[pix_dropcap]A[/pix_dropcap]fter about 3 years of planning, it finally came to fruition. I had seen many a great image being posted on Facebook’s Landscapes / Seascapes / Cityscapes page, the shear grandeur of skyscrapers, the modernity of the buildings, and the ethereal beauty, more so when photographed at night, and especially so when shrouded in the late winter mists. I decided that, I too, wanted to fill my lenses with such amazing imagery! The rooftop photography in Dubai bug had bitten me!
I transit regularly through Dubai – UAE; Istanbul – Turkey; Amman – Jordan; and Doha – Qatar to my end destinations, but never really get to spend much time exploring these cities due to layover times. This year, I took my wife Dominique, along to experience this shoot in Dubai with me.
I was delighted to see that Daniel Cheong was running the first ever legal rooftop workshop in Dubai in association with Nikon School on the 28th October 2016; subsequently, ALL his workshops were fully booked until the end of 2016, with photographers flying in from Singapore, China, Netherlands and the GGC / Gulf States! I was also excited to be the first fly-in South-African to attend a workshop with him, which was held in January 2017! I am also the first to shoot film from the Cayan Tower; I used my Nikon F6 with Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros Black and White Negative Film with a variety of older Nikon D-series lenses, including the rare Nikon 18mm f/2.8 AF-D Lens and the very new Nikon 19mm f/4 PC-E Tilt-Shift Lens. The Tilt-Shift Lens is an awes0me lens, however does not have an aperture ring like the 24mm, I was forced to shoot all my film images at f/4.
As per Pete DeMarco’s Photography Blog – The Nomad Within, Daniel Cheong “is the original Dubai rooftopper. He usually shoots from high vantage points, especially during blue hour or in the fog.” There are some photographers’ work that one easily recognizes; Daniels’ hallmark is definitely rooftop photography in Dubai. There are a few other well recognized photographers that shoot rooftop photography in Dubai, namely Dany Eid, Alisdair Miller, Beno Saradzic, Sajeesh Shanmughan, Mohamed Raouf and Zohaib Anjum. All their work can be found in publications, newspapers, personal websites and on Facebook.
Contacting and finally meeting Daniel online was great. My time constraints were limited during my stay in Dubai, as I was also committed to shooting the 24H Series – Dubai motorsport event. Daniel was unable to attend the workshop with me due to a family emergency, I was however very fortunate to have spent quality time with Dany Eid. The world is a much smaller place now with social media in play, and so much easier to meet the right people! Knowing the right people in any circle is beneficial, this made all the difference for my architectural, cityscape and rooftop photography in Dubai experience.
The best time is in the winter from December to February. It’s much cooler. This is also when you’ll have your best chance of catching the elusive fog. I am not a humid climate loving person, I prefer either very hot and dry, or very cold! This is one occasion that I was prepared to make that sacrifice for the possibility of shooting the fog in Dubai. We had fog a few days prior to my shoot, on the day it was very windy, obviously no fog, which made for challenging long exposure photography. This is amplified on the skyscrapers.
This is the peak season, flights are very expensive and usually fully booked. One should always be on the lookout for various specials, be that flights and or accommodation. Lodging in Dubai is not cheap. Most of the cheaper hotels and guesthouses are located around Deira. We chose to stay as centrally in the city as possible, that being close to the Mall of Emirates. This afforded us many opportunities to view the city and its delights either by foot, taxi, Red Bus, local bus and skytrain. There are apartments, budget hotels and mega expensive hotels to choose from, it all depends on your budget. I would suggest reviewing your stay on sites such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Agoda.com to see how people have rated your choice of stay.
Make use of the interactive map to see where the various landmarks are in Dubai.
The Cayan Tower is an easily recognisable tower as it is spiral shaped, offering a safe 360º view of the Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, Port Jumeirah, Emirates Hill Golf Course and Jumeirah Lake Towers.
Cayan Tower, known as Infinity Tower before it was inaugurated, is a 306-metre-tall, 73-story skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates by Cayan Real Estate Investment and Development. The tower is designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill SOM architectural group, the same group who did the concept design for the Burj Khalifa, also in Dubai, and Trump Tower in Chicago. Upon its opening on 10 June 2013, the tower became world’s tallest high-rise building with a twist of 90º, this has been surpassed by the Shanghai Tower. Daniel has exclusive permission to shoot from this location as access to rooftops in Dubai can be a nightmare!
Dubai Marina is an artificial canal city, built along a 3 km stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline. When the entire development is complete, it will accommodate more than 120 000 people in residential towers and villas.
It is located on Interchange 5 between Jebel Ali Port and the area which hosts Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, and the American University in Dubai. There have been many instances of marine wildlife (especially whales and sharks) entering the lake, because of its proximity to the open sea.
