Easter is a momentous event around the world and you know it’s coming when you hear things like Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and the pastor at church talking about Transfiguration. This post was a transfiguration of a thought when I read Joe McNally’s recent blog entry where he talks about making that annual trip to Dubai for the awesome Gulf Photo Plus photography event running from March 5-10. The picture below is from the GPP website that Joe McNally made with the new Nikon D4 at a circus ring in Florida.
Folks spend a lot of money going to Europe and seeing old beaten down historic buildings like this one. This is a painting by the way and not the real deal but did I get the point across ?
I did just the opposite – I wanted to see the latest and greatest buildings built on a desert. I was in Dubai around the same time last year and right before the trip I sold-off all my photography gear faster than a stock broker in a panic sell-off on the NYSE floor. Why ? I wanted true ultra wide glass and not cropped off optics. Most times folks buy a camera and think about the glass later but I went for the glass first approach. The glass on my radar was none other than the stellar Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 ultra wide and the only way to truly enjoy it is on a full frame camera because a 14mm is a true 14mm on the FX sensor. Amazon ran a great special where you saved $400 off when you bought the D700 & the 14-24 – why think twice ? Booked a flight ticket to Dubai from Emirates and the stay from a famous Dubai portal.
It was time to write the diary of distortion in the desert. Spent most of the flight going over the camera manual and here is a tip if you have a smartphone – get the pdf of the manual from the manufacturers website for free and sync it to your phone. This way you save the trouble of carrying the damn manual around! I had been wanting to visit Dubai ever since the Burj Khalifa opened up. This city was meant for the camera. The latest and greatest in modern architecture awaited me and the thought was to get as much of the city into the frame as possible which is where the wide end of a stellar zoom like the 14-24 helps. I was going all-in and it was time for Dubai to show me her hand and I expected to win….
One of the big deals about the full frame camera is the much touted high ISO quality and I was ready to be amazed. Was I amazed ? Read on… The first stop was the Deira city centre which has been around in Dubai since 1995. I love arches in architecture . The word arch appears in the word architecture how many times again ? The entrance to the mall looked amazingly archy but it was the light that I saw through the doors that convinced me to let the camera do the heavy lifting of the Auto White Balance which I was told was significantly better with the new D700 firmware installed.
Once inside the mall it was a field day because its’ the cleanest architectural light I had ever seen. The first thing that grabbed my attention was this merry go-round which had a great mix of color and light around it. I was pleasantly surprised with what the camera gave me back in AWB because it’s an eclectic mix of color and light which can confuse the camera’s selection of a white point. The pillar with the blue base is what gives the scene a dimension otherwise it’s just another picture of a merry go-around. Well rounded architecture, well rounded selection of light, well rounded floor designs. The price tag of construction ? Well rounded….
That was dinner. More mall pictures was on the menu for dessert. We went upstairs a level and I just realized I would have been a fool to have not gotten this ultra wide lens with me on this trip because the big tall gold pillar and the sweeping balcony accentuated by the incandescent light on the dome ceiling was begging to be photographed. Plenty of available light and I knew this was the cleanest ISO 400 I would have ever shot. Looking back I could have dialed down to ISO 200 because that would have put me an easily hand holdable 1/13 which at 14mm is within the anti shake rule of having a shutter speed the inverse of the focal length.
The light accents that engulfed the dome ceiling were striking and it added a breath of fresh air to the distortion field I was suddenly getting addicted to. I used the light accents on the ceiling again to shoot 2 other chandeliers that I managed to see from the 3rd floor of the mall. I stitched the 2 shots together and it made me giddy! Perhaps architecture could be designed like this one day. CLICK TO ENLARGE….
If you need to give your neck a serious twisting, an ultra wide lens can help. How ? See the 2 chandeliers in the shot above ? I went downstairs right underneath that and composed in a way that chopped off the edges of the chandelier and got these in return….
An ultra wide lens can give you the illusion of eternity within a finite space especially with a composition consisting of repeating lights and repeating architectural patterns that extend from one end of a structure like a shopping mall to the other end of it. I was standing at the top of the escalator to go down when I looked up eye level and the picture was in my brain before it was on the cameras’ sensor!
What happened when I turned around and looked the opposite direction ? I got a sense of the width of the entire mall.
As we moved around my eyes picked up on the repeating lights again and their reflections on the floor of the mall. I wanted to use this sense of eternity that is offered from an ultra wide zoom to bring the lights and the reflections into a frenzying pattern. If you are ever out at a mall observe the lights and try to see the bigger picture with the reflections on the floor. You will never see mall lighting the same way ever again…..
You can frame a dame if she happens to be standing around in the composition that you are trying so hard to get right….
Photography is prohibited in most stores but I cheated. I mean how often did I see black mannequins standing at ease ?
On closer inspection from the sides I realized she was pushing on her tush….
