Photography: Dubai, UAE – Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai

When I mentioned that I was going to Dubai for a short holiday, my friends said “Oh, fantastic! You’re going to Shop till you Drop!”  I gather most people think of Dubai as one big shopping Mall! Well, apart from gifts for my family and friends, a book, a bag for my iPad, a few t-shirts and a Canon 7-15mm f4 Fisheye lens, I didn’t do any shopping….. For me, this was the ultimate Photo Safari, and I’d like to share some of my images here.

When you drive around Dubai you are immediately struck by how everything is so MODERN and CLEAN. Many of the buildings are less than 10 years old, and there are many  more under construction.

The Burj Khalifa, completed in January 2010, is the world’s tallest man-made structure (almost 830 metres!), and is situated on Sheikh Zayed Road in Downtown Dubai. We had booked online to go to the observation deck, which is at 425 metres (just over half-way up the Burj.)

Don’t worry, it doesn’t really bend like that – the only way to get the whole building in the frame was to use my Canon 7-15mm f4 Fisheye lens – 1/400 second at f10, hand-held

The view from the deck is mind-boggling! Having driven around Dubai for two days before going up the Burj Khalifa, I knew just how tall the buildings in that area are – and yet from the observation deck they look like toys!

Looking north: the Trade Centre. (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 1/250 second at f6.3 hand-held)

The view directly downward: The Palace Hotel and the magnificent musical fountains. (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 1/500 second at f9, hand-held)

If you enjoy photography, I recommend that if you are in Dubai you take a trip up the Burj Khalifa. Take your widest lens, as well as a zoom lens, so you can get shots like this:

(Canon 70-300mm f1.4-5.6 zoom lens –  1/500 second at f9, hand-held)

After our visit to the Burj, we had dinner at an outdoor restaurant, with views of the musical fountains. As the sun set and the light faded, the Burj and surrounds became even more exciting to photograph!

Looking back at the Burj, from the Palace Hotel (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 0.8 sec at f11 with a tripod)

The Burj Khalifa, seen from the Palace Hotel (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 0.8sec at f11 with a tripod)

The stunningly beautiful musical fountains! (Canon 20mm f2.8 prime lens – 1/6 second at f13 with a tripod)

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dubai: it’s clean, the people are kind and friendly and I felt safe wherever I set up my tripod. There was so much to see and do I could happily have spent another two weeks there….. I’ll be back!

Next time, I will share my photos of some of the architecture, and the Dubai Marina.

Photography: Dubai Creek and the Souks

The Dubai Creek and the Souks were closer to my expectations of a Middle Eastern city… The Arabian architecture, the people in traditional dress, and the incredible HEAT!

After a very pleasant morning wandering around the Dubai Marina, and an excellent breakfast in an outdoor restaurant (in the shade), we caught the Metro and headed for the Souks.

The Metro in Dubai is fully automatic, driver-less, spotlessly clean, perfectly safe and very well signposted. In spite of that, we still managed to get lost!

Well, not really lost – we were headed for the station called Dubai Creek, only to find out that was actually a water-park, and was closed. It was also in the opposite direction from where we wanted to be.

In case you’re ever on the Dubai Metro, looking for the Creek and the Souks, head towards  “Al Ras”.

After the air-conditioned comfort of the Metro station, the heat outside was impressive. I reckon it was about 35 C, in the shade….. another tip: take a wide-brimmed hat and a dark coloured umbrella if you’re walking outdoors, unless you want a serious tan in five minutes flat!

We walked along the Creek to where the water taxis were operating. These are very interesting; wooden craft (I hesitate to call them boats) for short trips up and down the Creek. They are obviously well-regulated because each taxi has a cover, a number, two fire extinguishers and two life belts.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO400

Unfortunately, each one normally transports at least 10-15 passengers!

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/6.3 1/400sec, ISO 400

As you can see, these taxis sit pretty low in the water, and there is nothing to to stop you falling in the water. I would definitely not take my toddler on one of these! (If you look carefully at the water-taxi on the left in the picture above, you will see two prams – those mothers are obviously more brave than I would be….)

