Dune Bashing UAE Style

Friendly herd of camels on our way to the shoot

Friendly herd of camels on our way to the shoot

On Wednesday night Mark, Ian and a local friend and photographer named Saadia and all headed out to the UAE desert. The driver was prearranged by Saadia and the plan was to get the desert night sky, but the weather spoiled that. It has been really cloudy here and zero chance of seeing stars.

But, I now can say that have walked in the Arabian desert. How cool is that? It's red! As you know back home, it is a beige color. The red really stands out against the landscape and is really impressive. 

Our experienced driver Omar took his trusty modified Toyota 4 x 4 to the desert and started to "dune bash" as Saadia called it. At times it felt like a roller coaster, but Omar knew what he was doing so we all just sat back and enjoyed the ride and laughed a lot. 

Light painted desert tree against Arabian desert backdrop

The landscape is really barren and doesn't have a lot of trees or bushes to help make a foreground. But Ian started to walk and walk and walk until he was just a spec. He said he was in sand knee deep at times. He is still pulling sand out of his shoes. It was worth it for all of us because he found a couple trees to be our subject that night. A trick that photographers have in their bag is light painting. The concept is to paint the subject with a flashlight while the camera is taking a long exposure. As long as the person keeps moving, turns the light off and walks out of the frame before the shutter closes, then the person won't be in the picture. Many thanks to Mark for painting the tree in the image above. 

Photographer taking picture of a photographer taking a picture. Go figure.

Photographer taking picture of a photographer taking a picture. Go figure.

Time to go Big and Small

It has been a busy few days in Dubai. My sense of time is still really horrible because while I'm trying to keep track of my days here, I also try to remember the day and time it is at home. It's just 12 hours. It should be easy but it plays games with your head.

As a follow up to our landscape photo shoot, we had a post processing class where we learned some good techniques for optimizing photos in Lightroom and Photoshop. I have a lot to learn in that realm, but this type of knowledge doesn't come overnight. It's a long haul sort of commitment. Still reeling from jet lag, we decided to stay in for the night. 

Another cool night shot of Dubai

Monday night we all had tickets to go to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa. We took the metro to the Dubai Mall which has an entry to the "At the Top" Experience at the Burj. Just like "magic", the mall is designed to keep you in and not let you out. You were hard pressed to find an exit in that place. So in one fell swoop, we experienced the largest mall (with an aquarium), the tallest building and the fastest elevator in the WORLD. We spent about about an hour on the 124th and 125th floors.


The weather, due to cloud cover...sadly made the entire city look like a big blob of drab beige so there were very little picture opportunities...except for Little Lego Kimmie T., Lego Dude Mark and introducing Lego Dude Ian who is making his debut on this trip.

Mark on Top of the Burj

For scale and fun, when we were standing on the 125th floor, we took a picture through the glass of Mark standing on the 124th floor. He is in the blue plaid shirt and baseball cap, clearly trying to look inconspicuous. ;-)

Today, Tuesday, we did an outing with Zack Arias to do "street photography". Most of you know that I primarily like landscape or night photography but part of the reason I came to Gulf Photo Plus was to get out of my comfort zone and try new things and street photography was a way to do that. It was a really special experience and I will tell you all more about that tomorrow for me, but later today for you...See? Time warp.

Time to shoot!

Time really feels totally warped here and that is probably because I'm averaging 3 hours sleep a night and I'm running on fumes. The jet lag is real but the passion for discovering a new city coupled with photography helps me endure it. I had to wake up a 4:30 a.m. this morning for our sunrise shoot with Elia Locardi but that was no problem since I was up at 3:30 a.m.! Ian and I took a taxi to the Four Points Sheraton where Gulf Photo Plus arranged for our shoot to be at an outdoor terrace on the 43rd floor.

We had a view of several prominent buildings along with the main highway called Sheikh Zayed running through it. The shoot was challenging because the railing was very tall and at one point I had to stand on a table to operate my camera. It was dark when we arrived, the Blue Hour came and then the sun rose and it went by with the blink of an eye. This was one of my favorite shots from this morning. The other challenge for this shoot was the building pictured in the far left of the frame, called the Al Attar Tower is incredibly tall and the only way to get it into the image from this vantage was to shoot as portrait orientation.

After the sun rose, Ian and I had some fun playing with our iPhone cameras. I'm not sure if people realize just how much I shoot with my phone too. It has a ton of great features like the portrait feature on the 7 plus and apparently it makes people make goofy faces too...

Ian showing off the Portrait mode in the iPhone 7 Plus

Ian showing off the Portrait mode in the iPhone 7 Plus

After the sunrise, we had time to kill until 3:30 p.m. when we convened for the sunset shoot. The Mall of the Emirates is nearby so we went there for lunch. Everyone knows what a mall is so I won't go into much detail. But imagine the the most expensive store that you can't afford and then picture hundreds of them lined up one after another and that is pretty much the Mall of Emirates.

Our next shoot was on the roof of a residence tower on the 34th floor. It had almost a 360 degree view so we got some really interesting shots of the Dubai Marina area. I left my camera in the same spot so that I could experience the changing light from bright sun, to sunset to the Blue Hour. I guess clouds are relatively rare in Dubai, usually you just see a haze in the sky with little definition. I think we  got lucky as we had some clouds and the suns rays were bouncing off them at the sunset. 

Sunset near the Dubai Marina

Little Lego Kimmie T. wanted to get in on the action so she started to shoot too. And she heard some laughter behind her and when she turned around, she discovered a new friend named Little Lego Hamda from Switzerland who is here in Dubai for photography too. What a small Little Lego world... 

Little Lego Kimmie T and Little Lego Hamda

Little Lego Kimmie T and Little Lego Hamda

Hit the ground running

I am happy to say my very long 16 hour flight was really pleasant and felt faster than I thought it would. It helped that the plane was almost empty and Mark, Ian and I each got our own row of seats. Score! We had an easy exit from the airport and ride to the hotel.  

Needless to say we were all tired and off to bed we went. I experienced jet lag, no surprise, and just ended up taking a series of naps. We all met the next morning for breakfast and made our way to thr venue where Gulf Photo Plus is being held. 

 "Photo Friday" is a chance for the attendees to attend short 1 hour sessions with various professional photographer to discuss a variety of topics. I really enjoyed the speeches of two photographers from very different genres. One is a documentary photographer, Maggie Steber and the other is a fine art photographer, Sara Lando. It was really food for thought about the creative process. 


The event is truly global with attendees from all over the world. Today alone I heard the attendees describe themselves from the Italy, Ecuador, Great Britain, South Africa, India and Saudi Arabia. I met a young woman, Alex just out of University who is originally from the Ukraine but has lived in Dubai for 20 years. She and I are pictured in this selfie. 


Tomorrow, Ian and I will be doing a sunrise and sunshine shoot with landscape photographer Elia Locardi. Really excited about finally getting out to shoot. 

I haven't seen enough of the city yet to comment on my impressions of it but I hope to be able to do more of that in my next entry. We did however get to ride the metro which was super clean.  

My travel companions and metro dudes are pictured here.