thoughts on this image:

Visiting Dubai had always been on my bucket list, to see and photograph. It’s modern city literally sprung up out of the desert due to the high deposits of oil within the surrounding areas and the wealth on show is everywhere to be seen. From its fast cars to its giants malls filled with indoor ski fields and aquariums it is one city that just has to be witnessed to be believed. This particualr area of Dubai is located on the Sheikh Zayed Rd, the main freeway running up and down the coastline of the UAE, and running down the centre of the composition is the metro. What was cool about the metro trains in dubai is that there is no driver at the front or rear of the train and they glide along at very fast speeds. I also learnt by getting a few stern looks that the front carriage is for women only. The area on the right is a man made lake in front of the Burj Khalifa and the cluster of buildings is Downtown Dubai. Also located here is the worlds biggest mall, the Dubai mall, and it would take you days to go through all the stores. Some of my favourites were the local food restaurants as well a nutella store! This HUGE roundabout is just to the north of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Standing on top of this 35 storey hotel and looking across at it was very special.

how I got up here into this place:

I shot this from the rooftop of my hotel the Dusit Thani Dubai, which was specifically chosen because of its location in the city. I wasn’t sure if there would be a observation deck or not, but there are usually hotel pool or restaurant/bar views high up in these types of hotels.

Due to some very helpful Hotel staff we were able to climb up many ladders and steps to get a 360 degree open air view of Dubai. It has to be one of the most amazing places I’ve ever stood and was truly special. I had enquired with a friendly barman at the rooftop pool about where the best place was to be able to take cityscape photos from the hotel building. He pointed up one more level to some concrete structures, because the pool wasn’t the very top, letting me know that if I asked downstairs at the the front desk they could grant me access to the upper roof. Yay! So earlier in the day I went to the front desk and enquired about gaining access to the roof to shoot some night photos of the city and was told to return at a set time and a security guard would escort me up on to the roof. I arrived at the set time around 9pm and waited patiently in the lobby for about 30 minutes or so I think and just when I thought they had forgotten me a very happy guy from Pakistan arrived to show me up to the upper roof. We discussed lots of topics from cricket to being tourists in the amazing UAE. He gathered that he was fairly new at working in the hotel because he had never been on to the roof and it was actually harder to get up on it than we both realised. We exited the last door on the inner hotel staircase coming outside and we both looked around for more stairs to go up higher but all we found was a ladder leading up the wall. He got on his walky talky to the staff down in the security box on the ground floor and they said yes the ladder was the way up. He told me that the guys downstairs could see us on cameras and that would be how they knew where we were etc.. We both considered the ladder and I could tell he was considering that it might be too difficult, for me or him Im not sure haha (I think for him haha). In the end he said that I should go up the ladder first. This surprised me! He wanted me to climb up this precarious ladder first? Well, I had come all this way from Australia and wasn’t going to let a skinny ladder at the end of my path stop me from reaching my goal. I was weighed down with a camera tripod bag and also seperate camera bag which had my Sony A7r and 2 lenses in it, not to mention all my accessories. I am fairly fit and have pretty good coordination so I wasn’t too worried but there was this framing cage around the ladder which you went up into, kind of like going through a tunnel. This made it extremely difficult trying to get my tripod through which was swinging around on my back in the wind. Evetually I made it up through and stepped up on to the next level. I was faced with a magnificent view facing towards the business district of Dubai, but the best was yet to come. I went back to check on my guide and he seemed to be really struggling with the climb, he was in a full suit and leather shoes which were not ideal for climbing at all haha, not to mention the 37 degree heat and humidity. We were to go through this process twice more until we made it up on to the very pinnacle of the building. From here we were able to traverse around to either side of the building and get some magnificent views of Duabi. I kept thinking I didnt want to take up too much of this guys time, because he had a job to do. But he was very patient and kept telling me to take as much time as I needed. So, I did and ended up staying up there for around 50-60 minutes and loved every part of it. I think rooftopping is an extremely exciting genre of photography and I could find myself really getting into it.

other shots from this rooftop:

Dubai From above- Photo Link 

Veins of Dubai- Photo Link

shooting this image:

I’d read that Dubai in it’s summer seasons was hot! It’s not until you experience this heat until you understand what they mean by hot. To put things into perspective, I shot this image at 10:30pm at night.. and you would think that this would be a great time to shoot images right? Wrong! It was 37 degrees and the humidity must have been easily over 70%. So, every time I’d take my lens cap off it would immediately start to fog up on the bulb of my Nikkor 14-24mm lens. I had to constantly shoot and wipe the front of the lens with a cloth to get rid of all the moisture.. I had to be very careful not to move my camera or tripod becasue I was shooting brackets for HDR images. The hotel staff was very patient with me as I got the shots I needed to make this composition, but secretly I think he was happy to get a break in his work and enjoy the view of the city 🙂 So these were some of the issues of shooting at night in Dubai during the summer, but taking images in the day was even worse with temperatures around 46-47 degrees and a swelting sun beating down on you. I visited the gold souk, just to experience it, and took out my camera to snap off a few shots and it was dripping with moisture within seconds. So, my adivce to anyone wanting to visit Dubai for a holiday or photography- try to book it in the cooler months of Decemeber and January. Personally I don’t mind the heat, but this is heat like you’ve never experienced in your life and mading shooting images incredibly difficult.

Editing this image:

In this image I wanted to accentuate the immense amount of energy/electricity being used in Dubai, as well as the grand scale of everything. Shooting this location from a birdseye view went a long way in achieving this vision.

I spent about 8 hours editing this image and I used a variety of techniques and software to achieve the desired result.

I think the biggest hurdle for me was creating the seperate selective masks for all the different areas of the image. These have to be all created manually and take a lot of time and concentration, which i did using my pen and wacom tablet. For example, I had a selection for the buildings on the left of the image that I could edit and adjust without effecting anything else in the image. The same goes for the sky and also the foreground/roundabout. Selection can be saved and edited again and again using the channels tab. This can be important part in being able to achieve my vision within the image.

Photomatix PRO 5– Is a MAC and PC HDR software for creating stunning HDR images. They have a trial, but if you end up buying a copy of Photomatix 5 you can get a 15% Discount with the coupon code LukeZemePhotography

I also used NIK CEP4 to and

Topaz DeNoise 5 to remove noise throughout the image – For those of you interesetd in plugin software for your photos Topaz offers my readers 15% off all Topaz software using discount code LukeZemePhotography

Also you can never underestimate the power of the adjustments panel in Photoshop. i.e Curves, Brightness/Contrast, Levels, Color Balance, Hue/Saturation… All of these play an important role in being able to maniuplate an image as diverse as this one in achieving my vision.

If you have any questions or responses to this image they can be left below using your social media account of choice.. 



Sony A7R


Nikkor 14-24mm

Focal Length




Shutter Speed

1/15, 1/6, 1/3 & 0.6 second exposures



HDR info

4 bracketed HDR using Photomatix PRO 5


10:00 PM


Dubai, UAE

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