You might know engineer-turned-architecture-photographer Ales Vyslouzil from our past interview with him here on APALMANAC. Or maybe – like me – you follow his work for its beautiful qualities and incredible examples of architecture. Today, Ales has been so kind as to share his photographs of the Mysk Moon Retreat with us, and tell a bit about his process of photographing the resort.
This project has an otherworldly feel, and Ales really nails the time of day/lighting that creates an atmospheric quality in these scenes.
Ales uses models to give scale and purpose to these images, helping us understand the size of the domes and tents, as well as the functionality of their design.
He kicks things off by sharing “Early this year I received a call, where Shaza Hotels wanted to create photographs of a resort in the heart of the Sharjah desert. I did not pay too much attention to it as I was swamped with work and climbing. Sharjah desert did not sound like an amazing portfolio job. Speaking of Sharjah, it is the third-most populous city in the United Arab Emirates right after Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Historically it has been one of the wealthiest cities with a settlement existence of over 5000 years. It has its own slower life as opposed to Dubai, where everything is going fast.
But, maaaan I was wrong…”
Ales continues “The whole commission was going back and forth with contracts, shooting days, availability of the place (as the resort is always booked), mood boards, and a few logistic coordinations. The week before the actual shoot, I met all the decision-making people and we had a beautiful chat, and the pressure was ON. ‘We are shooting next week!'”
“The brief was very different from what we normally see during Hotel & Resort Shoots,” he explains. “It was very much outside of the standard box of polished rooms, dining experiences, all glamour, and top-notch design. The client asks to shoot in a more editorial, emotionally driven style where the images will have a mood and feel of the space. The client has shown me well know images of Al Fayah lodge, photographed by Fernando Guerra. Al Faya lodge also belongs to Shaza Hotels.
To be honest, I was super stressed, but at the same time, it was a great challenge to create something different and bring more of an architectural approach into the hotel/resort shoot.”
Ales was commissioned to shoot the retreat over three consecutive days, allowing him to photograph each spaces along with a myriad of details that flesh out the experience and cohesiveness of the resort. He displays the colors, textures, materials, and objects that make this place so special.
One challenge Ales ran into was navigating the privacy of the retreat’s guests, as he was shooting while it was in operation. “Even though the resort was mostly reserved for the shoot, for those who are familiar with the culture of the Middle East, locals require their privacy up to the highest standards. Any disturbance always creates a shear amount of friction and added stress. So, for any photographers flying to shoot around the Middle East, get familiar with the culture and respect the people. I have learned my lessons on multiple previous shoots.”
“It was important for me to get up early every morning to get the whole range of colors in the sky and resort – the way you would experience camping in the desert or the mountains of the UAE. The mornings and evenings are the most beautiful during my own camping trips, and therefore this is how I wanted to capture it. These time frames were a bit rush, because for those who are familiar with the UAE, beautiful light is gone within a seconds and you are left with nuclear blue sky and harsh light,” he shares.
Here is my personal favorite image from this project. It ticks so many boxes. The mist and the range of colors in the sky make the scene feel painterly. This shot feels intimate, mysterious, and intensely beautiful.
Ales explains “I have no idea what I did to get the weather to play in my favor, but one morning it was totally unexpected. A very thick layer of fog arrived at the resort. When I woke up, I was very upset about it, but then the magic started to happen. The fog was moving around, up and down and the sun helped me to create something quite rare at this time of the year. It was absolutely gratifying to see the whole set of photographs created during very different weather conditions.”
I appreciate how Ales showcases both the rooms and the amenities, and communal areas of the retreat. We get a good feel for what it is like to be a guest there, and all of the opportunities available to those in attendance.
The photograph we’ll end this Project of the Week with was actually one of Ales’ first images from the shoot. He said “I arrived the night before so I can get familiar with the location and shoot some evening blue-hour images. I walked around the resort, hiked up the mountains around, and found a great spot to shoot from. Then I just sat down and waited till got dark and left with the first image of the whole commission. It was very satisfying and the light was just perfect.”
“To sum it up, it was a quite unexpected commission early this year and one of my favorites,” Ales says. “Why? Because it resonates with my passion for the outdoors, deserts, mountains, and nature. It also represents a unique perspective that often by following a strict shot list, we miss out on the most beautiful unexpected moments that mother nature creates for us. At the end of the day, the subject of our resort stays, the light is what we have to constantly chase to our favor.”
If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.