Fortunately, there are no waves and hardly any wind.

Further down the road, we came upon the boats offloading goods for the many Souks.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/2.8, 1/400sec, ISO100

(with HDR processing in Photomatix, and a Sepia tone added)

Life on board one of these vessels can’t be easy….

I loved the ornate deck on this one – note the carved wooden roses!

(Cropped from the photo below)

We had driven past this same boat two days earlier, which was a “Sunday” so no-one was working, and I noticed that all the cargo had been stacked on the pavement. Being from crime-ridden South Africa, my first thought was “That’s stupid – that stuff won’t be there tomorrow morning!” But I was wrong – two days later that pile of goods was still sitting there in the baking sun.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO100

Across the road, we entered one of the Souks. It was a lot cooler under the woven ceiling. The market was typical of most markets I’ve seen – mainly Chinese and Indian goods, very cheap, but great fun to browse through.

Canon60D, 20mm prime lens, f/2.8, 1/30sec, ISO320

I could have spent hours wandering around the markets, but we were running out of time. We had an appointment for a trip to the Burj Khalifa observation deck. I wasn’t going to miss that for the world!

In my next post on Dubai, I will share photos of our Desert Safari.

Photography: Flowers in my Garden

I am fortunate enough to have a really pretty garden. Even though it is now almost mid-winter in Johannesburg, the Aloes, Strelizias, Daisies and even the Clivias are flowering!

It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter so far – none of those bitingly cold evenings, and no frost as yet. I’m sure the bad weather is ON ITS WAY!

I grabbed the opportunity to snap some photos this afternoon. First a gorgeous yellow Thistle:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm,  f/4, 1/400th sec, ISO 3200

My husband the Landscape Architect tells me this is called a Crocosmia – I believe him, because I don’t know any better…

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/50th sec, ISO 200

This shot of a Strelizia is quite abstract – I love the contrasting colours:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/125th sec, ISO 125

The Clivias are flowering way too early. (The Plastic Optic lens gives them a glowing, ethereal look which I find quite interesting.)

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Plastic Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/500th sec, ISO 100

This beautiful specimen is not growing in my garden. My dear Husband gave me two dozen red roses for our second wedding anniversary (he CAN be romantic when he tries…)

I took these two photos this morning as the sun came up:

Canon60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 640

In this shot, I was trying to capture the light, rather than the roses:

Canon 60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 500

Some blooms from earlier in the year: first a magnificent Barberton Daisy:

Canon EOS 1000 at 263mm, f/5.6, 1/200th sec, ISO100

And an Agapanthus head, up close. The series of photos had an incredibly 3-dimensional “popping” effect. If you have these flowers in your garden try photographing them from above with a wide-angled lens. Get as close in as you can to achieve the same effect:

Fuji Finepix S9500 at 29mm, f/3.9, 1/150th sec, ISO 200

Photographing flowers can be very rewarding. Here are my tips, based on my experience:

  • Fill the frame with the flowers, edge to edge
  • Use a wide aperture so the background is blurred.
  • You can use either a wide-angled lens, or a macro lens. Both will give great results
  • Don’t photograph in bright sunlight – the best times are early morning, late afternoon, and on cloudy days – avoid strong shadows, unless it’s for effect
  • Bright sunshine on red, yellow or orange flowers totally blows out the detail. It really is best to shoot them in the shade if you’re after sharp details.
  • Use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze movement – flowers move unpredictably even in a slight breeze. If you have to hold the stem to keep the bloom still, make sure your hand is not in the shot!
  • Be aware of the composition. Diagonals will make the picture more interesting
  • Look out for strongly contrasting colours and make the best of them.

If you have any tips for shooting flowers, I would be delighted if you would share them with me 🙂

Photography: Rand Air Show, Johannesburg

I had a great opportunity to try my hand at Air Show Photography about a week ago, at the Rand Airport just south of Johannesburg.

