding success of the Footsteps of Thesiger expedition, I’d been wanting to record my own experience about the photography side of the expedition. It’s at times been a bit manic but in between all other ongoing projects and the day-to-day shooting gigs, we’ve found the time to pull it off. Many thanks to Tori Leckie for putting the fab words together … we’ve spent hours talking about the expedition, going back and forth on scripts to really capture the unique encounters of this epic journey.
What prompted me to write an ebook? In short … it was such a fantastic gig to work on. Truly amazing! I’ve been living and working in the Middle East for over a decade but rarely had so many warm and personal encounters with both Omani’s and Emirati’s. Their hospitality was limitless and unconditional which made working on the expedition a truly memorable experience. What’s more, it would have been Read the full post >>
Sometimes you’ve just got to create your own creative heaven. So we did, in a spare 10m2 in our place. Transforming a boring white-walled, beige-tiled, concrete and soulless square into something with a heartbeat … a creative space with the feel of a mountain lodge or a lakeside log cabin. Think lots of real wood, cool artwork and vintage props …
And the best thing is, we built it ourselves. An email went out to a handful of friends with a picture of a stunning cabin in the US and the line “When’s the next time you’ll have the chance to build a mountain lodge?” And it worked. Two Saturdays later and we completed the job by putting the corrugated roofing in. The build was an interesting experience. Ever heard of the phrase, too many chiefs Read the full post >>
A big reason to escape for a long hiatus over the summer is to return a more creative person. At least, that tends to have been a side effect over the years and for sure, the line between what I’d define as work and what as personal, becomes ever more faint.
When I look back at previous summer sabbaticals La Douce France & Journeys of Joy, the main reason why I take them is because I can feel stuck otherwise … constantly drawn into the ongoing demands of running a business. There are other reasons, but that’s definitely the big reason and when I’m ‘out of office’, I have more freedom to Read the full post >>
We’re super excited to be planning our first solo photography exhibition this September. The exhibition will run for two weeks from the Monday 16th of September till 30th September. On the 16th, we’re hosting a special launch evening for all who wish to join.
And now for the BIG shout out … we’re seeking a sponsor to help us fund the expo. To make it awesome, it takes time, resources, budget and a great deal of effort so we’d love it if you could help. Would your company be interested in this Read the full post >>
Nike is a brand with a true passion for sport and over the years, we’ve build a strong collection of Nike Arabia running images. They’ve been very active promoting running in Dubai, building the Nike Running Club and breaking sweat several times a week with a great crowd.
With the shift of Nike’s new brand direction towards ‘free your run’, we’ve worked closely with them to produce a fresh set of imagery; very urban, very off the beaten track, very together. As you can imagine, it’s been a long trail just to get to these few shots, what with shoot recce’s, detailed briefs and production logistics but it’s so worth it and such a great Read the full post >>
I set off on my Old Dubai trip for many reasons, which you can read in my Foot journey of Old Dubai post. Much of my journey has also been shared in my Old Dubai Exploration post. One topic I left wide open was the role of photography. I wanted to walk the street with an open agenda, no shooting list attached. As I mentioned before, the exploration would have been successful even had I returned without images. At the same time, it felt really odd to leave a camera behind, both personally and commercially.
So it was yes to a camera and the big question that followed was what to bring? The options available; iPhone, Canon 35mm, gimmicky Polaroid camera, Hasselblad or even something new to me like a digital Leica or Fuji. The iPhone would have been an easy choice. It’s easy to carry but then it holds little commercial value for stock or prints. Canon would bring me back to a normal way of shooting volume, basically rattling through my journey through a viewfinder. Leica and Fuji Read the full post >>
Now that the embargo has finally been lifted, I was keen to share this image. It’s so unusual after all to get soaked through in Abu Dhabi … first clouds and then the rain! Here we are with Abu Dhabi brand ambassador and upcoming golf legend Matteo Manasero, building a commercial portfolio of imagery with a view to portraying the city as a sun seekers idea of complete luxury.
