EPIC – an Action packed TV ad production

Blog, Video Production


The awesomeness of the TV ad I’ve been working on is officially live and you can view it in all its action movie juiciness right here: http://youtu.be/oaTJIRw3qYQ

I love action movies. I grew up on them and they play a big part in my wanting to be a movie director. Out of all the genres of film they’re the most cinematic (in my humble opinion). They use camera movement, blocking, sound and music all cranked up to 11 to deliver something that just can’t be done in any other format! So being able to dabble in it was a joy for me. A joy that penetrated my soul! My SOUL!

Now let’s get down to how it was made! The purpose of the ad was to get  volunteers to sign up to do charity work and fundraising initiatives so it might have seemed like a weird concept  to use action movie tropes; but actually the idea worked perfectly. In truth, volunteers are the backbone of any charity and the effort they give is epic. So making them out to be these heroes was a no brainer. 

Pitching the concept was easy too, I used movie trailers and scenes from some of my favourite action movies (Badboys, die hard, tons of superhero movie trailers) and the team loved the idea straight off. Having worked well with them before there was a level of trust so it was a great experience sharing ideas and communicating with them. 

Where a lot of time was spent was researching the camera moves and the overall style I wanted the ad to have. It was going to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to the movies I grew up with, but that didn’t mean we could get away with poorly executed shots. So thanks to the genius of Tony Szhou (@tonyszhou) and his ‘every frame a painting’ videos, figuring out how we needed to block actors and set up camera moves became really clear. I scoured locations and we did some test shots to make sure everything in my head was translating to the screen. This is where I mess up a lot of the time. I’m so eager to get to principal photography that I forget to test the concepts. Then in post I learn the hard way. Well, thanks to the discipline of my colleague and co director Quinn it was an essential part of the process. 

Actors were hired and with all the gear goodness a young filmmaker could ask for we were set for our shoot. 

It was a gruelling weekend but actually it was prep where most of our energy was sapped. Blocking and lighting each scene before actors stepped on set so that when we were ready to go it was actually a breeze. I’m not going to lie, though my dream is to be a director, the thought of being the big cheese on any project fills me with dread. Luckily I had my mentor and friend Quinn Pohl alongside and as things got underway I really eased into it. Like, I know what I want and how I can achieve that but I’m no public speaker. Once I got comfortable I worked closely with Quinn and the actors to make sure we were nailing each scene. Cast and crew were all great too which makes a huge difference to the production process. 

Can you spot the scenes and moments paying tribute to famous action movies and directors? The most obvious one is the Michael bay shot in the middle famous from Badboys. Whenever I tried explaining this to anyone they got it straight away when I’d say ‘that bit when will smith & Martin Lawrence stand up and say “this sh!t just got real!” 

Nailed this shot thanks to the research done on the Tony Szhou video (see ‘What is Bayhem?’). Essentially it’s a curved dolly track and you have your actors rise vertically whilst the camera moves laterally. The result is this epic sweeping move which can make even the humblest of charity workers look like heroes! Additional notes on this: ensure using a telephoto lens and that the background has enough detail and moves to create parallax. Voila. Instant action movie scene. 

Postproduction: music I got from premiumbeat.com and where some of the shots came alive was from a basic grade. It was just a case of pushing contrast and using the classic orange/cyan combination that gets used a lot in Hollywood. There are some whooshes and radio type sounds in there too to bring out the urgency of the action. I’m being super brief here as the edit was quite simple as it resembled the storyboard so closely. 

So that’s the ad. Really proud of it because it came out exactly how I saw it in my head. Plus it’s a chance to raise the production value of British Muslim media. Even bigger bonus is that it’s for a great charity like Muslim Aid (muslimaid.org). There’s no reason why the content being produced by Muslim production houses or organisations should be of a lower quality. In fact the ethos of the faith should inspire us to be the best!

So what did you think of the ad? Let me know and share it with your social media peoples. 

For more of this video geekery follow me on Twitter: @safiyyahsdad


A trip to the Turkish Syrian border – fastest production EVER

Blog, Video Production


Last week I flew out with a team to complete an assignment of epic proportions. It was a return visit to the Turkish-Syrian border at the orphanage we fundraised for and built last year. Needless to say the thought of the trip was keeping me up some nights. Not only was it going to be difficult because of the emotional terrain that we’d have to navigate (working in an orphanage for Syrian refugees) but because we had such a limited amount of time to achieve a huge set of objectives…


4 days to complete 2 documentaries, 2 tv ads and a photo campaign!

Deep breath

Day 1: We met the staff at the orphanage and originally the plan was to use this day to break the ice with the kids, to get them used to the cameras and gear. But, and in large part owing to the amazing work the staff had done with the kids, they were totally cool with us from the get-go! AWESOME, this meant we could get to work straight away. So the first few hours we spent filming a progress report of the building and then went straight into interviews with the kids. I’ve never done this before but I squeezed out all the juice from 3 Canon BP955 batteries in one day! It was actually on this day that we met Ruba, a beautiful 11 year old girl who was just brimming with confidence and potential. She gave us a dynamite interview, telling us how she planned on being a doctor so she could help people, and I had an inkling that this was going to be my face of the tv ad! Back to the hotel, bed!

Day 2: Interviews with refugees. We left the confines of the orphanage whilst the kids were at school so we could speak to refugee families in the surrounding areas. It was all of a sudden, very sobering. Though we carried on working at a blistering-breakneck speed, the reality of what the people were facing became very clear. The need for the orphanage became very clear. After 3 interviews we returned back to the orphanage where there was no time to rest or even mentally process what we’d seen, the kids were getting back from school so with the remaining day light we proceeded to interview them. It was really uplifting to hear these kids speak. One little girl, Fatma, told us she wanted to open her own orphanage one day. This tiny statement from this little girl spoke wonders for the work that was being done at this place. Day light gone, batteries drained, back to the hotel and BED.

Day 3: TV ads and additional material. One of the ads was a ‘day in the life’ of a child at the orphanage. So we had to get to the orphanage shortly after dawn to catch the kids waking up. With a lot of help from people far more experienced I directed Ruba (our star!) and some of the other kids (through translators) and was happy with most of the 2nd or 3rd takes. We had to keep moving because of time and before we knew it, it was time for school. Off to school! Things slowed down a bit here because of the order and regimented nature of school life. My back was nearly broken at this point so I rested but was super wary that I was missing filming opportunities. Finally we finished at the school, got back to the orphanage and finished up the remaining ‘staged’ shots. It’s really amazing what the orphanage does for the kids. By sending them out to school they have a chance to adjust into the local community as opposed to being outcasts. This is grass roots countering of the effects of war and displacement at its finest. Needless to say by the end of day 3 I was tired. See picture: photo

Day 4: Party! No, really, we had a party. We’d put aside some budget to buy decorations and food so we threw a party for the kids and joined in too! It was great. A way to celebrate the amazing work the orphanage had done and for us to mark our farewell. My work wasn’t done though, I shot the party and during down time managed to get a few remaining bonus shots for the second tv ad and also a documentary segment! Leaving the orphanage for the last time was quite difficult. The kids had really warmed to us and we’d really warmed to them. The name for the orphanage is ‘Bayti’ which literally translates to ‘my home’. There’s never been a more appropriate name for a place. It felt like I was leaving home.

Final thoughts:

  • Wherever possible on assignments abroad, keep some rest days allocated. On these types of shoots it’s very easy to underestimate how tired you can get!
  • The C100 is the best camera I’ve ever worked with. Just wish it had some decent slow motion (though that’s been fixed on the mk2).
  • Sometimes less is more. We had a big crew go out there and I wonder if we could have worked faster with just a few less members… But I suppose this is subject to the location you’re visiting so it will probably differ.
  • I need to learn Arabic pronto!
  • This is my biggest takeaway… Having witnessed the aftermath of a number of conflicts now, I have to say there is only one counter measure which has the ability to rebuild lives productively, for the better, for a stable future. It’s not retaliation, it’s not ideological shifts,  it’s probably not even establishment of a western style of democracy. It’s got to be love. That’s it. You can call me naive but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The love shown to those kids by the staff at that orphanage has done wonders for them. It won’t bring back their parents, nor their destroyed homes, but I should hope it’s undoing the trauma and damage to their fragile hearts. It’s giving them a chance to build themselves for the future.


I implore everyone to donate to this amazing project and learn more about their amazing work:



The videos are yet to be edited but I’ll be sure to post them here as soon as they are! 🙂

Also, for more of this production and NGO related babbling, follow me on twitter: twitter.com/safiyyahsdad

Jubair, signing out!

Warm a heart

Blog, Video Production


Here are the ads I worked on last month:

Hope you guys enjoyed them and that they made you think. The organisation does great work at this time of year so as ever I ask you to donate if you can or at least help spread the word by sharing on your facebook, twitter etc.

Donate here: http://www.muslimaid.org

I’ll be posting a ‘lessons learned’ about this shoot in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that.



Blog, Video Production


I used to work as a teacher, once upon a time. It was in a school for kids who had behavioural issues. I remember one of the kids, a bright and rebellious spark of a teenaged boy, used to go home on the weekends to a place the staff called ‘respite’.

I always wondered why they called it that.

Anyway, after more than 15 days of consecutive, non-stop work, I’ve found a day off at home for respite with my wife and daughter. I totally get it now. Respite is a place, a state of mind, a time, even a zone. It’s where you go after being weathered by the storms of daily life. It’s a hot chocolate, a book and then the sound of my little girl breaking her mums phone.

On these few days off I’m going to relax, get back in touch with my spiritual self, listen to good music, eat good food, sit in the company of my best people and ask you all to try and do the same. R’n’r is most definitely NOT underrated.

It makes me think though, there are so many people out there right now who can’t look forward to the same soul healing warmth that we find at home. What if the place you had to go home to was a chill and lonely place? Worse still what if you had no home and after facing a blisteringly cold day in the street, had to face the prospect of finding an alley or bridge to sleep under?

Having just come off a shoot for work I’ll just drop a mention about the Warm Hearts Winter Campaign which is coming up. Every year Muslim Aid, the NGO I work for, reaches out to people struggling with the cold in the UK. This is usually people who are sleeping rough on the street, or the elderly who are struggling with energy bills and need extra care to protect them against the cold.

The shoot was quite gruelling (as most shoots are I guess) and my role was production managing and generally supporting the Director/Camera Operator. It was great to be on set with a team of awesome people, and knowing that the end result will try to raise awareness about the plights of the homeless and elderly is a great feeling.

The ad is yet to be edited but you can get more info (and perhaps donate) at the website: https://www.muslimaid.org/what-we-do/uk-programmes/warm-hearts-winter-campaign/

We’ll also be visiting shelters and soup kitchens over the coming months so if you’re based in London and want to join in and meet some great people then keep an eye out here: https://www.muslimaid.org/opportunities/volunteers/volunteer-opportunities/

I’ll just finish by saying that it’s great that I’m getting these few moments of respite and warmth at home. Time off, creature comforts and all the things we look to for our nourishment are important, we should neither take them for granted (and be grateful for them) nor should we forget that we need them from time to time. And in the coming weeks there’ll be some chances to share them with those that don’t have any so let’s try and embrace the spirit of the season.

Dark Muse

Blog, Video Production



I had the pleasure (and pain) of watching the absolutely stunning documentary ‘McCullin’ the other day, about war photographer Don McCullin.

I won’t review it here, except urge you to go and watch it. It’s more of an experience than a viewing. And for someone like myself, with a passion and interest in filming and photography, it was actually a serious schooling on how to approach (dare I say) humanity through a lens.

Here’s a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjCfP-F58MY

Despite the unbearable level of horror that McCullin has had to document over the years of his tenure as a photographer, the grace with which he explains his outlook on life offered me a great deal of hope. As a filmmaker working in the third sector it’s easy to feel despondent and hopeless after spending long days interviewing survivors of war. But McCullin’s genius lies in his ability to find traces of humanity and life, and culture and art amidst the carnage. Looking at how McCullin was able to find these precious things in such difficult places is an inspiration for me, something which I’ll try and emulate in my own work.


In the coming weeks I’ll be flying to Gaza for work. It’s in a place like this that being able to find humanity amidst the rubble of shelled houses will play its biggest role. I’ve no doubt though that the vibrance, resilience and strength of the people will shine through the dust and debris of bombed homes.

The thought of going there, even despite the energy and inspiration I’ve gained from Mr McCullin’s words, remains a scary one. I do wonder sometimes how much human suffering can I bare to look at before I eventually go mad? 3 of my colleagues have had to be dismissed for sick leave because of the pressures of our work environment, I expect I can’t be far off either.

One of the ways I’ve been coping has been to write. This blog is an obvious example. But I’ve also begun to write a feature film. The last feature I wrote almost went in to production, and I’m hoping this one will but even if it doesn’t I won’t mind; it’s a great release to make sense of the confusion by putting a protagonist through various scenarios familiar to the ones I’m facing myself and see how he works them out. With thoughts on my mind like my upcoming trip to Gaza, and also having just seen ‘McCullin’ you might sensibly think the screenplay would be a serious political drama or something, but you’d be wrong. It’s a comedy. A comedy about dealing with life with multiple personality disorder… For those of you who know me closely, you’ll probably know the more direct inspiration for this, but some of the subtle reasons I think why this piece has got me so engrossed is because, in the end, when you look at the World you realise that as a species we suffer really seriously from multiple personality disorder. On one side you have such devestating poverty, war and disease and on the other you have Hollywood. So yeah, I’ve only written a few pages, and I wonder how our schizophrenic protagonist will navigate his landscape. Maybe it’ll offer me a few more insights on how to approach humanity through my lens!

Picture: Shellshocked Soldier by Don McCullin (all rights belong to the owner of this image, used only for reference)

Making sense of life through art

Blog, News, Video Production


The world right now seems quite a scary and crazy place. As I write this the twitter sphere is buzzing with the sad news of the death of journalist James Foley. Iraq and Syria have degenerated into lawless areas of land being fought over by psychotic militant groups with bloodthirsty ideologies. It’s also been over a month since the start of operation Protective Edge in Gaza which has taken the lives of over 2000 people, 540 of which were children. Ok so maybe you’re thinking well that’s just the Middle East, the Middle East is always burning, always a headline for depression! Actually in the United States, in a small town called Ferguson protestors are being shot by police and the Ebola virus is rampaging through parts of Africa. And most of this I suspect is the result of power and money being held in the hands of the few.

So how do we make sense of the chaos? How do we feel hope, and how do we find solace in the daily deeds of our own lives? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.

I finished a music video shoot the other day for Omar Esa (@1OmarEsa). The song is called ‘Happy’, it’s a kind of cover/reworking of the hit Pharell track that dominated airwaves earlier in the year. It might seem, as it certainly did to me, an odd choice for a song to put out at a time like this. With so much madness and focus on the darkest parts of humanity a song about happiness (and especially it being about Muslims too!) seemed a bit proposterous. Omar did this track at his own expense, not planning on making any money from it either! Crazy! After chatting to him, and actually completing the shoot things made a little more sense. What I derived from his objective was that you can’t let what’s happening in the world dampen your spirit, not let it deter you from your mission. 

I’m no theorist but for me art is a way of reaching out and expressing a message. And for him, his art is part of his purpose as a muslim, to spread a message of justice and peace. So in his art he fulfils a meaning of his life. To try and counter stereotypes and make people feel positive, in a time when fear and sadness is a tool to abuse a consumerist population, that’s actually quite heroic and magnanimous. I’m sure that being part of the project will do me countless good and earn me countless blessings (inshAllah).