The Auto White Balance was holding up pretty impressively all throughout to my wonderful surprise! The next store had 2 interesting arrangements of mannequins – white and black – headed and beheaded. What ?! Notice the posture of all 4 of these white mannequins. One’s gotta neck hurtin’ real bad, the other’s gotta back hurtin’ real bad, the other’s gotta knees hurtin’ real bad and the last one to the left seems quite alright standing at ease and pushing her tush….
I moved an aisle down and I see another set of black mannequins with the exact same postures but their heads missing. I think the law around these parts of the world condemns adultery by beheading the women. If the men commit adultery – give me a break, how can you have 5 wives and be an adulterer at the same time ? If 5 wives cannot satisfy you then you have a mental problem. There is no punishment for men for adultery, they are just sent to an asylum with no female ( or male ) contact. Sexually grounded. Back to the store…. The message of these headless mannequins is simple – you’ll look great in these clothes even if you dont’ use your head. Still not with me on this ? Wake up! This is a no-brainer purchase dear ladies…. I love that light. Its moonlight on steroids….
I had enough of the mall and after a while I felt like I was back in America. The headless mannequins sent me away laughing. The whole point of the trip was to feel like I was in a different place and time. I walked out of the mall and there in front of me was this amazing water fountain with palm trees around it. I knew this was a perfect scene to stress the high ISO end of the chip. I wanted to let the ISO numbers rip into the thousands. I had just stepped out of the mall with the ISO dialed into 400. How about adding an extra zero to the end of 400 ?! I had the lens zoomed to 15mm level on the ground trying to shoot the water fountain. What’s the shutter speed you need to not have a blurry picture at a focal length of 15mm ? 1/15. Remember that golden rule – the shutter speed should be the inverse of the focal length to give a steady shot ( if you dont’ have the VR function that lets you dip to about 4 stops slower ). But what was I trying to freeze here? Nothing! But I just wanted the whole thing to be steady so it’s not a blurry mess. The ISO climbed all the way to ISO 5000 for me to get to 1/13 and that was easily enough to let me snap this up and to get those jets of water looking like bent tubelights….
The VR technology has found its’ way into ultra wide zooms of late. The Nikkor 16-35 F/4 VR is a good example for being the industry first to incorporate VR into an ultra wide zoom but at shorter focal lengths handholding slower shutter speeds is not such a big deal. I moved closer to the fountain that was beckoning me. I perched on top of the fountain to get a higher vantage point and zoomed all the way wide to 14mm for this shot below. As I got closer to the light the camera gave me back a comfortable 1/20s to handhold which was more than enough. What more is 1/20s going to do here ? It’s going to give the moving water a solid look because of the slower shutter speed. The beauty of the setup was that each of the water springs had its own source of light otherwise there is no way this would be possible. When I got back to America I printed this shot on a 10*12 print and the lady who processed the print had her jaws open wider than 14mm ( in focal length terms ) when I told her the ISO rating on it!
I became a FX sensor believer! The clean files at high ISO lets the photographer push the boundaries like never before without the fear factor of noisy pixel paint all over the frame. This has helped take pictures which were just impossible before. Just imagine film shooters having to have different ISO film and being not able to get that shot when it’s right there in front of them ! I remember wasting a whole roll of Kodachrome with underexposed shots of a magic show because the sensitivity was just not there to get those moments. What the heck! Those days are over and with a turn of the dial the language of light is being listened to better than ever before. In case you were wondering if the full frame camera’s have a High ISO NR function – they do with varying levels of Low/Medium/High. I don’t find myself using it very much as much as I did while I shot APS-C. It was time to hit the bed because I was jet lagged….
Woke up the next morning to reality ( taking a break from distortion ). I was in the middle of the world and 7000 miles away from Nashville but the reality of Nashville struck me in Dubai. The reality that Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift are driving the world of country music into pop. Tim McGraw sang about this reality in a song from a few years ago called “Back When” where he sang
“I’m readin’ Street Slang For Dummies
Cause they put pop in my country
I want more for my money
The way it was back then”
Country music thrives on singing about how it all used to be and then some drinking songs like Toby Keith’s latest “Red Solo cup”. Heck, Brad Paisley made a song that was called just “Alcohol” and it was a runaway hit! The Gulfnews had the whole tabloid running a story on this New Era of country music. The 14-24 lens focuses so close even at 14mm and its’ the closest I would get to doing a wide angle macro. Try this on people wide open at F2.8 and it will blow you away!
I found this tabloid entry fascinating because it got me thinking about the whole country music business and its’ strategy of surviving these days. What did the business do ? The same exact thing that Tim McGraw sang about – they made country pop! The proof is in the pudding – Taylor Swift made it to the 2012 Guinness Book Of World Records for the Fastest Selling Digital Album by a Female Artist for her album Speak Now. Remarkable for a 22 year old! Another reason I found this Gulfnews tabloid fascinating was that there would be readers who were interested in this kind of analysis ! The inside story on this had the title HIP.COOL.FRESH. It was a fresh look at reality and – what is Steven Tyler doing here with Carrie Underwood ?? That picture tells of another totally different direction country music is going. I am still waiting for the one of country girls to sing “Falling in love is so hard on the knees”…
Then it was time to get out of bed. I had heard of the famed Dubai metro and learnt pretty quickly that was the way to go to move around this desert city. The train station was a stones’ throw away from the Le Meridien we stayed at which was a stone’s throw away from the Dubai International Airport. My neck needed a little twisting up as I walked out of the hotel and I took a picture of the hotel while I was at it. I just had to get myself to fall back into the distortion field as we walked out to catch the train to go see the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa.
