I started this blog post while sitting at 30,000 feet, looking out over the clouds somewhere over Tennessee (I think), reflecting over the whirlwind of a week I’d had. It had been 21 hours since I stepped on the first plane and left Dubai, and I still had about 4 hours of flight time before I was home. The in-flight WIFI went nuts and then I fell asleep so I never finished the post. Since I’ve been back in Tulsa, I’ve been super busy and putting off this post, until now.
I left a cold and icy Tulsa almost a month ago now. I was supposed to fly to Houston, then to DC, and then to Dubai. The only problem was, when I landed in Houston they cancelled my flight to Dubai due to bad weather and tried to get me to spend the night and arrive a day later; luckily, United was able to get me switched over to the next Lufthansa flight with a layover in Frankfurt. I will never complain about a layover in Germany, and I ended up arriving in Dubai only 2 hours later than planned.
Why did I go to Dubai? Gulf Photo Plus. It is the best week in the photography industry in the world, and it happens every year in Dubai. Plus, it’s friggen Dubai!
So anyways. After spending about 5 unplanned hours in Europe I finally made it to Dubai. My first experience wasn’t very good, as the customs agent completely ignored my demands to hand-check my Instax and threw it through the x-ray machine. It turns out I would have the same experience on the way home, so in the future I will just have to accept the fact that the Dubai airport will ruin any film I have with me.
My friend Ines would pick me up from the airport and I would stay with her for part of the time, and with an AirBnb host the rest of the time. Dubai is really easy to do on a relatively small budget and for any of you that go and can’t afford the Holiday Inn recommended by GPP, I would highly recommend shopping around AirBnb or staying with a friend when you go to Dubai.
The morning after I arrived was a busy one, and I am so relieved I did not end up missing it. Photo Friday kicks off Gulf Photo Plus every year and has four blocks of seminars on a wide variety of subjects from architectural photography to posing to Photoshop. Every one of the seminars I attended was phenomenal, even though I missed out on a Peter Hurley seminar due to passport/visa issues. If you plan on visiting the UAE, make sure your passport is still valid for at least 6 months before your trip.
This blog post will be pretty lengthy, as there is so much to Dubai that I want to share; it will also skip many aspects as this is a city you can’t fully explore in one week.
Dubai is home to some of the most spectacular architectural achievements known to man. From the Palm Jumeriah, a man-made island shaped like a palm tree with hotels and condos on it to the world’s largest indoor ski slope, the world’s tallest building and biggest mall, there is something here for everybody.
For most of my trip there, it was incredibly dusty. Because of this I don’t have many of the typical cityscapes that you may see online. However, it did clear up near the end of my stay. Below is a highly distorted panorama from the first time I saw the Burj Khalifa up close. It was so dusty I could only see an outline of the building when I tried to look at the top.
If you’ve never traveled out of the states, Dubai will definitely give you a culture shock. But in a good way. The sights, sounds, and smells are so different than what you’re accustomed to. The people are very friendly and basically everybody speaks english. It’s also a very service oriented place, where most people have a maid to clean their house, etc. Oh, you can also get any food delivered! Including McDonalds and KFC.
The folks at Fujifilm Middle East were kind enough to lend me an X100s at the beginning of my visit, and then the 10-24mm f4 lens the day before the conference ended. I lucked out because every day up until that point it was so dusty that cityscape photography was basically impossible. But when I woke up that Thursday morning, the sun was bright and the skies were clear.
I ended up having to spend about 4 hours taking a taxi to their repair facility. It’s the only time I’ve ever had any issues with my Fuji, and I was at least glad that it happened when I was able to get a same day fix. Somehow all the screws that hold the tripod socket onto my X-T1 disappeared. By the time I got back into the main area of Dubai, light was fading fast and I had to quickly find a spot to shoot. Due to some miscommunication I missed an opportunity to shoot a killer view from a hotel balcony with my friends RC and Martin, and after a few shots from Festival City I knew I was way too far away to get the shot I wanted.
I called up a cab as fast as I could and had him take me right to the Burj Khalifa. I figured it would be good to test out the wide angle side of the 10-24 lens I was borrowing anyways. But when I got there, it was way too crowded with tourists and construction and I wanted something different than the typical tourist snapshot.
Even though light was starting to fade, I forced myself to stop mindlessly capturing snapshot after crappy snapshot with the same view as all the other damn tourists and went for a walk. After a few minutes I found this little bridge that went over a restaurant; it was surprisingly empty and perfect for the amount of time I had left before the light was completely gone. A few seconds later my tripod was set up and I captured this shot. It’s not exactly what I envisioned as my “trophy shot” when I went to Dubai, but I’m happy with it nonetheless.
This post is long overdue, so I will end it at that. If time permits I will do a follow up post with some more images from the gold and spice souks, as well as the David Hobby Editorial Portrait workshop I attended with GPP.
But seriously. Get your ass to Dubai; you won’t regret it.