Blue Flower

To photograph the resort area of Sharm El Sheikh, in Sinai, Dubai-based photographer Toufic Araman who runs ASTUDIO, a digital marketing agency spared no effort. He lit the hills. He lit—individually—the area under each of the dozens of umbrellas on the normally dark beach. With an ingenious hack, I might add. He even lit the boat.

It was done as part of a 40-day shoot promoting international tourism to Egypt, which he calls “one of the best things to ever happen” to his career. Sharm El Sheikh (map) is full of resorts, frequently illustrated with predictable postcard-type imagery. But after scouting the area, he decided to go for something different.

“Photographers mostly shoot beaches with beautiful skies, sand and sea with a palm or coconut tree,” Araman said.

But looking for something new and fresh, he found a different shooting position that offered a view of the city in the distance at night.

“I showed them the sky at sunset, boat pictures and gave them examples of architecture shots lit at that specific time,” he said. “They want to sell luxury; luxury twinkles at night, they gave me the go-ahead.”

The shot was to be one of a dozen “destination” shots, which needed to work either with or without the inclusion of a large EGYPT logo.

Planning the Shot

He scouted the scene thoroughly, bringing along his head gaffer so they could be on the same page. All of the lights would need to be brought in, as Sharm is 700km away from any lighting rental outlets.

As for the lights, with the distances involved (up to 1.5km), there would be synching issues among other things. So the decision was made to go continuous. To give themselves control they used dimmers, manned by assistants with walkie-talkies.

The head gaffer had six assistants, so they divided the scene into zones. They pre-lit the hills, open areas, the pergola, the boat, inside the kiosks—and under every one of those umbrellas.

Each umbrella got a 150w bulb, and the entire “umbrella circuit” was connected to a single dimmer. This allowed him global control over what would have otherwise been a much more labor-intensive series of adjustments. The umbrellas were all fitted with bulbs (and wires buried in the sand) the day before the shoot. Other areas, away from high foot traffic, were lit the day of the shoot.

Complicating the shot (in addition to the beach being dark at night) was the fact that they could not clear the beach on the evening of the shoot. They had to trust that the guests would leave the beach on their own after sunset. They did, about 40 mins before the light mix that Araman who is the owner of a photo video production company in Dubai needed for his photo.

During these 40 minutes, assistants had to style/clean/arrange/align the beach lounges in the entire scene and adjust the lights. The crew accomplished this in 20 minutes, leaving Araman scant breathing room as a mixed light approached.

Out on the boat, things weren’t any easier. The sails were unfurled, so the engines were running to keep it in place against the wind. A chase boat (later Photoshopped out) with a generator and a 5k Arri was used to light-paint the hull of the sailboat. Everyone was on walkie-talkies, but the generator noise on the small boat made communication impossible. So they had to wing it.

Three 2k Arris were positioned on the big boat itself. They ran off of the boat’s onboard generator and were used to light the sails. Lots of images were made of the big boat to allow the retoucher the best possible odds of a nice final image.

Araman used a Canon 1DS Mk III with a 35/1.4 at f/11 at ISO 200. As the dusk encroached, he went to ISO 400 to keep a shutter speed good enough to freeze the boat. They shot tethered, evaluating the images on the monitor as they went.

Compared to the cost of renting big strobes, Araman notes, the continuous lights were cheap to rent. It was the crew itself—and the rental of the big boat—that soaked up most of the budget.

It’s all in the details. Some of the simplest, most beautiful imagery comes from the most complex beginnings. Bringing back the essence of seventeenth-century Dutch Golden Age still life oil paintings, Dubai-based fashion photographer, Toufic Araman, Owner of ASTUDIO digital marketing agency has teamed up with a group of creative minds to give life to a series of elegant and rich photographs launching the new Qatar-based luxury brand, QELA.

Not quite synonymous with art and fashion, Qatar would not be the first country you think of when you hear luxury fashion brand, but now is the time to keep your eyes on the region. Qatar’s art and fashion scene is flourishing and it is brands like QELA that will put it on the map.

Shot in Qatar, these still life images, so rich in color and detail each tell a story about QELA, about fashion, and about the region. Each image is a small part of an entire story, leaving you noticing something new after every glance and craving for more.

Creating this perfection did not just come out of thin air (although it is by air that it was partly made possible). Flown in all the way from the heart of the fashion world itself, Paris, ASTUDIO brought over one of the most respected and talented fashion still lifestylists – art and set directors, Marcel V.D. After having done an extensive search, it became clear that Marcel had the creative vision and prowess needed to pull this feat off. Previously shot for Vogue Italy, Harpers Bazar, and the like and now he has a show of his work in Berlin with photographer Ellen Von Unwerth.

Arriving with bags after bags of personally selected objects, each object with its own little story, Marcel came prepared to piece together the story of QELA. “I enjoy the freedom to create,” says Marcel, “I like telling different little stories and creating different atmospheres with objects.”

