Assignment 4 – A sense of place

This will be my submission for assignment four in People and Place, ‘ A sense of Place’. I have thought hard about the criteria and brief for this assignment which states the following: Imagine that you are on an assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. Aim to produce sufficient images on a specific location to fill, say, six pages. This would mean about six final images as chosen, but at least twice this number of good publishable images from which to make the final selection. Aim to show the character of the place and of the people who live there with as much visual variety as possible.

I live mostly in Dubai but I travel quite a lot. My first thoughts on this project was to shoot at a location ‘other’ than the one I live in, but taking my camera away with me at times can be difficult due to the job I do. So the only way I was going to get this assignment done was to submit the required images from Dubai.

I was a little confused at first about the difference of a ‘thoughtful publication’ and a ‘tourism promotion’! After some research and I understood these images were not required to be full glossy type images that would appear on a front cover, but I think to be more on the ground and in the streets types of shots. Street photography maybe, but certainly images that are going to show character and as its mentioned in the brief, to show and give a feel of the people also. Dubai is full of tourists so I need to be careful I don’t over emphasise the tourist side but show more of what Dubai has to offer.

The current weather here has been rather poor, with very high winds bringing with it low visibility. I have waited for over a week to try and allow the weather to change, but this time of year here the changing of the high to low temperatures are causing warm and cold air around the ocean to bring with it 30MPH winds. The other issue here is that the winds bring with it sand from the desert so visibility does get very low. So I cannot delay any further as I am already behind, so I will have to concentrate on maybe closer up shots, interiors and maybe some night images if the wind drops enough later in the day.

Without going into too much detail some brief history can be found here: https://www.dubai.com/v/history/

The cultural differences here are huge. Many types of nationalities reside in Dubai, I think well over 200 types. At first I thought of maybe having these numerous cultures part of the theme for my images, but it was proving too difficult and I knew I would have road blocks trying to get into certain areas such as mosques, and having to be careful of taking images of local woman (and men at times) which can be highly frowned upon if not done very carefully. Its getting better here over the last 10 years or so, and Dubai has become very westernised, but one still has to be careful when it comes to pointing a camera at people and in certain locations without causing issues.

Having finally decided of the type of approach I would take, which was to remove myself from taking any glossy images and/or of locals in part of respect, below is a contact sheet of my final selection of images:

Contact sheet:

The images above are my final selection of 12 images, and not in any order. Below is my selection of the 6 images I short listed but decided not to submit , with a short explanation why.

Short listed images:

[219], [220], [221]

-EDIT- Based on tutors feedback, this image of the fisherman was deemed too far away. It was suggested to get in closer. As I was unable to capture the same image again, I have cropped the image to bring the figures into the frame.

[219] – The first image of the fisherman I thought was a good indication of life in Dubai. The buildings in the background also add the the sense of place in the image. But I had selected another image with a similar feel which I thought was a better option.

[220] – I liked this image of the dhows and the view of the people in the boat making the water crossing on the Dubai Creek. But I felt their was too many distractions with the ropes crossing in front of the image and the figures in the boat too small.

[221] – This image of the Dubai landscape I thought of using as the opening shot, making some suggestion in the write up of Dubai waking up early morning and moving on from their with a story. However I felt the lack of people in the image and the fact the buildings are situated quiet far away made me decide not to submit. Although as an overall picture of the Dubai landscape I thought it worked well.

[222], [223], [224]

[222] – I thought this image showed the feel of Dubai, and how busy the creek area gets in the day. Although the wooden barrier and post was too much of a distraction, and I wanted to get a closer feel of the people which is in my final selection.

[223] – Very similar to image [222], this was another option but the faces were too dark. Yes I can bring these dark shadows out in spot production but as the other image I wanted to get a closer feel of the people and faces.

[224] – This came in close to the final selection of 6, and the comments would have been that Dubai is a haven for sporting events. These are the world champion cycling team from Italy and were here for a major race. This was during a training day shortly before the main event. I decided not to use this on my final selection as the background was a little boring, although it is desert it could be in any location and I wanted to remain in the city of Dubai.