Since we are talking up distortion here I will explain what is Barrel distortion here with this simple picture below I shot as I stood around waiting for a cab to show up. What’s a barrel ? It’s a big wooden tank curved outward. That’s what barrel distortion does to a picture. It gives a frame a bulbous appearance. Another prominent distortion is pincushion distortion. Its’ that phenomena where the edges of an ultra wide picture appear stretched just like the edges of a pincushion. I took this picture hoping someday I could show it someone who would ask me what Barrel distortio meant and here it is a year later.
Sometimes you dont’ know why you took a picture but re-imagining it after a while will open up a new opportunity. Dont’ stifle creativity – just get the picture and it will all come back to you like karma.
The train stations are fascinating. They have this brown roofing pattern that curves around the whole station ceiling very cleanly. I began to think that the architects who came up with these designs in Dubai thought first “Would this look good in pictures?” before they approved it for the next step. Re-imagining this shot a year later I am convinced they did.
As I reached the top of the elevator and gave this another look the whole frame looked to me like a spider with tentacles with the elevator beams bent like the tentacles of a spider! I certainly don’t have arachnophobia…
As I waited for the train I noticed that they had put lights in the brown ceiling and the floors were matched up in color to the ceiling. My mind was still fresh from shooting the repeating pattern of lights at the Deira mall the night before and I continued in those footsteps. A great thing about these stations was that they had allowed enough natural light to come in from both sides of the station on the rail entrance and exit which is smart because it saves on electricity.
Hopped on the train and as we rolled toward Dubai downtown the fabled buildings boasting cutting edge design began to show their face and I found a new nickname for Dubai – “The Manhattan of the Middle East“. I was spellbound with their beauty and I didn’t have much time to stay spellbound because the train was moving fast and these buildings were speeding by pretty fast too. Staying at a fast shutter speed is the only way to go when you are shooting architecture on the go. Each building competed to be different but with some similar patterns which is indicative of having common designers who were mostly American or British.
And the next….
Then it was time for the tallest of them all – the Burj Khalifa. The time was about noon. This was great because the sun is right above us all. From a distance I stood for a few minutes spellbound by the fact that for the first time in my life I was seeing the tallest structure ever made by man. I had time to stay spellbound because I wasn’t on the train anymore. Now this was a unique opportunity to shoot because of everything this building had going for it. The world’s tallest building, a 6 star hotel inside, interiors done by Armani and lately Mission Impossible stunts performed on it. I wanted to have some fun with composition. We quip “so high it touches the sky”. What if its’ “so high it touches the sun” ? I went to cloudy white balance for this one and programmed in some underexposure to the frame otherwise the meter would just blow the sun all out of proportion. I angled it such that the tip of the Burj looked like it was touching the sun and the underexposure that I programmed in give me the sun in a nice white circle. The underexposure also helps get the circular lining from the rays of the sun right.
As I walked towards the Burj what do I see again ? Mannequins! This time the black mannequin had a head. Now are they as tall as the buildings ? They sure do appear so because I composed this from a low angle at the widest possible focal length. The lens I am using is no PC-E lens which is short for Perspective Correction so naturally they are bent out of shape because the distortion is taking over the focal plane here! This is a customary outfit dictated by religion that is popularly worn by men and women around this part of the world. Men wear white and the women wear black. One last detail – these mannequins are not made out of cheap plastic like the ones in the mall from last night but it did feel and look like marble to me…
Finally there I was at the foothills of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa at 1 Emaar Blvd. Here is your arabic lesson for the day…
As I turned left I had this crazy idea of rolling up the address board and the Burj into one frame. I worked in some underexposure to keep the sun in check and knew I could recover some of the building in post. What I got cracked me up. I had Bent the Burj with a straight up composition! This looked like the world’s tallest leaning tower…
I felt so goofy with these framing possibilities I decided to compose with the tip of the Burj pointing to the top left of the frame with some water springs at the bottom of it !
And now here we go to the right!….
I began to feel giddy with all the goofy compositions and with just the sheer height of this marvel. How long can you look up at a building that is a staggering 2,716.5 feet ! I had to sit down for a bit. As I sat there, I saw a couple dressed in the customary Arab costume pause their walk and stare up at the Burj. I knew I had a picture because the frame would show the locals looking up at their city’s greatest treasure and I brought some nature into the frame as well.
It was time to go inside. The Dubai Mall which is a landmark of it’s own is part of the Burj Khalifa complex. The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall with about 1200 shops ! Its’ one of a kind you could say. This was eons more modern that. The ceiling had a big giant star etched in illuminated by natural light. The ceilings had a unique lighting pattern in that the lights were tucked away doing the job of lighting the lines that were carved on the ceiling. Thats’ architecture re-imagined….
