Cairo Trip Day 4: Photo Shoot with Yasmina

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Yasmina, originally from England, has lived in Cairo for 20 years. She’s a dancer, teacher, photographer, and B&B host. You can stay at her gorgeous top floor flat in Giza while visiting! She has a beautiful studio as well as tons of beautiful nooks and two balconies perfectly set up for photo shoots. No way were we going to pass up this opportunity!

Amity kindly arranged for our group of six to share two days (three people per day) with Yasmina behind the camera. Luckily,  we had had luck shopping in Khan el Khalili the prior day so we had plenty of costume options to choose from!

After worries about cloudy weather potentially interfering with our plans, i woke up to a text from Amity left in us know that we were leaving in just one hour! Thankfully, Nibal was downstairs and she helped us to find a taxi with an English speaking driver and a fixed price. We left the hotel about 10 AM, costume-laden suitcases in tow, to go to Yasmina’s apartment.

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On the way there, we kept bringing up dance topics while Amity made cutting motions across her throat (thank you, Amity!). We are in Egypt now. Best not to blabber on about being dancers in unknown company!

On the way there, with the cab blasting 90s pop music… oh, hey, there are the pyramids! Huge, huge, pyramids, just casually hanging out on the skyline. ‘S cool.

After just a short can ride, we arrived and Yasmina cane down to meet us. Karen and Amity were meeting a professional make-up artist, with stunning results, while I would put my face on in an adorable spare bedroom.

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We spent the next few hours changing costumes and posing and dancing in various corners of Yasmina’s flat. She is very particular about which colors work best in which settings, which is fantastic!

What a joy it was to dance on a rooftop balcony in Egypt under a warm sun in March!

Then came a venue change… At about 3 PM we packed up and headed to the desert to take pictures in front of th pyramids! We donned our desert costumes (bright colors best!), cover ups, and pulled on pants under our costumes. (Note to self: closed toe shoes would have been smart.)

We drove with Yasmina for about 15 minutes to some stables where she keeps her horse. There were 4 horses and a camel waiting for us. With no time to waste, we hiked up our cover ups and costumes and climbed into the saddles. Karen took the camel on the way out, while Amity and I rode horses. An experienced rider, Yasmina took on a high-stepping horse that was still in need of training.

We set off towards the desert, down a small dirt road past a cemetery, some unfinished construction (really common here), my horse being led by the guide since I have no training whatsoever in riding.

As we reached the edge of the desert, a group of eight or so young men came galloping towards us at full speed, ignoring our guide’s motions to slow down. They passed us and our horses didn’t even flinch.

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After about 15 minutes of a leisurely ride over hills of sand, we came to a ridge with a clear view of the pyramids. We dismounted and headed to the edge of the ridge. Yasmina took out her camera and the shoot began! It was a hazy day, with the sun in and out of the clouds, but the result was that our brightly color costumes popped even more against the backdrop.

The wind was strong when we started but it just kept getting stronger, providing really fun movement even when we were posing still. We tried all kinds of different types of set-ups… veils, dancing, poses, camels in the frame. So much fun!

After a while–and tons of shots–the light was fading and the wind was still getting stronger, and we were ready to call it a day. On the way back I decided to brave the camel. They are tall, with a rolling gait, so I was super nervous. But how can you pass that up?! It took a few minutes to figure out the right muscle groups to stay upright and comfortable, but once that phase passed it was awfully fun.

I don’t think there is anything more touristy than riding a camel in a belly dance costume (evinced by comments such as, “Aloha! You look very Egyptian.”). But, hey….. worth it!!

When we returned to Yasmina’s, Amity got a text from our wonderful tour guide from the previous day, Nibal, who said she was on her way by the other half of our group, who had visited Khan el Khalili that day, and she would pick us up.

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Egyptian Perfume Palace, Giza

As it turned out, the others were at the nearby Egyptian Perfume Palace so Nibal brought us there. The power was out (it happens from time to time) so everyone was sniffing botanical essences in the dark while sipping lemon and hibiscus drinks. Of course we couldn’t pass up this opportunity!

The lights came back on half an hour later and we all cheered, then looked around to see all of the beautiful tiny glass perfume bottles (actually made of Pyrex!) lining the walls. We made our purchases and headed back to the hotel, exhausted but happy!

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Making the Most Out of a Photo Shoot

Rosa Noreen by Rebecca Waldron

Rosa Noreen by Rebecca Waldron

It’s so exciting to get the results of a photo shoot–especially when you’re happy with the pics! I had the pleasure of working with Rebecca Waldron of RAW Art Photography when I was at Bellydance Masters in Orlando, FL in August. Not only is she a skilled photographer–she is also fantastic at directing dancers and putting us at ease. She KNOWS belly dance and that is a huge plus!

While it’s awesome to work with someone like Rebecca, you can take some steps to prepare for your shoot to make the most of it–no matter who your photographer is!

  • POSES. Prepare a few different poses BEFORE you come in. Look through photographs of other dancers to get some ideas. Go through your videos and take screenshots of specific moments you like. Then, PRACTICE these photos in the mirror! If possible, have a friend take cell phone pictures of your poses. The lighting won’t be fancy but you’ll be able to see your lines… chin up or down, shoulders hunched or open, hip up or down, etc. Also practice MOVING into the poses. Static shots are so much less fun than a moment of movement caught by the camera!
  • COSTUME. Practice in costume so you are comfortable with the skirt slit or what angles are caused by different straps. Be sure to iron or steam your skirt and veil before the shoot!  You’ll be glad you did.
  • SLEEP. The best thing you can do for your overall look is to get enough sleep. For me, this means at least TWO nights of 8 hours to banish the dark circles.
  • SKIN CARE. Follow your favorite beauty routine. I don’t recommend trying any NEW products prior to your shoot. If you happen to have an allergic reaction, that will be super disappointing! Do drink LOTS OF WATER so you are well hydrated. It’s best to start doing that a few days before your photo shoot.
  • The importance of eyebrows and false eyelashes

    The importance of eyebrows and false eyelashes

    MAKE-UP. Do some trial runs, keeping your costume in mind, a few days prior to your shoot. Take notes so your remember what products you like! While face powder is great for stage, I don’t recommend using it for a photo shoot as it tends to enhance any lines in your face. Lip gloss is also not recommended as you don’t want your lips to look wet. Instead, pat a bit of concealer on the center of your bottom lip and blend to get a plumped look. DEFINITELY fill in your brows and wear false eyelashes for the most finished look! If you’re not comfortable doing your own make-up, go to your local Sephora or MAC store. They will do your face in exchange for a minimum product purchase (usually $50ish). Check out Princess Farhana’s blog for more excellent make-up and photo shoot tips! She even has a post about contouring your BODY with make-up!

  • ARRIVAL. On the day of your shoot, wear something loose, like a maxi dress, that does not mark your skin with elastic waistbands or shoulder straps. Yes, those marks can be Photoshopped out, but it’s much easier when that’s not necessary!
  • Rosa Noreen by Rebecca Waldron

    Rosa Noreen by Rebecca Waldron

    NERVES. What puts you at ease? No matter how comfortable you are on stage (or not) being in a photo shoot can stir up some anxiety. It’s a great idea to bring some MUSIC that you enjoy to play in the background. If you have a FRIEND who makes you laugh or makes you feel especially confident, bring her or him along! Sometimes a glass of WINE can do the trick. While I don’t condone drinking during a performances, sometimes this can be helpful during a photo shoot as long as you don’t overdo it. 🙂

  • BREATHE. Really, truly. Deep breaths will help your nerves as well as helping your poses come alive. Delicious Pauses techniques come in hand here!
  • EMBRACE THE MISTAKES. Sometimes the shots you like best are the ones that were never meant to happen. For instance, the veil got caught on my head but because I was laughing, the photo above turned out to be my favorite one of the bunch!