The Creative Experience - Dubai 2019

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Exactly one month ago I created this picture at The Creative Experience where Pratik and I, along with our good friends Andrea and Amanda Belluso, and Viktor Anderson hosted an incredible 5 days full of photography, creativity and business conversations, and self empowerment. Yes it was awesome and I’ll go into what the Creative Experience was about later in this post but let’s take a moment to talk about this picture. It’s one of my favourites as it’s created outside of my comfort zone. Exactly where you want to be as an artist :)

Over the years I’ve realised that I really love to collaborate with my fellow creatives whether they are models, designers, assistants, my retoucher husband and so on. I love the collaborative process as it allows me to push past my boundaries. I always feel as though there’s something special in the art when I’m working with people who are just as passionate and playful as I am.

For this shoot I had the opportunity to work with beautiful Renata from Bareface Model Agency Dubai and the equally beautiful Frederick Vaamonde. I wanted to create a powerful desert queen vibe as well as highlight a bond of trust/ love between the two characters. I shot this against a blue backdrop which acted as a green screen of sorts.

My initial vision for this shot included rolling desert sand dunes in the background and with that in mind I asked Andrea if he could recreate a soft rich sunset look with the lighting. For this image we used a 1x6ft RFi Strip Softbox with a Softgrid on the side with one yellow gel and we also had a very low side light with an Umbrella XL Deep White modifier.

Since lighting is still something that Andrea is incredibly passionate and very good at, I asked him if he would like to collaborate and bring that skillset of his on board to help me realise my vision. He immediately accepted and this is the result. It made me realise how lovely it was to create so organically like this with another artist. Both respecting each other’s vision and openly supportive of each others art and journey. That’s really special and something that I strive to cultivate more of in our industry.

Since this was shot on the Phase One 100mp camera system, no blog post would be complete without some close up crops to show off the gorgeous level of detail that this camera captures.

Click on each image to view properly -

C R E D I T S
Photographer: Bella Kotak
Post production: Bella Kotak & Pratik Naik
Models: Renata Khairutdinova & Frederick Vaamonde
Hair & Makeup Artist: Lina Dahlbeck
Lighting: Andrea Belluso
Studio: Hot Cold Studio, Dubai

S T Y L I N G
Dress by Jo Fleming Design
Crown by Monarque Jewels
Frederick’s styling is sourced from the magical land of Amazon

Shot with Phase One IQ3 100 MP Trichromatic
Lens: Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8
Settings: ISO 100, 1/500 s, f/16
Lights: Profoto


Since this event we received messages to bring this to the US and so after some talks (and schedule planning!) we’ve decided to bring our Creative Experience to Los Angeles, USA this October! This time we’ve decided to change things up a little by offering a 1 day Creative Seminar too!

Here are all the links you need -
Main website : www.thecreativeexperience.net
Our schedule for the 2 and 5 day events : www.thecreativeexperience.net/schedule
Tickets page to book your spot: www.thecreativeexperience.net/tickets

Sign up for the Creative Seminar updates. Tickets for this will be released soon: www.thecreativeexperience.net/seminar-la


A little ‘Creative Experience’ insight…

Not all our students made it into the group picture as some felt a little shy, however I truly appreciate every single person who joined us, bringing with them big smiles, an open attitude, and really good vibes! Fun fact! We had students from over 11 countries! It was one of the most international classes I’ve ever been a part of :D

Not all our students made it into the group picture as some felt a little shy, however I truly appreciate every single person who joined us, bringing with them big smiles, an open attitude, and really good vibes! Fun fact! We had students from over 11 countries! It was one of the most international classes I’ve ever been a part of :D

The story behind The Creative Experience began last year when Pratik, Andrea, Amanda, Viktor and I hosted a Creativity Masterclass in Sweden last summer (that blog post is more than a little overdue but it’s coming!). That week was so inspiring, playful, and fun, that we quickly realised there was something special here.

