Light. It is one the most important aspects of any kind of photography. Good or bad lighting can make or break any image. Light is what I love playing around with in my own photography. Taking shots from bright and crisp to moody and atmospheric is a challenge I really enjoy tackling.
Sally and I shared the same thoughts, ideas and visions for this workshop, so working together with her was a true pleasure. She is thoughtful, eloquent and alert and with her great contacts in Dubai we had the workshop planned and organized smoothly.
I was fairly at ease when I landed in Dubai and was looking forward to meeting Sally in person for the first time. I was also eager to check out the location, which was going to house 12 delegates for 2 full days. I’ve been to the Atlantis several times during previous visits to Dubai and enjoyed meals at their various restaurants, but this time I was looking at it with different eyes.
According to the legend, the island of Atlantis was a glorious and powerful place that sank into the ocean in a single day. It seems the Atlantis has been resurrected in all it’s glory on the island of The Palm in the far away desserts of Dubai. Where once there was nothing but sand and sea, now stands this striking building stretching across the sandy shores of a man made island shaped like a palm tree. Dubai is a city of superlatives and the Atlantis surpasses the wildest of imaginations.
I was extremely proud and happy to have such a stunning venue open it’s doors for our workshop. Scrutinizing Nasimi Beach in terms of light, practicality and working conditions, on the morning before the workshop, was difficult as I kept getting captivated by the panorama, the setting, the decorations - a photographers dream come true. One thing was sure - there was plenty to get inspired by and I was certain the backdrop was going to create some great work over the next couple of days.
Sally and I also managed to get the final bit of prop shopping done before the workshop. Dubai is a paradise for inexpensive fabric and both of us had a great time selecting some gorgeous designs and colors for the participants to work with the next day.
Slowly the delegates began to arrive at the Meet & Greet breakfast. It was the perfect day in Dubai, not too hot and not too sunny with some lovely diffused light! It was great meeting nine gorgeous ladies and one courageous man, who arrived not only from Dubai but some had flown in from Kuwait, Egypt an Bahrain especially for the workshop.
Over some delicious pastries, fresh fruit and a variety of colorful juices we got to know each other. A lively and energetic group of people, filled with many desires and wishes and as we discussed each persons goals and expectations I was raring to help them take the first step towards them.
The group had a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills from bloggers to professional photographers, TV producers and food stylists, I think we covered the whole range. It was an exciting mix and my job was to give each one enough insight, motivation and the push in the right direction to help them think differently and inspire them to find creativity in places where they might not usually look for.
Class started straight after breakfast and I had planned a very strict and packed day for the participants. We discussed principles of food photography and styling, covering the fundamentals. Each slide brought on several questions and I discussed the topics in depth addressing each query and sharing some of my secrets.
We only paused for lunch: a colorful feast of bruschetta, salads, a wide selection of fresh sushi and sweet treats. But before everyone could dive in - it was the obligatory photo shoot time! Food photographers … it’s what makes us tick
The team at Atlantis generously provided us with several ingredients and dishes and our participants could freely walk the grounds of Nasimi Beach finding the right setting and light for their exercises.
Finally we were at the end of day one and I could hear the brains buzzing, but before I let each one go, I paired them in teams and handed each team their individual assignment, which they had to work on and complete the following day. Sally and I had organized several highlights for their assignments throughout the two days.
The first two highlights were that very evening. It started with cocktail demonstration performed by one of Nasimi Beaches lively bar tenders. I think the entire group, including me were very much ready for our pre-dinner drinks. As the cameras clicked away, participants found inspiration in various corners. The sandy beach, the blue water, even the the green thickets were creatively used to photograph the rainbow colored cocktails against the backdrop of the striking coral colored Atlantis.
As the sun began to sink in a glowing sky, the rays bouncing against the shimmering skyscrapers in the horizon, we began to relax with our drinks and simply enjoy the warm evening on Nasimi Beach.
We were then whisked away through the hotel and arrived to the terraces of Levantine, Atlantis’ delightful Lebanese restaurant where a grand banquet was prepared especially for us. We got to pre-taste several of the dishes, which will be served during Ramadan. The feast was fit for kings and queens and truly we were treated like royalty with delectable mezzehs, succulent and slow roasted whole shoulder of lamb, a variety of vegetables and aromatic rice. The highlight for me was tasting Lebanese wines for the first time. I was surprised by the wonderful rich nuances and delicious flavors. My family joined us for dinner that evening and Soeren was totally stoked at the belly dancer that performed that evening. The meal was concluded with a selection of fine Arabic desserts, including a selection of Baklava.
We started the next day on the same note we ended it the previous evening. Sally and I had arranged for another grand highlight with more food, more eating and more photographing.
Lafayette Gourmet was our destination and we were very warmly welcomed by Chef Russell Impiazzi, who first provided us with sweet breakfast of pastries, fruit and freshly brewed coffee, before he whisked us away on a tour of the extensive gourmet store.
Instantly one realizes the passion that drives Chef Russell, he captivated many of us as he talked us through luxurious ingredients, exotic produce, divine cuts of meats and cooking methods. He had the keys to an incredible cheese room and invited us into the pork room and then he cooked for us. I was smitten!
The trip to Lafayette Gourmet was not only one of pleasure though, the participants were on an assignment and as they were given free access to the entire store, they spread out every where shooting and styling. The challenge was to shoot in low light and artificial lighting conditions.
We found it hard to leave Lafayette Gourmet, as Chef Russell kept bringing plates and plates of food - a seafood paella topped only by a succulent chicken paella and a simple yet incredibly flavorful bruschetta. It was time to head back to the Atlantis, where Chef Hani was ready with his cooking demonstration.
As we left the cool air-conditioned Dubai Mall, which houses Lafayette Gourmet, the temperatures outside had risen, the sun shone down with all its might. Chef Hani was going to prepare two types of koftas, one of them was using meat that is smoked with thyme and cloves. After he finished preparing the dishes, I took over and styled the dishes, talking the participants through some of my work processes while I style my shots.
It was getting hot and the cabana that was put up to protect us from the sun became a hot house, making the fresh rocket leaves wilt quickly. I worked fast and the participants quickly shot a few photos.
After a 3 course lunch of luscious prawn and avocado salad, sea bass with steamed vegetables and a hazelnut pavlova, the participants were given a few hours to complete the final phase of their assignment.
The chefs at Nasimi Beach provided us with dishes, which Sally and I had selected from their menu, and also arranged the main ingredients for each dish for the participants to style and shoot in their own way.
Once again the grounds of Nasimi Beach provided ample space and inspiration, allowing the pairs enough room to work and get their creative juices flowing.
The day ended with each team presenting their assignment and the whole group giving their constructive critique.
I am always amazed at how much the participants evolve in a period of a few days, when they are given room to grow and discover their creativity, when they can discuss their issues with like-minded people. As an instructor I always find this part of the workshops the most rewarding.
Sally and I said our farewells, but not before spoiling them with one final highlight. Our generous sponsors had provided us with amazing items for what turned out to be three goodie bags!
A very big thank you goes out to the entire team at Atlantis The Palm, our main sponsors who created not only the perfect surrounding for this workshop but spoilt us with their lavish generosity. We’ll be back - soon!
[Photo Credit: Sally Prosser]
My deepest gratitude and appreciation is for Sally. We met on Twitter and the rest - as they say is history. Sally has found a firm spot in my heart and we parted as friends, saying “auf wiedersehen” - because we shall meet again.
[Photo Credit: Sally Prosser]
Read more about the workshop in reviews by:
Hope you enjoyed a little insight to what went on at the Dubai workshop. For those who missed out - Sally and I have our heads together and are planning again!
I am still going through several images taken over the entire 2 weeks of my stay in Dubai and there will be another post in the next couple of weeks about all the exciting things I experienced, awesome people I met and stunning places I visited. For now I need to play catch up with many things and get back to work on my photography assignments.
Wish you all a grand week and relaxing weekend!
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