Luxurious it was, but hardly the norm in this part of the world to see this weather. An extra dose of luxury came from Ralph Lauren as they provided their latest wardrobe for the shoot … a cool mix of casuals and formals.
We had a jam packed itinerary with some stunning locations like the Helipad on the new Capital Hyatt Hotel, Jumeirah’s observation deck, the St Regis resort and golf course, the Abu Dhabi Golf Course and at dusk, the Shangri-La for sundowners. In all honestly Read the full post >>
I found a gap during a three-day Ferrari gig to browse the Yas Hotel library. When it comes to hotels, there’s one side of the scale that serves lousy coffee and caters to the masses, determined to pile their buffet plates sky high and wolfing it down accompanied by crap music and useless tabloid media (you can tell I just checked out of one…)
And then there’s the other side, the side where the Yas Viceroy sits. Hovering over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit, the iconic Yas Viceroy embodies 5 star luxury with class, sophistication and a great selection of books in their Read the full post >>
This post I hope will plant a seed in other businesses in the Middle East and encourage further participation. In July last year, we signed up to 1% for the Planet with the idea of giving some of our revenue back to support causes dedicated to preserving the natural environment. It’s a brilliant initiative and one close to my heart. It’s nature after all, that I rely on for creativity, reflection, calmness and fresh, crisp air. In fact, most of my creative time is spent in the mountains as I’ve blogged about in the past in my posts never enough mountain days and mountains & mindmaps.
For this reason, I’m delighted to announce that our 2012 donation will go towards the Wadi Wurayah National Park on the east coast of the UAE, a unique project managed by Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF).
Wadi Wurayah became the UAE’s first mountain protected area in 2009. Since then, great conservation work has been done in protecting the area’s rich ecosystems. The wadi’s fragile and unique ecosystem is one of the few Read the full post >>
Walking the streets of Old Dubai was my core objective … a few of days of culture, exploration, reflection and probably a bit of soul searching. My outline Foot Journey of old Dubai post explains the full reason behind my decision to take time off in a city I’ve already been living in for eleven years. In a nutshell, I wanted to experience Old Dubai, especially the historical parts, in the same way a five year old kid might do … eyes wide open, eager to absorb the energy of real street life. And so I did, for three magical days.
I booked myself into the Barjeel Guest House in the Shindagha Heritage area, located bang on the creek. It’s a newly built guesthouse that follows the traditional lodging style, and as it turned out a great place with a cool atmosphere and the perfect positioning in the heart of the anticipated action. Breakfast was served on the rooftop overlooking the creek promenade and it was a joy to experience a city come alive in the early morning hours … people from all walks of life taking early Read the full post >>
I’ve been working closely with Canon for a good few years now yet still, it was an immense privilege to be the first photographer in the Middle East to get to play with the EOS 1Dx, Canon’s new flagship camera. No sooner than the question was raised, I replied in great haste with a resounding ‘YES!’
It arrived brand spanking new, untouched and with zero clicks to its name. Two weeks later, I had managed to click a total of 8,820 frames. Not bad for a fortnights work … and even though it shoots at a speed of twelve frames per second, luckily I managed to play with it for a lot more than the 12 minutes that this could have equated too. Damn, this machine is fast! I was thrilled to see that the speedy clicks go hand in hand with a fast Read the full post >>
To keep life fresh, you have to keep embracing the new and recently I got to do exactly that thanks to a shoot at a ladies beauty salon. Normally such places are strictly off limits to guys making it daunting and unchartered territory for me.
Meetings over five months saw discussions over what and how to shoot. The client wanted their own unique image library that truly reflected their brand, one that reflected their services and conveyed their look and feel yet without Read the full post >>
Amongst the madness before my summer exit, I managed to squeeze in some personal studio work with Graciela. We’ve worked together on various occasions; she brings a lot of energy and variety to the set, which I love.