I did some research first, and found out that there are some basic rules to this type of photography:

  • The underside of an aeroplane is not the most interesting bit
  • You should stand at the end of the runway the Sun is at, so you don’t end up shooting into the glare
  • You should use a slow enough shutter speed to capture the movement of the propellers – frozen props look highly unnatural on an aeroplane in flight!
  • You should be careful to not underexpose the aeroplane, or overexpose the sky
  • Try to get the pilot in the picture – photograph the plane from the front or side as it’s banking
  • Pan with the motion of the planes and don’t be afraid to take multiple shots as they fly past (It looks and sounds so sexy and professional)

With those basics in mind, my Hubby and I trotted off to the show last Sunday morning. I took more than 600 shots, and had to discard about 80% of them because they were: too blurry, under- or overexposed, photos of the undersides, looking into the Sun – this stuff is HARD!

I’m proud to say ALL my propellers were obviously whirling 🙂

Fortunately, there were some shots I think are pretty successful – and here are a few of my favourites:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

A flyby of an old DC3 and a whole crowd of colourful little planes – Harvard in front, Yak 52s in the middle. The next shot is a close up from the same flyby (Yak 52s):

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

Some spectacular Pitt Specials flying in formation….these guys are brave, or maybe just a little crazy?

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

A couple of Extra 300’s:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

I love this one! These two Pitt Specials did a whole routine with one of them flying upside down. It must be very disconcerting flying for any length of time with the earth over your head… and the sky beneath your feet….

Canon 60D  –  f/11 – 1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

Those Extra 300’s again:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 160

I know the next one is not a great photo ( a bit noisy) – but check out these Pitt Special moves!

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

The middle plane (a Mustang) is called Mustang Sally:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

And, please note – a couple of Pilots! (First a Pitt Special, and below that, a Bell helicopter)

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

This last photo, I’m ashamed to admit, was taken by my clever husband – and I think it’s BRILLIANT! Possibly the best of the lot……

*Grrrr*…. I’m the one who stood there for hours, with all the other photographers and their long lenses, patiently panning every passing ‘plane.

Glenn sits on the grass, looking after my camera while I go to the “ladies” – and he just casually takes this incredible shot of the DC3 rumbling past!

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

Well done, Darling – I’m officially jealous!

Never mind – I will persevere and maybe one day I’ll also be a Genius 🙂

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A note for photographers:

When I was adding the EXIF information for these photos, I noticed that they are ALL shot at f/11, 1/200 second and mostly at ISO 100-200. That’s because I only use the manual setting on my Canon 60D.

I had to do minimal extra work on Photoshop – mainly a little cropping (it’s hard to frame something perfectly when it’s careening past you at 350kph!) and I adjusted the levels on those that were a little over-exposed due to shooting close to the Sun.

I did not use a Polarising filter: I thought about it but realised I would have to be constantly aware of the Sun position with the Polariser on – I didn’t want to have to worry about that, so I only had on a UV filter.

African skies really ARE that blue!

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Update:

I am indebted to the son of a friend, who kindly went through my photos and identified the planes for me!

My new Photography Blog

I have decided to split my photography blog posts from my other posts, because I’m sure many photography enthusiasts who visit my site would not necessarily want to wade through my rantings about psychics, auras and the like!

The focus here will be on the incredible fun I’m having, learning how to really understand my camera and lenses, and how to use Photoshop Elements and Lightroom 4 (I’m still contemplating shelling out for the latest Photoshop software – it’s not cheap, and I can still get good results with Elements and Lightroom.)

My dear Hubby and I like to travel, and we hope to visit Canada later in the year, and go back to Italy for our wedding anniversary next year. I see those trips as pure Photo Safaris!

Dubai in May was completely awesome, and Italy in 2010 was the trip of a lifetime – not least because we got married on a hillside outside Florence!

Image

I know….what a setting! The professional Wedding Photographer who took this shot, and a hundred others, made this day even more special – he expertly captured the candid moments, he knew how to pose us, his compositions were excellent, his colours and exposure were spot on…. I hope I can learn to capture the important moments in the lives of myself and my family with as much expertise. That is my goal!

I hope to share the best of my creative talents here, as well as hints and tips I pick up along the way 🙂