So I still can’t help but feel despondent some days. And I’ll wake from a nightmare some mornings. But then I get up and do what I do. I go to work, try to be a good husband to my wife, father to my girl and son to my parents. And I make films. Films that make me happy. Films that have something to say about being alive, or truth, or the things that just interest me. And in doing so I find meaning in my short life.

To find out more about Omar Esa and his music visit http://www.omaresa.com and make sure to follow him on Facebook and twitter.

And follow me on twitter at twitter.com/Safiyyahsdad


The way I do it

Blog, Video Production


I’m on a journey of learning. I don’t think anyone simply qualifies into their profession and that’s the end of it. Everyday, from the moment you start your job, you learn, grow and improve. The you today is way different from the you from last year, and the year before that. So since I’ve been making films (videos I should say, but films sounds better!) I’ve been picking up techniques and ever-sharpening the kit in my toolbox of filmmaking. Furthermore I’ve been discovering my voice and also what I want to say.

So I’m compelled to blog today for a number of reasons. One is because I’ve been reading from  a number of different sources about the amount of knowledge and information about the craft of filmmaking Shane Hurlbut shares with his readers. Shane is a very established and well known cinematographer. His blog (http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/) is leagues ahead of this one, but nonetheless it was a motivation to share the little I’ve learnt with anyone who’s interested. The second reason, the one that’s been creeping at the surface of my thinking for the last few days is my wondering about what kind of a filmmaker I want to be.

I joined twitter very recently (twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad) and discovered it’s a very newsy medium. By that I mean it’s far less like Facebook (at least to me) where friends connect with each other and it seems more about following various people as sources of information, entertainment and news. So with that discovery I noticed my behaviour on it changed slightly. Though I’m regularly keeping up to date with the news, I found myself sharing more and more things to do with current affairs, and making press release-like statements.

What does this have to do with this blog post? Well I suppose it’s because over the last few days I’ve been wondering about the future of my career and the kind of filmmaking I want to do. Being on twitter and being buried under a barrage of current affairs info has inevitably led me to think about journalism. Video-journalism more specifically. I’ve been wondering about how that squares with my current and general style of filmmaking. In an attempt to figure these things out, I want to share here the way I approach a basic short documentary, more specifically the interview process.

Interviewing for a spontaneous short doc:

‘Lutfi’ still fresh in my mind (https://vimeo.com/102573933) I can say my current approach is quite ‘casual’. I started off in my career conducting interviews in quite a heavy-handed way, trying to guide my subjects to give me the answers I wanted. This happens generally when you work for an NGO and the purpose is fundraising. I’m glad to say I’ve been able to move away from this thanks to colleagues and mentors; now it’s a much more relaxed method of letting the interviewee tell their story, but still trying to focus on a particular element of the story. It’s finding that particular element which is the difficult and strenuous part.

With Lutfi I was incredibly short of time so I had decided beforehand I wanted to focus on his love of photography. This was based on information I had already gathered in a brief conversation that took place earlier in the day, otherwise it would have been a time consuming process of probing questions eating up precious memory card space and battery life. I should mention I’m well aware that research plays a key part in documentary film making but I’m talking about the kinds of docs and interviews that an NGO or regular online/magazine feature filmmaker might be doing, where they have no idea who the heck they are going to meet when they get to a location.

So I began by asking him to say hello, tell us his name and a little about his relationship with photography. A tip to myself for future is to get subjects to repeat this statement towards the end of the interview. This is because generally everyone eases up by the end and you get a much warmer and friendlier opening line for your film.

After that I asked questions based on points that Lutfi mentioned in his answers. He was prone to going off on tangents so whenever he gave us a natural pause I’d make sure to jump in with a question that would get him back on track. It’s important asking open questions otherwise you’ll get answers like ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If I do fall into that trap then I’ll remember to follow up with ‘can you explain?’ or ‘why?’. It’s about playing dumb, letting your subject feel like they’re teaching you something. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that people don’t share the same level of knowledge on subjects so you have to make your interviewee feel they’re teaching you something new.