Final selection:

[225]

Dubai was basically desert not such a long time ago when compared to other cities around the world. This area now has a metropolis of buildings, golf courses, residence buildings, office blocks and even a metro line. Its hard to believe that just 15 years ago, this was all desert. I was living here then and used to drive passed this area and I was still 15 mins drive away before I reached any buildings within the downtown area of Dubai. Its hard to image how much the city of Dubai has progressed in such a relatively short space of time, and this can be seen almost at every turn. The image was taken also taking into account one of the recent exercises which was a single small figure, as can be seen with the two golfers on the green to the right of the images on the lower third. An interesting fact is two of the tallest buildings that can be seen in the centre image are the worlds tallest office block, and residence block in the world.

[226]

Dubai is a major tourist attraction. It does have oil, but the supplies will soon be reduced within the next 100 years (predicted). The government and rulers of Dubai had a wonderful vision to attract tourist thus bringing in income from another source. The tourist industry now is one of the largest in Dubai with millions of visitors per year, and Dubai Intl airport is now the busiest airport in the world for major destinations in and out of the city. One of the largest attractions in Dubai is indoor shopping centres. Due to the heat in the summer which can go above 50 degree cent, most of the shopping areas are indoors and air conditioned. This shopping mall is called Dubai Mall, and has the largest indoor aquarium in the world. This is a 10 million-litre tank at the Dubai Aquarium with more than 33,000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks in the world. It also has 140 species of sea life and has several ways to experience underwater life, starting with a stroll through a 48-metre walk-through tunnel. It’s a complete fish-eye view, with sand tiger sharks and stingrays swimming overhead. The Dubai Mall I believe is currently the largest shopping mall in the middle east and the third largest in the world.

-EDIT- This image of the aquarium was originally further away from the people and aquarium. this image has been edited based on tutor feedback to bring the whole image and people in the frame closer. This is the original image below.

[227]

Dubai is situated on the Persian gulf, and this opens up many options for building and waterways close to the sea. This is an area called Madinat, and has many shops and food outlets, cleverly covered with palm trees and hotels to give a pleasing feel. The water is brought in from the sea and the landscaping is idyllic. People can walk around the waterways, take an Abra ride, shop, eat and take in the sights of an old type arabic souk (market). In the background we can see the only 7 star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab hotel, along with its own helipad 750 above the ground. Another use of a small figures can be seen on the left and right of the image.

Tutor feedback notes additional comment – This image is intended to show how diverse Dubai really is. We can see a combination of waterways, green landscaping, shops and eating areas and the worlds only 7 star hotel in the background the Burj Al Arab Hotel…all from what was only a short while ago barren desert.

[228]

Keeping with the water theme, both residents and visitors can enjoy the waterways and open sea for all types of water events from boating, both private and for hire, skiing, jet ski rental, cruising and dining etc. Many residents own expensive boats and yachts which are based in the marina and the water is a major part of Dubai residents and visitors for recreation and spare time. The weekend here is Friday and Saturday so the seas are full of craft during the weekends. These added man made waterways have been a magnet for architects and the construction of buildings and high-rises. Dubai is a open book for designers of such buildings like the ‘twisty’ building which is Cayan Tower (“The building’s twisted shape reduces wind forces on the tower and channels the wind in such a way that its forces are unable to organise themselves,” quote Ref: National Newspaper) and other high rises and office blocks.

