Dubai, love it or hate it! The most famous city in the UAE is full of spectacular skyscrapers, luxurious hotels and enormous shopping malls. The reason for all these tourist attractions is simple: they are running out of oil. Tourism is their alternative plan to keep the country rich. Due to that, Dubai is full of innovation and spectacular architecture. A dream for every travel photographer!
My last stop on my Asia Trip was the first destination where I was running for just one particular picture. I wanted a perfect skyline shot of downtown Dubai from above. The problem? It is tough to get a permission to shoot from a rooftop and the weather conditions in Dubai were really bad during my stay. Nevertheless, I waited patiently and got lucky on my last day!
Research: Scouting Photo Spots
The weather in Dubai was really bad at my first days. Several sandstorms blew up so much sand, that you could barely see the whole skyline. The sky was white and grey without any structure. Due to the bad conditions, I explored the city and tried to find great photo-spots for some other architecture shots.
One of these places was the popular Burj al Arab Hotel next to Jumeirah Beach. A business man who stayed at the same Airbnb went with me to the 360 Degree Bar, where I got a clear shot of the seven star hotel. It is the only place were you get that close to the building. Luckily, the dust was not that visible during this night and I got a clean shot.
The rest of the time was frustrating regarding travel photography. The conditions stayed bad and I had to spend most of my time at my apartment in the Marina area. I used the time to ask several hotels for a shooting permission. At least I wanted one chance for a perfect skyline shot.
A perfect Sunrise: Downtown Dubai with the Burj Khalifa
After several attempts I got a permission at the Shangri La Hotel which is located next to the Sheikh Zayed Road and offers a perfect view over downtown Dubai. The weather forecast predicted a clear sky for my last day and I took my chance and reserved a spot on the hotel roof for the morning hours. Normally, the sunrise is the best time for city & architecture shots in Dubai. The reason for that is the clean morning air which offers much more visibilty.
The alarm clock rang at 4 AM and I hurried up to catch my taxi to the hotel. My arrival was on time and I still got fifteen minutes until my appointment. Everything seemed perfect for my final shot until I met the receptionist to sign in. He told me, that the terrace does not open before 6:30 AM and I would have to wait at least thirty more minutes. I was really pissed of because I got a written confirmation for 6 AM and missed the early sunrise because of that delay. After fifteen minutes of discussion I finally made it up to the top and saw this unique view of Downtown Dubai:
Fstoppers Shot of the Day: The Skyline of Downtown Dubai at Night
Still, I didn't feel satisfied with this shot. It was a great sunrise and a wonderful panorama of downtown Dubai, but it was not good enough for my own personal claim. The communication manager gave me another permission and offered me another chance in the evening. The blue hour was perfect at this time. The sky was clear and the city started to light up right on time. I took several panorama shots and enjoyed the view for another hour. I knew that this shot was perfect, my perfect skyline shot of downtown Dubai. The patience was worth it. Four days for one outstanding shot.
Suprise! Two weeks after my trip I got a message, that my shot got rewarded as Fstoppers Photo of the Day. I never expected such a great honor to happen. They featured my picture at their homepage and Instagram with more than 300.000 follower. It's a great feeling to take exactly the photo you imagined and get rewarded for it afterwards. At some point passion combined with hard work always pays off!