Photographing Dubai – from epic cityscapes to ancient desert

There’s no where quite like Dubai (unless of course you count the other emirates of the U.A.E). It’s ancient backdrop of deserts filled with nomadic camel herders is at such a contrast to the futuristic metropolis city that it can seem like something straight out of a science fiction novel. As soon as you leave the city you are encompassed by sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Looking back towards the city almost seems post apocalyptic. Yet the mix of cultures and the paradox of eras mixes into this beautiful alchemy that is so enticing to tourists. You can spend the morning shopping in one of the largest and most modern malls in the world (complete with a 3 story aquarium full of sharks and rays) and an hour later you can be sipping Marmarayan tea in a traditional Bedouin camp surrounded by camels in the desert.

A long weekend

We had just 4 nights out in this modern wonder of a city and I was determined to find some of the best photography views. So the first morning we were up at 4am to drive out into the desert and experience sunrise from a hot air balloon. It didn’t disappoint, the sunrise was perfect and the whole experience was just magical. We were taken up by Balloon Adventures Dubai, it was off season but there will still three balloons full of twenty guests in each. They add some extra magic to the experience by driving you through the desert in some very ‘Instagramable’ Mark one Land Rovers and also fly hawks from the balloon whilst airborne.

We spent the evening at some viewpoints photographing the city at sunset. I found this one specifically beautiful. All of those thin veins of motorways, pulsing with the lights of cars at dusk, towered over by the Burj Khalifa (currently the tallest building in the world). Theres not many places in the world that can match that kind of cityscape backdrop.

The Half-Desert Road

On our last day we explored the ‘Half Desert Road’ These are a network of roads built years ago (presumable for a new section of the city), but have been left unused and are half covered with sand blown from the surrounding dunes. The below image is a composite, you can see the cities skyline from here, but only from the air, I photoshopped in the skyline from a ground photo nearer to the city, to give an idea for how strange the area feels. The roads aren’t in use, but theres nothing to stop you driving in, you’ll find plenty of locals playing with their expensive toys there (motorbikes quad bikes and even model aeroplanes).

The Four Seasons

We spent our four nights split between the Four Seasons at Jumeirah Beach and the Four Seasons in the Financial District. They kindly hosted me in return for some photos I captured for them. They are both really impressive hotels with incredible service. Here’s a few of my favourite shots from the collection I delivered.

Enjoyed this blog? Why not check out my post about photographing wildlife in the Serengeti?