Looked straight level to the horizon for the cross sectional shot of this complex and I got a feeling that there was a big pair claws that was coming to entangle and scoop me up !
I almost fell from the first floor trying to shoot this one below and wondered why anyone didnt’ think of putting an ice skating ring on here. This was a perfect spot. But then when you can ski in the desert why skate ? Ski ?! Read on…
It was time for some cuckoo composition. The roof looked like the ceiling of the Emirates airline that I took to get here from Houston and I decided to play with the steel rails a bit by giving it a point of reference at the bottom left of the frame. You can always re-imagine architectural composition and come up with something crazy of your own….
This is how the scene above looks when things are making sense. Wonder how many megapixels it took to print that poster!…
Why did I shoot this next picture ? Its’ make sense after a year of shooting it because it was leading me to something else. It’s pattern and color is important for what lay ahead. These reminded me of the Tron:Legacy movie. Remember the costumes with the long mint blue lines anyone ?? Remember – the escalator is an invaluable tool when you are around a shopping mall trying to capture shots of it because it puts you at different angles moving from one floor to the next….
After my eyes were conditioned to a slightly bluish tinge all over, things got ever bluer. Our next stop was the Dubai Aquarium and the underwater zoo and it was time to experience the famous shark tunnel that looked bluer than blue from the outside. I knew instantly that ultra wide shots of the tunnel would be extraordinary especially with the large shoals of fish that were scurrying around in that giant fish tank along with the sharks …and the divers. I walked into the shark tunnel and the mint blue beams I saw on the ceiling while on the elevator came back in a more fluid form this time. They had lined up white lights along the length of the tunnel overhead which added to this effect. I waited for the yellow-tailed fish to gather as a shoal above me and they looked like they were going to get sucked into a blue light vacuum!
There was a giant sting ray that caught my attention while we stood outside to get in and I desperately wanted a shot from underneath it. I waited around till it came overhead and just trusted the pop-up flash with this one! What happens when the background is bright and the subject in the foreground is in the shadow ? The subject will naturally be underexposed. Thats’ where you use the pop-up flash that can usually sync all way to 1/250s.
Now for something technical…So why does the picture below of the tunnel suddenly look different in its tone ?!
What happened to the Tron Legacy blueness ? The answer to most seasoned eyes would say its the White Balance correction. Thats’ what it is. I had a business card in my wallet which like most business cards is white – front and back. The auto white balance was picking the really cool end of the spectrum like its’ supposed to. But in most cases that’s not the natural order of things as far as color is concerned. This is where you use the PRE setting of the white balance setting of the camera. It’s basically a preset setting in which you tell the camera what the white point is. It’s all about getting the White Right ( nothing political here )! The camera is going to use the white point you dictate. How do you dictate that ? You hold a piece of white paper under the light you are in and shoot a frame in the PRE setting with the lens in manual focus. If the camera says GOOD on the readout you have done the job of telling your camera “What White is right now“. This works anywhere in the world under any type of light and fixes the whole issue of getting the right white balance in tough harsh light. The whole white balance business is a little fishy sometimes and it was time to head to the light at the end of this tunnel…..
After walking out of the tunnel and all those fishes I ran into a Red Lobster mall space that was opening up pretty soon. It totally makes sense to be right next to all that sealife! Fresh Fish. Live Lobster. Coming to Dubai soon….
This was the wall of a french restaurant at the mall. I am pretty sure this was the work of a Frenchman, they seemed to have run out of ideas to get done in Paris and decided to plunge into the Dubai market with both arms stretched….
The Gold beckons. There was a gold “mini mall” inside the mall aka Gold Souk. The Gold Souk inside the Dubai Mall had the nicest architecture in store! The recession has had its’ toll on the shopping in these areas but they leave the lights on nonetheless. The store lighting had the quality of window light on a sunny day and that’s one heck of a chandelier spread on the ceiling…
I think I finally fell in love with middle eastern architecture after walking through the Gold Souk inside the Dubai Mall. The lighting job and the painting job has to blend for it to be anything special. The Rotunda has been re-invented and re-imagined like never before summarizes what’s been envisioned and executed here in the shot below. Focal length used ? 14mm of course because its’ an efficient focal length to capture all with less frames!
I think I was still reeling from the after effects of composing the Burj with it’s tip pointing to the top right corner of the frame. Those chandeliers look like alien ships but shouts “look at me!!” as well….
I think the middle of the picture below gives a sense of reality – the reality that these jewelry shops extended till infinity. The architecture blends in ancient middle eastern themes with an edge of modernism like nothing I have seen. Even the placement of an ordinary thing as a nameplate to a store on the wall had a simple elegance…
Now why would PF Chang’s not have a presence in the world’s largest mall ?? America’s #1 China Bistro has found a new prestigious spot right in the middle of the world. The door to your left ladies and gentlemen. I looked for the door to go out because I had enough of mall lighting and my eyes needed to re-adjust to natural light and see the Burj in perspective to the whole complex….
