Dubai: A City of Many Souls

This post was originally intended to be titled ‘Dubai: A Soulless City‘ and the only reason is because we were yet to find the heart or the soul of the city. That one spot or several spots that define a city such as the markets that ebbs and flows with the traffic of traders or people buying their goods, river banks where people sit, eat lunch and talk, where people gather to talk and exchange ideas, discuss politics but none has been found. You know the spot that’s in your city. Well, our search didn’t find the soul, the heart of the city but rather what has been found is that Dubai is a city of many souls all mixed together.

Silver Divers, Dubai Mall

Burj Khalifa Tower – Dubai

Many days were spent walking the ridiculously large shopping malls (thank you for the very large food court), main roads, back streets and all the tourists hot spots to find the heart and soul of Dubai. We never found what we were looking for in the main streets, in the malls or in the tourists hot spots but we did find it in the back streets, the spot that tourists rarely go. We found that people were happy and pretty much friendly. We approached many people for photographs and all but a few were more than happy for us to photograph them. Through our attempts at the local language and the locals broken english we found that many of the people we had come across were from countries that we didn’t expect and they were far and wide with countries represented such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India and even expats from Australia, United Kingdom, United States.

Street Photography
The back streets of Dubai are the best place to capture people going about their daily business but don’t go down there on your own, unless you are have a black belt in something and can defend yourself like Bruce Lee. The back streets are a mean place and I highly recommend traveling in at least pairs or a small group. We were originally advised not to bother asking Emirates if they wouldn’t mind being photographed but we still ended up doing just that and we really had no trouble at all. We were also advised that photographing women in Traditional Dress is a huge No No, it is offensive to the locals and thats one rule that we really stuck to but there were plenty of street photography opportunities.
The Bearded One

The Bearded One

We approached this guy who was more than happy to have his photograph taken, we both showed him the results on the back of the camera, He smiled, laughed all the while pointing it out to come a couple of other curious locals. He kept adjusting his head scarf to cover as much of his head as possible but still have some sort of air flow to attempt to keep him cool from the heat of Dubai. He was easy to approach but on some occasions we were waived off by the local who didn’t want to be photographed. Even from a distance photographing down an alley, we still received the ‘Evil Eye’ from some, so some quick shots and we were off.
Shadow Rider

Shadow Rider

A group of young men head off through a closed alleyway of shops to the local mosque to answer the call of prayer. Most of the group walked except for one who decided to ride his bike through the shadows.
Night Photography
Probably the biggest mistake that we both made was not taking our trusty tripods, this was mainly due to the weight restrictions of the airline and the huge cost associated with checking another item, so we decided to go without the tripods. We also considered purchasing them in Dubai however we would have the same problem coming home however we did attempt on numerous occasions to take long exposures at night.
Burj Khalifa Tower - Dubai Nights

Burj Khalifa Tower – Dubai Nights

The lights of Dubai are quiet simply amazing and there are a multitude of opportunities to photograph the night. We did attempt it using our bags as a stable base which took some time to effectively master to be able to get some decent shots off. We tried to photograph the Burj Khalifa tower at night and laid down on the grass. We were pounced on pretty quick by security, his hand gestures made it clear that laying down on the grass was a no no and that we should stop immediately. We didn’t argue with him we just simply packed up our gear and moved on.
Chanel - Dubai Mall

Chanel – Dubai Mall

General Rules
Many countries have varied cultures and you should be aware of them before travelling. The UAE has some rules that may seem absurd to westerners but they are the norm.
These are some of the rules that we encountered whilst in Dubai:
1.  Women are not allowed to travel in the front seat of taxi’s.
2.  Males are not allowed to look/ stare at women in Traditional dress.
3.  Women should dress conservatively and don’t show to much skin, below the knees and covered shoulders etc.
4.  Men, if wearing shorts must cover the knee.
5.  Do not photograph Government Buildings/ Military Installations, (you will be arrested and jailed – no questions asked)
6.  Do not openly display a large amount of affection publicly.
7.  Visiting mosques, Check the rules before going in or book through a travel guide as this will prevent aggression from the guards, yes guards !
These are just a few of the rules or what’s considered offensive and there are many more. I recommend checking what the cultural differences are before heading to the UAE. Better to be informed than be begging for forgiveness.
E Street User

E Street

Dubai is an interesting place and it is extremely hard to define. Dubai mall is the largest mall in the world and the Mall of Emirates has an indoor ski slope but whilst we were there it was announced that they will be building a Mall of the World with a Universal Studios Theme park attached. The Mall of the World will be even larger than the Dubai Mall and is expected to handle over 85000 visitors a day. For me those numbers are hard to comprehend. The majority of the building are extremely new, well designed and would make for some great architectural photography opportunities. We did go in search of the old Dubai, where the old buildings with old shops and the real people who live there all their lives as I believed that this would be the place to find the soul of Dubai, but never found it. We also learned that Dubai is only 50 years young and that maybe why finding the cities soul was so hard.
We would go back to the UAE but probably to visit Abu Dhabi instead to see if we could find the culture, the soul that makes up the United Arab Emirates.
Happy Shooting

 

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POTD: The Morning Sun Peaks Over The Clouds

 

I have been busy photographing families and their friends recently which has prevented me from doing any personal projects. I would have to think that the perfect way to start the day is to see a sunrise like this and after seeing it, it was worthwhile being tired for the rest of the day. This one took some time to post process but the final results are pretty good.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts !

POTD: Just Popping Next Door !

I’m just popping next door to borrow some milk and sugar, back soon !

This sheep station is massive and I would believe that its bigger than some countries, I just don’t know which ones and this is a mind blowing size of a sheep station.

 

POTD: The Road to Nowhere !

 

Nowhere is a place that is hard to define but I think I have found the road that leads to it !

12 Real Landscape Photography Tips

There is a lot of information out there on how to improve your landscape photography but the majority of the information actually talks about subjects like focal points, foregrounds, backgrounds, the sky etc which is fantastic and extremely helpful but there doesn’t seem to be to many of them actually talking about some of the things that will make your life that little but easier before you head out for your own landscape shoot, such as what footwear that you should be wearing. So while I was out on the weekend taking some landscape shots, I went through a mental check list that I have which has come from learning as I go but some of these lessons have been learnt the hard way and hopefully by you reading this you won’t make the same mistakes that I have made over the years.

1. Check out the location (Conducting a Recon).

I call this conducting a recon which means that I always check the location out at least the day prior during daylight hours because it will more than likely be dark when I arrive or leave. I am not there to take photos but rather look at things like where can I park, how long did it take to get here, which track do I take to get where I want to go, are there any gates that restrict access after hours (early morning, late afternoon) and if so what time does that area open or close, where will the tide be at low/high tide, which way will the sun rise or set. Are there any obstacles that I will need to navigate like fences or gates. Is the spot I want to use on private land and if so, who and where are the owners so can I ask permission to use it.

2. Take a torch/ flash light. 

This one might seem like its fairly obvious and you are probably sitting there going “of course” but I seem to keep forgetting mine.  There have been countless times where I am fiddling around with something in the dark well before first light only to ask myself Where’s my torch? which I usually answer with ‘right next to the urn of coffee on the kitchen bench!’ followed by a few expletives. Having a torch will enable you to find that something in the bottom of your camera bag like that mysterious cable release or where you put that lens cap, which I always seem to loose, and just as important to find your way in or out of the area safely. The torch also needs to be rugged and be able to float in case you drop it. The other advantage if the torch can float is that they are more than likely to be water proof to some extent and won’t be useless after the first use.

3. Check the tide and sunrise/ sunset time.

Checking the tide times always helps if you are doing seascape and landscape photography. You may want to photograph water washing over a rocky outcrop and at high tide those rocks are covered but at low tide they are exposed with the waves washing over them, taking a gamble and just turning up is more than likely not going to provide you with the results that you wanted and the reason for you going to that location. You also need to know the tides because you don’t want to be marooned on a rocky outcrop with the water rapidly rising around your feet with the only option of swimming back to the beach. Also the tide times are a decision point as well, if the ties don’t marry up with the sunrise or sunset times, I won’t go to that site unless there is something else there that I want to photograph until the tide times and the sunrise/ sunset times are close to each other.

4. Appropriate footwear and clothing.

I don’t know how many times I have decided to go and do an early morning shoot and throw the old flip flops on my feet, a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt and head on out, only to get there to find that my chosen footwear or clothing is completely inappropriate and inadequate. Flip flops don’t allow you to walk over sharp rocks or get a decent grip on slippery surfaces which could result in you sliding towards an unintended swim. I highly recommend that wearing an old pair of runners and clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or muddy. The shoes will protect your feet, provide you with some much needed grip on slippery surfaces and the clothing will help protect you from the elements such as high winds, sudden drops in temperatures or even a little bit of rain.

5. Know the weather forecast.

This one goes hand in hand with footwear and clothing. The last thing you need is a sudden change in the weather and be out in a sudden temperature change which could result in you suffering from Hypothermia or have that landscape shot covered in fog. A good fisherman checks the weather forecast before they head out, just because you are a photographer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing the same.

6. Take a Cell phone

Fortunately nowadays we have many ways of communicating with people including text messages and social media however having a phone that you can make and receive phone calls from is pretty important. Having a cell phone can provide you with the ability to call for help if needed (and you may not be the one in trouble) or let your loved ones know that you are finished and on your way home. Be aware though that in some remote places you may not get any cell phone reception at all. This is something that you can check when you are conducting a recon of your chosen location. If you are unable to get any reception at all, I recommend going with a friend or a group or even setting some timings with loved ones so they know when you will be back in range of the cell phone towers.

7. Tell Someone 

This may not seem to important but please let me reassure you differently. If things do go horribly wrong whilst you are out in the wilderness and you get hurt and no one knows where you are, you may well be in for rough few nights in freezing temps or seriously injured and in desperate need of medical assistance. Telling someone where you will be and when you are expected to return is smart.  If you don’t return they can can call you on your cell phone and if you don’t answer after say 20 or 30 minutes they could then come and look for you to see if you are ok, and if you are hurt they can then contact the local Police department or the paramedics. Things do go wrong from time to time and there is nothing you can do about it but you can put some for of a safety net in place to prevent things from becoming worse.