Thanks to The Studio at the Courtyard for accommodating us and to Mark for the running around. Graciela brought in some of her own ideas to extend her portfolio and I had prepared a moodboard of stuff I wanted to play with. We enjoyed a few hours on the floor together, working the light and letting creativity flow freely. Some might notice a different aspect ratio to the regular 35mm Read the full post >>
This one’s been on the board for a while so I’m excited that we’ve finally signed up. We’re truly blessed to live on an amazingly beautiful planet and through work and play, I’ve been pretty fortunate to see lots of it. So how can we, as a brand, help preserve this beauty for both our children and our children’s children?
1% for the planet enables companies to give back 1% of their revenue to organisations that protect, preserve and nurture our planet and its animal life. Funds go
Read the full post >>
The other day at a Nike gig, I was introduced to a media crowd as an ultra distance runner. Thanks Tom Woolf at PTX … it does feel good that my Gobi March noise had some spin off. Flattery-aside however, it made me wonder how much longer I can mainta
in this running title when my runners are currently collecting dust. I’ve not run for a while. Do I miss it? Hell yeah. So, why don’t I get going?
I can train my butt off, rising at any odd hour of the day to go out for long training sessions and have done so for the 250km Gobi desert run and various other marathons and triathlons. But dedicating myself to Read the full post >>
The local boys love their football so it was great to be standing on the pitch for this years Etisalat Cup final where two Dubai-based football teams, Al Shabab and Al Ahli, went up for the wins. I remember shooting the Presidents Cup a few years bac
k for the FIFA Club World Cup pitch book and the crowd just went crazy. Football clearly unites people. In a football team, players play together for a shared goal. In a fan club, fans rally behind their favorite team to provide moral support. It does bring people together.
What I love in the Middle East is that you can walk away from a great match and not have to worry about being beaten up. Instead you’re treated to a spectacle of ecstatic revellers who use their dressed up 4×4′s to drive
Read the full post >>
The Burj Al Arab hotel, or Arabian Tower as it translates to, brings back good memories. It’s this hotel that first brought me to Dubai in 2002 to manage one of their outlets. What they manage to pull off at ‘The Burj’ is utterly unique and certainly
makes them stand out from the crowd so when Nike called about a PR shoot at the hotel, how could I refuse?
The gig was short and sweet, with a group of regional media trying out their new Nike Frees. The Frees are their version to nearly bare feet running. We met at the pampering Assawan spa where the ‘athletes’ changed into cool Read the full post >>
This was an event that redefined insanity. In my eyes, the entire escapade is totally reckless yet at the same time, it’s entertaining and awe-inspiring to watch. I massively enjoyed my time at the Red Bull X Fighters in Dubai Marina recently.
I captured some unbelievable stunt work that more resembled aerobatics than motocross … think back flips, side flip, triple flips. Flipper at its best. Check out my favourites in this speedroll.
Read the full post >>
On Tuesday 13th December, the boys rolled into town. As they entered Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, they could see the skyscrapers rise from the horizon as they made their steady 6km per hour camel-backed approach. Under police escort, they crossed the busy Maqta bridge towards the corniche, where the 44 day, 1,600km-long expedition finally drew to a close.
It has been an awesome journey that will remain forever etched on their memories. They have successfully relived Thesiger’s original adventure … same routes, same experiences, original companions, similar challenges … Read the full post >>
Some shoots come together. Other do not. I‘ve just returned from what was intended to be a unique caving expedition, shooting new content for the next Petzl catalogue. They’ve just launched a series of new head torches and I was keen to use them as light sources inside the cave, shooting ‘available’ light as an alternative to flash heads. In theory it’s easier to focus and build the shot as you move head torches around, creating great shadows as you go. The seventh hole is part of the Selma Cave Plateau, which also includes Majlis al Jins, the world’s second biggest cave and one that could accommodate 50 jumbo jets. Seventh hole is as special as it is unique.
Access alone is tricky, starting with an amazing 200 metre abseil through a crack into a huge chamber followed by Read the full post >>
The boys are getting closer to home. Al Ain, the garden city, from Dubai, is just a little over a 1½ hour drive. In his book, Thesiger referred to as Jebel Hafeet as a dominant mountain rock in the midst of the dunes.