[229]

So what about the people? Population of Dubai is currently around 2.67 million. From this around 80% are of Indian or Pakistani origin. From this around 92% are expatriates. The country is built on manual labour to the most part. You will see these workers on the building construction, road construction, serving in shops, petrol stations etc and these are what we could call the worker bees of the city (I mean that in a nice way). Temperatures in the summer can be very hot and Dubai has a temperature limit that allows workers to stop outside activities when it gets to a certain temperature limit, this is to protect the safety of the workers. During the off days again usually a Friday and Saturday, the workers will congregate around many parts of Dubai, one of them being Dubai Creek which is in the old town of Dubai and were many of these workers reside. The main source of income for Dubai started around the creek in the 1830’s as a pearl fishing village and remained so until the 1930’s after the recession. The workers will remove the overalls and be happy to take time to see the sights, drink arabic coffee or sweet tea and wear a nice shirt or local dress while enjoying time with friends. The creek is still used as a major import/export area and a busy hub as can be seen with the Abras or water taxis bringing passengers and tourists between the two sides of the creek.

[230]

I had mentioned in one of the biggest forms of income in Dubai is tourism. Nothing can be seen as an example than in the shopping malls and beach locations. Land is at its prime, and this area is not far away from my first image of the gold course, which 15 years ago was all desert as i mentioned. I remember coming to this area and camping on the beach. Not such a long time ago they were two hotels on this beach, one behind were I’m standing and another about a kilometre ahead of the camera view does the beach. Now we can see a small beach area with towering high-rise buildings which are mainly all accommodation blocks and apartments overlooking the beach. Many of the beaches have now been taken over with construction of hotels and large high rise buildings making beach areas limited. This area is known as JLT Jumeriah Lake Towers and is about 4km of beach front, shops, apartment blocks and hotels. This image was taken on a week working day, so come weekend it would be hard to find any spare area of beach, especially in the winter when the temperatures are bearable. This is one of the most popular spots for beach goers and visitors who like to take in the sun, sand and water and all Dubai has to offer.

Conclusion:

The final brief of this assignment is to write down what we thought of our assignment from the following questions:

What did you set out to achieve, including a description of how you see the essential character of the place?

I wanted to stay away from the glossy type photos of a magazine as what was also mentioned in the brief, and try and show another side of Dubai from more of a person that lives here and also the residents of Dubai, and what it may feel like to I’ve here and not as a visitor. My images were not to be heavily post processed at the risk of them looking slightly boring and plane, but the intention is to show Dubai from a ground level view and not glossy and glitzy.

How well you think you succeeded, including opportunities that were not available to you because of lack of time or access?

I have tried to show a good cross section of Dubai from the people who live and work here, to the offers Dubai has fro both visitors and those who may live and work here. I have included both old and new parts of the city giving viewers an overall feel of the city. I would have liked to maybe include some other recreational aspects of what Dubai has to offer such as camel racing, horse racing and what the desert has to offer, but this would mean more travel and I wanted to remain in the city, and again not include the glossy aspects of Dubai. I would have liked to include locals in some of my images but this can be a sensitive issue here at times, so out of respect I refrained from doing this.

How you might have approached the assignment if you had simply been taking photographs with no-end result in mind (meaning an article to be published)?

Given the choice I think I would have gone for the more glossy type of images. I feel that my submitted images are not types you would see in any high gloss magazine, but this was the brief we needed to stick to. Dubai has a lot to offer both in terms of locations in the city and out in the open spaces such as desert and even further out in the mountains. I would have submitted some images which would include night, and maybe a slow shutter image to show movement either in a night shot or other daytime shot with moving clouds or similar.

Finally I found the subject matter of images hard to conclude as I am more used to taking images that would be seen on postcards, or images of the many interesting buildings that Dubai has to offer. I think I have met the criteria of the brief and shown a good selection of images that show the people and place of Dubai that wouldn’t be first apparent in many of the other publications or personal images of visitors who would focus more on the tourist attractions of the city.

No heavy post production was made to the images, which I think adds to the real life feeling and removes focus from how the image looks, to more of what the image is about.

This concludes Assignment 4 – A sense of place.