The presence of each little object has a purpose and how it has been placed and chosen was done with every bit of intention. From one little stamp to a single coin to a dangling key chain, symbolic pieces were scouted out from Qatar to help tell the story of QELA’s origins. Can you spot the Qatari links?

Working together with the Creative Director of QELA, Nicolas K. the three artistic minds, Toufic Araman the Dubai-Paris based fashion still life specialist, Marcel, and Nicolas K. formed a creative powerhouse – a global collaboration that clicked, as echoed by Marcel, “I enjoy the collaboration with Nicolas and Toufic. We decide together. We joke about it. It’s like one plus one equals three – it’s another perspective.”

The team of photo video production worked tirelessly creating the perfect blend of contemporary simplicity and seventeenth-century still life elegance, giving life to the QELA brand equivalent imagery, while keeping it true to its regional roots. This was only accomplished through determination, carrying out many trials and experiments with the photographic composition to make sure the right story had been told. (This was a labor of sweat and love that only happened thanks to determination planning and 3 world-renowned creative minds).

With the creative direction of Nicolas, QELA is the perfect brand to bring Qatar and the Qatar Luxury Group to the world stage of Luxury brands. “It is a very small brand, so for us it is important to have a strong impact, to just take time to see the picture,” explains Nicolas, “We have to have the link between the region and worldwide spirit. We want to have a strong exposure.”

A culmination of global talents and trinkets rich with history glued together by the budding Qatar luxury brand, ASTUDIO has produced a rich story of still life imagery.

ASTUDIO is a Dubai Photographers & video production house that is determined to bring your vision to life, no matter how small the detail or how far the destination. It has the expertise and creativity to bring together international talents across the region to help tell your story, just like the story of QELA.

A brand new digital ad campaign will have you looking at booking your next holiday in a whole new way. Whatever vacation you have in mind, from fishing trips and golf getaways to bungee adventures and beach breaks, this advert re-imagines them all. Bringing those daily vacation fantasies to life and capturing the viewer’s attention from the first few seconds of footage.

Lunched right before the two main events of the season in the MENA region – EID Al Adha and the FIFA World Cup – using clever filming techniques and expert knowledge, the irreverent campaign conceptualised and produced by ASTUDIO a digital marketing agency takes a leap away from traditional, and lands in the future of advertising.

People love to travel but the hassle of booking and the expense stops them from going. The campaign, composed of 5 TVCs recreating a variety of “home-made” holiday scenarios and created on a 3-day shoot in Cairo was made with the aim of re-igniting the spark of excitement within people when it comes to booking a summer vacation.

The ad campaign reminds people that they don’t have to stay at home imagining the possibilities, the holiday of their dreams really is within their reach.

Stepping away from the conventional and outside of the box, mobile phones where even used to film the scenes. The clever aim behind this technique is just an example of the talented team that are working behind the scenes at ASTUDIO. “We did this to make the viewer believe it is a home- made video and will stand out from the rest of the ad intermission. People are tired from the ads look and we need to approach it from a different angle. Times are changing, and ASTUDIO is already one step ahead.

In lieu with one of Qatar’s most important cultural milestone, Dubai's digital marketing agency ASTUDIO takes pride in shooting at the newly opened Fire Station Artist in Residence, an art hub accessible for everyone that opened March this year in Doha, Qatar. The gallery welcomes painters, multimedia artists, sculptors, and the likes to showcase and be part of this incredible spot.

During The Doha Fire Station’s opening this year, Sheikha Al Mayassa bin Hamad Al Thani, chairperson of Qatar Museums, attended whilst praising the art space’s cultural importance. And while the whole structure of the old fire station was maintained, the interiors are modernized and artistically turned into something more beautiful than it was.

The Fire Station is indeed a residence for the local art community and visitors alike.

Early this year, Dubai-based fashion photographer, Toufic Araman and his crew: stylist Farah Kreidieh, hair and make-up Annesofie Begtrup, and model Angelica, flew to Qatar and had the honor of being the first to shoot in the said location for the May 2015 issue of Oryx, Qatar Airway’s inflight magazine.

ASTUDIO’s fashion photographers in Qatar collaborated with local Qatari designers, the produced images are one-of-a-kind themed. From the astonishing architecture to the 70’s feel to the gold and yellow touches made more pop, the Doha Fire Station art space added pizzazz to the already imaginative composition.

The beautiful architecture of the Fire Station’s tower echoed not only history but also ingenuity. The outline of the building with symmetrical square windows added character to model Angelica’s banged bob hair in the black and white photo.

Toufic Araman’s creative and photography virtuoso meshed well with the setting of this week’s feature. Thanks to the awesome team with ASTUDIO for the successful video production Qatar.

ASTUDIO is a boutique photography, video production agency based in Dubai that caters to clients all over the Middle East mainly in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt.