26 November 2014


a very cold dreamscape shot on a frosty morning with the most amazing team and a very brave model.

dreamcatchers: universaal universum
model: adele thele kuusk
mua: maret ubaleht
wardrobe: model's own & artist design
assistant: taavi luhamaa

24 November 2014

difficult beauty

the idea for this series began sprouting as soon as i had found mirjam lehtonen's wonderful dresses. after a few conversations and a short trip to finland i finally had an ugly ikea bag full of the most gorgeous clothes and headpieces. we were ready to shoot!

i have loved this location ever since i first saw it at my third workshop and decided we needed to drive there. we promised the housekeeper not to set anything on fire this time and proceeded to create magic. it was super cold, maybe like 5 degrees, and the models were freezing (at first we didn't plan on using tights). however... everything went rather well and mairi created this beautiful behind the scenes film.

designer: mirjam lehtonen
black shoes: taavi turk
mua: maret ubaleht
hair: kairi katmann
assistant: magnus heinments
film: mairi sõelsepp
models: mirell lill @ living models, agnes anderson, kreete verlin
shot at kolga manor

published in YU magazine www.yu.ee

19 November 2014

becoming a full time artist

it's been almost four years since i first decided i wanted to pursue photography.

12th grade, lots of exams that i didn't really care about. i was skipping classes and spending all of my free time sketching and writing about pictures i was going to take. most of these ideas never came to life, but it helped me evolve. it was the only crazy thing that didn't let me drown in the messy high school issues and teenage relationships. an idea -- a single thought that became more important than anything else, crashing like a wave, pushing me deeper into the world of lenses and cameras.

i had been working on photomanipulations since i was fourteen but felt quite trapped with the limited resources, so i started shooting my own stuff. at first i didn't even have any equipment and i borrowed a friend's camera for my first shoots. however, it took only a few months and then i purchased my first nikon d90, pretty much all i could afford back then, with the kit lens, the 18-105mm.

some of my photography equipment - have added much more in 3 years
one of my best friends told me that i should stick with my digital artworks. everybody told me how photography can never be a decent career. my family wanted me to be fluent in french so that i could work in brussels, make lots of money and have a proper life.
i refused.

dreaming is often hard when you've got no place to fall, nobody to support your mind.

my first models were friends and girls from my high school. sometimes i asked strangers on the street. sometimes random people on facebook. it didn't take that much courage.
and apparently, it worked. i sold images to publishing houses, cd covers and advertisements. i could hardly believe that they were my photographs. my images. my creation.

i learned with my half-broken zenit-b the technical part of photography when i shot through about ten rolls of 35mm film and fell in love with the colours, and started creating my own photoshop curves and actions, to achieve the digital film look of faded shadows and dull highlights that became my colour grading style.

color grading example, all post processing done in camera raw and photoshop
2012 arrived and i bought a jupiter 135mm lens for 30 euros; super sharp glass that would only let you focus manually. it became my only lens for the whole year. perhaps it is the best portrait lens i have ever owned, it simply suited my workflow so nicely. it took longer to frame and focus, but yielded excellent results. i never wasted a shot.

my very first clients were musicians and i truly enjoyed shooting with them. everyone was surprised at my young age, maybe it was sort of an advantage at that time. other famous photographers knew about me and it was the scariest thing ever. i wasn't ready yet (or so i kept telling myself).

but sometimes all it takes is one single person who believes in what you do. they broke the pattern and let the old me go. the girl who only had illusions in her heart became the magician. they were the fire and i was the phoenix. their darkness became my home.

i met my make up artist in the beginning of 2013 and our collaborations were madly intense. she caught my ideas precisely and helped me bring to life even the craziest ones. she became my second brain, the logical thinker. we were and still are invincible.

we entered our very first photography contest in july and our team won first place plus best makeup.
then i realized we could do anything.

i promised myself i wouldn't be scared anymore.

1st place winner of iluguru magazine's fashion photography contest
later in 2013, i formed a full team and added two assistants/filmmakers, a stylist and a hairdresser.

it was perhaps in the beginning of 2014 when i decided that i no longer wanted to shoot simple portraits. i wanted to shoot fantastical, surreal, temperamental images. i needed something extraordinary and out of this world, so i got my team together and we started raiding local costume rentals and fashion designers, brainstorming ideas and setting things on fire. we quickly succeeded in creating our very own niche of mystical fine art photography and that is what i'm currently working on. it keeps me motivated and inspired, and i am incredibly grateful for my brain that is capable of creating such ideas.

simply -- i don't want to shoot boring pictures. i want something conceptual and different, i want something that makes the viewer stare for a while...

2014 was also the year of my first fantasy photo workshops. it has been an amazing opportunity for all of us, and i discovered how much i loved teaching and sharing my passion. there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the work of your students after a long day of training and seeing how much they have learned from you.

i have learned more about pyrotechnics than i ever thought i would. i have set myself on fire. i have set my favourite model on fire. i have learned about artificial lighting, posing and directing.
i have gained invaluable skills in leadership and organizing, and finally feel like i am 100% on the right path, doing something that i'm passionate about, and working for love, not for money.

3rd fantasy photo workshop in kolga manor // photo by mairi sõelsepp
i try to find my inspiration from movies, traditional art, music, nature and other surroundings, as i feel that looking at other photographers' work makes me copy it unintentionally. i do keep in touch with other photographers but it's mainly for networking purposes (and lunch dates).

lunch dates are totally a thing.
there is a lot of competitive jealousy and negativity in this industry, and i am trying to change that. you cannot have a career without networking. perhaps it is karma, but good things do come back to you, even if it's just helping a fellow artist with a few photoshop tips and tricks. i have gotten some of my favourite clients thanks to recommendations from other photographers, and i try to give back to the community as much as i can.

for me, success is no longer about money and being buried in work. i want to be able to photograph only the kind of things that i really like, to make contemporary art that breathes life. i want the subjects to experience the same kind of magic that i feel when i pick up the camera and frame them through the lens.

success is love. success is passion. success is sharing the knowledge. success is making mistakes and learning from them. success is happiness, growth and appreciation. success is giving and receiving inspiration. success is teamwork and friendships that we have formed over time.

to everyone who has been a part of this journey ♥

13 November 2014

of roses and thorns

muse: laura pärnpuu
mua: maret ubaleht
dresses: riina põldroos & estonia national theatre
set design: taavi luhamaa
assistant: katrin kasper
roses: lahe roos 

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we shot this series in the beginning of july '14... i wanted something magical with smoke and roses.
a story of a fairytale girl living in an abandoned mansion, dancing with the moonlight at nightfall.

shot with natural lighting + nikon d90 + 85mm f1.8

9 November 2014


sandra wanted something different for her pregnancy shoot, and i was very happy to provide that.
shot in tolkuse bog, pärnumaa

makeup by maret ubaleht

8 November 2014

boats and birds

test shoot with anett @ living models

makeup and hair by lydia feodora jakson
styled by alli-liis vandel
assisted by adele thele kuusk


ever since moving to the new apartment i had been wondering if it would be possible to shoot boudoir here. the walls are quite plain and there's barely any light in autumn... but it all worked out in the end. shot with natural light + one silver reflector. most of the images are simply color graded and unretouched.

listen to this

canon5d mkii + 50mm f1.4

muse: liisi tarve
mua: maret ubaleht
lingerie: bonbon

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