Images of Dubai: Cybertron of The Middle East

Adventure, Burj Kalifa, Dubai, King Zayed Road, Meydan Bridge, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, night, photography, sunset, tilt shift, travel

One of Dubai’s most overused phrases according to Time Out magazine is, “It’s just like Ibiza/Vegas/Paris/New York/London here.”  It’s true there’s an endless summer vibe to Dubai, like a Balearic Calvin Harris club anthem when the bass drops. For some the city is an escapist fantasy. “What happens in Dubai stays in Dubai!” And of course there is enough wealth to rival any world capital city. It’s the Ferrari of fortunes, the Rolls Royce of riches.

Adventure, Burj Kalifa, Dubai, King Zayed Road, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, highway, light trails, night, photography, sunset, travel
At over 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world.

Dubai is also an enigma that seduces everyone from foreign investors to wishful immigrants. But is it the city of the future, a prodigy metropolis, a sustainable way forward? Or is it the finest example of unbridled hubris the world has ever seen, an anything goes theme park, a bubble city going from boom to bust? Peel back a layer and you learn that 85% of the people who live there aren’t from there. It’s a city built and maintained by immigrants but owned and run by Emirati. Whether you believe Dubai is a dystopian Blade Runner-esque omen or the next Shangri La, one thing’s for certain: there is no place like it on Earth.

Dubai, UAE, Marina, cityscape, night
Dubai Marina
Adventure, Dubai, King Zayed Road, Level 43 Rooftop Bar Lounge, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, Sheraton 4 Points, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, light trails, night, photography, travel
The open air Level 43 Rooftop Bar & Lounge at the Sheraton 4 Points has one of the best views in the city.
Adventure, Deira, Dubai, Kerla, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, hats, indian, masks, photography, portrait, travel, vendor, watches
The soul of Dubai is in the historic Deira neighborhood, home to the Spice Souq, Gold Souq, and ethnic restaurants. It’s great for street photography too.
Dubai, Junction, UAE, First Interchange, Middle East
Dubai Junction
Adventure, Light Festival, Middle East, Muslim, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, Sharjah, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, colorful, lights, mosque, night, photography, travel
Sharjah, the UAE’s third largest city, holds a light festival every winter. Mosques and other buildings are lit up with multicolored lights.
Adventure, Light Festival, Middle East, Muslim, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, Sharjah, UAE, United Arab Emirates, colorful, lights, mosque, night, photography, travel
Sharjah is just an hour from Dubai but world’s away from the glamour and glitz of big city life.
Adventure, Dubai, Marina, Middle East, Nomad Within, Palm Jumeirah, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, active, cityscape, couple, palm tree, photography, sunrise, travel, walk, warm
A couple goes for a sunrise stroll on Palm Jumeirah. Across the water are the marina towers.
Dubai, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, UAE, long exposure, sunrise, clouds
Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Adventure, Dubai, Kids, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, football, photography, play, rooftop, soccer, travel
Kids in Dubai play soccer wherever they can – on the roof.
Adventure, Dubai, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, photography, pool, rooftop, travel
Rooftop swimming pools are a common sight in this desert city.
Adventure, Afghanistan, Deira, Dubai, Gold Souk, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, man, photography, portrait, scarf vendor, travel
The UAE is a nation of immigrants. 55% of the population is from either Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. This gentleman I met in the Gold Souk was from Afghanistan.
Abu Dhabi, Adventure, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque, UAE, United Arab Emirates, architecture, man, photography, reflection, shadows, staff, sunlight, sunset, travel, walk
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Adventure, Burj Kalifa, Dubai, King Zayed Road, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, highway, light trails, metro, night, photography, station, subway, sunset, travel
Dubai’s metro has over 42 stations and was built in just 2 years. The name of this station is Financial Centre.
Adventure, Burj Kalifa, Dubai, King Zayed Road, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, highway, light trails, night, photography, sunset, travel
Dubai From Level 43

How I made the shot: Dubai From Level 43

  • 10 sec. @ F/11
  • ISO 100
  • Focal length: 16 mm
  • Lens: Nikkor 16-35mm
  • Camera: Nikon D610
  • 1 RAW Exposure

Dubai is quite possibly the best cityscape photography destination in the world. When my friend and fellow photographer Jimmy McIntyre and I were researching shoot locations, we sent messages back and forth. Each one said something like “LOOK at this!” or “How about THAT?!”  and was followed by a wicked image. 