A formal gathering was organised at the Jahili Fort involving two former companions of Thesiger himself, their names Salim bin Ghabaish and Salim bin Kabina.
Read the full post >>
Home for less than a week and some much-needed family time, a positive 20-week scan of my unborn, catching up on office admin and my bumper caving trip (see previous post) ensued. As always, too much to do, too little time and before I knew it, I was back on the road again.
The boys have passed Umm Zamool and now tread firmly in the United Arab Emirates, home turf for Ghafan and Saeed. I know they were all looking forward to returning to home soil. Read the full post >>
It’s been a week and a half since I left the boys somewhere between Ayuun and Sisir. In my absence, the expedition family has grown considerably. The once small flock of three camels has now become seven, in addition to a group of Omani army special forces guys who bring with them, their own flock. And despite the incredible hospitality shown near the start, the goat dinner and festive campfire parties with late night dancing and camel meat, it too has continued to grow. The local Omani Sheikhs and Bedu’s have taken it upon themselves to ensure the expedition team receive the best possible exposure. I guess news travels fast in these remote desert climes. During my visit, I was invited to a party by the main Sheikh from Hauyma. Despite being 200km from any civilization, great food and entertainment was enjoyed by all.
I met the boys at an oil station in the midst of the Rub al Khali desert, still within Omani territory although not far from the Saudi border. Read the full post >>
I love shooting this kind of expedition work. Some parts, I follow by car but most of it is on foot. Hauling all my kit, constantly seeking fresh perspectives, sprinting ahead for head on clean shots or up the banks for an unmissable panoramic view. I just love it.
This expedition has been particularly special for cultural reasons. I’ve been based in the Middle East for 10 years, or longer if you count my childhood in Saudi yet encountering Arabic hospitality and tradition, at such close range is an absolute rarity. Cultural shows and hotel service, this is not, but rather true, authentic Arabic tradition.
Read the full post >>
Another day, another adventure, which certainly proved easier for the media crew as most of journey was on gravel roads so we could travel by car. The team, reunited with their camels, was clearly relieved to get rid of the heavy loads.
The landscape changed dramatically, with lush fields and green trees being replaced by dry, hot and barren terrain as we moved away from the ocean. Read the full post >>
There is never a dull moment in the life of Adrian Hayes as we finally pushed forward with the ‘Footsteps of Thesiger’ expedition. We had certainly had our fill of Salalah and the Hamdam Plaza Hotel. We picked up the story from where Adrian and the gang came off the camels … a symbolic spot! The proof, his blood, had all but washed away and it was clear that Adrian’s recollection of events were scant at best. Thanks to the bad weather and our past history with the camels, the first leg commenced on foot.
This also meant no Omani guides so the boys themselves carried all the basics for around 40km, up the wadi towards the first camp. It was a long push and, according to a local herder, the first of it’s kind in over 40 years. Little did we know that he might have been right!
Read the full post >>
‘Bukra’ has become the magic word that determines the continuation of this expedition. Translated from Arabic it means tomorrow, as in tomorrow we still start, weather depending albeit.
Our daily ritual now set in stone, we wake every morning at dawn, hit the roof of the hotel and gaze at the hills. Too often, they’re covered in patchy clouds and dense mist. We then call our weather man at Salalah airport and visit the weather sites. Shall we go? Yes or no? It’s been a no-go for four days in a row now. I wonder how much one can sleep, eat, drink coffee and wait. Read the full post >>
Six am on Monday morning saw the expedition commence, with the backdrop of a gorgeous sunrise and from the exact spot on the Indian Ocean where Wilfred Thesiger started his explorations across the great sands.
The early start was intended to beat the traffic heading towards the mountains and indeed all seemed to be running smoothly. Adrian, Ghafan and Saeed sat content on their camels, singing Arabic songs as they marched through town. Spectators were plenty, as were beeping cars.
Read the full post >>