Onto Assignment 5 People and Place on Assignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ref:

http://www.dubai-info.org/en/facts/history

https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/madinat-jumeirah/facilities/souk-madinat-jumeirah/

https://www.emirates.com/english/destinations_offers/discoverdubai/aboutdubai/dubaihistory.aspx

http://blog.raynatours.com/5-interesting-facts-dubai-creek/

http://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-aquarium-and-underwater-zoo

https://www.dubai.com/v/history/

http://www.thenational.ae/business/industry-insights/property/dubais-twisting-cayan-tower-named-among-worlds-best-new-skyscrapers

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Jonathan Gainer photographer – review

I have been looking at one or two workings of some of our locally based photographers here in Dubai. One such suggestion was a company called ‘Surface Photography and Films’, which is run and owed by a gentleman called Jonathan Gainer (see link here http://www.dubai-photography.com/#mi=1&pt=0&pi=1&s=0&p=-1&a=0&at=0

The company takes images and was as video, mainly using a Drone looking at the site. They have a wise arrangement and cross section within their portfolio of Dubai, and I was surprised to read in the bio that Jonathan is originally from Missouri in the USA. He has travelled and worked in Berlin, London, Italy and Russia just to mention a few location. He also speaks 4 languages.

I liked his his cross section of images ranging from aerial to reportage. He has some excellent images taken in China on his reportage section, and the images come across with subtle colours and very good use of bokeh. One which strikes me is of birds (pidgeons) filling the frame, and close ups of weathered faces such as an old man and lady. See here: http://www.dubai-photography.com/#mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=6&p=11&a=0&at=0

Some other images include the building of skyscrapers in Dubai which comprise of both buildings and the workmen who are on site. It shard to know from the images if these are commissioned or he has taken these as a by product while on site with the man focus being the construction of the building itself. I think at time s astute use of off camera flash has been used but with good effect and not over powering the images.

Some other images include a combination of real and rendered images, which according to the site have been manipulated in New York. It will be interesting to see how these renders come out in real life once complete.

I will look again at some of the images of interiors and exteriors for ideas for my assignment 4. Jonathan’s are very crisp with again good use of fill in flash or other lighting, with good use of steel and glass making the pictures high key.

His site and portfolio can be found here:

http://www.dubai-photography.com/#mi=1&pt=0&pi=1&s=0&p=-1&a=0&at=0

Exercise 23 – Special processing

The aim of this exercise was to use one image and then using digital processing methods, make two new versions of the image. The first of these has a greater prominence, the second image with less prominence for the subject.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[216]

This is the original image.  The image has too many distractions with people close to the main subject as well as a distracting background with the people standing.

[217]

With slight manipulation, the image now is very flat. Still no cropping so the image still has the main distractions as above. The face is very dark and the histogram looks very flat and dark when viewed in LR CC.

[218]

Now with some small adjustments to the highlights and shadows, we can see the main focus of the lady is now full frame. All distractions have been taken away and a slight vignetting has helped focus the eye on the subject and darkened the background. More manipulation could have taken place by removing the bag in Photoshop but I decided this was enough to meet the requirements of the brief.

 

 

Exercise 22 – Balancing figure and space

For this exercise we are asked to take 2 photographs using pretty much the same viewpoint and composition but varying the balance between the person and the space they are in.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[214]

This image is ok as a single snap shot, but from a composition point of view it lacks any depth and is very flat. Subject is dead centre, and as the saying goes ‘dead centre is deadly’. Also the subject is a little low with too much ceiling and a cut off at he joints, i.e. the knees. This could be improved a lot better for balance both for the subject and location, as we will see in the next image.

[215]

In this second image of the same subject above, we have moved the camera position to add more balance both for the subject in the frame, and to show more of the location including background area. The subject is now placed on the rule of thirds, and the knees have not been cut off at the joint. This image would work either as a close up of just head and shoulders, or a full length shot which could include the feet.The head is directly on the top right third rule and the eyes are drawn into the rear left of the image after looking at the eyes of the subject, this now gives a good feel of where the subject is and the location. The image is not edited in any way for congestion to the first image, other the a change in camera position and moving the subject slightly to the right.