[For more, read my article: 7 Expert Tips For Photographing Dubai from 7 Pro Photographers]

The most popular spot has to be from the Level 43 Sky Lounge at the Sheraton 4 points. It’s the easiest place to access. Just walk in and buy a drink. You are allowed to take photos, but you can’t use a tripod without permission from the hotel. To get approval to use a tripod, you’ll either need to know someone or ask the management beforehand (or both).

 

To process the photo, I first I did some dodging, burning, and adjusted the white balance in  Adobe Lightroom. Then I exported to Nik Color Effects and made some adjustments with the Pro Contrast filter. Next, I sharpened the image in Sharpener Pro, mainly using the local contrast and focus sliders. Finally, I brought the photo back to Lightroom for some final touches. For instance, I increased the clarity, contrast, and shadows  on the buildings in the left of the photo to bring out the reflection in the glass. 

How to Get High in Dubai

Dubai, Middle East, UAE

  • Sneak Up: Dubai is flat so the only way to get up high is to go up buildings. Most roofs are locked. Some sneak up by riding the elevator to the top floor and walking up the fire escape. Another option is to bribe the security guard.
  • Observatories/Lounges: An easier way is to go to observatories like at the Burj Khalifa or rooftop lounges. The downside to this is that you will often have to shoot through glass and they sometimes don’t allow tripods.
  • Airbnb: Stay in an apartment that is already high up or ask if you could shoot from their balcony or roof. You could always exchange your photo (or money) for access.
10830898_10152512714126082_4838865982853376500_o
The local crew: Pete DeMarco, Jimmy McIntyre, Shiva Menon, Rustam Azmi, Prakash Singh (took photo), and Ben Fayala & Sebastian Tontsch not in pic.

Local Inspiration

  • Daniel Cheong: is the original Dubai rooftopper. He usually shoots from high vantage points, especially during blue hour or in the fog.
  • Beno Saradzic: is a Slovenian born Emmy-nominated time-lapse cinematographer, photographer and visual artist based in Dubai.
  • Alisdair Miller: is a photographer based in Dubai specializing in urban photography, most notably modern architecture. His Salvador-Dali-like conceptual cityscape photographs of Dubai are hella cool.
  • UAE Landscapers: There are tons of other talented photographers in Dubai, many of which you can find here, along with workshops, meetups, and other events.

When To Go

The best time is in the winter from December to February. It’s much cooler. This is also when you’ll have your best chance of catching the elusive fog.

Pete DeMarco, Jimmy McIntyre, Daniel Cheong, Dany Eid
Back, left to right: Pete DeMarco, Jimmy McIntyre. Front: Daniel Cheong, Dany Eid (took photo)

Getting There

  • Don’t make Dubai your final destination. Fly Emirates Airlines, stay in Dubai a few days, then continue on to your final destination with their Stopover program.
  • Qatar Airlines has some great deals. I booked a ticket Seoul – Dubai – Singapore for just $620.

Where to Sleep

Adventure, Burj Kalifa, Dubai, King Zayed Road, Meydan Bridge, Middle East, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, UAE, United Arab Emirates, cityscape, night, photography, sunset, tilt shift, travel
Meydan Bridge
  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Taken: February 10, 2015
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 10s
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Author: Pete DeMarco

Pete DeMarco is an award-winning travel photographer. His passion for helping people transform their photography shows through in the expert advice he shares. His work has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, CNN, and as a staff writer for Digital Photography School.

19 thoughts on “Images of Dubai: Cybertron of The Middle East”

  1. The things you’ve seen. Miss you but so proud that the whole world has you as a citizen!
    Love ya’!
    Dad

  2. Hi Pete,

    I am based in Dubai and I have started photography. Your work is simply amazing and mind blowing. As I am new and I use canon 760D, I would like your help to take better photos. Looking for good motivation and suggestions. My mobile no is 00971559354299 and I can reached anytime

  3. Amazing work Pete! We’ll be in Dubai in two weeks, and will arrive at 3am. We figure it’s the best time to catch a great sunrise. In your above photo of a sunrise, you mention the Palm Jumeirah. Is this easily accessible by Taxi? Any other spots for a great sunrise photo? Thanks so much for your suggestions!

  4. Excellent article, lots of useful info about Dubai. Can you tell me the location of that rooftop from where you took the photo of Burj Khalifa with the winding roads?

    1. Thank you Santanu. A friend brought us there. I can’t remember the name and it’s not open to the public. You are better off going to the rooftop bar I mention in the article.

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