We learned from the feedback that our Sweden event felt less like a ‘masterclass’ and more of an experience. Yes we had the technical bits, but more than that we pushed the boundaries of our comfort on a mental and emotional level. That inspired the new name and really was the driving ethos behind what we wanted to create by bringing together all of our individual strengths - Andrea the lighting genius, Amanda the business guru, Pratik’s Photoshop wizardry, Viktor’s insights into creative mentality, my storytelling photography from pre-production to execution along with Andrea and Amanda’s creative empowerment coaching expertise.

We decided to hold this event in Dubai as it was a city Andrea and Amanda were familiar with and we had some connections there to help us bring it to life. All the pictures you will see now in this post were captured by Pratik.

Day one kicked off with introductions and an interactive open conversation where we covered topics from photography, to business, to mental health, technicalities, right through to our experiences in running and growing our brands. We wanted to set the tone that this is not just another workshop, but a space where we can connect as fellow creatives, share things we’ve learned, face the things we need to improve on, and start shedding the limitations that we unconsciously place on ourselves in our lives in general.

That afternoon Andrea introduced the variety of ways different lighting modifiers worked and blew everyone’s minds when he started crafting a picture with lighting as the main storytelling element.

The days that followed included photoshoot demos by both Andrea and myself. The image I shared above is the result of that demo time. What really surprised me was how comfortable I felt creating in front of an audience. I guess all those demo’s I’ve done at Phase One’s various StandOut photo events have trained me!

It reminds me that doing something that you’re initially scared or nervous about will, over time, become easier and natural. (So if you’re holding yourself back from starting something, don’t. Just do it! I promise it gets easier.)

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Something that we wanted to offer was a chance for those who join us to experience what it’s like to shoot and create with a medium format camera system. I can honestly say that working with the Phase One camera system has personally changed the way I approach and execute my images for the better.

I’m no gear head and always advocate that it’s not about having the latest gear but making the most of and being creative with what you have, however, through pushing past my comfort zones and working with Phase One, Profoto and bringing on board all the things I’ve learnt from Andrea through these events I can honestly say that I’m no longer afraid of experimenting with lighting gear, or equipment that I’m unfamiliar with.

In fact find myself inspired to rent and try out new things just to play and see what comes from it. I credit a large part of that to Andrea for breaking it down, sharing his knowledge so openly, and inspiring me with his playful attitude.

When it comes to crafting an image either through lighting or styling or posing there really is no right or wrong way to do things. What’s more important to cultivate is your creative eye and vision for what’s in the frame to create work that is speaks to you as an artist.

That was the focus of one of my favourite days which was the individual shoots day, this was for our VIP students who booked the full 5 day experience. We decided to limit the spaces to create a really intimate experience where our students could put to practice some of the techniques they’d learned with all of us on hand guiding, assisting, and giving feedback. It was so playful and experimental that I don’t know who had more fun, the students or us!

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Thank you so much to all the students that joined us for this event and to everyone who worked with us to make this event happen and flow well during the course of the week.

Andrea, Amanda, Viktor, and Pratik you guys are all amazing and it is truly an honour to work, teach, and create alongside you! You’re all so talented and supportive, you’re inspiring me to up my game! :D

Since this event we received messages to bring this to the US and so after some talks (and schedule planning!) we’ve decided to bring our Creative Experience to Los Angeles, USA this October! This time we’ve decided to change things up a little by offering a 1 day Creative Seminar too!

Here are all the links you need -
Main website : www.thecreativeexperience.net
Our schedule for the 2 and 5 day events : www.thecreativeexperience.net/schedule
Tickets page to book your spot: www.thecreativeexperience.net/tickets

Sign up for the Creative Seminar updates. Tickets for this will be released soon: www.thecreativeexperience.net/seminar-la

Thanks for reading! Well done if you’ve made it this far! :D

Bella Kotak

Bella Kotak is a fine art and fashion photographer currently based in Oxford & London, England. An art lover from a young age she always knew that she would work within the creative industry. Photography changed her life when she picked up a camera and began a 365 project. From that moment she was hooked by this medium that translates thoughts and imagination into tangible form and has since been featured in several magazines around the world.