This is the rear of the PF Changs restaurant that’s opening up. The thought of gobbling down that Chengdu Lamb sipping on a vodka tonic looking at the world’s tallest building sounds sumptous…
After a day around the Burj it was time to meet some of the folks I happened to know around the city. My college buddies in Dubai caught up with me later at night and they were also not spared from getting a ride around the distortion field! We met up in a Chili’s after 8 long years and I taught them the ways of Texas – I ordered up a full round of fajitas and taught them how to roll it up in a tortilla! I used the same composition that I used for the Gulf News tabloid picture I shot the first thing that morning! Go wide , go close but it might make people look fat inspite of being skinny….
The Battle of the barrels! The 14-24 Nikkor has a buxom front lens element that is one a kind in the industry. You can call it the Dolly Parton of lenses. When I saw this mirror in a parking lot the temptation was too good to turn down and I decided to play the game of ” My lens has more distortion than yours!”….
It was time to hit the dunes the next day. A trip to Dubai is incomplete without the desert safari which is basically a roller coaster ride through the dunes in a 4-by-4. While we stopped on the road before we hit the dunes I snapped up this tribesman with a falcon perching on his arm. Matching headbands inspired by the scales of the falcon I assume. These beautiful birds are constant companions of these tribesmen.
Once again – go close, go wide which is helpful if you are dealing with birds with long wingspans. I got a chance to get close to a very native indulgence…
Everyone needs to let off some air before having some mindless fun. That’s the driver of our SUV Mr Wilson letting some air loose from the tires before we hit the dunes…
Once the ride began we held on for dear life on the bar overhead. I was bumping around with the camera and the thought that some goofy pictures might result from this wild ride we were on struck my head as soon as my head struck the ceiling! The kids were feeling distorted, I was feeling distorted and just when one of them decides to take the risk of biting off his own tongue by sticking it out for a picture in the middle of an extremely bumpy ride, I was right there zoomed out to 14mm at F2.8 – the possibilities were not wide open given the bumping around !
We stopped for a rest from the ride. It was 3PM and a cool 75F in the middle of the desert in the middle of the world. This felt awesome and we were regaining our senses back which is when I decided to do some landscapes of the desert. The color of the sand was nothing like I had experienced because I had never actually been in a desert. I did wish we had bright blue skies but all I got was a photography forecast that said “cloudy with harsh highlight”.
There is a little more depth to this picture above. It was April 2011 – the Arab Spring was in full bloom which sparked revolutionary changes to governments all across the Middle East. Dubai was spared the trouble of it all because most of the UAE folks were happy with the way things are. This picture contradicted everything that was happening outside the UAE. This picture looks so serene that it was hard to imagine that a few hundred miles outside the border, people were taking to the streets and distorting the future of their countries. The only distortion that was happening in the UAE at the present moment was the distortion of my ultra wide lens and I was enjoying this Middle East Peace. Peace and distortion can co-exist much like Faith & Doubt – you get rid of Doubt with Faith and you get rid of the distortion with peace ( and some Lightroom lens corrections… )
What happens when you add an animate object to inanimate and serene scenery. I saw our driver Mr Wilson standing there smiling and I noticed the very little hair on his balding scalp standing up. The ride is a thrill ride like nothing else in a vehicle and every inch of hair on your body will rise up to the occassion. I asked him to stand dead still and got the frame. The desert sand just lends a great backdrop to portraiture as I found out from watching some of the videos that Joe McNally had posted on youtube where he shot models in the desert with a tree of flashes. He quips he decided to do that because he was so bored with downtown Dubai he decided to run off to the desert with his camera and some models- sounds like what I felt. It was some ride and my whole body felt distorted! I was ready to see the belly dancer ….
Mr Wilson had enough of the camera in his face. As I was walking back I noticed the confused girl in the black dress looking to where Mr Wilson was pointing to. He’s telling us where we are going to do the next big drop next! But her little brother really doesn’t want to go where everyone else in the pack is going. Look at the left of the frame. He really wants to go the opposite direction. He is mimicking what Mr Wilson is doing ! When you fit so much into a frame you will find something down the road that tells a story….
I hear the roar of a buggy from the rear left channel of this distortion theater. What cracked me up was the flag of the UAE flying from the back of it. I am pretty sure they got this great idea from the Americans….
As I walked to get back into the SUV I noticed the patterns on the sand and that just had me awestruck on how nature can work so perfectly with no computer help and yet produce parallel lines on the sand almost perfectly. Its’ something worth contemplating when your brain is normal but I had just enough brevity of wit to think about it. You looked at this for a while and you got the sense that time just froze. This was one heck of a divine design….
How can I leave the desert without having a camel pose for a frame ? The Dromedary’s skin tone is really close to the color of the sand it treads on which is quite a remarkable coincidence don’t you think ? Most camera’s have a face recognition feature and the camels have a photographer recognition feature which is why it kept flexing its’ butt. These animals are one thick skinned species of creatures!….