I’m still getting the hang of it, and where possible I much prefer having someone conduct the interview so I can worry about technical matters. In any case it’s a balancing act; going with the flow of your subject but making sure your subtly keep them speaking about things you can use. The more time you can spend in making them comfortable the more honest and unselfconscious they’ll be. It’ll really help in asking them questions that are a bit more direct. But never try and force those types of answers without earning the trust or your doc will come out contrived and very brief! I’ve been in those situations and always ended with boring and slightly false-seeming films.

And sometimes you get lucky, like I did with Lutfi, where he was just a really interesting and well spoken guy.

So with future posts I’ll include more details and techniques to my process. Keep up to date on twitter by following me at twitter.com/safiyyahsdad and if you didn’t already then please check out my tribute to Lutfi, war photographer from Jerusalem: https://vimeo.com/102573933

Jubair, OUT!


Portrait of a War Photographer in Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production


With great excitement and pleasure I bring you my short film ‘Lutfi – Portrait of a War Photographer in Jerusalem’.


Lutfi Abu Umar is a photographer and journalist who has worked for over 32 years covering wars, conflict and news. He worked for the likes of Combat magazine, the BBC and also Der Spiegel. Now he works as a freelancer and also helps in his nephew’s jewellery shop.

Finding Lutfi was a gift from God, truly. I’d been asked to go to Jerusalem to film a number of things and knowing I’d be in such a historic place (especially at an important time what with the conflict happening in Gaza) I knew I wanted to work on a personal project too.Time wasn’t permitting, however, and I was getting desperate. Right at the end of the trip when I eventually conceded that my own film might not be possible, I was out on a (conscripted) shopping excursion when I came across Lutfi’s shop, only for the fact that I spotted him putting away an old SLR. I stepped into his tiny cove of trinkets and knick knacks and we began speaking about cameras and also his amazing career. Without difficulty he agreed to be interviewed for my documentary!

He doesn’t mention it in the film but he has a collection of over 70 cameras. 70!! I have 5 (including my iPhone)! He’s also a proponent of film over digital. Proper orthodox photographer. I remember he was even criticising (amicably) my use of a DSLR to film the documentary! But his many years of experience, his knowledge of his craft and the fact that he was my gracious host and subject kept my mouth zipped.

Another reason why it was fateful for me to stumble upon Lutfi was the fact that he was someone who knew too well the traumatic effect of documenting suffering. It’s something I’ve been going on about a lot in this blog, and not really been able to reconcile. Meeting Lutfi and hearing his answer got me closer to a singular understanding of why we do what we do in this field. He puts it really well. 

So in terms of the production info, it’s quite simple. I used my trusty Canon DSLR with Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC. I took my other lenses, the super wide Tokina and a super zoom Sigma but didn’t need them. I used a Sennheiser G3 radio mic set up, and annoyingly it picked up the air conditioning. I knew it was running and would have turned it off but it was so hot I got complacent. I was accompanied by 2 good friends  who helped carry equipment and also asked a few additional questions at the end that really helped get some nice information out of Lutfi. 

In post I was a little bit stuck for cutaways. A perennial problem. So I decided to use some of the shots of the clashes between people and police I managed to get in Jerusalem. It seemed relevant and gave me a chance to use them. I also had to use my own photography for the trip, which don’t get me wrong, it’s totally gratifying but I had to as Lutfi didn’t have any of his pictures with him in the shop. 

And there you have it. A film I’m pleased with, only because the subject is an amazing guy whom I have great admiration and respect for, and hopefully have learnt from.


To stay in touch or keep up to date follow me on twitter https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad

And to see other docs and films jump over to http://www.vimeo.com/jubair


A short film from Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production


I’m back now from Jerusalem. It was an amazing experience but it’s great to be back, with my wife, daughter and the whole family. It’s also great to be back because it means I can start editing a surprise personal project I was able to shoot whilst out there.