 

 

Exercise 21 – Making figures anonymous

The brief for this exercise was to use certain techniques to photograph a person or persons making them anonymous and less prominent than the area that they are in. The images should try to make the person(s) almost unrecognisable.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[210]

This image does have people and certainly shows a sense of scale. With a closer look three workers can be seen on the building, and in fact form a type of triangle which was pure luck. This image was taken while taking a boat ride within the Dubai Marina area, and this building was being constructed on the waters edge. I have cropped the image slightly to make the figures just visible and taken away day distracting buildings which were on either side of this main one under construction.

[211]

As we look into the image of the fountain, we can see at first the two figures walking into the image on the left side. After a closer scan around the frame we can then see two more people, but covered behind the water fall and some of the seats and umbrella stands. The framing of this image takes the eye into the frame and only after closer inspection can we see the second two people on the bench chairs. This image could be cropped more to remove the two figures on the left leaving only the faded outline of the two people on the right of the frame.

[212]

In this image we see a very nice interior shot of a hotel lobby. With a closer look around the many items such as camels, christmas tree, chairs etc you finally come across a person sat in the rear of the frame which is actually set on the rule of thirds line. The same colour uniform of the person makes them blend into the background, but the person is still visible non the same. I thought about waiting for a person or persons to walk across the room and wait until they are near the arch door in the rear of the picture on the right, but decided it maybe too obvious so I left the final image with the one person sat at the desk.

[213]

For my last image I decided to take this frame of an archway with a very subtle background combined with people having breakfast. The main focus is of course the arch, but again the eye is drawn into the image at towards the rear where the people are enjoying the morning. In some ways the camel is looking into the arch within an arch at the people. Cropping this image I feel would have made the image too flat and would have taken away from the main arch in the foreground.

Exercise 20 – Busy traffic

This exercise is to show people in a busy place. We are asked to take some time in the area we choose, which can be indoors or outdoors. Time should be taken to research the space and how people flow around the space. We can take a slow exposure if needed to show some type of movement in the people.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[208]

This is a busy street in York near an area called The Shambles. You can see how the people are in close proximity to each other, but all have their own agenda be it walking down the street, looking in the shop windows, searching for items in a bag or talking to partners. The tight street forces people to be very close and this in effect makes everyone slow down as rushing in this tight space may not be possible. Adding to this the old street is bending towards the middle which also brings people closer together, making the flow more into the centre part of the street.

[209]

This shot of a York market shows the numerous types of buildings in the area, from old brick on either side, more modern buildings in the car and temporary market stalls. The people in the image have plenty to look at as they walk down the cobble street, from flower markets, stalls and even a place to take a break and have a pork sandwich. The area is very open in the centre, but it can be seen to filter into tight spaces as one enters the stall market area. Thankfully the closed roads will allow pedestrians to make use of the cobble street while taking in the sights. This makes the main flow of the people take to the street before branching into the enclosed stall market.

 

Exercise 19 – A single figure small

In this first exercise leading up to assignment 4, we are asked to take a photo (the notes do not mention how many images)  of a single figure which is in the image, but at first may be so obvious to the eye. Such a shot maybe inside church or such a place that shows the size of the building or area.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[206]

For this first of two images showing a person (or people) in a large space I have taken this image from a building in Glasgow called The Kremlin. I am standing at the top of the stairs looking down and the persecutive make the the viewer first look around the wooden banister or handrail, then as the eye searches the rest of the image we fall down to almost dead centre at the two figures walking across the centre floor. This is very subtle but although the figures are very small they could almost become the focal point of the image altogether.

[207]

This second image again in the Kremlin building in Glasgow, we can see the main focal point is the building with leading stairs, and the large lion head which is almost the size of a person. As we look around the image the eye is drawn to the high colour red, which then turns out to be  a person looking at something with her back towards the camera. Although very small in relative size to the overall image and lion head, the future is still very noticeable due to the colour and just being offset slightly on the rule of thirds.