We finally arrived at the spot where we were going to spend the rest of the night in. This was the entertainment camp where the dancers would show up later at night and dinner would be served in a few hours. The light was starting to fade. Just look at that sand! Its’ silkier than silk….
The first dance of the night was a Tanoura Dance. The highlight of this dance form is the ancient spin that the performers undergo during most of the duration. They stop spinning at the end of the performance apparently showing no signs of dizziness or discomfort. The Tanoura beat is religious in nature and the performers are said to enter a trance-like state during the performance, being one with God. Now this is very much like dancing at a club except God is never in the picture. Kept the aperture wide open and went to ISO 6400 which is the highest natural ISO stop of the D700 before getting into the very usable Hi1,2 settings. I got a great 1/125s to freeze the action and also convey a sense of movement…
Suddenly the lights went out and the whole skirt lighted up. This is called shocking the meter. The Matrix is dark. But a few light bulbs persist. That’s ok. It can still meter for it. No change of exposure from the previous shot just shows how far technology has progressed to keep up with flash changes of the shooting exposure and give you what you need. Use the Auto ISO function of your DSLR for constantly changing exposures by setting the minimum shutter speed that is the inverse of the longest end of the zoom. On a full frame camera this is a huge plus because of the high ISO prowess thanks to the larger pixels the large sensor has.
He came around and the size of that skirt was bigger than I imagined it to be! I had to mount the SB-600 for this one and got one flashy shot. Red seemed to be color of choice mostly. He does look like he is one with God. I am usually at a concert when I swing stuff in the air….
Then came the belly dancer and apparently the old dude was mesmerized by her onslaught. He didn’t even bother picking up his camera like the rest behind him !
The pen is mightier than the sword but not to a belly dancer. I had to crop the original shot because I didnt have a telephoto lens and with so much high ISO dialled in I was surprised at how clean the cropped file looked…
She swayed, she swinged and said goodbye. It didnt’ really matter if I didnt’ see anything else in Dubai, the belly dancing is THE real deal…..
That was day 3 of the trip and it was time to hit the bed but given the right amount of light hitting the lens of my eye I can get my second wind. The bright lights that lit up the neighborhood of the hotel reeled me in for a few more shots to signoff the day!
Once back inside the hotel guess what was more for the taking ? More light and I shook my slumber and explored the many works of art you could put inside circles…
The table at the middle of the last frame caught my attention and I moved in closer to it. Framed it within the semi-circle of the giant big circle on the floor. Jacked up the ISO to get to higher ground with the shutter speed because the last frame was less conspicious to shake. At such short focal lengths it just doesnt matter really!
I think kids can comprehend geometry better if they are taught it by explaining it walking around architecture. It serves 2 purposes – it will get them to learn better and get them to move around more. My first impulse was to reach for the White Balance button but I thought screw it. This is exactly how it looked. The average of the light sources made peace at the table inside the housing of my camera…..
The next day began with a trip to the Dubai Museum which I heard was not that big of a deal so I didn’t go inside but just stood around snapping up Old Dubai…and it’s cannons.
Yes I take back what I said at the start of the post about visiting Europe and seeing its broken down buildings. Dubai does have it’s share of it but it’s not Europe…
The gift shop in the picture below is a far cry from the gift shops I saw inside the Dubai Mall! It has a terrace and it’s on wheels and it has windows. Now I want to bet this gift shop had better margins on paper than some of the one’s in the mall. Why ? Natural light saves a ton of electricity. In the case of photography the need for flashes and their batteries are mitigated in some cases by superior high ISO performance. Natural light photography is more eco-friendly you could say which is why I prefer high ISO’s compared to lugging flashes around…
One of the traditional trade boats was on show right next to the fort housing the Dubai Museum. The thing looked brand new. They take a lot of pain in preserving stuff like this. No pain, no gain in tourism…
The oldest cinema hall in Dubai needed some repairs….
The next stop was the Dubai City of Gold. Hold your breath for this one. Dubai City is known as the City of Gold, for it is the largest Gold trading centre in the entire Middle East. The fact that Dubai is the City of Gold is becoming known everywhere, as the city imports hundreds of tons of gold from the major manufacturing countries of the world. The recent years have seen the city of Dubai develop very rapidly, especially in the gold jewelry sector. Dubai’s gold industry is famous for its high quality of gold and impressive stylish designs. Another important factor that can be attributed to Dubai’s successful gold industry is because of the free trade environment, and that makes Dubai one of the cheapest places in the world to buy gold jewelry. The Dubai Gold & Jewelry Group was established in the year 1996 with about 250 members with the main idea of helping support the first Dubai Shopping Festival. And, over the years, this Group has become a prestigious trade body with more than 700 members whose main aim is to promote the jewelry industry not only in Dubai but all over the world. Suddenly the photographer started to get a Goldeneye ( which was actually the name of Ian Fleming’s estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica ).