When I was first offered to go to Jerusalem to film and photograph I knew straight away I wanted to spend some of the time out there to create a short doc of some kind to ‘contribute’ to the dialogue on the Palestinian situation. I had no contacts in Israel/Palestine, barely any time and no ideas on what I could possibly create either, so the initial prospect of making my film became very bleak. Towards the end of the trip when most of my main duties had ended some time became available but I still hadn’t figured out what I would make. On a shopping walk in the souk, whilst looking for stuff for my little girl I walked by a small jewellery shop. Inside I caught a glimpse of a man putting away an old film SLR. Without thinking I bee lined for him, and asked him if I could take a picture of it. It was a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. I’d never seen one in real life before. I explained to him that I took pictures too, and before long we were discussing photography and he told me he’d been a military journalist and war photographer for over 30 years!

That’s how I found the subject of my documentary. Completely by fate! Seriously can’t wait to release it, but I want to do justice to the film so it’ll take me a few days to polish it up and share it with the world! As soon as it’s edited I’ll post an accompanying blog too.

To keep up to date with it you can keep an eye on my vimeo page http://www.vimeo.com/jubair and also on twitter https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad where it’s very likely I’ll tweet about it too!

A lover in Jerusalem

Blog, News, Video Production


I’ve walked down ancient streets, under age-old archways and through bustling souks. I’ve stood upon Biblical and Quranic grounds, and stared up at perennial skies. I’ve looked into the eyes and hearts of hatred, and of love, in the faces of hosts and hostiles. And in this cauldron of culture, of civilisation, I’m somewhat lost, in lust and infatuation, of its promise of unpredictable adventure and romance.

Wow! Did I just say all that? Dramatic!

No really, it has been an amazing 2 weeks. The days have flown by in a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smiles,, embraces, and friendships that will never be broken inshAllah. I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve worked hard, played hard, and prayed hard too!

This place, this odd place, has a strange effect on you. On the one hand, you step into the holy precinct of Al Aqsa, and forget about the whole world. Peace, tranquility, a sense of spiritual connection thats easy to feel but hard to explain. And then you step out of the archaic boundaries, into the hustle, bustle and tension of modern Jerusalem. The current political situation stares you in the face with a grimace and you can’t help but feel a bit hopeless as a human being, in knowing that you can’t do much to ease the suffering and conflict of people, here or anywhere. Only stand back and watch.

I’ve sat with the intelligentsia, and found it baffling how anyone can remain emotionally indifferent to the anarchic crisis, or even the antiquitous (is that a word?) surroundings. I’ve been revelling in them, and reeling from daily news of ever increasing casualties. Truly a paradoxical and perplexing experience. And yet the strange thing is I’ve never felt more human. 

I suppose that’s what happens… you miss your family and long for their human presence… you see the pain and suffering on the news and feel its immediacy, being only yards from people being carried away on stretchers… and you walk through sanctified hallways where men from long long ago prophesied and prayed for future generations. It’s a cauldron of culture, of civilisation, and of confused compassion. Love thy enemy, hate they enemy.

I’ve fallen in love with this place. Quite madly. But like every place I visit, I’ve got to leave, no matter how long my face or low my heart. I feel confident though, I’m leaving with a mission to urge others to come; to show support, and love, and let our brethren here know that we have not forgotten them. 

The work here has been bone grindingly tiring, and the emotional roller coaster has left me feeling just a little bit nauseous. Going back with work in mind I know I’ve got a lot more learning and improving to do. Mental preparation, learning new languages and even my kit too. My gear needs upgrading, quite desperately. You can’t try and cover refugee camps, hospital visits, walking tours and violent protests with an ageing DSLR and a couple of radio mics. Its been the lightest kit I’ve ever used on a professional gig, and though it never let me down, I know I need to gear up a bit. Thinking about the A7s… or wait for the 7d mk2? No idea at the moment… I know I need to but I can hardly muster the energy to think about it. 

I’ll probably still have a few words to say yet, as our flight on Tuesday remains uncertain. Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv has been on and off with flights, because of the supposed danger of Hamas rockets, and tomorrow I visit the excavated tunnels beneath Al Aqsa, no doubt it’ll be interesting; but if I don’t let me end by saying salaam, shalom, peace and love from Jerusalem.