8. Turn around

The above photo was taken early on Saturday morning, I actually went to shoot a seascape which I find I struggle with on occasions but I turned around and Mother Nature presented with the silhouette of a tree up on the banks of the beach, I squatted down and the rocks that I was originally trying to photograph provided some shape to the overall photo hopefully drawing the eye in. It find this technique works and I tend to use it quite a lot.

Turn around and see what is behind you. I have been on many shoots where the landscape did turn out to be rather uninspiring due to foregrounds, the sky, weather etc but by turning around I am now looking at another perspective to it, I then adjust my height by squatting, keeling or laying down, or even climbing up on a large rock to see what is different about the landscape and on many occasions I have been pleasantly surprised.

9. Local Knowledge

If you don’t live there or live in the surrounding area and you want to know where to go, ask the people who live and work in that area such as Police, Hotel Reception staff, the guy at the petrol station, the pharmacy, taxi drivers. Most of these people have lived there for all of their lives and have an intimate knowledge of the area and they can tell you things about places that you wouldn’t have thought about especially the spots tourist don’t go to because the locals will not always divulge that special place that the locals frequent. I am always asking about Marina’s, the old parts of town with dingy alley ways where tourists don’t go and abandoned buildings. I still haven’t found any abandoned building but I have Marina’s, rocky outcrops and creepy, scary alleys where I didn’t even think to look. Most of these places will more than likely be an undesirable location to many tourists but they can be great photographic gems. Don’t be afraid to ask.

10. Use a tripod

I know that you have heard this piece of advice before but a tripod a is must, but here’s the other bit of advice that you never get told. Your tripod can get wet and by wet I mean by using it in water, I constantly use my tripod in the water and I have been up to knee deep on many occasions. I didn’t buy my tripod to use in a studio, I bought the tripod to lump around the country with me and for it to provide a steady platform for the camera. So don’t be scared to get it wet, dirty or even muddy. It all comes off at the end of the day.

11. Insect Repellant

I laugh every time I say this, take insect repellant with you, and a good one, there is nothing worse while you are out enjoying the sunrise or sunset and being bitten non-stop by bugs, but you will never guess where mine normally is, its with my torch next to the urn of coffee on the kitchen bench. A good insect repellant will keep those bugs at bay and let you concentrate on what you are there to do. Capture Mother Nature at her finest.

12. Drink Responsibly

You might like to have a few drinks of a night, out with friends or at a Barbeque but be careful on how many drinks you consume as you could very well still be over the legal limit in the wee hours of the morning while driving to your chosen location. The chances of being subjected to a Random Breath Testing (RBT) is pretty high here in Australia even on weekdays so add some caution when drinking the night before if you intend on driving to your chosen location the following morning, even if you still feel under the weather, simply cut it away for that day and go back to bed. So the message here is really, if you wish to drink, drink, but drink responsibly.

These are my tips and this list is by no means an exhaustive list. I would love to hear from you if you have any or if you have tried something and it worked or it didn’t work, let us know and hopefully it will life that little bit easier when out photographing this beautiful place that we call home.

Desert Sun Flower

After an immense amount of rain, these stunning sun flowers appear in the remote deserts of Central South Australia.

Happy shooting

Old Holden’s Never Die !

Whilst wandering around in the central deserts of Australia, I found this old Holden car which nature had started to reclaim. Rust was slowly eating away at the panel work and all of the valuable parts had also been removed. Some one also had decided that it was a good spot to set up camp and sleep in the car. I figure they must have been desperate to sleep in it but when I got there the only thing living in the car was a dirty great big snake. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the snake. The snake left and I decided that I had walked to far not to come away with at least a couple of shots.

Happy Shooting

Thief Images

 

Afghan Desert

The desert in Afghanistan may look peaceful but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Desert Roadhouse

This roadhouse sits in the middle of the South Australian desert. It provides food and fuel to tourists and truckies who pass through the area as there is nothing in any direction for several hundred kilometres. I have seen fuel being sold there for over a $1.60 per litre and you have little choice but to pay it, even a can of coke can be quite expensive.

One night after work on my way back to my camp I had to pass the road house and saw this, I immediately thought of the Australian outback horror movie Wolf Creek and one of my friends even commented that if they sit quietly he could the back packers scream, I must admit being there late at night can be quite eerie and some of the locals unknowingly add to that feeling you get.

The above image was also featured on the redbubble home page on the 31st of January which I must say that I am shock and honoured all at the same time.

 

Old Soldiers

Every time I go to Shorncliffe Pier, its overcast and the morning is not what its supposed to be, there is no spectacular sunrise, the only thing going in my favour is the tide but you can’t waste an opportunity especially since you got out of bed at a ridiculous hour. So you have to make the best of a bad situation.

So I started to look around to see what else I could photograph, even though I have been there many times before, I always find something new to photograph. I found the old pier legs standing upright like soldiers standing at attention.

Image Details:

ISO: 200 Focal Length: 105mm A: f5.6 Exposure time: 10 secs