Once I walked through the hallowed gates of the Dubai city of Gold I saw an eternity of shops selling Gold Jewelry. It’s said about 60-70% of the gold transacted in the world is done in Dubai. I knew from previous shooting at 14mm that it gives a sense of eternity in architecture if repeating patterns are lined up just the right way. Made no exceptions here. There was a roof with natural light seeping in through the sides of it. I used the optics to convey the truth – the truth that the shops extend to eternity!
You could spend eternity trying to pick something out here. I had struck a goldmine of pictures….
Mr Goldfinger would have loved a stroll down this alley with Pussy Galore. It was Operation Grand Slam all over again here…..
I think this was inspired by the I Love NY stickers! Smoking is strictly prohibited in public but alcohol is available for purchase freely…
Buggies have flags so do the boats! It was time to hit the water trade channels to get a feel for the volume of stuff being traded across the Gulf. All the boats ( like the buggies in the dunes ) have the UAE flag flying high.
Inspite of the modernity engulfing this Gulf state, plasma TV’s are still transported in these old boats across the seas. The TV sets sit there on the dock waited to get loaded onto those wooden boats.They haven’t raised the bar on that yet….
On the way to Sheikh Mohammed’s palace I found this building with a sphere on top dimpled like a golf ball. All that was missing was a Tiger Wood’s poster along the side of it. Dont’ think that would have worked since he was just caught red-handed by his wife at the time for cheating on her. It’s rumored Tiger had girlfriends in Dubai..
That’s the entrance to the palace of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The Sheikh is the absolute monarch of Dubai and the Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates. This is all we could see as they don’t let any of the public past those gates. This was royal enough….
Dubai has a great highway system. They don’t pull you over for speeding – just send you a nice note in the mail with a fine amount which keeps getting higher each time for each subsequent offense. That’s downtown Dubai in the background and we were on the way to the Mall of the Emirates. Another mall to frame up!
The Mall of the Emirates is very widely know for the Ski Dubai marvel. It may be 130F outside but you can still go skiing perenially. Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square metres of indoor ski area. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It was developed by Majid Al Futtaim Properties, which also operates the Mall of the Emirates. Opened in November 2005, the indoor resort features an 60-meter high indoor mountain with 5 slopes of varying steepness and difficulty, including a 400-metre-long run, the world’s first indoor black run, and a 90-metre-long quarter pipe for snowboarders. An extremely efficient insulation system helps the facility maintain a temperature of −1 °C during the day and −6 °C at night when the snow is produced.
Gold to go – the Gold ATM. They do take credit cards for all you can buy gold. This was a shocker but in perspective it makes sense with Dubai being such a gold trade hotbed.
Back to my old tricks of shooting architecture while on escalators. The angle just blew me away…
TGI fridays had a psychedelic feel to it’s presence. People are usually psychedelic when they say “thank god, its friday”…
Of course a stop at the Burj Al Arab was on the cards! The hotel is not really a seven star hotel – its a Five star Deluxe. The whole 7 star thing was invented by some journalists who were fascinated with its opulence and called it 7 star out of journalistic fervor. This thing is a beauty to be seen. Even the gates have miniatures shaped like the hotel ! I decided to frame one shot with the 2 lane road leading to the hotel to bring in the landscape.
Then I walked a little closer to it. Yes, thats’ a helipad on top of it! At 321 m (1,053 ft), it is the fourth tallest hotel in the world. Burj Al Arab stands on an artificial island 280 m (920 ft) out from Jumeirah beach, and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship.
Another day, another battle of the barrels. They had this mirror setup facing the hotel for photographs so we didn’t waste that opportunity..
Shutter drag – the oldest trick in the photography book. We were speeding away to the Palm Jumeirah Island and as the lights in the tunnel came into view, my senses woke up to the possibility of a frame. The ultra wide zooms are made for tight spaces – like a car – and I composed in such a way to bring the driver in. It does give you an impression we are going at a 130mph doing just 50mph..
That was the coolest looking mosque I have ever seen. It shouted modernity with it’s use of the glass and had a simplicity that was charming…
There I arrived at the tip of the Palm Island which is a creation of creation like nothing else. The tip of the Palm island is adorned by the famous Atlantis hotel which is a 5 star hotel with 1500 rooms! It is one wide angle wonder. CLICK TO ENLARGE..
The main stem of a palm tree resembled a building with brown windows! I wanna bet the window designs were inspired by a palm tree. So I decided to try something wacky by framing the stem of the tree in the middle of the hotel in the background! Went wide – wide open with close focus as is evidenced by the numbers of the shot.
Air conditioned bus stops -a world first. Come June you’ll need them and some of that Nivea Sun lotion. Whoever thought of advertising the Nivea lotion on these was a genius but I am pretty sure you can see the bus arriving sitting inside even though it doesn’t look like you could from the oustide!
This picture below is a personal favorite of mine. I had been craving to take a picture of a mosque but kept putting it off and then I said enough because this was to be my last day in Dubai. This caught my eye on Jumeirah beach and I discreetly stood by the wall outside under the palm tree and as soon as I looked through the viewfinder this is what I saw and I didnt’ think twice. Mixing a bit of the vegetation around the architecture can be rewarding….
