I’m about to head home from my last assignment for the year – 21 days all up, after three back-to-back assignments, so I’m looking forward to a bit of time off.

It’s been a successful shoot, with plans to bring me back in 2017 to photograph the Kingdom’s major cultural event and train some of its local photographers to capture tourism photographs, before heading off on a tour of the Empty Quarter with its towering 300 metre sand dunes (yahoo).

In the meantime, here’s a sample of some of the photographs captured during this visit, which concentrated on a welcoming people, significant landmarks, the sophistication of the capital, Riyadh, and the Kingdom’s fascinating culture.

To those who have followed my pics and posts throughout 2016, I’d like to wish you well over the festive period (we’ll be closing shop when I get back until early February). With more books about to be published, assignments to new destinations planned, and the launch of my own commercial Photo Library in 2017, I’ll look forward to your company in the year ahead.

My Lightroom software’s telling me I’ve shot more than 10,000 photographs over the past 21 days (which either means I’m a terrible photographer who’s taken a lot of unnecessary pictures or there’s been plenty to shoot and I’ve just given myself a lot to choose from, he says).

Either way, I’m exhausted; I’m looking forward to getting back to my own bed.

Suffice to say, it’s been a productive shoot, with me having now shot the highlights of 12 of Saudi’s 16 provinces over my three assignments to the Kingdom.

A day in my hotel room processing and I’ll be ready to hand over a broad range of promotional images to its national tourism authority.

Madein Saleh (above), the magnificent sandstone tombs that rise from the northern desert, has been the focus of my attention for the past couple of days. I’d have to say though, the 4am starts with desert temperatures plunging to near zero, provided quite a challenge for a photographer who arrived from an Australian summer with little more than shorts and a few polo shirts. Thankfully, my guide, Yasser Al-Emam (that’s him holding the falcon who – by the way ladies – is looking for a wife) was better prepared, and generously lent me his wardrobe (below).

I’ll post a preview of some of the best images from the shoot shortly……Inshallah.

I was asked to shoot some shopping scenes in Saudi a couple of days ago (as you might imagine, there’s a bit of disposable income in the Middle East and the national tourism authority’s keen to see it disposed of in the Kingdom).

We ended up shooting in Jeddah (below) where, thankfully – certainly in terms of photography and capturing the associated pleasure of spending money – women are comfortable showing more of their faces – though the abaya is still worn.

Otherwise, my presentations at the national photography conference in Riyadh went well – both full to capacity, with an appreciative and engaging audience. That said, I fear my translator may have had a meltdown trying to keep up with me as there were technical problems showing my slide presentation on the big screen which cost me half an hour so, by the time I hit the stage, I was like a greyhound bolting from the gates (those who know me are aware of my propensity to talk at least a little rapidly when I’m excited). Myself and British photographer Michael Freeman (137 books and counting) were the only two foreign presenters. It was good to meet him, albeit briefly due to our commitments, as it was his book more than 20 years ago that guided me onto this path. (“I wish you hadn’t told me that. It reminds me of how old I am.”)

Tomorrow I’m off to Madein Saleh, an ancient structure in the desert I’ve photographed before though, this time – I’m told – there’s a falconer waiting to help me capture that singular, elusive shot of Saudi I’ve been chasing since I first arrived three years ago. If I’m successful, it will be a fine end to my third assignment to Saudi Arabia and a particularly full year of photography.

It’s a popular weekend pastime in Saudi – jump in your four wheel drive and head out of town to the tallest sand dune you can find (and there’s a lot to choose from).

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Post script: I’ve just heard about Saudi’s Empty Quarter – a largely inaccessible part of the desert where the dunes rise to an incredible 300 metres and can unexpectedly swallow cars as the shifting sands are so unpredictable. And they take tours. Now that would be an exceptional experience and photo opportunity (he writes, hoping his client is reading this).

Otherwise, it’s time to pack up my camera gear and head back to Riyadh to address the Colour of Saudi Photography convention…..now where did I leave those notes.

workshop

I had an enjoyable experience yesterday photographing a falconer on the sand dunes of the Eastern Province of  Saudi Arabia (despite the fact I was up at 3am for the shoot, he adds).

Again, no time to chat as we’re racing off to a world heritage listed site but here’s one of the images that’s likely to make the cut (above) and a black n white version I quite like (below).

Two more days of what is proving to be a whirlwind tour of the Kingdom and I’m back to Riyadh to present two workshops on tourism photography at the national photography conference – Colours of Saudi Arabia. I’m looking forward to it.

falcon-pano