The tallest block is located on the western side of Dubai Marina, the block is also known as the tallest block of supertall skyscrapers in the world because it contains some of the world’s tallest residential towers, including Princess Tower, which is the tallest residential buildings in the world completed in 2012.
The high rise buildings, are mainly clustered into a block, with the majority of the skyscrapers ranges between 250m to 300m, which includes Emirates Crown, Infinity Tower, Ocean Heights, Marina Pinnacle, Sulafa Tower, Al Seef Tower, Le Rêve, Marina Crown and few are taller than 350m and 400m, which includes Elite Residence, 23 Marina, Princess Tower, Marina 101, Marina 106, Damac Heights, The Marina Torch, and a supertall Pentominium, which rises to 516m, if completed it will become worlds tallest residential building surpassing Princess Tower.
The Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago in United Arab Emirates, created using land reclamation by Nakheel, a company owned by the Dubai government, and designed and developed by Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock/Architects, Inc. It is one of three planned islands called the Palm Islands (Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira) which would have extended into the Persian Gulf, increasing Dubai’s shoreline by a total of 520km.
The Palm Jumeirah is the smallest and the original of three Palm Islands originally under development by Nakheel. It is located on the Jumeirah coastal area of the emirate of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Palm Jumeirah, Nakheel’s flagship project, is the world’s largest man-made island and is comprised of a two-kilometre-long trunk, a crown made up of 17 fronds and a surrounding crescent.
Atlantis, The Palm is a UAE luxury hotel resort located at the apex of the Palm Jumeirah in the United Arab Emirates. It was the first resort to be built on the island and is themed on the myth of Atlantis but includes distinct Arabian elements. The resort opened on September 15, 2008 as a joint venture between Kerzner International Holdings Limited and Istithmar.
The 1,539 room nautically themed resort has two accommodation wings, consisting of the East and the West Tower, linked together by the Royal Bridge Suite. It is complemented by the Aquaventure water park and the Nasimi Beach, which frequently plays host to concerts and other events.
The Burj al-Arab or Tower of the Arabs is a hotel located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is the fourth tallest hotel in the world; however, 39% of its total height is made up of non-occupiable space. It stands on an artificial island 280m 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. It has a helipad near the roof at a height of 210m above ground. The hotel is described as the first seven star hotel by a journalist who was at a loss for words when he first saw the hotel. We were treated like royalty during our four hour brunch at the exclusive Al Muntaha Restaurant. The Al Muntaha (“The Ultimate”), is located 200m above the Persian Gulf, offering a view of Dubai. It is supported by a full cantilever that extends 27m from either side of the mast, and is accessed by a panoramic elevator.
The views from the exclusive Al Muntaha Restaurant & Skyview Bar, and the architecture of the Burj Al Arab are nothing short of opulent and spectacular! This was such an amazing experience that I have created a separate gallery for the Burj Al Arab in this blog.
Burj Khalifa or “Khalifa Tower”, known as Burj Dubai before its inauguration, is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is the tallest artificial structure in the world, standing at 829.8m. Construction of the Burj Khalifa began in 2004, with the exterior completed 5 years later in 2009. The primary structure is reinforced concrete. The building was opened in 2010 as part of a new development called Downtown Dubai.
The Y-shaped plan is designed for residential and hotel usage. A buttressed core structural system is used to support the height of the building, and the cladding system is designed to withstand Dubai’s summer temperatures. It contains a total of 57 elevators and 8 escalators. Due to time constraints, I was only able to shoot the Burj Khalifa from the interior of the Burj Al Arab, and the private road leading to the island. That is the beauty of “incomplete” work, there is always a reason to return to such an amazing location such as Dubai, with fresh inspiration and ideas!
As I shoot both film and digital, I brought along the following gear:
Although I titled this blog – Rooftop Photography in Dubai 2017, I have included other imagery depicting the cityscape and architecture of Dubai. More of those images can be seen on the relative pages of my website. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience, one I will never forget! I am also very excited to be the first fly in South-African to shoot with Dany Eid, that is a humbling honour and privilege, as well as the first to shoot film from the Cayan Tower! I look forward to be able to do this again, and have had my eye on the high rises of New York, USA for the same amount of time as Dubai. I hope to fulfill that experience of shooting in the Big Apple soon!
A big shout out to Daniel Cheong and Dany Eid for such a fantastic product and for being pioneers in opening up the way for others to experience rooftop photography on Dubai. Thank you for affording me this opportunity, a lot of personal firsts for me and to have been able to capture the images I did. I look forward to returning to shoot with you again.
A big shout out to my friends Dirk and Zena, for your friendship and assistance with our stay in Dubai, we appreciate you!
Acknowledgement : Dubai Workshop Photography advertising image – Daniel Cheong Photography, some content information sourced from various websites.
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