6.30 AM the next day and back at the Dubai airport. The camera was packed up and ready to fly to Kuwait. I was a little sleepy being not such a great morning person but the right light can be a shot in the arm. The blue skies that eluded me all the while showed itself in the background. But the choice of lighting on the archy architecture at the airport told me one more thing – the guys who designed it wanted everyone to fly back with one last shot outside the airport. So why not provide the tourists with the lights to smile about ?
One dreamy eyed air hostess told me to keep discovering Dubai again with a smile on her face in the midst of all the lines and the lights! Its’ a great airline and the benefits of those piled up mileage is amazing!
If they can make folks ski in the desert they might as well grow some conifers. Once inside the airport I saw conifers for which enough room has been left to grow taller. If its’ a Georgia pine they are still in good shape because the roof of the new airport is high as the sky!
This shot above was the last shot of Dubai I had on my camera’s memory card because those pillars looked way too cool – sort of something that a sci-fi fantasy township would have. Then it was time to take off to Kuwait for Operation Desert Storm 3. Dubai left me dazed and confused. Dazed because I indulging in distorted art. Confused as to how long the city can sustain itself in all its grandeur and opulence with no oil reserves. It’s the safest and cleanest place I have ever been to in my life. I just hope the right people dont’ write checks their bodies can’t cash and repeat past mistakes. Visit Dubai – it will knock you off your feet and leave you wanting a neck massage….
The 2012 summer edition of the Nikon quarterly magazine Nikon Pro had published an article on the rising prominence of Dubai to creative professionals. They published an amazing picture of the Burj Al-Arab dressed up like a lady out for a saturday night in Amsterdam ( pic below ) !
At 321 m (1,053 ft), it is the fourth tallest hotel in the world. Burj Al Arab stands on an artificial island 280 m (920 ft) from Jumeirah beach and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as “the world’s only seven-Star hotel”, its star rating has been often debated. The hotel is officially rated Five-Star Deluxe. However, it is frequently described as “the world’s only seven-Star hotel”, although the hotel management claims to never have done that themselves. In the words of a Jumeirah Group spokesperson: “There’s not a lot we can do to stop it. We’re not encouraging the use of the term. We’ve never used it in our advertising.” According to the group, the “Seven-Star” notion was brought to being by a British journalist who visited the hotel on a pre-opening press trip. The journalist “described Burj al Arab in her article as above and beyond anything she had ever seen and called it a seven-star hotel.
Burj Al Arab has attracted criticism as well “a contradiction of sorts, considering how well-designed and impressive the construction ultimately proves to be.” The contradiction here seems to be related to the hotel’s decor. “This extraordinary investment in state-of-the-art construction technology stretches the limits of the ambitious urban imagination in an exercise that is largely due to the power of excessive wealth.” Another critic includes negative critiques for the city of Dubai as well: “both the hotel and the city, after all, are monuments to the triumph of money over practicality. Both elevate style over substance.” Yet another: “Emulating the quality of palatial interiors, in an expression of wealth for the mainstream, a theater of opulence is created in Burj Al Arab … The result is a baroque effect”.
There was a very important addition to the airline line up on the international front at the Dallas Forth International Airport earlier in 2012. Emirates began flying non-stop daily flights starting at 11:50AM from DFW to DXB ( the airline code for the amazing Dubai International Airport ). Connecting Dubai and Dallas is huge because Texas is the only US state with 2 flights to Dubai but the awesome A380 only flies out of JFK airport in NYC. Here is a world map where I sketched out the Texas routes for the Dubai flights which is pretty impressive because a bulk of the passengers are people living in India & Pakistan visiting their families. Immigration fuels the airline industry in this case…
Before I finish this update to the post I also want to point out why it’s really cool to have your photography business on a Nikon publication – because all over the world will discover your outfit! Once such Dubai-based outfit that I came across while browsing the literature was “Hot Shots Dubai“. Owned by a photographer by the name of Charlotte Simpson it’s a good look into running a small photography/creative business in that part of the world. The Hot Shots Dubai business seems to cover a wide range of clientele offering photoshoots in a wide variety of situations like events and still photography. Charlotte’s LinkedIn profile had the following awards listed which is mighty impressive for a new small business in a very cosmopolitan and competitive environment like Dubai –
Winner MEBA Best Small Company 2008
MEBA Best Business Of The Year 2008
Finalist MEBA Best Family Business Of The Year 2008
Winner Bronze Award – UAE WEB AWARD 2008
Winner Lloyds TSB SBA – Best Entrepreneurial Start Up award 2007
Charlotte has been showing off her work “A Journey through the Masai Maraa” which is a breathtaking window on the Kenyan Mara-Serengeti, with its abundant wildlife and indigenous people at many locations like the Armani Hotel ( Dubai ) and more recently at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Viceroy hotel. Kudos Charlotte and it’s an amazing testament to western talents finding traction to do their life’s best work in some of the new worlds of today. I guess you could say the same about the architects who designed the amazing skyscrapers of Dubai!
***END OF UPDATE***